Bad Boy

“No, no, no.  Bad boy.  Bad.  Boy.”

I’m in the back room of our house and I hear my oldest daughter chastising someone in the living room.

We don’t have a dog and it’s useless to lecture cats about their behavior.  So, I’m curious and concerned.  Who could she be talking to?

I see her in the living room sitting with her eight-month-old baby brother, who apparently is grabbing at her long Rapunzel-style hair while she holds him.

“Bad boy,” she says again.

I scoop him right up and then I explain it to her gentle:ephesians2-8

“Babe, we don’t call him ‘bad boy.’  He’s beautiful and wonderful and curious.  You can teach him, ‘no’ and you can give him other things to grab than your hair, but we don’t label someone as a ‘bad boy.’  Ever.”

But then the next day, I’m changing the baby’s messy diaper and I hear my four-year-old behind me.

“Oh, Andrew.  Bad boy.”

I explain it all again to her and my other daughters listen in.  I hope they don’t miss out on the truth of what I’m saying here because this is just plain important.

We do not call him Bad Boy. 

I just don’t know where it comes from.  I’ve never talked to my children like dogs.  I’ve never changed a diaper or disengaged my hair from the pudgy hands of an infant and said, “Bad girl” or “Bad boy.”  I can correct their behavior without the hurtful labeling.

So, what is this natural inclination to legalism and to guilt-ridden, shame-filled name-calling?

Isn’t this Christian walk this difficult balance of knowing we are depraved sinners in desperate and absolute need of a Savior?  Prone to evil.  Apt to sin.  Not worthy of heaven on our own merit or labor.

And yet we are also dearly loved and covered by the heavy blanket of grace.  And the God who loves us, He knows we’re not perfect.  He knows our clumsy way of tripping right into messes of our own making.

If He thought we were perfect, He wouldn’t have sent His Son to redeem us.  We wouldn’t have needed it.

Ephesians says it right there:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV).

So, I want to be holy to please the God I love.  But when I mess it all up, I never seem to accept the forgiveness He offers.  I just keep apologizing and rehashing the disappointment.  I expect the discipline and the punishment.

This is because I let Him down.  This is because I did something wrong.

This is because I’m a ‘bad girl.’

In an article called How to Rise a Pagan Kid in a Christian Home, Barret Johnson talks about Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales, who said, “I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity.”

Johnson asks:

 Do you teach your kids “be good because the Bible tells you to” or do you teach your kids that they will never be good without Christ’s offer of grace? There is a huge difference. One leads to moralism; the other leads to brokenness. One leads to self-righteousness; the other leads to a life that realizes that Christ is everything and that nothing else matters.

So, do I want to strong-arm my children into good, moral behavior?  Do I discipline them so their hearts are turned to Christ and the desire to be like Him?  Or do I discipline so they will act respectful, tell the truth, sit still in church, not embarrass me in public, and stop hitting their sister in the back of the minivan?

I’m reading, The Good Dad, by Jim Daly and he pins me right down because I’m too often a woman who expects perfection from myself and a mom who expects perfection from my kids:

We all fall short of God’s standard of perfection….This understanding of our own imperfections helps us avoid the modern-day legalism that endangers so many Christians…It’s okay for your kids to fail sometimes.  Because that’s often how they learn best.

Nobody’s perfect.  That’s why we need Jesus.

That doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want, sin however we feel like it, no consequences, no worries.

It just means that while we strive for holiness, we know it’s not all on our own.  We rely on Him to help us.  And when we fail, God isn’t yelling at us, “bad girl.”  So we can stop yelling it at ourselves.

We live thankful for the grace.

We rest in His love.

We stop looking back and keep moving forward.

 

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

 

Just This and No More

My older girls picked up their knitting needles this week.

They have big plans of what they can make with one ball of yarn and two thick needles: Hats with pom poms to match stripey scarves for every family member and friend.

For now, I tell them: Keep it simple.  Practice the steps, row after row.  No need for fancy patterns or agendas.  Just stitch after stitch until they are even and right.026

We’ve corrected our fair share of lost stitches, tangled yarn and strangely elaborate knots.  Mostly, though, we’re fighting against extra.

I started my oldest girl out with 15 little loops and within 3 rows, she’d nearly doubled the length of her project.  I counted them out—27 stitches now. We counted out 5 stitches for my next daughter and she immediately increased that to 10.

How do they do this?

It’s not purposeful, of course.  Just an inadvertent grabbing of yarn in the wrong place, slipping on two loops where there should be only one, until finally their project has doubled in size.  And if I let them continue unhindered, it’d triple and more.

So I pull out the row and  start them again.

This is how you grab just one loop at a time.  This is how you count your stitches after each row.

But it’s just so easy with momentary distractions and the way we pick up speed to do this, too.

God starts me out with 15 simple loops of yarn.  He establishes the rhythm and the pattern, and He measures out the resources so I’ll have enough for all I need.

I focus at first and watch each stitch carefully.

Then I begin to rush and think about other things.  People ask me questions.  I look away instead of on my project.

Somehow I’ve slipped on extra stitches.  God asked me to do 15.  Just 15.  So simple.  He gave me enough.

But now I have 30 and I’m frantically working, trying to keep up with it all.  I’m running out of resources and fretting over how I’ll ever be sufficient for all this need.

When I finally hand over the tangled mess to this patient and gracious God, He takes me back, eliminates the excess and starts me over again.  Just 15 stitches, Heather.  I only asked You to do these.  No more.  Nothing extra.  And I’ve given You all You need, more than enough, for this alone.

It’s busyness, of course, that rushes us into grabbing more.  We say “Yes” when He wants us to say “No.”  We feel pressured into volunteering and there’s the pride that convinces us that we can save the day and make it successful.

Usually, it’s all good things: Bible studies, meetings, committees, volunteering and relationships.  Then we find ourselves doubling up those stitches again, and when we read those words of Jesus, they don’t even make sense.  How could He promise us this when we feel so worn?

 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV)

There’s another way, though, that those stitches slip right on and we don’t even know it. It’s not busyness; it’s expectations.  We tell ourselves what a Good Mom, a Good Wife, a Godly Woman and a True Friend does.

We’ve condemned ourselves right there, always trying to measure up to some perfect standard, tossing on stitches until we just collapse in failure and then we feel it: I’m a failure and a mess. I can’t keep up with it all, even these 15 stitches.  Not like “her,” so perfect and together.

But God didn’t ask us to be perfect.  He doesn’t impose impossible standards or withhold grace.

In the Message, the same verses in Matthew say:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly(Matthew 11:28-30 MSG).

It takes purposeful determination to protect the few stitches God’s entrusted to us, to fall into those unforced rhythms of grace rather than frantic rushing and condemnation.  No slipping on extra loops of string, not with busyness and commitments or expectations and burdensome requirements.

Protect what He’s asked You to do and do it well, with all Your heart and mind, knowing that He’s given you all you need for just this much and no more.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Online Bible Study: Week Seven (Chapters 13 & 14)

Welcome to week seven in the study of Priscilla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God.  I applaud you all for sticking with us this summer as we read through her book together.  I know you’re busy; I know you have a million other things vying for attention.  And yet, you have set aside time for this book and I am praying for God’s blessings for you as a result.

If I can give one piece of encouragement, it’s don’t give up!  Don’t leave the book half-read or this study partly done.  If you’ve fallen behind, please jump back in as you are able because I don’t want you to miss some of these great chapters at the end.  You can comment on any older post as you catch up on the reading.

My Thoughts:

“Hello. Thank you for calling heaven, where your eternal destiny is secure.  Our menu options have recently changed . Please listen closely to all of the options before making a selection.

Para Espanol, por favor pulse dos.

Please speak or press your 10-digit salvation account number.

Thank you!  Did you know that you can access God’s perspective on many things at any time from the comfort of your own home?  Your heavenly user guide or Bible is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

To check your good deeds account, please press one.
To request forgiveness, please press two.
For automated guidance about your account questions, please press three.
For doctrinal information, please press four.
For help with health, finances, and relationships, please press five.
For all other prayer requests, please press six.

If this is an emergency, please hang up and call your pastor.

To repeat this menu, please press zero.  If you would like to speak to a customer representative, please press nine now.

All of our customer representatives are currently busy.  Due to abnormally large call volume, your wait may be delayed.  Please hang on the line and we’ll be with you shortly.

Elevator music.  Cheerful ads.  More music to which you drum your fingers.  The doodles on your paper have now progressed from swirls and cubes to intricate designs and flowers.

We’re sorry.  All of our customer representatives are currently busy.  Please hang on the line and we’ll be with you shortly.”

I’ve been on hold with companies a lot lately and the routine is the same with each call.  Press buttons.  Answer questions.  Listen to annoying music and assurances that they will be with you as quickly as possible.

Priscilla Shirer writes this week that God’s “entire goal, since the beginning of time, is to have a personal, intimate, loving fellowship between the two of you.”  That means that He longs for us to commune with Him all the time about everything we’re facing and He responds to us both by listening and answering with love and grace.

He isn’t putting us on hold.  He isn’t creating go-betweens to filter out calls until we really prove we need to talk to the Supervisor on Duty.  He wants to spend time in relationship with us both in the times that we experience joy and the moments we feel pain and He’s always listening as we cry out to Him.

All that we experience is subject for prayer.  In her study on Daniel, Beth Moore notes that Paul encourages us to pray and give thanks “in every situation” (Philippians 4:6).  We’re compartmentalizers some times.  We think, this I can handle, but this I can’t so I’ll pray about it  This I can think through, but this I’m lost on so I’ll pray about it.  This is too small to pray about, but this is big enough to mention in the Sunday School prayer time. This the doctor will answer, but this I’m going to have to leave to God.

There’s not some stuff that fits into a God category and other stuff that doesn’t.  In the sorting bins of our needs, emotions, and thoughts, there’s just one basket and it’s got a big fat label on it marked “God’s.”  Praise God that He is responsive, loving, gracious, and accessible.

Chapter Outlines:

Chapter 13: A Fatherly Voice

  • God has a personal message for us and we cannot assume that He has the same plan for others that He has for us.  Obviously, on basic doctrinal issues, on the matters of sin that His Word clearly addresses, the standard is consistent.  But, on questions of personal choices–who to marry, where to work, whether to work or stay home, and more, we must remember that we “run the risk of becoming legalistic and placing other believers in bondage” if we believe what God has told us applies to everyone (p. 153).
  • God’s voice may be convicting, but it is not condemning.  He doesn’t harp on your sins of the past.  “He desires to bring healing and restoration by forgiving my sin and throwing it into the sea of forgetfulness” (p. 155).

Chapter 14: A Challenging Voice

  • God isn’t always talking about how to make us feel comfortable.  In fact, He’s pretty frequently asking us to step out of comfort and into faith.
  • The quote from Oswald Chambers on p. 163 is pretty challenging: “Have you ever heard the Master say something very difficult for you? If you haven’t, I question whether you have ever heard Him say anything at all.”
  • We may feel ill-equipped for the task God has called us to, but “it is through your inability that He reveals His power” (p. 164).

Your Thoughts:

  • What were your favorite, quotes, passages or Scriptures from these two chapters?
  • Have you ever made a choice that you knew was God’s will for you, but also knew it wasn’t God’s will for everyone?
  • Do you ever struggle with feelings of condemnation versus conviction?  Is it easy for you to accept Christ’s forgiveness and move on or are you sometimes trapped by guilt?
  • When has God called you out of comfortable and into faith?  What has God taught you in those situations where He asked you to do something that was beyond your natural ability, experience, training, gifting, etc.?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

What Would Bring Jesus Joy?

Today I read a great Valentine’s verse.  In the past two weeks, I’ve actually come across it three times, so today I’ve been meditating on it because obviously God wants me to pay attention.

The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17, NKJV).

I love that verse!  There’s two things that encourage me here.

His love

I love how the NKJV says “He will quiet you with His love.”  If I really think about the root cause of so much of my anxieties and worries, what keeps me tossing and turning at night—it’s because I’m not trusting in God to take care of me.  I’m not trusting enough in His love.  When my mind is noisy with anxiety and stress, His love can quiet me.  His love gives me peace.

The NIV translates this as “in his love he will no longer rebuke you,” which to me is such a powerful thought.  When I’m messing up, stressed, or worried, intermingled with those thoughts are thoughts of condemnation.  I say bad things about myself that I would never ever say –or even think–about anyone else.  I think, “You are such a mess.”  “That was so stupid.” “I can’t do any of this.”

But, Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  No condemnation!  God’s great love for me covers over all my mistakes and I am no longer rebuked or condemned.

His Rejoicing

I clearly remember the days when we Christians all wore WWJD bracelets and there were songs, books, sermons and t-shirts asking, “What Would Jesus Do?”  It was catchy and thought-provoking.

Today, though, I’ve been asking myself a slightly different question—What Would Bring Jesus Joy?

Not as catchy, I know.  I’m not trying to sell the rights to make t-shirts or anything.  Still, the Zephaniah verse says, “He will rejoice over you with singing.”  I want Jesus to rejoice over me!

I want my actions to bring Him joy and glory so that people see Christ in me.  In my words and thoughts, I ask as the Psalmist did, “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14, NIV).

Unfortunately, I fall short of this goal often.  I’ve read many articles and books lately saying that you can’t disappoint God.  I don’t know that I agree with that.  I think we see His disappointment when Moses tried to get out of going to Pharaoh and leading the Israelites out of Egypt.  We see His disappointment in Israel’s perpetual complaining and turning to false gods.  In the New Testament, Jesus was disappointed even in the disciples and their lack of faith and understanding.

Sometimes, He’s probably disappointed in me.  Sometimes, I don’t give Him reason to rejoice.

But, in those moments I can go back to His love.  As a parent, I always love my children, but I am sometimes disappointed in their behavior choices.   Similarly, even if God is saddened by my disobedience, or lack of trust, or my poor reactions to life’s irritations, He never stops loving me and His grace always covers me.

As Paul wrote in Romans 8:38-39:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

********************************************************************************************************************************

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King