True Hope

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. ~Romans 8:24-25

Who hopes for what he sees? Me. What I mean is that I can hope for a little while for that which I don’t see, but when my timing doesn’t seem to be working out well and I’m not seeing results, my hope dims. It may even cease, or I can become cynical. But really I am fooling myself – hope that is seen is not hope. I really have the wrong definition of hope. Hope today implies a measure of uncertainty or concern around whether the longed for thing or event will actually occur. It lies close to worry and dreaming in implication. Hope in the Greek in the Bible is the expectation of what is sure or certain. True hope is characterized by confidence and trust.

Paul contextually is speaking about all of creation groaning and longing with us for Jesus to return. I am waiting and hoping for Christ to return, for him to complete his work of salvation. I look forward to the day when all the stuff of today melts away at his presence, when fear, pain and death are no more, when the ultimate purpose for my life is revealed. The truth is often I lose sight of that hope and look for things to hope in that are present – things I can control. Hope that is seen is not hope. My hope cannot be wrapped up in any of my own packaging.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen.” Faith allows hope to grow. Hope is the joyful expectation of salvation, the confidence to rest, to trust. Faith is the proclamation of who God is in the face of impossible things. And Scripture is clear that God is the source of faith. Ephesians 2:8 and 2 Thessalonians 1:11 both point to His working of faith in our lives. Galatians 5:22-23 include faith as one of the fruits grown by the Holy Spirit as we put to death our passions and desires and walk with Him. I cannot grow faith, but I can surrender to the One who does, knowing He is faithful to do this growth.

God is faithful and true. He is faithful to the work of salvation and sanctification in my life. At the cross, Christ died that I may be set free from all sin, including the sins of doubt and fear that paralyze and blind me. He is faithful to the daily work of changing me and making me more like Him; that is His sanctification. The ways life seems hard, fear inducing, lonely, not worth it — those are often the places God is at work growing my faith, assuring my hope. He is at work. I can name these areas of stretching, yet I resent these very spots.

Proclaiming who God is and what Christ has done in the face of impossible things places my hope on the correct One and anchors my soul. My shield of faith protects me from every arrow, every lie, every fear the enemy and this world want to throw my way. So what do I need to proclaim? What truths do I need to realign my hope with?

He is Savior and Redeemer despite my sin and for my sin.

He is Counselor and Teacher who leads me to His perspective and readies my heart for His ways.

He is sovereign in the face of feeling as if life is out of control.

He is true peace in the midst of the storms of finances or jobs.

He is truth when I am surrounded by the lies of compromise or confusion.

He is the Way giver when it seems like all ways are wrong or blocked.

He is Hope when everything seems hopeless.

He is unchanging Love in the face of a demand for performance.

He is completely engaged in a world where attention is fleeting.

He is trustworthy and takes care of my people better than I ever could.

He is full of grace and mercy, meeting me on my prodigal road with arms wide open.

He has successfully dealt with my past, steadily walks with me in my present, and firmly holds my future assured.

Help me, Lord, to hope in all that You are.

I haven’t moved

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” ~Hebrews 13:5-6

I have learned to love getting up early in the morning while everyone else is sleeping and spend some quiet time with the Lord. Often during the day I feel rather attention deficit, as if I never complete a thought all the way to its conclusion. In the quiet of early morning, my thoughts are clearer, there is less noise crowding the truth of God’s Word and less activity for my attention to be divided over.

Until my little early riser picks up his head and calls for me. Then all bets are off. He is a child who is tightly bound to me, desiring my presence always, wanting to be in conversation with me continuously. In the course of a 30 minute morning window, he will sit with all his toys right at my feet and probably say my name at least 150 times (breaks down to approximately 5 times a minute) His head swivels often to check to make sure I am still in my chair, and he tries incessantly to pull me into his conversation and his play. So this morning he wandered behind some chairs with his play, and suddenly looking up, he panicked and called for me.

“I haven’t moved, buddy. I love you.”

He peeked around to see me and then ran to fold himself into my lap, reassured that in that moment he wasn’t as alone as he had felt.

I was struck with my sentence that God doesn’t move. He doesn’t.

In the difficult, the busy, the painful, or the lonely, God doesn’t move. He loves you and me. If I’m honest, there are many parts of the day where I try to escape my little shadow, shake him off for a little bit while encouraging him that he can play with another sibling. But I am not God, thankfully. God never needs a break, never sneaks away, and never tunes us out.

In Joshua 1, Moses had died, and God imparts to Joshua the authority of leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” The author of Hebrews takes this Old Testament promise and pulls it into the New Testament as a promise for the saved. He promises to never leave – in the Greek, the word means to slacken or loosen a grip, to relax or release. This word choice also implies a refusal to let sink – in the Gospels, Peter desperately wanted to walk on water to meet Christ. And we can all point to his heart and his reasons for leaping out of the boat, overeager to go to Christ, desperate to mimic.

But Jesus never allowed him to sink.

His grip on Peter never faltered despite Peter’s impulsiveness, and He pulled him out of the cresting waves, calming his anxious heart. His righteous right hand upholds and sustains (Is. 41:10,13)

He also will not forsake you – to leave behind, desert, or abandon. He will always be with me. His presence, His companionship, His friendship, and His fatherhood – they are never withdrawn. When all others in this world seem to have abandoned me, He faithfully sustains, ministers, and encourages. I however can move; unfortunately I can easily drift. That is the warning of the first part of this verse. My flesh can seek to be self sufficient. The presence of God then seems far away, but my repentance brings about restoration.

So we can confidently say – because of these truths of who God is and what He has graciously given me in relationship with Him, confidence becomes a hallmark of my life. Psalm 118:6 is the quoted verse here in Hebrews: The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? Confidence is not because of something I do or a feeling I sustain. My confidence must rest in the truth of His faithfulness and strength. There is a song that says, “Help me let you go, help me give up control, of the God I made you, when  my fear has contained you.”

God doesn’t move, but often I do. I may place on God the limitations of presence and loyalty that I have experienced with people. I find myself behind the looming chairs of fear, doubt, and worry. He doesn’t let go, and He never abandons. He is faithful to us, patient and long suffering in his steadfast love for us.


Growing an Oak

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. ~Psalm 1

Many years ago, God showed me a word picture that realigned my thoughts on raising my children and gave me a vision that has helped so much in the difficulties of discipling and shepherding them. Troy and I moved into a home that was in essence new construction. I excitedly began planning how to landscape the lot, choosing trees, shrubs, and perennials with care with an extremely limited budget. I love gardening and could just imagine the beauty that would soon become my yard! I anticipated the maturing of all the plants and how different things would look in different seasons.

Over the course of the next few years, the yard became just that – a yard – to be cared for, weeded, tended. We had a house full of children and were very busy in the middle of raising them. I have been blessed with very exuberant children – full of zest for life, confidence, “leadership qualities” they say. One of my friends has said that I don’t seem to get the quiet, retiring child (and I’m not sure that was a compliment!) And in a season of real challenge with one of my little ones, I remember beseeching the Lord on that child’s behalf, wondering what would work better, create better change, do what I saw happening in other people’s kids. And God brought me to 2 scriptures – Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17. So I began praying fiercely for this child with these passages, asking the Lord to show me this strong tree growing in my child. I was looking for tangible results, conversations of that child’s faith deepening, hearing beautiful prayers, seeing a child who managed their strong sin issues in family dynamics, desperately seeking to see the life that the Spirit brings.

And I will say this – none of that is wrong when put in its rightful place. Prayer, mommas, is THE MOST POWERFUL thing we can commit to doing for our children. Pray for their heart to be tender to the Gospel, open to His truth and His working in them. And look for the fruit that you may commend them and encourage them – but watch your reason. You see, in those moments I was hunting for this child’s maturing for my gain – my peace of mind, peace in my home, to look like I had a kid who was well behaved, to measure up to the other kids I saw around me and therefore to appear to have this parenting thing down, otherwise known as pride.

I would walk outside in my yard, tending to the flowerbeds and having conversations with God. One of these difficult parenting days, I escaped outside to walk in my yard. I walked to where I had planted an oak tree. When it had been planted, I remember being disappointed in its size compared to the cost for it. I knew oaks were slow growing, and when this baby tree came to my yard, all I could think was that I would never see it really be what it had the potential to become. Then I walked around the front of the house and noticed that the neighbor’s house had lost a beautiful pear tree the night before in a storm. The tree was cracked in half, crumpled across their driveway. And in that moment God defined for me His perspective for my children.

A pear tree is a fast growing, ornamental tree with big branches and beautiful foliage in each season. Until it’s not. The root system of a pear tree is shallow or high and tends to circle around the narrow base of its trunk, sending out intertwining rootlets that fail to provide strength and instead create instability that leads to falling or death. The branches of the tree all diverge from a single, short trunk as well which allows for the beautiful display in the early years. The wood however is weak, and the trunk of the tree often cannot take the stress of wind gusts causing the tree to crack.

The root system serves as the anchor in a storm. It defines the health or illness of the tree. Oak trees have a slow growing root system that begins with a tap root. A tap root grows vertically downward. It will only then begin to grow its branches outward, but ultimately the roots of an oak occupy a diameter 4-7x the tree’s crown and total hundreds of miles. Oak trees grow very slowly because not until their taproot is established and root system in place will they begin to establish greater foliage and branch growth.

I need to embrace the fact that I must create environments that God can grow oak trees, not pear trees. But that’s all I do – I cannot ever grow the tree. That is the work of God alone. He sees the root, not me. He monitors the growth where it matters, but I only see the branches and leaves. My outlook needs to be committed to a long range vision, working daily in the short term for something that will take years to develop. And I need to stop looking at all the other trees being grown and comparing my trees to them because some of them may just be pear trees. Roots take a long time to grow in oak trees, but once established, oak trees aren’t easily damaged with a season of drought or even heat. Growth is abundant and consistent in trees well established.

Often the beauty of the oak tree is in its age. As a mother, I am committed for the lifetime. This task seems hard at times, discouraging at others – mainly because we cannot see the end result. We cannot see when or how our children will become the oaks of righteousness (Is. 61:3) we desire. The magic number for the maturation of an oak is not 18 years, nor is it the number for our children. We need to stop having that mindset! I’m not done when they turn 18 or leave for college or even when they get married.

My role has changed from nose wiper and discipliner to listener and exhorter, but the child hasn’t stopped growing, the branches may not be spread yet at all, and tap root growth may still be happening. Am I committed to the process of pointing back to Jesus if that means this oak tree doesn’t become one until I am gone? Yes, and I hope I die with callused knees from many years of interceding on their behalf.

Grace abounds

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. ~Romans 5:20-21

Grace abounds all the more! Where my sin increases, grace abounds all the more. I am a mess as a mother. I am impatient, selfish, judgmental, prideful, demanding my way, quick to get angry, and so much more. The more time I spend mothering with Jesus, the more I see how much He needs to change in me. Often I want to point to the places I’m doing ok or even managing well at the moment as testimony to how I am as a mother, but the truth is He is changing me day by day.

Through Jesus Christ, I have been rescued from the Law, carried out of a burning building where I was doomed to fail and ushered and welcomed into a new home. Clothed anew, fed and given drink, cleaned, given a place, given a purpose. But these gifts are inside the house of grace and gospel of Jesus Christ. Part of growing in faith is understanding the room, the castle, and the kingdom in which I now live. I need to explore and understand all the ways salvation changes me, what is offered, how Christ interacts with me, and what it means to walk with His Spirit.

Often we make the gospel a door we walk through back into the old life just with a tag change on our clothes. We’ve been saved, but we think we need to navigate the old burning house of law and works. We measure our righteousness by our works, check off lists of attributes we think we need to develop, and wonder why we experience a silence that feels deafening in our walk with God. We have a religion and not a walk of grace.

And I know my heart, I know my sin that resides and can reign. Sin isn’t just the glaring committed acts of wickedness easily labeled by others, but it is all encompassed by the independence of me apart from God for whatever reason. Sin denies God his glory and makes me independent of Him. Deuteronomy 6:5 says, “You shall love the LORD you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

So how do I stand in a room of gospel and grace when I am desperately wicked in my allegiance to myself? My heart always pushes for self; the war, the battle is great as to who will reign. Shouldn’t I be kicked out, removed, or at least pushed to the edge? But God who is rich in mercy, whose grace abounds, who pursues us with a never ending love, He will not allow it! His kingdom isn’t sourced, powered, maintained, or dependent on me. Jesus Christ defeated all that I wrestle with at the cross. His grace sets me free! I have died to sin, united with Him in his death, and am now alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:22, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” His work in me slays the sin and self reliance and makes me a little more like Him every day. That is the work of sanctification.

Grace abounds – we now live in His kingdom of grace when we are saved. Salvation comes when we recognize our sin and turn to him as the only One who can free us from the bondage of death sin has inflicted on us. His death pays our sin debt. His resurrection assures us life eternal. His life in us is our new identity, and grace is our new home. There is no getting out of it, falling from it, walking away from it. You, Lord, do not flinch with the reality of my need for your grace. You readily supply more than enough. Your grace abounds!


8 – Shepherd

I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep…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; and I lay down my life for the sheep. ~John 10:11,14-15

Hunted, harassed, scattered, hungry, lost or safe, comforted, held, full, found. The difference lies in the presence of a shepherd, a good shepherd. Shepherds populate the scriptures, the patriarchs of the Jewish faith were all shepherds: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David. God uses this word picture both to encourage and warn Israel through the Psalms, Isaiah, and Ezekiel passages. Jesus lays claim to this title in John 10 by contrasting a true, good shepherd with one who robs or abandons the flock.

Jesus declares that He lays down his life for his sheep. This picture was understood by the Jews at the time, for that was exactly the risky position of a shepherd. In Biblical times the shepherd was fierce, warrior like with great endurance, and protective of his flock. Robbers and wild animals threatened by day and night. The shepherd was the guardian, allowing or limiting access to the flock, leading them to safe places to sleep, and defending them against any and all attack. A poor man with just a few sheep may hire another to watch his sheep, but Jesus points out the lack of allegiance and protection to the flock when danger comes.

The shepherd was also intimately acquainted with his sheep. Often shepherds will name their sheep and can see the unique traits or characteristics of each sheep and discern between them. Several shepherds may work together with their flocks in order to share the protection and pasturing duties, but when time comes for separation, the task is simply done. The shepherds will stand and call for their sheep. The sheep will begin to separate and follow based on the tone of voice and call of their own shepherd. Again Jesus reminds his listeners that as the good shepherd, He knows his sheep and they know Him just like his relationship with his Father. The intimacy of that relationship should make us pause and soak in the truth of how well He knows us! To be truly known – it is something we all hunger for and fear at the same time. Jesus knows me intimately. He knows my motivating thoughts, wandering ways, the sin that so easily entangles me, and He gave his life for me!

Psalm 23 cites the beauty of being his sheep, of drawing up alongside the One who knows the path to walk in, provides food and water, protects and guides. The shepherd searches continually for green pastures and feeding ground for his flock. He also looks for still waters because rushing water frightens sheep and discourages them from drinking. If there is no still water, the shepherd will lead the sheep to a well for refreshment. The shepherd’s rod and staff bring comfort to the psalmist. The rod was a stick with a thick bulbous end, often with nails, metal, or some sort of sharp weapon tip that was primarily used to ward off enemies. The staff is what we often picture shaped as a hook which can encircle the sheep’s hind leg and force the sheep to pause, balancing on the other three legs. Then the shepherd can redirect or tend to wounds or injuries the sheep may have. The sling that David had when he battled Goliath was a common tool as well for a shepherd. Useful as a weapon against predators, the sling would also be used to expertly sling a stone out further than a wandering sheep, causing the sheep to turn back inward towards the flock.

God displays his shepherd heart in Ezekiel 34. He contrasts His care for his people with the poor leadership of Israel that had resulted in judgment. There is much leadership in this world that is empty, damaging, neglectful, and deceitful. But God delineates in Ezekiel 34 everything that has not been done and promises instead to be the Great Shepherd.

Do you know you need a Shepherd? Do you see the emptiness, pain, and wounds that come from walking without Jesus? Do you know that the Shepherd searches for you? He longs for nothing else than to carry you into His fold, protect you, care for you, bind up your wounds, and strengthen you. Or are you the wandering sheep, fearing you may stay lost because you have wandered too far? He promises to seek and bring back the straying. He rescues. Are you weary in your working? There are shepherds here who teach us to work hard, be good, earn accolades, do a list that signifies your walk with God. God declares that He will make us lie down in good grazing land and on rich pasture, allowing us to rest in Him. He will lead you in paths of righteousness and restore your soul.

When we look at the truth of the gospel and understand our position with salvation as sheep with the good Shepherd, we should rejoice! What relief should fill our hearts that the hardship of walking lost, confused, and hunted like prey is no longer our judgment. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul. (1 Peter 2:25) We are free from wandering. We are found, not lost. We are protected, not harassed. We are cared for and not abandoned.

The idol of outcome

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. ~Psalm 62:1-2

As a woman I worship at the idol of outcome. This new year I have been spending a lot of time seeking the threshing that can only come through the Holy Spirit, looking inward to really pull apart different areas where I am struggling or where He would like to change me. And I would have to say that I defend outcome and maybe even protect this idol.

The idolatry of outcome – I don’t really know if this is the right term. But it pervades every aspect of my thinking. I confess I continuously assess and make adjustments based on whether the outcome is positive or negative. So when results are apparent or good in my opinion (which is SO limited, and yet what I am using as my barometer), then my perspective is that I am successful. When results are lacking or poor, then discouragement, doubt, and a desire to change course creep in.

As a mother, outcome has wrapped its tentacles around my heart, and I have to work feverishly to get free. Because outcome isn’t assured in motherhood. No matter what the studies or books tell you, you cannot ensure that your children walk with God or that they are happy, or successful or whatever you think is important. So today it seems like everything is going well, but then when tomorrow comes, it seems like everything is in a mess. And we worry that we need to change course or shift the method. I don’t have the long term perspective that God has, and I cannot see around the bend. So I wonder if this method of potty training or this way to teach obedience/respect/honor or this Bible lesson will actually result in a productive, loving person. And if it doesn’t because my child is showing that he or she also is a sinner in desperate need of God’s grace, I fault myself and look to see how to get a better result. God is so much more engaged and committed to the children in my home than I will ever be. That’s truth. And He is a faithful, pursuing, and patient sovereign God.

As a woman, outcome has captured me. We are surrounded with imagery, articles, and countless other social media contexts in which we can see where we don’t measure up to a standard or how we could improve our health, weight, beauty, aging process, the way our home looks, or anything else that needs improving.  So I chase the outcome with a fixation that declares that my success or failure will impact my attitude and sense of self. I have to work to shed outcome in these areas, knowing that my value does not come from my beauty. My value has already been determined by One who declares me his.

I also think I defend this idol as good or helpful for success. I think many would argue that without considering outcome, you cannot make progress. But idols are idols because of the place they occupy in our hearts, not because of what they are. And when outcome occupies a place of power in my heart where my thinking can be realigned without a submission to God’s plan first, then I am prostrate before a powerless god that will not lead me to the heart of God.

God has an outcome barometer as well. His outcome however is eternally measured, full of ripples, twists and turns I could never see as important or impactful. His call is for me to trust in Him, to be as Psalm 125:1 says, “like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.” But abiding is often hard, and results can be slow to be seen, and my eyes can slide to how I can get the outcome God “needs.” Like Sarah with Abraham, I can seek outcome over abiding. But I will end up with heartache and need to repent.

So how is the idol taken down and destroyed? By the truth of the Gospel. I don’t need to be enslaved to outcomes, because I know the One who determines all outcomes for eternity. So in my moments of making my outcome equate with my value or worth, I need to remember my true value. I am his child (Rom. 8:16). He has made me a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) and freed me from slavery to sin and death (Rom. 6:6-7,11). He is faithful to continue transforming me into His image, one degree at a time (2 Cor. 3:18).  So the shift of thinking in that moment with His divine power to destroy the stronghold that declares my value is linked to my work (2 Cor. 10:4-5) and to know that I am completely secure in His love for me (Rom. 8:38-39).  He alone is my salvation and my soul can rest quietly in Him.

It’s Not How Good You Are

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. ~Ephesians 2:4-9

“Have you been good this year?” “Are you on Santa’s nice list?” “What’s Santa going to bring you?” Words spoken with kindness but layered with threat and repercussion. The questions rang out with a fierceness, and my heart wanted to stop that moment and run. My little 4 year old turned to me, eyes wide open, searching my face, and I quickly covered the moment with assurances to all involved that presents would be under her tree.

We walked away from the exchange, and the moment we were quietly alone, I kneeled down and looked into her precious eyes and asked her, “What do you think about those questions? Are you good this year?” Her answer tore at my heart, exposed her doubts, and opened the door for the truth of the Gospel. She quietly replied, “Maybe. But I don’t really know.” And so for a little while, sitting in a parking lot, we talked about the truth of Christmas in a language that she can understand and that I pray plant seeds of truth to combat the wicked evil that seeps out of every part of those questions.

Caraline, I want you to understand something very important and foundational. It doesn’t matter What you have done; it matters Whose you are. You see, sweetie, we celebrate Christmas why? because Jesus came as a baby with one purpose in mind – to die on the cross for your sins and mine. He was our special present that day because He would make a way for you to have a relationship with God, have peace in your life, and have hope for when you die that you will live with Him forever. That is why we celebrate Christmas. But do you have to do anything for Jesus to be your Savior? Do you have to be good for Him? Ever? No, baby girl. There is no performing needed, you get to mess up and sin. He will lead you to repentance and forgiveness every single time. So we may be sad that we have sinned, but we never have to be afraid or worry that God will not forgive us or take us off his list. Because you are His, and He loves you no matter what. It is by grace you have been saved.

So at Christmas, we celebrate this great gift of Jesus by learning about His birth, learning about his names, singing songs that celebrate Him. And we give gifts to one another. But you will have gifts under the Christmas tree whether you have been good or naughty. Even if you have had many days of getting in trouble, you will still have all your presents under the tree. Why? Because you are my child, and I love you no matter what. Your presents on Christmas Day are because you belong to our family and you will be richly blessed with gifts given in great grace.

As believers we cannot just sit by and let culture dictate and pervert one of our holy days. And we certainly cannot allow our young children to be taken captive by a belief system utterly in opposition to the true meaning of Christmas. Yet we do. We allow these questions of goodness, performance, behavior to be asked of our children as if they are benign questions when really they have the fire of hell steaming off of them. We welcome a performance mentality for our little ones who believe as if that may provide some relief and keep them in line in a time full of excitement and craziness. There is no performance needed for the greatest gift ever given, the reason for Christmas. Jesus Christ came while we were all completely lost, sinful, full of all wickedness, and He came to freely give salvation to all who believe.

So while in our household we may decorate with Santa Claus, he doesn’t wield any power. We love the Christmas movies about elves, Santa’s workshop, reindeer, and snowmen. But he is never exalted as the giver of our gifts. There are no lists made, no hopeful yearnings in letters to the north pole. He certainly is not omniscient or omnipresent. His elves do not live in our house to check on behavior because again behavior is simply a symptom of a heart that needs the truth of the Gospel applied. So we purpose to direct the hearts of our children to the One who can and does save and work change in their lives because He loves them unconditionally and calls them to Himself.

I will do battle on this point against an enemy that wants nothing less than to convince my children that their performance factors into the equation. Because if he can convince them of that condemning thought, then grace is lost and bondage results around a day that is full of God’s rich, redeeming grace. I want my children’s hearts to sing that God’s gift of Jesus is their greatest gift.