Lies of Motherhood – You need to be perfect

The lie of perfectionism in motherhood can trap you and me. In this series we have been studying how the Gospel combats and defeats the lies that threaten to bind us or enslave us. Most of us would probably argue that we do not believe this lie, that we know we cannot be perfect mothers. There is no perfect mother we may confidently declare. We may even reject the struggle against this lie and know we cannot ever measure up to the perfect standard for motherhood.

Whatever the picture of motherhood looks like for you may be different than what it looks like to me. And while the perfect standard of motherhood may be something you say is elusive or unattainable, we still chase it and allow its measurements to find us falling woefully short.

Identify the lie

We can see our failings, point out our flaws, and roll our eyes at the ways we fall short. “I’m just unorganized, I’m very structured and rigid, I struggle with being patient, I’m not the ______________ “fill in the blank. But we believe we fall short of something. Unbidden within our hearts is the knowledge that we do not meet all the standards across the board. An elusive norm exists that is the measure of a good mother, and everything else ultimately falls short of this benchmark.

This lie captures us quickly with that new baby and then burrows underground, holding court deep in our hearts. It quietly mounts a savage attack with whispers of how you and I could be better, reminds us of everytime we miss the mark, every moment we lose our temper, every time we forget something important, every way we are just learning. You and I must be able to identify the lies being spoken in our mind and in our culture, especially the ones we believe and embrace.

Combat the Lie with the truth

The truth is this: You are a forgiven mother. Just as every other part of your identity is wrapped in Jesus Christ as a believer, so is your motherhood.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished upon us in all wisdom and insight.

Ephesians 1:7

His lavish grace and the forgiveness of all our sin overflows. It does not merely fill but overflows with all wisdom and insight. His grace is lavish for us, without limit, unending. His forgiveness is complete.

In motherhood the hardest thing to reconcile, to lay down is when I sin against a child. I have a confession: my tongue can stir up division and wound so quickly. I have also learned that my children can hurt or offend me. Early on I believed that I was impervious to their attacks, but as my children have matured, so has their ability to wound as well. Perhaps I am harsh, rude, selfish, “over it,” whatever my attitude – I wound a little heart or speak terribly to a teenager.

Gripped with conviction, I seek to confess and repent both to my child and to God. But standing in the fullness of forgiveness is hard when the lie creeps in. “You should be better than this, you always mess up this way, you never change, this is failure.” In those moments of whispered lies that seek to compare me to a standard, I must cling to the banner of the One who says I am complete in Him.

Standing in the fullness of forgiveness is hard when the lie creeps in.

Understanding the power of the Gospel begins to set me free and will set you free from the lie of perfectionism in motherhood and every other role we have. The Gospel clearly defines you and me as lost, trapped in our sinful ways (which includes a sharp tongue), dead and hopeless. But God who is rich in mercy, because of his great love for you and for me, even when you and I were as wicked as we could possibly be with our children, made us alive with Christ. (Ephesians 2:10) You and I have been saved by grace when we place our faith in Jesus as the only way to be changed and made new, in every part of our lives, including motherhood.

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1:13-14

The truth becomes my message

We now live in a completely different kingdom! No more living as dead, darkness bound by our sins. In the kingdom of Christ we stand redeemed!

We now live as redeemed children of God, wholly loved and accepted. https://www.instagram.com/bethanykimsey/

Bought and paid for, lavishly loved, I am free to extend grace and mercy to my children in their own sin. Grace does NOT overlook sin, ignore it, or allow it to continue – NO – grace meets sin with the solution, Jesus Christ. Grace faces the flesh and extends living hope into the space of death. As mothers we are called to hold to His truth, extend the grace and mercy that has redeemed us, and point to Jesus for our children.

Lies of Motherhood – You are alone

One lie of motherhood is the whisper that you are alone. How we meet that lie is critical – we can turn to Christ or fill our lives with poor substitutes.

Loneliness opens a chasm with us, a quiet void that can grow pulling within itself our confidence, our joy, our peace, our contentment. We long to fill it and to feel connected. We seek to feel treasured, valued and deeply related to others. Motherhood can move this void to the forefront of our heart and mind in so many ways. The lie begins to whisper that you and I are alone in motherhood.

The lie is whispered in the quiet moments, “You are all alone in this.” It thunders in the chaotic toddler years, “No one else is living through what you are. Even your husband doesn’t experience this like you do.” Echoing off of every teenage interaction is the belief that you are the only one dealing with the rebellious or withdrawn child. You may be a single mother, wishing desperately for someone to share the load, believing that no one ever will. Unbidden, the lie creeps into your thoughts that no one really knows you, your day, and you have no true friends walking the same path or in the same stage. Perhaps the lie speaks to the fear that if anyone really knew you with your children, they wouldn’t like you so isolation is better.

So I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.

Joshua 1:5

The ultimate lie is: You are all alone. No one truly sees you or walks with you in this journey of life. And the emptiness within your soul opens. Immediately thoughts leap to ways to fill the void and soothe the aching. Find girlfriends to support, give the kids to your husband for the day that he would finally understand, or buy that wine, those shoes, that purse, whatever in the moment will dampen those feelings and fill you. Do it because you deserve it, you are rocking this motherhood life alone juggling work, baby, house, food, laundry – no one does it like you and you deserve to feel better.

But we must cling to the truth and expunge the lie. You are not alone.

Keep your life free from love of money and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

Hebrews 13:5-6

I will never leave you

In Hebrews 13, the author is referencing back to Joshua 1:5 when Moses told Joshua that God would never leave or forsake him as he entered the Promised Land. Joshua was assuming leadership of the Israelites, and the path to victory would be arduous, full of battles, unknowns, fears, and would require trust and allegiance to God alone to ensure victory. And Hebrews brings this truth into the life of the believers.

To leave in Greek means “to slacken a grip; to desert.” His grip on me, the steadying of my foot, the assuredness of His presence doesn’t slacken, never loosens, and maintains His secure grasp. You and I are held as we walk out motherhood and all other life journeys just like Christ secured Peter as they walked on the water. The waves cannot envelope the believer whose hand is gripped by the Almighty.

Never will I forsake you

To forsake means “to leave behind.” The darkest parts of my heart, the fears and ideas that lurk in me that declare that no one should see – He sees and does NOT turn away. In every other relationship here on this earth, we hide and cover some parts of our darkened hearts, knowing inherently that exposing those places may lead to rejection. The truth is no matter how well anyone loves you, he or she will never fully know you or meet your needs. But God does. Sit a moment in worship there. My feeble attempts at relationship are met with the perfect flood of relationship. He never leaves me in a position of lack, whether it is lack of peace, joy, contentment, strength, power, love. He never leaves.

The desertion we experience, however desperate or empty we feel, is not because God has withdrawn Himself from you and me. As saved, redeemed children washed in His Son’s blood and made new, we are sealed with His presence, His Holy Spirit. But in my own experience I am so capable of walking away from the truth He offers and rushing to any tangible comfort to slake the thirst for companionship. When any other person or activity usurps my walk with Him, I will absolutely feel lonely and my ears will once again begin to hear the steady drumbeat of isolation.

The Lord is my Helper; I will not fear

When I replace the lie that I am all alone with the Truth that He is on my side as my Helper, I call on Him. He answers me and sets me free. We are created with a desperate need to walk with someone, to link arms and do this really hard job in relationship. God freely offers Himself, His grace filled presence to you and me!

The open declaration that He is my Helper comes straight out of Psalm 118. I encourage you to read this beautiful passage of worship and praise to the One who loves you and me steadfastly and responds to us. Worship becomes the song of a heart tied tightly to God. Grace becomes our melody. No longer should I dance to the song of this world that encourages me to placate my fears with anything other than Christ alone. In Christ I have everything for I have Him.

He is my Helper. Today in the laundry, cooking, cleaning, He is beside me in companionship. In the fighting and whining, He stands in solidarity with me, offering strength and wisdom. In the fear and discouragement, He offers His true hope and joy where I can trust. In the clamor of a thousand voices, He offers His peace to still my heart and mind and control my tongue. He never leaves. You and I can worship and walk fully in His presence. I am not alone. You are not alone when Jesus is your Redeemer.

The Gospel Changes Everything – Part 1

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition according to the elemental spirits of the world and not according to Christ. ~Colossians 2:6-8

What would I tell my younger self, working out my major in college, worried about the way I looked, the way people perceived me, unsure of everything I was doing, crushed by the way it seemed life was going?

The Gospel changes everything. It is enough

What would I tell my young married self? – trying to balance a new career and a new marriage, desiring to walk in marriage well but unsteady of every step, wanting to be like Jesus to my husband yet so unclear what this looked like

 The Gospel changes everything. It is enough

What would I tell my new mother self, juggling 3 babies under the age of 3 with a husband who was working more than 120 hours a week as a surgical resident, trying to still work just a little to make ends meet, completely unsure about how to discipline little hearts, love them completely, and still pursue Jesus, exhausted at every turn by lack of sleep, lack of knowledge, and busyness.

The Gospel changes everything. It is enough

What do I want myself to remember every waking moment of each day as I parent 8 children, homeschooling, discipling hearts, encouraging anxious children, love my husband, work hard on the things God has called me to in this season of life?

The Gospel changes everything. It is enough

What do I want myself to remember as the children leave, each launching in their own way, whether they are walking with God or not, whether my heart is thrilled with who they have become or perhaps grieved, walking into a new season with my husband as the nest empties? 

The Gospel changes everything. It is enough

What would I tell the woman here who says my life hasn’t turned out the way I planned, the way I wanted, the way I dreamed it would? What would I say to the woman who says I have such deep hurts, such great chasms in my very being where I have been betrayed, wounded, made to feel less than and unwanted? What would I say to the woman who feels like she cannot measure up, cannot do what she wants to do well, aches with a desire to be different than she is but feels stuck? What would I say to the woman says, “I simply don’t care anymore. “ what would I tell the woman who is all alone, either grieving the loss of a marriage, the loss of a spouse, this loss of a child?

The Gospel changes everything. It is enough.

The Gospel is enough. He is enough. Whatever you walked into this room carrying, burdened and weighed down with worries, fears, bondage, grief, or pressure to perform. Everything about the way you live your life changes in the light of the Gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ. 

So the question becomes, what is the Gospel? Do I understand and live in light of the Gospel? How is the Gospel enough for me?

When we look at the passage, Paul says as you received Christ Jesus the Lord so walk in Him we want to understand exactly what it means to receive Christ Jesus the Lord and walk in Him. So we are going to look at the parts of the Gospel and break them apart:

Who is God

Who is man

Who is Jesus

Who am I now, and the work being done in me

Why is it so important to be on a Gospel hunt? Because all of the Word of God points to the good news of salvation and redemption. God lays out moment after moment in the Old Testament pointing to the coming Savior and illuminates His redemption in the New Testament. In the Old Testament He introduces us to Himself – His holiness, righteousness, steadfast love, and faithfulness to name a few. He gives us pictures of the “great rescue” that will come because of man’s sinfulness. In the New Testament redemption comes, Christ atones for our sin. We can be changed with His help alone. The truth of the gospel radically changes our understanding of our identity. God has issued an invitation to be His child, a new creation in Christ.

Who is God – 

God is holy, just, powerful, sovereign, maker of all things, all knowing and eternal. He is all knowing, self sufficient, and unchanging. Many more attributes comprise Him. Mankind is not any of these. Isaiah 40 – to whom will you compare me, that I should be like him? Says the Holy One. 1 Samuel 2:2 There is none holy like the Lord, there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God… for the LORD is a God of knowledge and by him actions are weighed…The Lord kills and brings to life…The Lord will judge the ends of the earth.  Ps 93 – The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty; … Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting. 

1 Timothy 6:15-16 he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the KING of KINGs and LORD of LORDS, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. AMEN.  I praise you God

Who is man? 

Who are we? We are created beings, fashioned by God made in His image, designed for relationship – different than any other created being in this world. 

Colossians 1:21 says we are alienated, hostile in our minds, doing evil deeds, Colossians 1:13 living in a domain of darkness. Ephesians 2:1 says we are dead in sin, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now at work in the sons of disobedience, children of wrath, Galatians declares we are held captive and enslaved, 1 Peter 3:18 calls us unrighteous, and Romans 1-3 clearly lays out the unrighteousness and depravity of all man.  Galatians 6 calls us slaves to sin and Gal 6:23 states, The wages of sin is death, but… No one is without sin and thus all of us are separated from God and sentenced to death by Holy God.

Where is my hope? How do I please God? I don’t. I can’t. I cannot do enough, perform well enough, there is no good enough. 

Who is Jesus then?

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 3:21-26, Galatians 3:13-14, Ephesians 2:4-10)  Colossians 1:19-22. 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 believe. We do nothing to deserve it; there is no way to merit the grace and mercy given.

Who am I in light of these 3? So what is my response? How does this change me?

 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. Colossians 2:13-15 – And you who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him.

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 (the 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? 

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).

The Gospel is enough

So How does it change everything?

 

Grace & Peace Multiply

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back Porch – Lies We Believe

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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photo cred: Noah Kimsey

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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photo cred: Noah Kimsey

 

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

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

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

All glory is to Him.  

 

strength & joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And His joy floods my soul.

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

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

 

 

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

Growing an Oak

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. ~Psalm 1

Many years ago, God showed me a word picture that realigned my thoughts on raising my children and gave me a vision that has helped so much in the difficulties of discipling and shepherding them. Troy and I moved into a home that was in essence new construction. I excitedly began planning how to landscape the lot, choosing trees, shrubs, and perennials with care with an extremely limited budget. I love gardening and could just imagine the beauty that would soon become my yard! I anticipated the maturing of all the plants and how different things would look in different seasons.

Over the course of the next few years, the yard became just that – a yard – to be cared for, weeded, tended. We had a house full of children and were very busy in the middle of raising them. I have been blessed with very exuberant children – full of zest for life, confidence, “leadership qualities” they say. One of my friends said that I don’t seem to get the quiet, retiring child (and I’m not sure that was a compliment!) And in a season of real challenge with one of my little ones, I remember beseeching the Lord on that child’s behalf, wondering what would work better, create better change, do what I saw happening in other people’s kids. And God brought me to 2 scriptures – Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17.  I began praying fiercely for this child with these passages, asking the Lord to show me this strong tree growing in my child. I was looking for tangible results, conversations of that child’s faith deepening, hearing beautiful prayers, seeing a child who managed their strong sin issues in family dynamics, desperately seeking to see the life that the Spirit brings.

And I will say this – none of those desires are wrong when put in their rightful place. Prayer, mommas, is THE MOST POWERFUL thing we can commit to doing for our children. Pray for their heart to be tender to the Gospel, open to His truth and His working in them. And look for the fruit that you may commend them and encourage them – but watch your reason. You see, in those moments I was hunting for this child’s maturing for my gain – my peace of mind, peace in my home, to look like I had a kid who was well behaved, to measure up to the other kids I saw around me and therefore to appear to have this parenting thing down, otherwise known as pride.

I would walk outside in my yard, tending to the flowerbeds and having conversations with God. One of these difficult parenting days, I escaped outside to walk in my yard. I walked to where I had planted an oak tree. When it had been planted, I remember being disappointed in its size compared to the cost for it. I knew oaks were slow growing, and when this baby tree came to my yard, all I could think was that I would never see it really be what it had the potential to become. Then I walked around the front of the house and noticed that our neighbors had lost a beautiful pear tree the night before in a storm. The tree was cracked in half, crumpled across their driveway.

And in that moment God defined for me His perspective for my children.

The root system of a tree serves as the anchor in a storm. It defines the health or illness of the tree.

A pear tree is a fast growing, ornamental tree with big branches and beautiful foliage in each season. Until it’s not. The root system of a pear tree is shallow or high and tends to circle around the narrow base of its trunk, sending out intertwining rootlets that fail to provide strength. They instead create instability that leads to falling or death. The branches of the tree all diverge from a single, short trunk as well which allows for the beautiful display in the early years. The wood however is weak, and the trunk of the tree often cannot take the stress of wind gusts causing the tree to crack.

 Oak trees have a slow growing root system that begins with a tap root. A tap root grows vertically downward. It will only then begin to grow its branches outward, but ultimately the roots of an oak occupy a diameter 4-7x the tree’s crown and total hundreds of miles. Oak trees grow very slowly because not until their taproot is established and root system in place will they begin to establish greater foliage and branch growth.

I need to embrace the fact that I must create environments that God can grow oak trees, not pear trees. But that’s all I do – I cannot ever grow the tree.

That is the work of God alone.

He sees the root, not me. He monitors the growth where it matters, but I only see the branches and leaves. My outlook needs to be committed to a long range vision, working daily in the short term for something that will take years to develop. And I need to stop looking at all the other trees being grown and comparing my trees to them because some of them may just be pear trees. Roots take a long time to grow in oak trees, but once established, oak trees aren’t easily damaged with a season of drought or even heat. Growth is abundant and consistent in trees well established.

Often the beauty of the oak tree is in its age. As a mother, I am committed for the lifetime. This task seems hard at times, discouraging at others – mainly because we cannot see the end result. We cannot see when or how our children will become the oaks of righteousness (Is. 61:3) we desire. The magic number for the maturation of an oak is not 18 years, nor is it the number for our children. We need to stop having that mindset! I’m not done when they turn 18 or leave for college or even when they get married.

My role has changed from nose wiper and discipliner to listener and exhorter with my older children, but the child hasn’t stopped growing, the branches may not be spread yet at all, and tap root growth may still be happening. Am I committed to the process of pointing back to Jesus if that means this oak tree doesn’t become one until I am gone?

Yes, and I hope I die with callused knees from many years of interceding on their behalf.

It’s Not How Good You Are

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. ~Ephesians 2:4-9

“Have you been good this year?” “Are you on Santa’s nice list?” “What’s Santa going to bring you?” Words spoken with kindness but layered with threat and repercussion. The questions rang out with a fierceness, and my heart wanted to stop that moment and run. My little 4 year old turned to me, eyes wide open, searching my face, and I quickly covered the moment with assurances to all involved that presents would be under her tree.

We walked away from the exchange, and the moment we were quietly alone, I kneeled down and looked into her precious eyes and asked her, “What do you think about those questions? Are you good this year?” Her answer tore at my heart, exposed her doubts, and opened the door for the truth of the Gospel. She quietly replied, “Maybe. But I don’t really know.” And so for a little while, sitting in a parking lot, we talked about the truth of Christmas in a language that she can understand and that I pray planted seeds of truth to combat the wicked evil that seeps out of every part of those questions.

Caraline, I want you to understand something very important and foundational. It doesn’t matter What you have done; it matters Whose you are. You see, sweetie, we celebrate Christmas why? because Jesus came as a baby with one purpose in mind – to die on the cross for your sins and mine. He was our special present that day because He would make a way for you to have a relationship with God, have peace in your life, and have hope for when you die that you will live with Him forever. That is why we celebrate Christmas. But do you have to do anything for Jesus to be your Savior? Do you have to be good for Him? Ever? No, baby girl.

There is no performing needed, you get to mess up and sin. He will lead you to repentance and forgiveness every single time. So we may be sad that we have sinned, but we never have to be afraid or worry that God will not forgive us or take us off his list. Because you are His, and He loves you no matter what. It is by grace you have been saved.

So at Christmas, we celebrate this great gift of Jesus by learning about His birth, learning about his names, singing songs that celebrate Him. And we give gifts to one another. But you will have gifts under the Christmas tree whether you have been good or naughty. Even if you have had many days of getting in trouble, you will still have all your presents under the tree. Why? Because you are my child, and I love you no matter what. Your presents on Christmas Day are because you belong to our family and you will be richly blessed with gifts given in great grace.

As believers we cannot just sit by and let culture dictate and pervert one of our holy days. And we certainly cannot allow our young children to be taken captive by a belief system utterly in opposition to the true meaning of Christmas. Yet we do. We allow these questions of goodness, performance, behavior to be asked of our children as if they are benign questions when really they have the fire of hell steaming off of them. We welcome a performance mentality for our little ones who believe as if that may provide some relief and keep them in line in a time full of excitement and craziness.

There is no performance needed for the greatest gift ever given, the reason for Christmas.

Jesus Christ came while we were all completely lost, sinful, full of all wickedness, and He came to freely give salvation to all who believe.

So while in our household we may decorate with Santa Claus, he doesn’t wield any power. We love the Christmas movies about elves, Santa’s workshop, reindeer, and snowmen. But he is never exalted as the giver of our gifts. There are no lists made, no hopeful yearnings in letters to the north pole. He certainly is not omniscient or omnipresent. His elves do not live in our house to check on behavior because again behavior is simply a symptom of a heart that needs the truth of the Gospel applied. So we purpose to direct the hearts of our children to the One who can and does save and work change in their lives because He loves them unconditionally and calls them to Himself.

I will do battle on this point against an enemy that wants nothing less than to convince my children that their performance factors into the equation. Because if he can convince them of that condemning thought, then grace is lost and bondage results around a day that is full of God’s rich, redeeming grace. I want my children’s hearts to sing that God’s gift of Jesus is their greatest gift.