Doctrine and Joy

This morning I read a post by Tony Reinke over at Desiring God, and it’s a must-share. I would like to highlight as Mr. Reinke did the words of John Piper on Calvinism and joy because they are not mutually exclusive but rather inclusive. You can read it here.

While I spent a semester at a linguistics institute obtaining my minor in undergrad, we studied the intelligibility of languages. It must be understood that location does not always have a bearing as to the intelligibility of one language in a village/state to the next. There are instances of course where this is the case. Languages within a region may be derived from a mother language and it could be very possible for a person from one village traveling to the next to get by in their own mother tongue without knowing the other. (Susie, if you’re reading this be sure to correct my memory of this concept😉.)

I use this to paint an image of the always intelligible nature of the doctrine of Calvinism and joy. To know TULIP fully and walk in its realities are cisterns filled with living water, deep wells of truth that leave us longing for more satisfying, identifying realities of God in all his glory. There is no part of it that is devoid of God’s intent for his own pleasure and his people sharing in such.

Piper states the following:

We need to rethink our Reformed doctrine of salvation so that every limb and every branch in the tree is coursing with the sap of delight. We need to make plain that [T] total depravity is not just badness, but blindness to beauty and deadness to joy; and [U] unconditional election means that the completeness of our joy in Jesus was planned for us before we ever existed; and that [L] limited atonement is the assurance that indestructible joy in God is infallibly secured for us by the blood of the covenant; and [I] irresistible grace is the commitment and power of God’s love to make sure we don’t hold on to suicidal pleasures, and to set us free by the sovereign power of superior delights; and that the [P] perseverance of the saints is the almighty work of God to keep us, through all affliction and suffering, for an inheritance of pleasures at God’s right hand forever.

I think God is often painted as gruesomely wrathful, as Van Gogh was likely to intend via Tony’s post; however, God is, in fact, operating for supreme pleasures rather than fleeting happiness and his providence is one of immeasurable goodness toward his children.

Why Philippians 2:5-11 Is Changing Motherhood for Me

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I have found myself repeating these verses in my mind when the going gets rough and my sweet pea toddler pushes that spoonful of yummy, time-put-into-preparing food out of her mouth and simply says “no thank you” and “I wanna play!” or when my fingers get slammed into the laundry room door as she slides it happily trying to hide.

I find myself contemplating a state of the heart which I considered often in my college days as I was immersed in international gatherings among unbelievers and traveling overseas to share the gospel:

Privilege vs Sacrifice

I could never consider anything I did as a sacrifice necessarily because if God called me to that, a lowly sinner saved by grace, then where is the sacrifice? It’s all gain! And not to mention that it is God at work in us to bring about his good plan rather than anything we can muster up on our own. I found myself always more blessed by others than I was intending to be a blessing to them. I see a similar working in mothering.

I have intentions with my children to empty myself so they can see Christ in all his glory. I want Norah to be well-mannered and able to listen at a young age so that she can have an attentive ear for the gospel. I want to nurture Owen as an infant so that he can feel loved by God later on. Norah’s chanting of the ABC’s stirs in me the hopes of her learning to read in the coming years so that she can see God in the bible for herself and be amazed. However, unlike my summer adventures in China and India (though I did work with small children), it can be a bit easier to fall under the sacrifice category and bemoan my current calling- what a shame to stay in that!

There’s also a self-righteous undertone in boasting in the sacrifice rather than the privilege. It puts us in an upper-hand position rather than the reality. Yes we are called to work heartily in serving the needy, but aren’t we all helpless widows?

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.'” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Luke 18:1-8 tells of the persistent widow that went to the judge for relief. At this time, a widow with no familial aid was left for dead basically. She wore out the judge in her pleadings. He granted her the relief she sought and he wasn’t even a righteous, God-fearing judge! How much more has God provided relief for his children, sinners in a desperate state, in Christ his Son! Knowing then our state, depraved and unable to fix it (Isaiah 59), once we are changed by grace through faith, what God calls us to in service to him ultimately is not a sacrifice, but a privilege for we have been rescued from the famine. We have been given the bread of life and living water to fill us for eternity. What gluttons we would be to not share it!

There is no sacrifice to serve my children, all privilege. I am not setting aside my desires to have this occupation or that friendship. I am gaining God in my calling. It’s a privilege to know that God sees fit to use child-bearing and rearing to draw me closer to himself. Sitting in college classes such as The Gospel of John or Understanding Islam, I would have never thought God was using such courses to prepare me for where I am now, but he is. The gospel is all I have to lean on throughout the day. God is often my only “real” conversation when my husband may be gone all day for work and then church affairs. And often times, my children and their needs/behaviors are as foreign as all get out, so working internationally and studying other cultures are utilized in my day-to-day.

It all goes back to a renewing of the mind. Day-in and day-out, hour by hour. I am constantly in need of a mind-renewal because there is an emptying needed to take place. Just as Christ emptied himself to the point of death in submission to the Father, so I pray for grace to empty myself into the lives of my children for the glory of God. What a privilege indeed!

I tell many newlywed friends (well, more newlywed than Josh and I that is!) that God gives us marriage and parenting to show us our need for a Savior because these relationships will reveal sin more than any other. John Owen states that we are to kill sin before it kills us. That sounds pretty brutal…well, not so much now when I see how my sin could eat me up as a wife and mother. I must actively work to put it death and repent often, pleading for the mind of Christ “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant” and there I am consoled, knowing how I it is worth it all to serve the One who came in the flesh to remove my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26.)

Joel 2:13a states, “rend your heart and not your garments” in regards to the posture of the heart in repentance. An inner realization and change rather than an external modification. I find myself in need of repentance more and more these days, and it actually brings me joy rather than discouragement knowing that God is at work in me to sanctify me and conform me into his likeness.

So when I am bent under the kitchen table scraping mushed peas off the ground, I say Philippians 2:5-11 over and over again. When I sit on the couch feeding my newborn while listening to my toddler scream not wanting to go to bed, I say Philippians 2:5-11 over and over again. When I am in the darkened kitchen starting my morning cup of coffee with intentions to dive deep into the bible and then a baby awakens, I say Philippians 2:5-11 over and over again. What has been provided for us through Christ is real and available. It is the only outlet from death. It’s the only answer for truly living. And His Name will sound throughout the heavens and be recognized by all:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

It’s a privilege to train up my little ones to know His Name. It’s quite messy, but oh how messy are we in our sin and despair, yet God is so loving to draw us to himself and shed the light of Jesus Christ in our hearts for all eternity!

2 Corinthians 4:6
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ
.

A Supplement for the Soul

It seems like there are so many options these days for healthier ways of life. This drink or that way of cooking, maybe being vegan or simply gluten free. This isn’t a post about which I prefer (though I tried the vegan thing and it was super neat but super time consuming and unrealistic for our family.) Yes and amen to some of those things. They are good when being used for the glory of God in maintaining the bodies he has given us at this time. But this is a post about a supplement we all need. A supplement that will literally save your life. One that stops death in its tracks:

2 Peter 1: 5-11
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I think if I cared more about my entrance into the kingdom of God as I do my entrance into the grocery store, church, or someone else’s home, my soul would not be in such frantic states at times. We put it on ourselves. We attempt to put the weightiness of glory on things which are unable to carry them.

These virtues listed lead to an increasing glory of God – the very weight of his majesty because they are a result of the faith he has provided for us through his Son. We are not left to ourselves in maintaining these virtues. As believers, we have the hope found in Philippians 2: 13- “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

For his good pleasure.

This post could be taken as a need to white-knuckle it and work harder, but that isn’t the case at all. May it never be! If we are in Christ, we can rest assured knowing that it is in fact God working in us to please himself and in turn bring us the greatest joy. The very obtaining and increasing of these qualities are through further and further reflection on and living in the gospel truth. We were cleansed from our former sins through the blood of Jesus Christ! Being without sin and emptying himself to the point of death on a cross, Jesus inexhaustibly fills the righteousness required to stand before God. That gives us such freedom to flourish, amidst our frequent failings and fleeting hearts, in these qualities knowing that God will not leave us to ourselves because He has already removed our heart of stone and is in the business of making us like Christ himself.

Let’s confirm our calling as elected children of God and supplement our faith with knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. When it appears to us on certain days that we are doing all but putting such qualities into practice, run to the promise: it is GOD at work in us, and he will never leave us to ourselves in Christ. We have all we need to be eternally saved.

Ezekiel 36:26-27
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.

God causes us to walk in his ways. Not our own doings, but his. What a relief to run freely, joyfully, and in obedience in this world making much of God through our callings!

Shell-Gazing in an Ever-Changing World

There are things that we all run to as a means of justifying our emotions, intentions, and aspirations. I want {this} to occur so that I will have {this.} For a believer, those blanks should be ultimately filled with God’s glory with the result of endless joy and satisfaction in Him. However, on the ground level, it can get quite murky. Each of us have been fashioned and wired in such ways so that God may be glorified in all aspects of life throughout his creation. We see this most clearly in his creating of man and woman. Such a complementary division of the human race gives way to roles varying from pastoring to mothering and all that fall in between. But let’s trickle down a bit more.

Womanhood.

A Wife’s Role.

Motherhood.

That’s me. That may be you. Whatever the case, we all have desires within us to use the gifts bestowed on us by our Creator. I enjoy linguistics. Some women like to knit and have a great talent to do so and create masterpieces for the glory of God. I’m a runner. I like to write. Some women actually have professions in both fields. That’s not me and that’s okay because God has called me to other things at this time.

Now to the heart of the issue of which I am using a term coined by John Piper: shell-gazing.

In our endeavors to flourish in the gifts God has given us, it is often the case that created things [namely people] cloud our gaze upon the majesty of Christ and conforming into his likeness. We set our eyes on people, and not only that, but we begin to shell-gaze. The outer coat of our role models seem to be just what we need, and sadly what we think we need to be like. But do we look deeper? Are we asking the hard questions about those that we look to? What attracts us to them? And a good heart check for ourselves: what are we trying to get others to look at us for? Is it gospel-centered or some form of self-glorification? For example, in mothering it is inevitable that comparison to other mothers will occur. There is just something that switches on in a mother’s heart and mind to question if she is doing it right. There will come times when it feels like an emphatic NO especially when compared to another. But that’s just shell-gazing. Not that we should negate every mother out there. They may very well be doing a fantastic job. But comparing and looking at what things appear to be will only bring us heartache and furthered frustration. And not to mention the rapid changes that seem to always occur for mothers out there. Thirty years ago babies were laid down to sleep on their bellies. Now, due to the back-to-sleep movement that is a no-no. I’m sure there will be more research in the next thirty years to show why something being told as right now may not actually be best. And not to mention all the other avenues of insecurities a mother may find herself. Breastfeeding vs. formula, pacifier vs. no pacifier, cloth diapering vs. disposables, jarred baby food vs. homemade, public school vs. homeschooling and the list goes on. {And let me just say this- those things should not be pitted against each other!} You see, we will always feel like we aren’t measuring up by the standards of society, research, and especially other mothers and wives.

But there is but one man to be our standard.

A man marked by sorrow and grief.

A man smitten by God and afflicted.

The God-man, Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory forever.

Truth me told, we don’t measure up to him either. And we never will.

{BUT GOD} being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. {Ephesians 2:4-7}

Jesus Christ is completely adequate because we will not be in the flesh. Jesus Christ is completely sufficient in righteousness because we are all born depraved and in desperate need of saving. Jesus Christ is the only image of perfect love to demonstrate to our spouses and children. Jesus Christ is the only good we should be looking at in others and comparing ourselves. He is the sole valid role model.

The triune God determined that He would send Himself to make a way for the impenitent to come to him, thirsty and in desperation, without hope. To the cross he went bearing sin and making away for his bride to be found in him, clothed in his righteousness. Rising on the third day, sin conquered, and the cage which bears us down prior to salvation shattered by his sufficient blood sacrifice.

Jesus Christ puts an end to shell-gazing because when conforming to his likeness is our aim in our endeavors, we look for him in other women. Those other women we found ourselves comparing ourselves to can then be looked upon as fellow heirs of Christ, our very sisters in the fight for holiness and joy. What a weight to be lifted off our shoulders and what gladness to walk in knowing that we don’t have to pride ourselves on how we are trying to measure up. Instead, we can speak openly of our weaknesses knowing the truth of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I know fixing my eyes on Christ will never be shell-gazing. He is the real deal. There is nothing but increasing glory as I dig deeper into who he is. We are unable to say this about any other human being. Some bulbs that I planted earlier this year have been a perfect illustration for my heart to further comprehend this reality.

East Texas weather has brought these little bulbs to 3 ft high yellow/red beauties! Norah and I have especially loved watering them. As I would dash out the door for my afternoon runs when Josh got home to stay inside with the babies, these flowers inaugurated such worship in my heart as I started one of my favorite hobbies. However this past week, the rain completely pummeled them!

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If I set my hope in the definiteness that these flowers would be there everyday to make Norah and I happy, then I would obviously find myself wanting [especially with Texas weather-need I say more!?]

The brevity of life is worth considering on a regular basis because it serves as a reminder of eternity. To follow the instruction found in the first 3 verses of Colossians 3 and “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” and “set your minds on the things that are on earth” will do my soul well and save from the damage of doing otherwise.

Not to mention our inability to predict or align our circumstances – I can confirm that a schedule is great and a gift from God for children. My two-year-old- and nearly two-month-old operate best with a routine, especially since I thrive with consistency and order. However, I can say that this and that should occur at 9:30 and then again at 3:30 but it is no guarantee. If I allowed the frequent collapses of our routine to ruin my days then mothering would be a drudgery rather than a joy. Let’s look into marriage for a second. If Josh and I put our hope in our ten year plan and when that didn’t come to pass then our marriage shattered, we surely would not have our hope set on an infinitely sovereign Lord.

Circumstances cannot determine where we place our hope.

The gospel of Jesus Christ alone defines our hope.

I will turn to this and state this to others until I’m blue in the face because I know it to be true and God’s word declares it. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Not my circumstances and surely not my emotions. I will be torn by the desires and temptations of the flesh to shell-gaze. I will want to take what looks good and follow it, even if it is less than Christ. However, when I do, I know I cannot wallow in it for too long if I hold fast to this truth and never dismiss it.

Stop the shell-gazing. Look to Christ and find deep waters to dive in and always be overwhelmed with increasing realities of God’s love for his Son and for us as his elected Bride. It is full of the nutrients our soul needs and truly longs for if we are in Christ.

After reading this blog post from Desiring God (http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/brooklyn-s-bridge), I am left with sadness and joy. Sadness in that Josh and I can understand to some degree (though not completely) the pain as we had a miscarriage prior to Norah; however, to have a life lived for any amount of time and then have to part with your baby is truly incomprehendable to me. Joy in that this couple has been a window for the gospel of Christ. How the chills spread across my arms as I think about the grace and love of the gospel being sufficient for these parents to continue to live in hope in the midst of great sorrow. That is what Paul meant by “suffering yet always rejoicing.” True pain marks their lives and God saw fit for a precious gift to be with them for a short time, yet the Gospel of Jesus Christ is how they will continue. Prayers for this sweet mother and father as I am reminded of the brevity of life and considering future grace.

The Answer to a Shattering Kingdom

I often reach a point in my day where I have about had it, the decaf coffee has worn off (yes I really try and convince myself there are some affects from it) and the positivity that comes with a new day and a bright shining sun has dimmed. There I sit in some situation, whether it be my toddler screaming while she is supposed to be napping because she’s mimicking our newborn son crying or attempting to conquer the dishes and laundry with much anticipation that it will be accomplished only to be interrupted by a hungry Owen or a not-so-sleepy Norah.

interrupted.

When I consider this word and it’s placement in my mind in the light of God’s Word, I stand corrected and with a heart of repentance. You see, my cure-all will never be getting what I want to come to pass because that’s not always what my soul needs. Motherhood is not marked by task completion but rather, investment to the souls I’ve been given to raise up in the ways of the Lord.

Dishes, laundry, computer work, bills, etc. yes they need to be taken care of as that is part of home management, BUT when they don’t get completed at the time I had wanted, my kingdom should not be shattered. However, when it is, the root of the issue is that I’ve made it about my kingdom rather than God’s. Paul Tripp wrote a marriage book that has greatly impacted my and Josh’s marriage. He discusses the shattering of our personal kingdoms when we feel hurt by our spouses. More often than not, it’s not an affront to the kingdom of God that we are hurt by. This is the same in motherhood.

Where do I turn in the midst of my shattering kingdom?

1 Timothy 2:5
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus

My answer is not getting my way throughout the day. That will not reconcile the chaos. It is inevitable for things to go outside of how I’ve planned. That’s life with babies!

My answer is Jesus Christ. When I have sinned against God and found my personal preferences more pertinent than gospel-centrality, I return to this one truth: there is but one mediator between me and God. Jesus and his substitutionary work on the cross, purchasing my redemption by his blood, has completed all work necessary for me to be eternally saved and able to experience fullness of joy. That can transform my thoughts from my kingdom to God’s kingdom. That will demonstrate the greatest reality to my children.

Oh that bible-intake will be increasingly more to me so that communing with God in the middle of the chaos will be my answer!