obedience learned

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek  ~Hebrews 5:8-10

We talk a lot of teaching our children to obey, seeking to instill obedience through methods that people swear will create wonderful children. Obedience is very important in scripture. We see it as one of the foundational commands of the Old Testament; it reverberates throughout scripture, pointing towards blessings and indicative of respect and honor. Warnings in Romans 1 include disobedience as part of the rejection of God. It is an important concept to instill for obedience bends the heart in submission to wisdom despite desire. The obedience of a two year old will one day be the obedience of a young man or woman to Holy God as a calling comes that may not be easy or desirable. Will they bend their heart to the One who calls for His kingdom? Will they pursue the lost, the hurt or the lonely when it is far easier to seek self instead?

We have a saying in our household that obedience is not seen in the easy. An obedient heart displays itself when the task required is hard, inconvenient, or disliked. When I must do something that interrupts my pursuits, my comfort, or my desires, what is my response? Often I confess I too, like my children, squirm, ignore the call, continue to finish what I’m already doing, justify, or argue.

But Christ learned obedience through his suffering.

His obedient heart was never impacted by rebellion like ours- never did sin reign there. He walked out obedience all His life and ultimately He knew that obedience would be found on the path of suffering. He experienced the tearing away from the presence of God on the cross so that I would never know that pain. And in His obedience, He became the Great High Priest that can understand and identify with my wandering heart. He has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

He obediently walked to Calvary for you and me. He absorbed the blows of hatred, betrayal, and malice. He bore the crown of contempt. He silently stood as my sacrifice and yours. The King of Kings with all power in His voice stood silent before His accusers, obedient to death. He hung in my place, suffered my separation from the Father, defeated the sin and love of self that entangle my heart, and rose victorious! Jesus declared, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18) He obediently laid down his life that we may live.

Obedience for myself or my children is shown in the hard places. The active choosing whom I will serve in a moment either displays obedience or disobedience. The same holds true for my children. I must confess, I have a hard time making life “hard” or uncomfortable for my children. My flesh seeks their approval and uses their happiness as a gauge to indicate my performance as a mother. Not pretty, but there it is. So God has had to teach me over the years the importance of parenting from His perspective and not my own. Mine is faulty and limited. His way as displayed by Christ is often through moments of suffering or discomfort. I have not had a single toddler who enjoyed being limited to bedtime rather than playing! I have walked with several tearful teenagers as they’ve chosen hard things, feeling left out or alone, in order to choose His way. I have had to enforce obedience despite feeling weary or repetitive.

But one thing God has taught me clearly is this: Obedience for myself or my children will come with a struggle, not merely through words or exhortations.  But obedience will also become testimony. As I learn to value obedience, the blessings God promises to me will glorify Him now and for eternity. Lives speak about Him when they are submitted to Him.

 

 

 

the simplicity of parenting

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. ~John 15:12-13

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ~Matthew 22:36-40

I am often asked about how to parent. People assume that since I have so many, I must be some sort of expert on what to do. While I may have more experiences to draw from when encountering something new or difficult, I still often feel clueless and deficient. I think that is the posture that God desires most – when the answer to my feeling of ineptitude is to run to Him. I encounter moms all the time who feel completely inadequate and worried that what they are doing or not doing may result in failure in mothering.

There was an article making the rounds in different social media platforms (and there are always these articles) that detailed the things that well adjusted children needed from their parents in order to avoid mental disorders and unhappiness in life. I will just be honest, these kinds of articles infuriate me. They are the workings of the enemy – perhaps not the express desire of the author, yet that is what they are. The premise of the article is that if the parent will just do this checklist of things to some hidden level or degree, then the child will become a happy, well adjusted adult ready to succeed in life.

And we as believers fall for it!

We believe the inaccurate and discount the truth. We are led down the path using bondage and fear to tie us to behavior with an invisible measuring stick in order to receive a result we cannot ever control. God offers truth in parenting, and I believe He keeps it simple. He calls us to love: love Him and then love others. To love them with a love mimicking Jesus’ love for us – a sacrificing, humble, fully engaged, fierce love.

Our culture screams self love, self care, and self fulfillment. Yet the masses are lonely, hurting, unfulfilled, and desperate. There is no peace apart for Jesus Christ. His death and resurrection open the door to the wonderful relationship of a loving Father with all sins forgiven. He gives us a new name, a new purpose, changes our heart, indwells us, and gives us His power for this life. He loves us perfectly!

And we are called to love Him and others in this way. Love doesn’t always look pretty or easy either. That is a false story told by one who wants us all to find ourselves lacking. Love often has to slog through mess and dirt, carrying the wounded or supporting the limping. It costs us time and often infringes on our own agendas. Love hurts because often it is initially rejected. But Christ never retreats, and neither can we.

In parenting we are called to love deeply and fully, with all our heart, soul and mind, laying down the things of “my” life in order to serve and lead a precious child to her Savior. So I think there are some very real concepts as a parent that I must ascribe to as I walk out this time with my children. I need to reject the cultural dogma that says that I deserve a break or better kids or more time for myself. While we all may need rest or quiet time, true rest and rejuvenation are found in Him. But I confess that “me time” often doesn’t include any time alone with Jesus and instead includes a lot of time for my selfish wants. Loving well also doesn’t align with either helicopter or laissez faire parenting. Neither of these examples are what we see in how God loves us. When I succumb to micromanaging, I have denied God’s real leadership in the life of this child, and instead I believe that I control the outcome. On the other side, nowhere does God show us love by allowing us to wander without influence, wisdom, and counsel. In fact he clearly commands us to walk with our child, daily discussing their lives in light of Scripture, filtering every part of their world through the true lens of God’s love.

God designed this child, idiosyncrasies and difficulties, talents and gifting. This child is His creation, for His purpose and His glory. And I am invited into His equation to help till the ground and create an environment in which He can be displayed. The God of the universe, who designed this wonderful, magnificent child and positioned him in my home specifically with me as a parent, promises to equip me to meet him with great, true love. And by my obedience in loving my child, I love and worship God. But His sovereignty trumps my actions or inactions. He doesn’t require my input, but He delights in walking with me in parenting His child. He is the One who woos and calls. He is the One who opens blind eyes to the truth of salvation. He is the One who will change me, teaching me and giving me insight into each child. And He is the One who will walk with my child.

Known

But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles or the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? ~Galatians 4:9

The battle is whether I believe I live in a place of only the Gospel or do I live in a land of the Gospel and my contributions. As soon as I believe I must bring something into this or that I need to contribute, I have left the Gospel and walked back into the Law. It is bondage and a great deceit. Just like the foolish Galatians, I should wonder who has bewitched me.

The gospel is basic but profound. I need it to course through my life, flowing into every crevice and crack. I need the truth of what Jesus Christ exchanged on my behalf to be the foundation of every other interaction I ever have. He needs to color and influence every move. And yet honestly, I walk many days, many moments in my own strength of piety and goodness with ulterior motives or an agenda at play behind the charade.

Oh the wretchedness of the truth! Who saves from this? Is there really any hope? Because as I grow in sanctification, I only see more of me that needs Jesus. I only see more of my struggling, more of my deep-seated flesh that enslaves me. I am squeezed by the viselike trappings of self sufficiency and self adulation, and I desperately want freedom.

But the freedom has come! He knows me!

Paul clarifies for the Galatians in this passage who truly is responsible for the relationship – God knows us fully. In I Corinthians 8:3 we see that if anyone loves God, he is known by God and in I Corinthians 13:12 I shall know fully (speaking of when Christ returns) even as I have been fully known (already). The implication of intimacy and love is present with the verb known. There has never been a day with Jesus when He did not fully know my flesh, what trips me up, what tangles my heart and still love me! He extends his forgiveness over all my sin. The truth basic to the Gospel is that He pursued this wretched sinner, knowing fully all that will be me and loves me deeply right in the midst of it all.

And the freedom that comes with living in Christ Jesus means that the voices of condemnation and shame can be silenced. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free  in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). Paul in Galatians is exhorting a group of believers who are on the brink of believing Jesus isn’t enough, that they are part of the equation, and that what they do will affect their salvation. From the beginning of Galatians, he calls this a distortion and a bewitching. Make no mistake, I can still fall into this trap, and I think many others can too. I run to my contribution, I whisper to myself, “I’m not doing too badly today,” I measure my actions against others, but I am demoralized because the surety of my failure looms. I have believed the lie that I can be perfected in flesh.

Jesus sets me free, His Spirit dwells in me to lead and guide. My response is one of submission to the Holy Spirit, walking with Him. So I return to the truth of the Gospel and worship Him. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. ~Galatians 5:1

 

 

making a road map

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. ~Psalm 119: 9-11

Setting off on a path through the woods is completely different than blindly wandering around in a forest. One is purposeful and leads in a direction; the other can be dangerous and certainly random. Studying the Bible can often feel more like a blind wandering than a purposeful stride. But if we were sitting at coffee, I would want to impress on you the importance of exploring the riches of God’s Word in a way that brings order and structure.

Many times over the years I have felt as if I am blindly stumbling through time in the Bible, sometimes finding a truth nugget and sometimes just reading for the discipline of it. I talk with many women who profess feeling as if the Scriptures are dry or overwhelming. Often friends have worried that they just forget almost immediately what they have read as they begin their day, and while they know the truth of scripture is applicable to their lives, there is this disconnect to it “sticking.” Then there are the times when I have sought a great memorization technique to engage the Word to learn His truth only to walk away because I have fallen behind or not accomplished what I think I should have.

But the truth is this: we are called to His word.

Psalm 119 abounds in His call for us to pursue, engage, memorize, and apply His word. The psalmist speaks of how God’s word, statutes, precepts, and law all must be the foundation of his walk with God. The same is true for you and me. In fear, we can remember who He is. In temptation, we can keep our way pure with His truth guarding our desires. The truths of God’s Word are fierce weapons against the lies the world and Satan sling at us. He gives us understanding and comfort. Scripture makes us wise, and the result is the Word of God becomes sweeter than honey to our souls.

So if we are to engage the Word of God daily like we do food and water, then how do we do it? How do we grow to handle the Word of God well, or do we just sigh and believe that skill is reserved for the pastor or teacher? I have spent time with many young women, my own daughters included, who desire to know but almost freeze with the vastness of the book. They just don’t know how to approach it independent of a bible study telling them the next verse to study or read.

While I think we live in an age in which we are greatly blessed with studies and devotionals, God’s heart beckons us to His Word alone. He is enough.

We can approach Him with confidence, knowing we have His Spirit, the great Teacher, living within us who leads us into all truth. As believers we need to learn to sit with Him and His word. Nothing else. Not because all those other studies aren’t valid or good, but because when we begin to perceive the study as the only way to engage God’s word, we cripple ourselves. It may not be your struggle, but I talk with many women who believe that without a study to walk them through scripture, they simply cannot take a step forward with the Word.

One way God has shown me to interact with His Word is by making “road maps” or paths through the Scriptures. As I study a certain concept or theme such as trust or faithfulness, I will begin to mark the verse or passage of the day by tagging the passage I looked at yesterday with today’s passage and vice versa. So over the course of a week of looking at trust, I will have a mini path walking me from passage to passage that speaks to trusting God. These paths have been invaluable to me as God brings me back to a portion of a path formed months or years ago. I can walk on the familiar road and then perhaps go further. Often I need these paths when I am running frantically back to Him with a hurting heart, and the truths He taught me in the quiet moments can steady me and remind me of His truth.

A commitment to time with Him is so important but can be very simply done.  Looking for the gospel truths (a gospel treasure hunt as one friend calls it), using some amazing blogs who have worked hard to create a month of readings about different themes, and studying a book of the Bible are some ways to approach the Word especially if you have never done this apart from a study book. Reading straight through the Bible is hard, and I keep this for my evening reading time when I otherwise would be reading another book before bed. I don’t follow a plan; I simply begin and read until I tire as I would a novel and continue the next evening. Then the bondage for me of failing to read to a certain point or read all the different areas in the Old and New Testament simply isn’t there. God has often allowed me to discover something in that reading that I can apply to my morning time with Him or place on a path He’s taught me.

If I could look you in the eye and plead with you for just one thing, this would be it: Read His Word. He is faithful to teach you His truths. He will meet you in the morning and walk with you throughout your day. He will come alongside you as you love your family and friends. He will bring his truths to your mind. He will begin to teach you the overarching truths of grace, love, and hope that ripple from one end of scripture to the other. He will do this.

My prayer is that we would be people with this as our song: In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. ~Psalm 119:14-16

 

Sighting the shore

If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. ~Galatians 5:25

I was talking with one of my children about the discouragement that comes from finding oneself not keeping in step with the Spirit. For the child who loves Jesus and knows Him as his or her Savior, the realization that an area of life is off base or not lining up with the truth of God’s Word can be discouraging and defeating. These moments are prime times for the enemy to speak words of condemnation to young hearts that bind their lives to performance and not to grace.

A word picture that we talk about in terms of keeping in step with the Spirit is playing in the ocean. Whenever we go to the ocean with our bunch of kids, one of the instructions given to the older ones is continue to spot the towels. Everyone knows that there is a current in the ocean that pulls down shore. Sometimes this current is quite strong. Most of the time we are unaware of the current’s pull as we play in the waves. The pull is gentle, insidious. Many times I have enjoyed the ocean only to come out on shore, expecting to see my towels, and instead be startled because I cannot locate them anywhere as I scan the beach. Then the walk back begins.

In the same way the culture around us and our flesh can pull us off the mark of God’s grace and our walk with Him in righteousness and obedience. The pull is often insidious. The enemy is exceptional at presenting a lie just a degree or two off truth. We slowly divert away from His truth and look up to find ourselves way down the beach with the Gospel nowhere in sight. We are easily discouraged as we look at the walk back. Sometimes we want to stay and play right where we have drifted, for in the moment that seems easiest.

But we must return. And as parents, we have the privilege of standing at the beach chairs of Truth, calling out to our children. We may have to walk down the beach to find them. But in the walking back, the conversation of grace and the investment of instruction can help them see how they forgot to make the adjustments in the moments.

And one thing most refreshing is the testimony of another sinner saved by His grace speaking the truth of returning to Him. When we share our own areas where we have to be careful to line our lives up with the truth of God’s word and walk in obedience, when we are humble to share the hard, long walks back we have had to make in different times in our own lives, that honesty illuminates the character of God and points to His faithfulness and grace. Paul continues in Galatians to say, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in an spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” We as parents have the primary opportunity to walk back down the beach with our children, restoring them gently as they return to Him.

Without the small adjustments made daily, the drift can easily occur.  Scripture makes clear that with God’s gift of salvation we are given the Holy Spirit. His role is as counselor, teacher, intercessor. He indwells us. We live by Him. On my own I will never realize my drift, never feel the current, never desire to look up to shore. But the Holy Spirit convicts. Keeping in step with Him requires attention. It requires watching His feet and mimicking His pattern. So when we get out of sync with Him, we must return to the truths of the Gospel. Repentance involves confession and turning away from what captured our attention and  hijacked our course. God is faithful to forgive us!

 

Waging War

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. ~2 Timothy 2:2

Discipleship – what is it? The word is a catchphrase thrown around casually but with little definition. No one would argue the command by Jesus in Matthew to go and make disciples, but many are stymied by what exactly making disciples looks like whether the disciple is your child or another believer. The truth is the word discipleship was never used in scripture. Disciples were first called Christians at Antioch in Acts, but the followers of Christ were all termed disciples in scripture. Jesus commands to go and make disciples, teaching what He had taught. Paul models discipleship in relationships with other believers in the New Testament.

None of us would ever declare ourselves unwilling to disciple the precious children we have been blessed with, but many times I talk with other moms about what tangibly does this look like in the day to day. What does it mean to actually “do” this with our children? Especially if we have never experienced it for ourselves? I think one of the best definitions includes the idea of pursuing a 3 prong agenda of grounding in and cultivating a love for the Word, teaching how to walk in relationship both with God and others, and how to serve/minister from a position that understands and extends the Gospel.

How do we ground them in the Word? practically? What is my vision, my end goal, the place I’m seeking to head to with this child (or this woman that sits at my kitchen table) over their lifetime? I often think in terms of word pictures, and I find with my children that teaching them spiritual truths inside of word pictures helps make the concepts tangible. One picture is given in Ephesians 6 for how we are to do spiritual battle for and with our kids. When our babies are little and have no spiritual understanding, we are the warriors with our baby on our back wielding our shield and sword, holding the world and the enemy at bay.

As they step into a walk with Jesus Christ, I need to introduce them to their sword and begin to show them its weight, strength, and sharpness. They now stand directly behind me in battle, still protected but beginning to learn the battle. We explore the goodness of the gospel – teaching them the truths that will anchor them in this unsteady world. We patiently walk them through all the points of their armor as it relates to their life, pointing out the protection of the helmet of salvation, the importance of feet solidly ground into the gospel of peace, the absolute must of His truth to hold their armor on. We teach them the importance of guarding their heart and pursuing righteousness. We point out the incoming arrows of lies, and our shield of faith absorbs the blows. When my children are young and young in their faith, my sword is active. I sharpen my sword openly, and my goal is teach them how to sharpen theirs alongside me. Mommas, if I can plead with you, God’s Word is living and active, it is so rich, so fulfilling, and it never returns void. He is Truth in a world that offers none. Spend time with Him in His word.

As they grow spiritually they need to move from directly behind me and my shield to beside me, with their own shield in front of them and their own sword sharpened for battle.  The onslaught will increase in intensity as they grow, for the enemy now sees another warrior. In these early years of walking with Jesus, the enemy sights a warrior he is desperate to incapacitate. He would like nothing less than to convince this young believer to stay in the fetal position on the spiritual battlefield.

I train them in how to wield their weapon, trust their armor, and stand behind their shield. My goals are to help them sharpen their sword and fall in love with it. The Word of God is rich beyond belief. Explore the scriptures with your children, memorize passages, marvel at the picture of Who God is – His faithfulness, holiness, justice, graciousness, mercy, love, and peace. Show them the redemption story that runs from beginning to end and worship Him together. I want them to understand the great perfect protection their shield of faith offers. Their faith grows as they battle and trust the Holy Spirit within them. We have the honor of standing next to them as they stand firm and encouraging them in their battles.

My place is right next to them so that I can protect them if I need to when a particularly fast or fiery arrow is launched with my shield or so that I can put my hand out to help stand them back up and give them protection as they replant their feet in the gospel. But if as a parent, I am still trying to lug my teen around on my back as I do battle for the both of us, I stunt them. They will be ill equipped. And if I am disinterested in the great battles they face, too busy to encourage, listen, and pray with them, they will believe the lie that no battle truly wages and that it is ok to merely exist on this epic wrestling stage.

I am called to be faithful to this discipleship arc, threading these concepts into conversations all along the way. But I am not the outcome maker. I have to trust that the same Holy Spirit that leads me, the Word of God that is my sword and the shield of faith that God gives and grows in me is also within them if they are saved.

They need to stand firm on this battlefield, knowing I stand beside them and will assist with the lies the enemy slings because soon enough they will move on the battlefield and will be on their own. Their Sword needs to be sharpened and that comes with use. They need to trust that their shield of faith holds against anything the enemy would like to fire their way because the days are coming when doubt, fear, misgivings, and discouragement will assault them. Their armor is vital to their defense. And my role daily is to pray. Paul warns us, “Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” Their battle is great, the lies are numerous, but the enemy is defeated! Jesus is Faithful and True.

Come & be Satisfied

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? ~ Isaiah 55:1-2a

God has placed me in this passage of Isaiah for several months now, where everything else I study seems to point back to verses in this chapter. He keeps getting my attention over the word Satisfy. The question is, “Am I satisfied?” It’s a loaded question because it covers every facet of my life and I could argue that it isn’t necessary to be satisfied in all parts. I wonder if some would argue that a Christian may not be satisfied because this isn’t our home; we must wait for eternity to experience satisfaction. Culture tells us satisfaction should be our pursuit yet that we can’t get any no matter how hard we try.

When am I satisfied? What brings me rest and quiet? This question keeps rolling around in my mind as we finish the year and move into a new one. The right answer is I am satisfied in the Lord and what He has done for me. But what is the real answer? That is what I keep dwelling on. If you could peel back layers of self protective, good looking right answers, what really lies beneath?

As I look inward, I have to see the many areas where there is no satisfaction, where there is no rest, no stop in the quest for achievement. My flesh capitalizes on the current woman culture that declares that our value, intelligence, skills, etc should be on display. So I toil. I push for perfection. I seek achievement. This push may not be so that anyone else would see the accomplishments, but the invisible, unsaid idea that I must do ___________________ in order to have satisfaction leads me to work for a list that never ends. Ecclesiastes 6:7 predicts the truth, “all the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied.” The bar constantly raises or changes so that there is always more to do/take care of/teach/contribute/avoid, etc.

He calls! He is calling you and me! He beckons, “Come! I know you have nothing to bring to the exchange. I know you are completely broken and everything you think you have to offer is valueless. Come!” He wants us to come in our poor, broken, unworthy, dirty state, hungry and thirsty. He offers satisfaction beyond compare – food and drink that is rich and good. The exchange must be there – the verb in the sentence is buy. The cost is greater than anything I can afford, yet free for all who come.

The world says satisfaction comes through doing.The domain is inconsequential – the same push for performance occurs in work and at home, in appearance and health, in the church and school. A lot of us may seek it in multiple arenas, yet so many women are weary, discouraged, questioning, and retreating.

There is no peace in this chase.

But God declares, “For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish” in Jeremiah 31:25 and “For he satisfies the longing soul and the hungry soul he fills with good things” in Psalm 107:9. Satisfaction is defined as not desiring more because you have all you need and implies being at rest/peace. In John 15, Jesus teaches me to abide in Him. In John 7 he speaks of the work of the Spirit in us that flows through and within us as living water. In the Old Testament multiple times God paints a picture of water that revives the dry, the poor, the weary and the thirsty.

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the LORD will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry lands springs of water. ~Isaiah 41: 17-18

And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desires in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. ~Isaiah 58:11 

But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.  ~John 4:14

Satisfaction comes from maintaining eternal perspective and remembering Who is in control. If I hope only in the now, I really am hopeless. Yet so often I look for satisfaction here, in the things of today. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” Paul Tripp says we live as “eternity amnesiacs”- so focused on opportunities, needs, wants, and problems of now that we lose sight of eternity. But we have been given the great treasure of Jesus Christ who paid the ultimate price of death for my sin and yours. His death and resurrection give me the open door for a relationship and all the blessings of relationship with God.

I simply have this treasure in this jar of clay as Paul calls us in 2 Corinthians 4. The light of the gospel of Jesus Christ  shines inside this jar of clay which is easily chipped, cracked, weak, and thin. But the glory goes to Him, not me. Satisfaction comes in knowing and worshipping Him, not striving to be worshiped or praised myself. When Jesus is manifest in me, His ministry renews my heart. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

God delights in answering restless hearts with His peace. Run wholeheartedly to His table. Sit in his seat of grace and rest. Stop trying to pay. Stop trying to dish up your own fulfilling meals and instead dine with the King. He will satisfy all of me and fill me to the uttermost.

Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.  ~Isaiah 55:2b-3

 

 

 

 

My natural state

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,  ~Romans 3:21-24

Nothing gives me a better picture of my own sinfulness than parenting a 2 year old. Whenever I have had a child in this stage of learning, the Holy Spirit has used that child to prick my heart about the rawness and completeness of my own sin. All eight have displayed overt selfishness, great purpose and will for their plan, self focus and a propensity to believe they are right. There is no hiding their true feelings, no tempering of their belief system for social mandates or manners, no holding back of their thoughts. But in those moments of wrestling with this back-arching, screaming, precious bundle, the faithful voice of the Lord beckons me to see myself.

I have a natural suspicion of God that needs curing. My innate reflexive thought pattern is to assume that God’s rules inherently withhold from me something I would be better off having or prevent me from experiencing something that would be of value to me. Therefore disobedience is something that begins long before the disobedient act occurs. The doubt, distrust seep into my thinking, but I often cannot see or identify them before they produce actions. Sometimes these actions look like wise moves, but in actuality they are reactive and fear driven.

From the beginning the serpent used the ideas of missing out or being oppressed and the temptation to be independent of God. God was blocking Eve from experiencing real life, of being like God, of knowing good and evil – that was his argument. His whispers have not changed. They are easily identified in the rawness of rebellion in toddlers, but these whispers speak just as well to me.

But God’s grace and His patience with us is also greatly displayed in the working out of disciplining my toddlers. Scripture over and over refers to the steadfast love of the Lord that never ends, His mercy that renews, and His affection for His people. He will discipline. In truth, I desire the discipline, for it declares whose I am just as my engagement with my toddler shows my commitment to my little one. The heartbeat of discipline is not to invoke physical or emotional pain or suffering. When discipline occurs in this way, it is wrong and merely punishment. Discipline occurs within the context of relationship, powered by deep love and wisdom and bounded by grace and mercy. God disciplines us with great constraint and with great purpose. He is a good Father.

Eyes and body position in discipline are two things important both for disciplining children and for walking with Him. When I discipline my children, it’s important to give them a place to sit, reflect and wait for me away from all the distractions of the other kids, toys, etc. So in our home, our kids go sit in the bathroom where they are given some quiet moments, hopefully to think about why they may be in there and be ready for discussion when I come. Then I will sit down and ask them to put their hands on my knees – this connects and pulls us close together, aligning their wiggly bodies to face me. I ask them to look me in the eyes as we begin to talk and root out what was going on in their heart and motivating whatever symptoms that caused them to be here in discipline.

Then when they see the crushing truth of what they did, how it impacted others, and why they did it (because really the why is so much more important than the what), we talk about what Jesus did for them. That while they were yet sinners who pushed sisters or spoke rudely to brothers, Christ died for them with a deep love for them that they may be free from all the self focused, self protective impulses that drive hearts to rebellion. I want their eyes to see in my own the hope and love that center on Jesus alone.

My love for them hasn’t changed despite their ugly, but more importantly and more profoundly Jesus has never withdrawn His love. He extends it in the face of rebellion and rejection. We leave the bathroom with the blessing of belief. Imparting to that child the hope of walking with Jesus anew in His deep love and affection echoes the deep love and affection I have for that child.

In my daily busyness of life, I find it very hard to hear the corrections of the Holy Spirit. I need consistent space to withdraw into the quiet of moments before Him, Bible open and heart listening. My quieted position before God gives me space and silence to hear His truth about what I have believed and acted upon in error or rebellion.

My eyes on my circumstances results in justification and rationalization. My eyes on Jesus will see His truth in comparison to the lies I have believed in the moment.

The essence of discipline is this: God walking alongside me exploring the sin of my flesh that causes the negative behavior/choices I make and helping me to understand the lies I have believed in the heart of me. He meets the sin and the lies with truth. He doesn’t flinch or turn away in disgust.

And He tells me to look in His eyes and see the steadfast love that stays there just for me. The love that took all this ugly to the cross, nailed it there, and canceled my debts cures me.  He desires that I walk out of His bathroom cleansed, with a renewed sense of His love and forgiveness.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us for all unrighteousness. ~1 John 1:9

you, surrendered

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. ~Matthew 11:28-29

You are exactly who God chose to parent the children you have been given.

The enemy wrecks us with this lie – that you aren’t the best parent, your kids would be better off with someone else, that woman is a better mother, that dad is a more diligent father than you. Maybe it’s the belief that you don’t understand your child, your personalities or temperaments clash so it will always be this tough. Maybe you’re weary of it all and just want to retreat from the rejection, the anger, the constant need for discipline without much apparent progress. Maybe you’re in a place where if someone could see the dark parts of your heart, they would see you just don’t like your child right now. You know you shouldn’t feel this way, yet you do if you’re honest. Your child is hard, battling, disobedient, rejecting, and just bone wearying. Maybe you lie in bed at night and swing between crying out for help and crying out for rest. Do you wonder if you’re just messing your child up or do you think it’s simply hopeless?

The enemy’s staccato drumbeats of retreat, fatigue, and doubt are loud in our ears sometimes. They seem to beat credibly that someone else would be better or that this is just too much. The banging that no progress is being made chants, “Why keep going?”

If there is one truth that we need to understand, it is this: We cannot parent perfectly. But we can parent surrendered to the One who does parent perfectly, and we will become His tool to work and display unconditional love, affection, and discipline.

And He chose you for them.

He chose you for each child He has given you.

He knew their needs and knew you were the best. Not because you bring anything to this parenting thing. He knew that you, surrendered to Him, would be a formidable, powerful force displaying love to lost unsaved children, leading them to Jesus, showing them their need for a Savior, that they too can walk rightly with God in peace and rest in a world fraught with fear and frenzy.

We must reject the cultural mandate that says we have to have all the right answers. No, we have to go to the Teacher. He knows our children intimately. Scripture says that the Holy Spirit searches hearts, understands the motivations that lie within, and knows exactly what to pray. John 15:7 reminds us that as we abide in Him, as we rest in His truth, we are free to ask anything and it will be done. God invites us to call unto Him and He will show us insights we do not know which include the mysteries of our children.

We have to stop believing that parenting is a sprint. Deuteronomy 6 & 11 paint the intimate way parents are to walk with their children, instilling in them the constancy and pervasiveness of relationship with God. The conversation of who God is, what Christ has done, and our response to Him should be hallmarks of our walk with our children. These truths color every facet of life. Discipling our children in the gospel is a race we will run until we die. It may change courses, the scenery may change, but the race ends when we stand breathlessly in front of Jesus Christ.

But until we become a people who abide with Jesus, who rest on Him alone, who bring all things before His throne, present all requests to Him and seek Him first, we will flounder. And we will be easy picking for the enemy who delights in discouragement and defeat.

So on the days of deep discouragement and doubt, when condemnation yells about my failures that day in parenting, I need to run to Jesus Christ. I need to stand before Him in light of the the truth of the gospel. He died for all my sin, including my rudeness, selfishness, impatience, anger or whatever has erupted from me that day against one of His children. And He is working in me to change me, granting me forgiveness with repentance. When I recognize my own desperate need for redemption and grace, my eyes can see the desperation within my child as well and the boundless love of the Father for that little one right there in the midst of their sin.

I must stand before Him, seeking first His way and not my own. I need to measure my words and my actions against His wisdom. My agenda for the day may need to die in order to make space and time to share the gospel with one of my children. My order of operations may have to be mixed up in order to hear the heart of a child being fooled by the lies of his or her flesh or the world. But no agenda, no career, no chore compares to the charge of sharing Christ with our children. When I understand what I have been given, I am far more able to embrace the charge of discipleship and lovingly lead my child to the Lifegiver every chance I can.

True Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He is Hope when everything seems hopeless.

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

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

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

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

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

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