Archives for posts with tag: pursuit of joy


Guest writer: Sue Weaver

Here in Lancaster County, I know people who do things for/because of/about God. In fact, I like to think of myself as someone who serves God in her work. So Piper’s words surprised me: we don’t serve God, He serves us.

Piper points out that serving God is always receiving! The Apostle Paul asked a question to help believers see this:”Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being perfected in the flesh?” (Gal 3:2-3). Serving God is always and fundamentally receiving His mercy, not rendering Him assistance. We do tend to think that we are doing God a favor with our service and work, but that is just not the case. Psalm 50 puts it this way: “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine…Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (v12, 15)

Here’s the thing Piper emphasizes: God is a Giver, not a Taker. As we see both Him (wise, merciful, powerful) and ourselves (dependent on Him) more clearly, we become what God created us to be — we become people of prayer. In prayer we joyfully receive His mercy; and God gets the glory!

Probably the most memorable part of this chapter is a section called “the Difference Between Uncle Sam and Jesus Christ.” Piper says:
The difference between Uncle Sam and Jesus Christ is that Uncle Sam won’t enlist you in his service unless you are healthy and Jesus Christ won’t enlist you unless you are sick. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). Christianity is fundamentally convalescence (Pray without ceasing = Keep buzzing the nurse). Patients do not serve their physicians. They trust them for good prescriptions.
We serve God by believing his promises, and by realizing that we do not put our power at his disposal, but that through prayer his power is at our disposal for our good. In all our prayers and obedience, it is we who are the beneficiaries! This realization makes me want to pray more. And Piper shares his secret for making want-to-pray-more happen: plan. Set a time, pick a place, and choose a passage of Scripture — and start!

Guest writer: Sue Weaver


Guest writer: Sue Weaver

Fatigue and exhaustion are woven into our days. They make a good welcome mat for chapter five and Piper’s words about the normal Christian life being a repeated process of restoration and renewal.

Teaching that the Bible restores us, Piper points out that it is normal for the Word of God to restore — because it is life. Moses said in Deuteronomy 32:46-47, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no empty word for you, but your very life.”

It is sobering-yet-necessary to be reminded that the Word of God is not a trifle, but it is a matter of life and death: if you treat the Bible as empty words, you forfeit life! All life is linked to God’s Word: our physical life is created and upheld by the Word of God, and our spiritual life is quickened and sustained by the Word of God.

  • Physical life depends on God’s Word because by His word we were created (Psalm 33:6; Heb 11:3); He upholds the universe by the word of his power (Heb 1:3).
  • Spiritual life depends on God’s Word because, “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth” (James 1:18); and, “You have been born again…through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23).
  • And not only do we begin to live by God’s Word, we go on living by God’s Word: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every work that comes form the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3).

Here’s how it works: the Word of God begets and sustains our spiritual life because it begets and sustains our faith. “Faith comes by hearing,and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans10:17). The Scriptures also give us hope, which is necessary for life: “He established a testimony…which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children…so that they should set their hope in God” (Psalm 78:5,7; also Romans15:4). And we gain freedom and escape sin through the Bible: “by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:4, also Psalm 119:11, 105).

At the end of chapter five Piper quotes a wonderful testimony from George Muller’s autobiography. Muller wrote that he came to understand that his number one job each day was to make his soul happy in the Lord. His primary business was to give himself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditate on it. As he shared how this provided delightful food for his soul, he said, “I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less to prayer.” When we read and think about God’s Word daily, we grow close to Him and converse easily with Him.

God’s Words are the best words — for growing personal joy, for grappling in meditation, for right-on prayer, for a happy soul ready to face a new day. God’s Words are LIFE!

Guest writer: Sue Weaver


I like to think of myself as a fully engaged worshipper.

I grew up in Brazil and people from those parts know how to express their feelings. In fact, I am one of nine children and I remember the spirited conversations we had around our dinner table growing up.

A friend from the U.S. came to spend a few days with me and my family once. After the first day he was visibly disturbed. He thought we were fighting during dinner. He was wrong. We were just having a normal “debate” at the Trindade table. We loved trying to defend our ideas and reducing others’ ideas to naught. But in the end, we laughed, hugged, and shared a fabulous meal together, thanks to my Mom, who was never called in to referee, though she had the power to stop the session with just one of her, “Now, that’s enough” comments.

I learned to hold my own in a verbal sparring while munching on my Mom’s famous fried fish. Our dinner table talks sowed the seeds of confidence in my ability to state a thesis, withstand a barrage of arguments, and stand tall at the end. I experienced many victories and defeats around that table, in between snacks of tapioca and sweets of all sorts.

So I didn’t think I would ever have problems showing God my affections and feelings in worship, but over time, as I moved and got acquainted with all things U.S., I noticed that I had become more subdued during the worship time in church. There were times when I wanted to raise my hand but as I looked around me I quenched that desire. “What are they going to think of me?” I thought, “Some kind of a charismatic Christian?” The fear of being labeled by that word “charismatic” killed all spontaneity in worship.

When I noticed what I had become – a stiff, swift, self-sanitized Sunday servant – I decided to make a change. So I started closing my eyes and imagining that I was alone in the presence of God. At times I had feelings of shame, fear, exhilaration, awe, joy, and reverence in the presence of the Holy One. And I wanted to express that before my wonderful Heavenly Father. Worship in church was never as meaningful as when I began to do that. And it continues to be thus today.

Now, I have to say I have not gone all the way yet. At times I feel the urge to go up to the front and simply kneel there before the “altar.” But, alas, we have no altars in our Protestant churches and no kneeling benches either (don’t you wish we had some of those sometimes?). So I stop myself and kneel in my heart. I don’t want people to think I am “super spiritual.” I don’t want them to see me as the Pharisees who displayed the outward signs of fasting only to receive praise from men.

But some day I just might forget all these objections and simply rush to the “altar” and prostrate myself before this Holy God I love and revere so much. If you happen to see me do it, please don’t call me a “Brazil nut. “Christian hedonist” will be bad enough.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade


Here is a thumbnail sketch of chats last week about Desiring God.

While enjoying a cookout Saturday, I discovered that Ken and Kathy Keener are both reading Desiring God. She is very much enjoying Piper’s thoughts; he, some less. He finds it difficult to connect with the book; she is encouraged by Piper’s validation of joy — the kind of joy that comes from trusting God and focusing on His sovereignty, even when circumstances are dark. She said that people tend to think remaining joyful means you don’t understand the seriousness of a situation. But to Kathy, joy in hard times indicates focusing on the eternal value of a situation rather than on the circumstances themselves.

On Sunday, chatting with Sandy Reist and Dot Myer, I realized that they’re also both reading Desiring God. Interestingly, Sandy’s comments were much like Ken’s — it’s hard going — and Dot’s mirrored Kathy’s comments — she’s liking it. Dot characterized the book as thought-provoking and encouraging;  like a lens through which life is viewed in eternal and heaven-focused perspective.

Score: 2 for 2
2 – The book is hard
2 – I’m loving it



Guest writer: Sue Weaver

If Chapter 4 Were Bumper Stickers…

  • Real Love = Real Gain
  • Fleeting Pleasures: the Enemy of Joy
  • Love What God Loves
  • Love is the Victory of Grace
  • Break the Bondage of Private Pleasures
  • Love Is Costly
  • The Source of Love is Joy

Source of Joy

  • No Disinterested Benevolence

No Disinterested Benevolence

  • Believe Jesus? Give>Receive

Believe Jesus

  • Refuse to Settle for Prosperity and Comfort

Refused to Settle

  • Go for Eternal

Go for Eternal

  • The Gain Outweighs The Pain

Gain Outweighs Pain

  • Lose Property, Gain Joy

Lose Property

  • Your Power Co: God Increasing in You

Your Power Company

Guest writer: Sue Weaver


Guest writer: Sue Weaver

Okay, here’s the unvarnished truth, right out loud: worship had become kind of an un-word to me. Vestiges of deep and satisfying still cling to it, but it mostly it really means Sunday morning church music. Which is nice, but not deep and satisfying.
So this third chapter in our summer reading, a chapter on worship, really grabbed my attention. Right on the first page of the chapter it says, “…worship has to do with real life. It is not a mythical interlude in a week of reality. Worship has to do with adultery and hunger and racial conflict.” (77)
This chapter is all about should-be-deep-and-satisfying! “Both the teaching of Jesus and the Holy Spirit satisfy the longing of our souls’ (page 79) and  “…true worship comes from people who are deeply emotional and who love deep and sound doctrine. Strong affections for God rooted in truth are the bone and marrow of biblical worship.”(82)

Piper examines at the nature of worship as an affair of the heart (pages 83-102) and as an affair of the mind (pages 102-109). In the ‘heart part’ of the chapter I gathered up so many good thoughts. I learned

  • that where feelings for God are dead, worship is dead (86);
  • that the human heart is supernaturally, radically changed in Christian conversion and the evidence of this is not just new decisions, but new affections, new feelings (89);
  • that saving faith treasures Christ (90);
  • that in the end the heart longs not for any of God’s good gifts, but for God Himself (87);
  • that the real duty of worship is the inward duty, the command to delight yourself in the LORD! (94)
  • that the joyful heart is a mirror that catches the rays of His radiance and reflects them back in worship (94)
  • that the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever (94)
  • the heavens are appalled and shocked when people give up soon on their quest for pleasure and settle for broken cisterns (98).

I circled and put stars beside these words in the ‘mind part’ of the chapter:

  • True worship does not come from people whose feelings are like air ferns with no root in the solid ground of biblical doctrine. The only affections that honor God are those rooted in the rock of biblical truth. (102)
  • Christian Hedonism is passionately opposed to all attempt to drive a wedge between deep thought and deep feeling. It rejects the common notion that profound reflection dries up fervent affection. It resists the assumption that intense emotion thrives only in the absence of coherent doctrine. (104)

I love the exhortation (and experience) Piper shares at the end of this chapter. He says, “Don’t let your worship decline to the performance of mere duty. Don’t let the childlike awe and wonder be choked out by unbiblical views of virtue. Don’t let the scenery and poetry and music of your relationship with God shrivel up and die. You have capacities for joy that you can scarcely imagine. They were made for enjoyment of God. He can awaken them no matter how long they have lain asleep.” (108)
Wow! Worship doesn’t seem like an un-word anymore!

Guest writer: Sue Weaver


Guest writer: Sue Weaver

Maybe you saw pictures on Facebook. A crane lifted a big air conditioning unit to the church roof on Wednesday morning. Getting ready for the new unit, all the wires to the old one were cut – including the one that sets off the fire alarm if the unit dangerously overheats!  An unplanned fire drill ensued.

Grace Church HVAC 2013

Outside (enjoying the sunshine and the crane, I must admit), I chatted with several people from different parts of the building. My job at the church takes place in one small area of the building, so I always enjoy seeing friends “from the other end.”

While chatting, I saw Lois Ross! Turns out Lois was part of the fire drill because she had an appointment at the school. We started talking, and our conversation soon turned to our summer reading, Desiring God.

The chapter on conversion was our focus; we talked about  how difficult it is to grasp how we convert to following Christ. Not how in the sense that the blood of Christ saves us, but how in the sense of process, steps, what is His part and what is our part. Yes, we do the trusting in Christ’s sacrifice for us, but first we have to realize that we’re sinners because we’re not glorifying Him—this He provides.  Conversion theories abound, but we agreed that since our very existence is God’s idea, our salvation originates with/in/from Him, no matter how we describe our part.

We explored Piper’s definition of sin being everything that does not glorify God. Boy, sin looks big through this lens!  It makes us realize that we routinely dishonor God by exchanging our focus on God’s glory for things of lesser value: we trust ourselves, we take credit for His gifts, and we turn from His commandments because we think we know better.  Lois pointed out that we hold the glory of the Lord in contempt with cultural catchphrases like, “It’s my body and I’ll do what I want with it.” It’s not our body—He not only created it, He bought it with His blood.

The Bible says that whether we eat or drink or whatever we do , we are to do it all to the glory of God.  I told Lois that I have often experienced the phrase ”glorify God” as so spiritual that it’s vague, and it ended up having little practical meaning. But Piper explains that glorifying God doesn’t mean making Him more glorious, it means valuing Him above everything else and acknowledging how marvelously glorious He is, and then making His glory known. I told Lois that the phrases “valuing God” and “reflecting Him”  make the concept of glorifying God clearer for me; Lois remarked that if we value God when we eat and drink it will surely change our diets!

Guest writer: Sue Weaver


Guest writer: Sue Weaver

A TOP TEN THOTS LIST from chapter two in John Piper’s Desiring God

1. Most Amazing:

The pursuit of joy in God is not optional! Until your heart has hit upon this pursuit, your “faith” does not please God. Page 73

(Hebrews 11:6  …whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek Him.)

2. Most Unexpected:

Sin comes from not putting supreme value on the glory of God – this is the very essence of sin. Page 57

3. Most Poignant:

Hell is just. Page 59

4. Most Pithy:

Hell is one way to settle accounts with sinners and uphold his justice. But there is another way. The death of the Son of God for sinners! Page 61

5. Most Clarifying:

“For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)—but not for everyone. There are sheep and there are goats (Matthew 25:32). There are wise and there are foolish (Matthew 25:2). There are those who are being saved and those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18). Page 54

6. Most Painful:

We are surrounded by unconverted people who think they do believe in Jesus… Page 54

7. Most Convicting:

Once we had no delight in God, and Christ was just a vague historical figure. What we enjoyed was food and friendships and productivity and investments and vacations and hobbies and games and reading and shopping and sex and sports and art and TV and travel…but not God. He was an idea—even a good one—and a topic for discussion; but He was not a treasure of delight.  Then something miraculous happened. Page 71

8. Most Startling:

Saving faith is the cry of a new creature in Christ. And the newness of the new creature is that it has a new taste. What was once distasteful or bland is now craved. Christ Himself has become a Treasure Chest of holy joy…the heart…craves the supreme gift that Christ died to give: not health, not wealth, not prestige – but God! Test yourself here. There are many professing Christians who delight in God’s gifts, but not God.

Pages 72 & 73

9. Most Remarkable:

Conversion is no mere human decision. It is a human decision – but, oh, so much more! Page 68

10. Most Delightful:

…God joins us in our pursuit of everlasting joy… Page 54

Guest writer: Sue Weaver


John Piper would have done himself (and all of us) a favor if he tried to separate the deep theological concepts he is trying to explain from the practical application of those concepts, which he only gives a glimpse of here and there in this chapter.

But it is not hard to imagine the practical consequences of this miraculous gift of joy in God, which is, in essence, what he calls “Christian Hedonism,” an expression which makes every hair in my body stand on end every time I hear it. But I can look beyond the expression…

The other day I saw an older couple clearly captivated, mesmerized, enthralled by the very presence of their grandbaby. I couldn’t resist it. I told them I could tell they absolutely adored their grandbaby. They said, “So, you noticed.” I told them, “Isn’t God wonderful to give you such a precious gift?” They said, politely, “Yes, He is.”

I walked away, thinking, how many Christians out there are more enthralled with their grandchildren than with God? How many are get more joy out of their work than communion with Christ and His Spirit? How many can hardly contain themselves with excitement, counting the days when a favorite relative will visit while dreading the arrival of the brief interlude of time they will be one-on-one with God? The list could go on and on.

John Piper pulls no punch in summarizing this: “There are many professing Christians who delight in God’s gifts, but not God. Would you want to go to heaven if God were not there, only His gifts?”  The answer, for the true believer, is a resounding NO, but I fear that many times we live as if it were an unmistakable YES.

It is no mere coincidence that the New Testament uses the imagery of a wedding – the happiest day in a couple’s life – to speak about John, the Baptizer’s joy in seeing Jesus’ ministry blossom and his come to an end. John said, “You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’  He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full.” (John 3:28-29).

The bridegroom’s best friend and his companions wait until the bridegroom comes for his prized possession. When he announces that he is there to take his bride, the bridegroom’s friend rejoices with great joy because the marriage consummation is at hand and his work is complete. In the same way, we experience joy to the utmost when we come into the full fellowship of the Messiah. The joy, which was only an anticipation of great things to come, now comes into full throttle and turns into a never ending spring of fresh water to cool us from the scorching summer sky.

We cannot, even if we wished, ever turn back to our old worried selves again. This joy, which is contagious, carries us even through sorrow and pain. And when there is no sorrow and pain, the joy should be so bubbly that people around us would be within their rights to question our sanity. That is, I believe, the main mark of a true “Christian Hedonist” – pardon my French!


Guest writer: Sue Weaver

These heartbreaking words came through my phone: “my unbelieving spouse wants us to be separated, I want to stay, and spouse says that’s okay if freedom is granted, but now –except for our child–we have separate lives. Will staying help my spouse to see Truth? How can I build the spiritual future of my child?   Can I survive this loneliness?”

What to say? And even more, what to think about wounds that life can bring? In our summer book Desiring God, on page 36, I found this balm for my troubled thoughts:

The hardened disobedience of men’s hearts leads not to the frustration of God’s plans, but to their fruition.

And this salve on the following page:

God’s sovereignty over men’s affairs is not compromised even by the reality of sin and evil in the world.

Trust is always reasonable! God is not blindsided by any detail of any life. He is putting all things together in his overarching, saving plan. He makes all things work together for His glory. He has designed from all eternity, and is infallibly informing with every event, a magnificent mosaic of redemptive history. The contemplation of this mosaic (with both its dark and bright tiles) fills His heart with joy. (page 40)

~Guest writer: Sue Weaver~