Mothering Like Jesus

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10

Sometimes, being a stay at home mom is a struggle. There is a point where doing the same thing again and again every day starts to feel meaningless. This verse from Ephesians should be an encouragement, but to be honest, it can be discouraging. Part of me wonders what kind of good works God could possibly have prepared for me to do here in this house every single day with two children. And for how many years? My oldest is just four, and a third baby is due in the spring.

What are these good works? Laundry? Vacuuming? Wiping up messes? I know these tasks matter, but on some level it is a bit depressing to think that these are the good things God has planned for me to do for the next 15 years. I find some days so absolutely boring and joyless. When I feel this way, I know in my heart that something is wrong with my perspective.

As Christians we know we are born into God’s family, and then we are called to invite others to be part of that family as well. We have been given a wonderful gift, and now our life purpose is to give it away. It is a gift that never runs out, and it is there for anyone who wants to receive it. This is such an amazing truth, but sometimes it can be hard to see what that means for your individual life. What does it look like for me, as a stay at home mom, to live like this? It can feel like if I am not out serving in some “big” way, I am not doing anything of significance for God’s Kingdom.

But Jesus served in small ways and big ways. Some of his most significant work was investing in 12 men, just while doing regular every day life. He walked with them, talked with them, lead them by example, taught them through regular mundane moments, and he served them. Those 12 men went on to change the world forever. Jesus invested in these men in very small ways, but when put in proper context, we see that there was really nothing small about those supposedly mundane moments that he spent with them.

In Deuteronomy 6:4-7, God instructs his people concerning their children: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise…”

Here God instructs parents on how to teach children. And it is surprisingly similar to how Jesus walked with his “children”, the disciples. He is our perfect example of what it looks like to parent in a way that puts God at the centre.

When I reduce my role as a mom to tasks, I have missed the point completely. I fail to see the significance of what I am doing with the children God has entrusted me with. It’s not about “getting stuff done”, it’s about giving them Jesus. All of the mundane moments are opportunities for me to show them what God is like, and what walking with him looks like. And perhaps what gives it the most significance, is that when I do this, I am acting like Jesus. I am following the pattern of his life. If Jesus Himself spent his life in this pattern, why do we devalue it so much?

When I see things this way, it changes the way I look at my role as a mom. It is true that sometimes the good work I have to do might be to simply get the laundry done, as an act of service to my family. But sometimes, it might mean walking away from the pile of laundry and sitting on the floor to play Uno with my four year old. When done with this perspective, the act of playing Uno is no longer simply about playing a game. It’s about showing my child that I delight in him, and want to be with him, in the same way that God delights in us and wants to be with us. Sure, it is only a moment. But these moments add up to days, years, entire lives. Lives that have been shaped by tiny moments of intentional acts of love and service.

Live Like You Are Loved. Because You Are.

Sometimes it feels like in order for something to matter, it has to be recognized by other people. The more people recognize it, the more important it is. If no one knows, then it seems like maybe it doesn’t matter.

Perhaps this is because when people recognize it they acknowledge our talents and abilities, and praise us for it, and this makes us feel like we matter. And so if no one sees it or recognizes it, we can feel insignificant or unappreciated.

This is particularly true in Christian ministry. It is tempting, when thinking of ways to serve others, to think that our ministry only matters if a lot of people know about it. For this reason, we can find ourselves thinking that because our ministry is small, or secret, or isn’t one of the “official” ones being announced every Sunday morning, then it doesn’t matter. We can compare ourselves to the people who stand out with the more public or flashy ministries, and feel insignificant. The whole Christian celebrity phenomenon doesn’t help this.

There are so many things I’d like to do. So many ways I’d like to help. And often it feels like in order for any of it to make a difference, it has to be an official ministry that is recognized by lots of people. But I think God is asking me, “Amanda, can you just be faithful with the small things? Can you be satisfied knowing that I see you, even if no one else does?

To have the praise and approval of people is meaningless – and honestly, are any of us humble enough to handle it? But to have the praise and approval of God far outweighs any compliment or pat on the back we can get from people. And here is the thing: He already approves. And nothing we do can change that.

But where are we looking for significance? It’s the age old question, isn’t it? It’s that thing in us that seeks to be significant because of something in us. Just like Eve sought significance apart from God. Just like the people built cities to “make a name for themselves“. There is a thing in us that wants to matter, but we want the credit for it. We want the glory.

How freeing it would be if we stopped striving after things that we already have in Christ. Significance. Worth. Approval. If we would just quit trying to take the credit, and be content to let him have all of it. We would love others so much better – It wouldn’t matter how many read the blog, or come to the study, or compliment the food – we would just be content to serve knowing that we are showing others a tiny glimpse of His great love.

Let’s stop striving, and just live like we are loved. Because we are.

“The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.”

– Zephaniah 3:17

A Treasure in Heaven.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on Earth, where moth and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6: 19-21

I have never had a difficult time understanding what this passage means by “treasures on earth”; I can easily understand what an earthy treasure might be – really any material possession at all. There are countless possibilities. But if I am honest, my mind would often go blank when I tried to picture a “heavenly” treasure. I mean, I understood the concept, but I don’t think I really “got it”. I didn’t dig in to the Word, though – I would just nod my head and go along with it.

I think this is an issue we all have at least at some point in our lives. Unconsciously, we know we are meant to value God’s Kingdom more than anything else, but deep down we don’t know for sure what that looks like. We kind of just take for granted that we value God’s Kingdom more than anything else, but really….do our lives show that we do?

About a year and a half ago, God started working on me in this area. He started to show me what he means when he talks about treasures in heaven, and I started to understand that my life reflected that I didn’t really value his Kingdom above all. Slowly (very slowly), I am beginning to loosen my grip on the things of this world, but it is very very hard. One of the ways that God has made it a bit “easier” is by breaking my heart for the things that break his.

Our God loves the human beings he has made, and he mourns over the injustice he sees all over the world. He mourns over the thousands who are suffering without food or water, the children orphaned by aids, the countless children sold into sex trafficking every day, the women who are unjustly accused and punished – even killed – simply for being women.

Our God cares about these issues, and he mourns when his sons and daughters don’t care – when we act like it’s not happening. When we are so busy chasing after treasures on earth, that we don’t see the countless treasures we could be storing up in heaven: souls saved for his glory. Isn’t that what the Kingdom of God is made up of? Human souls? Human beings who come to know His love because regular joe’s went out and obeyed God’s command to care for the least of these, and make disciples for His glory. These are treasures that we will take to Heaven with us  – literally. We can invest in material possessions, which will rot when we are gone, or we can invest in souls that will last forever. 

One way to invest in God’s Kingdom is through Gospel for Asia’s “Bridge of Hope” program. Gospel for Asia is an organization that my husband and I recently started supporting, and we are very impressed with it. Through GFA you can sponsor children, or local missionaries. We love GFA firstly because it stands with integrity upon the Word of God – the Gospel is at it’s core. Secondly, financially speaking it is trustworthy and 100% of it’s funds go to the mission field.

Through Gospel for Asia’s Bridge of Hope program, you can provide a child with an education, regular doctor check ups, a daily meal, and clean clothes – all while giving them the opportunity to learn about God’s love for them. Not only will you be telling them of God’s love, but in a tangible way you will be showing them God’s love too. You will receive a picture of your child and regular updates, and have opportunities to write to your child.

Gospel for Asia has a goal to see 2000 children sponsored by Mother’s Day. Will you consider reaching out to one of these little ones in the name of Jesus? Even if you can’t do it by Mother’s Day, perhaps this is something you and your family can consider doing. Click here to find out more.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” – Matthew 25: 34-40

 

The Root of the Problem….

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. – Genesis 3: 1-8

Recently I started reading through the BIble. I decided that I am going to read it from beginning to end – even if it takes years. Genesis has always been a source of conflict for me. Don’t even get me started on the problem of evil and human freedom!

This time around, I have decided not to focus on all of the questions I have, and instead focus on what I can know and understand from reading Genesis. When I was reading this passage, I was struck by how relevant the story is to me in this season in life.

So, here we have Eve. She is hanging out in a beautiful garden with her hubby – full access to God and every good thing. God had given Adam and Eve authority over everything, and there was nothing they could ever want or need. God had given them only one “restriction”, communicated to Adam earlier:

“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” – Genesis 2: 16, 17

They had everything – literally. God had made the stars, the moon, the sun, the earth, the animals, the beautiful plants and trees, the rivers – everything. The king of the universe had made all of this, and then he turned to Adam and Eve and said: “It’s yours”. The command not to eat from that one tree can barely be seen as a restriction; It was a loving command given to them from a loving father, for their good, as is always the case with God’s commands. Why couldn’t they eat from the tree? Because they would die. That is a pretty loving command.

But Satan plants doubt in Eve’s mind. First, he causes her to doubt what God had said in the first place (vs. 1). God had not said that they must not eat of any tree in the garden, he had only said that they could not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan made God’s command seem more strict than it actually was. Then, he made God out to be a liar (vs. 4), telling Eve that she wouldn’t die. Lastly, he plants doubt in Eve’s mind about God’s motives, saying that God just didn’t want Adam and Eve to be like him (vs. 5). Satan wanted Eve to believe that God was hiding something from her, and that he was not really good.

And Eve falls for it. Having the seeds of doubt planted, she now looks at the tree with lustful eyes. She focuses in on the one thing she can’t have instead of all that she has been given. She sees that it is edible, that it looks good, and she thinks: If I eat this, I will be wise – like God! Instead of trusting in what God had said, she trusts in her own reasoning. And she eats it. And so does her husband.

It’s not about the fruit. It’s about what the fruit represented, and what their eating it said about them. They wanted to be wise – like God. Why? Wasn’t it enough that they got to walk with him intimately? God of the universe was right there any time they needed him and they could ask him anything. He had provided them with everything they needed and more. Why would they need that kind of wisdom if they trusted him? It wasn’t enough. Their identity was tied to God, and they wanted more than that. That fruit represented autonomy from God. They wanted to be “somebody” in and of themselves – not because of their connection with God.

This is human sin. At the root of every sinful act, is this very problem: we want autonomy from God. We want to be “somebody” apart from God. We want to approve of ourselves because of something in us.

I see this in my own life more and more every day. This is something God is uncovering in me  – and it’s painful, and overwhelming. The more he uncovers, the more I see how badly I need him every moment of the day. But at the same time, I see how much I don’t want to depend on him every moment of the day. In other words, I see my total inability to change myself – and how badly I need God to change me. This is, of course, a blessing, because it is only here that I can begin to heal. But it’s hard.

We can go through huge chunks of our lives living this way without realizing it. We can find our identity in: our children, our careers, our ministries, our relationships, our possessions, our reputation, the number of notifications on Facebook, etc. All of these things are fine, but they can easily become idols. The problem is, our hearts are prone to deception and we are usually blind to our idols. Sometimes though, we can identify them when they are threatened.

Maybe your child misbehaves in a way you never expected at school; now all of a sudden you feel like a failure and find yourself being paranoid about what people are thinking, or resentful toward other people whose children are behaving better. Or maybe you find out that someone doesn’t think your heart is in the right place with regard to a ministry you are involved in. Now you find you are filled with self justifying thoughts, and anxiety. It can take on many forms, but all these things show that something else has taken the place of God. These things have become a crutch – a way for us to feel good about ourselves, and to approve of ourselves. And then when something goes wrong, we feel worthless, angry, bitter etc. This is because we have not died to self; we are still concerned with our image more than we are concerned with Gods. We want to be able to approve of ourselves because of something about us. This is what Adam and Eve wanted in the Garden, and what every other human being has wanted ever since.

But it is often harder to see when things are going well. When the ministry is flourishing and people are looking up to you as a godly and generous person, or your children are well behaved, or your boss praises you at work, it’s easy to put your head on the pillow in peace at night. It’s easy to approve of yourself when everyone else approves of you and things seem to be going well. But this is dangerous because even  all of our good works are like filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6). None of the good things that we do – no matter how good – put us in better standing with God. God’s approval of us has nothing to do with anything that we have done. We bring absolutely nothing to the table. This is a freeing truth, but if we are honest, many of us don’t get peace from it in our day to day lives. For me, this is because usually it’s not God’s approval I want. Ultimately, it’s my own.

 

Search me, God, and know my heart;
Test me and know my anxious thoughts. 
See if there is any offensive way in me, 
And lead me in the way everlasting.”

– Psalm 139: 23,24
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gratitude for the Cross is Impossible Without…

As I sit here in Starbucks on this snowy Good Friday night, I feel grateful. Grateful for the Cinnamon Dolce Latte (decaf, half sweet of course!) I am sipping; grateful for the jazz music in the background; grateful for the chance to be outside my house after a very dull day…just thankful for the small, simple things. But there is so much more to be thankful for. An infinite number of things… 

the Cross…

the God-given curiosity that caused me to search…

the boy who came to Life through a random girl on a chat line…

the same, overzealous boy who ruthlessly shared that Life with me…

the day Christ removed the dirt from my eyes so I could see…

But I didn’t see it then like I do now. And it is still growing – the knowledge of Him who bled for me. The terrifying knowledge of why it had to be done. The crazy love he showed me. He would have still been good if he had never done it. He would have been completely just in not saving me. But he did it. Amazing grace. Am I grateful enough? 

No. Not even close. Not even REMOTELY close. But the gratitude is growing. 

But getting to be a grateful person is a kind of painful process. To be grateful for the Cross is not possible, I have realized, without an understanding of what I am. Or, maybe more appropriately, an understanding of who I am in light of who God is. This is a scary thing. It’s a humbling thing. But it makes the Cross all the more glorious – IF I am willing to see it. 

To be unwilling is the most ridiculous thing, but the most human thing. It is the only thing worth seeing – but impossible to see. Until Grace breaks through. 

God, give eyes to see. 

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath – Ephesians 2:1-3 

This, I was not told growing up. Had I been, I would have laughed. I knew I was a good person. Even as a Christian, I hear these verses and I hear that voice… “Did God really say….?”. That same voice Eve heard. The same voice she chose to listen to. That pride lives in me too. Blinding pride. God, give me eyes to see!

But here, God tells me – “You were dead. You deserved wrath”. No, God wouldn’t say that. God is love. But he said it. HE said it. Am I willing to see myself as I am? Am I willing to see God as he really is – wrath included? Is this God, the one who punishes sin with wrath, the God that I worship? Or have I moulded him into something else …my own image?

I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to! I hate it. It’s not true. Yes, I am flawed. Yes, I can be terrible, but I am no murderer. I am not as bad as that person over there. Surely there is some good in me. Surely, people are not all bad. I know some good people. I defend others, but really I am defending myself. Justifying myself. I feel the pride swell in my heart. That damning pride. It has to die, or I will. 

You were dead in your sin…like the rest of mankind. No one is righteous. NO. Not even one! 

This is my condition – our condition. It is repeated throughout the Pages. How often I have read it, without seeing it. Selective seeing. And how long I have “seen it” intellectually, but not from the heart.

Created to glorify Him, instead I glorify myself. Instead of following Him, I follow the ways of Lucifer, the enemy (vs. 1-3). This is not just bad, it is evil. I am, by nature evil. I was God’s enemy. I feel the pride swell again when I hear those words. I feel myself start to say “I think what it really means is….” But it is clear here, and clearly stated elsewhere (Romans 5:10, Colossians 1:21 etc.). 

Jesus cried out “My God, My God! Why have your forsaken me!?” Jesus, part of the Godhead. Eternally present with God the Father. Severed. Separated. Not just beaten and mocked by men, but enduring Holy Wrath. Jesus did not go through that for mostly good people. He went through it for His enemies – so that they could become friends. God could not look upon Jesus in that moment because he had become sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). He, in his justice, poured wrath out on the Son he loved. This is our condition before God every day, until we see the Cross and believe. The Cross: I deserved it. Until recently, I am not sure I really believed I did. 

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved – Ephesians 2: 4,5 

Grace. Unwarranted favour. 

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus – Ephesians 2: 6, 7. 

Former enemies, now not just friends – but heirs! Seated with Christ the King! So that His glory and His character would be made known. It’s not about me. 

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast – Ephesians 2:8, 9. 

A Gift from an infinitely Holy God to sinners worthy of infinite wrath. This is something to be ETERNALLY thankful for. 

God continues to reveal himself to me. It isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. It’s painful. Him: Holy. Sovereign. Wrathful. Just. Jealous. Merciful. Loving. Forgiving. He is not just some of these things, but all of them. And sometimes, I don’t like the implications attached to these attributes. Me? Rebellious. Arrogant. Selfish. Hateful. Unworthy. Rescued. Adopted. Loved. 

This Love is senseless to me when I look in the Mirror and see what I am. But loved I am. Rescued from the worst of fates. At peace with God through the Blood. Saved by Grace. Do I believe this? Will I believe it? God, give me eyes to see…

By nature, it is offensive. But by grace, we know it is Life. Destined for eternal death, we were given eternal Life. How can we be anything but grateful?