Easter Morning

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” ~Mark 16:1-3

In the quiet of the weekend, the wondering and weeping must have been so great. The counting down of hours until she could run to His tomb and finish preparing His body correctly for final burial weighed heavily on her heart. She owed Him so much, for He had freed her from the bondage of demons hell-bent on destroying her mind. As she neared the tomb with her friend Mary, her arms were full of what she needed to finish loving her Teacher, and her spirit lagged with the weight of grief and loss.

Glancing up towards her goal, Mary Magdalene’s heart thudded and her breath stopped. Terror mixed with anger coursed through her body at that moment. The stone was moved! The grave had already been opened! Seemingly dead guards littered the entrance. Running now with desperation towards the tomb, the women entered, frantic to find His body and ensure that it hadn’t been desecrated.

As she ran into the tomb, her eyes darted around taking in the sight of empty linen cloths, the folded face cloth, the empty tomb. Nothing made sense, and grief mixed with bile as she turned quickly to go tell the Simon Peter and John.

She returned to the tomb later, drawn to the last place Jesus had been. Desperate for answers, perhaps looking around for clues, her heart was clinging to hope that the body would reappear so that she could finish honoring Him. She peered in once more. Two men in white now occupied the tomb, sitting one at the head and one at the foot of where He had lain. Imagine her terror and outrage!

But what came next is the beauty of God’s grace and pursuit of us!

“He is not here, for He has risen, as He said.” The pronouncement catches her breath. Processing this truth, quietly weeping and turning to go home, she spies the gardener. He asks her why she is so full of grief. Perhaps wondering whether he knew the secret to where His body had been stowed, she poured out her heart, promising to care for the body if someone would just let her have it.  She was frantic, almost hysterical, sobbing the cries that catch in your throat and make it hard to breathe.

“Mary.”  What must that word have sounded like to her ears?  She knew immediately at that moment who this man was. Not only did she know Him, but she also began to worship Him. The understanding of all that had happened flashed through her mind, like pieces of a puzzle falling into place. She was given the great privilege of being the first witness of our risen Lord and the first messenger of the Good News.

“I have seen the Lord.”

She had followed him throughout His ministry, listening and gleaning truth from Him. No doubt she yearned to understand all He taught, and she accompanied Him all the way to the cross. We see her at the foot of His cross, grieving as she stayed with Him, refusing to run or hide, clearly aligning herself with this King of the Jews. By all her actions, we see a woman who knew Jesus was more than just a man, more than just a righteous teacher, yet not until the garden does the complete picture of Jesus become clear.

But He knew her. He knew her heart, how she would be processing all that had happened, and He pursues her. He walks straight up to Mary Magdalene and tends to her heart. And He pursues you and me as well. He knows our needs, the cries of our hearts, and seeks to show us the truth of walking with Him. He has conquered every heartache, every dark sin, every place of bondage and ache, and He calls your name in love.

Grace & Peace Multiply

May grace and peace be multiplied to you. ~ 1 Peter 1:2

Every day, it seems, is stuffed with activities, planning schedules, organizing of lives, never mind cooking, cleaning, laundry, mothering, and relating to my children and husband. I would love a day when I can wake up and not have countless tasks and events looming, requiring a Tetris like skill to make all of them fit together and actually get accomplished. Today, for instance, includes making 2 costumes, editing 4 research papers for different children’s end of the year projects or college essays, a dishwasher that has broken, 3 haircuts scheduled unfortunately for the same time across town, registrations for camp, homeschool tasks, a car tuneup for a trip, organizing movers, and staging our home for sale.

While my head swirled with a list of things to complete, my heart began to sing this morning as I studied 1 Peter. Grace and peace are multiplied to me. God does not merely add up grace, stacking a little more on top as we go through our day. He doesn’t add more peace as we start to waver in distraction or panic. Multiplication happens. The impressive truth about multiplication is that it isn’t merely repeated addition as we often teach 2nd graders. Addition only allows like terms to be added together to slowly grow. Multiplication allows the compounding of unlike terms with growth happening at an exponential rate.

Grace and peace together multiplied, is offered to me as His child. Four things are true of those who are saved in this verse: God foreknows them, the Spirit sanctifies them, they obey Jesus, and Jesus’ blood covers them.

God knows us, He pursues us, He calls us by name. Over and over in scripture, we see God seeking out His people. Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. (Is. 43:2) 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; (John 10:14-15) I will protect him, because he knows my name. (Psalm 91:14) I am chosen by Him, for a relationship with Him. Letting that truth sink into my day, how I perceive all parts of my day sets me free from the feelings and lies that I am all alone or abandoned.

The Spirit is sanctifying me. Oh! What a wonderful truth to embrace this morning! That God doesn’t turn away in anger or disgust for how I sinfully interact with my children or husband, for how I mismanage my time, or how I bow and worship at the idols in my heart brings great peace. He is at work in me. Sanctify means to set apart; to declare as holy and in this passage is the process of becoming holy. He is convicting and refining, transforming my thinking as He works to change me evermore every day into His image, making me more like Him. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18) He intercedes for us before the throne. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)

My relationship with God declares I am covered with Jesus’ blood for my salvation. His redeeming work of offering up his body as a sacrifice for my sins allows me entrance into the covenant of grace and forgiveness with God. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22b), and he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Heb. 9:26b). The obedience of Jesus creates the way for me to have a relationship with Him, and my obedience becomes the response of gratitude for cleansing by His blood. Since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,..let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering,… and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. (Hebrews 10:19-24)

So grace and peace supernaturally, divinely multiply together, covering me today with a peace beyond understanding because I know the grace that extends over all of me. Peace floods me with the assurance that, despite my shortfalls today, my eternity is secure. Access to God is assured because of the grace given, and I can abide with Him today in all I do because He is committed to walking this day out with me. I can cry out to Him for time management – He cares! I can ask Him for kindness for wild or rebellious children – He provides! I can seek Him for wisdom – He listens! Grace and peace multiply and I can breathe. I can rest. I can linger in relationships rather than flit anxiously from task to task. I can exude these same blessings to my children in their hardest spaces, not because I am so amazing but because He is, and He has filled me.

Back Porch – Lies We Believe

There are 3 lies the enemy wants us to believe – the Gospel refutes them all.

And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. ~Matthew 7:25

Salvation and redemption offer a change in identity. God’s pursuit of mankind has always been powered by His steadfast love for us. We have looked at the gospel as 4 parts ~ Holy God, sinful man, Jesus Christ, and new life. The identity of the justified has changed from lost, sinful, and condemned to adopted, righteous, and redeemed.  Walking through this study, we have sought to lay a foundation solely on the Gospel so that as we grow up in Him, our lives are a living structure well built with straight lines, plumb walls and windows, and without cracks or holes. As a child of God, my identity becomes one of the foundational pieces in how I relate to the world. Faith grows as my knowledge of what He gives at salvation increases, therefore knowing what it means to be a new creation, in Christ, sealed with the Holy Spirit, filled with His fullness, saved, justified, and being sanctified becomes essential. Understanding my identity in Jesus Christ will solidify my foundation against the storms of life, the lies of the enemy, and the battlefield of the mind.

Understanding truth from counterfeit is paramount. When an art authentication expert can identify an original painting from a replica, his knowledge is based on the study of the original. He has become an expert in brushstrokes, medium, canvas, etc. that the artist used. Identifying counterfeit money requires an intense study of the original.

The ability to see tiny nuances of illegitimacy comes from time spent with the archetype.

From the beginning, there is one who has whispered lies to mankind. As we grow in Jesus, we must understand the truth of the Gospel to see the deceit that often impacts the framework of our faith. Lies steal our identity and layer in doubt and shame. As we deepen in our faith, our ability to see the overt lies increases, but the deception in the subtle, slight variations from the truth can still cause us to stumble unless we know the truth well.

 

img_2493
photo cred: Noah Kimsey

 

The enemy sows seeds of doubt – doubt about who God is and how we relate to Him. The first lie ever spoken is found in Genesis 3:1, “Did God actually say?” The softened questioning of whether God really meant a specific command began the fall. The enemy’s primary web of deceit questions whether God really said and then expected the truth of the Word.

Culturally we see this lie at work everywhere. Ascribing to accuracy and veracity of scripture is under attack. The shifting of truth from a biblical foundation to one based on opinion and feeling began as a whisper that has now grown to a dull roar as interpretation and fearlessness become the norm. Maclaren declares, “The reality of moral distinctions, the essential wrongness of the sin, is obscured by a mist of sophistication.”

Immediately we see the heart of both Adam and Eve change as they begin to doubt the one relationship on which everything centered. In my own life, this lie can take root and cause upheaval. I can easily question the meaning behind God’s words, worry that grace is not enough for me rife with hidden sin, wonder whether His faithful presence is for me specifically. Did God really say He would always be with me? Did God really say I am wholly loved? Is God’s love really steadfast for me?

His promises, blessings, and actions all come under attack with this lie. Our value therefore also can come under attack here because if God’s words are not true, then our identity is illegitimate. If forgiveness is not freely given, and if redemption is not complete through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, then my hope cannot be assured and my eternity is insecure.

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes” Psalm 19:7-8

The serpent continues with a second part of the lie –  could they not eat of any tree in the garden?  The question implies doubting whether God is good – would a good God deny you all fruit in essence. This is another primary lie he uses to catch our thoughts and ply our heart with doubts that lead to anger and shame.  The basis of the deceit is the implication that God is stingy, withholds from us, and will fail to come alongside us in life. The very character of God is under attack. If God is not who He says He is, if He fails in any of these areas, then He is an untrustworthy God. Your future is uncertain left in the hands of a God who is not faithful.

Often I can feel as if God is not listening. I can believe the whispering questions of doubt that wonder whether He hears my cries and needs, whether He is engaged with me at this moment. Does He know my worries or fears about raising my children? Does he care that none of this seems to be going well? More than anything, the enemy wants you and me to believe that God is removed or latent in His relationship with us.

The truth is God is wholly consistent in His attributes. Studying the attributes of God exposes His character. Delighting in who God is and what He is like results in worship, not worry.

The third lie we see is the lie that asks is Should He be your God?  The serpent announces that rather than dying, Adam and Eve will be like God, knowing good and evil. The true need for God is brought under attack, as this lie pushes us to desire to be godlike instead.

He presents the idea that God knows the fruit will allow them to be like Him, and by insinuation confirms that God is seeking to prevent their independence. According to the serpent, there is no consequence for eating the fruit, but rather the delightful treat would elevate them to who they truly should be.

The serpent questions whether Adam and Eve should simply know good from evil themselves rather than rely on God for input. The worthiness of God, His holiness, sovereignty, power, and position come under attack.

As a woman and mother, this lie traps me in many different ways. My flesh seeks independence from God and a worship of self. The deceit of the enemy capitalizes on my bent. Worshipping myself can look like 2 different extremes. The lies that I need to “be more” ~ more successful, more competent, self-reliant, more focused on myself ~ these lies tantalize me with thoughts of how to succeed. The flip side is the focus on my inadequacies, my failures, doubts, and fears ~ the belief that I am not enough and cannot change. In both of these paradigms, I focus on me. The heart of sin is self-assertion and a desire to be independent of God, and the lies the enemy uses capitalize on those drives.

Jesus Christ is our hope. He is the light burning brightly in the darkness of rebellion and separation. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all peoples” (Titus 2:11).

 

img_2492
photo cred: Noah Kimsey

 

These three lies can snag our heart and drive us down the road to bondage and doubt. The truth is the enemy understands the flesh we battle as well and capitalizes on this as he worms his way into our minds. We are bent with our flesh towards independence from God – it is our sin nature.

How do I ensure that my foundation is securely placed on Christ alone? Why would that be a word picture Jesus would use within the Sermon on the Mount? A foundation has three main roles: it must maintain a strong load-bearing capacity, prevent ground moisture from seeping into the structure, and be able to resist external forces coming against the structure to keep the building standing.

In our lives, there will be storms that threaten our belief in God, floods of life that make us feel like we cannot keep our footing in the truth of who He is, and winds of doubt and rebellion. But if my foundation is set on Jesus Christ – that His sacrifice paid for all the sin I struggle against, turned aside God’s wrath, set me free from the bonds of death, and that forever now I live in the gracious renewing power of Christ, making me more and more into His image – then my heart is not as easily swayed by the whisperings of the enemy. I set my heart and mind on the One who rebuilds, renews, and restores me.

All glory is to Him.  

 

strength & joy

And so from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. ~Colossians 1:9-12

I walk on a more unique path than some – my feet are in every area of mothering except fully adult children. I have infants, preschoolers, elementary and middle schoolers, teenagers and college kids. I joke that the babies get me up super early and my night owl teenagers want to talk only after 11:30 at night. But it really is true!

I long for the insight for the moments with each child, to be filled with His wisdom, His truth to flow from my lips to a child’s heart. To show them the faithfulness of Christ who always has a listening ear and steadfast love. But many times I fail or compromise. I justify my hard, selfish heart because I’m tired, or bad day, etc. I rationalize that I’ll do better tomorrow or grab them later today to address that heart issue they have. Sometimes I just want an escape.

But Paul prays for the church and for me in Colossians 1 that we would be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. The result will be a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, bearing fruit and increasing in the knowledge of God. Doesn’t that fill your heart with longing? I just want this more and more, and I pray this so much over my children. And then verse 11: May you be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy. That is SO hard in motherhood!

Let’s be real – I might be strong, on a good day until lunch, but the wheels are going to come off the wagon because someone is picking on someone else, or someone is demanding or whining a lot today, or someone is just obstinate. But I assure you, the wheels will come off this wagon – I will lose it! It may be a “slow leak” day where I can keep most of it turned way down, or it may be a short fuse kind of day which is always a little scary for the little people! But apart from Christ, and seeking the strength of His power and his might, I will not be able to walk worthy of Him with my kids or in my marriage. I may be able to fool you out in public, but I will never fool my kids or my husband.

But Paul says that the strength comes from God’s glorious might – I don’t have to be strong, I have to be submitted. The verb be strengthened is a present participle verb implying an ongoing action. My strengthening is not one and done. He strengthens me moment by moment, day by day. His infusing of power flows from His might full of His glory. My choice is simply will I rely on Him? Will I turn to the fount of living water which flows and floods, or will I seek my own broken cistern as a source of power today?

And in the moments full of grief, pain, confusion, wonder, and uncertainty in parenting, will I seek Him? I love a quote from Maclaren, “Our sorrows make rents through which His strength flows.” Many moments in parenting are painful and uncertain, whether because a child suffers from an illness, makes decisions I know are unwise, or has circumstances that hurt their heart. My heart at times has wanted to rip apart in fear and grief, and in my flesh waves of confusion and discouragement flood my mind. But when I lift my eyes to the One who is my help, who loves my child more than I ever will, He provides the deepest source of strength and the calmest life-giving water to restore and fill me. His strength is made perfect in my weakness, and He commits fully to me.

Then His endurance for the long toddler/teenager day can go the distance. His patience comes flowing out of me in seasons of chaos and confusion. I rest with Him, in Him, on Him.

And His joy floods my soul.

Joy (xara, chara in the Greek) means grace recognized. Joy is not euphoria, bliss, or ecstasy the way our current culture uses the term. His joy in me centers on what He has done for me, rescuing me from the bondage of sin and death, walking me through each day in sanctifying commitment to me, and leading me ultimately to the great inheritance of life eternal with Him.  Recognizing grace, seeing His love, His work, and His plan despite my circumstances, settles my soul despite the hard, painful, demanding moments. Joy based in His Gospel becomes my bedrock.

So today, may we be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.

 

 

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)

 

Back Porch – the Law & salvation

For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. ~Galatians 2:19-20

My husband uses a fantastic word picture to teach others including our children about the differences between the law, salvation, and sanctification. As we study the Gospel, we have talked about the importance of laying a strong foundation upon which all other parts of walking with Jesus depend.  Being on a gospel hunt begins to show us that the heartbeat of God is to pursue sinful man and redeem him unto Himself. For many friends I have discipled as well as myself, the “what comes after” becomes a hard place to walk. Inherent in us is a desire to be part of the solution, to contribute to the change, to be good perhaps. But God does the work in salvation as we talked about last time. Before we go any further, I want to firm up the truth that only the Holy Spirit changes you and me as we walk with Him. The closer I walk with Jesus, the more of my flesh or my sin I see. My foundation buckles when any of my footers sits in the belief that I must clean my own sin, get myself turned around or fix my flesh tendencies before I can come before God.

 If we were sitting together talking about being made in His image, I would begin with this pictorial foundation. Imagine you walk into a bathroom and you see a mirror hanging above a sink with a light illuminating the room. As you walk up to the mirror, the light enables you to see your reflection in the mirror. With the light off, clearly the room is dark and you cannot see anything, but with the light comes sight. As you look into the mirror, you can see all the filthy spots of dirt speckling your skin, covering up huge areas or small. You naturally rub at some, hoping to rid yourself of the dirt, scraping at some spots and brushing at others. Nothing will work. The dirt may flake top layers off, but it still remains. And it is everywhere. It seems the harder you try to rub it off, the more imbedded it becomes. You swivel and turn; it’s everywhere on you, from the tip of your head to the soles of your feet. The mirror keeps showing more places of dirt. You need the sink. You quickly turn on the water and begin to wash away the dirt that covers your face, your neck, your arms, etc. Glancing continuously into the mirror, you are able to see more areas that need cleaning. But the water does the cleaning.

The light in the bathroom is Jesus Christ. Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) and I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. (John 12:46) As we step into relationship with Jesus, we step out of darkness and into light.

The mirror is the reflection of God’s demand for holiness – the law. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20) The law serves to show us all the ways we can never walk righteously on our own. Romans 7:7 says “if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin.” But the mirror never makes us clean. And this is the important truth for walking with Jesus. Just like the Galatians, sometimes we can believe the mirror makes us clean. If I can just stay clean today, then it will be a good day. The truth is we cannot and will not. In fact the law will stir sin up within us as Romans 7:7-10 explains. But without Christ as our Savior, a darkened bathroom offers little. The mirror requires the light to reflect just like the law requires Jesus Christ.

But the water is what cleanses. And the water is the blood of Jesus Christ that renews us daily through the Holy Spirit. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7) and he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:5-6). The cleansing power comes because Jesus Christ died for your sin and mine on the cross many years ago. His payment paid for all the sin debt that mars our hearts and redeemed us from the curse of sin. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14) The daily walk with the Holy Spirit in humility will change or sanctify me and make me more like Jesus and less like my own flesh.

I like to use this word picture even with my very little ones. As we wash our hands or look at dirty faces in the mirror after playtime, I will ask how can we see all the dirt in the mirror. First they will point out we need to turn the light on. And then when I begin to point out in the mirror all the little spots of dirt under fingernails or around mouths, I love to wonder with my little ones how on earth can we get clean? Even at 2 & 3 they can point to the sink as their hope for getting the dirt off of hands and faces. And as we wash hands, we talk about how only Jesus can wash away the sin from our hearts just like only water can wash away the grime on our hands.

As our children have aged, this analogy only becomes more important. There is an onslaught by the enemy on our children to perseverate on the reflection in the mirror and to feel hopeless in the grime of sin they see. They retreat into the darkness, fearing the mirror.

Our only hope is Jesus Christ. He reveals, and He cleanses. Jesus Christ is our fountain of life who never runs dry.

 

11 – My Helper

So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” ~ Hebrews 13:6

I think God delights in showing me more of my own sin nature and His great love, patience and faithfulness through my children, most often my little toddlers and preschool children. Throughout the years, they have served as a micro example of my faith walk that exists on a much larger but more concealed level. The other night He whispered truth to me in one such moment.  We have moved our two youngest children into the same bedroom and also moved our 3 year old out of a crib. While we are waiting on a new bed to arrive, he is simply sleeping on a mattress on the floor. He loves his “big boy bed,” but over his short sweet life, he has collected quite a lot of “lovies” including 4 stuffed animals, 2 little animal/blanket things, and 3 baby blankets. They are all required for sleep (insert eye roll, completely the last child because all other Kimsey kids were allowed 1 special thing).

Not feeling particularly sleepy last night, he proceeded to throw every last item out of his bed across the room. However the rule is no getting out of bed, no playing once put to bed, so there he sat, heartbroken to be all alone with no way of getting them back and settling himself down to sleep. So he began to cry out. Persistently he called my name, “Momma, I need you, I need help.” Over and over, calling for me to come. As I walked into the room and noticed all the chaos, I looked into his face. In that moment God whispered for me to pay attention. My child had an unswerving belief that I could fix the mess he had created, despite the fact that he had even created it in disobedience. He looked into my face without much explanation of what had happened and simply asked me to get him all that he needed for peace, comfort, and sleep.

I want to be more like him – more childlike in my faith knowing that my Father is my Helper, steadfast in His love, totally committed to me in my chaos as well as my successes. How often do I call out, completely assured that He will answer me? or Do I try to clean up my own messes, worried that I’ll be caught? Do I persistently call, looking for help from Him despite the truth that most of my messes are of my own doing, and many times because of my own sin? Do I seek the peace and comfort only brought from the One who can comfort me deeply?

As my Helper, in the Greek, the word means one who brings the right aid in time, to meet an urgent, real need. The right aid, in time, to meet my urgent needs. Praise Him for He is my Helper! Do I know without a doubt that God is my Helper? My son knows without a doubt that I will help him. I am not negating consequences, and sometimes the discipline comes because of the disobedience. But even through this, he trusts my love for him abounds despite his behavior of the moment, and he understands that I am for him and his needs. Do I trust His hand to provide just what is needed? You have kept count of my tossings;  put my tears in a bottle. Are they not in your book? (Psalm 56:8) Take heart! He knows all our wanderings and gathers our tears of heartaches, repentance and despair. He treasures them and records them – we are important to Him.

The hope in this advent season and beyond is that God helps us. Before we ever knew our desperate need for a Savior, He planned to send his Son as payment for the sin that separates us from Him. Jesus came as a baby, without power and acclaim, offering His life as the unblemished perfect sacrifice for each of us. God helps us in our time of need for a Savior and then promises to help us walk each and every day as His children.

Behold God is my Helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. ~Psalm 54:4

the back porch – God’s work

As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. ~Galatians 1:9

Over the next few weeks and hopefully as a filter for a lifetime, we will walk together looking for the truths of the Gospel in scripture and asking questions to deepen our understanding of different parts of His truth. You can find the introduction to the Back Porch here and four portions or areas to look for in your time in God’s Word here

“One of the tasks of the church is to reexamine the gospel we preach and believe, alert to ways it has been reshaped by the idols of our culture” ~Bill Hull.  The gospel we believe leads to the disciples we make.  As we walk out the next few times, we are going to stay on a gospel hunt.

Hopefully by now you have a few pages with the beginnings of a collection looking at the different portions of the Gospel. You may be excited to see how God’s Word consistently points to one or more of these areas or perhaps you fell in love with a passage that spoke to your heart this week about who Jesus is, who God is, or what has been given to you as a result of Christ. One other concept you may want to add as you study is what I call road mapping. Simply described ~ as you note portions of scripture that point to God’s holiness or your sinfulness for example, tag the last place you saw this concept beside this passage (remember you have been writing them down in your journal). So perhaps Ephesians 2:1 which talks about who we are before Christ gets tagged with Romans 3:23 in the margin. You will slowly create “roads” in your Word that can lead you through as you study. You will begin to understand or remember where concepts sit in different books, see themes emerge, and see the consistency of God’s truth. When you run to the Word for hope or comfort, you will find it more easily.

As we walk together, one of the first conversations we must have is understanding the work in our relationship with God. Who contributes and how? God is holy, just, powerful, sovereign, maker of all things, all knowing and eternal. Many more attributes comprise Him. Mankind is not any of these. Colossians says we are alienated, hostile in our minds, doing evil deeds, living in a domain of darkness. Ephesians 2 says we are dead in sin, Galatians declares we are held captive and enslaved, 1 Peter calls us unrighteous, and Romans 1-3 clearly lays out the unrighteousness and depravity of all man. No one is without sin and thus separated from God. These are foundation truths of the Gospel.

How then is the gap between holiness and slavery/alienation bridged? God sent His son Jesus Christ as the payment for the debt of sin that traps mankind (Romans 3, Galatians 3, Ephesians 2) . While this may seem basic, it is imperative to understand the important concept that God does all the work of salvation. We do nothing to earn the payment for sin that Jesus paid. We do nothing to deserve it; there is no way to merit the grace and mercy given.

Works and performance are worthless foundations, but many people carry a concept of being good or doing good as necessary for God’s forgiveness. Do you? Do you take the portions of scripture such as in Ephesians 4, Colossians 3 or 1 Thessalonians 4 that speak to our response to God’s unmerited grace (way our life will look as we respond to the life we have been given) and place them ahead of your salvation? Do you struggle with thoughts that God may be mad at you or disappointed in you? Do you fear messing up or not walking well? Do you hear thoughts that say you aren’t good enough for God to help you or listen to your prayers? We will talk in following weeks about the lies of shame, fear, and guilt, but I want you to know today that while you were a sinner, Christ died for you (Rom. 5:8). He saved you, not because of works done by you in righteousness, but according to his own mercy (Titus 3:5). He has given Himself and all the blessings of being redeemed to you from the start – you have life abundantly (John 10:10), you have the fullness of Him (Col. 2:9-10), you have the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13), you have been given His divine power (2 Peter 1:4-5) – You are His child (Rom. 8:16), secure in His love (1 John 4:9-10), and nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39).

We will talk next week about our response to Jesus Christ and the lies we believe. But for this week, begin to respond to some of these or other scriptures that speak to what God has given you in salvation. If you are unsure of your salvation, please message me and I would be happy to share with you how you can be certain. Make a running list of these truths and allow Him to sink His blessings and His truth deep within your heart.

You are beloved, not because of you but because of Jesus.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the prophets bear witness to it — the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. ~ Romans 3:21-25a

Girded

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.        ~1 Peter 1:13

More and more as I parent my children and in my own walk as a believer, I am convinced the battle is in our minds. And my mind can so easily wander off track and be half a mile down the road of worry, doubt, or fear without me really noticing the change in landscape. In this passage Peter has just listed out significant blessings as a child of God because of Jesus Christ. I was struck this morning by the action points in verse 13: preparing your minds for action and being sober minded. These are choices I make in the moments of life. They are distinct and worthy of understanding as I walk with Jesus and as I walk with my children in discipleship.

To prepare your mind for action – in the Greek, the phrase really means to gird up the mind. The word gird in the Greek means to remove the slack or pull the belt. In this case the prefix before gird signifies an upward pull. In the days of Peter, the tunic hung down to the ground for rest at home. But for any movement including merely walking outside of the home, the long flowing garments would be tied closely to the body with either a leather or linen girdle that would allow quick movement and ease in a journey. The imagery is of gathering one’s tunic between the legs so that one can run/be nimble/able to defend or flee. Preparatory girding in anticipation of action is the mandate from Peter. Paul in Ephesians 6:14 uses the same root word with a different prefix that signifies a tightening around; a covering of all bases. When I gather all the thoughts that rage and swirl around me and tie them together with the truth of Jesus Christ as my redeemer, I can walk this day with a confidence that is not rooted in me. My confidence for moving forward is in the One who clears my path as well as holds me together. Thoughts must come under the submission of the truth of God’s Word – who He is and how He relates to me as His child because of Jesus Christ’s payment for my sin. My future is assured and my today is secure because He is walking with me. The belt of truth must be in place in our spiritual armor as an anchor that holds our weapons as well as readying us for battle.

Being sober minded simply means having a presence of mind and clear judgment. We see the same idea in 1 Thessalonians 5:6, “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for the helmet the hope of salvation.” Also in 1 Peter 5:8 the instruction is, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Emotions can flood my mind, causing panic or discouragement. Frantic thoughts or worries block the truth of my identity in Christ as well as cause me to forget the power God offers me as his child. The racing of my thoughts hurtles me through a wasteland of doubt, but I can choose to tie myself up in the truth of the Gospel by proactively setting my mind on His Word.

Set your hope fully ~ Again hope is not a wish or desire but rather my active waiting with assurance, confidence, and expectation without wavering. And for what? what am I binding myself to? What is the anchor for my mind? The grace brought through Jesus Christ. God extends His favor to me, freely offering Himself (the imagery is of bending or inclining down towards another) because He is disposed to make us His children through His Son Jesus Christ.

Tie me to the truth, anchor my mind and my soul to this assurance that You, Almighty God, bent down in your holiness to offer redemption to me through your Son that I may walk with You in all the wonder and blessings of being your child. Only then will walking righteously, faithfully and obediently be possible.