Sighting the shore

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

I was talking with one of my children about the discouragement that comes from finding oneself not keeping in step with the Spirit. For the child who loves Jesus and knows Him as his or her Savior, the realization that an area of life is off base or not lining up with the truth of God’s Word can be discouraging and defeating. These moments are prime times for the enemy to speak words of condemnation to young hearts that bind their lives to performance and not to grace.

A word picture that we talk about in terms of keeping in step with the Spirit is playing in the ocean. Whenever we go to the ocean with our bunch of kids, one of the instructions given to the older ones is continue to spot the towels. Everyone knows that there is a current in the ocean that pulls down shore. Sometimes this current is quite strong. Most of the time we are unaware of the current’s pull as we play in the waves. The pull is gentle, insidious. Many times I have enjoyed the ocean only to come out on shore, expecting to see my towels, and instead be startled because I cannot locate them anywhere as I scan the beach. Then the walk back begins.

In the same way the culture around us and our flesh can pull us off the mark of God’s grace and our walk with Him in righteousness and obedience. The pull is often insidious. The enemy is exceptional at presenting a lie just a degree or two off truth. We slowly divert away from His truth and look up to find ourselves way down the beach with the Gospel nowhere in sight. We are easily discouraged as we look at the walk back. Sometimes we want to stay and play right where we have drifted, for in the moment that seems easiest.

But we must return. And as parents, we have the privilege of standing at the beach chairs of Truth, calling out to our children. We may have to walk down the beach to find them. But in the walking back, the conversation of grace and the investment of instruction can help them see how they forgot to make the adjustments in the moments.

And one thing most refreshing is the testimony of another sinner saved by His grace speaking the truth of returning to Him. When we share our own areas where we have to be careful to line our lives up with the truth of God’s word and walk in obedience, when we are humble to share the hard, long walks back we have had to make in different times in our own lives, that honesty illuminates the character of God and points to His faithfulness and grace. Paul continues in Galatians to say, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in an spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” We as parents have the primary opportunity to walk back down the beach with our children, restoring them gently as they return to Him.

Without the small adjustments made daily, the drift can easily occur.  Scripture makes clear that with God’s gift of salvation we are given the Holy Spirit. His role is as counselor, teacher, intercessor. He indwells us. We live by Him. On my own I will never realize my drift, never feel the current, never desire to look up to shore. But the Holy Spirit convicts. Keeping in step with Him requires attention. It requires watching His feet and mimicking His pattern. So when we get out of sync with Him, we must return to the truths of the Gospel. Repentance involves confession and turning away from what captured our attention and  hijacked our course. God is faithful to forgive us!

 

Waging War

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. ~2 Timothy 2:2

Discipleship – what is it? The word is a catchphrase thrown around casually but with little definition. No one would argue the command by Jesus in Matthew to go and make disciples, but many are stymied by what exactly making disciples looks like whether the disciple is your child or another believer. The truth is the word discipleship was never used in scripture. Disciples were first called Christians at Antioch in Acts, but the followers of Christ were all termed disciples in scripture. Jesus commands to go and make disciples, teaching what He had taught. Paul models discipleship in relationships with other believers in the New Testament.

None of us would ever declare ourselves unwilling to disciple the precious children we have been blessed with, but many times I talk with other moms about what tangibly does this look like in the day to day. What does it mean to actually “do” this with our children? Especially if we have never experienced it for ourselves? I think one of the best definitions includes the idea of pursuing a 3 prong agenda of grounding in and cultivating a love for the Word, teaching how to walk in relationship both with God and others, and how to serve/minister from a position that understands and extends the Gospel.

How do we ground them in the Word? practically? What is my vision, my end goal, the place I’m seeking to head to with this child (or this woman that sits at my kitchen table) over their lifetime? I often think in terms of word pictures, and I find with my children that teaching them spiritual truths inside of word pictures helps make the concepts tangible. One picture is given in Ephesians 6 for how we are to do spiritual battle for and with our kids. When our babies are little and have no spiritual understanding, we are the warriors with our baby on our back wielding our shield and sword, holding the world and the enemy at bay.

As they step into a walk with Jesus Christ, I need to introduce them to their sword and begin to show them its weight, strength, and sharpness. They now stand directly behind me in battle, still protected but beginning to learn the battle. We explore the goodness of the gospel – teaching them the truths that will anchor them in this unsteady world. We patiently walk them through all the points of their armor as it relates to their life, pointing out the protection of the helmet of salvation, the importance of feet solidly ground into the gospel of peace, the absolute must of His truth to hold their armor on. We teach them the importance of guarding their heart and pursuing righteousness. We point out the incoming arrows of lies, and our shield of faith absorbs the blows. When my children are young and young in their faith, my sword is active. I sharpen my sword openly, and my goal is teach them how to sharpen theirs alongside me. Mommas, if I can plead with you, God’s Word is living and active, it is so rich, so fulfilling, and it never returns void. He is Truth in a world that offers none. Spend time with Him in His word.

As they grow spiritually they need to move from directly behind me and my shield to beside me, with their own shield in front of them and their own sword sharpened for battle.  The onslaught will increase in intensity as they grow, for the enemy now sees another warrior. In these early years of walking with Jesus, the enemy sights a warrior he is desperate to incapacitate. He would like nothing less than to convince this young believer to stay in the fetal position on the spiritual battlefield.

I train them in how to wield their weapon, trust their armor, and stand behind their shield. My goals are to help them sharpen their sword and fall in love with it. The Word of God is rich beyond belief. Explore the scriptures with your children, memorize passages, marvel at the picture of Who God is – His faithfulness, holiness, justice, graciousness, mercy, love, and peace. Show them the redemption story that runs from beginning to end and worship Him together. I want them to understand the great perfect protection their shield of faith offers. Their faith grows as they battle and trust the Holy Spirit within them. We have the honor of standing next to them as they stand firm and encouraging them in their battles.

My place is right next to them so that I can protect them if I need to when a particularly fast or fiery arrow is launched with my shield or so that I can put my hand out to help stand them back up and give them protection as they replant their feet in the gospel. But if as a parent, I am still trying to lug my teen around on my back as I do battle for the both of us, I stunt them. They will be ill equipped. And if I am disinterested in the great battles they face, too busy to encourage, listen, and pray with them, they will believe the lie that no battle truly wages and that it is ok to merely exist on this epic wrestling stage.

I am called to be faithful to this discipleship arc, threading these concepts into conversations all along the way. But I am not the outcome maker. I have to trust that the same Holy Spirit that leads me, the Word of God that is my sword and the shield of faith that God gives and grows in me is also within them if they are saved.

They need to stand firm on this battlefield, knowing I stand beside them and will assist with the lies the enemy slings because soon enough they will move on the battlefield and will be on their own. Their Sword needs to be sharpened and that comes with use. They need to trust that their shield of faith holds against anything the enemy would like to fire their way because the days are coming when doubt, fear, misgivings, and discouragement will assault them. Their armor is vital to their defense. And my role daily is to pray. Paul warns us, “Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” Their battle is great, the lies are numerous, but the enemy is defeated! Jesus is Faithful and True.

Come & be Satisfied

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? ~ Isaiah 55:1-2a

God has placed me in this passage of Isaiah for several months now, where everything else I study seems to point back to verses in this chapter. He keeps getting my attention over the word Satisfy. The question is, “Am I satisfied?” It’s a loaded question because it covers every facet of my life and I could argue that it isn’t necessary to be satisfied in all parts. I wonder if some would argue that a Christian may not be satisfied because this isn’t our home; we must wait for eternity to experience satisfaction. Culture tells us satisfaction should be our pursuit yet that we can’t get any no matter how hard we try.

When am I satisfied? What brings me rest and quiet? This question keeps rolling around in my mind as we finish the year and move into a new one. The right answer is I am satisfied in the Lord and what He has done for me. But what is the real answer? That is what I keep dwelling on. If you could peel back layers of self protective, good looking right answers, what really lies beneath?

As I look inward, I have to see the many areas where there is no satisfaction, where there is no rest, no stop in the quest for achievement. My flesh capitalizes on the current woman culture that declares that our value, intelligence, skills, etc should be on display. So I toil. I push for perfection. I seek achievement. This push may not be so that anyone else would see the accomplishments, but the invisible, unsaid idea that I must do ___________________ in order to have satisfaction leads me to work for a list that never ends. Ecclesiastes 6:7 predicts the truth, “all the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied.” The bar constantly raises or changes so that there is always more to do/take care of/teach/contribute/avoid, etc.

He calls! He is calling you and me! He beckons, “Come! I know you have nothing to bring to the exchange. I know you are completely broken and everything you think you have to offer is valueless. Come!” He wants us to come in our poor, broken, unworthy, dirty state, hungry and thirsty. He offers satisfaction beyond compare – food and drink that is rich and good. The exchange must be there – the verb in the sentence is buy. The cost is greater than anything I can afford, yet free for all who come.

The world says satisfaction comes through doing.The domain is inconsequential – the same push for performance occurs in work and at home, in appearance and health, in the church and school. A lot of us may seek it in multiple arenas, yet so many women are weary, discouraged, questioning, and retreating.

There is no peace in this chase.

But God declares, “For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish” in Jeremiah 31:25 and “For he satisfies the longing soul and the hungry soul he fills with good things” in Psalm 107:9. Satisfaction is defined as not desiring more because you have all you need and implies being at rest/peace. In John 15, Jesus teaches me to abide in Him. In John 7 he speaks of the work of the Spirit in us that flows through and within us as living water. In the Old Testament multiple times God paints a picture of water that revives the dry, the poor, the weary and the thirsty.

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the LORD will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry lands springs of water. ~Isaiah 41: 17-18

And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desires in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. ~Isaiah 58:11 

But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.  ~John 4:14

Satisfaction comes from maintaining eternal perspective and remembering Who is in control. If I hope only in the now, I really am hopeless. Yet so often I look for satisfaction here, in the things of today. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” Paul Tripp says we live as “eternity amnesiacs”- so focused on opportunities, needs, wants, and problems of now that we lose sight of eternity. But we have been given the great treasure of Jesus Christ who paid the ultimate price of death for my sin and yours. His death and resurrection give me the open door for a relationship and all the blessings of relationship with God.

I simply have this treasure in this jar of clay as Paul calls us in 2 Corinthians 4. The light of the gospel of Jesus Christ  shines inside this jar of clay which is easily chipped, cracked, weak, and thin. But the glory goes to Him, not me. Satisfaction comes in knowing and worshipping Him, not striving to be worshiped or praised myself. When Jesus is manifest in me, His ministry renews my heart. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

God delights in answering restless hearts with His peace. Run wholeheartedly to His table. Sit in his seat of grace and rest. Stop trying to pay. Stop trying to dish up your own fulfilling meals and instead dine with the King. He will satisfy all of me and fill me to the uttermost.

Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.  ~Isaiah 55:2b-3

 

 

 

 

My natural state

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it — the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,  ~Romans 3:21-24

Nothing gives me a better picture of my own sinfulness than parenting a 2 year old. Whenever I have had a child in this stage of learning, the Holy Spirit has used that child to prick my heart about the rawness and completeness of my own sin. All eight have displayed overt selfishness, great purpose and will for their plan, self focus and a propensity to believe they are right. There is no hiding their true feelings, no tempering of their belief system for social mandates or manners, no holding back of their thoughts. But in those moments of wrestling with this back-arching, screaming, precious bundle, the faithful voice of the Lord beckons me to see myself.

I have a natural suspicion of God that needs curing. My innate reflexive thought pattern is to assume that God’s rules inherently withhold from me something I would be better off having or prevent me from experiencing something that would be of value to me. Therefore disobedience is something that begins long before the disobedient act occurs. The doubt, distrust seep into my thinking, but I often cannot see or identify them before they produce actions. Sometimes these actions look like wise moves, but in actuality they are reactive and fear driven.

From the beginning the serpent used the ideas of missing out or being oppressed and the temptation to be independent of God. God was blocking Eve from experiencing real life, of being like God, of knowing good and evil – that was his argument. His whispers have not changed. They are easily identified in the rawness of rebellion in toddlers, but these whispers speak just as well to me.

But God’s grace and His patience with us is also greatly displayed in the working out of disciplining my toddlers. Scripture over and over refers to the steadfast love of the Lord that never ends, His mercy that renews, and His affection for His people. He will discipline. In truth, I desire the discipline, for it declares whose I am just as my engagement with my toddler shows my commitment to my little one. The heartbeat of discipline is not to invoke physical or emotional pain or suffering. When discipline occurs in this way, it is wrong and merely punishment. Discipline occurs within the context of relationship, powered by deep love and wisdom and bounded by grace and mercy. God disciplines us with great constraint and with great purpose. He is a good Father.

Eyes and body position in discipline are two things important both for disciplining children and for walking with Him. When I discipline my children, it’s important to give them a place to sit, reflect and wait for me away from all the distractions of the other kids, toys, etc. So in our home, our kids go sit in the bathroom where they are given some quiet moments, hopefully to think about why they may be in there and be ready for discussion when I come. Then I will sit down and ask them to put their hands on my knees – this connects and pulls us close together, aligning their wiggly bodies to face me. I ask them to look me in the eyes as we begin to talk and root out what was going on in their heart and motivating whatever symptoms that caused them to be here in discipline.

Then when they see the crushing truth of what they did, how it impacted others, and why they did it (because really the why is so much more important than the what), we talk about what Jesus did for them. That while they were yet sinners who pushed sisters or spoke rudely to brothers, Christ died for them with a deep love for them that they may be free from all the self focused, self protective impulses that drive hearts to rebellion. I want their eyes to see in my own the hope and love that center on Jesus alone.

My love for them hasn’t changed despite their ugly, but more importantly and more profoundly Jesus has never withdrawn His love. He extends it in the face of rebellion and rejection. We leave the bathroom with the blessing of belief. Imparting to that child the hope of walking with Jesus anew in His deep love and affection echoes the deep love and affection I have for that child.

In my daily busyness of life, I find it very hard to hear the corrections of the Holy Spirit. I need consistent space to withdraw into the quiet of moments before Him, Bible open and heart listening. My quieted position before God gives me space and silence to hear His truth about what I have believed and acted upon in error or rebellion.

My eyes on my circumstances results in justification and rationalization. My eyes on Jesus will see His truth in comparison to the lies I have believed in the moment.

The essence of discipline is this: God walking alongside me exploring the sin of my flesh that causes the negative behavior/choices I make and helping me to understand the lies I have believed in the heart of me. He meets the sin and the lies with truth. He doesn’t flinch or turn away in disgust.

And He tells me to look in His eyes and see the steadfast love that stays there just for me. The love that took all this ugly to the cross, nailed it there, and canceled my debts cures me.  He desires that I walk out of His bathroom cleansed, with a renewed sense of His love and forgiveness.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us for all unrighteousness. ~1 John 1:9