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.

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)

 

Before the throne

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help of time of need. ~ Hebrews 4:14-16

 

The throne room is a glorious place. Scripture over and over declares the glory that surrounds our God. The magnificence of who He is dashes all self promotion, destroys all self confidence, resulting in prostrate pronouncements of unworthiness before Him in his glory and holiness. It is the place of judgment as David discovers in Psalm 73.

Yet the author of Hebrews urges us to approach the throne with confidence so that we will receive mercy and find grace in our time of need.

The phrase with confidence or boldly in other translations means with loud exclamations, frank confidence – speaking everything, not withholding for fear of reprisal or judgment, a cheerful courage. My children are stunning examples of the boldness God encourages me to have as I approach Him. My 3 year old will come hurtling through the house, yelling my name over and over, pulling at my sleeve to come and see, knowing I will listen. He confidently, naturally assumes that whatever is important to him in the moment is therefore important to me. My older children as well have confidence that their thoughts or needs will be met with a welcoming ear. While it mildly aggravates me to be in one discussion with a child only to have him or her suddenly request something completely off topic, they do not hesitate. Out comes their need, their thought.

Their confidence stems from their identity. They belong. They have welcome, intimate relationship with me because they are mine.

I am often timid or minimalistic in my prayers, perhaps because I worry about the answer, worry that I won’t be pleasing enough for Him, worry that I should handle this one differently or desire differently. Sometimes I feel like the laundry list of requests is too much, that I should pick the top three and no more. Sometimes I wonder if He really wants to hear yet again about my heartache or discontent. I am apologetic, not worshipful, timid and concerned of His reaction to me rather than expectant and eager. When I enter the throne room with my gaze on myself, I am worshiping, but not my Savior. My prayers are not the powerful ones of a righteous woman, they are not deeply rooted in the name of Jesus, no, they are the whisperings of a self focused, self righteous performer who hopes it is enough. Clearly I have a deeply rooted misunderstanding of the Gospel that displays itself in my prayer life.

Standing in front of His throne is holy ground, but also a welcoming place because of Jesus Christ. We have the great high priest, Jesus, the Son of God, who has gone before us.  Performance isn’t needed or desired. Jesus Christ’s death on the cross for your sin and mine paid our sin debt and placated the wrath of God that separated us from relationship with God. I hold fast to my confession – nothing I have done has ever merited my welcomed position before His throne, but all that Jesus has accomplished atones for my sinful state and covers me with His righteousness. My position is now for every moment of my life securely before the throne. He determines my identity.

His throne room is a becoming place, a place where my heart and my desires are changed and made more like Him. He is well acquainted with my heart and yours. Scripture tells us that He searches our hearts and knows our minds (Jeremiah 17:10). He knows our weaknesses and temptations, yet He loves us. Committed to refining me, He works patiently and purposely, often exposing the doubts or fears as He realigns my heart in areas or grows my faith in spaces I deemed impossible. With confidence I can present my shortcomings as a mother, wrestle with my feelings of inadequacy or discontent, seek help with requests big and small, hide my wounded heart inside His tower of strength, and display any other need or worry I may have. He is interested in them all. But a curious thing happens when I hold fast to my confession, when I center my identity on Jesus who made me righteous and welcome before the throne of grace ~ I worship Him. The wreckage of my life can come spilling out and lay exposed there on the floor, but He becomes all I see. I lay down pretense and pride and begin to abide.

The grace and the mercy I desperately need for whatever I face are offered by the King of Kings. He invites us to come and pour out our hearts to Him.

 

Broad places

He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me. For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord God lightens my darkness. For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. This God — his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. ~Psalm 18:19, 28-30

 

Truth: God delights in me and in you. He brings us out to places for His glory. The actual experience may feel opposite. It may feel as if I have been brought into a narrow ravine with a slippery, pebble filled ledge upon which to walk. I stand terrified, constantly worried I will wedge myself or slip off into a chasm below. I confess that many moments in motherhood can terrify me. I can worry about anything if I allow my mind to roam undisciplined.

Truth: He lights my lamp. He lightens my darkness. The joy of this truth is great – He lights up the dark, the confusion, the unknown. Why? for HIS NAME. He will work for His glory. What are my questions? what are my concerns? where are my areas of darkness, of wondering?

For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me; you take me out of the the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge. I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place. ~Psalm 31:3-4,7-8

What are broad places? Both passages refer to it. If they are places easily traversed with safety assured and no threat of attack, if that is what I am waiting for, then I will be disappointed. I will be discouraged when my life doesn’t take that magical turn towards ease and comfort. No, the broad place is not in the physical realm. I need to lay that desire down. In the Hebrew, the word used for broad place means pasture, figurative of freedom from distress or anxiety.

Stand in Me. Abide in me. I AM your broad place. My love is a secure place. Plant your feet in me. Stop waiting for me to move you to some moment or place. Stand in who I AM. 

I am the Light of the World. Stop trying to find light anywhere else, they are merely weak imitations with shadows at the edges. There are no shadows with Me.

I delight in you. His delight is gospel driven, sourced in His unending grace and mercy. He delights in you and me, not because of what we do or have done. He settled His choice of delight at the cross, when Jesus Christ died in your place and mine that we might be saved and set free from all the sin that entangles our hearts. He delights in us because He wants to redeem and restore us. He loves us with His steadfast, unending love.

I am your Strength. I will be all you need for battle. I am your shield of salvation. I give you divine power for all the strongholds that threaten to narrow your path and create anxiety.  In Psalm 18:33-36 David rejoices in the ways God has been his Rock ~ made his feet secure, trained his hands, given him the shield of salvation, and supported him. Your gentleness made me great. (v.35)

There is a difference between what I have been believing and the truth. I have been waiting for God to move me to a broad place, to push away all the worries, busyness, confusion that constricts my ground and litters my walk. I complain about the darkness, but the Light of the world illuminates me right where I stand, showing me His sustaining power. He is my broad place; the sacred, holy invitation is to stand in Him, to find refuge in Him, and to renew my mind in Him. He gently makes us great in Him.

I will even dare to say that the narrow chasms and terrifying passages are places He allows, not because He desires any terror but because He knows the depth of growth, the maturing of faith that these places will cause when I hide myself in Him. And He is committed to me for His Glory, for His name’s sake. Never forget, He will bring glory to His name.

voices

For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. ~1 Thessalonians 2:11-12

Our children hear so many voices. We all do. Most of them speak discouragement, condemnation, comparison, disillusionment, or confusion. The words swirl around, almost creating a whirlwind of murmurings and prevent sound thought and good action. 

One of the most important roles I have in my children’s growth as they move into the teen and adult years is to be a voice pointing them always back to God’s sovereign plan for their lives and urging them to trust Him with all that they are. I choose to be a steady reminder that God is at work in their lives, He is for their good and His glory, and He is faithful to complete His work. So whether that is the stress of declaring a major, the emotion of dating, or the worry of what will happen because of a job or grade, God is at work. Nothing is outside of His pursuit of you, nothing is discarded, nothing is ignored. 

With eight children to parent, often I find myself wanting a set pattern to follow or a prewritten script for what should be said, what should be done. If I’m honest, that desire may be from laziness or uncertainty, and I would really like a guarantee that if I follow certain steps, my children will become “happy, well adjusted adults.” 

But Paul discipled the young church at Thessalonica the same way I am to walk with my own children. He exhorted each one. An implication from the passage is the uniqueness of each is valued as the exhortation, the conversations began about the truth of the Gospel. I can testify that God has been faithful to me and taught me the unique truths/needs of each of my children as I have cried out to Him. He has given me insight into their hearts, their motivations, and their insecurities.

Exhortation in this passage is an invitation with intimacy implied. It is calling to one’s side to implore, encourage, or teach. The power of coming alongside is profound – actually sitting shoulder to shoulder sometimes, to have discussions. The intimacy of body language says I am sitting with you in this, I am right beside you as you walk this out not only right now in conversation but also in life. The conversations can begin, and hearts begin to open and unfold. Then Paul says he encouraged and urged. Encouragement is personal and specific to the child, direct to their heart. Again this takes time and prayer to see the needs and speak into the darkness, the lies, the discouragement with the truth of Jesus Christ.

His word is enough. It is living and active. Allow His word to be the powerful weapon in the moments of urging. Never replace His word for the mantra of the day. His word slices through whatever lies or fears encircle the hearts of our children and discerns the thoughts and intentions of their hearts. I have seen more fruit from opening His word with my child and not giving any answers than all the times I have tried to preach the truth to my children.  Instead when I spend time just asking them what is being said, seeking their thoughts on His word and allowing them to wrestle out their lives in light of Scripture without opinion or statements at all, I create space and quiet for them to hear what the Spirit says to them. Equip them to grow in discernment by asking them to make choices in light of God’s wisdom.  

When you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. (v.13) Isn’t that our heartbeat, the desire that burns within as motivation when we invest in another? That they hear the one true Voice and know how to listen and follow Him. Paul prayed for this constantly, and we should too. May His voice drown out the cacophony in our lives, and may we walk worthy of the One who calls us out of this world and redeems us for His kingdom and His glory.

 

 

Holy Moments

Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! ~Psalm 46:10

Mothering is full of holy moments. I have become convinced of this fact over the past twenty years. Moments of His glory displayed, His hope conveyed to a little one, His truth declared by a little voice. Sometimes I miss the holy moments. I miss their weight and significance, I miss His truth in that moment, and I miss my growth that He desires to foster. I overlook His imprint at all on the situation and instead want to make my own imprint, my own mark. I look wildly about, clutching at any hope or advice that is offered, desperate to do the “right thing.” And He calls to me, “Be still.”

Stillness before Him is not an inactive state of passivity. The command means to cease striving, relax. In the anxiety of the moment, the absolute best posture for me is open hands, upturned face seeking Him. I try to remember to take just a few minutes with Him (often hiding in my closet or pantry!) before I walk into the turmoil of the moment. The truth is the crazy of whatever is happening can continue for a few minutes while I ask Him for help. And in those quiet moments, He begins to work, reminding me of His deep love, His sacrifice for all my sin, and His grace.  He will give me insight to hear the hurt, see with His compassion, understand the driving forces that are beneath the anxiety, anger, or misbehavior. Scriptures come to mind. My heart stills. I can walk into the time with my child able to connect and then correct because I am connected to the One who sustains.

He redefines the moment in light of eternity.

There is holy learning as I choose service and humility to clean up a toddler. The trust I see in my infant’s face echoes the trust God calls me to have in Him. The quiet voice of the heavenly Father encouraging me on a hard, tantrum filled day speaks words of life and calm over me, dispelling my anger and hopelessness. His rays of truth slice through the justification and confusion of teenage angst. His peace in moments of worry and fear is unmistakable.

The steadiness of God’s faithfulness and love thrum in the panic and uncertainty of parenting.  The holy moments are for me. The sanctifying is for me, not for my child most of the time. He will bring glory to His name.

10 – Strong Tower

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. ~Proverbs 18:10

The top half of my tree isn’t lit. I want certain lights for the tree, and I need one more box from Target but they were sold out. So I wait for tomorrow’s truckload. A part of my mind knows this is unimportant – I need to just slap a strand of lights up there and walk away! But I can’t.

My fake tree in my front hall got taken out in a game of dodge mattress yesterday. Dodge mattress, if you didn’t know, is a game young boys play in which they take a crib mattress and toss it at one another as if it were a ball. Someone else is also throwing balls at the targeted player. And dodge mattress can absolutely break all the bottom limbs of an artificial tree. Sigh.

These aren’t the things that truly occupy my heart. The reality is these are benign, non-problems superficial at best, but they become trigger points to spill the unsettled, fearful, angry or discouraged emotions that live within me. The desire for control begins to assert its hand, and suddenly my holiday decorations become foremost in my attention, the hinge point of my happiness.

Christmas is coming. Advent is here. Preparing my heart for the season has to be purposeful for me because otherwise I can be consumed with the tasks of the season. I can place my happiness, my contentment, in the lights, the parties, the presents, When control becomes my mantra, my heart bows low to performance and the fear of man is a snare (Proverbs 29:25).

But when I center myself on the name of the LORD, all that comprises who He is in His attributes, character, and power, I have hope. I am not caught in the trap of performance or opinions, worried about pleasing or being picture perfect. A strong tower, migdal oz in the Hebrew, was a chief fortification built for a city. It was always elevated high above the city and therefore high above any danger or battle that may threaten the land. The alarms would ring out of danger, robbers, or invasions. The people in the land would immediately gather what they could and run to the tower, knowing all they needed in protection and provision was within those walls.

The name Jehovah YHWH is the strong tower – His name. All that is encompassed within the name Jehovah, His loving kindness, His mercies, His gentle care of us, that is our strong tower of refuge. And we as righteous run. Run to Him. Run to him in the little stresses but run to Him in the heartache, in the crushing realities of illness or sin, in the confusion of direction, and in the discouragements of lost dreams that lie beneath as well.

Spurgeon said, “The purpose of God in our salvation is the glorifying of His own character.” He will bring glory to His name while you are safely ensconced in the tower of the Most High. His character is constant, unchanging. Without the constancy of the character of God, all of His promises – salvation, grace, mercy – all hope is unhinged. But with the great I AM, hope is assured.