leave to the Lord Jesus

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“How would the great work of sanctification go on in a man if he had no trial? Trouble is often the only fire which will burn away the dross that clings to our hearts. Trouble is the pruning-knife which the great Husbandman employs in order to make us fruitful in good works. The harvest of the Lord’s field is seldom ripened by sunshine only. It must go through its days of wind, rain, and storm. If you desire to serve Christ and be saved, I entreat you to take the Lord on His own terms. Make up your mind to meet with your share of crosses and sorrows, and then you will not be surprised. For want of understanding this, many seem to run well for a season, and then turn back in disgust, and are cast away.

If you profess to be a child of God, leave to the Lord Jesus to sanctify you in His own way. Rest satisfied that He never makes any mistakes. Be sure that He does all things well. The winds may howl around you, and the waters swell, but fear not:

“He is leading you by the right way, that He may bring you to a city of habitation.” (Psalm 107:7)

(J.C. Ryle, Holiness, p. 198-99)

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Painting by Albert Bierstadt, A Storm in the Rocky Mountains (1866)

(Originally posted as Winds may howl around you, January 8, 2014.)

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one lonely car

IMG_5657One lonely car in the driveway — where there were five. Two empty bedrooms. One mama’s heart breaking. Again.

Will I ever get better at this? Will that first empty morning after they move out ever seem less lonely? Less packed full of deep sadness?

The house, filled all summer with DIY projects,  lies quiet in its straightness. I craved straightness when the crafting supplies covered the tables. Now, I crave the piles of busy creations. I craved less to do when the days were overrun with lists. Now I crave non-stop conversation and errands together and futures to be discussed.

My girls have returned to college. And it’s not only the car in the driveway who finds itself lonely.

(I’m sorry if you wished I’d not write — again — about this year-after-year flood of missing-them emotions. I tried to. But then I remembered you. My friend who’s feeling the same. And if writing helps me process my sadness, maybe reading will help you in some way?)

Sending them out, elementary – adulthood

Our hearts break when our children fly from the nest. Straight as wobbly arrows they soar, navigating unknown waters, venturing into newness all around — without us. We’re no longer there. We’re no longer at their side as they struggle to ride their first bike; no longer cheering within their hearing, “You can do it! I’m so proud of you!”

Instead, they go out — on their own.

So. We weep in the missing. For the crying somehow helps us.

And we pray. For our prayers, miraculously, help them.

For even as we, perched in our emptying nest, cry with sad hearts, we also remember and believe and know this precious answer: They aren’t alone. The Lord God goes before them. He fights for them. He loves the children we love, and unlike us, He can be there with them.

So, mingled with an aching heart’s tears this morning, I pray the same prayer I prayed when they left for first grade and fourth and eleventh. I, from deep within, cry to my good Father, who listens and always plans their good.

Pray with me? For your own children, and for those you know who have no one to pray for them:

O kindest of Fathers, Lord God, I ask you to keep my precious children as they live their day in places where I’m not. Care for them and carry them. Remind them of your love! Do for them what they can’t do for themselves — turn their hearts to you as they move through this day. Protect and keep them. Grow their faith in you alone. Comfort them. Encourage them when they feel fear. Convict them when they feel pride. Please, work today to grow in them a passion for you and your ways, creating within them a soft heart that loves you deeply, follows you closely, and affects their generation for you in profound ways. Thank for the honor of knowing and being in their lives! Do for them what you’ve been doing for them all along: please be their protector and guide. Please be the lover of their soul! Please be their God.

Related: Growing kids, not grass.; the tearing of a mother’s heart; A mother’s wingsthe Arm which encircles the globe.

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when money (and what it buys) becomes your scorecard

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“How do you know that money isn’t just money to you? Here are some of the signs. You can’t give large amounts of it away. You get scared if you might have less than you’re accustomed to having. You see people who are doing better than you, even though you might have worked harder or might be a better person, and it gets under your skin. And when that happens, you have one foot in the trap. Because then it’s no longer just a tool; it’s the scorecard. It’s your essence, your identity. No matter how much money you have, though it’s not intrinsically evil, it has incredible power to keep you from God.” (Tim Keller)

“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it.

…people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” (I Timothy 6:6-10)

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somewhere else there must be more of it

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It was when I was happiest that I longed most. It was on happy days when we were up there on the hills . . . with the wind and the sunshine . . . Do you remember? The colour and the smell . . . And because it was so beautiful, it set me longing, always longing. Somewhere else there must be more of it.”  (Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold, by C.S. Lewis)

…it set me longing, always longing. Somewhere else there must be more of it.

Other posts on the place you’re really longing for: a longing for another place; Made for another worldlocks and gloves and the place made for you.

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the calling of every Christian parent

IMG_5484In the corner of the world where I live this week begins a new school year for most children. Kids are nervous and excited. Parents are nervous and excited. And kids (and therefore parents) are about to find themselves inundated with choices: new classes, new friends, new sports and arts and offerings of all sorts. It can all end up overwhelming.

Parents, how do you guide your growing child’s school-year choices? What will reign as most important in your family, and in your own heart, as you lead them? As you sort through all the choices, what’s the calling that overarches (and therefore simplifies) the decisions you make for them this year ahead?

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.””(Matthew 28:18-20)

“I cannot think of any directive from the mouth of Jesus that is a more appropriate call to every Christian parent than this one…Your job is to do everything within your power, as an instrument in the hands of the Redeemer who has employed you, to woo, encourage, call, and train your children to willingly and joyfully live as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is more important than how they do in school, or how positively they contribute to the reputation of your family, or how well they set themselves up for a future career, or how well they do in sports and the arts, or how well they are liked by adults and peers.

These things aren’t unimportant, but we must not let them rise to the importance of this one thing. Your children must come to learn early that their lives don’t belong to them…that they have been given life and breath for the purpose of serving the glory of another…that they do not have the right to follow their own rules…that their lives are meant to be shaped, not by what they want, but by what God has chosen…”

So I do want Paul Tripp’s words to be the rule for my approach to parenting. But how do I practically apply Jesus’ words in Matthew 28 to my daily decisions for my school-age children? In this way — I run all decisions through the filter of:

Does this activity, chosen for or by my child, woo, encourage, call or train my child to find joy in their life being lived for Jesus?

As I filter through the myriad of choices for my child in this way,  I also remember this:

“If you are going to raise willing disciples of Jesus, you need to patiently communicate the story of his amazing grace to your children again and again…you have no power to transform your children from what they are to what they should be…You cannot make your children love, believe, surrender, respect, confess, forgive, serve, speak the truth, be pure of heart, and worship God. Only God can do these things…he simply calls you to be faithful, to do good toward your children day after day after day, knowing that the results are in his infinitely powerful hands…Fight the feeling that you are all alone. Meditate upon and celebrate his power and presence and go do what you’ve been chosen to do with courage and hope.” (Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family, by Paul Tripp)

Painting: Benedicite by Franze von Defregger (1835-1921)

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Parenting dyed with the most powerful force

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“If you allow yourself to forget the daily mercies you receive from your Father’s hands, mercies you could never earn, it will become easier for you not to parent your children with mercy.

Mercy is tenderness and compassion toward someone in need. Our children are just that — needy.

…Parenting is about the willingness to live a life of long-term, intentional repetition. God has called you to a life of patient perseverance. He has called you to be willing to do the same thing over and over again. He’s called you to slow down, settle in, and let him progressively do through you what only he can do. He’s called you to believe that his plan and his timing are always right. He’s called you to be willing to live with what is incomplete and to be thankful for each step that is taken. And he’s called you to look for opportunities every day to be part of his process of grace in the lives of your children. Here’s the bottom line: he has called you not only to parent your children but to lay down your life for them. He has called you to expend the major effort, time, and energy of  your life for your children’s welfare. He’s called you to be his tool of grace again and again and again. Parenting really is a life of holy repetition.

…you are blessed with his grace so that every day your parenting would be dyed with the most powerful force of change in the universe: mercy.”

(Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul Tripp)

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walking through something difficult

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“One of the main metaphors the Bible gives us for facing affliction is walking – walking through something difficult, perilous and potentially fatal.

The walking metaphor points to the idea of progress. Many ancients saw adversity as merely something to withstand and endure without flinching, or even feeling, until it goes away. Modern Western people see suffering as something like adverse weather, something you avoid or insulate yourself from until it passes by.

The unusual balance of the Christian faith is seen in the metaphor of walking – through darkness, swirling waters or fire. We are not to lose our footing and just let the suffering have its way with us. But we are also not to think we can somehow avoid it or be completely impervious to it either. We are to meet and move through suffering without shock and surprise, without denial of our sorrow and weakness, without resentment or paralyzing fear, yet also without acquiescence or capitulation, without surrender or despair.” (Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, by Tim Keller)

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.”

“I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” 

“I am going to prepare a place for you…I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”

(Isaiah 43:1-2, Hebrews 13:5, John 14:2-3)

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no pit so deep

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“There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.”

(Betsie ten Boom’s words, recorded for us by her sister, Corrie, in The Hiding Place. Betsie speaks of the evil seen and experienced in her WWII concentration camp, where 96,000 women were murdered in the gas chambers.)

Those are Betsie’s words. Here are your Lord’s:

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? … I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39)

Follower of Jesus, remember always, no matter your trouble or danger or fear:

No pit is so deep that He is not deeper still.

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God’s love rubbed into your grief

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“The love and hope of God…has to be rubbed into our grief, the way you have to rub salt into meat in warm climates…Your grief is going to make you bleaker and weaker or it could make you far more wise and good and tender, depending on what you rub into it.”

(From Tim Keller’s sermon, “Truth, Tears, Anger, and Grace” on John 11:20-53, to his New York City congregation the Sunday after 9/11. Listen to the whole sermon here.)

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Unforeseen? Or part of a pattern?

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“As my health returned, I was able to use my eyes longer. I had been sustaining myself from my Scriptures a verse at a time; now like a starving man I gulped entire Gospels at a reading, seeing whole the magnificent drama of salvation. 

And as I did, an incredible thought prickled the back of my neck. Was it possible that this—all of this that seemed so wasteful and so needless—this war, Scheveningen prison, this very cell, none of it was unforeseen or accidental? Could it be part of the pattern first revealed in the Gospels? Hadn’t Jesus—and here my reading became intent indeed—hadn’t Jesus been defeated as utterly and unarguably as our little group and our small plans had been?

But . . . if the Gospels were truly the pattern of God’s activity, then defeat was only the beginning…” (Corrie ten  Boom’s memories from solitary confinement, before she was transferred to Ravensbruck concentration camp, 1944; as remembered in The Hiding Place)

All that seemed so wasteful and so needless. All that seemed unforeseen and accidental in the beginning; that seemed so utterly and unarguablely like defeat.

All part of the pattern first revealed in the gospels. All only the beginning:

For as the lightning flashes in the east and shines to the west, so it will be when the Son of Man comes….However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows…So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return…And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens…And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven…But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne.” (Mt. 24:27, 36, 25:13, 24:30-31, 25:31)

Nothing wasteful or needless. Nothing unforeseen or accidental. All, rather, a part of the pattern first revealed in the gospels. The pattern where seeming defeat is the beginning, and the Son of Man returning with power and glory is end.

Or rather the new beginning. The moment we watch for. The moment when the magnificent drama of salvation unveils the Lord Jesus reigning on His eternal throne.

Reigning for her. And for you.

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He is beautiful

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“Religious people find God useful. Christians find God beautiful.” (Tim Keller)

A religious leader named Simon invites Jesus to eat dinner in his home. As Jesus arrives, Simon doesn’t offer water to wash the dust from his sandaled feet. Simon doesn’t offer a kiss of greeting or olive oil to anoint Jesus’ head. Simon has invited Jesus, but he has also intentionally skipped their culture’s gestures of welcome and hospitality.

Then though. A woman arrives. She’s not just any woman. She’s the lowest of the low.

She’s heard that Jesus is eating at Simon’s house, and braves probable snubbing by the gathered religious crowd in order to find the Lord. She arrives with many month’s wages in her arms. She enters the room. She enters with awe-struck, penitent tears.

The gathered invitees are “reclining at table” — they’re facing inward toward a low center table with their legs and feet extending outward like spokes in a wheel. She, the uninvited, approaches.

She begins to wash the feet Simon ignored.

She not only washes, but she anoints. Using her valued, costly…

beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind Jesus at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”

Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”

“Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.

Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”

Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”

That’s right,” Jesus said. Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.

“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?”

And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50)

A Lord who forgives; who gladly loves the unlovely; who cancels debts mounted high.

A woman who knows she’s unable, needy, desperate.

A religious person who thinks he’s not.

One finds Jesus somewhat useful.

The other finds Him beautiful.

Which one are you?

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the dazzling display of sovereignty in creation (meant as a primer)

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“Why did God create?…God was not inwardly lonely or personally empty; He was entirely self-satisfied, self-content, and self-contained. So God did not create because of some limitation within Himself…

He created everything out of nothing in order to put His glory on display for the delight of His created beings and that they might declare His greatness.

…A. W. Pink writes with thought-provoking wonder of the extraordinary sovereignty of God before creation:

‘In the great expanse of eternity, which stretches behind Genesis 1:1, the universe was unborn and creation existed only in the mind of the great Creator. In His sovereign majesty God dwelt all alone…There were then no angels to hymn God’s praises, no creatures to occupy His notice, no rebels to be brought into subjection. The great God was all alone amid the awful silence of His own vast universe. But even at that time, if time it could be called, God was sovereign. He might create or not create according to His own good pleasure. He might create this way or that way; He might create one world or one million worlds, and who was there to resist His will? He might call into existence a million different creatures and place them on absolute equality, endowing them with the same faculties and placing them in the same environment; or, He might create a million creatures each differing from the others, and possessing nothing in common save their creaturehood, and who was there to challenge His right? If He so pleased, IMG_4951He might call into existence a world so immense that its dimensions were utterly beyond finite computation; and were He so disposed, He might create an organism so small that nothing but the most powerful microscope could reveal its existence to human eyes. It was His sovereign right to create, on the one hand, the exalted seraphim to burn around His throne, IMG_4952and on the other hand, the tiny insect which dies the same hour that it is born. If the mighty God chose to have one vast graduation in His universe, from loftiest seraph to creeping reptile, from revolving worlds to floating atoms, from macrocosm to microcosm, instead of making everything uniform, who was there to question His sovereign pleasure?’

God’s dazzling display of sovereignty in creation was a primer (an introductory teaching on a complicated subject) on His right to rule in matters of salvation. God, who commanded the light to appear on day one of creation, soon would order gospel light to shine into the darkened hearts of spiritually blind sinners. God, who separated the waters on day two, would cause an infinite chasm to separate Himself from sinners. God, who gathered the waters together on day three, would gather sinners to Himself. God, who created the sun, moon, and stars on day four, would omnipotently create saving faith. God, who began to create the animal kingdom on day five, would graciously send His Son to be the Lamb of God to take away sin. God, who created Adam and Eve on day six, would soon re-create sinners into His image. His free grace would perform the second Genesis in the salvation of lost men and women.” (From Foundations of Grace by Steven Lawson – this  excerpt from July 3, 2017’s “Why did God create?” at ligonier.org)

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when obedience results in hardship

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When you begin along a path of obedience to the Lord and are met by hardship or persecution, don’t despair. Don’t renege when suffering arises. Don’t panic. Do not doubt His faithfulness:

Don’t dig up in doubt what you planted in faith.”

Rather:

Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.”

Because:

“The Lord is near.”

And because He is near, no matter the form your hardship has taken as a result of your obedience, you can:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

(Elisabeth Elliot, I Corinthians 16:13-14 and Philippians 4:5-7)

Painting: Woman Digging by Camille Pissarro, 1883

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skilled at seeing other’s weaknesses

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“Why is it that we’re so skilled at remembering the other’s weakness, failure, and sin and so adept at forgetting our own? Why are we so good at seeing all the ways that another needs to be forgiven but forget how great our need for forgiveness is? When we’re filled with the grief of our own sin and with gratitude for the amazing forgiveness we’ve been given, then we’ll find joy in giving to others what we’ve received. Perhaps a lifestyle of unforgiveness is rooted in the sin of forgetfulness. We forget that there’s not a day in our lives that we don’t need to be forgiven. We forget that we‘ll never graduate from our need for grace. We forget that we’ve been loved with a love we could never earn, achieve, or deserve. We forget that God never mocks our weakness, never finds joy in throwing our failures in our face, never threatens to turn his back on us, and never makes us buy our way back into his favor.

When you remember, when you carry with you a deep appreciation for the grace that you’ve been given, you’ll have a heart that’s ready to forgive. That doesn’t mean that the process will be comfortable or easy, but it will mean that you can approach your needy friend or relative remembering that you’re just as much in need of what you’re about to give to him or her.” (Paul Tripp)

Father, we need you to work in us a posture of deep appreciation for the grace we’ve been given! We need desperately to destroy, time after time, our default response that puffs self up and thinks self-righteous thoughts. Break us of our desire to ridicule others we conclude are “less” than us. Convict us when we — with words spoken, or just in our hearts — elevate ourselves over others. Oh Father, as each day’s new sun rises, please help us! Remind us!

“When we grasp that we are unworthy sinners saved by an infinitely costly grace, it destroys both our self-righteousness and our need to ridicule others.” (Tim Keller)

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Jesus, cast a look on me

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Jesus, cast a look on me;
Give me sweet simplicity;
Make me poor, and keep me low,
Seeking only Thee to know.

All that feeds my busy pride,
Cast it evermore aside;
Bid my will to Thine submit,
Lay me humbly at Thy feet.

Make me like a little child,
Of my strength and wisdom spoiled;
Seeing only in Thy light,
Walking only in Thy might;

Leaning on Thy loving breast,
Where a weary soul may rest;
Feeling well the peace of God
Flowing from Thy precious blood.

In this posture let me live,
And hosannas daily give;
In this temper let me die,
And hosannas ever cry.

Click here to listen to Indelible Grace’s beautiful version of this 1700’s hymn, Jesus, Cast a Look on Me.

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