Ephesians 1 – part 2

What is the prayer in Ephesians 1? The desire Paul had for the church was that they would know what Jesus Christ has done, the hope, riches, and power He offers.

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe according to the working of his great might…” ~Eph 1:16-19

So Paul has rejoiced over the blessings in Jesus Christ and then begins to pray for the Ephesian church. The prayer is that the eyes of your heart are enlightened – my heart can deceive, it can be led astray. My affections source in my heart. G. Archer calls it the “desire producer that makes us tick.” Scripture is clear that my heart can deceive, it can grow hardened, it can be proud. But I am commanded to love the Lord with all of my heart, to be consumed with Him, to obey and serve wholeheartedly.

I need constant recalibration, a re-setting of my heart on the truths of what has been given to me with salvation so that I don’t shift to a works mentality (Galatians speaks to this) or to a worldly  (as seen in Colossians) thinking and then forget. We were just at the beach, and I was reminded of the pull and shifting of the unseen currents. We all know how to mark our position in the water by constantly looking back to shore where our chairs or towels are. We do this because we know that little by little, moment by moment, the currents in the ocean are pushing us in a direction that will shift us away. I can distinctly remember times when I have looked back to shore only to realize that I am far away from where I began.

The same is true spiritually – if I’m not looking at the truth of God’s Word and making adjustments to keep in line with His truth, I will drift.

So I listen and allow the Spirit to preach the Gospel to me: I have a hope I have been called to – an eternity that will not change, an eternity in the presence of God. I have wonderful riches as His child – my position has changed from that of a lost in sin law follower who will fail to his perfected new creation living in grace. And I have his great power that defeated sin and death is at work in me, changing me, making me more like Him.

The Holy Spirit is at work in me, revealing His wisdom, His truth as He grows me in knowing Him. We were sealed with the Holy Spirit – Paul has just told us that blessing and now he lists out 3 areas or truths that we know in ever increasing measure as the Spirit leads us and we surrender to His teaching: the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and the immeasurable greatness of his power. To know these 3 sets everything else in place regardless of what the day brings.

Hope: we all desire to know what will come – peace is sought after (often frantically) whether we are wanting to know tomorrow or forever – the human mind longs for peace in its future. Our redemption is the only hope that doesn’t disappoint.

Riches: we long for comfort made possible by riches; we will seek money to give us present comfort, hoping it will numb our need for peace as well; no matter what we say about money- if everything was stripped, we would panic. For our heart’s natural affections are for present day comfort, but His riches are far greater. Riches of the Gospel, wisdom and knowledge of God, understanding of His grace, the riches of His love which secures.

Power: we all desire to be safe, protected, assured of victory. Jesus was victorious at the cross. All eternity is assured, my position is secure – I am safe from sin and death. But I am also a recipient of that power here as I struggle in this daily walk with Him. John Piper says, “The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and what became of him after his resurrection, shows the greatness of God’s power toward us now in this life.” He is the one working in me, changing me, His power in me. Paul wants us to see how great this power is – the same power that raised Christ from the dead and glorifies him forever – that power has and will continue to fill me with the fullness of Him. He fills all my empty places, all the areas I cannot “do” He will complete, all the places my faith stumbles, He perseveres, all the moments I fear, He is my strength.

So many times in the day my mind wants to run down the lanes of fear and doubt, wondering what my future holds – How did the day get so off track? why do I respond the way I do? what will this child do in life, especially with me as his mother messing him up? am I helping this one enough? can I do everything I’ve put on my plate? do I take stuff off? How do I ensure _____? all the what ifs? And before I know it, I am down the current of worry, doubt or fear, swept up in my wonderings. My affections, my desires shift to tangible outcomes today that I think may be achievable through performance.

All the while I float away from my anchor of truth – that all I need is wrapped up in the Person of Jesus Christ and that all hope, power, and riches are mine, fully supplied. But in your grace, Holy Spirit shift my eyes back to You and move me back in line with your sustaining truths that don’t depend on me.

 

 

Ephesians 1

Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places…~Ephesians 1:3

So I’ve been studying Ephesians again this month. It’s one of my favorite books, and it is often where I will go when I’m not sure what to read. So I thought I would walk through the book within this blog, not as some definitive study on all that is in Ephesians, but simply some of the verses and passages that pop out and teach me this month. Just as if we were sitting at the coffee shop going through it together and we would reflect on the truths as they apply in our lives as believers. It seems like this is going to be a several part blog posting that I’ll just send out for a few days, so it’s a little bit different from what I’ve written before but it’s where God has me today.

Ephesians chapter 1 is such an amazing, wordy, mildly confusing because it’s one long sentence listing of all the blessings that come with salvation. I cannot tell you how many times I have broken down the first 14 verses just to see them laid out, pulled out of all the clauses and phrases. I encourage you to grab a piece of paper and begin to just write one blessing on each line. It’s so important to understand what salvation really is – what are the blessings given to us when we are saved, redeemed and how the Gospel changes the filter through which we see our world.

I can see the world through the lens of performance and perfectionism, through the lens of self-gratification, or through the lens of practicality or realism. Or I can wear the most accurate glasses – the glasses of faith. If you read through Paul’s writings, there are SO many times where he basically says “I write this that you may know” This concept of knowing, not in your head so you can give a great rote answer, but truly knowing deep in the core of who you are that you are a changed, changing redeemed child of God, deeply loved, filled with His Spirit and moving in and through your world from that vantage point — that is knowing.

So what do we know? In Ephesians 1:1-14 we are chosen in Him, holy and blameless, adopted as sons. We are given his glorious grace, redemption through his blood, forgiveness of trespass, lavished with grace, making His will for salvation and unity known to us. We have obtained an inheritance and been sealed with the Holy Spirit.

And please note all the “according to” statements – none of them say according to how you receive it or how you respond or how you answer. None of the blessings are dependent on anything I do, they are all dependent on His will, His grace, and His purpose!

So I encourage you to sit and dwell with the truth of what He has done for you, according to His will replete with His grace for His purpose and His glory. You need to know.

 

 

 

Amen

“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” ~2 Corinthians 1:20-22

Yesterday was hard. There is no way around that fact – it was a grind. I found myself battling the desire inside me to retreat, withdraw, decide I didn’t care about some issue/fight/attitude simply because I was weary of all the conversations with all the people. I found my patience decreasing as I moved from interaction to interaction, as I carried just a little of my emotion from one child’s discipline into the next. So every little sin I have been called to face becomes a place where I too must battle the flesh that rises up within me.

Do you ever consider what you are doing? I mean the experience of looking in on yourself and wonder, “how in the world did I get here?” What road did I mistakenly get off on that has placed me here in the midst of all this junk, with me being the chief proponent of the junk? Have you ever just been so tired of slogging through tantrums, rivalry, disobedience, lying, selfishness and begin to wonder whether this is worth anything? does it really make a difference? Does the distant heart of a pre-teenager or the rebellious teen make you feel discouraged like it does me at times? Does anyone else hide in their closet and pretend like they cannot hear their name being called? no? just me?

I confess I do.

Many of my friends look in on me and admire or praise me. They can’t imagine parenting so many, so they assume this fantasy that I have it all wrapped up. I don’t.

But I know the One who does. And I have to keep coming back to that fact. Sometimes multiple times in the same hour, I have to preach the Gospel to myself, reminding myself that He has completed all I need. He is sovereign over all I experience. He is engaged with every interaction. It is vital that I apply the Gospel to the working out of my faith in my interactions with my kids. Because that is what mothering is – it is the working out of my faith today.

So I need to remember my position first. God has established me in Christ, anointed me and put his seal upon me and given me His Spirit as a guarantee. My establishment is apart from my actions, “by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)

So as a mom I am established, rooted and firmly adhered to the love of Jesus Christ. This steadfast love that He has offered me compels me in the interactions with my children, both to love them that way and to instruct them in how to love with His unending love. And I have been given His Spirit as a guarantee. A down payment of all the power, wisdom, counsel, and relationship fully offered and alive in me. He is my guarantee that all the promises of God are true. 1 Peter 1:3-4 declares that His power has given me all I need for life and godliness, and He has given me his precious and great promises so that through all his promises I am a partaker in the divine nature. I am invited and welcomed to participate in His way of parenting my children, having been given all I need to be a godly parent through His Spirit within me.

So I stand (in the closet) and take a moment to speak the Truth to myself. The God of this universe deeply loves me and my child. He is far more invested in my child than I can ever claim to be, and in this moment He wants to display His great promises of steadfast love, mercy, forgiveness, presence, guidance, protection through me. I have been anointed by God to be the conduit in this moment, to display Him. Sometimes that looks like firm truth with discipline, sometimes that looks like redirection to the Word, sometimes it’s a quiet hug and tender kiss. Our children need a constant reminder of who they are and Who they need.

My response to my children in these moments is really a response to Him. You see my Amen response comes from a place of faith, certain of all Christ has done in me and will do through me because He has established me. And my response is for His glory.

 

All about perspective

“As a Father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” ~Psalm 103:13-14

Working with my three year old the other day, I was struck by how often I do exactly the same things she was doing. Having declared the day pajama day, she was in the bathroom trying to redress herself in her sleeper from the night before. I asked if I could help as she was struggling. Her refusal was emphatic as she was determined to do it alone, certain she could unwind, reconfigure and get all four limbs into something that had turned inside out and then around again somehow. I cleaned the kitchen and honestly rolled my eyes at what I could hear growing in crescendo in the bathroom. Increasingly frustrated, she worked more feverishly, then sobbing and stopping, then again attacking the sleeper. All the while I offered help that she didn’t want. Finally I walked into the bathroom and sat down on the floor with her. I got her to look in my eyes and take a deep breath. My compassion for her overwhelmed me and totally replaced my aggravation that this child was throwing such a complete fit as I saw her fierce desire for independence at war with her ineptitude, confusion and childlike despair.

I knew that she was me with the Lord.

Her heaving chest and desperate expression – desiring to do it yet unable to figure it out – her writhing on the floor in full out exasperation – unable to get out or get in – That’s me with the Lord.

In that bathroom, I saw my child’s little frame, her childish mind and immature skills and was filled with compassion for her. All I desired in that moment was to help her be successful in her heart’s desire – to be in that sleeper once more. There was joy that filled me to be able to come alongside her, unwind the sleeper, turn the leg right side out, help her balance as she stepped into the leg, and make sure she didn’t zip her belly into the zipper. And then she asked me to button the top. And we laughed and loved.

But all this could only happen once she was ready to accept help. It took me getting on the floor, stroking her angry back, getting her to look me in the eye and listen to my voice. She needed to calm and let go in order to get the help she needed. She was never going to get into that sleeper! It was too wound up and wrong in every which way! I also wasn’t interested in hijacking the process and just throwing her into the sleeper.

God’s great compassion is for me in my times of fierce independence, striking out to accomplish things I even think will be for his kingdom, good things. But I will be frustrated. I won’t be able to see clearly in the confusion, I won’t be able to see around the bend to what will come, I will be unable to make things right, fix what has gotten twisted. I don’t have the right perspective, but my first reaction is often to be angry, frustrated, despairing on the floor. And Jesus Christ sits down on the floor with me and tells me to look in His eyes.

He never forgets my frame, He never gets aggravated with my tantrums, His heart is continually filled with compassion for me. And the amazing thing about our perfect God is that He never loses that perspective. He never has to be reminded of my frailties. Often I have to remind myself of my children’s weaknesses or immaturities. Many days I don’t want to sit on the floor, seek out the heart of my child, or patiently wait for their return. I want them to get their stuff together and either let me help or move on. Luke 15 tells the story of the prodigal son who left home to have independence, taking with him all his inheritance. He squanders everything and, while living in a pig farm, realizes he at least could be fed if he lived as a servant on his father’s land. And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20) Our Heavenly Father meets us right in our dirt, our pig smell, our hunger, our fatigue, our failure. And kisses us. He doesn’t wait for us to get cleaned up or get it together. He isn’t interested in the way we look, what we’ve accomplished or what we can give back. Jesus in Matthew 9:36 saw the crowds and  had compassion for them for they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.

So as a mother, Lord, don’t let me lose your perspective with my children. Let me see their frailties, sin, fears, regrets, stressors, and worries the way you do and let me run to them with arms open wide. Not because I am anything but your forgiven, dearly loved child. As your child let me never forget your Gospel, that while I was a sinner, you died for me. While I was deep in the muck of sin, you were rich in mercy and loved me and love me still. And teach me to lead my wayward little ones to You.

direction

“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” ~ 2 Thessalonians 3:5

 It is my prayer for my husband and my children as well as myself. We are the intercessors God intended for our children. To cry out to Him on their behalf that He will direct their hearts to see, know, walk in His love and to understand the steadfastness of Jesus Christ in a world constantly changing.

There are so many places in Paul’s epistles especially where he gives great prayers, succinctly stating the most important requests he had for the believers he was leading. When I read them, my heart resoundingly identifies with them, almost shouting in agreement for one or more of my kids, my husband or someone else as they walk this life. This passage in 2 Thessalonians is the final message to a church that was under great persecution. Paul at one time likened their persecution to what he had meted out against believers before his conversion.

But the Lord is faithful, He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” As our oldest begins to leave, let me give him this blessing and consistently pray for this direction over his life.

First of all the blessing – The Lord is faithful, He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you. The blessing is completely sourced in the Lord. He does the establishing and guarding. He alone guards me and my family against the evil one. There is no one greater, no one more powerful, no one more victorious. He is faithful. And the confidence I have in my child is not because his works are good or because he performs well. My confidence is in the Lord who is His Savior, His Redeemer. I have confidence in the Lord about you, child. The Gospel declares His great work in your life. Walk with Him, wholly dependent on Him and you will do all that He calls you to.

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. What an intercessory prayer for my children! Truthfully this verse is easy for me to memorize (if I’m being transparent, I work all year with my kids memorizing lots of information and whole passages of Scripture, and I am the worst at it! My kids can catch and retain something within minutes, and I’m still working on the info at the end of the week and still need a prompt!) And I need to memorize passages that I can plead before the throne on my kids’ behalf.

Direct – in the Greek, to straighten fully, to go straight down by the most direct, efficient route, avoiding all unnecessary delays. When God directs our hearts, the path is formed and is straight to 2 things – His love and Christ’s steadfastness. This doesn’t mean life is a straight and easily navigated path. There will be many times when it seems hard, where your feet may stumble, the way seems difficult to navigate. But His direction for the heart isn’t wavering. My heart is deceitful, untrustworthy apart from God’s direction. Genesis 8:21 states this from the beginning, “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” The thoughts, mind, motivations – all through the Old Testament you see the theme of the heart central to the pursuit of God. It is testable: Psalm 26:2, “test my heart and my mind,” it is how we love God, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Deut. 6:5). Our hearts can harden, become embittered, be in anguish, need renewal, lead us astray, be perverse – all apart from walking with God alone. But the Gospel declares that He leads and guides our hearts. It is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee ~2 Cor. 1:21-22  As a direct result of the Gospel and His grace, He will direct me, He will direct my child to 2 places:

He directs the heart to The love of God – so vast, so deep, so thorough (Eph. 3:18-19). It compels us and what we do for His kingdom (2 Cor. 5:14). His love is the basis for our salvation – in Ephesians 2:4, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us.” And God knows we need direction to His love, not only for salvation but for every minute of our lives. We need to continually be refocused on His great love for us, and from this position as deeply loved redeemed people, we can begin to move out in our world.  As much as I want my son to know how much God loves him, His heavenly Father is actively working to move him in a straight path, directly to His love, to experience its depth, to know its grace, to see its power.

He directs the heart to The steadfastness of Christ – in Greek: hupomone; a remaining behind, a patient enduring – Strong’s concordance says this: “as God enables a believer to remain/endure the challenges He allots in life and there is an implication of cheer or hopefulness in the enduring.” God directs me and my child into the ability to walk out all this life offers – seeking Him, hopeful for eternity, keeping relationship with him – knowing my purpose in my faith walk is to glorify Him. There will be many difficult seasons in life – times faith is tested, suffering is endured, worry is threatening but God will direct in a straight line to His steadfastness. His ability to stand is far better than my own. He sits with us in our suffering, walks with us in our doubts and fears in order to grow our faith. The fruit that comes from suffering, wrestling and submitting to His steadfastness is sweet.

More than anything I want the testimony of my life and the lives of my children to be, “I learned to walk with my faithful Lord, He taught me continually of His deep, all encompassing love and His endurance for all situations.”

Fierce

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” ~2 Cor. 10:3-6

How do I take a thought captive? How do I help my child defeat the strongholds of performance/appearance that are so pervasive today? We live in a world where the enemy is selling the idea, the stronghold or prison, that our worth is tied to our skills, beauty, body, talents, intellect, grades, fill in the blank.

This is a battle for me daily. Why would I ever think my child is immune? It is sold on every social media app, magazine, movie, or tv show. It is sold in schools by testing and scores, and it’s sold on every ball field or stage that the performance of the moment is life determining. The word Paul uses for stronghold equates with a fortress and prison. This stronghold of performance is a prison for the enemy.

But we need to recognize that the battle is NOT of this world – this isn’t a battle that will go away magically at 23 or 43 – finally grow up and don’t care about your looks, achievements-its not a little problem that’s no big deal. This isn’t a battle where we can just decide to not let it bother us.

This is a foundational principle the enemy wants to misalign in me and my kids because if he can cause this piece of the foundation to slope, he can capitalize on this for the rest of life to delegitimize or destabilize what God has called you to. As a mom and wife, I can get taken out and sidelined with thoughts of performance, so why would I want my kids to struggle in the same way? This is not a war of the flesh like dieting, exercise, study habits, etc. Paul declares this a real spiritual battle, and we have to be equipped and help equip our children in the battle of the mind. This battle looks different for different people at different times, but the battle has spiritual ramifications that ripple through eternity. Francis Chan compares our life here to a red inch on a rope hundreds of feet long, yet our red inch impacts our eternity. So mommas, let’s not get taken out in the first 10 seconds of the game.

For our weapons are not of the flesh but have divine power” What weapons do we possess? We possess the Word of God – the sword. It is our primary weapon – the rest of the armor Paul references in Eph. 6 is defensive but the Truth slays all evil. We are sealed with the Holy Spirit. If you are saved, you are sealed – given the Counselor who will lead you into all Truth. (John 16:13, Eph 1:13) So when we are battling the thoughts of performance, we need to stop using human logic and reasoning.

We need to stop.

Stop reading the latest and greatest ideas to shape great, productive adults who succeed and are happy.

Stop reading how we can be better mothers, better women, better etc.

Read the Word.

Love the Word.

Read the Word to your children – remind them of who they are in Christ. Their value must be tied into what Christ did for them at the cross, and their daily walk is an outgrowth of that understanding. It’s time to stop placating our children with how good they are or how wonderful they are doing unless we are clearly defining their value and talents in light of the Gospel. Constantly bring them before the cross, and show them that apart from Jesus they are worthless, hopeless and ugly. But Jesus died for them, loved them from the start when they were so unloveable and nothing will EVER change that. No matter the outcome of a game or a test, no matter how clear your skin is or how skinny you feel today, Jesus loves you and has great plans for your life for His glory!

Help your child seek out Scripture and work through it with them. Then give them TIME with the Holy Spirit to respond to Him. He speaks so much better than we do. And over time their sword will sharpen. So often I just want to throw a verse, tell them to change, and walk away as if that solves anything.

Leading your little ones takes time. There’s no way around that fact, and it’s probably what chafes me the most. I have to lay aside my lists to seek the heart of my child and then turn with them to seek His heart.

Discipleship is walking another, hand in hand, to the throne and letting go and giving them private time with their Master. We have to trust the power of God and the perfect counsel of the Holy Spirit to vanquish strongholds.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” These are strong verbs Paul uses – the verb he uses to take every thought captive gives the picture of marching into a battle field and with a spear piercing the lie through and carrying it triumphantly out. To destroy indicates utter annihilation and destruction. These are not the words of pacifism or complacency. I need to stop being ok with certain confessions coming out of my own mouth or the mouths of my children. Again we need to know our great worth and value based on the Gospel. It is not based on me – Jesus alone has given me great worth as a daughter dearly loved. He alone will work in and through me to do His great will for His glory. My role is to walk with Him, seek Him, know His truth. If you don’t live outside the fortress of performance, I plead with you to begin to seek all the Word says about who you are in Christ – understand what it means to abide in Christ, what it means to set your heart on things above.

And then I need to teach my child what I am learning. Speak out loud my failings – when I have been dragged back into the prison of performance – share how I am resetting my mind and memorize the Word together.

The word picture I like to give my kids about this battle is that of an airport. Your mind is the air traffic controller and the thoughts that fly through your mind are the planes in the airspace. You, walking with the Holy Spirit and learning God’s Word, need to look at every thought that comes into your mind just like the controller examines every plane. Each plane must ask permission to land, and the controller either grants or denies. The same holds true for our mind – the thoughts that fly into our mind are not what we are responsible for. We are responsible for what we allow to land – what we allow to stay and take over our airfield.

So let’s be fierce. Do not give ground to the lies of this world, and challenge the ground our children may be giving. Remember we battle alongside of our children as their swords sharpen.

In my midst

“Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” ~Zephaniah 3:16-17

O Lord you are here with me sitting at this table, walking in the kitchen, doing laundry, loving babies, mopping floor and teaching school – You are in the midst of my home, my life. And you’re not here feeling slightly uncomfortable, put out or disgusted – You are here with joy. Rejoicing over me with gladness, quieting me lovingly and loudly exulting over me ~ Why?

Because You are mighty to save

You look on me and see Jesus

You dwell with me as with your Son

You have changed me so that your glory is revealed and you rejoice

There isn’t annoyance, no standard to meet for Christ met that on the cross. I am yours and You rejoice

I am justified by Your grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus   ~Rom. 3:24

But I interpret so much of life through the veil of performance forgetting that You tore the veil! So I can fill with fear, dread, fatigue, defeat, disappointment and then assign to You anger, frustration, impatience, wrath, disgust, or apathy towards me because of my performance.

My hands will grow weak, hang limp – I will falter, stumble or stagnate. This can be in the big stuff or little things – I’ve noticed the days I don’t want to “do” are often the days of discouragement and defeat.

But I have forgotten the Gospel!

Why is it so easy to forget?

Galatians 5:4, 25 “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery… If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

The Gospel is my only filter, the only lens through which to view my day. Only then can I understand His response to me is really His response to Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and I am new. The sin debt is paid. His wrath is removed.

He is in my midst

He rejoices over me with gladness – He is glad when I cry out to Him and seek His wisdom. He welcomes my needs and fears.

He quiets me with His love – He stills and calms me like a mother with an infant can soothe the tears. He quiets me – His love is so placating, so consuming, and so steadfast – It doesn’t ebb and flow.

He exults over me with loud singing. This verb exult has implications of dancing even! His joy stems from His grace – To know the Gospel, to know the richness and vastness of God’s grace for the believer – He never wavers from joy.

The threshing floor

“His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” ~Matthew 3:12

The threshing floor. It’s where I am, and I often do not want to be there. And yet it is where He is most glorious, most gracious and where I see Him at work in me, shaping and refining me.

I will never forget the teaching on the threshing floor by Ken Jenkins. I sat in the auditorium, and it was almost as if I could hear a thud, the sudden awareness that this picture was significant for my walk with the Lord. You see a threshing floor is what the ancient farmers used to separate wheat from chaff. The floor is a smooth, flat surface where the harvest would be spread over the floor. Cattle/oxen would be led over it, to crush and break the sheaves, and then sticks would be used to break sheaves and begin to separate the grain from the stalks. Then winnowing occurs where the grain is separated from the chaff ( the husks that cover each piece of grain) by tossing it all into the air so that chaff is blown away. All for the goal of separating the waste from the wheat and then the wheat is scooped up and filtered through a sieve to remove any last bits of chaff or undesired products.

Motherhood and marriage have been two threshing floors in my life. Both places demand more relationally of me than I am capable of giving by myself. Never have I seen more on display my selfishness, ugliness, rudeness, impatience, hate, and pride to name a few. And I desire to be so different than that!

God has used many moments to lay me down on the threshing floor and begin the painful process of removing the stalks that plant me in places I should never be and prying loose all the protective, hardened coverings around my heart. He desires to separate me from the sin that entangles me, peeling away the faulty thought processes that are self focused, self protective, self loving. He wants me as a mother to be rooted deep in His Word, not rooted in the thoughts/beliefs offered in the world, in order to be his ambassador, speaking on His behalf to these children He has given me that they may know the Gospel and so be changed.

The separation from my flesh is painful, the husks are so tight. But the thresher is patient, committed and lovingly tenacious.

 

Winnowing feels out of control, often like I will be blown completely away. You see the chaff is light and easily blows away in the wind, but the grain is heavy, weighty and will fall back down to the threshing floor. But there are so many times where I feel like all of me will blow away, so overwhelmed in the vast amounts of shell that covers my heart – the impatience with children, desire for alone time, fatigue with the mundane of motherhood, an urge to escape if just for a moment either into a book, a tv show, or my phone, the pride that prevents humility, the fear of what I cannot control.

For this picture to be true of my life, first and foremost I need to understand the Gospel. It is imperative. The Gospel simply is this: There is a God who is over all things and He created man in his image. But man has “sinned and fell short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23) and “all both Jews and Greeks, are under sin. None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God.” (Rom. 3:9-10) In our sin position we are enslaved to sin and destined for death, eternal separation from God. Jesus, God’s son, came while we were still sinners and died for us (Rom. 5:8) and His death substituted for our death, that we may be “set free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:1, 6:6-7). And our response stops this from being just a great story for we are now called sons of God, part of His family (Rom. 8:14-16) and He engages in the process to make us more like Him in order to glorify His name. This is where the threshing and winnowing begin, the sanctifying that stretches and hurts at times but fashions a useful harvest.

So I want to see all of my life through the lens of threshing – all of the good and bad moments with my kids are opportunities for God to undo a little more of the hard, binding shell or blow away more residue to expose His work in me. He never stops seeking the harvest in me that He may be glorified. He never withholds His grace and His care from me as He works to refine me. All of my sin is met with all of His abounding grace.

3 ways

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.~1 Thess. 5:14

My children attend an intense grammar course as part of their homeschooling curriculum in which we (the parent learns along with the child in class) parse sentences and learn not only the diagramming but also the purposes, tenses, forms, etc for each word. This Quid et Quo that we do with each sentence teaches the child to break a sentence down into what is being said and why.  This verse from Paul is a great verse to study  because I believe this verse speaks directly to me as a mom. Paul is teaching the believers in Thessalonica and giving his last instructions to them regarding how they are to engage with others in the church.

So I wrote something for this verse that has been tripping around in my brain for a few days, a way to analyze it and see the truths, and I’m not sure it makes sense to anyone but me. It’s how I think a lot of time as I approach the Word of God – look at it at face value first – what grammar is used, what tenses, forms do the verbs take, where are the pauses and what conjunctions or modifiers are present? Look at it in context of the passage. And then dwell in the truths offered there, listening and inspecting my own life to see where I am in comparison to the truth.

Paul’s purpose clearly is the imperative or command in a declarative sentence. Three types of people, so in my world three types of children, receive the action of the verbs – “Admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak” but the final command “Be patient with them all” is a command with a linking verb thus linking me with patience as a description of me.

The first command is admonish the idle: looking in other translations, the words disruptive, lazy, unruly, irresponsible, undisciplined or wrongdoers appear in place of idle. And the verb may change in different translations to warn, rebuke, instruct. A lot of my day consists of this action but isn’t it good to know this was an instruction for the church as a whole as well! We all struggle with idleness, and in childhood it must be trained and shaped. This is the primary disciplinary area of our children. So I need to be careful that what is actually going on with my child falls into this category before I choose rebuke or instruction. But I also need to understand that warnings and rebuke are required here.

The second command encourage the fainthearted: the disheartened, timid, feebleminded, discouraged, or feeble souls are to be comforted or cheered up. Strong’s concordance defines the Greek word here as as undeveloped soul, lacking in quality. We have been entrusted with the amazing job of coming alongside these undeveloped souls and encouraging them. Our children can be easily discouraged, scared, worried, full of fear, or lacking in character so that they will change/conform to please others. A lot of my children’s behaviors stem from some form of immaturity in their soul. And my job is to ENCOURAGE — to give support, confidence or hope; to help or stimulate to develop; to give support of advice so that they will do or continue to do.

Thirdly help the weak: the weak or the infirm are the only two words used as the direct object in any translation; the verb help changes to support, sustain, help, bear the burdens, take tender care. When I looked this word weak up in the Greek, the word Paul uses is asthenon meaning without strength, weak. This Greek word only occurs here and in Romans 5:6 “For while we were still weak/without strength, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.” Our children just like us are powerless to save themselves. They are weak spiritually. But He is strong. And my role is to help or support them as they hear the Gospel, to bear their burdens before the throne (be a warrior for your children in prayer), and to take tender care of their hearts that they will be fertile ground to understand their need for a Savior.

So God has been challenging me to pause before I react, to be purposeful in my actions, and to seek Him to understand which adjective describes my child in the moment. When I see my children more with spiritual eyes, His patience will also flow. I need to train myself to turn first to Him, both to have the wisdom to know what to do and the patience needed.

In the moments of my day with my kids, can I pause and categorize them? And doesn’t that then point me with purpose to the verb and therefore the action I need to take? The love response of patience that undergirds the action will display Christ’s love to that child. And often this pause can put me in check, helping me respond with the Holy Spirit’s help rather than my own reaction.

I rejoice

Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure — not to put it too severely– to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.”  ~2 Corinthians 2:5-8

Disciplining children is probably 50% of what I do daily – (the other 50% is probably laundry and food prep!) and many days it’s wearisome. Truth is not arbitrary – when I parent, I am called to line up my boundaries, concerns and discipline with the truth of Scripture, not the truth of the day.

But as I have aged in this mothering thing, God has really taught me so much of His grace that abounds in the truth that must be our plumb line.

God’s grace never changes the straightness of truth — but it caresses the heart as it helps the heart bend in submission to the truth. That is my testimony throughout my life – my God in His great grace redeemed my anti-truth life and is in the process of making me more and more in His image and bending my heart more and more to His will.

But as the momma, I can be so put out with the “offender” – they’ve wrecked my plans, slowed me down, derailed the peace I had in the home, etc. I am quick to anger (and mostly it is unrighteous) and quick to respond-

Yet my God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love! That combination of attributes is completely linked together all throughout God’s word as His response to sin. (some passages are at the bottom) I on the other hand desire to rid the sin from the moment, cleave it off forever and become exasperated if I have to address that same sin repeatedly (and especially if it’s with the same child!)

Paul in this passage is talking to the church at Corinth in which there was great sin. Many in the church had refused to confront the sin initially. When they finally confront and discipline this sinner in this passage, he repents. So Paul lays out the very important last step for the church to do – turn to forgive and comfort him. With my children, I must follow my discipline all the way through to forgiveness and comfort. This requires time. This requires energy. This requires investment. I have to keep reminding myself of this! Their sorrow over their sin needs to be met with forgiveness and comfort. Paul warns that if it is not, if there is a part of me that withholds my comfort/my heart then Satan has a prime opportunity to step in. In verses 10-11, “Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

Satan delights in my irritations about disciplining the same offense over and over. My flesh grows weary, and he offers thoughts “if they would just get this” or “how many times do I have to tell them” or “they never.” But God does not look at me with irritation remembering all the times before I’ve floundered here in the same areas of sin that I like to wallow in. 1 Corinthians 13:7 says “Love believes all things.” My perspective or filter for my child needs to be from God’s loving perspective. In the Greek “believe” is pisteuei which means to believe, entrust, have faith in. You see that is God’s filter for me – He has entrusted me with His grace, His fullness, His Spirit that I may walk with Him.

Later in 2 Corinthians 7 Paul does this comforting – He praises their godly sorrow, gives examples of their comfort for Titus which he says also comforts him. He commends their earnestness, eagerness to be different in verse 11. And he encourages them after the discipline by saying that they have pleased God, encouraged others, and then ends with this amazing nugget: 2 Cor. 7:16 “I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.” This statement takes my breath away – this statement comes after very painful, loving discipline in the church and after a while of watching them and seeing how they will walk out truth. But it comes. It is so powerful to speak these words of life into a soul that wonders if anything good can come from them, who fears that they may always be the disobedient, the stumbler, the mistake maker, the mean one, the selfish one, whatever condemning lies the enemy is whispering.

 I rejoice with you because I have complete confidence in you, my child. I rejoice in your life, your fervor, your tenacity, your inquisitiveness, your independent streak, your boldness, and I have confidence that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.  That is the blessing we can bestow on our children and reaffirm our love and give them a picture of God’s unconditional love.