Be careful to obey

First, I would like to say that my kids are gems. Anything that is wrong with them is my fault and anything right with them is all because of Jesus. 🙂 So the story begins…

We host a home church on Sundays and this morning (gasp!) it was actually cleaned with some time to spare before people started showing up! So off the kids went to sled in our backyard, which is out of earshot, and they took a watch with them, being told to be home at 11 a.m. sharp.

10:54 a.m. Abi walks up the back steps with the watch and no brothers.

Me~ “Abi, did you take the only watch they had so as to know what time it was?”

Abi ~ “Yes, I am sorry.”

Me ~ “Did you tell them it was close to time before you came back with the watch?”

Abi ~ “No, I am sorry.”

She had already taken all her snow clothes off, and was clad in bare feet and shorts. Now she had to get her boots back on and walk all the way back down to the sledding hill and call the boys in. They all got in at 11:02.

While she was gone calling them in, I was doing dishes and asking God about it. The point was not just that she forgot. What the Holy Spirit said to me was some of the best parenting advice I had ever heard:

Teach them to be “careful to obey”. 

We, as parents, must teach and discipline our children to be careful to obey us. There needs to be a healthy respect and urgency which, even when they are in the midst of having fun, causes them to remember to obey. My children should have a blast riding down that sledding hill! But in the back of their minds there should be the thought, “I wonder what time it is? I need to make sure that we are back when Mom told us we needed to be home.”

You see, I have been a little slack in this area of parenting recently. Important things that I have asked them to do are forgotten, or things are left half-done…because I have failed to diligently train them to be careful to obey. Completely. Quickly. Cheerfully. They are great kids, and I firmly believe this is my issue and I will do better. Lazy parenting does not honor God, and when our children are not properly trained~the buck stops with us as parents. It is not their fault that we yell. It is ours. If we aren’t willing to “train” them how to do something, then we have no right to get mad when they don’t do it our way, or even do it wrong. If we don’t follow through with making sure they have obeyed (and giving appropriate consequences when they don’t), then we can’t get upset at the lack of concern on their part to actually do what we say! There is a phrase I heard once which I really like. The woman challenged us to:

“Parent on your feet.”

Now, when they get older and start making adult decisions, and we change from being “obeyed” as parents to being “honored”, then my training job is (mostly) over. 😉 One day it will not be John and I that they obey…it will transfer to Jesus. How have I guided them into the joy of submission now? It will serve them well then. When they are on their own and following Jesus without our authority over them. But until then we have a job to do.

What came next to my mind was this question, “Oh God, where have I not been careful to obey You?”

I have children, but I am still His child. The same rules apply to me that I hope to instill and nurture in my children: namely, obedience to God. I am going to spend some time tonight in His presence, asking Him to reveal to me any way that I am not being careful to obey right now. Maybe there was something He told me to do a long time ago and I have failed to obey…maybe I have even forgotten! I trust Him to reveal it to me and I pray that, when it is revealed, I will be…careful to obey.

“…diligently listen to and obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to obey all of His commandments…” Deuteronomy 28:1

The Gift of Grace

My kids are making gingerbread houses together tonight. The frosting is ready, the candy out on the table…tin foil neatly rolled out and zip lock bags filled and snipped at the corner. As the walls went up (and fell) and went up again (and fell again), I could hear the groans at the table.

“My walls broke!”

“I can’t make them stand up!”

To which I replied a story from something posted on Instagram today…

I will do a poor paraphrase:

A famous concert violinist was playing. He broke a string at the start of his recital. He did not stop to restring but instead continued with the whole concert playing on a less-than-par instrument. At the end he said this, “Sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can make with what you have left.” -Itzhak Pearlman

I read this inspirational story to my kids and away they kept working. I thought about what John and I are teaching them. Teaching them to persevere when it seems as though the task is not working. Endurance when the thing in front of them is hard and requires energy and concentration. All of which are valuable, valuable lessons.

A few short minutes later I was so blessed when Abi called out into the living room from the kitchen table, “Mom, my house fell down, so now I am making a garden!”

Oh the joy!

Yes, dear one. Yes. Make something beautiful. The Heavenly Artist does the same. We sin. We fall. He just keeps creating goodness out of it. We stumble. We “fail”. He adjusts His palette and washes over the mistakes with His beautiful skill of making beauty from ashes.

Don’t be afraid of the fall. Be afraid of the hardness of heart that comes when we don’t confess and repent. Cry out! Repent! Oh God, turn our “fallen walls” into “gardens” of beauty and creativity that dazzles the devil and causes him to stagger and your people to rejoice with all we are! Let His grace wash over you this season. Take tomorrow as a separate day from yesterday. Accept His mercy and let Him build something creative and wonderful…even if it was a mess that you made. He is faithful when we are faithless…this is the God that we serve. So don’t give up on His mercy and endless grace~He has not given up on you. He can rebuild the walls that have fallen, the pieces that have not stuck the way you wanted them too…all are in His hands to restore. Christmas is just the right season to realize and receive this great gift. This gift of Grace. And the cross of Jesus Christ won it all for us.

Blessed are you

Matthew 16:17

“Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee; but My Father which is in heaven.”

There are things of God that are not revealed to us by flesh and blood, but only by His Holy Spirit. Glean much from teachers of the Word, from prophets who hear from God, but do not neglect going to the Father, through His Word, to receive directly from Him.

“Blessed are you…”

Happy are we when we have been wholly in the presence of God, listening to what He longs to reveal to us about Christ, in Whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge dwell!

Blessed are the we who know the joyful sound of our Bridegroom’s voice – revealing heavenly things to our souls!

These awesome, spirit-refreshing revelations are not always from flesh and blood – but from the Spirit of the Living God Himself. Let’s enter into the Holy of Holies and receive what God longs to give each of us directly. Seek the Lord today and ask Him to reveal something to you that you could only receive from your Father in heaven!

Look at Me

We cannot have true intimacy with something we refuse to gaze intentionally at. Until all our faculties are yielded and we have found ourselves face to face with our Savior, we are living only in the shadows of His presence. Oh, He can be near. We may even be close enough to hear His voice…but are the eyes of our hearts looking at Him? Inability to look into His eyes is not because of lack of love or compassion on His part~it is a matter of shame or laziness on ours which is all the more reason to look at Him. For there, our oneness is realized, our sins are revealed and forgiven, our laziness cast down by the eyes that burn like fire for us.

It is easy to hear someone teach about Him; it is the much harder thing to press through the crowds of our thoughts and distractions to actually find ourselves alone with our Lord. Alone long enough to really gaze upon each other. This wrestling is worth our struggle, it is worth every ounce of strength that we’ve got for there~only there~will we truly cry, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? The earth has nothing I desire besides Thee!” Psalm 73:25

Maybe you have also heard it said, “Seek God’s face, not just His hand.” He has eternal pleasures in His right hand, yes. All of which are delights to our souls. But O, to see His face…I am sure our many fears would melt away. The chains of our shame broken, and our first Love rekindled. Look upon Him closely beloved. Let His gaze not scare the humble and pure of heart. Do not turn away though He can look right through your eyes into your soul…invite Him there. Go again to your secret place with Jesus and I pray His eyes full of love will be the first thing you see.

“As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.” Psalm 17:15

Ephraim

“And the name of the second child he called Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” Genesis 41:52

Have we looked for the little miracles of God in the land of our affliction? Do we see how it, when we allow it to have its work, produces the fruit of righteousness in our lives?

Are you more patient with the timing of God?

Do things that caused you angst last year, cause a faith to rise up in you today?

Beloved, God did these things in us ~ in the “land of our affliction.” That is where Joseph learned all that he needed to know before being put second in command to save an entire nation of people. He stayed faithful and God blessed him for it. In fact, Joseph remained so faithful and so submissive to God’s plan that he could actually praise Him by naming his son something that would cause him to remember this truth for the rest of his life.

Joseph would look at his son, call his name, and remember “even in my land of affliction…even here…God has caused me to be fruitful.” But we are not looking first for a change of circumstance (although I believe with all my heart we can pray hard for such things), but we are looking first for the fruit that comes from surrendering to God in our affliction. The peace and rest and maturity that can come, sometimes ONLY come, from that bittersweet land.

Ask the Lord to show you your Ephraim today. That truth which you have learned that you can mark and remember. It will be your Ephraim reminder that even in our land of affliction…God is changing us.

“If You Are…”

Matthew 4:1-11

The wilderness seasons of our lives can be filled with the largest of temptations and some of the most difficult trials. Along with those, it affords the most barren landscape and may even make us feel “fruitless” in our walk with Jesus for a time. Yet it is there that our biggest battles may be fought and won; our greatest growth and maturity may be obtained in those desert places.

When Jesus was baptized to fulfill all righteousness and then came up out of the water to that glorious moment where the God the Father and God the Holy Spirit acknowledged God the Son, He was straightaway led into the wilderness. By the Holy Spirit. Meaning He was exactly where He was supposed to be. This time of testing in the wilderness was God’s will for Him.

You and I, in our bleakest moments of testing, may be exactly where we are supposed to be~even though we may want to wrestle out of it however we can. Those are the places where we need to just sit patiently under what God is doing, cry out to Him, and cling to Him~until the calamity passes by. Now Jesus was led to the wilderness for the purpose of being tempted. God does not tempt us, satan does. God gives us an out when we are tempted (see 1 Corinthians 10:13) and the strength to bear up under it. Yet we know from other Scriptures (namely Job) that God can allow satan access to us (though never beyond what we can bear).

So here we find our Savior. He is facing His foremost enemy being not only fully God, but fully man. Tired, hungry, dirty…..He had been in the wilderness for 40 days when His tempter came to Him at His weakest moment. What struck me differently yesterday were these words which satan mentioned before the first two temptations he had schemed for our Friend.

“If You are the Son of God…..”

This is the first of the temptations. Not, “command these stones to become bread,” but

“Are you really who God says you are?”

I wonder how many times we have given in to the temptation of the enemy in this area? How much fear and depression we have sat under…..because our minds gave just an inch of credence to one of these doubts?

Are you really forgiven?

Are you really saved?

Is your past really covered?

Is God’s grace really limitless for the repentant?

Are you really God’s child?

Do you really bring God pleasure?

These questions are at the root of who we are. If we are really saved and have confessed with our mouths that we need the sacrifice of Jesus to cover our sin~then we really are forgiven. 100%. Now and forever. Sins we committed 30 years ago and sins we will commit 30 years from now are all covered by His blood. Our account was paid in full, once on that cross, and for all time.

When we respond to God’s Word in faith, He is pleased with us. Period. Believe it until you feel it.

Believers in Jesus are adopted into God’s forever family.

“But as many as received Him (Jesus),

to them He gave the right to become children of God,

even to those who believe in His name…” John 1:12

What doubt has the enemy thrown into your mind? That you are not really loved by God? That the sin you committed just this morning isn’t covered again by His grace even though you have repented? He desires truth and holiness in our inmost parts and the discipline that we receive for our sin is not His eternal displeasure~it is His Fatherly love that chastens us to walk the narrow path of righteousness. Who you are is not at stake, the intimate fellowship with Jesus is.

Maybe you feel that you are not really His child though you have put your faith in Jesus over and over. It is only His Word that stands firm in the heavens and will never change. And His Word says you are saved. You are His child. The only “work” you have to do to gain this spot in heaven is believe. Simple as that.

Our enemy is deceitful. He can put our souls (our thoughts and emotions) in hell by trying to get us to doubt the very truths of who we are in Christ.

Forgiven

His Children

Beloved

Secure

Righteous

Holy

A Royal Priesthood

Friend

Jesus’ brothers and sisters

Called

Chosen

Ministers

Ambassadors

Gifted

Saints

Fruitful

The apple of His eye

Co-heirs

Eternally His.

So when the enemy comes at you saying, “If you are…” You get the Word of God as your sword and say, “No devil. I am…”

For the love of one…

There may be in us a great longing for doing great things and those longings are God-given. We read the Scriptures and see the amazing boldness of the disciples of the first century church. We read the books handed down through the centuries of people like Amy Carmichael, John Bunyan, Andrew Murray, and Corrie Ten Boom and something gets stirred up in us. We want to know that our lives are being spent for the Kingdom of God and for the cause of Christ in a way that makes a difference.

I have lofty goals of how I want to be used by God. I believe they are in alignment with what He has asked me to do. But I will admit that my heart has, in the past few years, come to beat the most passionately for the “one”. The one person that I can walk with ~ one that I may be just a few steps ahead of in the faith ~ and mentor them with all I have to offer until I have offered all I have. The Apostle Paul did this. He would stay with some groups of Christians for a few weeks…some he would stay with for a few years. Until he felt released to move on; until he declared to them the whole counsel of God; he would not leave their side. He mentored them until they were walking steadily on their own.

Have you someone you are mentoring? Is there one who comes to mind who is hungry for more of God and just a few steps behind you in the faith? Maybe it is someone from your last Bible study that you just sensed really wanted fellowship. Someone who really wanted to go deeper in their relationship with God and others. Might you be just the person to take them under your wing, so to speak, and give them all you’ve got to offer from the storehouse of what God has deposited into you? The love for the “one” is something caught when you watch someone blossom from “new in the faith” to being used in other’s lives…all because you were available to live life alongside them for a while. If someone came to mind, pray and ask God for an open door to begin a more intentional relationship of mentorship with them.

Relationships are as deep as the time and vulnerability afforded to make them so. There is someone who needs what you have to offer as a follower of Jesus. There is something you need from that someone too. What I have seen take place in myself and the people who God has placed around me (and some as a mentor over) eclipses the desire to “do great things” in the way I used to think of them. The love for the one is the greater thing.

I first called this blog “A Leader’s Love” because my heart goes out to those who lead and desire to be used of God in such a way that the passion for the “one” may be overshadowed by the passion for the masses. There is absolutely a time and place for larger group Bible studies and corporate prayer and worship. I teach and participate in each of these on a regular basis. Yet, I would have to guess that if the disciples could look back over what changed them the most (after the resurrection when they really got it!), it would have to be the fact that they practically lived with Jesus for three years. That was it. Just being around someone filled with the Holy Spirit is bound to have an impact on a thirsty soul after a while. They watched Him do life. (Yes, perfectly, I might add.) 😉 They listened to Him speak. (And He only spoke what the Father told Him to.) They watched Him die, marred more than any man…for their sins. Then they saw Him alive again! Hallelujah! But how do you think they modeled the way they did life after that?

They modeled what they saw in Jesus.

Someone needs to have you model your walk with Christ to them. Let them into your life; ask them if you may come into theirs. I guarantee both of you will be changed. But mentoring is not for the faint of heart. There will be ups and downs (just read the Gospels!); there will be the mundane and then the excitement of something new you each are learning…but all is necessary. All the small will add up to something beautiful when you leave the 99 and go after the 1.

 

 

Frail

Some days I feel so strong.

Some days I dive like a little girl into the shadow of His wings.

My emotions can fight to take over my faith. My circumstances can press me to lose my joy. But I bury my face in my Savior’s lap and He counts my every tear. I consciously choose to fight back so my wild thoughts don’t get a foothold. I go to God’s Word searching for peace and a word to stand on in the midst of my battle. When I don’t find it right away, I come back again…and again.

I will not give up.

If I seek Him, I will find Him~when I seek Him with all my heart.

Even in the midst of great joy there can be sorrow. Yet no ounce of our pain is unnoticed or brushed off by our God. Others should not have the burden of trying to understand every nuance of attack against us although there is a time to join shields and have each other’s backs. Sometimes He is the only One to Whom you can go…and He is enough.

He is a refuge of continual hiding; He is our strength when the battle is long. He is the Rock when we are still waiting for an answer; He satisfies in deep disappointment.

Run under His wings! Let His feathers shelter you and bring you close. You are not meant to face everything head-on. This may be one to just collapse in His arms and let Him fight for you. So wait, I say, wait upon the Lord. Your enemy may be too strong for you right now. Hide in Him. Shield your heart…cover your ears to the lies. He will rise up and take up your case. You will see, with satisfaction, your enemy as His footstool~and your enemy is not flesh and blood.

In the moments of strength, wield your sword and swing it with all you’ve got. But there is no shame in running into the Strong Tower of Jesus when you feel frail. No shame. Run into Him and be saved from the battle waging outside. You will once again stand strong. Joy will once again be yours and the sound of praise will again be on your lips.

Stay and watch the salvation of the Lord on your behalf as you call upon Him.

I Quit

I quit my job today.

I no longer want to be under a boss that I can never measure up to.

One with a task list that I can never seem to meet.

A boss who doesn’t seem to notice the things that get done, but never ceases to remind me of the things left to do.

A boss that never gives me a break, makes me feel guilty for not working even when I am dead-dog tired, and tells me rest is selfish.

It’s the boss who compares me to others, who makes me forget people are more important than projects, and pushes for the “bottom line” instead of character.

I quit the tenuous task of trying to measure up. Of trying to be one step ahead. Of trying not to be discouraged when something I poured my heart into turns out to be too late. Too small…not enough.

The Bible says I cannot serve two masters. That I will hate the one and love the other. I think I have strayed from the Master I love and somehow started working for the master that I hate.

If Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light,” then surely He meant it. Surely it’s true. Maybe I just didn’t realize who I had started working for. Cause this yoke is not easy and this burden is not light. So, today, I quit.

I work for Jesus now.

The Hurt and Blessing of Pruning

The Father never prunes haphazardly. Use great consideration to note the things that seem especially painful to you right now…those things which seem to crop up regularly. Branches (“things”) that are especially rooted in us take more than a tug to remove.  Some branches must be sawn-off. They are heavy life-suckers, taking essential nutrients from the fruit production of the main branches.  These are things that need to be removed from our character and likewise from our relationships. They hinder the purity of Christ that He longs to exhibit in us. True husbandmen only do that which is best for the fruit production of the tree; how much more careful our Heavenly Father with the things that He longs to see removed from our lives! All pruning is for our good and our fruitfulness! Lay down submissively under the skillful hands of the One Who loves us so deeply…so deeply that He doesn’t allow the life-sucking sins of useless “branches” to remain.

Could it be a relationship that has been lacking fruit for a long time? Is it taking the time, energy, and resources that should be directed towards something more fruitful in the Kingdom? I am, of course, not talking about a place where you know the Lord has called you to. Those hard places and relationships just may be the very catalyst for our growth, but the relationships I am speaking of are not backed with God’s grace and power in us, instead they seem to drain that life out of us. Remember that even Jesus let people walk away. He set His standard, His requirements, and did not coddle them. He did not try to appease them into the kingdom. He was saddened (deeper than we realize) that the relationship would not be what God intended it to be, but He wasn’t willing to stay and have it be fruitless either.

Or could it be a mountain that, like the Israelites, you feel like you keep going round and round? Is it because, deep down, you are not humbling yourself about that thing that keeps getting brought up to you? So much grace comes with humility! So much fruitfulness comes with repentance! God wants that bad habit gone and pruning stimulates growth. Period.

John cut back two old apple trees so much so that I couldn’t believe it after I saw them. He did it at the beginning of spring when everyone tells you not to, and cut every single branch that did not shoot off of the main three branches. It looked pitiful. Barren. Dead for sure.

Three months later, just tonight, he said, “Let’s go see that apple tree that I supposedly killed and see if it survived.” (Just a hint of teasing in his voice.)

Of course it had not. The leaves are deep, deep green. The new growth is stronger than ever and all the little “suckers” that were growing were they did not belong, have been picked off as needed. That tree is old and was probably on its last leg. But with some covering at its base along with the major pruning job ~ it seems to be coming back to life.

To repeat what the Lord reminded me of tonight in the little orchard, is that He is never haphazard when He prunes. He carefully examines us each and every day, leaving things to see if they will be fruitful and making the choice to cut off where He sees a branch that is not helping. Why don’t we just take the branch off and give it willingly? 🙂 Regardless of how it feels, we must ~ we must ~ renew our minds with the truths that God loves us or He wouldn’t be doing it, and it will only make us more fruitful in another area of our lives. This is maturity. When we lay it down. When we allow it to be cut off because, in faith, we see the greater harvest coming.