The Sweetest Kind of Hero: Happy Father’s Day!

This is my husband.

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I could stare at him for hours, but let me move on. He is an amazing father to our little one.

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We like to chant “Da-da” until he returns home from work. Yeah, we’re big fans of this guy.

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He is a not perfect, but he is a man of God.

Hero of the Sweetest Kind,

Happy Father’s Day! I remember composing a blog post a year ago to honor you as my husband and the father of our newborn. I could not have imagined how the past year would unravel itself, unveiling a day-by-day call to self-denial that you would heed relentlessly. It has not been easy. We’ve been pushed to our limits, sometimes with little-to-no sleep. I’ve watched you choose which battles to fight, easing your grip on school (all the precious time teachers must give after hours) in order to come home early to provide me with some relief. How our little boy has cherished those hours with you! His da-da, da-da, da-di, da-di, da-da.

It seems like forever ago that we were planning our wedding, but I remember being struck by how involved you wanted to be. You actually cared about some of those small decisions, like whether to have place cards at the reception. I didn’t know it then but you were showing yourself to be a true partner. We were a team then and we are a team now. You have completely thrown yourself into everything concerning our son. When he cries or when he’s hurt, he doesn’t just look to me, the nurturing mom, for comfort, but he looks to you. Some say the day will come when he will want only me. But we know better, don’t we? This boy is all about Daddy. And I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.

Our pursuit of God has been challenged this year as we have had to adjust to changing schedules and how to use what free time we have to refresh ourselves. But you have persevered. You never give up. Sure, you get frustrated when things don’t look the way you want, but you haven’t withdrawn from the good fight of faith. I love you for that. It’s what we need the most. I love that we push each other in this area and that I can still say that one of my favorite things to do is dig into the word with you. Remember this past Christmas and the word you shared with us? One of the highlights of this past year.

There are so many unknowns ahead of us now as we embark on another crazy adventure. We’re expecting another child soon and we’re making big family decisions. We’re trying to figure out this whole “discipline” thing, and we’re not getting it all right. But I’m so happy God has not called us to be perfect parents today. He’s called us to be faithful. And you are faithful, Adam. Every. Single. Day.

It amazes me.

Your sacrifices do not go unnoticed.

May you continue to abide in God as a Psalm 1 husband and father, being “like a tree, planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in it season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:3).

I love you Babe!

And to all other heroes being celebrated today, Happy Father’s Day!

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A Sobering Reminder of What I Do Not Deserve

If I’m honest, I am really good at holding a grudge. But one thing I don’t understand is how easily I deceive myself into thinking everything is well. I guess you could say I’m really good at performing too, even for myself. Within the last couple weeks, God has been exposing my heart towards a particular person–how often I judge them, how easily I hold grudges against them, how regularly I critique what they are doing and compare them against my own godly choices. He’s revealed my pride, and interestingly enough, he’s exposed how often I rely on my own works for a sense of justification before God and man. Because I am given to living for the approval of others, I am prone to judging and condemning others.

It’s been a humbling couple of weeks as I’ve returned to the Lord day after day, confessing sin and seeking to turn from my ways. Often failing.

Today I decide to sit still before God and he impressed on my heart that I’ve been leaving our time together to follow His example in my own strength instead of turning from my sin through the power of His Spirit. His words for me were “Behold Christ and walk in the power of His Spirit.” In other words, behold Him in Scripture and pray fervently for His Spirt to work in me the kind of love, generosity, and strength that can only come from Him. I looked at the following Scriptures:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-9).

As I meditated on these verses, I was greatly moved by the reality that Jesus did not deserve to be treated like a sinner. For a brief but historically accurate portrayal of what Jesus endured on the cross, check out yesterday’s Ask Pastor John podcast, The Horror of Crucifixion.

He did not deserve to endure such evil. However, when a particular person does the slightest thing wrong to me I am ready to unleash the wrath of Laura as if I have not been forgiven for much worse.

I do not deserve to be treated as the righteousness of God. And yet I am.

Instead of my take away being that I need to somehow follow Jesus’s example, I recognize and I acknowledge that I cannot walk in his footsteps without the aid of his Holy Spirit. I need him so much. I lift up my eyes right now and worship Him as my gloriously generous and loving Savior. And I appeal to Him for His grace and His mercy to work in me the power and might to die to myself and love another with the blessed love with which he has loved me.

And this blog post is merely an extension of my meditation and a request for prayer. I also hope that this reflection spurs you on to remember our Lord and Savior today as we prepare our hearts for Easter/Resurrection Sunday. God bless you, and thanks for reading.

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More

At the edge of my self I find myself reading more, praying more, and not just for myself.  And because these are means of grace, I am experiencing more of God, receiving more help and strength in my time of need. Fresh perspective. Hope. So while I am being challenged more than ever before, I cannot complain too much because I am gaining something far more valueable than anything I feel I am losing. More of Him. My center. My everything. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God.

Obedience Matters Part 2

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God responds to action that springs from faith in Him. Obedience matters. Period. It’s evidence of your faith. And it’s evidence that you are who you say you are.

That is the point of  Obedience Matters Part 1. We looked at Rahab, how the Lord delivered her from destruction because she hid the messengers (Joshua 6:25). Remember, Joshua didn’t say, “Because she believed me.” He said, “Because she hid the messengers.” But we know she only hid them because of her faith in God.

In other words, it is as Paul Tripp states in his book,lNew Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional, “Faith in God is more than believing the right things. It’s living the right way because you believe the right things.” Our faith affects the way we live, which means obedience matters. I’m stating it this way because we live in an age where authority is constantly being questioned. We don’t like it. Our culture embodies the cry of the crowd when they yelled, “Crucify him.” We want the King of Kings dead (Mark 15:13-14).

We don’t like submission. We don’t like to think that our ways must change. We’d rather change the wording. We want to participate in what God is doing. We want to cooperate with his plan. We want to love. It’s all about love, right?

Yes, a love so great and demanding that it crushes us and brings us low to the point of surrender. A love so pure that it causes us to weep because our sin has us feeling so unworthy of it. A love so gracious that it lifts our heads and builds us back up. A love that transforms. A love that takes over. A love that obeys.

Obedience matters.

And honestly, I sometimes wonder why I bother writing about this at all. I mean, just re-read Tripp’s quote. So many have already written about the relationship between faith and works. Today, I want to take it a step further.

Do you want to know another reason why our obedience matters?

It affects people. Obedience affects people for good. In fact, John states that we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments (1 John 5:2). I remember stumbling over this awhile back. I couldn’t take my eyes of the phrase “children of God.” I asked myself, “What in the world does my obedience have to do with other children of God?”

Disobedience also affects people. Let’s return to Joshua. But this time let’s look at chapter 7. The Lord instructed the Israelites NOT to take the things devoted for destruction from Jericho. I want you pay close, close attention to Joshua 7:1.

“But the people broke faith in regard to the devoted things,

For Achan the son of Carmi,

Son of Zabdi,

Son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things.

And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.” (emphasis added)

What happened here? Who disobeyed? Who is affected by the action taken?

At first glance, as you start reading, it seems like everyone disobeyed and took the devoted things, but that’s not the case, is it? No, Achan took some of the devoted things. Yet the Lord’s anger burned against the people.

There’s so much that can be said here, so much that I can’t even get into because I haven’t completely wrapped my mind around the significance of the corporate people of God. We are so individualistic as Americans but God has a totally different perspective. He’s redeeming a People. And In Christ, he refers to us as a body. Paul makes the effect we have on one another apparent when he describes how a hurting member of the body affects the rest of the body (1 Corinthians 12:26).

We can’t just think about ourselves. It’s so easy for me to coddle sin and be okay with how it will affect me or my walk with God. I never give thought to how my decisions may affect those around me–not just in the present, but in the future.

Every time I read through this Bible this reality strikes me. It’s all over the Scriptures. Our actions can impact even our children’s children. I think of my husband’s grandfather, Mardy. My husband looked up to this man so much. I don’t know if Mardy ever knew how much his decisions for Christ would impact his grandson, but in many ways they have shaped the way my husband thinks about his life and how he wants to live. What battles did Mardy have to fight to become this example? What discipline did he have to enforce? How many times did he have to humble himself and obey simply because of what he believed about God? What if he had broken his faith instead?

That brings me to another observation about Joshua 7:1. I am amazed at how it directly relates to Part One of this series. Joshua writes that the people of Israel broke faith. How did they break faith? By taking the devoted things. They are one in the same. And the Lord, when his anger burns, he’s responding to them both. We live out of what we believe.

If you keep reading, you will see what this means. In short, 36 men die at the hands of their enemy. Which surprises Joshua and the rest of the people because they had experienced unimaginable victory with God on their side. And the people of Ai were a small people. How could this have happened?

People died because of one man’s disobedience. And it gets worse.

Keep reading.

God allowed the people to suffer the consequences, meaning there were consequences for the people of Israel if one of them disobeyed here. But he punished Achan, and not only Achan, but his family.

They die.

Achan devoted himself and his family to destruction by taking things that were devoted for destruction for himself. And I have to think that they this said something about his faith too.

We disobey all the time. We make excuses for it because we are saved by grace. But our actions affect people. Our actions affect our effectiveness in the body. Our actions affect our families. The Lord will do His will despite us, but we have to know and accept that obedience truly matters.

I love reading the Old Testament because it has a way of highlighting spiritual realities and impressing them deeper in my heart. There’s a rawness in the Old Testament Scriptures that just makes everything so real to me. But the reality is that when we disobey, we are not punished. One already suffered and died for the disobedience of the Church, and in drawing us to himself and giving us his spirit, making himself known to us, he has given us all we need for life and godliness. There is unimaginable grace for us to obey. We simply must believe in Him.

Our faith in Him transforms us. He changes our hearts. He changes our lives. The way we think. The way we live. We never stop growing once we find ourselves in Him. We never stop becoming more and more like Him. That’s a huge part of what it means to be His.

When we live as though disobedience doesn’t matter, we are saying the above paragraph doesn’t matter. And we’re not just saying that to God, we’re saying that to everyone around us. And that affects people.

I can tell you, firsthand, that I affect my husband when I resolve to obey God as best I can and depend on God for the grace to do so. I am available to serving him and building him up. I make decisions that bless him and others. I get out of the way and do what the Lord desires me to do, and it ends up being sooooo good. So much better than anything else I would have done.

But when I cave, when I give in to temptation and disobey, when I break faith and resolve to do what I want to do, it’s hard to shake that and go right back to following God. It usually has a domino effect on the rest of my day, which affects those around me too. I am not as available to my husband, my son, my family, or my church. I am selfish. And I don’t care until the Holy Spirit gets my attention and I turn from my sin yet again.

And what if I make a pattern of that? What if I make a life of “doing me” whenever I have opportunity? What will my son pick up from that over time? What does that say about God?

This little series is for me, People. I need to remember that obedience matters. The Lord responds to it. And it affects people. Even those most dear to us. Can God do amazing things in their lives despite us? Sure! But should we presume upon his grace?

Yes, we are saved and swimming in gracious waters. But let’s continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

Why?

Because God works in us both to will and to work for his good pleasure!!!  There’s so much grace and so much strong help in our Lord. Let’s make an adventure out of using it!

More to come on those amazing verses (Philippians 2:12-13) soon.

Obedience Matters Part 1

When I attended a house church, I remember a gentleman asserting once that he did not agree with the term ‘believer.’ He’d rather not use it. I did not get it then. I think I may get it now.

Yesterday morning I experienced one of those amazing times in the Old Testament scriptures when God breaks into what I assumed would be a drag reading and opens my eyes even more to the wonders of who He is and what it means to be His. In other words, He got my attention.

I was reading the account of Jericho’s walls coming down, a story I am very familiar with, and the following verse jumped out at me:

And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent. (Joshua 6:17 ESV)

Joshua had received these instructions from the Lord. After the walls came down, the men of war were to devote everything in the city to destruction. Everything and everyone except Rehab and her family. Rahab, the prostitute. Rahab, the woman who made a profession out of sinning against the Lord. And not only Rahab but also everyone in her house. (I plan to write more about that little detail later.)

Why?

Scroll back to Chapter 2. When Rahab hid the spies, she shed light on why she did it. She believed that their Lord was the God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. She had heard, along with the rest of her people, all God had done for Israel and while her people were afraid and were ready to stand their ground against Israel, she believed in their God (Joshua 2:8-11).

Did God save her merely because she believed?

Yes and no.

Look back at Joshua 6:17. He says that Rahab and the people with her can live because she hid the messengers. That’s action, folks.

She was delivered from destruction she well deserved because she not only believed, she acted. Now, one could argue that he saved her because of her faith and that it was her faith that caused the spies to enter her house in the first place. Sure. That may be the case, but that is not what the Lord emphasizes here.

As someone who tends to make light of disobedience at times, this hit me hard. I remember when I was in middle school, my grandmother took us to her friend’s house one weekend for a cook out. After getting my food, I decided to eat on the deck outside. I looked ahead and could see the beautiful day through the open patio door. I walked quickly right into the closed patio door. They cleaned those sliding doors well. It hit me kind of like that. Except no one was around. No one was laughing. Or embarrassed.

God delivered Rahab because of what she did as a result of her faith. Faith is necessary, for without it we cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6). We must believe that he exists. We must believe that he rewards those who seek him. But here’s the key. That belief must lead to action.

Without action, our faith is dead (James 2:26). Our God is alive, not dead. So if our faith is dead, that means we are not with God. Get the picture. Faith must be foundation of how we live our lives.

Faith apart from works doesn’t save. And works alone will not do help you anymore than the next man. They are two sides of the same coin. And without God’s saving work in our hearts, neither will happen anyway.

If you are bristling at this, just recall James asserting that even demons believe (James 2:19). Thus, belief alone is not what saves people. I feel extremely comfortable writing this right now, because it’s straight scripture. God is consistent throughout the Bible. He is moved by the faith that compels action. People like to argue that the God of the Old Testament is different than the God of the New Testament. Nope.

But you are right to note that there is a difference. It’s not God. It’s the way he relates with his people. His covenant with the people changed. But he has always been a God who requires faith and obedience that springs from faith.

This is why it is so important that we understand that belief in Jesus Christ is transformative. We become new creations as a result of believing in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are new creations who not only think differently but live differently. And it is our transformed lives that separate us from those devoted to destruction.

Yes, Jericho was devoted to destruction, and so is everyone who does not submit to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But the kingdom of God is advancing. People’s lives are changing and Mark Seiford put it this way: “The kingdom advances here on the earth where faith and obedience are found.”

Faith is necessary, for by grace we are saved through faith. And this faith produces a godly life.

Obedience matters.

We are not perfect. I am sure Rahab wasn’t either. She was, after all, a prostitute. I’m sure she was still working through some things.

Hebrews 11:31 states:

By faith, Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies [emphasis added].

Those who are disobedient will perish. How am I counted among the obedient when I mess up every single day?

Because Jesus took the penalty of death that I deserve upon himself. That’s the awesomeness of the new covenant. God promises that if I truly trust in Jesus, relying upon his life, death, and resurrection for my salvation, he’ll give me everything that I need for life and godliness. He gives me everything I need to obey him. He’s given me his spirit. I have a renewed mined. I am able to understand and apply his word. I have love in my heart for him and his people. This is all because of Jesus.

I am without excuse.

And if I start to think that I am excused from obedience, from a heart that delights in the holiness of God more and more, then I am a fool. Faith without works is dead. It is all too easy and too common to live a Christian lifestyle and still be counted among those who are perishing.

I think this is why Paul instructs the Philippians to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. But he does not leave them with that. He says, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).  There’s grace. There is strong help on our side.

So, my dear brothers and sisters in the faith, we are not only believers. We are Obeyers. A believer can believe and still perish. We follow Christ. We aim to keep his word because we belong to him. We are His. And we will not die. Because we are hid in Christ, we will live. Forever. With God.

 

Life with a Newborn: Lost and Found

Life with a newborn really makes me feel like I am living on the edge–on the edge of SELF!

In many ways, I’ve never felt so alive, so utterly dependent on the next wave of grace from the Lord to get me through a rough night, the next sleep cycle, the next fountain of urine that manifests when I’m changing O’s diaper.

I’ve never felt so strong an inclination to die–that is, to die to SELF.

Motherhood, from the self-centered eyes of my youth, always looked so boring and lame. Mothers seemed to lose themselves in caring for their families, and sometimes this even meant losing their fashion sense. Friends became mothers and became strangers to me. Their lives seemed so mundane and messy. That’s why it was so important to live life to the fullest back then. To live before my life got swallowed up by the demands of a needy household.

But now  I see the truth. Yes, mothers do lose themselves, but it is a beautiful thing. Jesus said that those who lose their lives for his sake find it, and those who seek to find their life apart from him lose it. So far, three weeks in, I see that motherhood is really one big faith adventure.

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The Raw Materials – Happy Father’s Day!

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When the Lord saw fit to bring us together, we were both taken a bit off guard. You were not really looking to jump into a relationship that would catapult you into a marriage. The Lord had brought you to a place of contentment; and your heart was devoted to missions in your neighborhood. I would have loved to be on a track towards marriage, but I would not just settle for anyone. It had been eight years since I had dated anyone, and though I knew you had many of the qualities I desired in a man, I did not foresee you being that into me. So, like any wise girl who knows what is best for herself (or not), I protected myself by not letting myself crush on you.

The important thing, once we started dating, was to figure out if you had the raw materials that would make for a good husband and father. No one is perfect. I surely wasn’t. But did you truly love Jesus? Were you abiding in him? How did you relate with your family? Did you have a heart for those around you, those in the church and those outside? How did you treat me in my lowest moments? Did we agree on the big issues?

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