A Mind at Peace

After my first son was born, I expected to feel the thrill and joy of being a new mother, totally in love with this new little person. And while I was so thankful for my boy, I found myself feeling overwhelmed, anxious and distressed a lot of the time. There was so much I didn’t know about being a mother, handling sleep deprivation and finding a new sense of “normal” after having a baby.

I was reminded of this verse from Isaiah, and on some of the hard days, it brought hope.

“You will keep the mind that is dependent on you in perfect peace, for it is trusting in you.” Isaiah 26:3, CSB

I wasn’t experiencing much peace. My mind wasn’t dependent on the Lord. I wasn’t leaning on Him, turning my mind towards Him during the dark of nighttime feedings or the frazzled hours of inconsolable crying. I was allowing my mind to stay focused on those feelings of exhaustion and worry and fear, which only led to more distress. In whom was my trust? In myself? In the wisdom of mommy-blogs and parenting books? I was being led by how I felt, and my feelings were a product of sleep-depravity and a post-partum hormonal roller-coaster.

If I wanted the perfect peace Isaiah spoke about, I needed to turn my mind to the Lord, trusting and depending on Him in every moment. I needed to tear my focus away from the feelings long enough to breathe in the Word of God, being refreshed by a perspective that wasn’t awash in the stale air of anxiety and exhaustion. I needed to lie down in the green pastures and beside the still waters where He would refresh my soul with His word (Psalm 23:2-3, Psalm 119:25).

In the years that have followed those newborn days, I’ve found myself returning again and again to this verse in Isaiah, remembering the peace that is possible when I rest my mind on the perfect, eternal Truth in God’s word. Whatever circumstances tempt me to despair – a broken dishwasher we can’t afford to fix, mystery medical problems, long work hours or being far away from those we love – I know that the relief I desire comes only from Christ my Savior. How wonderful that we have a Savior that frees us from the bonds of anxiety and fear!

Love, Katie

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Obey the First Time

“Obey the…”

“First time!”

This is daily communication between my children and me.  Yes, we repeat this phrase constantly, yet still it seems to be only a suggestion rather than a discipline.  *head desk*

When our children are young, we need them to obey immediately when told.  Sometimes this is a life or death situation.  I remember when our first child was a baby I had these completely irrational visions of an 18 wheeler running over her the moment she stepped a toe over the edge of the driveway.  With this disaster on loop in my first – time – mom brain, I needed her to obey when I would yell “Stop!”  Now, the reality of violence in our world dictates different reasons for our children to obey the first time.  Nine years ago before Bookworm was born, I did not envision having a very real conversation about how she and her siblings need to obey the first time in a crisis situation.

The thing is, this practice is not exclusive to children.  God demands this of His children (even the adults ones) as well.  So often we justify our disobedience to God by claiming our partial obedience.  Uh, no!

James reminds us that partial obedience is complete disobedience, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10, NIV) He’s talking to you and me!  Yikes!  That’s some conviction, right?!

We like to convince ourselves that God needs us, but He doesn’t.  I mean, he created-the world!  What can I bring to the table that God needs to complete any plan?  Nuthin’. Buuut, He does want us to love Him.  What does that look like?

“If you love me, keep my commands” John 14:15 NIV

Yeah, all those very clear rules that he gave us so long ago still apply today.  Each person’s struggle with obedience is different.  I, uh, ahem, need to focus specifically on, ahem, closing my mouth (a lot) more.  I know that if left unchecked, my mouth can spew the most venomous words that devastate others permanently. I love Him because He first loved me. He loved me so much that Christ died for me.  He’s not asking ME to get on the cross.  He’s asking me to shut my trap.  I have no other choice but to apologize to him for my disobedience when I choose not to obey the first time and pray for his guidance to help me.  Help me obey.  Help me show Him I love Him more than I love my sin.

Love, Bri

 

Truth Warrior

Every night, my husband and I pray with our son, and then ask him what song he wants to sing. Lately, his little 3-year-old response has been “How about ‘The Bible Tells Me So!’” and he starts singing “Jesus Loves Me” with great fervor. I love that the phrase that stands out in his mind is the one that holds the Bible up as the authority for truth, and I pray that his heart always returns to that bedrock in his life.
We live in a society where the word “truth” has no firm definition. Even among Christianity, it is starting to become a fluid concept, pushed around by popular opinion. This is not a new problem for followers of Jesus. In Colossians, Paul warns believers not to be led astray by the wisdom of the world rather than the message of Christ (Colossians 2:8). Those believers were being inundated with the teachings and philosophies of religious deceivers, losing hold of their grasp of the supremacy of Jesus Christ and His gospel. They needed the warning and challenge from Paul to lay aside what they were hearing from these others who sounded so convincing and focus instead on the One who saved them. We need the same warning and challenge.

For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear.  They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:3, CSB)

Jude says these deceivers creep in unnoticed. John calls them antichrists. Peter says they bring heresies and will exploit their listeners out of greed. As he was preparing to die, Paul wrote one final letter to his disciple, Timothy, ending it with instructions on how to remain strong. His commission is one of perseverance for the truth, keeping ready at all times to rebuke, correct, patiently encourage and teach the truth of Christ, because there is a need for truth warriors. Deceivers will continue to multiply, preaching a gospel that is comfortable and inoffensive, tickling the ears of their followers, leading them away from the truth. Today, we have a multitude of bloggers and authors and speakers all trying to convince us that their version of the truth is correct. Some may be speaking sound, Biblical truth, but the only way we will be able to separate the good teachers from the wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15) is to truly know the Word of God ourselves.

When popular Christian leaders start teaching a gospel contrary to the Word of God, it is time to let go.  It is time to separate ourselves from the falsehood; we must guard the truth and compassionately work to save the victims of those deceivers. This is the challenge I am putting to all of us today – let go of these teachers who deny Christ as their Master and turn again to the Word alone. Be renewed in childlike faith, seek the Lord through His Word, do not be led astray, because the Bible tells you so.

Love, Katie

Living by Grace

After Moses came back, he summoned the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. Then all the people responded together, “We will do all that the Lord has spoken.” So Moses brought the people’s words back to the Lord.” (Exodus 19:7-8, CSB)

I read this verse this morning, and it made me stop and consider the times I’ve said the same thing. After how many poignant sermons, powerful worship nights or refreshing quiet times with the Lord have I felt the power of His spirit and said, “I will do all that the LORD has spoken”? In those moments, I have the purest and most sincere intentions, and yet, inevitably, I soon find myself again struggling against sin.

I am a recovering perfectionist. Since Christ called me, I am familiar with the temptation to live out my faith by obeying a set of commands. And I am unfortunately intimate with the sense of failure that comes from the realization that I just don’t measure up; I always fall short. I find myself trapped in legalistic thinking, running down lists of “shoulds” that, while originating from Biblical truth, fail to capture the real spirit of what Jesus desires for His children.

When I try to live my life this way, I am attempting to live up to God’s standards through my own strengths, which will always result in failure. Israel is a shining example of the weakness inherent in a life lived under obligation to the law. Out of heart-felt conviction, they promise, “We will do all that the LORD has spoken” and yet they turn around and immediately sin. Moses points out the unfortunate reality of the Israelites rebellious hearts, underscoring the misplaced arrogance in trying to obey God out of their own strengths.

 You have been rebelling against the Lord ever since I have known you (Deut 9:24).

It is a simple truth, that I have been rebellious against the Lord from day one. My flesh actively rebels against the Spirit of God within me. As long as I am in this world, I will experience the war between Spirit and flesh. And I try to make it an effort of my own will and strength, a goal to be achieved. It’s no wonder I find myself discouraged and disheartened when I live like that. The blessings of the Mosaic Covenant depended on the Israelites’ performance. But when Jesus died, he freed us from that law and covered us with His grace “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2). Thank God for His covering of grace; a relief to this struggling perfectionist.

Love, Katie

Advent: Preparing our Hearts for Christmas

The word “advent” means “coming” in Latin. In Christianity, there are two advents, or two “comings” we celebrate: the first coming of Christ in the flesh as a baby to redeem the world, and then His second coming when He will return to judge the world and set up His kingdom.

We have put together 25 days of readings that tell the story of Jesus from Creation through to His birth for you to read each day of the month leading up to Christmas this year. It is truly exciting to see how, from the very beginning, God wove His plan of salvation through Scripture. The readings cover the beginning of sin and the need for a Savior, the promise of God to redeem us from sin, the inclusion of people outside of the Jewish race in the plan of salvation, God’s covenant to redeem his people continuing through generations despite man’s forgetfulness and sin, Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, and finally, the arrival of Emmanuel on what we celebrate as Christmas Day.

Each day, read the passages from Scripture, and, if you would like to, write a short journal response to what you have read. Feel free to share anything you find that you love on our Facebook page! https://www.facebook.com/groups/firstbaptistnavarrewomen/

“Here’s an Advent illustration for kids — and those of us who used to be kids and remember what it was like. Suppose you and your mom get separated in the grocery store, and you start to get scared and panic and don’t know which way to go, and you run to the end of an aisle, and just before you start to cry, you see a shadow on the floor at the end of the aisle that looks just like your mom. It makes you really happy and you feel hope. But which is better? The happiness of seeing the shadow, or having your mom step around the corner and it’s really her?

That’s the way it is when Jesus comes to be our High Priest. That’s what Christmas is. Christmas is the replacement of shadows with the real thing.”
― John Piper

*****

12/1 – “The Light in Creation” – Genesis 1-2, John 1:1-4, 17:5,24; Colossians 1:16,17 and Psalm 150

12/2 – “The First Sin” – Genesis 3, John 1:8-10; Isaiah 59:2, 53:6

12/3 – “Inside the Ark” – Genesis 5 – 9:17, Romans 6:23, Joshua 23:14

12/4 – “The Call to Abram” – Genesis 12:1-7, Hebrews 11:8, Matthew 1:1

12/5 – “Isaac and the Lamb” – Genesis 22:1-19; Isaiah 53:7; John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19

12/6 – “Jacob’s Ladder” – Genesis 27:41- Genesis 28:22

12/7 – “Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors” – Genesis 37-50 (focus on 50:18-21), Romans 8:28

12/8 – “Moses and the Ten Commandments” – Exodus 1-15; Exodus 20; 32:15-18; Psalm 119:11; Galatians 3:19

12/9 – “Canaan, the Promised Land of Blessings” – Numbers 13-14:38; 24:17: Psalm 103:2

12/10 – “Ruth and Boaz” – Ruth 1-4, Matthew 1:5

12/11 – “King David” – 1 Samuel 16-17

12/12 – “Josiah Finds the Law” – 2 Kings 22-23:25; Psalm 119:105

12/13 – “Prophecy of Shoot from the Stump of Jesse” – Isaiah 11:1-5,10; John1:14; 1 Samuel 16:1-3, Revelation 5:5

12/14 – “Prophecy of the Lion and Lamb Resting Together” -Isaiah 11:6-10; Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 21:1-7; Philippians 2:9-11

12/15 – “Prophecy of the Prince of Peace” – Isaiah 2:2-4; 9:2-7; John 14:27

12/16 – “Prophecy of a Gentle Shepherd” – Isaiah 40:9-11; Psalm 23; John 10:27; John 10:11-16

12/17 – “Prophecy of the Suffering Servant” – Isaiah 53; John 19:11-18; John 10:15; Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:22; Romans 5:9-10; 1 Peter 1:1;19

12/18 – “Prophecy of the New Covenant” – Jeremiah 31:31-34; Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Hebrews 8-10

12/19 – “Prophecy of Bethlehem” – Micah 5:2-4; Luke 2:1-7

12/20 – “The Exile” – 2 Kings 17:1-23; 25:1-17; Daniel 3; Isaiah 43:2; Jeremiah 1:8

12/21 – “The Return to the Land” – Ezra 1; Nehemiah 6:15-16; Malachi 3:1; Revelation 22:20

12/22 – “The Star” – Matthew 2:1-2; Numbers 24:17; Revelation 22:16; 2 Peter 1:19

12/23 – “The Light of the World” – Luke 1:26-56; 2:21-33; John 1:4-9; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Isaiah 42:6; John 8:12; Revelation 21:23-24; Isaiah 60:1, 3

12/24 – “Angels Proclaiming the Coming of Christ” – Luke 2:8-14, Hebrews 1:1-14, Psalm 91:11

12/25 – “The Birth of Jesus” – Luke 2, 19:10; John 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 8:9

*Verses taken from The Advent Jesse Tree: Devotions for Children and Adults to Prepare for the Coming of the Christ Child at Christmas by Dean Meador Lambert)

Thanksgiving

Confession: I am a perfectionist. I like to do things well, and I like to feel like a success. I like it when things in my life look a certain way. Unfortunately, I am not perfect, and I don’t live with perfect people. My husband does not mind piles of dishes in the sink for days or unopened mail on the counter. My three-year-old is still hazy on the definition of the word “obey” and has a stubbornness that I can already tell is going to be a stumbling block in his own walk with God. I tend to bite off more than I can chew. Pinterest and I have a tenuous relationship, which is always a disappointing reality check. When I begin to see the dishes pile up, the projects gathering dust and send my son to time-out for the umpteenth time, I start to get overwhelmed by the imperfection of my life. I get discouraged that I can’t seem to take care of everything the way it should be taken care of, and worry that my sinfulness is going to irreparably damage my children.

As I was brainstorming what to write to celebrate Thanksgiving this month, I read verse after verse about thanksgiving and praise and gratitude. They were all good, familiar verses that are pretty standard this time of year. But I couldn’t get excited about any of them. I was getting frustrated, struggling to find a truly poignant way to write about such a traditional subject. As I went about my chores, I prayed that God would give me the words, and in my frustration, I said, “I’m just too overwhelmed to even think about being thankful.” Well, there it is. When I am overwhelmed with life, it is hard to be genuinely thankful.

This year, I think the lesson to be learned is one on perspective. One of the things those psalms of thanksgiving have in common is that the one giving thanks is always elevating God above his own circumstances. The Israelites are known throughout Scripture for constantly failing to follow the commands of the Lord, for getting distracted by their surroundings and being led astray by their sinful nature, and yet in His grace and unfailing love, He continually pulls them out of the pit and provides a way out for them.

“I waited patiently for the Lord;
And He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay,
And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.” Psalm 40:1-2

I am just like the Israelites, focusing so much on my circumstances that I can’t see a reason to be thankful in the life He’s given me. I need a shift in my perspective. Can I pull my focus away from the imperfections of my life long enough to give thanks for who God is? Because even in my messy life, His love is constant. He is faithful when I am faithless, and He answers me when I cry to Him out of weakness and discouragement. In Psalm 138, David is thanking God for His care and attention while Israel was in captivity. Their lives were hard, full of abuse and physical labor, yet God had not forgotten them. David prays,

I will give You thanks with all my heart;
I will sing praises to You before the gods.
I will bow down toward Your holy temple
And give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth;
For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name.
On the day I called, You answered me;
You made me bold with strength in my soul.
All the kings of the earth will give thanks to You, O Lord,
When they have heard the words of Your mouth.
And they will sing of the ways of the Lord,
For great is the glory of the Lord.
For though the Lord is exalted,
Yet He regards the lowly,
But the haughty He knows from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me;
You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
And Your right hand will save me.
The Lord will accomplish what concerns me;
Your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

I need to remember this. I need to remember that God is ever-sovereign, the King of all Creation and the lover of my soul even on my worst days. How can I keep myself from getting lost in the temporal issues of my life, so I can see God’s everlasting kindness?

The Apostle Paul gives us some clear direction in changing our perspective: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:1-2). When my focus is on the things above, I remember the attributes of God. I remember that He is good and faithful and compassionate, strong and abundantly patient. My circumstances don’t change when I thank God for who He is; my perception of those circumstances does. When I seek Him through His Word and in prayer, I can see what is eternal. I don’t have to give thanks because it’s tradition. I don’t have to give thanks because it’s Thanksgiving and that’s what all the decorations at the store are telling me to do. I don’t even have to give thanks because people at church do. If I can get my mind off my messy kitchen, misbehaving child, off my Pinterest-fails and just generally shift my focus off myself, maybe I will see more plainly how “out of the fullness of his grace he has blessed us all, giving us one blessing after another (John 1:16).” I’ll have my mind clear to see the truth of who God is and how faithful He has been to me. Then I will be free to truly give thanks.

Love, Katie

Slippery Slope

“We go down chutes and up ladders!”  Any friend of mine who’s brought her kids to the park with my children and me has heard me yell these simple but loaded words to my kids. And while at the park one day, a friend just recently said, “It’s hard being a parent.”  Yup.  The context of our conversation was that doing laundry and changing diapers aren’t hard.  They’re just annoying, and often times, gross tasks (where did that stain come from?!).  Even trying to appease the ever-rotating taste buds of my breakfast table of four isn’t hard; it’s trying (“No, I only like orange cheese”).

No, I’m talking about parenting.  The repeated correcting, rebuking, and teaching of the moral reason why we do things and why we don’t do things.  Especially in the face of a world that does do a lot of things we don’t do.

Still with me?

Proverbs 12:1 says, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, But he who hates reproof is stupid.”

Is it really that big of a deal if kids climb up the slide?  Many parents would say “no.”  For me, absolutely, categorically, yes!  I have a laundry list as long as my arm with all the reason that I believe it’s wrong.  Not because it’s not fun, but for moral and safety reasons that I believe translate into other areas of life.  People say “kids are kids” Nope, try again.  People say, “they’re just kids.”  Again, no.

My four children were gifts God gave me.  He said, “here, take care of these small humans.  Don’t break them.  And teach them.  Teach them who I am.  Teach them to love me.  Teach them to obey me!”

Whoa.  That’s quite a P.S. on the ‘congrats on the new baby’ card!  But it’s true.  Every.  Single.  Day.  God commands me to be the mother my children need.  He wants me to teach them to know they are sinners.  They need to know they are helpless in their sin without the Blood of Christ.  They need to know that because they are redeemed in Him, they have a job to do in our fallen world.

So what does this have to do with not climbing up a slide?  Our job is to do the right thing in Him.  We aren’t to obey rules because they are fun, but because we are commanded to obey authority.

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.  Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” Romans 13:1-2  NASB

The first authority our children meet are us.  But eventually (*blinks back tears*) they must leave us and go out as young adults into the world.  They’ll be met with an onslaught of rules, some of which make no sense, yet are rules nonetheless.  Their obedience to God will set them apart and make them, as John says, Children of the Light.

We can all agree that in a world of darkness, we could use a lot more light.  Well, hate to break it to ya’, but that starts with us, fellow moms.  Daily we must consistently pour God’s truth into the hearts of the small humans He’s entrusted to us for only a few short years. And you know what? All that parenting is probably going to pay off when years later, we like the big humans they’ve become.

Love, Bri

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