confidence

But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.  ~ 2 Thessalonians 3:3-5

The Lord is faithful. He is faithful in the darkness of life, in the hurt and the questions, He is loyal to you, steadfast in His presence and His work in your life. Oh! My heart rejoices to know He is committed to me. In the spaces I feel alone, misunderstood, or rejected, truly He is engaged.

He will establish and guard you against the evil one. The verb establish indicates to fix firmly, strengthen, buttress, prop or support. His support fixes us, plants us down and gives support to secure us. His goal in establishing us is to plant us solidly to eliminate vacillation. The enemy wants to promote confusion or indecisiveness and make us feel as if we are on unsteady ground.

But He is faithful to establish you.

The verb guard gives the picture of a military guard. Paul paints the picture of the unbroken vigilance of a military guard that preserves and protects. It is a preserving watchfulness or acuity like the uninterrupted vigilance shepherds show for their sheep. So the big picture about this one sentence is that He will plant you solidly and supportively in His truth and watch over you with a vigilance that protects. He will do it. We need to encourage one another with this truth in the walking out of our faith. Encourage your growing children that He is at work establishing them in their faith and guarding them. Speak into your hurting or confused friend – He is faithful. You can trust Him.

Paul then encourages the Thessalonians with a blessing: And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. His confidence does not center on my actions but on the Lord who will work in me leading me to walk obediently. Why? How does Paul know this with confidence? Everything in me doubts this truth. I shift in my thoughts to outcome ~ what I can prove I do or have done, my resume of obedience, and I know that it comes up short.

But that is not what Paul is saying here. He is not looking at achievements. He is not measuring at all. God is faithful. He will work in our lives, moving us into obedience.

May the Lord direct your hearts – The verb direct in this passage means to go straight down by the most direct, efficient route; avoiding all unnecessary delays, without any undue loss of time or achievement. Pause for a moment and take in that verb. What a prayer for Paul to pray – that by the most efficient route possible without delays or loss of time, God will move our hearts. My confidence in my own walk with Jesus or my children’s journeys must solely be in what God will do and is doing to lead and guide. So where does He direct our hearts? Where does He remove all hindrances in order for us to come?

to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. When I began studying this passage, this seemed obvious – of course He wants me to see how much God loves me, how faithful Christ is to me as I walk with Him. But that’s not what these phrases mean. God will move my heart to love Him more. It’s not His love for me, it’s my love for Him. And again, He will move my heart to be steadfast like Christ – to be patient in enduring and in walking out my days here in the pattern Christ showed.

Once again He is the source.

Once again it’s not my performance, not my summoning up of whatever love I can display or long-suffering I can muster. My confidence comes from Him. The love I have for Him (grown by Him) becomes the filter for my life.

This posture is powerful and freeing. The Gospel begins and ends with what God has done – He set us free from sin and death through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, He calls us out of our bondage and into new life with Him, and He is at work every day making us more and more like Jesus. We need only to believe, and even in that He grows our faith. With an enemy prowling around seeking to destroy, discourage, or demoralize, these are powerful truths to stand before His throne and pray for myself, family, and loved ones. Our hope is in Him. And He is faithful.

 

Don’t leave me

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. ~Psalm 23:1-2

Our just turned 3 year old son is learning how to “stay dry” all night, so most mornings around 4:30 or 5 he will wake up needing a potty run. Normally this is a sleepy occurrence that I orchestrate as smoothly as possible and tuck him back into bed without much conversation or lights. One morning however was different. He awoke anxious and fretful, and as I quickly helped him get to the bathroom, he kept asking me where I was.

“But I can’t see you!” was his repeating refrain to which I kept replying, “I’m right here with you, buddy.”

“Don’t leave me!”

“I promise I’m not. I am right here with you in the dark. You are fine. I love you.”

I tucked him back into bed, sang him a few songs, and whispered, “I love you so much.” A sleepy “I love you too Mom.” came back as he drifted back to sleep.

And just like that the Holy Spirit slammed into my soul with the truth that oftentimes this is me. And His heartbeat is far more trustworthy and true. His presence much more powerful and safe. His love more steadfast and his kindness far deeper than mine.

There are dark seasons and I sit, feeling exposed and vulnerable. I may be tired and perhaps confused, yet He stands right there with me.  I worry about what I can and cannot see that will be on this path. He guides, protects, holds me tight, and carries me out. I panic, fearing the worst and work myself into a state of exhaustion. He makes me lie down and rest my weary self. Thoughts that this time I am alone are confronted by the truth that He comforts and He never leaves.

Psalm 23 echoed in my mind early that morning in the bathroom and as I tucked him back into bed for a few more hours of sleep. You are with me. The Great Shepherd tends his sheep with diligence and strength. I shall not want. He brings true rest and restoration to the anxiety riddled, weary souls. He leads me beside waters of rest. He restores my soul. He doesn’t allow us to wander aimless and insecure, alone in the darkness of the next step. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. And in those seasons that feel as if the darkness is a blanket, suffocating and terrifying, in the shadowy places where hopeless thoughts assail, lies abound, and paralysis creeps in, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. His guidance and His protection will lead back to rest and comfort. He is at work even in times where it seems that all hope is lost. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. A walk with Him is filled with great spiritual bounty as He deepens my trust in Him.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the  house of the LORD forever.

parenting with perspective

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. ~Romans 7:4-6

Parenting is less about success or failure and more about perspective. Someone asked me the other day what we do to maintain good relationships with our children as they grow and walk. And first of all there have been many and probably will be more seasons when relationships feel strained and tight rather than easy and relaxing. But remembering the Gospel in light of walking with our kids is critical as Troy and I navigate our uncharted waters.

One Gospel truth that I can twist as I parent is the role of the law. The Word declares that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:16) and  for since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near (Hebrews 10:1). But I often want to make the law (my rules) paramount and adherence to them indicative of a “goodhearted” child. The truth is this: the law in Scripture and now the law in my home has a 2 fold purpose, and neither purpose is for creating a good person. First the law keeps us safe. It promotes good relationships and safe living.

More importantly the law points to our inability to keep it. Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. (Romans 7:7b) It is an unattainable standard apart from perfection. So when my parenting believes that the law should be perfectly obeyed, I am not speaking Gospel to my child. I am speaking works. But when I recognize the purpose of the law is to illuminate the need for a Savior, I can begin a conversation with the wayward child that includes discipline but points to Jesus. My feelings or reactions about the situation can be neutralized by the truth that sin is against Holy God, not me, and He sent Jesus to redeem this child and turn his heart back. And when God is in the work, hearts turn back to Him and back to parents.

Their actions, reactions, manipulations, or rejections do not need to be personally felt by me. That’s my choice. My insecurities will want to declare my importance in their life. My pride will well up and puff out my chest with offense. My impatience will demand response. My flesh wants in on the action.

I need the Gospel.

I need Jesus. I need to listen to the Holy Spirit’s conviction and respond to Him before I respond to my child. In our flesh we all act contrary to the Spirit. I just rationalize my own sin because I find my child’s sin bothersome or offensive. “It’s ok” to be impatient because they aren’t quick to obey. “It’s okay” to be short tempered because they are rude or dishonoring first. “It’s ok” to be offended because what they say is hurtful.

My role with my child is to mimic the Heavenly Father’s role with them, to be the first picture of what His love, grace, and discipline look like. So before I make a move into counseling or disciplining a child, I need to remember truth, and I need to seek the Spirit’s counsel for my own heart. I need to remember Romans 7 & 8. Take a few moments and reread it. I am reminded that in my own failings my hope is Jesus. My flesh fails, but Jesus delivers. But the law of the Spirit of life has set {me} free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2) And that truth is THE truth I want my children to hear when it comes to breaking the law. Jesus sets us free! Yes, the law was broken, but Jesus is the only answer. Whether you were mean to a sibling, rebellious  in actions, or whatever else may have happened, Jesus came to remove the sinfulness that you displayed and make you new. Consequences follow sinfulness, but judgment has been settled at the cross. Sometimes I want to stop with the sin and heap condemnation on them, proving points already proven.

As parents we can lead our child to analyze their sin and see the true ugliness of what their heart did or desired, but then we need to pivot them to the One who loves them despite their sin, who died specifically for their sinful heart, and who calls them into relationship with Him. Salvation or sanctification become the conversation and discipleship occurs.