Thursday, March 31, 2011

He Is Risen #3- Resurrection Eggs

Andy and I agreed early in our marriage that the focus of our family traditions should always be to stay our hearts on Jesus. But there are some traditions I grew up with and loved that aren't Christian. And many traditions our kid's friends have aren't Christian either, but could point to Christ... if we're intentional.

Easter eggs are an example. Eggs really have nothing to do with Jesus, but I grew up hunting for them and love that memory. Family Life created an outreach to use Easter eggs to teach the gospel story to children. They are called resurrection eggs and we LOVE them!

Jimmy, age 3: "Jesus died to pay for our sin, but he beat death. So, if we ask, we can beat death too."
So our kids hunt for eggs each Easter, just like many kids in America. But these eggs each have a toy inside to help prompt each part of the gospel. It has a small booklet that gives the specific Bible passages and a short summary of each story.

Jimmy, age 4. "Look, I found one!"
We play with them all month. We love to watch Miss Pattycake's Eggstravaganza dvd where she explains each egg and we also read a sweet story that goes along with them (called Benjamin's Box). Jimmy now knows them so well that on Easter morning, he proudly shares the gospel through them for everyone else who is celebrating with us to hear. He loves being the story-teller. And I love that this fun tradition has a redeeming value.
Age 4: full basket, found the first toy to tell the story
Thank you FamilyLife (and Gigi for giving them to us)!

* BTW-I have several friends who have made homemade versions of these and even give them as gifts.  fun family project!

Monday, March 28, 2011

More Easter thoughts- His suffering Brings Hope in Mine

“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

This time of reflection and looking at Jesus in His holiness and beauty taking on my sin of ugliness and hate to make me righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21) has been flooring me. The more I look at myself and hurt and cry and feel even shame, the more my heart is opening to how amazing His love is. He died my death! He endured beating, mocking, rejection, hatred, and He took it all with deep love for those very people. For me. WOW!

It’s also making this Hebrews 12 passage come alive to me. Consider Him who endured the hostility so that I won’t grow weary. Knowing how He suffered and was rejected for me is such a reminder that I’ll really never suffer like that ever. I’ll never fully know it. But yet He will allow me to suffer here and see glimpses of His great suffering.

“When tribulation and sickness assail you, think how slight these are compared to the thorns and the nails of Christ. If you are thwarted, remember how he was bound and dragged. If pride besets you, see how the Lord was mocked and with robbers despised. If unchastity incites your flesh, recall how his flesh was scourged, pierced, and smitten. If hate, envy, and vengeance tempt you, think how Christ for you and all his enemies interceded with tears, though he might rather have avenged himself. If you are afflicted and cannot have your way, take heart and say, "Why should I not suffer when my Lord sweat blood for very anguish?"- Martin Luther

I’m praying as I battle bitterness that I will immediately remember how He loved me, His enemy. I’m praying when we face death and grieve that it will bring alive His suffering and death in my heart. And even more, that it’ll mean even greater joy to me that because of His suffering and death and resurrection, there will be a day when there will be no pain, no tears, and no more death. As I taste the pain of sin and death here, I can so much more appreciate the promise of them having been beaten and ended through Christ.

Easter is beginning to mean so much more to me. It’s seeing His death and rejoicing with real joy at what it means for us. And it’s setting me hope in Him fully through it to see Him more and more daily and rejoice in my own sufferings. I’m beginning to learn Him as my full JOY and strength. This is how we can endure suffering here: by knowing the great treasure He is. Yes, this is what I want- to have such confidence rooted in Him that all hard and good times draw me closer to Him and in them, by His grace, I can point to Him. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

He Is Risen #2- Celebrating through song

My favorite songs are the ones that are packed full of Biblical truth. These encourage me and remind me of the gospel- pointing me to Jesus. Sovereign Grace music continually does this. This Easter, they have released a celebration of Christ raised from the grave. You should consider buying it (and others by them). Check out their store for song samples, free downloads from past albums, and to purchase.

"He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.”
These words, spoken by an angel to the women at Jesus’s tomb, changed history forever. Christ’s resurrection was more than a display of raw supernatural power. It was the single event that assures us that his payment for our sins has been accepted. God’s wrath is satisfied. Death is defeated. The powers of darkness are overcome. Sin’s dominion has been broken. And the life of the age to come has dawned.
The songs on this album celebrate these realities, experienced and enjoyed by all who place their faith and hope in Jesus Christ. 
 For the next two weeks (through April 4) the MP3 version is available for $5The CD version is $12, and on April 5 price of the MP3 version will go up to $9.

***By the way- A sweet kids pick to listen to together to reflect this Easter is: Passion Hymns for a Kid’s Heart by Bobbie Wolgemuth and Joni Eareckson Tada***

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

He Is Risen- Celebrating Easter

"Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you...For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures..."- 1 Corinthians 15:1,3
Easter is by far my favorite holiday to celebrate. I love this time to remember Jesus' death and resurrection. It's so sad how quickly I forget and drop my gaze off of Jesus. Sometimes winter feels so long, I put my mind towards the details of daily life, or I even pour myself into striving (ouch) to live out His Word and I lose sight of His great love. I need to have regular seasons where I'm pointed back to the good news of Jesus Christ. And Easter is always so timely. I'll share in the next several blogs what Easter looks like in our home.
Our biggest emphasis is on Easter week itself, but here are some ways we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus all month leading up to Easter:

1) We watch Christ-centered Easter videos. Our favorites: The story of Jesus for Children (you can watch this free online in many different languages!), Miss Pattycake's Eggstravaganza,  The Animated Passion Trilogy, Veggie Tales Easter Carol

2) We read children's story Bible accounts- This year, we are reading out of the ESV Children's Ilustrated Bible which is actual ESV scripture with lots of illustrations (LOVE IT!) But in the past we have used the Jesus Loves Me Storybook Bible as our main account. We'll also read through and look at fun pictures in The Big Picture Story Bible and Jesus Storybook Bible.

-We love to act out the stories we read and put on a show for Daddy or family/friends who come over- For Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, we wave swiffer dusters (as palm branches) and throw our coats down to make a path while shouting "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" (and we giggle- a lot)

3) We talk about what we are celebrating and why Easter mattersWe ask "What is Easter? Why did it have to be Jesus that died? Why did he have to die? Why does it matter whether or not Jesus rose from the dead?" 

4) To point out how Jesus fulfills the Passover lamb we read earlier in the year in Exodus, we go back and reread in Exodus and then look at the sacrifices for sin in Leviticus/Numbers. We excitedly talk about how Jesus is the true is the lamb of God who fulfills the full requirement and takes away our sins! This year I found a book called Discovering Jesus in Exodus by Susan Hunt to help us walk through it.

5) We read Easter books from Grandma and Gigi: Benjamins Box, The Very First Easter, The Lamb

6) We make Easter "resurrection cookies". This entire process provides opportunities to talk though the gospel as we make them (using ingredients to spark different points). The conversation even extends into the "baking" and eating experience! Here's a link to the blog that I got the recipe and explanation from: allhomemadecookies. com

7) We color coloring pages and draw pictures of the cross (Golgotha scene), the empty tomb, Jesus risen, etc.

8) Andy and I read the gospels together. A few years ago we read Luke. Last year the church we were in was going through Matthew together. This year we just read through Mark and are currently reading through John.

9) We love to listen to sermons: There is something amazing about hearing pastors passionately share the good news that spurs us on and brings this wonderful truth afresh in our hearts.
This season I've been re-listening to the March/April 2010 Matthew series we went through at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

10) I loved my Nancy Guthrie advent devotional, so this year I'm going to read through her lent devotional. It's called Jesus, Keep me Near the Cross.  It's a compilation of excerpts from sermons and teachings of teachers/preachers from our current day and throughout church history (some are: John Owens, Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, Tim Keller,  and John Piper). Really neat.

I'll share more in my next few blogs about Easter eggs, some of our favorite sermons, our favorite hands on activities, and what our Easter week and Easter morning look like.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Easter thoughts- Stopping at My Sin

“…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

I have an almost instant desire in this time of preparation for Easter to jump to the celebration of the empty tomb and Christ raised again. But God has been slowing me down to really know the JOY of victory by first looking at the pain from sin that lead to death… and this Jesus who took it on for me.

I read Martin Luther describe how Christ’s beauty as Son of God (Psalm 45:2) helps us see and know Him more. But it’s in His lack of beauty in human form (Isaiah 53:2) that we can begin to know ourselves.

I deserve those thorns. I deserve the beatings. I deserve the punishment. I don’t want to brush off my hands because I know He took the punishment and miss that I deserved the punishment. I don’t want to forget who I am apart from Christ and who I continually will run back to be again without His grace to endure. I’m ugly. I’m hurtful. I judge others and envy others and desire only for myself- That’s me pounding the nails into His hands. And that sin grieves God and causes so much pain. So I’m looking at it openly and feeling (in a small way) the horrible weight of it and crying over it. Crying because, as I look at it honestly, it feels SO wrong that God would spare me from the punishment and instead inflict it on His beautiful and undeserving Son.

He has in truth borne our stripes. Here, then, in an unspeakably clear mirror you see yourself. You must know that through your sins you are as uncomely and mangled as you see him here. If we consider the persons, we ought to suffer a thousand and again a thousand times more than Christ because he is God and we are dust and ashes, yet it is the reverse. He who had a thousand and again a thousand times less need, has taken upon himself a thousand and again a thousand times more than we”- Martin Luther

God is showing me this. Today, I’m not jumping forward to the victory party and missing what brought that. As I’m reading Christ resolutely set forward to go to Jerusalem, I’m remembering exactly why He went and what He suffered for. He laid down His beauty for my ugliness. And stopping to look at the unfairness of it all will make the celebration of His resurrection that much sweeter and more real. He really loved me so much that He died and took on my punishment so that I could be righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21). That is deep, deep love. Wow.

This week I'll start sharing some ways we seek to set our hearts in Christ through our Easter traditions as a family, but, next weekend I'll come back to this and share more of where God's leading me in my personal reflections on Christ and His suffering...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Talking About Heaven

Last weekend I shared a post (you can read it here) about remembering and learning from those who have gone before us. A few of you asked what we teach our kids about death and dying. This is a short response that I hope helps.

We all know that life here doesn't go on forever and we all will die. But we don't often talk about it. And trying to explain death and "afterlife" to our kids in a way that brings truth-filled hope can feel overwhelming.

We love sharing the gospel with our kids and certainly strive to share often that heaven is real, Jesus is real, He willingly died, taking on all God's wrath (anger/punishment) for sin, and then He rose again. The Bible says that because of that now those who are His will live forever in heaven.

But one day, I received a phone call saying that our good friends' baby died and the mommy was in danger of dying. My son was there as I received the call (and had to call and tell others). The next week Andy's Dad had a heart attack and emergency triple by-pass surgery. While we were there visiting him our Gamma went into the hospital near death. This quickly brought an all new challenge to our family: How to engage our (then) 3 year old in conversation so he could share his fears and ask questions.

FOR YOUNG KIDS- God lead us to a book by Randy Alcorn called Tell Me About Heaven. I highly recommend this as a starting point for conversations with young children wondering about heaven and about someone they love who is dying or has died. It's the story of a boy named Jake who goes to stay with his Grandpa after his Grandma died. He misses her and they talk through his questions and learn what the Bible says about heaven, New Earth, and Jesus. We went through a chapter a night with Jimmy and talked about our loved ones, about questions and fears, about the neat truths we were learning, and then we prayed together. He still loves the book and it has given our whole family a renewed joy for eternal life and living here knowing our home is with Jesus!

FOR OLDER KIDS-If your kids are older, he also wrote a question/answer style book called Heaven for Kids that may work better for you. I learned so much from it and have dug into the Word to learn more myself through passages he shared in this book.

FOR YOURSELF- Suffering and death is not easy or meant to be. Explaining it to our kids is so much harder when we are struggling with our own questions in it. God is certainly good and purposeful in it though. And we need that reminder. Especially in the midst of our grief. The ultimate source of our understanding and comfort is God Himself through His Word. I'd encourage you to pray and ask God to show you Himself as you pour yourself into His Word.
But here are a few resources that have meant a lot to me and may encourage and guide you in Him as well as you seek Him through His Word:
1) Nancy Guthrie: Be Still My Soul This is a collection of sermons about suffering compiled by a woman who lost two of her children from a rare disease. The entries are from passionate theologians of yesterday and today who know suffering (John Piper, Charles Spurgeon, John Calvin, Joni Earickson Tada, Tim Keller, etc.)
2)Nancy Guthrie: the One Year Book of Hope:  A Daily reading that answers hard questions about heaven and suffering, and offers so much hope. I like the length of it. Short daily readings, but something to keep with you as you grieve for a year or however long you take to go through it. Such a great companion in our suffering to answer hard questions while drawing us to Him in our grief.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Weaned Soul #2- Rest and Hope

I shared part of my journey in Psalm 131 by sharing the sin snares (Pride, comparison/judgement, and anxiety) that rob me all of us from a calm and quiet soul in God. So what should I seek?

"O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore."

"I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child..."
Many of you know very well the difference between a baby still breastfeeding vs. a weaned child. When Mommy walks in the room, the baby still feeding from Mommy may cry, scream, and lunge at Mommy. Even as Mommy settles in, the baby may thrash panicky until latched on. This is often how I feel I run to God. It's in a slight panic, but knowing He is the source I need. Yet, here the Psalmest says like a "weaned child". 
Jimmy cried daily (for weeks after he was born) until I'd take him to feed him
A weaned child gets more mature food at the table. So when Mommy walks in the room, it's a joyful excitement to see Mommy. And when the child is on Mommy's lap, it's usually to snuggle or read or play together. No panic, just a comfortable rest and trust with Mommy. That is how we calm and quiet our souls, by joyfully looking to Christ with full hope in Him alone. By coming to Him without the panicky need, to spend time with Him regularly.

"Oh Israel, hope in the Lord. From this time forth and forevermore" How will I keep my hope in Him? By coming to Him regularly. In prayer and in His Word on a daily basis. Over time. Forever. Psalm 130:5 says "in His Word I hope." And His word brings such hope! In my deepest sin of pride, comparison, and anxiety I can cling to His Word. Yet also in my daily life as wife, mom, and friend I will gain a calm and quieted soul through His Word. I see in the Bible that Jesus openly pursued His enemy and willingly laid down His life for them (Mark 14-16). I'm reminded that I have that same power in me through Him to look to others interests over mine (Philippians 2). I see that His perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4). I see the Creator and Sustainer of the whole earth who cares for the lilies of the field and the birds of the air and I can rest knowing He'll certainly provide for me as well (Matthew 6). His Word is our comfort and refuge (Psalm 119) as it points again and again to our living hope: Jesus (1 Peter 1)!

So, though my sin feels raw and exposed, I'm thankful for the warnings and promise in Psalm 131. Through His grace, I'm learning to rest in Jesus like a weaned child:) What a good and loving God we serve.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


"Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith." -Hebrews 13:7
One way Andy and I like to "make the most" of our calendar year is by remembering people who we loved and loved us that have died. On the anniversary of my brother's death, we pray for my family as soon as we wake up in the morning. On the anniversary of my Grandpa's death, I email my Dad after we pray to let him know someone else remembers. We have others as well (putting a wreath on my friends grave, calling a friend's Mom, etc.)

Today, we are starting a new tradition in our house. This morning at breakfast, we are taking a few minutes to remember our Gam. This is the first person Jimmy loved who has died and we want him to know how good it is to remember.
Sweet Gam- You are loved and missed
We're following the structure of Hebrews 13:7:
 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God...
We're remembering Gam by:
-Looking at pictures
-Reminding Jimmy of Gam's phone calls where he'd talk to her (for a long time) weekly
- Tell stories (Like when Jimmy shared the gospel with Gam to be sure she loved Jesus and she thanked him. And how she always had a story about something "awful" her dogs had done. And that all Gam's letters always had "I love St. Jude" stickers on the envelopes)
- Give a brief history (Gam as wife, Mom, Andy's Gam, and then the rest of us)
-Tell the things about Gam that meant the most to Andy and I (How generously she gave, how she poured into the children of the church through Sunday School and VBS, her love to sing hymns and knowledge of the history of them, and, her encouraging letters, and how she always called me her Granddaughter, never Granddaughter-in-law)

Consider the outcome of their way of life...
We know some of the fruit of Gam's life: We felt loved and cared for. We were able to go on the mission field because of her generosity. Toot had a close friend to do daily life with. Two orphans (named Julie (our Mom) and Casey) gained a family. Many kids got to hear about Jesus because Gam taught them in class and Gam and Toot rode a bus to pick them up for VBS every year. Sick people were healed, missionaries shared the gospel, and so many other lives were impacted through her and Toot's generous giving.

And we're imagining what it must've been like on this day last year. As she heard Jesus say "Well done faithful servant... Enter into my rest." We're talking about how now we have family in heaven who will be there to greet us when we get to go be there. We're praising God that Gam now has no sickness and a new body with no frailty. We're imagining what it must've been like to see her family again, to hug her son Casey again after all these years knowing she'll never be separated from him again, to see her best friends that she must've missed when they left here before her, and to walk with JESUS! Wow.

We're praising God for the outcome of her life and praying that we will live for that eternal moment of beginning and not get to caught up here in worldly matters.

and imitate their faith.
We're looking at ways God taught us through Gam and asking what we can do to learn from her faith.
One thing I've learned is to be more vocal in my encouragement. Gam always told Andy and I how proud she was of us. And she followed with a reason why (because we stepped out to do this ministry, because we care for Jimmy so well, because we treat each other like we're glad to be married, etc...)
So I'm now making an effort to actually tell people when I see them do hard things, encouraging things, etc. I'm thanking them for what they do now because I learned that from our Gam.
Andy loved how Gam cared for orphans (and even adopted two into her home to be her son and daughter) and he wants us to keep praying and trusting God that we too can care for the orphan and even adopt some into our family. Jimmy loved how Gam gave and thinks we should give like that so others can be helped who are poor, sick, or haven't heard of Jesus.

We pray.
And we ended by praying for others we know who may be remembering too. We prayed for Toot, who we know misses his wife and best friend so much. And who is struggling in his own sickness and weakness now. And we prayed for Andy's parents, knowing they miss their Mom. And now they've given up their whole lives (though they haven't complained) to care for Toot now. We pray God will comfort them and give them His grace to endure and not grow weary in the good they are doing. We pray they'll know Him in new and deeper ways through this trial and grief.

It's so good to remember...
(Read here to see how we began talking to our kids about heaven)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul"-Psalm 19:7

I'm encouraged by this quote from John Piper on Psalm 19:7...
“Even on days when every cinder in our soul feels cold, if we crawl to the Word of God and cry out for ears to hear, the cold ashes will be lifted and the tiny spark of life will be fanned. For ‘the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.’"

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Weaned Soul: Pride, Comparison, & Anxiety....

My reflection on Psalm 131 after reading an article by David Powlison...

"O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore."

"My heart is not lifted up"- Oh how I constantly battle pride. Not even just pride, but I have a constant sin of looking at me and missing Christ. It's a daily stumbling block to seek Christ and His glory and lay down my life and I see here that the Psalmist wisely knows seeking ourselves will only lead us away from God and rob us of any peace in Christ.

"My eyes are not raised too high"- Am I comparing myself to others? David Powlison says this is when I make ME big and you small. I hate that I might miss some great fellowship with others because I'm comparing myself or we talk "at" each other instead of listening to each other. Is it really a conversation if we are just making points and proving ourselves? Have you ever noticed that we don't struggle with everyone this way? It's the people who seek the things we may be clinging to our own worth in.  

God convicted me of that when a good friend and I almost ruined our friendship trying to compete (unknowingly) while singing together on a worship team. I stepped down in panic over why it stopped being a joy to serve even after we talked through it. I'm thankful He called me out of that role completely and forced me to look at why I felt inferior or superior at times. It was my own sin (ouch!). And now she is one of my dearest friends. Truly. She's a gem and I almost missed that friendship completely because of my sin. I learned then that I don't battle in this with all people and in all areas. Haughtiness (comparison) always nails me in the roles I treasure most. I tend to compare, judge, and sometimes even choose my sin of judgement over a relationship with someone I obviously have something in common with because that role or thing has become an idol. OUCH! If I compare, I will not have a calm, quiet soul.

"I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me."- A giant peacerobber: anxiety. I don't think he's saying not to ask hard questions or seek God in confusing things. We don't always understand His ways. Some things seem impossible and scary. I've spent a lot of time here. I've pleaded for my family's salvation. I've sobbed when things God called us to seemed to be failing. I've ached at the rejection of others. Death is always hard, even as I see His loving comfort and promises of hope in the midst. God spoke to me through this Psalm to show me that hanging in fear and anxiety in those heavy questions is weighing me down and pulling me away from joy in Him.

so what should I seek???? coming next post...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Heart #6: Bad Character

We are learning as we parent just how full of sin our hearts are. Though we are starting to address it in our kids, God is drawing out our hearts and it's been beautiful. I shared in this series how change comes from the heart, outward and we use many ways to help our kids see their sin and also know Jesus who loves us and draws His own out  of sin and gives us new hearts to love Him. Read these posts about 1) our hearts, 2)  how parents can choose ease instead of heart training, 3) questions to draw out the heart, 4) when to go the next step beyond questions, and 5) what our correction process looks like.

We are not hopeless in sin. We are confident that God changes hearts and brings freedom. So that is what we teach. We teach it from His Word and through our daily actions and conversations.
"And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules."- Ezekiel 36:26-27 

Not all sin is outright disobedience against us. If Jimmy takes a friend's toy, he wasn't disobeying a command we gave him. Paul Tripp taught us that he's making bad choices because he has bad character. So we don't go through our correction process with him for bad character. Instead, we address it in questions. Sometimes the 5 questions mentioned before are helpful. But lately, we've been introducing two new questions to dig deeper:
1) Right now, what's important to you?
2) What should be important to you?

We're using these to start deeper conversations with him now as he is getting a bit older. Now we want him to start understanding heart worship. We want him to see that we are always worshiping someone/something. Either God or idols. We can start with these questions to show him the idols of his heart, so he can identify them and trust God for those areas of his heart. He is learning to pray for specific areas of his life!
-If he took a toy from a friend, we ask these questions to help him see his sin- maybe a desire to have more for himself, or control, etc...  
-Or when he does things he knows he shouldn't do because a friend wanted to, these questions can bring out that he desires acceptance from others (fear of man) instead of honoring God. 

This is what Andy and I do daily ourselves. God shows us areas of our lives that we are holding as more important than Him so he can free us to abundant life in Him alone.  We are beginning to train Jimmy for a lifetime of learning to see his own sin and trust God for forgiveness and freedom. 

So we also share our own idols and sin issues with him and pray together for him and us. We read what the Bible says about some of our constant battles in sin and read again and again how Christ came to pay for our sin and now forgives us as we ask and frees us in Him. 

We're seeking God together through His Word and prayer. This is not about obedience for the sake of obedience. This is about exposing our hearts and training our kids up to know God and walk closely with Him joyfully all their days.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

We're all In Him #2: Together... Yet Separate?

God is showing me how we are called to live Him out together. Read more here. Yet that call is for us to be separate. We should look different from the culture around us. In the foreword to Crazy Love, Chris Tomlin wrote,
"What I find interesting is that the Christians [in Acts 11:26] didn't name themselves. But rather, they were called (or named) "Christians" by those watching their lives. I wonder if it would be the same today. Could someone look at your life or look at my life and name me a Christian?"
I have been chewing on that quote. God has been teaching us (and so many others we are hearing from) that we (Andy and I) have not lived differently from those around us. We've given, but are we willing to sacrifice for others? We want to share Him with all but have we sought our own reputation/acceptance in the process? We desire to love each other as He loves us, but do we lay down our lives daily to lift each other towards Him? Painfully, Andy and I saw that we have not. But graciously, God has reminded us that His work in us is not through. He is changing our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh that want to obey Him joyfully because He is the true treasure! 
"As you come to HIM, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ... But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for HIS own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."
So we are called to be separate. We are called together as His body (see my last post) to look differentWe are HIS. We should be a diverse group of His choosing (a chosen race), who worship Him and serve Him alone with our whole lives (royal priesthood). We should be set apart (Ephesians 5:1-20) by looking very different (holy) from others who aren't His. People should see our lives and glimpse Him. Our daily lives should proclaim the excellencies of HIM who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light!!!!

I'm praying through and looking at my life and asking how being set apart and holy to God means changing the way I live: Does my weight reflect that Christ is the hope of my heart? What about how we spend the money He's entrusted us with? My daily schedule? etc... Those are so good to show where my heart is and areas where I want to grow, need to fight against my sin, and should look different.

I'm mostly praying that I won't become focused on doing things that reflect Him in order to please Him or impress others and miss Him! Being set apart is our position given, not a way we earn Him. What a constant battle for me to excitedly step out differently in freedom and joy in Him as He leads me and yet not fall into trying to earn His favor or prove my worth (because the truth is apart from Him I have no worth) by doing good.

So, as we look at our call to be set apart and weigh those areas where we are lacking, I'm praying that it's always centered on looking to Jesus. Jesus is the stone rejected by men, but precious to God. He is our living hope. Our salvation is in Him, through Him, and by Him alone. He is the true joy of our hearts. And it's His great love that should be consuming us and it's that love that compels us to want to live differently. I want to look set apart because I know I am so very different because of Him and His great love. I'm chosen by Him to be His and receive an imperishable, undefiled, and unfading inheritance (1:4) Wow!

I'm excited that our call is to live for Him together. I'm challenged as this call to be set apart is revealing how I haven't lived differently from those who aren't His. I'm learning daily how freeing it is to step out in new and deeper ways living differently because He is the true treasure and He calls me through His Word to live it out in His power. I'm praying we will learn to seek Him together and live it out compassionately among those who are still in darkness. Oh Lord, please do this work in us!!!!