Digging out the minivan

luke3I got stuck in the slushy mess.

Driving out yesterday was a cinch.  After a mass of snow and ice hit our area over the weekend, we now had temperatures in the 50s.  It was warm, bright and sunny and we needed to get out of the house.

The snow was no longer snow.  The ice no longer ice.  It was a slushy concoction and when we walked in it, our feet sucked down into the wet.

So, we inched out of our driveway and headed to freedom at the library and the grocery store!

But by the time we got home, the slush had melted even more.  It was like quicksand now, and we were sitting in a huge minivan loaded down with one mom, four kids and a week’s worth of groceries from Wal-Mart.

So, my minivan just slurped right down into it the moment I drove into the mess.

I unloaded the children.

I unloaded the groceries.

And I grabbed a shovel to dig out the slush from around the tires.

It didn’t take much to get the van moving again, (it’s only snow after all), but then we just sunk right down into the slush again every few inches.

Finally, I realized what this was truly going to take.  I was going to need to dig a path for each tire until no more melted snow and ice remained anywhere my tires needed to go.

I had to prepare the way.

So that’s what I did.  I shoveled the melted mush out of the way and drove just as smoothly as could be back into the grooves of an already worn path.

That’s what John the Baptist told the curious crowd gathered by the water to hear him preach:

‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight‘ (Luke 3:4 ESV)

In her book, Jesus, The One and Only, Beth Moore says:

The original Greek word for ‘paths’ is the word tribos, which means ‘a beaten pathway.’ In a personal way God wants us to prepare a path.

This isn’t a path that’s just stumbled upon; it’s one that’s beaten out and formed with purposeful intentionality.

What would that mean for me?

If I stood on the bank of the river and heard this wild-looking prophet telling me to make a beaten pathway in my life for the Lord, what would I need to do?

I’d need to dig out the slush and the mire, the mess and the grime.  I’d need to clear it all out of the way so my heart was ready for God to come in power and might to do a new work in me.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that grace and righteousness depend on me shoveling out sin with my own two hands gripping the shovel.

But it does mean I need to be yielded and ready for the work God wants to do.

I can’t hold on to my plans.

I can’t cling to my agendas.

I can’t try to hide sin in the corners of my heart.

 

Preparing a way for the Lord means listening and not shutting Him out.

It means offering up my heart to Him and asking the Holy Spirit that question that I can be oh-so-hesitant to ask:  “What do you need to change in me to make me more like Jesus?  I offer you my heart and I ask you to do the work.”

I know what that means.  It’s risky.  It’s dangerous.

He could try to teach me patience.

He could put difficult people in my life to teach me how to love more truly.

He could bump into my perfect plans and replace them with His own.

In my flesh and in all my selfishness, what I want is what I want:  My expectations, My hopes, My thoughts.

But what I want truly, deeply, more than anything else is for God to transform me, to take off those rough edges and mold my heart so people see Jesus in me.

So I yield.

I pick up the shovel.

I ask God to prepare my heart for the work He wants to do in me and through me.   Beat out a straight path in my life.  Wear it right down, Lord, so I’m ready for what you want to do.

I join Him in the task, knowing that I want Jesus, just Jesus, always Jesus more than anything else.

 

 

We Bring All the Pieces to Him

christmas-perfection

The first crash of that shattering glass hit and it was just the day after Thanksgiving.  We were only one day into the Christmas season and only about 1 hour into Operation Decorate the House.

‘Twas an accident of course.

The penguin soap dispenser hit that floor and ended in a puddle of hand soap and broken glass.

That’s decorating with kids.

Accidents happen, you know.

An hour later, another crash.  Our box of special, keepsake, treasured ornaments hit the floor and a daughter cried with remorse.

Still, a little sweeping, a little mopping, a little gluing, a little comforting and we slipped back into the decorating groove, crooning along with Bing Crosby to White Christmas.

Stuff is stuff.  Things break (especially when you’re clumsy like me, especially when you have four kids like us).

Look at our Christmas tree from afar and it still has that glow of perfect.

Look up close and you’ll see the ballerina’s feet are glued on, Noah’s ark is missing a dolphin leaping up out of the ocean waters, and the three kings no longer carry a sign: “Wise Men Still Seek Him.”

Brokenness can still be beautiful when we look with eyes of grace.

But when we squint up close to critique and criticize….when we look right past the glory and seek out the flaws…..suddenly that’s all we see.

Perfectionism is a bully.

It muscles in and takes over our perceptions.

It demands that we see only brokenness and faults.

It insists that we remain chained to the past, obsessing over mistakes, battering us over past sin, beating us up with shame.

Lysa TerKeurst writes:

My imperfections will never override God’s promises (The Best Yes).

The promise of Christmas is “God with us.”  The promise is that when we were farthest from Him, He came to us.

The promise is that we didn’t have to get it right on our own or check the boxes of the law until we’d met some prerequisite to grace.

We didn’t come worthy.

We came needy.

And He came down.

Our imperfections never negated the promise of Emmanuel’s presence.  Not then.  Not now.

He still promises us this, “And surely I will be with you always” (Matthew 28:20 NIV).

He is with us always, but not to leave us there in the brokenness.

Sometimes we stop right there at this thought: “Beauty in the brokenness.  We’re all a mess in need of a Messiah.”

Sometimes we stop right there and, dare I say it, glory in the broken?  We cling to our mess instead of releasing it to Him.

But the glory is in the Healer.  The glory is in the redemption.  The glory is in the One who puts His own pure robe of righteousness over our shaky shoulders.

He doesn’t leave us naked and ashamed.  He “has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10 NIV).

We’ll never be perfect in our own striving and strength.  True.  But we don’t have to remain stuck there in the mud.  He grips us with the hand of grace and pulls us out of that pit so we can move forward with Him.

Those disciples on the road to Emmaus after the resurrection didn’t have it all right.  They didn’t have perfect understanding.  Their belief was delicately trembling and about to topple their whole foundation of faith.

They thought Jesus had been the Messiah, yet He had died.  These rumors from ‘crazy women’ about an empty tomb left them confused and alarmed.

But Jesus walked alongside without them recognizing him, going back to the beginning, telling the story start to finish.

When He was about to leave, “they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them.”

There at the dinner table, He broke the bread and their eyes opened wide to the truth: This was Jesus.  This was God in their midst.

God’s presence doesn’t depend on my perfection.

God’s presence doesn’t demand perfect understanding or faith without fail.

But if I want God’s presence, then I have to invite Him in, urge Him strongly, “stay with me…..”

He can only make us whole when we trust Him with the pieces, all of them:

God made my life complete
    when I placed all the pieces before him. Psalm 18:20 MSG

We bring all the pieces.  We don’t hold any back.

We lay them at His feet, not running away or hiding from Him.  We come into His presence, broken as we are, and He makes us whole and holy, and He stays with us.

Originally published 12/10/2014

The Grandest Invitation Ever

Revelation 19I’m guessing I was in middle school.

Really, there’s not much I remember about why I was there or when I was there or even who was with me.  I think it was probably a band field trip up to Pennsylvania for a music competition.

But here’s what I do remember, walking into a large open room surrounded by windows and seeing table after table covered in crisp, bleached white tablecloths, each one set with an elaborate place-setting that included multiple forks and spoons.

I’m just a teenage-ish girl away from home with a bunch of other middle schoolers about to eat at a place far nicer than our normal class trip stops at McDonald’s or Wendy’s.

Even now, I’m the kind of girl who eats at restaurants where kids can get their drinks in styrofoam cups with lids and straws.

(Okay, maybe I can get my drink in that styrofoam cup).

This place was an intimidating beast of a dining room with significant glassware and cloth napkins.

What was I doing there?

I grew up in a home where we learned table manners, so I knew how to put my napkin on my lap and not lean on the table with my elbows.

But, I’ll still never forget that initial feeling of walking into such a fancy place and thinking, “I get to eat here? There’s not some back room for middle school girls from the suburbs?”

Maybe you’ve never felt out of place or like a small and insignificant girl feeling a little overwhelmed and a lot like you don’t belong there.

But I sure have.

I’ve felt uncomfortable and unworthy.

I’ve felt humbled and speechless and afraid to make one wrong move because maybe they’ll figure out the truth: that I’m an imposter who doesn’t deserve to be here.

So, as I was studying the book of Ruth and reading Kelly Minter’s book, I just wished so desperately I could pour myself a cup of tea and this amazing author could pour herself a cup of coffee and we could chat because Kelly got ‘it.’

She got everything about how it feels to be an imposter welcomed to a table.

Ruth 2:14 says:

And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over.

Up to this point in the book of Ruth, the author has made a huge, whopping, big deal about the fact that Ruth is a foreign woman. Even worse, she’s a Moabite foreign woman.

She didn’t even deserve to glean in the fields of Boaz and certainly wasn’t worthy of anyone’s notice, especially not someone as wealthy and powerful as Boaz.

Yet, after months of watching Ruth’s hard work and seeing her faithful care for her mother-in-law, Boaz invites her to the table with his employees and blesses her with abundance.

She eats everything she could eat and still had leftovers.

Immediately, I thought of how much this sounded like Mephibosheth, the crippled son of Jonathan whom King David invited to share the king’s table night after night.

(Kelly Minter thought the same thing.  I’m telling you, we were totally clicking that day!)

Mephibosheth was the grandson of King Saul.  When David became king, everyone expected him to kill anyone left alive in Saul’s family.

Instead, David seeks out Mephibosheth and longs to show him kindness.

And, crippled as he was, Jonathan’s son couldn’t even get to the king’s table on his own.

He would have to be carried.

Kelly Minter writes,

I believe we all deeply long to be invited ‘to the table.’ It represents all things that speak belonging, acceptance, and the honor of being chosen. It is a picture of intimacy, conversation, nourishment, and safety (Ruth, p. 76).

You and I, as unbelievable as it may seem, are invited to a table of abundance.

Revelation 19:9 says:

Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (ESV).

How blessed indeed are we as believers to receive this invitation?  Christ Himself spreads out a feast and asks us to come to the table.

It’s an invitation we don’t deserve, not on our own merit or strength anyway.

We’re like Ruth—foreigners.  We’re the lowly and the poor.  We’re the outcasts and the outsiders.

Like Mephibosheth, we’re crippled and broken and we can’t even make it to the table all on our own.

We need Jesus.

He covers us with His righteousness.  He dresses us in the pure robes of His forgiveness.

And, He bids us come and eat.

“Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory” (Revelation 19:7 ESV). 

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.

 

45 Bible Verses on Pursuing Holiness

verses-holiness

  • Leviticus 19:2 ESV
    Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them,You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy
  • Leviticus 20:7 ESV
    Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God.
  • Leviticus 20:26 ESV
    You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.
  • Psalm 51:10-12 ESV
    Create in me a clean heart, O God,
        and renew a right spirit within me.
    11 Cast me not away from your presence,
        and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
    12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
        and uphold me with a willing spirit.
  • Psalm 66:18-19 ESV
    If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
        the Lord would not have listened.
    19 But truly God has listened;
        he has attended to the voice of my prayer.
  • Psalm 97:10 ESV
    O you who love the Lord, hate evil!
        He preserves the lives of his saints;
        he delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
  • Psalm 119:1-3 ESV
    Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
        who walk in the law of the Lord!
    Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
        who seek him with their whole heart,
    who also do no wrong,
        but walk in his ways!
  • Psalm 139:23-24 ESV
    Search me, O God, and know my heart!
        Try me and know my thoughts!
    24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
        and lead me in the way everlasting!
  • Proverbs 16:17 ESV
    The highway of the upright turns aside from evil;
        whoever guards his way preserves his life.
  • Isaiah 35:8 ESV
    And a highway shall be there,
        and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
    the unclean shall not pass over it.
        It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
        even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
  • Isaiah 52:11 ESV
    Depart, depart, go out from there;
        touch no unclean thing;
    go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves,
        you who bear the vessels of the Lord.
  • Amos 5:14 ESV
    Seek good, and not evil,
        that you may live;
    and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you,
        as you have said.
  • Romans 7:12 ESV
    So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
  • Romans 12:1 ESV
     I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
  • Romans 13:12-14 ESV
    The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
  • 1 Corinthians 3:17 ESV
    If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
  • 1 Corinthians 6:19 ESV
    Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own
  • 1 Corinthians 15:34 ESV
    Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
  • 2 Corinthians 7:1 ESV
    Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
  • Galatians 5:22-25 ESV
    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
  • Ephesians 1:4 ESV
    even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him…
  • Ephesians 5:3 ESV
    But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.
  • Ephesians 5:27 ESV
    so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
  • Philippians 2:12-16 ESV
    Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
  • Colossians 3:5-10 ESV
    Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self[c] with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:4 ESV
    that each one of you know how to control his own body[a] in holiness and honor
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:7 ESV
    For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:22 ESV
    Abstain from every form of evil.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:23 ESV
    Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • 1 Timothy 6:11 ESV
    But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.
  • 2 Timothy 1:9 ESV
    who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began
  • 2 Timothy 2:21 ESV
    Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
  • Hebrews 12:1 ESV
    Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
  • Hebrews 12:14 ESV
    Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
  • James 1:21 ESV
    Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
  • 1 Peter 1:15-16 ESV
     but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
  • 1 Peter 2:9 ESV
     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.
  • 1 Peter 2:11 ESV
    Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
  • 1 Peter 2:24 ESV
    He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
  • 1 Peter 3:11 ESV
    let him turn away from evil and do good;
        let him seek peace and pursue it.
  • 2 Peter 3:14 ESV
    Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.
  • 1 John 1:7 ESV
    But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
  • 1 John 2:1 ESV
    My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
  • 1 John 3:6-10 ESV
    No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you.Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
  • 3 John 1:11 ESV
     Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.

Custard Didn’t Have a Last Stand

1 timothy 6

“Custard’s last stand.”

That’s what I hear my daughter say while playing in her room with her sisters.

I thought I probably just misheard.

Then I hear it again.  Nope.  I didn’t get it wrong.  “Custard’s last stand.” That’s what she said.

Goodness knows why in the world this subject has even come up at all, but at this point, I  pop my head in the room and say, “Custer.  Custer’s last stand” and I give them the 30-second history lesson.

My daughter pauses, shrugs and says, “Well, I like to say it my way.”

Now, sometimes this might be cute, funny, or creative, but this time I pipe up with, “But that’s wrong.  Custer is an actual person’s name from an actual historical event with an actual way to pronounce it.  And it is Custer, not Custard.”

She’s not impressed.

After all, we like the way we do things, don’t we?  We’re not generally jumping with joy and feeling all blissful when we’re corrected and asked to change.

She makes me wonder: how often do I shrug my shoulders at the Holy Spirit when He corrects me?

“Well, I like to do it my way.”

Is that what I say?

Is that what we say?

This remarkable, astonishing grace of God covers over the filth of our sin.  He drenches us with mercy and washes that grime away.

We are clean.  Made new.  Totally beloved children of God.

But in our efforts not fall into the pit of legalism, we’ve wobbled and teetered and sometimes crashed onto the other side.

I see it everywhere, the reveling in grace so fantastic that we avoid the call to holiness and sanctification.

The Holy Spirit corrects us and we shut Him down because we like to do things our way.

And, besides, there’s grace.  He loves us all equally, right?  He can never be disappointed in us, right?  He can never love me more or less than He does now, right?  He loves all of us sinners just the same, right?

That’s what we say.

But there’s some untruth we’ve mixed in there.  Jesus was disappointed with people; He was disappointed in the disciples at times.  God was pretty frequently disappointed in Israel.

I’m sure He’s been disappointed in me.

And, while I know He always loves me completely, I also know He’s more pleased when I obey Him than when I disobey Him, and He loves the humble heart, and He is amazed by great faith.

And there’s this:  

but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'” (1 Peter 1:16 ESV).

There are countless verses telling me to set myself apart for Him, to obey Him, to turn away from the flesh and all ungodliness, and to choose holiness over continual sinning.

I’ll tell you one thing the Bible does not say:  “You’re forgiven and loved by God, so sin all you want without feeling bad about it because God loves you anyway.”

Our conversations about failure have changed in the church.  We’ve learned not to hide it away.  We’ve stopped pretending we don’t all sin and we’re being open, honest, vulnerable about the shocking fact that we are in fact human, are in fact a mess, and are in fact imperfect and in need of a Savior.

We’ve shattered age-old fake holiness and now point with joy to God’s forgiveness and grace.

Amazing, amazing, amazing grace.

But what then?

Have we begun to glorify failure?

I sat around a table of women and one shared her struggle as we all nodded our heads in agreement.  Yes, yes, yes—we do that.  We get it.  We understand.

And then she does it. She shrugs and says, “But that’s just normal, right?”

Yes, it is normal.  But normal isn’t okay. 

God calls us out of normal and into holiness.

Do we pursue righteousness in our own strength?  Can we make it on our own?  If we just try hard enough, do we somehow attain perfection on our own merit?

No.  Way.

We are all of us utterly dependent on the redeeming grace of Jesus and completely incapable of earning salvation on our own.

I’m a mess.  It’s the plain truth of the matter.

And, I’ll tell you I’m a mess because I never want to act like I’ve got all this figured out or gotten my own self together.

But I’ll tell you something else, every single day: I want to be less mess and more Jesus.

I don’t want to stay rooted in sin because that’s just who I am and God will forgive me anyway.

I want to lean into Jesus more.

I want to respond like Christ, react like Christ, love like Christ, live like Christ .

I’ll get it wrong.  We all will.

But sanctification means not giving up the holy pursuit.

It means coming to Christ anew, confessing the sin, starting fresh, trying again….with His help, in His strength, through His grace looking more and more like Jesus every day.

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.

Why I Want to Really Know My Kids

psalm 119

I was about 22 years old, married without kids, teaching other people’s children in the classroom when I started praying this prayer:

Lord, when I have children, please help me know them, not just the great things about them, but their sin and weaknesses, too.  I want to know what’s wrong so I can wade waist-deep into the mess of sin if needed to help them choose repentance and find grace.

As a teacher, you come face to face all of the time with the parenting phenomenon My-Child-Is-Perfectitis.

It’s thinking that your child could never do anything wrong, and evil influences from other less-perfect children or teacher error is to blame for any supposed wrongdoing.

Then I brought my own first tiny bundle of perfect babyhood home from the hospital when I was 24.

Even her doctor declared she was the “most perfect little baby” when I brought her in for the first appointment.

I beamed.

But I knew the truth: She was beautiful and a treasure and a gift, but she wasn’t perfect.

Maybe it’d be easier as a mom to shield my eyes from any of my kids’ mess-ups or mistakes.

It’d feel so much more comfortable focusing on what my kids do right and overlooking anything they do wrong.

(Okay, I’ll admit it, sometimes I just want to pretend I don’t see my kid take the extra cookie so I don’t have to actually roll my sleeves up and deal with it.)

But easy isn’t really what I’m looking for as a mom. I don’t want to do what’s comfortable; I want to do what’s best for my kids with the eternal in mind.

I’m thinking about this today in light of new scandals and news bulletins about prominent Christians who have fallen, sometimes repeatedly, into sexual sin.

I’m not one to engage in debates or public bashing here on the blog, but I’m processing Ashley Madison and the Duggars and other Christian leaders stepping down or being ousted from ministry because of adultery, pornography and the like.

What’s a mom to do in a world like this?

I know what’s true:

Even the best Christian parents have adult children who reject the faith and make bad decisions.

Of course, that doesn’t mean tossing my hands up in futility and just letting my kids do whatever they want.  I’m willing to pour myself out in this parenting effort.

But it does mean letting go of the pressure of perfection and realizing that far more depends on prayer than depends on my performance.

And there’s nothing I can pray more powerfully than for God’s mercy. God, in all my imperfections and in all the ways I fail, please draw me children to You anyway.  Mercy, Lord, I need so much mercy.

There’s something else that catches my attention as a mom, though.

Sin isn’t always “out there.”

I read an article on Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s response to the newest reports about their son and it breaks my heart:

‘This wasn’t something they ever imagined was possible,’ the source told People. ‘They so strictly limit their exposure to these sorts of outside influences – from websites to even the sort of television they watch, if they turn on the TV at all – that they were absolutely baffled by how this could have been possible.’

They thought that by keeping the world out, they could keep their kids pure, but their best efforts at that weren’t enough.

I’m a pretty protective mom about what we watch, listen to and read as a family, and that’s right and good.

Yet, if I teach my kids that holiness is the same as avoiding the world, we’re in trouble.

The far harder work is teaching our kids how to overcome temptation from within and temptation from without and choose to obey God no matter what.

Jessie Clemence wrote about this on her blog this week also:

I want this to go farther than just behavior management. I know we could cancel the internet service, destroy the technology, and isolate ourselves in our home. But that’s not what I’m looking for. I want to raise kids who seek God with every aspect of their lives. I want to raise kids who understand that porn and bullying and affairs break God’s heart and fall far short of the love of Jesus.

You cannot protect your kids from sin.

You cannot.

Because sin is in them.

It’s not the world that is sinful.

It’s humanity.

And that means us.

I’d rather make the effort now to know the true state of my kids’ hearts—the good, the bad, and the ugly—and battle right there with the truths about repentance, and holiness, and grace.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (1 John 1:8-10 ESV).

 

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 © 2015 Heather King

 

Christmas Devotions: How many ornaments have we broken so far?

The first crash of that shattering glass hit and it was just the day after Thanksgiving.  We were only one day into the Christmas season and only about 1 hour into Operation Decorate the House.

‘Twas an accident of course.

The penguin soap dispenser hit that floor and ended in a puddle of hand soap and broken glass.

Photo by jeka81, 123rf.com

Photo by jeka81, 123rf.com

That’s decorating with kids.

Accidents happen, you know.

An hour later, another crash.  Our box of special, keepsake, treasured ornaments hit the floor and a daughter cried with remorse.

Still, a little sweeping, a little mopping, a little gluing, a little comforting and we slipped back into the decorating groove, crooning along with Bing Crosby to White Christmas.

Stuff is stuff.  Things break (especially when you’re clumsy like me, especially when you have four kids like us).

Look at our Christmas tree from afar and it still has that glow of perfect.

Look up close and you’ll see the ballerina’s feet are glued on, Noah’s ark is missing a dolphin leaping up out of the ocean waters, and the three kings no longer carry a sign: “Wise Men Still Seek Him.”

Brokenness can still be beautiful when we look with eyes of grace.

But when we squint up close to critique and criticize….when we look right past the glory and seek out the flaws…..suddenly that’s all we see.

Perfectionism is a bully.

It muscles in and takes over our perceptions.

It demands that we see only brokenness and faults.

It insists that we remain chained to the past, obsessing over mistakes, battering us over past sin, beating us up with shame.

Lysa TerKeurst writes:

My imperfections will never override God’s promises (The Best Yes).

The promise of Christmas is “God with us.”  The promise is that when we were farthest from Him, He came to us.

The promise is that we didn’t have to get it right on our own or check the boxes of the law until we’d met some prerequisite to grace.

We didn’t come worthy.

We came needy.

And He came down.

Our imperfections never negated the promise of Emmanuel’s presence.  Not then.  Not now.

He still promises us this, “And surely I will be with you always” (Matthew 28:20 NIV).

He is with us always, but not to leave us there in the brokenness.

Sometimes we stop right there at this thought: “Beauty in the brokenness.  We’re all a mess in need of a Messiah.”

Sometimes we stop right there and, dare I say it, glory in the broken?  We cling to our mess instead of releasing it to Him.

But the glory is in the Healer.  The glory is in the redemption.  The glory is in the One who puts His own pure robe of righteousness over our shaky shoulders.

He doesn’t leave us naked and ashamed.  He “has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10 NIV).

We’ll never be perfect in our own striving and strength.  True.  But we don’t have to remain stuck there in the mud.  He grips us with the hand of grace and pulls us out of that pit so we can move forward with Him.

Those disciples on the road to Emmaus after the resurrection didn’t have it all right.  They didn’t have perfect understanding.  Their belief was delicately trembling and about to topple their whole foundation of faith.

They thought Jesus had been the Messiah, yet He had died.  These rumors from ‘crazy women’ about an empty tomb left them confused and alarmed.

But Jesus walked alongside without them recognizing him, going back to the beginning, telling the story start to finish.

When He was about to leave, “they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them.”

There at the dinner table, He broke the bread and their eyes opened wide to the truth: This was Jesus.  This was God in their midst.

I’ve spent a year pursuing the presence of Christ, and as I “Abandon Perfection” this month I’m reminded of this:

God’s presence doesn’t hinge on perfection.

God’s presence doesn’t demand perfect understanding or faith without fail.

But if I want God’s presence, then I have to invite Him in, urge Him strongly, “stay with me…..”

He can only make us whole when we trust Him with the pieces, all of them:

God made my life complete
    when I placed all the pieces before him. Psalm 18:20 MSG

We bring all the pieces.  We don’t hold any back.

We lay them at His feet, not running away or hiding from Him.  We come into His presence, broken as we are, and He makes us whole and holy, and He stays with us.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I Abandon Perfection?

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

 

 

Living With the Tension

I sing to my children, “Jesus loves me, this is I know….” and “Jesus loves the little children.”

Jesus is love.  That’s the message in the melody.

I sing (more like chant): “God is so big, so strong and so mighty! There’s nothing my God cannot do.”

And there it is, the lesson of God’s greatness, His majesty and power.

I sing again: “God is so good….God is so good….God is so good, He’s so good to me.”

His goodness, His grace, His might, His love.  I sing them as lessons, I read them on the pages of Bible storybooks and bedtime devotionals and my kids soak these in, the stepping stones of theology and doctrine.

Somehow kids can take all this in, the vast array of God’s character, the completeness of who He is, and accept it without conflict or contradiction or competition.

But we age so often into adult extremists, wanting to shove God into ill-fitting categories, taking stands along divisive theological battle-lines, innocently enough most of the time.  We don’t realize it usually.  Generations swing wide from one dangerous cliff to another, rarely achieving the balance, and we swing along with them.

We’re rarely comfortable with the tension implicit in God’s character.

But this is who God is: Perfect, living as the only One who can balance the holy tension between the extremes in this spiritual tug-of-war.  Labels don’t fit Him.  Our pat explanations don’t always work.  Our well-reasoned arguments fall short.

In our churches, we see this.  In our Christian books and our favorite pastors, we assume allegiances just like the early church declaring, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos” (1 Corinthians 3:4 NIV), more comfortable following humans than following our enigmatic God.

In the past, we proclaimed the importance of righteousness and living holy lives, digging ourselves into trenches of legalism and creating a Christianity more focused on moral expectations than salvation.

Now, we praise brokenness, moving past the healthiness of confession and vulnerable living, setting ourselves up all comfortable and cozy with sin–because we’re forgiven, after all.  And sin is sin and we’re already saved, so why bother reaching for holiness?

We used to drag people to the front of a sanctuary to say the sinner’s prayer and voila, pronounce them saved for all eternity.

But we’ve moved away from “cheap grace” without discipleship or fruit or revolution and now we’re “fruit” judges, examining people’s finances and the size of their homes and the cost of their shoes to determine if they’re radically committed enough to make it into heaven.

We preach messages of encouragement to one another, reminding burnt out, hard-working Christian servants that God loves us for who we are, not what we do.  We don’t need to perform for Him, don’t need to DO anything to earn His affection or merit forgiveness.

Then we tell them the church needs workers and salvation displays itself through service and how are you working for the Lord?

We categorize God into Old Testament ogre of divine retribution and New Testament Savior offering grace.

Which is God?  What is true?

Does God desire righteousness or brokenness?psalm108

Does He save us by grace alone or should our faith work itself out with fear and trembling?

Does God love us regardless of how we perform or does He want us to be working for Him?

Is God holy, just, big, good, and pure?  Or is He gracious, forgiving, all-loving, and compassionate?

Yes.

Not either/or, one or the other, this or that.

But yes and amen.

God is perfectly able to inhabit this place of holy tension.

In our faith, we “become like little children” (Matthew 18:3 NIV), simply trusting Him, accepting the truths without turning them into combat zones.

Our God is holy and gracious, just and compassionate, saving us because of His grace and calling us to serve.

We return to Scripture and see that even in the Old Testament, God is characterized by grace.  He enacted a long-established plan to save us; it wasn’t an invention of the Gospel writers of the New Testament.

Because of His great love for His people Israel, He disciplined them with captivity.  Yes, even in discipline there is love.

Jeremiah the prophet declares:

“It will be a time of trouble for my people Israel. Yet in the end they will be saved!” (Jeremiah 30:7 NLT)

and he reminds them of God’s promise:

“I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love.  With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself” (Jeremiah 31:3).

The prophet spoke of punishment and grace, captivity with the promise of freedom, destruction with the assurance of future restoration and hope.

Because this is who God is, this is His perfection, this His greatness that is beyond our capacity to understand—but that we worship.

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 November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Devotions From My Garden: It’s Crowded In Here

My daughters and I reached a compromise.

I announced that I didn’t want to grow a vegetable garden this year.  It was too much work for too little result.  It didn’t save money.  It started out fun in April and ended up a horrible, rotten, ugly chore by the middle of July.  Various ravenous insects destroyed and devoured my plants.

Their response was unanimous.  “But Ma—awm.  We like to grow our own food.”

So we narrowed down the lists of vegetables we would grow and planted a container garden on our deck.

On one of the warmest and sunniest days in April, we filled large wooden crates with garden soil, vegetable food and the tiny plants of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers we had chosen.  Then we dropped the carrot seeds into the dirt, following exact directions on how far down to push them and how far apart they needed to be spaced.

Mostly we worked together, but after a while my daughters disappeared to work on their own project. They held out the result to me with pride.  It was a small planter with dirt in it.

“We planted radishes,” they announced, “all by ourselves.”

I shrugged.  The radish seeds were leftovers from last year.  It seemed unlikely they’d grow.  Yet, the girls faithfully watered that pot for days and surprisingly they were rewarded by the first hints of green.

A day later, the pot was crowded by infant radishes.  The girls must have dumped 20 seeds all into the same tiny space in the miniature pot.

It was going to be really crowded in there.

Unfortunately, even though it is hard and a little sad, we now have to make some tough choices.  If all the radish plants remain in that pot, none of them will grow correctly.  Some of them have to come on out of there.

Sometimes our lives are just as crowded as that tiny radish pot.  Every single seedling may have potential for beauty, growth, and produce, but nothing can grow when they are all shoved into the small space of one simple life and the restriction of 24-hour days.

Even though it’s hard and a little sad, there are times when some things have got to go so that other areas of your life can grow to their full potential.

It’s not always a mystery when choosing what to toss.

When Jesus walked into the temple and saw the vendors hocking their wares–doves for sacrifices and loans for people needing money for their offering–He responded immediately.  It didn’t take a second’s thought for Jesus to overturn their tables and chase the mercenaries out of the holy space of the temple courtyard.

He threw out sin, contaminated worship, and the profanation of the holy.

As soon as Jesus cleared the place, the blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them” (Matthew 21:14).

The only reason they could seek healing in the temple, the only reason there was room for the blind and lame to worship, was because Jesus had thrown out the tainted and unholy.

The Message emphasizes this when it says, “Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in.”

Until Jesus cleaned house, there hadn’t even been room in the temple for those who needed God the most.

Will we allow Jesus to overturn the tables in our heart where sin and the unholy have set up shop?  Will we clear out the trash and the disgusting, so that we have room to come to Jesus—and to bring others along who need Him the most?

Of course, it’s not always so easy to tell what has to go in our lives.  We have a million choices of how to invest our time, energy, talents, and money, and all of them could be good.  We could lead hundreds of crusades against a world of evil.

But if we crowd out our lives with too much that is good, nothing will grow as it should.

Jesus Himself exhibited the kind of focus we need, to hone in on our purpose and refuse to be distracted by every demand and need.

During His ministry, mobs of people sought out Jesus for healing.  He lived in a world of need, need, and more need, and He frequently healed those who sought out His help.

But He didn’t heal everyone.

In fact, when the crowds grew too large and people sought Him out for healing alone, He moved onto another town or He escaped the crowds in order to pray alone on a mountain or by the sea.

Healing was fine.  Miracles were part of His ministry.  But it was not His main purpose for coming and He never wanted that to be the focus of His presence.  Instead, He had come to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10) and “to save the world” (John 3:17).

Maybe it’s time for you to pull out some of the extra radishes from your pot.  The first ones to go are easy—yank out the sprouts of sin, the unholy habits and the remnants of the flesh life.

Then prayerfully ask God to help you focus.  What seedlings should you tend and invest in until you harvest their potential?  What seedlings need to be set aside so that other areas of your life can grow?

Determine to live an uncrowded life, a flourishing, growing, fruitful life of produce and harvest, made possible by intentional focus and the pursuit of purity in your life and worship.

More Devotions From My Garden:

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 © 2012 Heather King