Refine My Heart

For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.

Psalm 66:10

I am amazed at how faithful God is to refine my heart, making me more and more into His image for His glory. Have you ever had a time when you seem to face the same sin or struggle over and over? I know I do with myself, and I can also see it while disciplining my children. Discouragement can creep into my thoughts as I wonder why I choose the wrong action again and again. Sometimes I find myself in the bathroom with a child discussing the same sin issue as yesterday and the week before, almost as if it won’t go away.

Malachi 3:3 says the He is a Refiner’s Fire, purifying and refining us that we may bring gifts of righteousness to Him. He is a consuming fire, and Scripture reminds us that only when the dross is removed from the silver can the vessel be shaped.

refining my heart

Refining silver requires several steps. First the ore is broken.  The Gospel is clear: we offer nothing for our salvation, and we contribute nothing to our great need for rescue from our sin. We need the breaking open by His hand so that Christ alone can save us.

A crucible, a place where concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change and development, heats these pieces of ore. High heat separates the silver from all the other matter mixed with it. Proverbs 17:3 says The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts. The Holy Spirit works within our hearts, convicting and bringing up to the surface the waste, the sin, the flesh I wrestle, in order to remove them and cleanse me from my unrighteousness. His hands patiently skim this next round of selfishness or impatience off the top all the while seeking to clarify my heart that I can reflect Him more and more.

Silver becomes more and more malleable and flexible as the dross is removed. My heart bends more towards His as He refines. The artist can fashion beauty as the waste is removed.

my response

How much do I dread the dross? How often do I avoid or try to cover up the very thing God desires to draw to the top in order to remove?  I seek every opportunity to recirculate it through or push it back to the bottom so that no one else could see or so it doesn’t reflect on me. But God wants to work in these very areas that shame wants to hide. He desires to eradicate the flesh that He may be glorified. 

Even in parenting my children, as I watch the Spirit refine and work to remove the sin, the waste, the dross in their lives, I squirm. I worry that I am responsible, that perhaps their struggles are my fault. I want to step in between His hand and them and buffer or mend. As my daughter wisely stated, “Perhaps God is at work in our character in ways only He can.” 

Only He knows the exact plan for each of us. Thankfully He knows the vessel He desires to create and continues to refine. He will work in our lives that we may know and love Him more.

Conviction

Sometimes I can see it immediately, the blackness, the thickness of it, the wedge it places within my heart – the absolute movement away from the truth in order to answer the pull and tug of my flesh. I can see the curtain drop in order to allow my pride or my selfishness to justify my actions. I know my choices are sinful and yet these desires draw me in. I long for forgiveness for the sin I see.

photo credit: noah kimsey

But there are other times when my flesh fools me. The filmy gauze that covers my heart is almost invisible to me – the inspection within that checks my motives cannot see the lies I embrace. Until the Spirit blows across. The flutter of heart deceit, the lifting of a corner of pride, or the push for self preservation becomes visible for a moment. Often I am surprised to see the hidden motivations of flesh and the self-worship that spring forth.

Conviction comes with both and conviction only comes through the Holy Spirit. He is perpetually at work within me turning my heart from the idolatry of self to the worship of God alone.

Repentance must follow the conviction. 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We can confess our sins and be cleansed. Spurgeon says, “We must confess the guilt as well as the fact of sin. It is useless to conceal it, for it is well known to God; it is beneficial to us to own it, for a full confession softens and humbles the heart. We must as far as possible unveil the secrets of the soul, dig up the hidden treasure of Achan, and by weight and measure bring out our sins.” Confession of sin is not merely saying something was done. “To confess sin, then, means to say the same thing about it that God says about it,” Wiersbe clarifies.

2 sides of forgiveness of sin

Cleansing is 2 sided. We have the judicial side or what I’ve always thought of as positional forgiveness. As a believer I am forgiven for all sins, past present and future. That will never change.

But the other side is personal.  My relationship minute to minute with Christ depends on my level of pursuing light or my comfort with the dark. Matthew 5:3 addresses this when Jesus talks about being poor in spirit. If I live my life understanding my need for salvation and forgiveness and if I mourn (Matthew 5:4) over my sin then I am continually listening to the Holy Spirit as He brings conviction. I am surrendering and confessing so that I stay in right relationship, staying in step with the Spirit.

His truth in forgiveness

The joy of right relationship with Him leads me to proclaim who He is. I worship unreservedly because I know He sees all of me. I serve wholeheartedly because I know how much I have been given. My identity does not contend with the flesh uncovered. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, I am secure ~ secure to walk with Him, to repent before Him, to realign with His truth, and to rejoice in His salvation.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, nut now you have received mercy. ~1 Peter 2:9-10

Where do you find yourself struggling with your sin?

Do you seek His forgiveness, listening to His conviction?

Do you walk triumphantly, confident of who you are in Christ?

Songs of Hope Devotional

Are you weary? Are you discouraged? Do you wonder if you are all alone or things will ever change? Songs of Hope is a wonderful devotional that will direct your gaze to the only One, God on high, who gives us strength and true rest. This devotional was written by 26 talented writers who have joined together with one heartbeat – to offer biblically based truth for all the worries, fears, and hardships that discourage us. Based in the Psalms, each day jumps off the truths we find in a Psalm and reminds us that there is hope for us everyday despite the hardships of life.

I had the wonderful opportunity to contribute to this book by writing one day’s devotional. As I have spent time in the past few weeks reading through these pages, I have been struck by the consistency of our God to speak the same truth through many different voices. He is our Hope. He offers relief – relief from exhaustion of everyday tasks, care for our hearts hurt or burdened, solace from the storms of stress, and consolation when we grieve. Even in the hardest moments, there is hope.

You can grab the devotional today!

The devotional comes in two different forms:

Digital Version: $7

Printed Hard Copy: $10

If you purchase now, you also receive a printable journal to use.

I just want to encourage you to know He is our Hope. He is our Sustainer in the daily menial tasks as well as the hard, scary moments, our Fountain that will never run dry, the Lifter of your head, and the One who comforts your soul. Run to Him. The Psalms display the raw revealing walk with God, and for many years they have been a source of comfort, exhortation, and encouragement for me.

Here is a sample day to see the format of the devotional, questions, and prayer. Please let me know if you have any questions!

Parenting children with hope & peace

What do you do when parenting your children seems next to impossible? Settling my heart in truth becomes vital. The Gospel holds my peace and hope.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ~Deuteronomy 6:5-7

Squabbling, fussing, arguing, complaining, and the dreaded whining are all common symptoms in my family on this parenting journey! And truthfully, I can do it all also! I often see an outbreak with a transition, busyness in our schedule, at the beginning of a vacation, or in stressful seasons of life. My children will fuss, demand their way, complain and as they grow into their teen years, they may seek to avoid or isolate.  Negative engagements are a guarantee, and if I don’t see them for their purpose, I miss something beautiful.

Unfortunately, I often get this perspective very wrong. In my selfishness, I want peace, quiet, ease, and happiness for all. I don’t want squabbles, whining, etc. so I will tend to shut it down quickly with verbal discipline.

Searching out the heart purpose behind a fussy child is the more significant work ~ one of His designs of family life. When I begin to embrace the heart pursuit God desires for each of my children, when I begin to filter their actions through the sieve of Gospel truth, then grace can grow within me for them in the moments of discipline. My heart undergoes a transformation before I ever engage in shepherding theirs. Prior to ever stepping into the bathroom where my child sits, I need to spend a few moments with Him. I need to seek what lies may be at the root of the behavior, determine what flesh is on display, and see both my child and the behavior the way God does.

And often before I can even engage in prayer over my child, I need to spend a few moments looking at the lies, flesh, or sin that welled up in me as all this erupted in my home. That’s just the truth. Most sin sparks sin in others. We have a saying in our home that sin is contagious and can make everyone sick within minutes! So whether the sin is divisiveness, selfishness, fear, worry, anger, pride, you name it, other people will soon be exhibiting symptoms in reaction to the initial sinner. We can all resent the mess out of this contagion, or we can use these moments to declare God’s power, His victory, and His salvation over our desperate need that is on display.

Let’s be warriors for truth! Let’s get down into the midst of the sin and call it out for what it is, not from pride or disgust, No! but from a place of grace and mercy that we have received and we now offer to the sinner in our midst. Let’s be more like Christ was with the adulterous woman or the woman who touched his coat – let’s explore the heart deep within and tend to the wounds, the lies, the fears and apply the salve of great grace, deep love, and complete truth that only Jesus offers through His death and resurrection. Let’s speak the Gospel to our children in ways that make it the most desirable, the most welcoming, the most trustworthy space for them to occupy.

We can create environments where Jesus can shine in all His glory because we are pointing to Him. As we set our own hearts on His truth, we confess our own need for Him as we fail.  We assure our children of God’s steadfast love when we resolutely love them despite their failings, despite their sin, despite their flesh. But just like God does not leave us in a space of unrighteousness but rather calls us out to walk with Him in truth and holiness, we also need to be faithful to truth and holiness. Calling sin a sin is not condemnation, not when my heart is humble to the truth that I too struggle with sin.

Parenting with purpose takes time.

And sometimes it feels like all I do is move from one sin moment to another when every child needs special touches and reminders of God’s grace in the face of great sin. But I cling to the truth that these days are the most valuable for the Kingdom. These moments proclaim to the next generation the goodness of our God. Only when sin bursts forth do we see our great need for a Savior. Only when pride declares a godlike desire for worship can we point to the only One worthy of our praise and honor.

These are the days when the worship music plays at full volume and we dance in the unstoppable grace of a God who showers us with love, patience, truth, and mercy.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. ~Philippians 1:9-11

The Gospel Changes Everything – Part 2

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 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 2:6-8

You can find Part 1 of this talk here. If you will bear with me for a minute, I am going to get a little nerdy with words. But I want to assure you, God wrote His book for us to delight in his words! He purposefully wrote – all scripture is God-breathed – we know this.

These words all look to be in the same tense but actually, in the Greek, they are different from each other.

Rooted – is a perfect participle and it’s passive in voice; the word means “To fix firmly” (a perfect participle demonstrates an action that happened and was completed in the past) You were rooted, tethered, anchored into God’s family by Jesus Christ blood shed for you and His resurrection power. There is a connection where there was never a connection before, intimacy instead of loneliness. Your root system is in the One who never wilts, withers, or dies.

Built up in him – present participle and passive voice; to build upon a foundation, what foundation? Jesus Christ; This is a verb showing present action, happening right now in time and ongoing, in English we use ~ing endings for these type verbs.

Established in the faith – present participle and passive voice;  to confirm, guarantee or secure – what? Securing in the faith, guaranteeing in the faith.

Please notice – the first verb is finished; the other 2 verbs are ongoing, happening right now. Now the last way I described the verbs is passive voice. In grammar, verbs can either be active or passive voice. Active voice verbs have the subject of the sentence doing the action while with passive voice verbs, the action is being applied TO the subject. All three of these verbs are passive. This is action being done TO YOU! This is the work of the Spirit in your life and mine! We do not tether, build our foundation, or guarantee our own faith. Dwell there a moment with me. These are His actions, the work of the Spirit within you and me.

And finally abounding in thanksgiving – present participle and active voice. This again is an ongoing verb and finally, we have a verb we are actually doing rather than having the action done to us! I abound in thanksgiving.

My root system changes, My faith is established and built, and my response is abundant thanksgiving.

Oh! My heart cries out just the way I think David did in 2 Sam. 7:18 – Who am I, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?

The Gospel changes everything, It is enough.

Gratitude grounded in Christ overflows to all we do. Our hearts long more and more for the ways of the Spirit of God, we run to be more like Christ, not because there is a huge checklist and we are busy checking it – no, we run towards Christ because we know His cost, we recognize His actions, we appreciate and revere His power. Suddenly the cry of our heart mimics the leading of the Spirit to walk and please God (1 Thess. 4:1)  being transformed from one glory to another (2 Cor. 3:8) and being steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Cor 15:58) growing up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ (Eph 4:18).

Sweet reader, your identity is secured. Rest.

He is building you up little by little every day, layer by layer. Abide.

He establishes your faith, grounding you in His word as He grows you, securing you more and more in His truth. Surrender.

And let your heart begin to open in thanksgiving. Worship.

From this position of understanding, receiving, and knowing your identity and the value you hold, your perspective changes who you are as a woman, wife, mother, in your job, in your family. When I understand the tether, the anchor is Christ Jesus, when I recognize the Spirit placed within me as a seal is at work building me up and strengthening my faith, it changes everything about me. I am and you are not hopeless but hope, not without identity but known intimately and pursued, not dead but alive, not defeated but victorious!

So purity can begin to become our heartbeat, not for a list to succeed in checking, not for comparison, not for accolades, and not for safety (against fear). No! When I was asked to come and share a breakfast with you this morning, I asked what the theme or vision the leadership had for this time – purity was their word from the Lord. And honestly my initial reaction was a wrinkly nose – both the world and the church have changed the way that word sounds to me and maybe to you. The word has been robbed of its meaning: degraded by the church into self-righteous behavior modification with judgment for falling short, and downgraded or duplicated by the world so that whatever is pure for you simply equals purity – relativism without meaning.

But I want you to know Purity is yours! We pursue purity because our root system is different, our filter is Christ, and our hearts are so thankful all we can do is worship with our lives. God will teach us about purity, about righteous living through many different passages of scripture, but they are never apart from the truth of the saving grace of Jesus Christ and His commitment to you to grow you in His image.

Maybe you are the girl who believes she cannot do this thing called Christian living- there’s too much pressure and no way to win. The Gospel is enough. It changes everything

Maybe you worry more about what other people think. The Gospel is enough. It changes everything.

Maybe you worry you won’t actually be able to achieve all the things on your list at all times. The Gospel is enough. It changes everything.

Maybe you are tired of this whole thing, and you think you don’t need Him. The Gospel is enough. It changes everything.

Colossians 3:1-3 ~ If then you have been raised with Christ, (tethered) seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (abounding in thanksgiving) For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (identity)

Galatians 5:25 ~ If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (built up in him & established in the faith)

**This is the text of a luncheon teaching I shared in Valdosta, Ga.

practical thoughts about discipline

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds. ~ Jeremiah 17:9-10

 

There have been SO many times in the Kimsey household where I have had children in every bathroom in our house and some more on their beds, thinking about what they did that contributed to the great conflagration that just occurred!   It only takes a little spark to begin to fuel an explosion between multiple factions and next thing I know, everyone is mad, taking sides, screeching and screaming!

Before I interact with any of them, I seek to set my own heart firmly in the truth of the Gospel. I want to begin with seeking out my own heart because more than likely I have been angered, short-tempered, or in some way put out by the disobedience, fighting, or whatever precipitated this time. The same truths for them apply to me. So I want to take a few minutes with Jesus and set my heart on Him, on the truth of my sin, on His love, on His great mercy and His pursuing grace.

I have found that removing children to quiet places works well. In our home, we use the bathrooms most often simply because there is not much in the bathroom to distract my child from the primary goal of this quiet time. I want to create quiet space for my child to begin to hear from the Holy Spirit about why he or she is struggling in relationship with the others in the family. This removal is not a timeout or a timed interval at all; rather, it is a space where emotions can calm down, their minds can stop racing, and their hearts can be tended to.

Can I encourage you to remember all the truths of the Gospel when parenting and disciplining your children? Romans 1:16 resonates in discipline moments, For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, When I keep this before me, I have greater empathy and patience for my children; when I just want good behavior, I am short tempered and become a part of the problem. Your children are believing the same basic lies that have motivated all sin from the beginning of time – whether the lies are that they should be in control which promotes disobedience and rebellion, whether the lies are they are most important which leads to selfishness and cruelty, or some other lie that declares what they are worshiping. Their heart will deceive them, leading them away from the truth of God and towards the pursuit of loving themselves first. They will naturally seek their own good, their own control, their own protection. They will defend their own “wisdom” despite its futility. When we understand the heart of man, we can understand and not be surprised or offended by their behavior. Our goal is not to stop the heart of flesh. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our goal is to point to the Savior and illuminate their fierce need for Him.

So my bathroom conversations with my lost children as well as my saved children run on parallel tracks, both pointing to Christ. To my saved child, the goal of the conversation is to help them honestly look at their part, to guide them through what was motivating them and what lie they chased, and re-establish with them the truths of who they are because of Jesus Christ and what God is at work doing within them. To my lost child, it is my opportunity to point out their need for the salvation Jesus offers and offer hope to them.

Bathroom discipline often looks practically like this – I sit down, bringing myself down to their eye level and I ask them to stand in front of me with their hands on my knees. Really this just stills their little body and helps them focus their eyes on mine. I want them to hear me speak, which means emotions need to calm if they are upset, focus needs to come, and bodies need to quiet. I try to speak very softly, asking questions that purpose to lead them into a thoughtful examination of themselves, even at the little ages of 2 & 3. Questions like, “Why are you in here?” or “Tell me what happened that made you have to come in here?” let me know what they understand about what has happened. Conversations are the goal initially. I want to hear their heart, both to see what work the Spirit is already doing as well as to see what they may be believing that is not true. Listening intently and seeking to make sure that I have even gotten the complete picture of what offenses took place are very important tasks. Many times I have removed the loudest or the one with the most fingers pointing at them only to find that there are other guilty parties that need to be disciplined as well! 

One important truth that steadies my heart in the midst of the discouragement of everyday life with a bunch of sinners is that God pursues us continually. He does not cease. He is a God who values relationship, who declares His redeeming love through His Son, and who is at work transforming us from one degree to another. He does not get discouraged with my stubborn heart or sinful tendencies. He keeps on pursuing. And He is doing the same thing with each of your children and invites you to join Him in pursuit. What an honor!

I seek to chase the lies they are believing and introduce the truth God offers instead. God’s word holds the truth we need. To the one who is saved and walking in new life, this is encouraging; to the one who is lost, this is a holy invitation. Prayer covers the time with hugs and a final blessing is given as they walk back out the door.

The blessing launches them back. They more than likely need to go to the one(s) they have offended and apologize and own their wrongs. They have confessed their wrongs before God but now must confess again to their siblings or others. Just like Paul closed every letter with a blessing to the churches to launch them into the truths he had laid before them, I too want to bless my children. So I spend a few moments reminding them of my love for them and my belief that God is at work in them changing them to be more like Him (if they are saved) or calling them to know Him as their Savior (if they are lost). These are words of life that point to where God is working and moving in their hearts. I know God is working on you becoming a mighty peacemaker for Him (if they have been struggling with arguing) or I see the way God is changing your heart for others and making you a servant of others (if they are struggling with selfishness). Always point them to God’s work in their lives. This time of discipline is NOT your opinion or what makes your life easier today. This is God’s holy work, you are merely an ambassador for Him. Point to Him. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Corinthians 13:14)

The Gospel Changes Everything – Part 1

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 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 2:6-8

What would I tell my younger self, working out my major in college, worried about the way I looked, the way people perceived me, unsure of everything I was doing, crushed by the way it seemed life was going?

The Gospel changes everything. It is enough

What would I tell my young married self? – trying to balance a new career and a new marriage, desiring to walk in marriage well but unsteady of every step, wanting to be like Jesus to my husband yet so unclear what this looked like

 The Gospel changes everything. It is enough

What would I tell my new mother self, juggling 3 babies under the age of 3 with a husband who was working more than 120 hours a week as a surgical resident, trying to still work just a little to make ends meet, completely unsure about how to discipline little hearts, love them completely, and still pursue Jesus, exhausted at every turn by lack of sleep, lack of knowledge, and busyness.

The Gospel changes everything. It is enough

What do I want myself to remember every waking moment of each day as I parent 8 children, homeschooling, discipling hearts, encouraging anxious children, love my husband, work hard on the things God has called me to in this season of life?

The Gospel changes everything. It is enough

What do I want myself to remember as the children leave, each launching in their own way, whether they are walking with God or not, whether my heart is thrilled with who they have become or perhaps grieved, walking into a new season with my husband as the nest empties? 

The Gospel changes everything. It is enough

What would I tell the woman here who says my life hasn’t turned out the way I planned, the way I wanted, the way I dreamed it would? What would I say to the woman who says I have such deep hurts, such great chasms in my very being where I have been betrayed, wounded, made to feel less than and unwanted? What would I say to the woman who feels like she cannot measure up, cannot do what she wants to do well, aches with a desire to be different than she is but feels stuck? What would I say to the woman says, “I simply don’t care anymore. “ what would I tell the woman who is all alone, either grieving the loss of a marriage, the loss of a spouse, this loss of a child?

The Gospel changes everything. It is enough.

The Gospel is enough. He is enough. Whatever you walked into this room carrying, burdened and weighed down with worries, fears, bondage, grief, or pressure to perform. Everything about the way you live your life changes in the light of the Gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ. 

So the question becomes, what is the Gospel? Do I understand and live in light of the Gospel? How is the Gospel enough for me?

When we look at the passage, Paul says as you received Christ Jesus the Lord so walk in Him we want to understand exactly what it means to receive Christ Jesus the Lord and walk in Him. So we are going to look at the parts of the Gospel and break them apart:

Who is God

Who is man

Who is Jesus

Who am I now, and the work being done in me

Why is it so important to be on a Gospel hunt? Because all of the Word of God points to the good news of salvation and redemption. God lays out moment after moment in the Old Testament pointing to the coming Savior and illuminates His redemption in the New Testament. In the Old Testament He introduces us to Himself – His holiness, righteousness, steadfast love, and faithfulness to name a few. He gives us pictures of the “great rescue” that will come because of man’s sinfulness. In the New Testament redemption comes, Christ atones for our sin. We can be changed with His help alone. The truth of the gospel radically changes our understanding of our identity. God has issued an invitation to be His child, a new creation in Christ.

Who is God – 

God is holy, just, powerful, sovereign, maker of all things, all knowing and eternal. He is all knowing, self sufficient, and unchanging. Many more attributes comprise Him. Mankind is not any of these. Isaiah 40 – to whom will you compare me, that I should be like him? Says the Holy One. 1 Samuel 2:2 There is none holy like the Lord, there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God… for the LORD is a God of knowledge and by him actions are weighed…The Lord kills and brings to life…The Lord will judge the ends of the earth.  Ps 93 – The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty; … Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting. 

1 Timothy 6:15-16 he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the KING of KINGs and LORD of LORDS, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. AMEN.  I praise you God

Who is man? 

Who are we? We are created beings, fashioned by God made in His image, designed for relationship – different than any other created being in this world. 

Colossians 1:21 says we are alienated, hostile in our minds, doing evil deeds, Colossians 1:13 living in a domain of darkness. Ephesians 2:1 says we are dead in sin, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now at work in the sons of disobedience, children of wrath, Galatians declares we are held captive and enslaved, 1 Peter 3:18 calls us unrighteous, and Romans 1-3 clearly lays out the unrighteousness and depravity of all man.  Galatians 6 calls us slaves to sin and Gal 6:23 states, The wages of sin is death, but… No one is without sin and thus all of us are separated from God and sentenced to death by Holy God.

Where is my hope? How do I please God? I don’t. I can’t. I cannot do enough, perform well enough, there is no good enough. 

Who is Jesus then?

How then is the gap between holiness and slavery/alienation bridged? God sent His son Jesus Christ as the payment for the debt of sin that traps mankind (Romans 3:21-26, Galatians 3:13-14, Ephesians 2:4-10)  Colossians 1:19-22. While this may seem basic, it is imperative to understand the important concept that God does all the work of salvation. We do nothing to earn the payment for sin that Jesus paid. We believe. We do nothing to deserve it; there is no way to merit the grace and mercy given.

Who am I in light of these 3? So what is my response? How does this change me?

 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior(Titus 3:5-6). The cleansing power comes because Jesus Christ died for your sin and mine on the cross many years ago. His payment paid for all the sin debt that mars our hearts and redeemed us from the curse of sin. Colossians 2:13-15 – And you who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him.

Works and performance are worthless foundations, but many people carry a concept of being good or doing good as necessary for God’s forgiveness. Do you? Do you take the portions of scripture such as in Ephesians 4, Colossians 3 or 1 Thessalonians 4 that speak to our response to God’s unmerited grace (the way our life will look as we respond to the life we have been given) and place them ahead of your salvation? Do you struggle with thoughts that God may be mad at you or disappointed in you? Do you fear messing up or not walking well? Do you hear thoughts that say you aren’t good enough for God to help you or listen to your prayers? 

I want you to know today that while you were a sinner, Christ died for you (Rom. 5:8). He saved you, not because of works done by you in righteousness, but according to his own mercy (Titus 3:5). He has given Himself and all the blessings of being redeemed to you from the start – you have life abundantly (John 10:10), you have the fullness of Him (Col. 2:9-10), you have the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13), you have been given His divine power (2 Peter 1:4-5) – You are His child (Rom. 8:16), secure in His love (1 John 4:9-10), and nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39).

The Gospel is enough

So How does it change everything?

 

the butterfly lesson

Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. ~ Psalm 33:8-9

We are growing butterflies over here this spring. We have watched excitedly, monitoring the growth of our caterpillars, marveled at the chrysalis formations that each one did, and now are anticipating the hatching. (is that the correct terminology?) Today was the day! The first two chrysalides began to shake, little butterfly parts began to emerge, and we watched in wonder as two different butterflies sought to escape their cage.

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Timothy immediately wanted to “help” as the first butterfly tried to break free. Explaining the danger of helping a chrysalis break open to a three-year-old is a bit difficult, as he cannot tear his eyes away from the battle in front of him. Transfixed by the scene, he just kept asking, “Why can’t we help? What will happen that’s bad?” Finally, I hit upon an explanation that made sense to his little heart ~ the butterfly grows his muscles breaking out of his cocoon. If we step in and help him, we risk hurting its body or wings. The butterfly then will die, unable to have the strength to pump fluid into its wings and thus open and dry them. Armed with this knowledge, he could peacefully watch as, for over an hour, the little butterfly shook and wiggled, pried, and finally broke free. We marveled at the way the wings looked so shriveled, yet within a short time, they were drying out and beginning to move. God’s work, His creation, is amazing!

We had another chrysalis opening at the same time as the first, but the results were considerably different. This little butterfly’s chrysalis had somehow become entangled in some of the webbing the larvae had used before making the chrysalis. So as the butterfly tried to emerge, its feet became entangled in the string. It fought all day long to break free from the string, his wings shriveled and wilted, and the front portion of his body stayed within the chrysalis. Honestly, it was heartbreaking to everyone as we watched. Ultimately, we had 10 of our 11 butterflies break free and begin to flutter and fly around the cage, but that one struggled against the entangling strings for 2 days, unable to fully emerge.

Why do I share this story? I don’t have deep parallel truths about our Christian walk that source in this story. I just know this opened a doorway of conversation with my children in which we could discuss meaningful truths of God while we watched the complete metamorphosis. We began talking about how incredible God’s plan for butterflies really is ~ that He designed eggs to become larvae to know to grow a hard, protective covering around them as they completely change into a different creature over a few days. While the 10 butterflies we hatched were all variations of each other with slightly different colors, patterns on their wings, no other creature emerged from the chrysalides. We practiced patience waiting for their emergence, hopefully staring at the dangling shells for days. We wondered why hatching had to be such work for the butterfly, investigating why God designed this fierce battle almost at the beginning of their life as a flying insect. And we mourned our lost one, longing to step in and save it from the ultimate end. We so wanted to tear all the webbing away and cut it free, but that action would have disrupted the 3 other chrysalides that hung very close to our struggler.

When we marveled at His plan for a butterfly who will only live for a few days, we began to wonder at His plans for our lives. The commitment to the butterfly translates into an immense commitment to us. Jesus teaches this exponential truth in Matthew 6:25-34. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious. Taking a few days to dwell in the truth of God’s great plan for each of their lives was beautiful in recalibrating my eyes to see my children as well as speaking into their hearts a basic truth that the enemy wants to steal away. The truth is this: their uniqueness, their strengths, their weaknesses are all known by Him and designed by Him for His plan and for His kingdom. And His plan is for their good and for God’s glory. Do not be anxious! Instead, keep looking to Him ~ He welcomes your cries for help, He comes alongside you in victory and distress, He is the everlasting, ever in tune with you God, and He is trustworthy.

Our God is amazing! He is Creator with neverending imagination and wisdom worthy of our worship. Beckon to your children to worship with you, to marvel at Him in the midst of His beautiful creation. Delight yourself in who He is in His creation today. Worship Him for He deserves all praise!

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.