Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Parts I Leave Out

"Lord, be gracious to us! We wait for You. Be our strength every morning and our salvation in time of trouble."  Isaiah 33:2

I read this passage last night and realized how often, in my own life, I find myself leaving out the middle section of that verse as I go about life. 

Oh, I want the Lord to be gracious to me. I desperately need His underserved favor and kindness. I know there is no hope without His grace in my life...but do I wait for Him? Do I seek to "be still, and know that He is God"? Do I patiently fix my eyes on the Lord and look to Him with joyful expectation...even when the Lord sees fit, in His grace, to withhold what I desire for days, weeks, months, or even years? Or do I try to manipulate situations to achieve the outcome I am looking for? Do I grumble and complain and seek to drag others into my misery or worse, blame them? Do I doubt the goodness of God and profane the very name that gave me life instead of clinging to Him because He is my life and length of days?

And then there is the Lord's salvation. How my heart rejoices that the Lord is my salvation in times of trouble! There is nothing that will ever come to me that has not first gone through His mighty hands. His salvation has ransomed my life and keeps me. With such a great salvation, you would think there would never be a moment's worry or fear about the details of daily life. After all, God's grace is enough and His Word tells us it's sufficient at all times, in all things, for all that we need (2 Cor. 9:8)...but, how often do I show my very doubt of that belief when I do not seek Him and cry out for His strength each and every day? How often do my feet fly out of bed with thoughts of how much I need to do, how overwhelmed I'm already feeling, and how full the day at hand will be? Somewhere, in those moments, I have forgotten to take my thoughts captive to obey Christ, to cling to His Word, and renew my mind with His thoughts. For He says that my days are already numbered and ordered...even down to the good works He has planned for me to do. His Word reminds me that His strength is perfected in my weakness. His truth beckons my heart to not worry about anything but pray and give thanks in all things. 
 
What amazing grace! What a great salvation is ours! May our lips declare both those truths, while not neglecting the precious commands to wait on the Lord and find our daily strength in His almighty hands. May we be women who do not have imaginary holes in our Bibles because of the parts we have left out but may we be those who obey and cling to the whole counsel of God's Word and may His decrees be our delight and our counselors! (Psalm 119:24)


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Three Desires for all Six Kids

This fall, our pastor started preaching through the book of Philippians. I am so thankful for expostional preaching and the gift it is to "make yourself at home" in a passage...to meditate, to consider, to think through and to apply.

As I thought on Philippians 1:25-26, I found my mom's heart being tugged: 

"Since I (Paul) am persuaded of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your advancement and joy in the faith, so that, because of me, your confidence may grow in Christ Jesus when I come to you again." 

While I do not know how many days the Lord has "written in His book" that I should live here on this earth, I do know that every day I wake up is a new day that I am "remaining and continuing" on with my family. Paul's purpose, in these verse,  focused on three specific desires he had for his "spiritual children" and they are three pursuits that I want to focus on, as well, in regards to my own children: 

1) Seek the advancement of their faith

2) Seek to encourage their joy in the faith

3) Seek their growth of confidence in Christ Jesus

Bryan nor I can save our children, but we are called to train them up in the way they should go (Prov. 22:6). We are called to love the Lord and to teach our children Who He is and what He has done (Deut. 6). We have a great responsibility of pointing them to Christ, the only source of salvation, hope and eternal life, through times of formal teaching (family worship) and informal times (everyday talk). Our greatest "weapon" in our pursuit to "advance their faith", though, is prayer. Challies has a GREAT article  on 18 ways to pray for unbelievers (and that would include our unbelieving children)!  

Another way I can follow Paul's example is by my own personal pursuit of joy. That my own heart would overflow with the joy of the Lord in such a way that my kids see and savor Christ and find their treasure in Him. As Bryan puts it, "Christ is the treasure that turns all other treasures to trash." I love Habakkuk 3:17-18: 

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will triumph in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation." 

This rejoicing, this joy springs from a truth that we must believe by faith and cling to in hope: that God is enough. That He is all I need no matter what may befall my day, my week, my year. And what He has ordained is good because He is good and therefore I can rejoice! May I live that way before my children and may my example encourage and advance their own joy in the faith! 

Lastly, I was reminded that I must live in such a way that my own confidence in Christ grows my kids confidence in Christ. As they see me trust in the character of our great God, proclaim the work that Christ has done on the cross on our behalf and, through the Holy Spirit,  wait with hopeful expectation for the return of our King; my prayer is that it will cause them to persevere and grow strong in their own faith, confident that God will complete every good work He has begun.  May my lips echo the words of Hebrews 10:35-39: 

"So don't throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you need endurance, so that after you have done God's will, you may receive what was promised. For in yet a very little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith; and if he draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who draw back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and obtain faith." 

How long the Lord has my feet walking upon this earth, I do not know...but I want to be found faithful in each of those steps, by God's grace. May we moms be those who "do not focus on what is seen, but what is unseen" (2 Cor. 4:18a) and may we realize the beautiful stewardship we have of pointing our kids to Christ, modeling for them that there is no greater joy than to know the King of kings and the Lord of lords, and encouraging them in the character of our great God so that they may approach Him with full confidence and receive mercy and find grace to help in every time of need (Hebrews 4:16)! 

Three Desires for all Six Kids

This fall, our pastor started preaching through the book of Philippians. I am so thankful for expostional preaching and the gift it is to "make yourself at home" in a passage...to meditate, to consider, to think through and to apply.

As I thought on Philippians 1:25-26, I found my mom's heart being tugged: 

"Since I (Paul) am persuaded of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your advancement and joy in the faith, so that, because of me, your confidence may grow in Christ Jesus when I come to you again." 

While I do not know how many days the Lord has "written in His book" that I should live here on this earth, I do know that every day I wake up is a new day that I am "remaining and continuing" on with my family. Paul's purpose, in these verse,  focused on three specific desires he had for his "spiritual children" and they are three pursuits that I want to focus on, as well, in regards to my own children: 

1) Seek the advancement of their faith

2) Seek to encourage their joy in the faith

3) Seek their growth of confidence in Christ Jesus

Bryan nor I can save our children, but we are called to train them up in the way they should go (Prov. 22:6). We are called to love the Lord and to teach our children Who He is and what He has done (Deut. 6). We have a great responsibility of pointing them to Christ, the only source of salvation, hope and eternal life, through times of formal teaching (family worship) and informal times (everyday talk). Our greatest "weapon" in our pursuit to "advance their faith", though, is prayer. Challies has a GREAT article  on 18 ways to pray for unbelievers (and that would include our unbelieving children)!  

Another way I can follow Paul's example is by my own personal pursuit of joy. That my own heart would overflow with the joy of the Lord in such a way that my kids see and savor Christ and find their treasure in Him. As Bryan puts it, "Christ is the treasure that turns all other treasures to trash." I love Habakkuk 3:17-18: 

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will triumph in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation." 

This rejoicing, this joy springs from a truth that we must believe by faith and cling to in hope: that God is enough. That He is all I need no matter what may befall my day, my week, my year. And what He has ordained is good because He is good and therefore I can rejoice! May I live that way before my children and may my example encourage and advance their own joy in the faith! 

Lastly, I was reminded that I must live in such a way that my own confidence in Christ grows my kids confidence in Christ. As they see me trust in the character of our great God, proclaim the work that Christ has done on the cross on our behalf and, through the Holy Spirit,  wait with hopeful expectation for the return of our King; my prayer is that it will cause them to persevere and grow strong in their own faith, confident that God will complete every good work He has begun.  May my lips echo the words of Hebrews 10:35-39: 

"So don't throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you need endurance, so that after you have done God's will, you may receive what was promised. For in yet a very little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith; and if he draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who draw back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and obtain faith." 
How long the Lord has my feet walking upon this earth, I do not know...but I want to be found faithful in each of those steps, by God's grace. May we moms be those who "do not focus on what is seen, but what is unseen" (2 Cor. 4:18a) and may we realize the beautiful stewardship we have of pointing our kids to Christ, modeling for them that there is no greater joy than to know the King of kings and the Lord of lords, and encouraging them in the character of our great God so that they may approach Him with full confidence and receive mercy and find grace to help in every time of need (Hebrews 4:16)! 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

O, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing

As I look back on the landscape of social media these past couple of days, believe it or not, it's a song that comes to mind as the prayer of my heart:

O, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing My Great Redeemer's Praise!

Not the praises (or woes) of Hillary

Nor the praises (or woes) of Trump

Not the song of self-righteousness

Nor the judgement given through your opinion

Not the scorn of a people group

Nor the fear of the future

The believer is called to proclaim, to herald, to sing, to shout, to magnify, to exalt our great Redeemer and His great salvation. A great salvation that can:

Save Hillary

Save Trump

Save the self-righteous

Save those weighed down by unfair judgements

Save the scorned and the scorner

Save unto eternal life those who fear the future and have put their hope in man

I beg those of you who are "hid in Christ" to examine yourselves, to make sure that the messages you are proclaiming in the lunchroom, at the coffee shop, on Facebook, Twitter, and the blogs you write are words that promote the fame of the Lord, that lift the eyes of those around you off of each other and onto the One who sits on His throne, Who does what He pleases in all perfection and goodness, Who will, one day, wipe away every tear and make all things right for those who love Him, Who is the definition of hope and true peace.

"Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen."  I Timothy 1:17


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Breaking News: Tranquility is Possible Without a Trip to the Tropics!



Disturbance: an interruption of a settled and peaceful condition

I don't know about you, but there are many things in life that create disturbances. And often, the "things" that create disturbances are not inanimate objects, but real living breathing people. It might be a neighbor, a boss, a child, a friend, or even a spouse. After all, we are sinful people rubbing shoulders with other sinful people on a daily, even hourly, basis and the result is often...yep, disturbances.  In my flesh, those disturbances often result in frustration, impatience, irritation, anger, rants, grumbling, complaining, and even bitterness. Yikes! 

Tranquil: free from disturbance

But, if I am walking in the Spirit, those disturbances can actually yield the fruit of tranquility, quietness of heart, and godliness. I'm not kidding! Read it for yourself: 

"First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity."  I Timothy 2:1-2

How can I be tranquil - free from disturbance -  in a world that is full of disturbances?

Petitions and prayers. 

Petitions and prayers full of intercession and thanksgiving. 

Petitions and prayers full of intercession and thanksgiving for EVERYONE. 

Even the lady who just cut you off and almost caused an accident. Maybe she just received bad news and is rushing to the hospital. Or maybe she's foolishly on her phone, not paying attention...something that could get herself and others killed and permanently separated from Christ forever. Pray. 

Even for the neighbor who yells at your kids when they play outside, though his kids are free to roam and play wherever. He has a soul. Pray.

Even for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. There is no heart too hard or corrupt that the Maker of all hearts cannot reach down and soften, redeem, and restore through the blood of Jesus. Pray. 

Even for that boss who is demeaning and arrogant and seems to deserve all the back-biting and gossip that is spread about him. He needs to know the Master so he can learn what it means to lead through serving. Pray. 

As you lift these people up to the Lord in prayer, as you come before the only One who can save hearts and the only One who can sanctify those hearts...all the frustration, irritation, anger and complaining, that can so easily consume you, lifts as well. Because, through those prayers, you have left the disturbances you face in the mighty hands of God, thankful for the privilege of having open access to the Sovereign of the universe. Your eyes are off the disturbance and fixed on the Deliverer! 

And without sitting under one palm tree, soaking up one ray of sun, or sipping on one coconut...your heart is tranquil once again...rejoicing under the shadow of His wings, basking in the work of the Son, and drinking deeply from rivers of living water. 









Friday, September 23, 2016

The Heart is Won

Apart from love for Christ, my kids will, at best, be nothing more than Pharisees. Outwardly conforming to the rules while their hearts are far from Him.

I so want the Lord to save them, so want their hearts to fall in love with the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Yet, I am reminded how often I focus on their external behavior while leaving their hearts untouched.

I can't save my kids...only the Lord can raise the dead to life, open blind eyes to see His grace, and transform a heart of stone into a heart of flesh....but I do want to be faithful to build a love for Him in their hearts. I want them to see His glory and mercy and beauty and faithfulness and majesty. I want them to see the "good news" for what it is: good, great, mind-blowing...the best news they will ever hear.

I'm reading a super practical, super helpful book by Jack Klumpenhower called "Show Them Jesus" and he says this in chapter 4:

"Our sins are all paid for - not just the few sins we notice but the whole ugly heart that secretly loves them. All forgiven.

The good news takes us daily from despair to astonished laughter. With relief in our eyes we look at the man who's done all this for us. And who do we see? We see the strongest yet gentlest, most regal and yet most humble person imaginable. Most of all, we see the kind of lover we've never known before. Jesus's love for us is pure love. It has nothing to do with us being the least bit lovely. If it did, we'd feel pressure to keep up whatever earned his love. But no, "if we are faithless, he remains faithful" (2 Timothy 2:13). He loves us forever. No payback needed. No conditions. No guilt trips. We are loved, period. 

And where that is believed, the heart is won." 

True obedience from the heart results from an overflow of love, not duty.

How lovely is Jesus to you? How lovely is He to your children?

"How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord of Hosts. I long and yearn for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God." Psalm 84:1-2



Saturday, September 17, 2016

A Yummy Illustration!

I have been working on my Sunday School lesson for tomorrow and came across this fantastic illustration:
"Ask the children if they have ever helped bake a cake. There are a lot of ingredients that go into making a cake, but if you were to eat salt, vanilla extract, or oil by themselves they would probably not taste yummy. But if you don't put them into a cake, it will not taste the way it should. Obedience is like this. Sometimes we are asked to do things that, by themselves, don't seem to make sense. But we must be obedient and follow all the directions that God and our parents give us. In the end, we will see that is was for our good." *
I don't know about you, but this is not just something for our kids to hear...we need to hear it, too!
God calls us to faithful obedience as we trust His Word and His character...even when we can't see or do not understand the circumstance He has put us in or what He is calling us to do. 
What a blessing that God has given us a plethora of Biblical examples of men and women, a great cloud of witnesses as Hebrews 12:1 tells us, who were called to obey even though it did not make sense to them:
Abraham and Isaac
Joshua and Jericho
Gideon and the 300 men for battle
Ruth with Boaz
Jonah and Nineveh
Elijah and the alter with the prophets of Baal....to name a few.
Their obedience was not predicated on WHAT the knew but WHO they knew. What hope and encouragement they give to our weary hearts as we seek to faithfully fix our eyes on the Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith. He, too, faced the bitterness of the cross, the beatings, the scorn, and, ultimately, the wrath of His Father God, for the joy and sweetness of redeeming a people for Himself.
Much to think on, much to rejoice in!
Tomorrow, my Sunday School kids will taste salt and flour, by themselves, and the looks on their faces just might be picture-worthy. But they will also taste the results of those, and other ingredients, mixed together to form a yummy cake. My prayer is that they (along with the rest of us) will begin to grasp the beauty of God's sovereignty in all of life's events and begin to see the sweet blessing and fruit that comes out of faithful obedience to the One who is forever and always faithful! 
"We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
"Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely. And may your spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it." I Thess. 5:23-24
*Generations of Grace