A must-read: Designed for Joy

  Jump on over to desiringgod.org and download this for free here
As I seek to walk joyfully as a woman designed by God, I am encouraged by the words of these men and women. I am pointed to what the Bible teaches concerning my role as a woman rather than our culture’s skewed views. And to think that it is far from a drudgery to be who I am meant to be…it is a joy! 

Encouragement for Mothers TODAY

Every single day of being a mother thus far I have found the need for grace  to live up to my calling. In this episode of Ask Pastor John, Paul Tripp provides two overarching goals in parenting that leave me with a heart of urgency and determination. I am encouraged to demonstrate the good, freeing authority of God to our children while using every opportunity to enlighten them to God’s mysteries in Christ. Take a listen!

What Is the Daily Aim of Parenting? (Episode 627; Tripp) #askpastorjohn

http://soundcloud.com/askpastorjohn/what-is-the-daily-aim-of-parenting-episode-627-tripp

The Real Problem Is Far Deeper

“But all stories, including self-deprecating humor and amusing little blog anecdotes, have theological implications. As Christians, our current obsession with brokenness may have us getting a little too comfortable with a life defined by often-petty imperfections.”…“That dinner-time-grocery-store-decorating disaster is not the whole story. In our blog posts, as in our whole lives, it is more of Christ that we need. Christ who died for sins, Christ who perfectly sympathizes with us along the way, and Christ who makes us more like him.” -Megan Hill, Christianity Today

  

I recently read this article by Megan Hill that opened my eyes to how being “real” and “authentic” has much deeper implications than we as believers (I myself) often allude to in our blogs, texts, emails, and conversations.

Yes, life is full of chaotic instances. From laundry overloads to falling short of the diets we wish our children to follow and so on. But it is so true that the real chaos is in our hearts. Our sin and the residue of the fall in our home and in our hearts are the matters of life that should make us shudder. I realize that it downplays grace to act as though our most dire needs for it are found in momentary messiness and non-eternal thoughts. Yes, our God is interested in every moment of our lives and we desperately need to draw upon his grace and seek his promises throughout our days. But let us (let me!) be quick to look into the depths of our hearts rather than the surface. And let us not try to elevate our failures and give way to any type of consolation for others in their sin. We are merely recipients of grace. We must elevate and point other mothers to the High Priest. 

“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation)
he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:11-12).

I’ve been in numerous small groups where “being real” consisted of stating personal sin flat out and not being ashamed of it before other believers. I get that and I’m not trying to criticize transparency by any means. My fear is that we stop there. We get the shame and guilt off our chests but we don’t do the necessary work of mortifying our sin. There is also a reciprocal role we should play in the lives of those we are confessing sin to. I must follow-up with my brothers and sisters in the faith. Grace is far too costly. 

I want to look beneath the surface. Beneath the dishes, diapers, and bills we need to look for and put to death sin. Our cravings for accolades from other people, our lacking care to know God more, our addictions to social platforms, our unbelief, and the list goes on. I second what Megan Hill states in her article: 

“If we are constantly looking for someone else who is broken in all the same places, we overlook the comfort we can have in the perfect God-man.”

When we see the measure of our sin and realize who we are sinning against, the allure of boasting in our failings and stopping there loses it’s comfort. It’s God alone that we need to be reconciled to and it is God alone that bought us as his own possession- that we may find joy in his strength and power when ours is forever lacking.

A few questions I’m left with to evaluate my heart: 

Do I find comfort in knowing others are struggling and sinning like me? Why is Christ not enough to comfort me as I deal with my failings? 

Jesus really “gets me” though he knew no sin. That truth must resonate in our hearts loud enough to silence the lies that keep us stopping and finding comfort in others that are, like us, well-acquainted with sin. 

Here’s a book that I highly recommend to all Christians:  

Overcoming Sin And Temptation: Three Classic Works by John Owen (edited by Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor)

John Owen gives the following directions on dealing with sin: 

“Set faith at work on Christ for the killing of your sin. His blood is the great sovereign remedy for sin-sick souls. Live in this, and you will die a conquerer; yea, you will, through the good providence of God, live to see your lust dead at your feet.”

Though it’s difficult to read, it’s surely worth your while. 

My husband and I recently listened to this Ask Pastor John episode, and it nudged us all the more to run to Jesus, the Godman, because though he knows not the battle personally of indwelling sin (he wouldn’t be God if he did), he knows the price and paid it for his people. I encourage you to take a listen: 

Can Jesus Really Understand My Temptations? (Episode 592) #askpastorjohn

http://soundcloud.com/askpastorjohn/can-jesus-really-understand-my-temptations-episode-592

Run to Jesus. 

Unruffled Mothering

 One of the sweetest things in the world while mothering little ones is to feel them relax completely in your arms. All tenseness relieved and mere trust in mama. There could have been a severe teething bout throughout the night or a tantrum of the most difficult kinds just minutes prior, yet all that is set aside. Just calmness envelops them.

“For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you” (Isaiah 41:13).

 Loosen up mamas, because we have Someone holding us as well. With faith in Jesus Christ, we can surely drop our shoulders, release the furrowed brow and rest. A gathering up of all our chaos takes place and we find ourselves possessed by God, hidden deep in his arms. Just as a child can find relief in our care so we can in God- the One that controls the entire universe and not one thing occurs out of his allowance. He is deeply concerned with our lives, even the mundane events. He is present through it all. 

Self-possession is defined as a “calm and self-assured command of one’s faculties, feelings, and behavior.” What a great thing, right? To have that inner serenity…great, awesome, sign me up! However, I would add that a mother experiences this solely through a God-possessed state first and foremost. Such a state is wrought in Christ alone. 

• “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14).

“For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one” (Hebrews 10:34).

• “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

I consider my tense days, how my worries lay heavy on me like a wool blanket in summer. Or the days when I’m all too aware of my weaknesses and they appear to be drowning me. Then I read Jesus’ promise: “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). 

We have received the Spirit of God through the saving work of Christ! There are countless verses in the New Testament that command us to walk in the Spirit. And there’s a reason. The Spirit stirs us up with the reality of the gospel, revealing sin and aiding in our weaknesses. 

“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied” (Acts 9:31).

•  But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

• “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3-4).

• “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. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).

• “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.  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 1:11-14).

Rather than self-possessed, we find ourselves God-possessed and God-aided. 

I am certain that we as mothers have our many uncollected hours. Flustered in the tasks and unable to shake the anxiety, we find ourselves in a state of despair. Agitated at the state of our homes, agitated at the state of our hearts in response to it, all we can see is the inner-ugly. Yet, the gloriousness of the gospel is its promise of never letting us down. That doesn’t mean that we will always have a sense of serenity in this life.  A broken, sinful world filled with broken, sinful people (including us) simply won’t allow it.

Rather than a how-to, I present a go-to. There is a place of refuge that we can forever run to. We can take our problems there and find the One that holds all the offices we are unable to hold. One that sat as the Judge, condemning his Only Begotten Son, adopting us as his own, and scooping us up in his arms and holding us. Amid the chaos, amid our sin, amid the inner-ugly that beats us down, God the Father holds us in his arms. Fully sovereign, fully able, and fully loving us through Christ. None of our difficulties are outside of his knowledge. 

We can rest there unruffled

The gospel of Jesus Christ is our go-to reality every single day. There’s a reason we must bring ourselves back to the cross on a daily basis.  We are not yet perfected. We are being made holy. This process of sanctification is going to be painful. Scripture defines it as so:

• A fight of faith – “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12); “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

• An eternal race – “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” (1 Corinthians 9:24); “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

Just this morning I stood at the back door with my son, watching as a procession of clouds left the sunlight only appearing in segments. I find the need to be a light-seeker, making it my joyful task to look for “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6b) even while the clouds are passing. While I was weak, God acted on my behalf and saved me. Light pierced the darkness once and for all in my heart. That reality changes everything. The darkness shall not overcome me. So when I’m mothering the little souls in our household, I go to the gospel. When a stomach bug plagues the oldest and the youngest is teething (this mama’s head spinning) I go to the gospel and find myself held by God. Purchased by God. Loved by God. 

 Through all our un-possessing, God has taken possession of us. And this taking-up of a child by God cannot be thwarted. The transaction to purchase us for Himself was that of his own Son- beaten, bruise, forsaken. How could we ever believe that God is not holding us still, through all the messiness of this life?

He is indeed. We can stay unruffled in his arms…even minutes after our mommy tantrum or bout of frustration and feelings of inadequacy throughout the night.

 

  

  

Not Just Another DIY

 {DIY} /do-it-yourself/

From painting to distressing to pallet art to you name it, I love crafting. That doesn’t mean that I’m especially talented at it, but I find plenty of joy in doing it. Pinterest has made DIY projects a craze, and boy am I glad to have a plethora of resources out there to fit my liking! But there’s this terrible temptation to make motherhood a DIY project too, and for that, I can sometimes find myself in a poor state. 

Motherhood is this really messy, at times exhausting, joy-enhancing, hug-filled, sin-revealing call from God to invest our life in souls he has given us for his glory. It’s a privilege. There’s no room for DIY in that (or any area of life for that matter). But fact of the matter is, there’s this huge temptation for it. We are bent towards self-reliance. 

There’s just not a plausible formula out there to do it right…by ourselves. There’s no self-motivating activity that can muster strength for mothering because let’s be honest- we all have our mommy meltdowns, mommy guilt, etc. and the big gut-wrenching reality is that we will keep having them. Thus, mothers must find a well to draw strength from that will last through all the diaper blow-outs and potty-training woes. 

Over the past four years that Josh and I have been in small groups with other believers, a reoccurring question has surfaced in my heart: 

Who am I fooling? 

I can try and paint my life to be this way and when someone looks at it from just the right angle they could get a false impression. I don’t have this marriage thing down. I don’t have this motherhood thing down. And frankly, I don’t know who does because we are all in desperate need of grace to be images of Jesus to our children and those around us. 

I recently read a post concerning the many sayings people believe are from the Bible that actually are not. The old adage that “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” couldn’t be more unbiblical. He does. God isn’t sitting back waiting for us to be in utter peril so that he can swoop in and help. We are already in that peril due to our fallen nature. Our actions push God away and our mouths reject him. It is the sheer grace of God to reveal the gospel of Jesus Christ to us, providing saving faith that we are unable to muster on our own. Even after the point of salvation, we continuously face circumstances and sin problems that we are unable to go up against. I love the old hymn “I Need Thee Every Hour.” The refrain often finds a sweet place in my chaos: 

I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

We literally need God constantly. God wants us to come to him for everything. EVERYTHING. Especially when it comes to his little ones. 

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God”  (Psalms 20:7).

“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9).

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).

My heart moves in and out of faithfulness, and I am tempted to work outside of the power of God which ends in soul devastation. But it’s a necessity to make reliance on God our heart’s posture. These children given to us are souls we are to be shepherding. To think that we, in all our sinfulness, can do it ourselves is silly. Stop trying. I am certain that what Jesus has done for us is surely enough. 

This passage describes the situation of our souls and what God has done, full of love and grace, to save us from ourselves in Christ: 

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-10).

When I consider this reality, trying to be a mother with my own strength seems pretty foolish. That’s because it is. I have to fix my mind each morning on the joy and strength I have in Jesus to accomplish the tasks God has given me. When the piles of folded laundry get “sorted” by a helping toddler or an expected nap never happened because of a teething baby, it’s okay because I’m not in this motherhood thing alone. God cares about all the daily things that I encounter. And he cares about yours as well. They aren’t silly and unimportant. You aren’t expected to just grit your teeth and get through it. What we are expected to do is this: 

Through all the uncertainties and inabilities we have while mothering our children, God has none. Edward Payson provides such a clear description of what our role truly is: 

“The first thing implied in educating children for God is a realizing, heartfelt conviction that they are His property, His children, rather than ours.” 

And there we have it. We are simply given gifts to uphold as sacred, belonging to God, and invest our lives in counting on Christ’s finished work rather than any vain attempts of our own. What a relief. 

He Will Act {The Sovereign Hand of God in the Life of Ruth}

“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act” (Psalms 37:5).

The book of Ruth has always amazed me. Within it we find deep implications for covenant love amid physical distress. Ruth is evidence that waiting upon the Lord, trusting in his sovereignty, is not a standstill; but rather, it is a place of refuge and hope. Ruth is a beautiful example of what Psalm 37:5 looks like in the flesh. This acrostic wisdom psalm details how the patient heart that hopes in God will not be disappointed. Underneath the worst circumstances, God was acting for his people…for Ruth. 

Some background information: Naomi and her husband, Elimelech of Bethlehem, go to the country of Moab due to a famine in their land. Elimelech dies and their two sons marry Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. The two sons then die as well, leaving Naomi with no immediate familial aid. 

Naomi entreats her daughters-in-law to return to their people. She basically tells them that she is hopeless for them. She couldn’t provide them with children. God’s hand was against her she perceived. Ruth’s response is extraordinary:

“But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you” (Ruth 1:16-17).

Ruth bound herself by an oath not only to Naomi but to The Lord. She made it clear that she was willing to stick around until death parted them. I cannot imagine how difficult this must have been. Constantly being around the mother of her deceased husband, reminded of him each day…yet Ruth was apparently not guided by circumstances. She was guided by covenant love, no matter how long that kept her waiting for calm in the storm. 

Naomi wasn’t just being dramatic in 1:11-13. Life with her would be chock-full of difficult times. For Ruth, it meant going to Bethlehem with Naomi and leaving her people behind. This commitment was marked with uncertainty. Couldn’t she have returned to her people and remarried? Wouldn’t it have been easier to go back to Chemosh, the main Moabite god? All the what-ifs didn’t deter Ruth, however. She was willing. 

Her mother-in-law was grief stricken and not the ideal partner through this journey. In 1:20-21, they reach their destination and Naomi’s response to the people of Bethlehem is far from comforting. Call me Mara. That translates as bitter, which ironically is the opposite of Naomi which means pleasant. Who would want to enter into a foreign land, taking up the faith of your traveling elder, all to simply hear her exclaim that her God is actually against her? Utter confusion. Distress. The need to flee and do it quick. These would seem to be legitimate responses; however, they wouldn’t be evidence of covenant love. Ruth patiently remained.

Ruth then requests to glean in the fields of Boaz, one of the redeemers within Naomi’s family. In chapter 2, we see God sovereignly acting for Ruth as she stays committed to Naomi. The Lord was with Ruth as she patiently gleaned in the field of Boaz. I would imagine this work tedious and nerve-wrecking as one was gleaning for livelihood. Yet, Boaz takes notice of Ruth. He has heard of her faithfulness to Naomi. He ensures her that she is safe in his field and he will make sure that she is without need. Ruth worked diligently through the end of the barley and wheat harvests (2:23), remaining with her mother-in-law through her labor. God arranged these circumstances, yes for the individuals involved (revealing his faithfulness to Naomi though she assumed herself forsaken), but more than anything, to bring a Redeemer for more people than just Ruth and Naomi. 

Then we have Ruth approaching Boaz for marriage at the threshing floor. Guided by her mother-in-law’s instruction, Ruth presents herself to Boaz in the night- a daring act to say the least. She finds favor with Boaz who states that he would surely redeem her if the nearest redeemer does not do so. Ruth reports to Naomi who them responds, “wait my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today” (Ruth 3:18).

Patience. Breath in faith. God is acting



As the story continues to unfold, we see Boaz redeem Ruth. They wed and Ruth gives birth to a son. “Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him” (Ruth 4:14-15).

We truly see a “restorer of life” come from this bloodline. Not just Ruth’s immediate son, but Jesus (Matt. 1:5). God was present in all of that, acting in love and for his glory in Ruth’s immediate distress but also for the distress of all humanity.  He used a foreigner, a Moabite widow, to bring about the Messiah that would call people from every tribe and tongue unto himself. 

Through Ruth’s life, we see a patient daughter, setting her gaze on promise rather than instant gratification. We see Ruth personify a characteristic that is sparing in most: long-suffering. She didn’t wallow in the loss of her husband and believe that God had led her to a stalemate. She followed Naomi’s guidance and God acted. He did not forsake her. He was there through the waiting. He was working through the days of great grief, through the gleaning, through uncertainty. 

So with that, what does this all mean for us? Well, we are on this side of the Cross. We know what has occurred on our behalf. We read in the bible how God has acted for us in Christ. Our hope is in that. Our reward is in salvation and the promise of his return. We patiently wait in this earthly tent, making the promises of God pillars in life, and we wait…pressing on in all the mundane here and now, finding hope. Ruth shows that the things that just so happen to occur in our lives are part of a divine plan. Instead of coincidence, we see providence. We gain a theology of suffering, realizing that the Christian life is not marked by smooth-sailing. So when all of our expectations fall through, we are guided by covenant love instead. Just as God acted for Naomi and Ruth, he has acted and is acting for us. And unlike any earthly covenant, the one made with Jesus and his bride is unbreakable and unending.