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.

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.

 

 

Walking through Ephesians, 9

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. ~Ephesians 6:10-13

The armor of God – I remember as a little girl being told in church and Bible classes to say it/pray it every day before I went to school. The implication was that if I “put it on” by saying it, I would have a much better day, things would go better, I wouldn’t have the tough times against these evil spiritual forces (and who wants that?!!). In fact I still hear people talking about praying the armor on as if it is some mantra you can recite and boom, you’re covered and safe. I have heard people say they pray it over their kids for their school days as they are leaving them in car line. But I really wonder if I understand what Paul is teaching?

The first time I really studied Ephesians, the whole passage about the armor of God caught my attention. Now I may be the only one who has walked through childhood into adulthood with the idea that I could just pray the armor over myself, in recitation, and I would be safe from the scheming devil and all his terrible arrows. But sitting with you at coffee, I feel compelled to make sure that you see just a glimpse of what Paul is really talking about because you may be like me. It may just make your heart race, your spirit sing, and your mind rest to understand this is no mantra or chant to put on some dress up clothes. This is what it means to truly be a warrior for the Lord on the battlefield of this life. Paul has walked us through great theology in Ephesians as to who we were and who we are now as redeemed:

  • we were chosen, made holy and blameless, redeemed and forgiven to the praise of His glory
  • we are walking in good works prepared for us
  • identity – in Christ Jesus- brought near, reconciled, a dwelling place for the Spirit of God who is our seal for salvation
  • we are granted boldness and confident access to Him because of the faith He’s given to us
  • out of our new redeemed, forgiven, renewed selves we live out the Gospel with those around us- dependent on the Gospel – it’s not a behavior checklist – it’s a constant return to the truth of the Gospel for me in order to renew my mind and therefore live out in the details my reverence for Christ

The list could continue, but you should be the one to make the list. God will teach you much! But here at the close of Ephesians, Paul has been teaching about the importance of understanding what Christ did in love for us and responding to this Gospel with our lives and relationships. So we have just read the passages about submission and obedience/leadership.

And now he emerges into a “Finally”- Finally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Seems a little repetitive at first glance, but surprise! it’s very purposeful. The first phrase “be strong” means to receive strength, be strengthened or increase in strength, but it is passive and internal, meaning I am not mustering up the strength, I am receiving the strength. This strength is contingent on union with the Lord, and He is empowering or imparting ability to me. And then the second phrase “and in the strength of his might” – the power of his strength or the dominion of His combative strength over external things — His ability to dominate in His strength over all things. My strengthening is from Him as well as my deepening knowledge of how strong He is. In order to walk out any of the relationships in love the way Paul has just discussed, I need to be empowered by the Holy Spirit and understand the vast power that is for me in His might.

Back in Ephesians 4:20-24, Paul says that because we learned Christ, we are renewed in the spirit of our mind and put on the new self. We enduo (in the Greek) which means to clothe ourselves in His likeness in both righteousness and holiness. Then here in Ephesians 6:10-11 I need to know the strength pouring into me because of salvation and the strength that stands behind me in God Himself, and so I enduo or clothe myself with the armor of God – the new self. The armor is the essence of what has been given to me as a believer to walk here on this earth in newness and salvation until I stand in His presence.

My life isn’t about hard things with kids, others, circumstances. My battle is with an enemy who will throw everything at me to make me forget who I am, whose I am, who strengthens me, and who is in me.

My standing and withstanding depend on whether I use that which I have been clothed in. I need to know my armor, all that I have been given, and take up these truths. I am perpetually entering, leaving, or engaging in a fierce battle.

So just like the soldier knows his armor, I need to know what I have been given – in part and in whole. Just as a soldier becomes more valiant and wiser the more he battles and trusts his armor and weaponry – so do I. The more I walk in the Gospel, the more ready I am. The more I read, know and wear Truth, the easier it becomes to recognize it and prefer it. Truth will become the belt that holds all my armor securely in place. The more I understand His righteousness imparted to me, the more my emotions are guarded from the wicked raging of this world. The more my feet are firmly rooted in the Gospel, the more sure footed I am when anything that opposes His gospel tries to topple me. My shield of faith is always protecting me – in all circumstances. The shield is not the small hand held piece of armor that we see superheroes use in movies. Paul is referencing something larger than my body, behind which I stand, fully guarded and protected. Throughout the Old Testament God call Himself my Shield, and He is the source of faith, of dependence for strength in battle. The ability of condemning, evil, or discouraging thoughts to pierce through to my mind becomes less as I understand all that was granted me with His salvation. And the sword of the Spirit – His word, my only weapon. Praying at all times again is sourced in the Holy Spirit who is our guarantee for eternity.

So my role with myself and with my kids isn’t to recite pieces of armor but to walk through what these pieces actually represent and how they are THE sustaining requirements for the battlefield of this life. We are all doing battle everyday, little ones included. So to speak words of gospel truth and remind them of the strength, power, and protection freely given to them through Jesus Christ is paramount.

As we walk out of Ephesians, I want my walk with my children to be reflective of Ephesians 6:19-20, “that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

 

 

Walking through Ephesians, 8

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. .. now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. ~Ephesians 5:1-2, 8-10

Imitation. The thought of it fills me with longing on the one hand and dread on the other.

When I see it with my children, it often delights me because for my child to imitate, they have studied, observed, internalized and then pulled back out that desirable action. My 10 year old yelled my name yesterday in such a tone of voice that my eldest son and I thought he was very hurt. We both rushed to him, expecting to see blood/tears, something. Instead there stood a grinning, eyes sparkling, proud young man holding a fly up as a trophy, “Look! I killed my first fly just like Daddy does!” And he proceeded to explain how he took every step his daddy ever does in order to kill this fly with only a flick of his hand. Gross but a somehow a manly achievement!

My almost 2 year old studies everything his daddy does to get ready in the morning. We have to now hide all of Troy’s things because he will try to act out what he has seen (dangerous with qtips and razors!) He loves to tromp through the house in Troy’s shoes and daily seeks to wear Daddy’s socks all day long. Hats are a special trophy but only Daddy’s favorite one.

I admit when I realize how much observation I am under in any given day, it is bone wearying. Someone is always asking me why I am doing something or just watching the way I do something to make sure I do it the same way I have before. I am always amazed at the “you always” and “you never” comments that are attributed to actions/things that I didn’t know I had set patterns for. But my children do, because they observe and study.

God does not possess undesirable attributes, there is nothing in Him I should avoid imitating as there is in me. And He never tires of displaying Himself, teaching me more and more deeply about His attributes. But do I study Him, experience time with Him that I know His way, His actions, His love? or do I do it my way?

In our “use it quickly, buy a lot” culture, imitation often has a cheap, inferior connotation. The object is knowingly inferior and lacking something but affordable so as to make it mass marketable. It’s easily produced. We can carry this false copying concept into Christianity with a list of behaviors that everyone would agree makes a “good Christian,” and don’t get me started on the list for a good mom. Kindness, goodness, grace giver, patience, forgiving, and then the unwritten list for motherhood. The list can be endless and paralyzing. And I think we can see this false or cheap copying of a list of behaviors for what it is – hypocritical and self promoting.

But when I look at Jesus Christ, the list falls away.

My childlike toddling after Jesus increases my understanding of His Gospel to me and will fuel my imitation of Him. But my imitation can’t be sourced by me, my abilities or temperament. As we walk as children of light, we are light in the Lord. When Paul tells me to walk as a child of light with fruit, he is not leaving all that he has presented before this passage in Ephesians. But sometimes I will read these verses and forget this. I will see an imperative sentence and immediately add it to my list of cheap, me driven imitation. But I am in Christ Jesus, with access to the Father through the Spirit, and my true imitation will be Spirit driven. It will be the Holy Spirit in me replacing my old self with His new self, day by day, little by little, a laying down of me spurred on by my growing love of Him that comes through time with Him.

When I begin to follow Him around, observe Him, watch His interactions, experience His love and forgiveness, my heart will long and yearn to be more like Him. My little man didn’t claim an original fly killing technique, yet he was thrilled to have done it just the way he had seen it done countless times before. Imitation is really a reflection of the original. And in the case of us in the world as His dearly loved children, we are to be the clear reflection of God’s love.  There is no claim of originality; imitation points to the Original.

 

 

A Foundation

As I begin this blog, I must confess this has been a battle raging in me for years. I opened this blog in january 2010 – 7 years ago! and yet never typed a single letter. To such a point of ignoring that I had forgotten the title of the blog itself! I wanted to walk, no, run away from this entire idea as if that would be ok with the One who had consistently and steadily been calling me to this. What could I possibly write? what about? why would anyone need to see it, let alone want to see it? why not ask someone else, someone who enjoys writing and who actually has time and spends time on a computer? For 6 years I have tried to write in other places, and the Lord keeps returning me to this idea. So here we are — The great Almighty LORD God, the great I AM who calls us forth, and me, the wanderer who thinks she can come up with a better plan that will keep her a little more secure, a little less exposed. All I really want is to be His, supremely sold out, useable as He sees fit, abiding in the One who will make the fruit that abides, daily walking with Him.

This verse has resonated with me now for months as I grapple with this: I Cor. 3:11 “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” This daily walk of faith for all of us must be with a foundation of Jesus Christ. It is when I think somehow I am responsible for the foundation, whether through eloquent words, great ideas, things I choose to do or not to do, that is when I stumble or freeze in fear or walk in the wrong direction. But if Jesus Christ is my foundation, the platform of my life on which all else builds then there will not be poorly aligned walls of belief, floors of understanding that slant towards the world, or mishung windows reflecting wrong images. The foundation is critical to the advancement of any building.

Never before has that been made more clear in our lives than a few years ago. Our home literally was not built on a foundation that was stable. The support poles on which the entire house was set were not actually connected to the house in some places and in others were not at the correct height. Outwardly the house seemed beautiful, yet to the ones who lived in the house, the slight raise in the floor, the way a ball would roll across the entire living room to one corner, and the slight slant of the crown molding in one corner all pointed to some severe structural problems that one day would be of great cause of concern if not fixed. So, many thousands of dollars and many loud days of construction later, the repairs were completed. Now the house must settle again, cracks in sheetrock must be repaired, crown molding redone, roof support completed. All because the foundation was not correctly laid.

How often does that occur in our own lives? we miss out on the truth that He alone must be our foundation – that at the moment of our salvation we were given the Holy Spirit, the indwelling power who raised Christ from the dead. Often we try to make something else, actions, thoughts, good things the foundation of our lives instead of Christ Himself. I have certainly been guilty of this here. I have sought to make writing in my journals or in the notes section of my ipad foundation enough, proof of my obedience. Instead of relying on the One who lives within me to lead the writing and trusting Him for the results, I have been trying to hang pictures on walls slightly slanted (lack of trust in His power), paint walls not fully plumb (based in disobedience), and walk on floors that aren’t level (because I’m not giving Him the opportunity to make my paths straight Proverbs 3:5-6) Now I choose to step out with Him, and allow His hand to shape my foundation in this area, trusting that His way of doing things far surpasses my own and will result in praise, glory and honor to Him forever!

and so a few foundation verses:
Rev. 4:11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Col. 1:16-17 “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”