Parenting children with hope & peace

What do you do when parenting your children seems next to impossible? Settling my heart in truth becomes vital. The Gospel holds my peace and hope.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ~Deuteronomy 6:5-7

Squabbling, fussing, arguing, complaining, and the dreaded whining are all common symptoms in my family on this parenting journey! And truthfully, I can do it all also! I often see an outbreak with a transition, busyness in our schedule, at the beginning of a vacation, or in stressful seasons of life. My children will fuss, demand their way, complain and as they grow into their teen years, they may seek to avoid or isolate.  Negative engagements are a guarantee, and if I don’t see them for their purpose, I miss something beautiful.

Unfortunately, I often get this perspective very wrong. In my selfishness, I want peace, quiet, ease, and happiness for all. I don’t want squabbles, whining, etc. so I will tend to shut it down quickly with verbal discipline.

Searching out the heart purpose behind a fussy child is the more significant work ~ one of His designs of family life. When I begin to embrace the heart pursuit God desires for each of my children, when I begin to filter their actions through the sieve of Gospel truth, then grace can grow within me for them in the moments of discipline. My heart undergoes a transformation before I ever engage in shepherding theirs. Prior to ever stepping into the bathroom where my child sits, I need to spend a few moments with Him. I need to seek what lies may be at the root of the behavior, determine what flesh is on display, and see both my child and the behavior the way God does.

And often before I can even engage in prayer over my child, I need to spend a few moments looking at the lies, flesh, or sin that welled up in me as all this erupted in my home. That’s just the truth. Most sin sparks sin in others. We have a saying in our home that sin is contagious and can make everyone sick within minutes! So whether the sin is divisiveness, selfishness, fear, worry, anger, pride, you name it, other people will soon be exhibiting symptoms in reaction to the initial sinner. We can all resent the mess out of this contagion, or we can use these moments to declare God’s power, His victory, and His salvation over our desperate need that is on display.

Let’s be warriors for truth! Let’s get down into the midst of the sin and call it out for what it is, not from pride or disgust, No! but from a place of grace and mercy that we have received and we now offer to the sinner in our midst. Let’s be more like Christ was with the adulterous woman or the woman who touched his coat – let’s explore the heart deep within and tend to the wounds, the lies, the fears and apply the salve of great grace, deep love, and complete truth that only Jesus offers through His death and resurrection. Let’s speak the Gospel to our children in ways that make it the most desirable, the most welcoming, the most trustworthy space for them to occupy.

We can create environments where Jesus can shine in all His glory because we are pointing to Him. As we set our own hearts on His truth, we confess our own need for Him as we fail.  We assure our children of God’s steadfast love when we resolutely love them despite their failings, despite their sin, despite their flesh. But just like God does not leave us in a space of unrighteousness but rather calls us out to walk with Him in truth and holiness, we also need to be faithful to truth and holiness. Calling sin a sin is not condemnation, not when my heart is humble to the truth that I too struggle with sin.

Parenting with purpose takes time.

And sometimes it feels like all I do is move from one sin moment to another when every child needs special touches and reminders of God’s grace in the face of great sin. But I cling to the truth that these days are the most valuable for the Kingdom. These moments proclaim to the next generation the goodness of our God. Only when sin bursts forth do we see our great need for a Savior. Only when pride declares a godlike desire for worship can we point to the only One worthy of our praise and honor.

These are the days when the worship music plays at full volume and we dance in the unstoppable grace of a God who showers us with love, patience, truth, and mercy.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. ~Philippians 1:9-11

practical thoughts about discipline

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds. ~ Jeremiah 17:9-10

 

There have been SO many times in the Kimsey household where I have had children in every bathroom in our house and some more on their beds, thinking about what they did that contributed to the great conflagration that just occurred!   It only takes a little spark to begin to fuel an explosion between multiple factions and next thing I know, everyone is mad, taking sides, screeching and screaming!

Before I interact with any of them, I seek to set my own heart firmly in the truth of the Gospel. I want to begin with seeking out my own heart because more than likely I have been angered, short-tempered, or in some way put out by the disobedience, fighting, or whatever precipitated this time. The same truths for them apply to me. So I want to take a few minutes with Jesus and set my heart on Him, on the truth of my sin, on His love, on His great mercy and His pursuing grace.

I have found that removing children to quiet places works well. In our home, we use the bathrooms most often simply because there is not much in the bathroom to distract my child from the primary goal of this quiet time. I want to create quiet space for my child to begin to hear from the Holy Spirit about why he or she is struggling in relationship with the others in the family. This removal is not a timeout or a timed interval at all; rather, it is a space where emotions can calm down, their minds can stop racing, and their hearts can be tended to.

Can I encourage you to remember all the truths of the Gospel when parenting and disciplining your children? Romans 1:16 resonates in discipline moments, For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, When I keep this before me, I have greater empathy and patience for my children; when I just want good behavior, I am short tempered and become a part of the problem. Your children are believing the same basic lies that have motivated all sin from the beginning of time – whether the lies are that they should be in control which promotes disobedience and rebellion, whether the lies are they are most important which leads to selfishness and cruelty, or some other lie that declares what they are worshiping. Their heart will deceive them, leading them away from the truth of God and towards the pursuit of loving themselves first. They will naturally seek their own good, their own control, their own protection. They will defend their own “wisdom” despite its futility. When we understand the heart of man, we can understand and not be surprised or offended by their behavior. Our goal is not to stop the heart of flesh. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our goal is to point to the Savior and illuminate their fierce need for Him.

So my bathroom conversations with my lost children as well as my saved children run on parallel tracks, both pointing to Christ. To my saved child, the goal of the conversation is to help them honestly look at their part, to guide them through what was motivating them and what lie they chased, and re-establish with them the truths of who they are because of Jesus Christ and what God is at work doing within them. To my lost child, it is my opportunity to point out their need for the salvation Jesus offers and offer hope to them.

Bathroom discipline often looks practically like this – I sit down, bringing myself down to their eye level and I ask them to stand in front of me with their hands on my knees. Really this just stills their little body and helps them focus their eyes on mine. I want them to hear me speak, which means emotions need to calm if they are upset, focus needs to come, and bodies need to quiet. I try to speak very softly, asking questions that purpose to lead them into a thoughtful examination of themselves, even at the little ages of 2 & 3. Questions like, “Why are you in here?” or “Tell me what happened that made you have to come in here?” let me know what they understand about what has happened. Conversations are the goal initially. I want to hear their heart, both to see what work the Spirit is already doing as well as to see what they may be believing that is not true. Listening intently and seeking to make sure that I have even gotten the complete picture of what offenses took place are very important tasks. Many times I have removed the loudest or the one with the most fingers pointing at them only to find that there are other guilty parties that need to be disciplined as well! 

One important truth that steadies my heart in the midst of the discouragement of everyday life with a bunch of sinners is that God pursues us continually. He does not cease. He is a God who values relationship, who declares His redeeming love through His Son, and who is at work transforming us from one degree to another. He does not get discouraged with my stubborn heart or sinful tendencies. He keeps on pursuing. And He is doing the same thing with each of your children and invites you to join Him in pursuit. What an honor!

I seek to chase the lies they are believing and introduce the truth God offers instead. God’s word holds the truth we need. To the one who is saved and walking in new life, this is encouraging; to the one who is lost, this is a holy invitation. Prayer covers the time with hugs and a final blessing is given as they walk back out the door.

The blessing launches them back. They more than likely need to go to the one(s) they have offended and apologize and own their wrongs. They have confessed their wrongs before God but now must confess again to their siblings or others. Just like Paul closed every letter with a blessing to the churches to launch them into the truths he had laid before them, I too want to bless my children. So I spend a few moments reminding them of my love for them and my belief that God is at work in them changing them to be more like Him (if they are saved) or calling them to know Him as their Savior (if they are lost). These are words of life that point to where God is working and moving in their hearts. I know God is working on you becoming a mighty peacemaker for Him (if they have been struggling with arguing) or I see the way God is changing your heart for others and making you a servant of others (if they are struggling with selfishness). Always point them to God’s work in their lives. This time of discipline is NOT your opinion or what makes your life easier today. This is God’s holy work, you are merely an ambassador for Him. Point to Him. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Corinthians 13:14)

Easter Morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I have seen the Lord.”

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

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

Grace & Peace Multiply

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

strength & joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And His joy floods my soul.

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

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

 

 

Am I deluded?

“that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.” ~ Col. 2:2-4

Walking with Jesus is hard. The onslaughts from the world, the enemy, and my own mind press in on me, blinding me from the One who holds all truth.

But I want to be the woman, the wife, the mother like Paul says – my heart encouraged in the tough stuff of life, because I have the assurance of the Gospel – that Christ died for me, to save me, redeem me, change me and make me like Him. He is committed to that process in me. He offers Himself fully to me – all His power, all His love, all His fruit working in me and through me. Scripture is replete with who we are as His redeemed, and we need to KNOW these truths because full assurance of understanding and knowledge of God’s mystery (Jesus Christ) is the only way to combat sin and flesh.

I confess, sometimes I am easily deluded with plausible arguments. If they weren’t plausible, they wouldn’t work. I would be able to spot them. The enemy is crafty. He knows the lies I can identify as lies and therefore reject and the ones I will embrace as truth. Other translations refer to plausible arguments as smooth rhetoric, enticing words, fancy talk, or persuasive speech. The concern Paul had for the believers at Colosse centered on listening to people teach about culturally “good” and popular things, not gospel truths.

While I may not relate to the specifics of Paul’s day, the same lies are still at the root today. There is still the draw for religion and asceticism for comparison’s sake – the need to measure holiness on behavior and not the heart. In a book my kids and I have been reading for ancient history, the author Genevieve Foster presents the word RELIGIO in Latin which means to bind fast. She defines religion in ancient times as “Man’s desire and effort to bind himself fast and secure to the Great Spirit of the Universe.”  As I read this, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I don’t have to bind myself. My efforts are not required. For while I was a sinner, Christ died for me. I have been brought near by the blood of Christ and now am in Christ Jesus, sealed with the Spirit until His return. He is my Peace – no strivings, no performance needed.

The power of self, of believing that I can solve my own problems apart from God, continues to dominate cultural conversations. Self improvement books abound with concepts of self love and self care, but God calls me to Himself, not to my own self awareness. In a posture of rest and abiding in His truth, I receive His strength and power in order to walk out all that He has laid before me for each day. In Christ I can rest. His rest will tend my soul and calm my anxious thoughts. His peace goes beyond my understanding, beyond my circumstances, and becomes the bedrock of my heart.

When my feelings are elevated to wisdom and outrank what the Bible says, then truth can be different for you and for me. It can flex depending on my circumstances, the attitudes of the time, or what seems most important. Christ therefore can be a part of my belief system but not be preeminent. The depreciation of Christ from central in my relationship with God to one of many options and thus irrelevant has been one of the enemy’s chief tactics since the beginning.

Open my eyes, that I may see. Give me discernment to see where I embrace self actualization, performance, or compromise truth with humanistic thought.  Show me the idols that capture my attention and bind my heart. Help me to see the lies that surround me, and equip me to stand in the truth instead. And as I walk with You, let me rest in the security of  redemption.

More than anything, I want to grow as a woman rescued from the darkness of sin to know His wisdom and understanding; and from that growth, life will spring, walking with the Spirit rich in fruit, constantly weighing everything against the Gospel and scripture.

 He is the way, and the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father any other way. In Christ is every spiritual blessing, redemption and forgiveness lavished with grace, and an inheritance sealed. Grow me deeper in understanding and knowing You, Jesus.

Before the throne

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help of time of need. ~ Hebrews 4:14-16

 

The throne room is a glorious place. Scripture over and over declares the glory that surrounds our God. The magnificence of who He is dashes all self promotion, destroys all self confidence, resulting in prostrate pronouncements of unworthiness before Him in his glory and holiness. It is the place of judgment as David discovers in Psalm 73.

Yet the author of Hebrews urges us to approach the throne with confidence so that we will receive mercy and find grace in our time of need.

The phrase with confidence or boldly in other translations means with loud exclamations, frank confidence – speaking everything, not withholding for fear of reprisal or judgment, a cheerful courage. My children are stunning examples of the boldness God encourages me to have as I approach Him. My 3 year old will come hurtling through the house, yelling my name over and over, pulling at my sleeve to come and see, knowing I will listen. He confidently, naturally assumes that whatever is important to him in the moment is therefore important to me. My older children as well have confidence that their thoughts or needs will be met with a welcoming ear. While it mildly aggravates me to be in one discussion with a child only to have him or her suddenly request something completely off topic, they do not hesitate. Out comes their need, their thought.

Their confidence stems from their identity. They belong. They have welcome, intimate relationship with me because they are mine.

I am often timid or minimalistic in my prayers, perhaps because I worry about the answer, worry that I won’t be pleasing enough for Him, worry that I should handle this one differently or desire differently. Sometimes I feel like the laundry list of requests is too much, that I should pick the top three and no more. Sometimes I wonder if He really wants to hear yet again about my heartache or discontent. I am apologetic, not worshipful, timid and concerned of His reaction to me rather than expectant and eager. When I enter the throne room with my gaze on myself, I am worshiping, but not my Savior. My prayers are not the powerful ones of a righteous woman, they are not deeply rooted in the name of Jesus, no, they are the whisperings of a self focused, self righteous performer who hopes it is enough. Clearly I have a deeply rooted misunderstanding of the Gospel that displays itself in my prayer life.

Standing in front of His throne is holy ground, but also a welcoming place because of Jesus Christ. We have the great high priest, Jesus, the Son of God, who has gone before us.  Performance isn’t needed or desired. Jesus Christ’s death on the cross for your sin and mine paid our sin debt and placated the wrath of God that separated us from relationship with God. I hold fast to my confession – nothing I have done has ever merited my welcomed position before His throne, but all that Jesus has accomplished atones for my sinful state and covers me with His righteousness. My position is now for every moment of my life securely before the throne. He determines my identity.

His throne room is a becoming place, a place where my heart and my desires are changed and made more like Him. He is well acquainted with my heart and yours. Scripture tells us that He searches our hearts and knows our minds (Jeremiah 17:10). He knows our weaknesses and temptations, yet He loves us. Committed to refining me, He works patiently and purposely, often exposing the doubts or fears as He realigns my heart in areas or grows my faith in spaces I deemed impossible. With confidence I can present my shortcomings as a mother, wrestle with my feelings of inadequacy or discontent, seek help with requests big and small, hide my wounded heart inside His tower of strength, and display any other need or worry I may have. He is interested in them all. But a curious thing happens when I hold fast to my confession, when I center my identity on Jesus who made me righteous and welcome before the throne of grace ~ I worship Him. The wreckage of my life can come spilling out and lay exposed there on the floor, but He becomes all I see. I lay down pretense and pride and begin to abide.

The grace and the mercy I desperately need for whatever I face are offered by the King of Kings. He invites us to come and pour out our hearts to Him.

 

Broad places

He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me. For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord God lightens my darkness. For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. This God — his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. ~Psalm 18:19, 28-30

 

Truth: God delights in me and in you. He brings us out to places for His glory. The actual experience may feel opposite. It may feel as if I have been brought into a narrow ravine with a slippery, pebble filled ledge upon which to walk. I stand terrified, constantly worried I will wedge myself or slip off into a chasm below. I confess that many moments in motherhood can terrify me. I can worry about anything if I allow my mind to roam undisciplined.

Truth: He lights my lamp. He lightens my darkness. The joy of this truth is great – He lights up the dark, the confusion, the unknown. Why? for HIS NAME. He will work for His glory. What are my questions? what are my concerns? where are my areas of darkness, of wondering?

For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me; you take me out of the the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge. I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place. ~Psalm 31:3-4,7-8

What are broad places? Both passages refer to it. If they are places easily traversed with safety assured and no threat of attack, if that is what I am waiting for, then I will be disappointed. I will be discouraged when my life doesn’t take that magical turn towards ease and comfort. No, the broad place is not in the physical realm. I need to lay that desire down. In the Hebrew, the word used for broad place means pasture, figurative of freedom from distress or anxiety.

Stand in Me. Abide in me. I AM your broad place. My love is a secure place. Plant your feet in me. Stop waiting for me to move you to some moment or place. Stand in who I AM. 

I am the Light of the World. Stop trying to find light anywhere else, they are merely weak imitations with shadows at the edges. There are no shadows with Me.

I delight in you. His delight is gospel driven, sourced in His unending grace and mercy. He delights in you and me, not because of what we do or have done. He settled His choice of delight at the cross, when Jesus Christ died in your place and mine that we might be saved and set free from all the sin that entangles our hearts. He delights in us because He wants to redeem and restore us. He loves us with His steadfast, unending love.

I am your Strength. I will be all you need for battle. I am your shield of salvation. I give you divine power for all the strongholds that threaten to narrow your path and create anxiety.  In Psalm 18:33-36 David rejoices in the ways God has been his Rock ~ made his feet secure, trained his hands, given him the shield of salvation, and supported him. Your gentleness made me great. (v.35)

There is a difference between what I have been believing and the truth. I have been waiting for God to move me to a broad place, to push away all the worries, busyness, confusion that constricts my ground and litters my walk. I complain about the darkness, but the Light of the world illuminates me right where I stand, showing me His sustaining power. He is my broad place; the sacred, holy invitation is to stand in Him, to find refuge in Him, and to renew my mind in Him. He gently makes us great in Him.

I will even dare to say that the narrow chasms and terrifying passages are places He allows, not because He desires any terror but because He knows the depth of growth, the maturing of faith that these places will cause when I hide myself in Him. And He is committed to me for His Glory, for His name’s sake. Never forget, He will bring glory to His name.

Back Porch – the Law & salvation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

the back porch – God’s work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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