Over the summer Thistlebend is doing something new while there is a break between studies; they’re offering books to read that will encourage those reading to keep their minds and lives centered on the Lord. Throughout the summer there will be a few times for anyone participating to come together and discuss what the Lord is teaching them through the books. I joined this group for the summer and began my reading with R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God. Oh my goodness is my mind already blown, and I’m just in chapter two. Contemplating the holiness of God is honestly something I’ve never really done, and how amazing and unfathomable it is to focus on.

Chapter two centers around the first time Isaiah was in the presence of our holy God. Breaking down Isaiah 6 line by line, I’m stuck on Isaiah 6:5-8. After Isaiah sees clearly the holy God, with seraphim surrounding Him praising His name, he opens his mouth, “’Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty,’” (Isa. 6:5, NIV). Sproul goes on to explain that in older Bible translations a reader would see the word “undone” in place of where it now says “ruined.” Isaiah saw a glimpse of the holy God and became undone. Sproul defines undone as “to come apart at the seams, to be unraveled” (p. 27). He continues by explaining that the opposite of undone in modern slang is to be someone who “has it all together.” In my sinful flesh, I dream of being the girl that “has it all together.” When Isaiah was in the presence of the holy God, there was no way of him being that person.

On page 28 of The Holiness of God Sproul writes of Isaiah:

If ever there was a man of integrity, it was Isaiah ben Amoz. He was a whole man, a together type of a fellow. He was considered by his contemporaries as the most righteous man in the nation. He was respected as a paragon of virtue. Then he caught one sudden glimpse of a holy God. In that single moment, all of his self-esteem was shattered. In a brief second he was exposed, made naked beneath the gaze of the absolute standard of holiness. As long as Isaiah could compare himself to other mortals, he was able to sustain a lofty opinion of his own character. The instant he measured himself by the ultimate standard, he was destroyed—morally and spiritually annihilated. He was undone. He came apart. His sense of integrity collapsed.

Each chapter of this book has discussion questions at the end to think through. The first question asked if I had ever been in a position of being undone by God’s presence. I went back and read Sproul’s definition of being undone and thought through this question and realized no, I have never been in this position before. Why? Because that is the exact thing that I try to avoid. I don’t want to be undone. I want to “have it all together.” My heart breaks as I type this sad reality. What a box I have put my holy God in all because I don’t want to become undone by His presence.

After our holy, yet gracious God cleanses Isaiah with a burning coal to his lips Isaiah writes, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” (Isa. 6:8, NIV). Sproul makes a note to point out that there is a huge difference between saying, “Here am I,” and, “Here I am.” I had never noticed this before. Up until reading this book I had always flown by this passage of Scripture reading it as if Isaiah had said, “Here I am.” Isaiah wasn’t merely pointing out, “Hey I’m over here!” He was telling the Lord that He could have all of him.

Sproul points out two very important details, that again, up until reading this book I would not have thought through. Isaiah was shattered completely when being in the presence of the holy God. There was no way for him to hold it together because it just is what is–God is that holy and we mere mortals are that lowly. Isaiah, while to the mortal eye was a righteous man, was in fact a sinful man. He lost all sense of who he was, but God cleansed him. God put the pieces of Isaiah back together. “Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for’” (Isa. 6:6-7, NIV). God took a completely undone man that was shattered before Him, and completely restored him; restored him to where Isaiah wanted to give himself completely to the holy God.

Sproul notes the second important detail of this passage on page 32:

The second important thing we learn from this event is that God’s work of grace on Isaiah’s soul did not annihilate his personal identity. Isaiah said, “Here am I.” Isaiah could still speak in terms of “I.” He still had an identity. He still had a personality. Far from God seeking to destroy the “self,” as many distortions of Christianity would claim, God redeems the self. He heals the self so that it may be useful and fulfilled in the mission to which the person is called. Isaiah’s personality was overhauled but not annihilated. He was still Isaiah ben Amoz when he left the temple. He was the same person, but his mouth was clean.

I think those two details that Sproul points out are the truths that stand opposed to the lies I have been believing. I’m fearful that my life, my dreams, my wants, my ways, etc. will be taken from me when my life gets completely shattered and that I will not being able to recover. And I’m also fearful that if my life is completely shattered, I won’t be “me” anymore.

I want to be a woman that is undone by the holiness of my God. That’s scary. The holiness of God is scary. Here’s little ole’ me thinking that I know everything and have this life figured out most of the time (such pride) and then I read two chapters about this holy God who brings Isaiah to cower in fear and cast the woes of God upon himself and I get a small glimpse of how lowly and sinful I am and how much I really don’t know at all. I don’t want to fear what doesn’t make sense in my own little world. I don’t want to listen to the lies anymore, but stand on the firm foundation of God’s Word, which shows clearly in Isaiah 6 that yes, His holiness is scary, but He is gracious and He can put me back together even when my life is shattered for Him. Here am I, God. Shatter me.

Planted for His Glory



This past week I finished up the remarkably written book by Greg Gilbert titled What is The Gospel? I know I mentioned this in the last post, but I had different emotions when it came to reading a set of books that I generally categorized as “those books” in my mind. The type of books that don’t have anything to do with historical fiction (my favorite) or are not the Bible. I got prepared with highlighters and neon pink post it notes. I wanted to soak up everything I could. I felt as though this book was going to be very helpful in clearing up a lot of foggy thinking and wrong notions I had about the gospel. Again, as previously mentioned, a lot of preconceived ideas were definitely put to rest and/or corrected within the pages of this little black book. I am happy to say that I am better off for trusting in the Lord through all this.

It is so neat to see how far you have come when reading books such as What is The Gospel? On the flip side, it so humbling to realize there is still so much I don’t know, but want to seek the Lord in. I wanted to share a few things with you that I found to be so true in my walk with Christ, and some shattered notions that I previously believed. The breakdown of the “Three Substitute Gospels” in chapter seven hit closest to home for me. I just wanted to share some on this, and thoughts I had while reading through the conclusion of this book.

One of the “Three Substitute Gospels” listed in the book is the “Jesus Is Lord” gospel. Although this declaration is described by Gilbert as “magnificently true!”, and he goes one to say that, “Jesus’ lordship is essential to the gospel message,” he goes on to explain why this popular version of the gospel is not good news at all if you don’t explain that, “Jesus is not only Lord but also Savior.” I was blown away at the break down of this, and the correction was so needed for me. People also need to know that He died for them, so that sinners, “may be forgiven and brought into the joy of his coming kingdom.”

I was thinking back on how I have tried to tell someone about my faith. I sold it so short of what it is truly about. I think in a way I pulled the, “But wait there’s more!” infomercial tactic on people without realizing the most important part of our response to the gospel was being shoved out. That part included repenting and placing trust in Jesus’ work on the cross. This weekend I couldn’t help but feel as though maybe we skip all the parts that would scare someone away because we want to win them for the kingdom! Heck, I use to get nervous sharing a post on Facebook about my faith just thinking of what others might say. I never wanted to mention the other parts like, “Jesus stood in your place, and took the punishment you deserved,” or, “There is nothing good in you or me apart from Him.”

In our culture today, telling someone they deserved some kind of punishment isn’t exactly something people want to hear. We live in a time where we do everything that makes us feel good. I heard a local pastor state this week that the reason people don’t like the thought of following Jesus is because, “He messes up their system.” A system that allows you to earn His love or earn your way to heaven. But because He has already paid the cost on your behalf there is nothing for you to do other than to accept His free and perfect gift. I think this is so true, but I think people also don’t like to be told (especially when they think they’re so good) that apart from Jesus standing in their place, they are going to receive the wrath of God! For me, this was difficult to understand. I often found myself thinking, “Well, why am I so bad that I would deserve such a punishment?” But then I think, “Well what did Jesus ever do to deserve the cross?” Clearly there was an exchange that was taking place. He stood in the place where you and I should have so that we would be able to stand before our King when the time comes.

I know I am not strong enough, or good enough, to make it to heaven based upon my merit. But I thank the Lord that He sent His only Son! The fact remains that I will never be perfect until I am with Jesus. Until then, I stand in awe of what He has done for me. I don’t know about you, but just the thought of that sacrificial love can move me to tears. I love the way Gilbert puts it on the last page of chapter seven: “What if people laugh at the gospel because it’s about a man dying on a cross? So be it, Paul said. I’m preaching the cross. They may think it’s ridiculous; they may think it’s foolish. But I know ‘the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom’ (1 Cor. 1:25 NIV).”

All for His Glory


I wasn’t even sure what I was going to share with you about my journey while reading the book What Is the Gospel? At first I wanted to unload all of these cool pieces that were starting to come together for me. But I was insecure about how to articulate all of this. I was uncomfortable with my level of understanding. I just felt like I wasn’t sure if I would be saying the right things. But I do have something I want to share with you, and hope you can bear with me.

What is the gospel? To me this question is something I thought I knew. But now that I look back on times when I had had conversations with someone about my faith, I am cringing because I am not sure if what I shared was even halfway biblically sound. I honestly have never had the courage to share the gospel that much, but especially when I started to see that what I did know was next to nothing. And I use to avoid using all these amazing tools to equip me so that I could avoid having to share any knowledge and risk be judged based on how little I knew. I was prideful and had a fear wrapped in insecurity asking, “What if what I am saying is wrong?” or, “This person is so smart, I could never speak to them on that level.” These were the exact words I have shared with my husband on the matter many times in the last few years.

When you grow up learning something different and never seeking for yourself, you find that there is so much you never knew. In the introduction of the book What Is the Gospel? we read what some other folks thought about the gospel as well. I was astounded to see such a wide variety of views, and yet I feel like I found parts of what I thought in some of these statements. In some of the statements I didn’t feel like I was reading anything too horrible, and others I knew were not so right. Gilbert went on to say that hopefully by the end we would be able to decide which statements were “better or worse.” For some reason, my mind felt this pressure. Instead of seeking the Lord to secure my focus, I was looking to my flesh to be able to complete this task I had created in order to “know it all.”

In that time I was already putting a challenge on myself. I can best compare this feeling with a competitiveness mixed with prepping for a quiz. I wanted to do the best my flesh could do (even though I wasn’t racing against anyone), and I wanted to be the smartest (even though there was nothing or anyone to compare to). I wanted people to see some kind of growth in me that they hadn’t seen in my life before. It’s like I wanted them to know that I had read this book, studied God’s Word, and now all I needed to do was be able to discern the true gospel from the false.

My mind had wandered off so far! My mind went from book, to self, to how others see me. This was all before I could even make it through the introduction. I was already having seeds of pride and fear settling into my mind. In that moment, just in the introduction, I had to stop and ask the Lord to truly open my mind, eyes, and heart to what it is that He was wanting me to take from this. I asked Him to keep all distractions at bay. Because, I will admit, I had to read a few pages over again. But I needed to understand this biblical foundation so badly. Never had I sat by myself with a book other than the Bible to read about the gospel. I may have thought about cracking open a book like that a time or two, but never really found myself interested in “those kinds of books.” That’s the category I put them under in my mind.

Honestly, this was the very first one! Can I just say, it is so wonderful to feel corrected in my thinking now. I want to do what 1 Peter 3:15 says: “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” I want to be able to boldly share about the “good news” without fear of man, and all for His glory when He has called me to do so. This is not a race or challenge, it is taking this day by day and truly being genuine in what it is that we are doing here. I don’t want to do this for a show, or for recognition. I just want to be filled with His Word and grace so that I be changed from the inside out.

All for His Glory