Hopes for 2017 

With just a few days before the start of a new year, I encourage you to make accurate, God-pleasing resolutions filled with hope in God and not yourself, results for the glory of God and not your own, and expectations of abundant joy. As we spend the days before 2017 evaluating what hasn’t gone as planned this past year, maybe even the aspirations that turned to hogwash, don’t lose heart. As I formulate my booklist, fitness/health goals, a vision to enhance my communion with God through spiritual disciplines, and relational goals amongst my family and community, here are a few questions I’m asking myself:
1. Is this resolve to do better founded upon faith in God and hope in his sustaining grace through Christ or an attempt to stand before God on my own merit? 

Galatians 2:16 clearly tells us that “we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

2. Is this resolve due to proper evaluation of my heart and the lifestyle that flows from it or formed by the striving of others and hopes of being like them? 

3. Am I truly hoping to know God to a greater degree, increasing in likeness to Him, at his Word through this resolution, whatever it may be? 

We can share in Paul’s hope that he penned to the Philippians “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10).

4. Are my relational goals (marriage, children, covenant community, missions) steeped in hope to share my own soul and learn the soul of others or simply to better them to reduce conflict and see exterior modifications? 

Paul and Timothy’s tender soul-sharing to the Thessalonians provide for us a hope for the relationships in our lives: “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8).

5. Have I prayed for God to help me in these endeavors, not to simply be my aid (though surely my source of all strength to strive well) but my goal? 

He is surely the ability-giver, eternal channel, and the very treasure of all our laboring. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36).

And a few images that make my heart tingle  inside (the random donkey is from an amazing trip with my husband 😜) as I consider this past year and hope in God for the next: 

Keep Your Heart, Then Your Home

I was recently over at Desiring God blog sharing some thoughts on the necessary work of internal housekeeping. I find it to be true, day in and day out, that the Lord is faithful, certainly most willing and able, to aid us in our fight of faith. 

A clean home provides minimal joy in light of eternity because we know this world is passing away, and Christ has gone to prepare a home for us. Yet a frequently-tended heart provides eternal rewards that we cannot see fully in this lifetime, but can taste in part.

I shared a few thoughts on self-glory within our local churches over at Desiring God yesterday. What a real struggle for believers! Head over to DG to read some hope for the self-exalter.

The desire to be set apart is good and right only when it is found under the umbrella of grace, when we recognize that we are right before God only through the righteousness of his Son, and we are now set apart to bring praise to the glory of his grace in this world.

It is not wrong to desire to be influential with the glorious gospel of grace that has been entrusted to us. Gospel-loving hearts love sharing in the gracious privilege of being used in its advancement. But as we share, we must sift our hearts’ motives with the reality that we have been grafted into the household of God for this very purpose: to behold Christ the Son, not hoping to receive a measure of that glory for ourselves.

Creation Obeys Him

untitled-designA couple of years ago, my daughter stood in the backyard looking out upon the open field and exclaimed, “The leaves are dancing, Mama!” Her gleefulness resonated deep within my heart, displaying to me that creation obeys our Creator. The leaves turn from green to the most extraordinary hues of mustard and crimson, appearing as a blazing fire to the eyes. It is incredible to witness fall become fall each year. But above the appearance stands the reality: it occurs because God annually exercises his sovereign reign over creation. That is a sweet, sweet thing to behold.

I treasure this in fall especially because I am not sovereignly reigning over the happenings in my own life. With little children, the fall ensues many Sundays away from worship with our dearest fellow believers due to a virus here or a runny nose over there. It often appears as a pile of bedding in desperate need of de-germing before bedtime. Of course, when we are on the up-and-up, we enjoy bustling through the leaves, parks, picnics, and thrilling family outings.

An Unchanging God with an Unchanging Purpose

Now, as I mother, I am constantly in a season with sub-seasons. Growing babies, new milestones, names to be written, Bob books to be read. Our children are constantly changing. And God is present through this time of uncertainty with the certainty of who He is and what He has done.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”- Hebrews 13:8

This image for me, of fall submitting to its Maker, points to the greater reality. God is reconciling not only His creation that has been submitted to futility (Rom. 8:20), but He is bidding mankind, of all ages, to come to Him. The Giver of life has devised such an amazing Christ-exalting plan to reconcile His people back to Himself.

The obedience of the fall trees and leaves provide an image for me of constant, seemingly-but-not miniscule acts of obedience in my daily life. When the children require discipline, de-germing, admonishing, instruction, and so much more—it is not only when we are frolicking through the leaves with gladness. It is also when, and even more so, the tears of owies, tantrums, and scary ailments are real and present. It is even as my own heart hurts due to some form of sin or suffering. Miscarriage, loss of a loved, and the pressing reality of the wickedness and neediness of those around me—sin residue in myself— can fill my heart with deep sorrow. Yet Scripture promises something sweet to us.

“Those who sow in tears, will reap with shouts of joy!” – Psalm 126:5

Obedience is a Sure Sign of Our Faith

Our faith leads us to walk in a manner pleasing to the Lord. Our faith leads to obedience. If we are to please God in our obedience (Hebrews 11:6), we must believe that He is who He says He is and that His purposes and promises will come to pass, granting grace upon grace to His children all the while. Consider Noah. After being warned by God, he built a boat and separated himself from the stained world whose destruction was imminent. His faith led him to obey (Hebrews 11:7).

Every second of every day counts. It counts to be obedient to the Sovereign Lord that I have no good apart from (Psalm 16:2). It counts to ask forgiveness with tears as I sin against the ones I love. It counts to fight for joy and be in the Word and fight for time with the Lord all throughout my day.

I see the leaves preparing to fall; I am reminded of how my life is but a breadth. But it can count for something. I can sow in tears, working diligently in this world to point to the One that has come into the world to save sinners such as me. I can make it count. I see the glorious fall hues all along the road, so gently falling from their roots, and I plead with the Lord that I may exclaim how “the leaves are dancing!” knowing that I, even in my weakness, am striving in obedience. Not one falls without His call, and surely I can trust the One that demonstrates such power.

Obedience Marked by Gospel Hope

We run to things to make our ordinary seem much more special. We label ourselves as users of this or that, mothers who feed this or that, teach in this way or that, write for this blog or teach that class. All the supplements, coffee, grass-fed meats, and essential oils we use throughout our days help. But they aren’t the gospel. All of the secondary things we use to sustain us are not bad. They are hopeful means to a hopeful end. But the Risen Lord is our sure chief end. We can glorify and enjoy Him forever.

Rather than the go-tos we use as coping mechanisms to chaos, let us make Christ Jesus our go-to. The work of Christ in becoming man while remaining fully God, the perfect life lived, the death of deaths and glorious resurrection imputing His righteousness and justifying the unjust. With this glorious news, we can obey in freeing joy.

Consider and Obey—In Joy

My plea for me and you this fall is to consider.

This same-old-same-old season of motherhood is a good one. It is good in the sense that He is working all things together for the good of those that love Him (Rom. 8:28). It is good in the sense that the sowing in tears will reap joy, even if such joy is unseen on this side of eternity. So next time my days, maybe even yours, seem so outrageously ordinary and monotonous, consider the leaves. Consider who calls them, consider who changes them. But don’t stop there. Consider yourself. Consider who is changing us into His likeness. And he’s not done with us yet.

What’s the Goal of Our Union with Christ? (Episode 899) #askpastorjohn

Our identity in God- hidden in Christ (Col.3:3), a new creation, sons and daughters of God, perfect/loved/accepted by God- is, as John Piper so wonderfully articulates, a means to an end. The end is namely God himself and enjoying him fully. Take a listen!

http://soundcloud.com/askpastorjohn/whats-the-goal-of-our-union-with-christ-episode-899

We Are All Widows Anyway 


“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” -Luke 18:1-8

I love the parable of the persistent widow. I see myself and the rest of humanity in the same position as the widow, yet I also see something lacking in myself when compared to the widow. I am encouraged to be like her. Let me explain.

Our Position

Positionally, we are recipients of immeasurable grace (if we have called upon the name of the Lord for salvation), sinners saved though not yet glorified. We all, like the widow, are left for dead due to our state. We, outside of the faith given by God, have no source of provision, no way to survive. We need relief. We need justice. As it turns out, the justice needed is not in our favor. 

We are those born blind and lovers of darkness (John 3:19). As John Piper states in his new book, A Peculiar Glory, “We are not chained in a dark cell, longing to see the sunshine of God’s glory. We love the cell, because sin and Satan have deceived us into seeing the drawings on the wall as the true glory and the source of greatest pleasure. Our prison cell of darkness is not the bondage of external constraint but of internal preference. We have exchanged the glory of God for images (Rom. 1:23). We love them. That is our blindness.”

Yet, one man, one alone could acquit us. God. God, to the praise of his glorious grace, definitively planned for his Son, the only Begotten, to be delivered into the hands of sinful man, murdered, and then rose victorious over sin and death forever (Acts 2:23-24). It is that predetermined act of love that opens the eyes of our hearts to see the heinousness of those drawings on the wall that enticed us and turn our hearts to Christ- the very God-man, our mediating Savior.

Beg Gladly

We can now, needy and desperate widows, stand before our justifying Judge and rejoice in him knowing that he has indeed granted justice to his elect through the work of Christ. With such reality in mind, we have one continuous, joyful, necessary duty- commune with God daily and beg for his help. His ability is there always. His willingness is the same. Looking upon us clothed in Christ’s righteousness, he gives to us gladly. Thus, let us plead with him gladly, never losing heart for he who promised is faithful (Heb. 10:23).