“You don’t have to bow to your feelings.” Sounds pretty simple, right? My emotions have a place, and rightly so, God made us to be feeling creatures, but emotions shouldn’t have the final say about what is true in a situation. God, in his severe mercy, has given me a number of opportunities to practice this lately. As the waves keep crashing, I keep grabbing the opportunities, though sometimes not very well, to sink into the truth.
I have been thinking about this analogy of being a racquetball court instead of a sponge. I think somewhere along the way I got this idea from the book, Loving the Little Years, by Rachel Jankovich. For me, being a racquetball court and not a sponge means I don’t have to absorb other’s emotions around me and take them all in. When I absorb the emotions of my kids, for instance, I become enslaved to them. Or if I absorb the frustrations of others, I think I must “fix it”. Rather, the wall of the racquetball court feels the hit, the sting even, of the ball, yet it lets it go.
If I am a sponge with my kids, it means that when they are happy, I am happy. When they are mad, I am mad. When they are scared, I am scared. We can logically see how this is not helpful when we take a step back. Thankfully, God is not like this with us – taking on our emotions, being changed by them, and responding in kind. Yes, He weeps with those who weep and clearly and vividly displays emotion! Yet, He is not controlled by other’s emotions or His own.
You may not identify with this at all – I am a “2” on the enneagram whose core words are love, approval, helper, and feeler. In some way though, we all absorb the emotions of others or follow our own hearts and feelings. Most people can identify with being trapped in the endless cycle of feel – act – feel – act. 1 Peter 5:7 reminds us to cast all our anxieties on Jesus because he cares for us. I imagine throwing emotion onto Jesus, knowing He can handle it, and asking Him to lead me in the truth, then bowing in submission to that truth, not bowing to my ever-changing emotion.
In his phenomenal book, A Loving Life, Paul Miller says this about Naomi as we see her at the beginning of the book of Ruth,
“Naomi neither suppresses her feelings nor is trapped by them. She didn’t have to act on her feelings. She felt anguish, yet she was free from the tyranny of her feelings…if we follow (our feelings) we become trapped by them.”
Naomi is dealing with great pain and anguish – and most of her anguish comes because she trusts that God is Sovereign and good, but she can’t see it in her circumstance.
There is something liberating about not being trapped in our feelings; being able to feel and lament and love deeply – yes! – but not having to act on every emotion that rears its head up. Satan may prowl around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour – whether through internal suppressed emotion, or explosive words, or anything else, but the truth is: Jesus IS the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Jesus is the Lion. While Satan prowls like a lion, his power is limited by the power of the true Lion – the eternal King.
As I was driving to pick up my kids from school this week, I was in the midst of “knife fighting with the devil” as my husband lovingly says, internally fighting between my flesh-driven instincts and thoughts (the barbarians roaming the streets of my mind), OR looking up to Jesus, attempting to sing and proclaim THE truth louder than the thoughts in my mind, and this worship song by Phil Wickham came on leading me to worship and to the truth of freedom in Christ:
“Out of the silence, the roaring Lion declared
The grave has NO claim on me!
Hallelujah! Praise the one who set me free.
Hallelujah! Death has lost it’s grip on me.
You have broken every chain!
There’s salvation in your name – Jesus Christ – my Living Hope.”
This King has delivered us from the tyranny of ourselves if we belong to Him. We are not held hostage by emotions, or our past, or our sin. We are filled with and empowered by the Spirit to kick out the lies, for me, it’s the fake conversations I’m having with others in my mind, particularly if I’ve been hurt or am angry. We can replace these with the truth:
My Father is in charge.
There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.
All power belongs to God.
The Lord has delivered me from myself; the Lord IS delivering me from myself. All I have to do fall into dependence on and look up instead of down, planning my response in my own strength by staring intently at the circumstance.
Submitting to the Lord and leaning into him instead of our natural flesh driven responses, having to wait and trust, can lead us into sweet moments of worship. Even the sins of others, or choices of others, are allowed by God to impact me because it drives me to Him in dependence which becomes a sweet opportunity for growth and sanctification.
This is soul work. This is good work. And it’s also a knife fight with the devil.
But Jesus has won and will win finally and fully.
“For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great.” Psalm 25:11
I’ve done more personal posts lately, but today I want to dive deep into a spring of theological truth that is thirst-quenching, life-giving, and crucial to our life with Jesus. It changes our everyday outlook on life.
It is this:
Christian, He has pardoned you for His name’s sake. Not for your name’s sake. Not only is He faithful to pardon us, because He cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13), but He is Just. Have you thought about how it is God’s justice that secures your forgiveness?
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to cleanse us for all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Jesus bore the weight of all our sin on the cross; therefore, it would not be just to Jesus if our current sins were left under the crushing weight of the law and of guilt.
Even David, looking forward to Christ, was able to walk in the foretold, coming faithfulness of Christ:
“Prove me O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind. For your steadfast love is ever before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.” (Psalm 26: 2-3)
It’s a reminder we don’t walk in our own faithfulness. We are not saved by our own goodness. If we were, then we would be living by the flesh – as if my own penance and guilt could make a way for my forgiveness! But, no! We have a great high priest who is seated at the right hand of God, always interceding for us. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
“Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is there to condemn us? For Christ Jesus, who dies, and more than that was raised to life, is at the right hand of God – and He is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:33-35)
Am I saying that “no one can speak to you about your sin or ask you hard questions?” Absolutely not! (Romans 6:1-4) Far from it! Because we KNOW that we are covered and hidden in Christ, that justice has been satisfied, we are free to walk in the light with others. We are free to struggle with our besetting sin. We are free to be courageous, bold, and even get things wrong.
For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, whose through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve a living God. (Hebrews 9:13-14)
I am proposing that often times we don’t live in a state of awareness of our sin and desperation enough. When we don’t live in that awareness, we think we can be our own savior. Even David said – “prove me and try me.” Because his hope was in the forthcoming justice of Christ, he could be honest about his sin, rather than hide it. A place of brokenness is the most beautiful place for us because we are relying on grace, justice, and our faithful high priest instead of ourselves.
How often do you carry around guilt for your sin, waiting until you “do better next time” to accept God’s forgiveness and Christ’s righteousness on your behalf? That’s a false gospel, friend!
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. O foolish Galatians! Who bewitched you? …Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Galatians 2:20-3:4)
You were once in a courtroom, and the Judge stepped down and called you his son or daughter because Christ’s righteousness speaks for you. Get out of the courtroom of your own making of fear, condemnation, and cursing. Because it is for freedom He has set you free – to proclaim the good news to the captives of His recusing, redeeming, steadfast, and just love. Christ did NOT die for nothing! His forgiveness over you, if you belong to Him, isn’t only merciful, but it is just – to Christ.
It’s not up to me to stay forgiven! It’s up to Him and since He has been proven faithful and just I get to live in and live out of the power of His just forgiveness!
I can’t save my kids.
I can’t change their hearts.
This, at first, strikes fear in me…but then, relief. As it settles down and I think upon the promises of God, my sin nature, my limits, and His omnipotence, I remember that I cannot produce lasting change. But, I know the One who CAN. And I carry my children to Him in prayer and in conversation day by day. I can’t change their hearts; which is a relief, because honestly? If it were all up to me, I would either become too all important or I would sink into a pit of despair. And probably both within the same hour.
But what I can do is sow generously.
In what has become one of my favorite passages, Mark 4:26-27, Jesus says that the farmer works hard scattering and planting seed on the ground, and as he sleeps and rises night and day, the seed eventually sprouts and grows, and he knows not how. But when the harvest comes, he is ready then too. He doesn’t cause the rain or the sun – there are more things out of his control than in his control…So, he works, he waits, he trusts.
Can y’all relate here? I know I can. There are many variables over which I have no control over – so I work. I pray. I trust.
I sow gospel seeds and treasures.
I sow in prayer. I sow in discipline and consistency. I sow in laughter and giggles and fun messes. I sow in scripture and catechism memory. I sow in one more hug and kiss at bedtime. I sow in repenting often to them, in front of them, and to my husband. I sow in receiving new morning mercies for each day for these kids God has given me.
But, the accuser of the brethren will accuse me. He will remind me how I didn’t read an extra story last night and induce guilt. He will remind me that I’m just not enough for my kids – not doing enough, not repenting enough, not fun enough… and on it goes. And yet – how often do I take on his voice in my mind? How often to I, a child of THE King, actually agree with the accuser of the saints and accuse myself, being pushed by fear and shame, rather than led by love?
I was with a group of parents recently and the conversation turned with a downward and guilty tone (as it often can) to “I should have done more of ____” or “I guess I should be doing ____ better.” And my mind started shouting, “no! stop! This doesn’t sound like Jesus, this sounds like Satan!” So, I bravely said so.
Do we need to repent often? Absolutely.
Do we need to teach our kids the Word and be consistent in discipline? Definitely.
Do we need help from parents who are farther along than us and make changes as our kids grow and as we learn too? Of course.
But, here, the question is: are we being led by love into true self-reflection and genuine repentance, OR guilted into trying to do better in and of ourselves – not trusting that God will use ALL things for our good (and our kids good) and HIS glory. No, all things are not good; we do mess up. But God IS good. And He wastes nothing – not even our mistakes or sin. He is fully and completely good and powerful beyond comparison.
And so, we keep speaking the truth as we read the bible to and with them. We keep pointing them to the truth in our conversations. We keep abiding in the Word of God ourselves that we may know and speak the truth to ourselves and to our kids.
As we do, we plant seeds and we know not when they will produce a harvest, and so God sanctifies us in our waiting and active trusting.
We bury treasures of gospel truths and scripture memory and catechisms because when the Spirit awakens them to the truth, our children will have a treasure trove of His Word stored up within them in their minds.
Sow generously with your life; bury gospel treasure within your kids’ minds; pray, trust, and wait for the Spirit of God to open their hearts and minds, and continue the work He’s beginning in them, through you. You are His chosen vessel to work in these kiddos that He has graciously given to YOU.
May He lead you in love as you abide in Him.
“We must lay before God what is in us, not what ought to be in us.” (C.S. Lewis)
As we approach Christmas I’m reminded of a situation I was in a couple of months ago. Now, this situation as we will call it, is not for the faint of heart, it is going to make you squirm, so be forewarned and proceed with caution….
My daughter, Maggie, had lice crawling on her scalp several weeks ago. She woke up in the middle of the night crying and clawing at her scalp and a vague recollection of a student at preschool having lice the week before buzzed in my brain, so I courageously pulled out the flashlight and checked. Yep. There they were, as clear as could be.
I nearly dropped her.
Here’s the thing: Just a few hours before, I was blow drying her hair for the first time, and we were all “ohhh-ing and ahhhhh-ing” over her smooth, soft, golden, beautiful hair – truly, all 5 of us encouraging her in how pretty her hair looked since she let mommy fix it…and yet, crawling not so far below the surface of all that shine, were bugs. Bugs that were immune to normal shampoo because, I read, they hold their breath. If you’re not itching at your head by now, you’re stronger than I. The spiritual implications stung me immediately. I remember Jesus’ proclamation to the Pharisee’s:
“Woe to you! You clean the outside of the cup, but inside you are filthy – full of greed and self indulgence.” (Matt 23:25), or David crying out to God in Psalm 51:6, “you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.”
How often do I ohhh and ahhh over my own outwardly apparent righteous works, or others outward works, or long for recognition and approval for my “righteous” acts? And yet, there are bugs crawling beneath the surface.
Daily, friends, yes daily.
And yet, as we celebrate Advent, this is exactly why Jesus came.
He came to cleanse us from the filth inside, from the “bugs” that are immune to all our forms of self-denial, discipline, and good works.
I’m reminded that God made a covenant with Abraham, swearing by Himself, that He would be His God. And God did this, while Abraham was asleep. Abraham was doing nothing to add to the promise of God.
No works on His own to add to the covenant.
And like that, Jesus comes – to a sin ridden, lice infested, broken world.
Emmanuel! God with us!
He comes to us, like He did all those He encountered in Israel who were broken over their sin, to clean us, to pick out the bugs. Here’s the thing – Maggie couldn’t get the lice out by herself. She was completely dependent on me. If she hadn’t sat still for 3 hours while I washed her hair with the special shampoo and divided her hair into way-too-many-to-count half inch sections using the tiny comb to scour through every millimeter of her hair, we couldn’t have gotten rid of the lice, and they could have infected the rest of us.
I’ll be honest, I squirmed and pushed her away at the first sight of the infestation. I was scared for myself. But Jesus! Jesus, who comes to us in our sin, our greed, our self-righteousness, our selfishness, never winces, doesn’t leave us, and constantly moves toward us. The gospels remind me that Jesus is constantly moving towards sinners, not away from them. Because He must get close – yes, that close – to destroy what seeks to kill us.
And often we try to hide behind our shinning beautiful hair of good works, self-discipline, and comparison to those who are “worse”, not acknowledging that like Paul, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15). Paul must have known the secret in acknowledging his need and dependence on Jesus, which brings us back to our C.S. Lewis quote – “we must lay before God what is in us, not what ought be in us.”
Young kids are honest, painfully so at times. Maggie will still tell you she had bugs in her hair with no shame or thought that you would scurry away from her. She knows Mom will take care of it if it happens again. She knows she needed a source outside of herself, and has no shame admitting it.
What would it look like to confess our weakness and need that freely? And embrace those who do? Now, I know my analogy isn’t perfect and does break down, but I can’t help but see it spiritually. I’m reminded of what James, the brother of Jesus tells us: “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16) And we can, we can because Jesus came to “forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9), and wash us whiter than snow even though are sins are like scarlet (Isaiah 1:18). And not just for me, but for my kids! But how often am I repelled by their sin? And others’ sin? Offended by their greed, selfishness, discontentment, and anger? ALL things that I’m actually the bigger sinner in and am on equal footing at the cross with. What if I walked towards them in love in their sin? What if I could give the grace to let others’ be where they are, knowing that it is GOD who completes EVERY work the HE begins.
Let’s take to Jesus what is actually in us, not hiding in our works because we are already hidden in Him.
Let’s walk our hearts and our kids to the edge of the manger and the foot of the cross to gaze in wonder and gratitude at the One who came, who comes, and who will come again.
Let’s run towards Him and towards the sinners He came to rescue – proclaiming His light in the darkness, His healing in the parts we didn’t know were infected, and His life abundant – all for sinners, even the chief.
After all, that’s why He came.
*photo credit: Jenna Simmons, Evan and Jenna Creative
Something has rocked my world this summer, in God’s mercy, He’s led me from a state of apathy to an awe-inspired wonder at Jesus’ care for people. It may sound simple, but aren’t the simplest things the most profound? And the hardest to believe?
While there’s many examples in the gospels, I’ve been struck lately, at Jesus’ care for his mom. As I’ve been studying John’s gospel, it hit me that Mary is mentioned twice, and both times Jesus is honoring his earthly, fleshly, sinful momma. She’s at the wedding in Cana when He turns water into wine (John 2). The author of the study I’m doing asks the question “why does Jesus turn the water into wine?”, and as I read and re-read the text, I was astounded to see that He turns the water into wine because she asks Him to. She asks Him to. Now, I get there’s a lot of theological things happening in this text with purification rites and all that, but sometimes we MISS the simple, the obvious, the human trying to fill our heads with the theological.
Sometimes we miss that Jesus cared about the physical.
Jesus cared about the celebration.
And maybe, mostly? He cared about His mom. Oh moms, may our fragile, tired, beaten down hearts rejoice with that! And not only moms, but all of us – because –
Not only does the water become the best wine, but He begins to usher in the Kingdom of God with that request.
The next time, the only other time, we see Mary is at the foot of the cross, standing beside John when Jesus says to John, “behold your mother” and to Mary, “behold your son” (John 19). As Jesus draws His final breaths on the cross, in the moments of ultimate pain and humiliation, dying for our sin, for His mommas sin, he makes sure Mary is going to be cared for.
If Jesus can take care of Mary this way, in a place of total physical weakness, then how much more, beloved daughter or son, now that He is seated at the right hand of God full of glory, riches, and power will he care for YOU?
He is no longer contained by a limited, human body. He is uncontainable, immeasurable, always present and always knowing. Always carrying you, as His beloved child, close to His heart.
Many years before, in the same breath that Isaiah declares His unfathamable power, He announces His tender intimacy –
“Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for Him…He will tend His flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bossom, and gently lead those that are with young. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighted the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?”
None is stronger than Jesus. None is more tender than Jesus.
Jesus sees. Jesus knows. Jesus cares.
May we rest in that, and fall more in love with Him each day.
I’ve noticed a tendency in myself lately to try and light my own fires – to make my own way, to serve, lead, love in my own strength. Fires that burn out quickly like a match. I don’t think it’s a new thing for me, but I think the Lord is letting me become more aware of it, his kindness leading me to repentance. And yet, it’s really hard to see how I trust in my own flesh instead of trusting in the Lord and essentially put myself above God. Yikes. That’s hard to write, but maybe you can relate. My friends at Parakaleo have worked through this truth for years, but I think its finally smacking me in the face. Listen to this:
Psalm 18:28 says,
“For it is You who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness.”
Oh, how this is my desire and longing and hope! However, I am convicted by the stark contrast, and often my reality, that looks like what the prophet Isaiah warns of:
“Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches you have kindled! This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment.” (Isaiah 50:11)
Ouch. I have to let that sink in….and when I let it sink down deep into the crevices of my heart and get the confidence and humility to ask God to reveal to me where I’m lighting my own fires, I stand convicted.
I’m convicted that I often try to change my day according to what I think is best, without prayer, without living like a daughter of God, and without trusting in His goodness and sovereignty over the day – filled to the brim with expectations unmet.
I’m convicted that I more often than not, listen to myself instead of preach to myself. As Martin Lloyd Jones poignantly reminds us – someone is always talking to us – are we listening to the play back tape of the fears, mistakes, sins, and worries or are we preaching to the truth of the Gospel to our hearts? I’m often found listening to the lies and trying to fix my “problems” by lighting my own fires.
I’m convicted that I let fear rule inwardly as I work outwardly, in my flesh, trying to “tame” the fear it but it nevertheless comes spewing out in a conversation with Ryan, leaving me and him wondering: am I lighting my own path of self reliance in complete gospel amnesia?
There I go again, lighting my own fires in my darkness: trying to fix what’s not up to me to fix, despairing over what seems impossible, or praying impishly as if it’s all up to me.
I, ironically, wail about my kids wailing, fear getting older, think too hard how I came across in the text I just sent, the conversation I just had, or what others’ thought of me and how I just parented, how good a friend I was, what kind of pastors wife/church planter/leader I am.
And yet, I know that the light I try to light myself will never be strong enough to keep me from lying down in torment; just how Jeremiah reminds me that “cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength” (17:5) and David declares, “the sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply” (psalm 16:4)
And, strangely, that’s a good thing. What a grace it is that He lets my sorrows multiply as I chase after false promises or don’t believe in the truths of scripture. My light is like a match that burns bright and quick, but for a moment, and then I’m burned if I don’t blow it out quickly enough. If I felt blessed doing life in my own strength, I would never depend on Him, or get the promises of Ephesians 3 which put God in His rightful place:
“Now to HIM who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to HIM be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever, Amen.”
And I go back to praying and repenting and preaching over and over again …
it is God who lights my path, the LORD my God lightens my darkness.
*I’m going to follow up this post with a continuation in a few days about the treasures hidden in the darkness, so stay tuned and check back in!!