Give Them Grace: Introduction

 

**Preface: Everything I write on this topic is simply restating the information. I am still figuring out what I think about this topic and more specifically, I don’t have kids. Feel free to post your reactions/questions/ or personal experiences!

 

 

What makes our parenting distinctly “Christian?”

We are not perfect parents and we don’t have perfect kids. But to remedy our mutual imperfections isn’t more law, even if it seems to produce tidy or polite children. Kids will use the law the same way we do—ignore it, bend it, or obey it outwardly from a selfish heart. This is for certain: they won’t obey it from the heart. They can’t. This is why Jesus had to die. Christian children and their parents don’t need to learn to be “nice”. They need death and resurrection and a Savior who has done before them as a faithful high priest, who lived and died perfectly in their place. They need a savior who extends the offer of complete forgiveness, complete righteousness, and indissolvable adoption to all who believe.

The funny thing is, we all know the gospel and share it with girls we disciple or non-Christian co-workers. On our blogs or in triad, we share our war against trusting in our own goodness. But something happens when we begin training miniature unbelievers in our own home. We forget the deadliness of relying on our own righteousness and we teach that the Bible and Christianity is all about their behavior and how because of it, “God is happy” or “God is sad” on any given day. And we wonder why there are so many nominal Christians in the world who base their standing with God on their moral life choices and a prayer they prayed once at Sunday school when they asked Jesus into their heart. Or we wonder why so many good meaning parents raise children who end up denying the faith or rebelling as soon as they can. I mean, who would want to deny himself, lay down his life, or suffer for something as boring as “Say your sorry,” or “be nice,” or “don’t hang around them.” Is that the message that has both empowered and caused persecution to the church for the past 2000 years?

The grace that has been lavished on us through Christ ought to make our parenting or teaching radically different. At the deepest level of what we do, we should hear the heartbeat of a loving, grace-giving father who freely adopts rebels and transforms them into loving sons and daughters (and that includes us adults who don’t have it all together either). We can’t save ourselves any more than we can save our children. And that is why we need to share the gospel, the message of salvation. God will use us as we give grace to our children, but salvation is entirely from the faithful, soul-transforming, blood-covering, One.

 

Sounds like the pendulum is swinging in the opposite direction? You may be asking “So….what about my kid’s obedience?”Answer: I don’t know. TBA!

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New Series: Give them Grace.

I am going to begin a second running series tracking my thoughts on the book, “Give Them Grace: Dazzling your kids with the Love of Jesus” by Elyse Fitzpatrick. I picked this book up at Fitzpatrick’s women’s conference hosted by Sojourn in August. I would say that it is by far the most controversial books I’ve ever read and when I say controversial, I don’t mean in our christian circles but in our hearts.

Of course we would never say that we want our kids (or the kids we teach) to grow up to be little moralists. We would never claim that they will go to heaven because of what they do. The problem of moralism, or “being a good person,” is the very pattern that enslaves us and is so hard for us to undo. It is the very problem that evangelical churches preach AGAINST every Sunday: nothing you do will please God or make you right with him.

So if we want to keep our children from a life of works-based righteousness and trying to earn the approval of God and if we want them to fully love and trust the God of grace through the cross of Christ, how are we supposed to discipline, rebuke, and train? How are we supposed to tell our child “stop” or “listen” when they do not understand the very gospel that makes them free to obey? Do we tell our unregenerate children that God is pleased with them because they shared a crayon or bowed their head for a mealtime prayer, when the bible clearly says that anyone who does not trust in the finished work of Christ, but rather submits to the burden of the law will be killed by it; a child of wrath in the eyes of God?

But are we supposed to just let our children do whatever they want, disrespect authority, and be hurtful to others until they become a believer? Don’t we still want our children to be “good?”

Yikes is right.

This book has been confusing, convicting, challenging, and beautiful. It impresses a heavy weight on the call to parenting and ensures that every moment is an opportunity to lead your child to legalism or to the gospel of grace and thus, the feet of Jesus. Fitzpatrick has been undoing much of what I thought it meant to “train a child.” Hopefully, as I stumble through this book, my thoughts and questions can be insightful, a blessing, and a springboard to conversation. Stay tuned!

thank you @stephjamison.

Just started reading Dr. Helen Roseveare’s book, Living Faith: Willing to be Stirred as a Pot of Paint. Steph sent it to me about a week ago in response a former blog post I wrote and I was blown away by her thoughtfulness. The past few days I have been so thankful for that book! I feel like it is exactly what I need to hear, yet am so resistant to hear at the same time.

She talks about just as a pot of paint has to be stirred all the way to the bottom of the can until all of its separations, hardened layers, and discolorations can become one consistency, one color, and ready to applied to a white wall- the purpose for which it was designed. This stirring can’t be done only once, it has to be done daily until the job is done.

She proposes that our lives as Christians are the same. We must be willing to be stirred in whatever ways Gods has planned for us; stirred to the bottom of our innermost beings, until no solid, secular matter remains from the liquid, spiritual life. It is when we are being constantly, and sometimes painfully, stirred, that we know God is applying and using us for the purpose and works he created us in advance to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). All of this is very basic, I know, but how many of us are really genuine in our prayers to “stirred?” Sure, we pray, “God, send me!” or “God, change me!” or “God, make my like more…” but secretly we mean, “God, send me (as long as you don’t ask me to go here….or to leave these people…..or to miss out on this….) and God, change me (but please don’t do it this way….or take away this in the process…).

And so while I am here in Louisville, without a lot of direction for ministry, relationships, or opportunities to teach, I know that I am in the “stirring” process (as we always are) until I see God starting to apply me in this city. I am encouraged in this: “it is by the faith of the Son of God indwelling in me that I am assured that God has a place for me. It is by this same faith that I grow to realize that outside of God’s prepared place, there is no ultimate satisfaction or peace of heart for me. And so, I desire to be led into his will for my life, unconditionally surrendered for obedience to his will.”

So go ahead and stir me, God. I do care what it costs…and I’ve already felt the discomfort of the cost thus far…but stir me all the same, God.

If you are in a stage of uncertainty or transition, I especially recommend this book! Thanks again, Steph!

Words with Weight.

My dear friend Katie Larry blessed me with this book. Thank you Carolyn Mahaney for your bold words and for further convincing me that, without the grace of God, I am WAY over my head. I hope that in this season I can learn from women who have gone before us single girls and who can remind me that whatever my life stage, the purpose of my life is to the praise, revelation, and adoration of God and his doctrine.

 

“3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to wine. They are to teach what is good, 4and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled7Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about usso that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

11For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2)

Band-aids for Heart Disease?

I’ve been reading Scotty Smith’s, The Reign of Grace. It’s been refreshing to say the least. In the chapter I read today Scotty addressed those of us who try to heal wounds lightly, beginning with our own.

What does it mean to “heal wounds lightly”? Scotty gives a diagnosis-

•    Extending the free offer of grace without extending an equally clear call for repentance of sin.
•    Maximizing warnings against performance-based spirituality while minimizing teaching on grace-empowered change.
•    Proclaiming the delights of God’s love without being just as faithful in proclaiming love’s demands.
•    Being quicker to apply the balm of the gospel to relieve heart-felt pain than the power of the gospel to overthrow heart-invading idols.
•    Confirming the comfort of God’s mercy to those with a greater need for the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
•    Highlighting the horrors of legalism more than extolling the beauty of holiness.
•    Celebrating God’s fatherly affection while marginalizing his fatherly disciple.
•    Deconstructing merit-based discipleship programs without reconstructing godly alternatives.

After reading this list, I was extremely convicted by my tendency to offer easy words, council or encouragement to those whose hearts are hurting- including my own! In the noisy chaos and the painful realities of our world, it is so easy to prescribe our diseased hearts and the hearts of others around us with an incomplete, “band-aid-like” gospel. It is so easy to be like the ministers in Jeremiah 6:14-

“They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, Peace!’ they say, when there is no peace.”

But God’s grace “isnt just an empathetic gathering for hurting hearts; its no mere pep rally for the glad-to-be-forgiven; its way more than a support system for recovering legalists. It’s a reign through righteousness unto eternal life (Rom. 5:20-21)” -Scotty Smith

I feel like I have come out on the other side of a season that was particularly painful and difficult. There were times then when the feelings of sadness, anger, emptiness, jealously, worthlessness were so unsettled that I thought I would never be freed. But I realized that while God did the heart surgery to remove my idols, I was not moving toward him in obedience to let him restore and fill those voids with himself. I was seeking quick healing and easy words to give me a false sense of peace when what I really needed were the bold words of truth and reality all culminating to expose the redemptive drama that my life was apart of: Jesus, taking my pervasive unrighteousness and changing me into an “oak of righteousness” (Isaiah 61); displaying his grace and his glory! Amen!

So in our communities, with the girls we disciple, in our bible studies, and in our own quiet, intimate time with the Lord, let us press on to know and give the grace of Christ that transforms and brings true, lasting peace.

The theology of uncomfortable grace.

7So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Cor. 12)

Lately I’ve been feeling a lot like Paul. God has revealed a gospel to me over the past six months that is rich and real. I’ve never felt my need for him more, I’ve never been as humbled, and I’ve never seen the power of the gospel work more in my heart than I have in this season. However, like Paul, this season of great revelation, grace, and growth, has not come without extreme trial. I don’t think I’ve ever been hurting as deeply as I have been in this season. Sometimes… actually, all the time, I plead with God to take away the thorns that plague me and tempt me to despair. I long for release from taunting idols and relief from painful emotions. But I am beginning to see that the grace of relief and release is not the type of grace I need right now. Rarely is it. The grace I’m getting is what I desperately need- the uncomfortable grace of growth and change.

“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you…In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1)

“Grief” is a word I feel describes my heart a lot. Paul Tripp describes grief as Peter does: momentary difficulties or pains you neither anticipated or planned, leading to refinement that transforms and rescues you from yourself. Paul said it (Romans 5:3-4), James says it (James 1:3-4): sufferings -> endurance -> hope deepened & sure. The result? Not put to shame. Perfect and complete. Lacking nothing. THIS IS GRACE. I am so blessed to know my God who loves me enough to bring me to this end in himself!

“When you begin to get on God’s paradigm page, life not only makes sense (the things you face are not irrational troubles, but transforming tools), but immediately becomes hopeful…Grief is not a dark tunnel that fate has sent your way. It is a wise tool in the hands of a loving God who knows how deep your need is and wants to give you gifts of grace that will last forever.” (Tripp, What did you Expect)

To my fellow saints who are hurting: lets press on. With the love of the father, our Lord is prying open our hands so that we will let go of things that have come to rule our hearts but will never satisfy. With the skill of the world’s best counselor, God is showing us the delusions of our own control so that we will take comfort in his rule and rest in his wisdom. With the gentleness of a faithful friend he is facing us toward the inadequacies of our own righteousness and self-sufficiency so that we will find our hope in him. Whether the thorn leaves or presses in to the deeper parts of our hearts, let us confidently boast in Jesus, the forrunner of our faith in trials: his timing is perfect, his healing will come, his grace is sufficient for us now and in eternity. We are blessed. Let us be people eager for the power of Christ to rest on us and change us.

The Call to Fight

I recently read “Fight Clubs,” by Jonothan Dodson and was extremely encouraged by its boldness and eagerness in the call to fight against sin and for truth in our hearts.

The book began asking this question: Do we work equally hard (as other things in our lives) to improve our understanding of grace and defeat sin? Do we spend hours in from of the Gospel? Many Christians are content to entertain themselves and others to death, while surrendering the fight or faith.  Are you fighting, and if so, why do you fight?

The call to fight:
We all face the temptation to project a false image of ourselves because we find the real image inadequate. We want to be more beautiful, more successful, more creative, more virtuous, more popular, and more intelligent than we really are.  The problem is not that we really lack beauty, success, creativity, virtue, popularity, or intelligence, the problem is that we believe the lies that obtaining those images will actually make us complete, happy, and content people. And so, believing the lie, we fight rigorously to obtain or retain our image of choice: we discipline ourselves to lose weight, climb the vocational ladder, learn new techniques, make moral decisions, and strive to be in the know….all to gain the image we so desperately want.  We will fight with whatever it takes: money, time, overworking, sacrifice, or lying.  Why do we fight and scrap to obtain our desired perception?  We believe that being perceived a certain way will make us happy. We express faith in what is false and believe a lie.

Once we realize that we are building our identity on these things that are untrue and unreliable, we can begin to sink our identity in to what is actually true and reliable.  This kind of image building moves us towards Jesus.

Christianity is about image.  We were created in God’s image and when we fell our image became distorted and conformed to the image of the world.  We desperately need renewal in Jesus.  The gospel restores and renews our image.  It holds up the image of Jesus as most glorious and desirable and aligns us with him.  The gospel is about correcting our vision and reshaping our image so that we can see and reflect “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor. 4:4)

We become what we behold. If we behold and harrold the beauty of Christ we will become beautiful like Christ. This happens over and over in the Christian faith.  To follow Jesus is to so look at him that we actually begin to reflect his grace and glory in everyday life.  But this transformation does not come without a fight.  Our sin nature prefers to behold and become like lesser images.  We must fight against lies against the lies behind our sins in order to enjoy the truth of the gospel.

This fight is possible through the spirit. we must realize our failures in fighting before the fight of faith can begin.  Gospel change comes though pain, struggle, suffering, and staring your ugly sin right in the face.  The trick is to stare it down with truth.  Nobody sins because they want to be deceived, we sin because we believe what sin offers is true. Instead of expressing faith in these lies of sin we must labor to have faith in the truth of the gospel.  However, our thoughts don’t naturally drift toward Christ– we are called to tenaciously struggle in order to believe what is ture, charish what is beautiful, and live out what is good.

We need to fight to believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection is OUR death and resurrection–the lie-believing, image-chasing life is dead and in its place we have received a truth-believing, Christ-cherishing life.  Until this faith is made sight, we must fight and struggle.  Believing the gospel is not a passive, one-time decision; it is an active, continual fight for faith in God’s Word.