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: 

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.

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.