Easter Morning

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” ~Mark 16:1-3

In the quiet of the weekend, the wondering and weeping must have been so great. The counting down of hours until she could run to His tomb and finish preparing His body correctly for final burial weighed heavily on her heart. She owed Him so much, for He had freed her from the bondage of demons hell-bent on destroying her mind. As she neared the tomb with her friend Mary, her arms were full of what she needed to finish loving her Teacher, and her spirit lagged with the weight of grief and loss.

Glancing up towards her goal, Mary Magdalene’s heart thudded and her breath stopped. Terror mixed with anger coursed through her body at that moment. The stone was moved! The grave had already been opened! Seemingly dead guards littered the entrance. Running now with desperation towards the tomb, the women entered, frantic to find His body and ensure that it hadn’t been desecrated.

As she ran into the tomb, her eyes darted around taking in the sight of empty linen cloths, the folded face cloth, the empty tomb. Nothing made sense, and grief mixed with bile as she turned quickly to go tell the Simon Peter and John.

She returned to the tomb later, drawn to the last place Jesus had been. Desperate for answers, perhaps looking around for clues, her heart was clinging to hope that the body would reappear so that she could finish honoring Him. She peered in once more. Two men in white now occupied the tomb, sitting one at the head and one at the foot of where He had lain. Imagine her terror and outrage!

But what came next is the beauty of God’s grace and pursuit of us!

“He is not here, for He has risen, as He said.” The pronouncement catches her breath. Processing this truth, quietly weeping and turning to go home, she spies the gardener. He asks her why she is so full of grief. Perhaps wondering whether he knew the secret to where His body had been stowed, she poured out her heart, promising to care for the body if someone would just let her have it.  She was frantic, almost hysterical, sobbing the cries that catch in your throat and make it hard to breathe.

“Mary.”  What must that word have sounded like to her ears?  She knew immediately at that moment who this man was. Not only did she know Him, but she also began to worship Him. The understanding of all that had happened flashed through her mind, like pieces of a puzzle falling into place. She was given the great privilege of being the first witness of our risen Lord and the first messenger of the Good News.

“I have seen the Lord.”

She had followed him throughout His ministry, listening and gleaning truth from Him. No doubt she yearned to understand all He taught, and she accompanied Him all the way to the cross. We see her at the foot of His cross, grieving as she stayed with Him, refusing to run or hide, clearly aligning herself with this King of the Jews. By all her actions, we see a woman who knew Jesus was more than just a man, more than just a righteous teacher, yet not until the garden does the complete picture of Jesus become clear.

But He knew her. He knew her heart, how she would be processing all that had happened, and He pursues her. He walks straight up to Mary Magdalene and tends to her heart. And He pursues you and me as well. He knows our needs, the cries of our hearts, and seeks to show us the truth of walking with Him. He has conquered every heartache, every dark sin, every place of bondage and ache, and He calls your name in love.

Grace & Peace Multiply

May grace and peace be multiplied to you. ~ 1 Peter 1:2

Every day, it seems, is stuffed with activities, planning schedules, organizing of lives, never mind cooking, cleaning, laundry, mothering, and relating to my children and husband. I would love a day when I can wake up and not have countless tasks and events looming, requiring a Tetris like skill to make all of them fit together and actually get accomplished. Today, for instance, includes making 2 costumes, editing 4 research papers for different children’s end of the year projects or college essays, a dishwasher that has broken, 3 haircuts scheduled unfortunately for the same time across town, registrations for camp, homeschool tasks, a car tuneup for a trip, organizing movers, and staging our home for sale.

While my head swirled with a list of things to complete, my heart began to sing this morning as I studied 1 Peter. Grace and peace are multiplied to me. God does not merely add up grace, stacking a little more on top as we go through our day. He doesn’t add more peace as we start to waver in distraction or panic. Multiplication happens. The impressive truth about multiplication is that it isn’t merely repeated addition as we often teach 2nd graders. Addition only allows like terms to be added together to slowly grow. Multiplication allows the compounding of unlike terms with growth happening at an exponential rate.

Grace and peace together multiplied, is offered to me as His child. Four things are true of those who are saved in this verse: God foreknows them, the Spirit sanctifies them, they obey Jesus, and Jesus’ blood covers them.

God knows us, He pursues us, He calls us by name. Over and over in scripture, we see God seeking out His people. Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. (Is. 43:2) I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; (John 10:14-15) I will protect him, because he knows my name. (Psalm 91:14) I am chosen by Him, for a relationship with Him. Letting that truth sink into my day, how I perceive all parts of my day sets me free from the feelings and lies that I am all alone or abandoned.

The Spirit is sanctifying me. Oh! What a wonderful truth to embrace this morning! That God doesn’t turn away in anger or disgust for how I sinfully interact with my children or husband, for how I mismanage my time, or how I bow and worship at the idols in my heart brings great peace. He is at work in me. Sanctify means to set apart; to declare as holy and in this passage is the process of becoming holy. He is convicting and refining, transforming my thinking as He works to change me evermore every day into His image, making me more like Him. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18) He intercedes for us before the throne. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)

My relationship with God declares I am covered with Jesus’ blood for my salvation. His redeeming work of offering up his body as a sacrifice for my sins allows me entrance into the covenant of grace and forgiveness with God. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22b), and he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Heb. 9:26b). The obedience of Jesus creates the way for me to have a relationship with Him, and my obedience becomes the response of gratitude for cleansing by His blood. Since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,..let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering,… and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. (Hebrews 10:19-24)

So grace and peace supernaturally, divinely multiply together, covering me today with a peace beyond understanding because I know the grace that extends over all of me. Peace floods me with the assurance that, despite my shortfalls today, my eternity is secure. Access to God is assured because of the grace given, and I can abide with Him today in all I do because He is committed to walking this day out with me. I can cry out to Him for time management – He cares! I can ask Him for kindness for wild or rebellious children – He provides! I can seek Him for wisdom – He listens! Grace and peace multiply and I can breathe. I can rest. I can linger in relationships rather than flit anxiously from task to task. I can exude these same blessings to my children in their hardest spaces, not because I am so amazing but because He is, and He has filled me.

Back Porch – Lies We Believe

There are 3 lies the enemy wants us to believe – the Gospel refutes them all.

And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. ~Matthew 7:25

Salvation and redemption offer a change in identity. God’s pursuit of mankind has always been powered by His steadfast love for us. We have looked at the gospel as 4 parts ~ Holy God, sinful man, Jesus Christ, and new life. The identity of the justified has changed from lost, sinful, and condemned to adopted, righteous, and redeemed.  Walking through this study, we have sought to lay a foundation solely on the Gospel so that as we grow up in Him, our lives are a living structure well built with straight lines, plumb walls and windows, and without cracks or holes. As a child of God, my identity becomes one of the foundational pieces in how I relate to the world. Faith grows as my knowledge of what He gives at salvation increases, therefore knowing what it means to be a new creation, in Christ, sealed with the Holy Spirit, filled with His fullness, saved, justified, and being sanctified becomes essential. Understanding my identity in Jesus Christ will solidify my foundation against the storms of life, the lies of the enemy, and the battlefield of the mind.

Understanding truth from counterfeit is paramount. When an art authentication expert can identify an original painting from a replica, his knowledge is based on the study of the original. He has become an expert in brushstrokes, medium, canvas, etc. that the artist used. Identifying counterfeit money requires an intense study of the original.

The ability to see tiny nuances of illegitimacy comes from time spent with the archetype.

From the beginning, there is one who has whispered lies to mankind. As we grow in Jesus, we must understand the truth of the Gospel to see the deceit that often impacts the framework of our faith. Lies steal our identity and layer in doubt and shame. As we deepen in our faith, our ability to see the overt lies increases, but the deception in the subtle, slight variations from the truth can still cause us to stumble unless we know the truth well.

 

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photo cred: Noah Kimsey

 

The enemy sows seeds of doubt – doubt about who God is and how we relate to Him. The first lie ever spoken is found in Genesis 3:1, “Did God actually say?” The softened questioning of whether God really meant a specific command began the fall. The enemy’s primary web of deceit questions whether God really said and then expected the truth of the Word.

Culturally we see this lie at work everywhere. Ascribing to accuracy and veracity of scripture is under attack. The shifting of truth from a biblical foundation to one based on opinion and feeling began as a whisper that has now grown to a dull roar as interpretation and fearlessness become the norm. Maclaren declares, “The reality of moral distinctions, the essential wrongness of the sin, is obscured by a mist of sophistication.”

Immediately we see the heart of both Adam and Eve change as they begin to doubt the one relationship on which everything centered. In my own life, this lie can take root and cause upheaval. I can easily question the meaning behind God’s words, worry that grace is not enough for me rife with hidden sin, wonder whether His faithful presence is for me specifically. Did God really say He would always be with me? Did God really say I am wholly loved? Is God’s love really steadfast for me?

His promises, blessings, and actions all come under attack with this lie. Our value therefore also can come under attack here because if God’s words are not true, then our identity is illegitimate. If forgiveness is not freely given, and if redemption is not complete through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, then my hope cannot be assured and my eternity is insecure.

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes” Psalm 19:7-8

The serpent continues with a second part of the lie –  could they not eat of any tree in the garden?  The question implies doubting whether God is good – would a good God deny you all fruit in essence. This is another primary lie he uses to catch our thoughts and ply our heart with doubts that lead to anger and shame.  The basis of the deceit is the implication that God is stingy, withholds from us, and will fail to come alongside us in life. The very character of God is under attack. If God is not who He says He is, if He fails in any of these areas, then He is an untrustworthy God. Your future is uncertain left in the hands of a God who is not faithful.

Often I can feel as if God is not listening. I can believe the whispering questions of doubt that wonder whether He hears my cries and needs, whether He is engaged with me at this moment. Does He know my worries or fears about raising my children? Does he care that none of this seems to be going well? More than anything, the enemy wants you and me to believe that God is removed or latent in His relationship with us.

The truth is God is wholly consistent in His attributes. Studying the attributes of God exposes His character. Delighting in who God is and what He is like results in worship, not worry.

The third lie we see is the lie that asks is Should He be your God?  The serpent announces that rather than dying, Adam and Eve will be like God, knowing good and evil. The true need for God is brought under attack, as this lie pushes us to desire to be godlike instead.

He presents the idea that God knows the fruit will allow them to be like Him, and by insinuation confirms that God is seeking to prevent their independence. According to the serpent, there is no consequence for eating the fruit, but rather the delightful treat would elevate them to who they truly should be.

The serpent questions whether Adam and Eve should simply know good from evil themselves rather than rely on God for input. The worthiness of God, His holiness, sovereignty, power, and position come under attack.

As a woman and mother, this lie traps me in many different ways. My flesh seeks independence from God and a worship of self. The deceit of the enemy capitalizes on my bent. Worshipping myself can look like 2 different extremes. The lies that I need to “be more” ~ more successful, more competent, self-reliant, more focused on myself ~ these lies tantalize me with thoughts of how to succeed. The flip side is the focus on my inadequacies, my failures, doubts, and fears ~ the belief that I am not enough and cannot change. In both of these paradigms, I focus on me. The heart of sin is self-assertion and a desire to be independent of God, and the lies the enemy uses capitalize on those drives.

Jesus Christ is our hope. He is the light burning brightly in the darkness of rebellion and separation. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all peoples” (Titus 2:11).

 

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photo cred: Noah Kimsey

 

These three lies can snag our heart and drive us down the road to bondage and doubt. The truth is the enemy understands the flesh we battle as well and capitalizes on this as he worms his way into our minds. We are bent with our flesh towards independence from God – it is our sin nature.

How do I ensure that my foundation is securely placed on Christ alone? Why would that be a word picture Jesus would use within the Sermon on the Mount? A foundation has three main roles: it must maintain a strong load-bearing capacity, prevent ground moisture from seeping into the structure, and be able to resist external forces coming against the structure to keep the building standing.

In our lives, there will be storms that threaten our belief in God, floods of life that make us feel like we cannot keep our footing in the truth of who He is, and winds of doubt and rebellion. But if my foundation is set on Jesus Christ – that His sacrifice paid for all the sin I struggle against, turned aside God’s wrath, set me free from the bonds of death, and that forever now I live in the gracious renewing power of Christ, making me more and more into His image – then my heart is not as easily swayed by the whisperings of the enemy. I set my heart and mind on the One who rebuilds, renews, and restores me.

All glory is to Him.  

 

the hagar moment

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. ~1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Have you ever had a Hagar moment in your life? I can tend to follow the pattern of Sarai in the Old Testament. The times I feel I know the end product yet not the next step, I will often surge forward in action seeking to get to the promised end, impatient with God’s timing yet eager for the promise.

In Genesis 15, God made a covenant with Abram in which He promised that Abram’s offspring would number the stars. I can imagine Abram and Sarai, anxious to have a child and holding to this promise, talking about when and how they might get pregnant. But then we see a rush into action, an impatience in God’s timing, and the false belief that they needed to help God along with His promise of offspring. We see Sarai convincing Abram to take her servant Hagar as a substitute to allow for pregnancy in that way.  Truthfully Hagar holds a tragic place in the story in Genesis. As a servant in the household, she really had no power to make the decisions regarding her own life. Thrust into a position of motherhood, she began to own what should be hers – a position of influence and equality with Sarai as a wife.

All the manipulating only led to confusion and hurt. Sarai claimed that Hagar was treating her with contempt and sought Abram’s help. Abram then gives Sarai permission to treat her as she desires, and Sarai begins to mistreat Hagar. Fear ultimately overcame Hagar’s boldness, and while feeling rejected and betrayed, she fled into the wilderness. God, in His goodness, pursues Hagar right into the wilderness. He tends to her, gives her promises for her son Ishmael, and sends her back.

Prolonged waiting was a part of God’s plan to accomplish all He intended. God returned to Abram and made a covenant with him, changing his name to Abraham, reiterating his promise of offspring through Sarah, giving them a land of their own, and finally promising to be their God.

And this time, they wait for Him.

God wasn’t worried or concerned about how they would have a child. He was at work in His plan, His way, His timing. The problem was it did not match up to Sarai’s logic and desires.

The waiting is designed to mature us. Often the waiting seems interminable, and I can see how to move past the waiting if I only could change certain pieces. So I seek unilaterally to manipulate in order to achieve.

I war against the waiting.

And in the warring, I can introduce pain, heartache, sin, and doubt into places where God wants to be glorified. Learning to rest well in Him, trusting His timing, brings great joy and peace. When Abraham is finally told that he will have a son within the year, he laughs. But his laughter is not a laugh of unbelief or doubt. His laughter is filled with joy and laced with belief.

God’s covenant, His plan comes in an unfolding, never in a bolt of lightning. The growth pattern in a relationship with God moves us along growing our dependence upon Him, strengthening our root system in His truth and love, but He does not yank us two feet taller overnight. He is at work in you and me, deepening our faith as we lean hard into Him.

He knows the timing. He sees the end.

 

 

He inclines his ear

I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. ~Psalm 116:1-2

God bends down. He bends down to listen to us well, intently seeking our heart, hearing our heart cries that surpass our words, and knowing the answers we desperately seek. In Psalm 116:2 the verb inclined his ear is the Hebrew word Natah which means to stretch out, incline, bend, or to pitch a tent. Our Jehovah God inclines! He leans down to listen, to come down and allow my cries and your cries right in His ear. Our whispering heart cries never go unheeded.

Often I can feel as if God is not listening. I can believe the whispering questions of doubt that wonder whether He hears my cries and needs, whether He is engaged with me at this moment. More than anything, the enemy wants you and me to believe that God is removed or latent in His relationship with us. But the Psalms point over and over to the assurance that we have an active, engaged Jehovah God who listens to each prayer and answers in His time. Psalm 40:1 says, “I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.” Same word ~ inclined. Psalm 18:6 declares, “In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice and my cry to him reached his ears.” Just like I hear the desperate cry of a hurt child, the wailings of pain, anger, or fear, and come running, God rescues me.

The imagery in this verb points to Him tenting over us, enveloping us in the safety of His presence. Our heavenly Father leans down like a parent would, surrounding us with his presence as He listens to our prayers and our pleas for mercy. We can all remember moments when we have needed the tenting of a loving parent’s or friend’s arms surrounding us, covering us with safety and protection physically to mimic the raw emotional protection we needed in moments of heartbreak or vulnerability. Our God offers a tenting that is more comforting than any physical consolation, more powerful than any physical protection, and more consistent than any physical person. Let’s rest today with certainty in our soul that He is avidly listening to us, His children.

But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. ~Psalm 66:19

Pruning

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. ~John 15:1-2

Something that had been a weak open hand of offering to the Lord has become the cry of my heart over the last 2 years. A begging almost for deliverance, for the answer to come. In the beginning, the act of obedience was not a desire of my heart but merely an acknowledgment that He is the One I will follow. Throughout this time, my outstretched hand has grown weary and trembles under the strain of maintaining the sacrifice. My heart desperately longs to be relieved of it, for the submitted to be removed from my hand, for me to be free, and for God to receive what I have given. Yet still I stand with my hands offering, weighted down and waiting. Has this ever happened to you?

I had imagined the removal would come quickly, I would be relieved, and my obedience would be a short-lived exercise. Almost flippant in the initial contribution, denying the power this thing possessed over my heart, I willingly said I would lay it down and walk away.

But sometimes growth only comes through pruning.

My heart has been the recipient of the exercise.

His hand has pruned and worked in me, changing the landscape there, moving me from reticent to bold. Slowly He reveals the ways that He desires to make me more like Him, the truths He wants to be sown into my heart, and the idols I have worshipped. My offering becomes more about submitting all of me to Him than about obedience in one space. He tenderly unpacks the beautiful depths of following Him and emboldens me.

Still, in moments of fatigue and doubt, I will take this offering and pull it back tightly against my chest, hoping that there is another way, longing to see another path for obedience that does not include relinquishing this. He patiently reminds me He is trustworthy and His way is right.

One of my favorite passages of scripture says, Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit (Jeremiah 17:7-8). Heat comes, and drought happens. I feel as if this has been a season of both. But my trust is in Him, and He keeps me green, full of His life, abundant in fruit and growth. The truth is weather cannot impact the life and growth He governs.

His goal for me in the pruning is more fruit. A part of me in this process has wanted to simply shed the offering, drop it off, be done with it. If I could have finished this years ago, I would have. But the fruit would not have grown. Fruit takes time, it takes being rooted in rich soil, attached to a strong parent plant so that the branch can be supported and receive the nutrients it needs.  Fruit grows because the DNA of the plant determines the growth; abiding in Christ, understanding my identity ~ Christ is in me, determines the growth pattern of my fruit.  As I surrender to the work of the Spirit, He is free to tend and grow within me fruit that glorifies Himself.

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. ~John 15:8

strength & joy

And so from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. ~Colossians 1:9-12

I walk on a more unique path than some – my feet are in every area of mothering except fully adult children. I have infants, preschoolers, elementary and middle schoolers, teenagers and college kids. I joke that the babies get me up super early and my night owl teenagers want to talk only after 11:30 at night. But it really is true!

I long for the insight for the moments with each child, to be filled with His wisdom, His truth to flow from my lips to a child’s heart. To show them the faithfulness of Christ who always has a listening ear and steadfast love. But many times I fail or compromise. I justify my hard, selfish heart because I’m tired, or bad day, etc. I rationalize that I’ll do better tomorrow or grab them later today to address that heart issue they have. Sometimes I just want an escape.

But Paul prays for the church and for me in Colossians 1 that we would be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. The result will be a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, bearing fruit and increasing in the knowledge of God. Doesn’t that fill your heart with longing? I just want this more and more, and I pray this so much over my children. And then verse 11: May you be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy. That is SO hard in motherhood!

Let’s be real – I might be strong, on a good day until lunch, but the wheels are going to come off the wagon because someone is picking on someone else, or someone is demanding or whining a lot today, or someone is just obstinate. But I assure you, the wheels will come off this wagon – I will lose it! It may be a “slow leak” day where I can keep most of it turned way down, or it may be a short fuse kind of day which is always a little scary for the little people! But apart from Christ, and seeking the strength of His power and his might, I will not be able to walk worthy of Him with my kids or in my marriage. I may be able to fool you out in public, but I will never fool my kids or my husband.

But Paul says that the strength comes from God’s glorious might – I don’t have to be strong, I have to be submitted. The verb be strengthened is a present participle verb implying an ongoing action. My strengthening is not one and done. He strengthens me moment by moment, day by day. His infusing of power flows from His might full of His glory. My choice is simply will I rely on Him? Will I turn to the fount of living water which flows and floods, or will I seek my own broken cistern as a source of power today?

And in the moments full of grief, pain, confusion, wonder, and uncertainty in parenting, will I seek Him? I love a quote from Maclaren, “Our sorrows make rents through which His strength flows.” Many moments in parenting are painful and uncertain, whether because a child suffers from an illness, makes decisions I know are unwise, or has circumstances that hurt their heart. My heart at times has wanted to rip apart in fear and grief, and in my flesh waves of confusion and discouragement flood my mind. But when I lift my eyes to the One who is my help, who loves my child more than I ever will, He provides the deepest source of strength and the calmest life-giving water to restore and fill me. His strength is made perfect in my weakness, and He commits fully to me.

Then His endurance for the long toddler/teenager day can go the distance. His patience comes flowing out of me in seasons of chaos and confusion. I rest with Him, in Him, on Him.

And His joy floods my soul.

Joy (xara, chara in the Greek) means grace recognized. Joy is not euphoria, bliss, or ecstasy the way our current culture uses the term. His joy in me centers on what He has done for me, rescuing me from the bondage of sin and death, walking me through each day in sanctifying commitment to me, and leading me ultimately to the great inheritance of life eternal with Him.  Recognizing grace, seeing His love, His work, and His plan despite my circumstances, settles my soul despite the hard, painful, demanding moments. Joy based in His Gospel becomes my bedrock.

So today, may we be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.

 

 

Am I deluded?

“that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.” ~ Col. 2:2-4

Walking with Jesus is hard. The onslaughts from the world, the enemy, and my own mind press in on me, blinding me from the One who holds all truth.

But I want to be the woman, the wife, the mother like Paul says – my heart encouraged in the tough stuff of life, because I have the assurance of the Gospel – that Christ died for me, to save me, redeem me, change me and make me like Him. He is committed to that process in me. He offers Himself fully to me – all His power, all His love, all His fruit working in me and through me. Scripture is replete with who we are as His redeemed, and we need to KNOW these truths because full assurance of understanding and knowledge of God’s mystery (Jesus Christ) is the only way to combat sin and flesh.

I confess, sometimes I am easily deluded with plausible arguments. If they weren’t plausible, they wouldn’t work. I would be able to spot them. The enemy is crafty. He knows the lies I can identify as lies and therefore reject and the ones I will embrace as truth. Other translations refer to plausible arguments as smooth rhetoric, enticing words, fancy talk, or persuasive speech. The concern Paul had for the believers at Colosse centered on listening to people teach about culturally “good” and popular things, not gospel truths.

While I may not relate to the specifics of Paul’s day, the same lies are still at the root today. There is still the draw for religion and asceticism for comparison’s sake – the need to measure holiness on behavior and not the heart. In a book my kids and I have been reading for ancient history, the author Genevieve Foster presents the word RELIGIO in Latin which means to bind fast. She defines religion in ancient times as “Man’s desire and effort to bind himself fast and secure to the Great Spirit of the Universe.”  As I read this, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I don’t have to bind myself. My efforts are not required. For while I was a sinner, Christ died for me. I have been brought near by the blood of Christ and now am in Christ Jesus, sealed with the Spirit until His return. He is my Peace – no strivings, no performance needed.

The power of self, of believing that I can solve my own problems apart from God, continues to dominate cultural conversations. Self improvement books abound with concepts of self love and self care, but God calls me to Himself, not to my own self awareness. In a posture of rest and abiding in His truth, I receive His strength and power in order to walk out all that He has laid before me for each day. In Christ I can rest. His rest will tend my soul and calm my anxious thoughts. His peace goes beyond my understanding, beyond my circumstances, and becomes the bedrock of my heart.

When my feelings are elevated to wisdom and outrank what the Bible says, then truth can be different for you and for me. It can flex depending on my circumstances, the attitudes of the time, or what seems most important. Christ therefore can be a part of my belief system but not be preeminent. The depreciation of Christ from central in my relationship with God to one of many options and thus irrelevant has been one of the enemy’s chief tactics since the beginning.

Open my eyes, that I may see. Give me discernment to see where I embrace self actualization, performance, or compromise truth with humanistic thought.  Show me the idols that capture my attention and bind my heart. Help me to see the lies that surround me, and equip me to stand in the truth instead. And as I walk with You, let me rest in the security of  redemption.

More than anything, I want to grow as a woman rescued from the darkness of sin to know His wisdom and understanding; and from that growth, life will spring, walking with the Spirit rich in fruit, constantly weighing everything against the Gospel and scripture.

 He is the way, and the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father any other way. In Christ is every spiritual blessing, redemption and forgiveness lavished with grace, and an inheritance sealed. Grow me deeper in understanding and knowing You, Jesus.

the blue line

If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. ~Galatians 5:25

God unpacked more of this truth to my heart the other day in an incident that happened with our sixteen year old.  She was driving across town to a physical therapy appointment, and unsure of the directions, she quickly set her GPS to take her to the office. Since I was meeting her there, I checked her location to see how close she was. I watched in astonishment as her little dot continued to move on a highway in the opposite direction of where she should go, heading downtown when she should be 20 minutes away in the suburbs. Quickly I called her in the car and with great aggravation asked where she was headed. In her defensive answer, God caught my attention. “I’m going exactly where I should! I’m following the blue line, Mom.”

Thoroughly convinced of her path, she had never considered her end goal. She trusted so completely the programming that she never thought to doublecheck that she was headed to the correct location for this office. I confess I did not handle this well in the moments of correction – I was so annoyed and worried about missing the appointment that I absolutely injured her heart and broke relationship as I lectured her on using GPS, maturity in driving a vehicle, etc. (Parenting win) All I could focus on was the thought, “Who does this? Who doesn’t check the end point to ensure that their directions are taking them to the right place? How can you just follow a blue line, content that it must be right?” As I waited for her to drive back the opposite direction to meet me, God kept whispering and nudging me to look inward, to use this physical picture to see with spiritual eyes.

I think that I do this.

So often I look only at the next step in front of me, never considering the end point or the goal. Content in my blue line, in what I can see, never considering whether I have set my course to the right goal, I blithely move through my days. I can race right by the signs that declare my loss of direction. So focused on maintaining my position, I don’t doubt my own programming. The truth is my heart will deceive me more than send me in the right direction. My natural sense of direction is warped, broken, and off course. I will lead myself according to the whims of the world to popular destinations that ultimately will not be for my good.

But God knows my end goal. He is the sovereign navigator.

He knows my path, all of it, the bends and turns, the mountains and the valleys, the vistas and the deserts, and He desires to lead me. We have been given the Holy Spirit as a seal for our salvation to walk with us here and to be our Helper. Jesus emphasized the great gift of the Holy Spirit over and over in John 14-16. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you (Jn 16:7). But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you (Jn 14:26). And He says walk with Him. Keep looking to Him, and don’t measure your trip the way the world does. His end goal is that I will look more like Jesus, not that I will arrive at success, happiness, popularity, or fortune. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own… But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:12-14) My chief end is to know Him, to enjoy Him, and to glorify Him forever. When I am caught in the swirl of busyness, tasks, worry, or fear, my natural navigation will drive me away from His path.

God wants this focus to be the purpose behind my parenting as well. One of my roles in parenting my teens/young adults is to point to the longterm goal ~ loving Jesus and following Him. Our culture points to self fulfillment in every message but being good, happy, or popular is not the goal. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ (Colossians 2:8). Often children get stuck, nose down, following the blue line of grades, friends, sports, etc, never readjusting, never looking to make sure they are heading towards the correct goal. They just want to be driving where all their friends are. Sometimes they are so stuck in traffic that they cannot see any way to get out or change course. They may be too afraid to move, to push the gas pedal at all for fear they will be out of control.   This blue line of the world leads to certain confusion, lostness, misdirection. So conversations must be filled with open questions pushing my young adult to shift their eyes from temporal next steps to seek instead the glory and the direction of God. What does wisdom look like on this road? Where do you see God moving? What do you think His purpose might be for this speed bump you keep hitting? Why do you think you are going through the valley? What do you see of His love and care right here on this mountain? The lens of Jesus Christ at work in our lives needs to be the filter, the “blue light glasses” of our lives.

Paul consistently models discipleship in his letters. Repeatedly he exhorts and encourages, pointing to the future when Christ returns seeking to reset their natural tendency to look at the world through “right now glasses.” Our living is not for the moment, we are in the mere beginnings of our eternity.  With gentleness and humility we can correct our children, but I think one of the most powerful messages is affirming the Spirit’s work in their lives as we see them make choices to live for Him. Paul continually reiterates the great joy he has seeing believers walk in faith. He identifies the growth and fruit evident in their lives and intercedes for them in prayer to continue to grow.

If I don’t understand that my chief aim in life is to love God and glorify Him forever, I can never instill this into my children. Living with my eyes fixed on Jesus means I am not focused on the road I travel today. When I live with my eyes on the blue line, I constantly fear coming off, making a wrong turn, somehow misdirecting myself. When my eyes are on Him, I find peace and rest. I can look around, see who is passing by, invest in conversation, and take great joy in the journey because I am not worrying about the navigating.

 

waiting

Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. ~Psalm 25:4-5

We are all in seasons of waiting. As children we long to grow up, we can’t wait to be double digits, to learn to drive, go to college, or gain independence. We wait to fall in love and get married, and then we wait for children. We wait for this promotion or that raise or perhaps even for a better job. We hunger for happiness or fulfillment. We long for joy or hope, thinking it will come with the next event.

Most of my life has been laden with anticipation or preparation for some next event or moment. In my marriage we have waited for seven job changes, 5 moves, 9 pregnancies, 8 brand new babies who don’t sleep, toddlers, potty training, teaching children to read (for me this is always nerve-racking!), loss, prolonged illnesses, promotions at work, the different stages each child grows through, the list goes on. Some waiting is exciting and expectant, but other times it is dreadful and hard.

In the season I am in right now, God has radically redefined waiting. Most of the time I focus on the culmination of my waiting and believe that when the moment finally arrives, all will be good. Rest can occur at the end, and happiness/fulfillment/peace will come. However, the next thing to anticipate always rises.

 God wants me fully in the waiting. The focus of my waiting must shift.  Instead of constantly monitoring and looking for the end goal, measuring how much longer, trying to see how I could make the process speed up, I wait for God.  He has been challenging me to change my perspective, to drop a filter over my eyes and look at Him. Psalms 25 & 27 highlight several portions of walking by faith with God as we wait.

In the waiting comes learning. Just like Mary in front of Jesus, I must sit at His feet, choosing to listen with upturned heart and mind. He teaches His way and His paths, instructing me as I listen to His truth in the Word. (Ps. 25:4,8)

In the waiting, humility is required. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. Who is the man who fears the LORD? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose (Ps. 25:9.12). Conviction of sin will come as I sit before Him, and confession of sin will be needed. But He is so gracious unto me! He pardons my guilt and remembers not my sin, for Jesus Christ paid my sin debt.

When I wait for Him, I am not forgotten. He is very active in the teaching and leading because of who He is in His character. His steadfast love and faithfulness are for His glory. Good and upright is the Lord (Ps.25:8). He is the God of my salvation (Ps.25:5, 27:1). He restores. In some moments, it feels as if He is silent, as if He is not engaged. My heart cries, “Are you doing anything here?” If my focus is on the goal, the thing that I want done, I will often miss His true activity. His commitment is to my heart change, not my circumstance. When my gaze is on Him, He radically realigns my heart despite the pause in circumstantial progress. When my waiting is placed in the one trustworthy place of God alone, then my living becomes about Jesus, and He changes my faith walk.

My soul shall abide in well being (Ps.25:13). So often I place all my attention, all my hope in the accomplishment. My soul strives, works, worries, and wearies. It does not abide. But when my eyes are on Him, I can rest in Him. I am focused on what He is doing both in me and around me and not on the outcome.

Friendship with the Lord blossoms and grows ever deeper. The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. (v14) As I walk in the waiting, I seek Him more. I lean and rest in His promises, His truths, and the counsel of His Word. The truths of His covenant become my lifeline and my plumb line while everything else shifts. He is my ever-present help in trouble, the lifter of my head, the one who makes all things new within my heart, the lover of my soul, the holy one who changes me more into His image everyday. He is my Savior, and He is my friend. His  covenant truths form the gospel. The blessings found in Ephesians 1 come because of Jesus and despite me.

So in the waiting pain, fear, and doubt may come, but rescue and refuge are in Him. I have shed many tears waiting. I have doubted, fought, wrestled, and resented the waiting. And I am sure I will experience many more days in the struggle of the waiting. But He guards my soul. In the waiting there is dwelling. Dwelling in the house of the Lord, seeing His beauty and sitting with Him, this is the one thing that I seek (Ps. 27:4) Often in the waiting, He conceals me by his tent, hides me away in His strong tower, or lifts me high upon a rock, pulling me out of the waves that threaten to engulf. And from that place of safety, learned in the waiting, I can worship with sacrifices and shouts of joy (Ps.27:6)

The more I understand my life is hidden with Christ in God, the more I will trust in His refuge and His design. My confidence will not be anchored into anything I offer. Hope, the calm assurance that His Word is true, grows in His steadfast love. My heart can be courageous  despite circumstances because my eyes are on the great I AM, the one who holds all things together.

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! (Psalm 27:13-14)