Much of this post is taken from a message I heard several months ago by Kevin Farr at First Baptist Church (my mom’s church) here in Steelville. It was so meaningful to me I asked for the notes at that time and had planned to include them in a post long before now. I still find the words both challenging and encouraging and worth sharing here.
Whether it’s spiritual family or earthly family, the bonds are made from rich and inexpungible meaning. According to the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary “inexpungible” is incabaple of being obliterated. Since Gal. 6:10 tells us to do good especially to those in the household of faith, we can be certain that God wants us to look kindly on our brothers and sisters in the faith and view them as if they were our own flesh and blood family, not thinking of them lastly with our kindness, but thinking especially of them.
In his first point, he outlined some guidelines to living as family. They included not putting our family members under condemnation (while fully supposing those who are truly in Christ would be cooperating with the Spirit’s work within). Thankfully, the Christian is no longer a slave to sin. We are no longer powerless against the sinful tendencies and desires that rise up within our own hearts. “(thus the person dealing with an attraction for porn has the privilege and power to turn from it; the person with a same-sex attraction has the privilege and power to turn from it, the kleptomaniac has the privilege and power to turn from stealing, and on and on it goes.) Greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4 Note well Paul’s warning to those who do live obligated to the flesh – ‘ you are about to die’ – if you live according to the flesh – i.e. as an ongoing practice…Paul is warning against the eternal ‘death’ which all who are without Christ will suffer…Notice that Paul didn’t say we are obligated to the spirit or to God; rather, we are to live ‘by the Spirit’ – it is a desire of the will…How you live matters, and is a display of what you truly believe….Our sanctification is not a once-and-done activity, nor is it a matter of ‘cleaning up our lives by our own willpower. It is the Spirit of God leading, empowering, and transforming. For those truly saved, the spirit of the person loves what the Spirit is doing and wants more of it. The Christian (man) says…I don’t want to be lusting after female images or gawking and lusting after other women, I want to love my wife; The Christian doesn’t want to be dependent on the drugs of the world to try and supply peace, happiness, joy, and contentment, but wants to be dependent on and trust in God, etc.”
The second portion of the message was on how to know we’re in the family. We have an assurance and a confidence when we are in Christ. We are given this spirit upon adoption as His very own children, and this spirit of adoption leads and guides. Our new Father is jealous over us and our adoption so that He may present us, the church, as a pure bride to Christ. How important to tap into the privilege and power we have been given to turn from that which would draw us away from our adoption.
“Adoption (much more common in Roman culture than Jewish, Paul was surely referring to the Roman practice, writing to the church at Rome) – ‘natural-born’ children in Paul’s day could be disinherited, but an adopted child could not! According to Roman law – once the child had been released by his biological father, it took 7 witnesses to confirm the adoption’s legality before a Roman magistrate. When adopted, the child severed all ties with the old family. The new father had full authority over the new son. The son became an heir to the new father’s estate. Any old debts the son may have had were wiped out. The son now had all the privileges and responsibilities of his new family’s natural children.”
So many rich parallels lie within the Roman adoption laws to our relationship with God. God seeks us and we turn away from our “old” life. Our sin “debts” are covered by Christ’s sacrifice. We are joint heirs with Christ to all that is God’s, particularly eternal life and a sweet relationship with God. We embrace all that goes with our new “family” and God.
In the third and last portion of the message, he reiterated and expounded on the benefits of being in the family. We are heirs to all God has and have Christ as our brother. We share in the burdens and sufferings of others and of the lost.
We are family with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and just like in the picture of Roman adoption, it is not by the blood in our veins but by that of a spirit of adoption; i.e. the one to our inexpungible bond with our Heavenly Father and the other to the inexpungible bonds of earthly families.
As another Mother’s Day approaches I am leaning into hope and steering clear of man’s conclusions as I prod through my valleys. I refuse to compare myself to Mother Theresa, Susanna Wesley, Michelle Dugger, nor any young and idealistic mother full of preconceived notions about life and parenting, though I’m happy for all of them. But for myself, I’m madly in love with my kids and grandkids no matter what. Every single one. The sweetest celebration of my motherhood is not on any one particular day, or in reveling in any one of my children’s successes, though I do that. It is in the thoughtfulness of each one of them throughout the year. And then another year and another and another. It is in cards, calls, visits, and laughter. For the ones with children (my sweet grands), it is in the effort they put into guiding the grandkids to gift us with sweet indulgences of artwork, notes, hugs and chats. For seasons when there has been too much gap between visits or too much silence in the conversation, (on either end) it is in the celebration of a God who mends and heals in our lack, our uncertainty, and yes, even in our sin.
If I have ever doubted the lavishness of my God, and I don’t generally, I have only to feast my eyes on an azalea bush in May to settle the matter.
For my friends who have yearned to have children, but could not, I am sorry. Truly sorry. My heart aches for you. I am also sorry for those who have loved and held a child who passed away. There are no words to say I understand, because I don’t and can’t. Your hope for reunion is literally an eternity away. Then there are heart holes for those who have had to give up a child, parent a child without the parenthood “title” or for those of us who have miscarried without ever holding that child. As Ann Voskamp said in a recent post, “Grief is the guaranteed price we pay for love.” She went on to explain that God is the ultimate grief converter because He promises to invade our grief with joy and pour lavish comfort on us in our circumstances.
I hope that God fills your heart with hope in abundance this Mother’s Day…hope that you know how much love God has for you. If you are a believer in Christ as your Savior who died for you, that makes you a daughter of the King, and a joint heir with Christ. In other words, you are royalty! Since God has all the traits that were divided in Adam when He created Eve, He longs to love us and our children with a motherly type love, as well as a fatherly love, and of course, His agape love (which is not based on feelings). “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” from Luke 13:34.
This Mother’s Day I once again am thankful that God indulgently allows us to be a miracle in the middle of our circumstances. Our compass is always pointed to hope, as is beautifully expressed in a song about Christ and the church, “And though you’re in the dark here call me friend…not safe but worth it, so worth it…As you lead us away to valleys low, to acres of hope, acres of hope.”
Do you realize the miracle that He has allowed you to be and the acres of hope that He is leading you in from your “unsafe” valley?
Sophie turned 8 on January 6, and I got behind in asking for grandchild birthday blogposts…but Sophie jumped in to get me caught up again. I remember her from the moment she was born, and am honored to be her “Marme” and love the cuddly moments we share. As you can tell from her next to last picture, she got her sewing skills from me, not her talented mama.
My favorite food is: Donuts!
My favorite book is: Right now my favorite book we’re reading out loud is Jungle Book. My favorite book I read myself was about Amelia Earhart.
I think the coolest person on earth is: Uncle Jacob
My favorite thing to learn about is: Animals, and stories of real people.
The thing I am most awesome at is: I like to do a lot of things, but maybe I’m best at making things.
If I could go anywhere in the world I would go: Maybe somewhere to feed hippos.
My favorite color is: At the moment it is red, but I also kind of like yellow.
When I grow up I want to become: I don’t really know what I want to be right now. Maybe a zoo keeper.
My current favorite song is: The Lion Sleeps Tonight
Three words I feel best describe me are: Hyperactive. Weird. Crazy.
When I was little I used to: Do a lot of things! Like watch TV a lot. I probably chewed on things. I don’t know what all I did when I was little.
My favorite season is: Probably summer.
The absolute best thing about camping is: Being in the wild!
The snack I like the best is: Granola bars.
One food that I really dislike is: Tomatoes.
My best friend is: I don’t really have one. But I have lots of good friends.
Sitting in church Sunday, I glanced at my husband and was dismayed to notice that his shirt was inside out. Surprised, but not too ruffled, he exited out the side door right by him and made the switch. That was actually the second time my dear husband has been an inside out shirt trend setter at church. The first time I noticed it after we returned to our seats from the alter where we had stood, back to congregation, and prayed for our youngest son on Graduation Sunday, while sporting “Faded Glory” washing instructions across his back for anyone with a keen eye. While laughing at work the next day about our mishap, a sweet boss told me that it is the sign of a lucky man to find his shirt on inside out. I don’t know, but I was thinking about the inside out business of being a Christian.
When life seems overwhelming, I run to the Rock that is higher then I, and (sometimes after kicking and screaming inside first), I usually find this inside out truth – that His strength is made perfect in my weakness. I make it my goal to…” take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10 HCSB) When I forgive others with the same grace I’ve received, knowing the ground is equal at the foot of the cross, and when I trust God to turn a situation around for the good, He is then willing to go to work on my behalf.
He picks up right where my weakness and faith invite Him in to take over. Nothing is impossible with Him.
Most everybody knows worry is a bad thing even in the most upsetting of circumstances. It might take me a little while to get to a place of peace. But the most inside out thing of all is to give thanks for my upsets and tragedies. Not that I am glad for tragedies, but that God can be glorified through them. For that I can give thanks with His help.
Here’s another inside out principle….storing up and coveting more and better without thought for the poor (and that is not necessarily defined by government) can make a selfish and hardened heart, yet generous sharing enriches a soul. God warns not to live in selfish luxury and indulgence. Giving, especially sacrificial giving, definitely softens the heart and just plain feels good. In another inside out twist, God has actually chosen the poor who love Him to be rich in faith.
I have been on both ends of rudeness and mistreatment before, (whether intentional or not) as likely anyone whose honest has. It happens, though the persecutions spoken of here are more serious and horrific around the globe, and on the increase even in our country. But the inside out perspective is this. There’s a reward waiting when I leave it in God’s hands and refuse bitterness.
The cool thing about being a child of God is the enemy can’t win. He’s already lost. Even when I’m down. God rushes to rescue (soul first and foremost) and uses it all. When I rally in my own strength this promise does not apply.
With God, the way up is down...bowed down in prayer that is. Praying His promises, believing He will fulfill them because I have died to self and live for Him. Just as a flower dies to drop it’s seed before renewal, so I have to leave my vision in His hands to fulfill or not, according to His best plan.
Here’s a great inside out truth. I look at what can’t be seen. But actually, in my faith, it can be seen and I hold onto it through His promises. Because of this I can let go and worship while still in the storm. I can “see” with my faith vision, and because of His love for me that I know so well, I know that I know that He is at work.
In my prayers, I go to war with the most powerful weapons not generally known to man. They are mighty weapons that demolish “invisible”, but very real, strongholds. They are the weapons of the name of Jesus, my faith in Him, and the Scripture promises that I stand on! There is nothing on this earth so effective as a devoted child of God praying with “clean hands” and a pure heart (because of Christ) and childlike trust. It’s here that often dismal circumstances turn with God’s miraculous touch, but whether or not, I definitely abide in His presence and know His love. No matter how my life is going here, where I am just a stranger, I long for the day I am with Him in eternity and these present sufferings behind me. I know it’s just ahead and I keep my eye on the prize.
That seems to be the ultimate inside out deal. Faithful unto death, gets the crown of life. Whether it’s death to a thousand little selfish things, or choosing death over denying Christ for eternity’s sake, this is the ultimate call. So next time you find your shirt on inside out, consider yourself “lucky” to be reminded that we live inside out. What have you worn inside out or turned around? Please tell me it’s not just at our house. What “lucky” application fits?
Being into the grandma (or “Marme”) season of my life is sweet and fulfilling. Tony and I love being grandparents and pray together for our growing family most every night. It is hard to believe nine years have gone by since Kinsley Abigail made her debut into the world! She has already grown into an incredibly thoughtful and creative young lady with the guidance and prayers of her parents, Candace and Dan. She stays busy with her schoolwork, being a sweet big sister, skillfully writes fascinating stories and often takes part in plays with Fine Linen Drama. She tells about herself below:
My favorite book is: The Lord of The Rings and The Adventures of Ulysses.
I think the coolest person on earth is: Uncle Jacob.
My favorite thing to learn about is: Greek Mythology.
The thing I am most awesome at is: Imagining things.
If I could go anywhere in the world I would go: Exploring in the woods.
My favorite color is: Green, yellow and blue.
When I grow up I want to become: A mom who studies the Liberal Arts.
My current favorite song is: Silent Night.
Three words I feel best describe me are: Adventurish, Bookworm, Weird
My favorite season is: All of them!
The absolute best thing about camping is: Sleeping in a sea of sleeping bags.
The snack I like the best is: Nutella on Graham crackers.
When life gets a little too busy or sad, I find comfort and joy in a few favorite things. The lyrics from the song, “These are a Few of My Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music” portray the distractions I enjoy lately. The song was sung by Maria to the von Trapp children during a thunderstorm; and the lighthearted lyrics and melody were a purposeful diversion from the undercurrent of terror during the time of Hitler’s rise. I am thankful for the diversions I find in my favorite things.
“When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad.”
So here are a few of my favorite things….
A stack of books, a few current cards (I keep a whole box of special cards and memorabila under the bed), a journal, a few pillows and a lamp! There might be chocolate hidden in there somewhere.
both laughter and tears shared with friends
So what favorite things do you think on when “the dog bites”? “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable–if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise–dwell on these things.” Phil. 4:8
I’m going through a season of storms, changes and stretches in my life, and so are several of my friends. Looking back I know that God put many details in place in my life in preparation for this time. That He did this and impressed several scriptural promises on me beforehand gives me confidence as I walk this path. Just as I take shelter in a physical storm, I often take shelter in stormy life seasons. I allow myself the privilege of being hidden in Christ in more meaningful ways then times of “clear skies”. Making time for deeper and more personal Bible study, reading, journaling, prayer time and worship are all helpful during life storms, even if I have to give up on something I normally make time for. Just as in a physical storm I might not put myself in the same places as in clear weather for practical and safety reasons, so in a life storm I allow myself to pursue supports that are helpful and loyal, and am cautious about places that may be hurtful.
Other then my sweet and dependable family members, who I do not take for granted, and especially my husband who prays often while he drives during the day and who is a great listener, God put other supports in place. They would include prayer warriors, those who encourage, concerned and empathetic listeners, good church leaders and teachers, a generous friend or two offering their skill sets, and a mentor who pours herself into exhorting me and believing in me when I need it the most. She often asks me to choose her role for the eye of the storm, and if it’s possible she fulfills it. All of these supports are just the vessels God has used to pour out His love. They are special, very, very special, but they simply point to a personal God who seems to be saying through them, “It is Me! I am with you in this storm.”
Oswald Chambers said (Aug 12 “My Utmost for His Highest”), ‘There are stages in life when…a crisis arises that we instantly reveal upon whom we rely. If we have been learning to worship God and to trust Him, the crisis will reveal that we will go to the breaking point and not break in our confidence in Him.”
When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He didn’t suddenly run out of energy when he asked Lazarus’s friends to remove the grave clothes. He wanted them to be a part of the burden bearing and therefore the bonds that come about from shared burdens and the joy that comes about from answered prayer and miracles. What is needed in the storm are supports that get us through. And, interestingly, this is a mutual need and blessing. What supports has God put in your life to get you through stormy seasons? Do you see Him in them? How do you provide support for your friends when they are in a stormy season?
I recently “liked” a blog post on facebook that talked about the grace God gives us when we need to step back momentarily from a church body and heal.. It sometimes appears God does give more grace in those situations then we give each other, even if we are partially or completely at fault. Like the blogger, I have felt God’s comfort and healing in short “time out” seasons, have experienced God deeply in private worship and devotions, have felt His presence in the “mundane”, have felt His love and healing in the sweetness of my family members, family events, and a few friends who are willing to fellowship on an intimate level, found deep fulfillment in seeking my husband’s approval in our home and family as his helpmate, and felt God’s guidance as I move back into corporate fellowship refilled with grace received and grace to extend.
So my “like” was definitely one of acknowledgment and understanding that sometimes God leads us to a change. But the deepest spiritual blessings in my own life have so far come about by trusting Him within the hard places, knowing we’re all just a bunch of messed up folks in equal need of grace. As a dear friend and mentor said, ‘Why add the problems of others into the mix we each already have going on inside us?’ Because I serve Christ, I am not free to do anything but follow Him. I am His bondslave trying to follow where He is leading me. It is sometimes through fiery trials which He uses to refine. It is often in places where I have absolutely no choice but to trust in Him and His promises. It might be in places of loneliness, humility or misunderstanding, especially if my focus is on myself. It is often in places where He would have me be bold for Him without knowing the response. It definitely includes places that are tender and broken. Where He leads me is never just about me!
Oswald Chambers said in ‘My Utmost for His Highest’, July 12 devotional, “Am I building up the Body of Christ or am I looking for my own personal development only?…To fulfill God’s design means entire abandonment to Him….My goal is God Himself, not joy nor peace, Not even blessing, but Himself, my God” and in the July 15 devotional, “I am a debtor to everyone on the face of the earth because of the Gospel of Jesus; I am free to be an absolute slave only….Quit praying about yourself and be spent for others as the bondslave of Jesus. That is the meaning of being made broken bread and poured-out wine in reality.”
What a revival we would have if we really lived like this. A portion of Matt Redman’s, “We Could Change the World” lyrics say it well, ‘Could we live like Your grace is stronger Than all our faults and failures?… Could we live like Your ways Are wiser than our understanding? Could we live like this? Could we live like this?…..We’re saying, “yes, Lord, yes, Lord!”…What else could we say, what else could we say?’
We are all debtors to something. What are you a debtor to? I want to hold onto God’s Word and the promises He has confirmed in my heart. My feelings and others’ opinions may or may not align with those Truths, but I am a debtor to God and His truths!
There are times I’ve been carried on a stretcher, unable to walk where I needed to go, and there have also been times I have helped carry a “stretcher” with a friend aboard where he or she needed to go. Though one of the stretcher times for me was a literal stretcher from our wrecked one ton suburban to the ambulance and ER, (I was miraculously ok, albeit sore with a case of whiplash and bruised ribs, after the full speed blow of a semi broadsided my side of the car giving me a couple full twirls), most of the stretcher times for me weren’t literal. These have been times when I needed the emotional support of a friend to get through a hard time. I’m sure you’ve had those times as well. God is faithful to provide those friends who provide the crutch or stretcher and ample words of encouragement and exhortation. A stretcher situation requires some coordinated efforts between more than one person, but even if it’s just one friend with a crutch, it’s enough to get me through.
In the Bible, (Luke 5:17-26) there is a story of a man who was carried on a stretcher by his friends to seek healing from Jesus. In between the lines of this story, it’s easy to see that here were some friends who left enough margin in their lives for helping someone. And they had enough strength, courage and determination to try the rooftop route when they couldn’t squeeze through the crowd at the door. They weren’t looking for the first excuse out of this job. This roof didn’t just have a stretcher sized hole in it. They had to remove roof tiles, and presumably hung around long enough to fix the roof as well. I doubt they had the ropes in their back pockets to lower him down. This endeavor, as most endeavors do, started to grow larger on them. But they pressed on. And Jesus healed the man based on “their” faith. Wow…what a thought that Jesus is willing to heal a man based on his own, possibly weakened, faith combined with his friends.
I am so thankful for friends and family who lend a crutch or provide a stretcher when I need it. What I don’t need is tale bearers. And who does? Our prayers and faith should have “feet” that spur us on to good deeds of encouragement. One of my favorite songs is “Carried to the Table” by Leeland.
Christ is my ultimate “stretcher” bearer. Actually, He doesn’t even need a stretcher to carry me. He carries me to the table of communion with His strong arms and He’ll carry me (and all who trust in Him as Savior) to the table at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. A table where I don’t belong, but He says I do. “Have you had a crutch or stretcher provided for you when you couldn’t do it alone? Have you lent one? Do you know the One who will carry you to the ultimate table where you can’t go without His invitation?