Friday, December 8, 2017

Delivered


(This article originally appeared on gentleleading.com.)

I just have to laugh at the audacity of babies. They think they rule the universe. Recently I took my 12-month-old on an airplane. I held him up to the window, expecting him to be spellbound by the massive size of the airplane, the speed, the height…but he wasn’t. He slapped the window, gave a brazen squeal, and tried desperately to reach out and touch the wing. He would have lunged out of the window if he could have.

He has no idea of the dangers I deliver him from daily. That’s because babies fixate on what’s right in front of their faces. They fuss when we remove dangerous objects from their hands or deliver them from a harmful plunge down a flight of stairs.

I am often guilty of the same short-sightedness. Just like my son who wanted to lunge out of the airplane, I take deliverance for granted when I don’t stop to ponder what I’ve been delivered from. Deliverance means rescue. It means being removed from one path and placed on another. What path was I on? Why did I need rescuing? What dangers awaited me before God reached down and swooped me out of harm’s way? The answer is in 1 Thessalonians 1:10: “And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

“Wrath” is not a word we like to think about – especially at Christmas time. But the most vivid display of God’s wrath began in a dusty manger. When the world looks into the manger they get a warm fuzzy feeling and a vague notion of world peace. But upon a closer look we see something totally different. We see the dreadful, holy wrath of God that required nothing less than the blood of his own Son to satisfy it. This baby shows us the gravity of what our sins deserve. He came to absorb every drop of wrath for his people so there would be no wrath left for us.

But what is wrath? From a human standpoint I might think of wrath as the feeling I get when I see my pile of clean laundry strewn across the backyard and used as a fort. But God’s wrath is not simply an angry reaction. It is an inseparable part of His character. It goes hand in hand with his holiness, love, and justice. We can’t give wrath a backseat simply because it is unpleasant. God’s attributes are so intertwined that we can’t diminish one without diminishing them all. Unlike my sinful human anger, God’s wrath is evidence of his holiness. Perfect holiness cannot tolerate sin. All sin must experience the wrath of God.

The most horrific thing any human being could experience is to stand before a holy God on the day of judgment and receive the full fury of his wrath for all of eternity. Our sin, even the smallest sinful thought, deserves nothing less. But the manger of wrath is also a manger of deliverance. For those who put their trust in Jesus, judgement day has already happened. God’s wrath came. It demanded justice and that’s exactly what it got. Jesus took it all. In Jesus I could no more face the wrath of God than Jesus could face it again for me. It’s over. Not because God got sentimental and decided to give me a free pass, but because the wrath I deserved was poured out on another.

I have to ask myself: What is there left to be afraid of?

Suddenly earthly cares loosen their ties on my heart. My messy house, my teething baby, and my quarreling toddlers are overshadowed by the peace of deliverance. I’ve been delivered from God by God. What else could possibly touch me? “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-29)


What is weighing your heart down this holiday season? Don’t settle for the warm fuzzy peace that lasts for a moment and then is gone. Eternal peace comes from knowing we are right with God. Look deep into the manger. See the baby who is a consuming fire – a fire that will punish for all of eternity or protect for all of eternity. For God’s people, what started in the manger ended at the cross. And now our eternal deliverance from wrath is our daily deliverance from fear, doubt, and despair. It’s a peace that lasts long after the Christmas decorations come down. It’s a peace that lasts forever.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

VIDEO: Dave and Sara Wallace Tackle Santa (Not literally. But kind of.)


My husband Dave joins me (and distracts me) as we talk about how we handle Santa every year. To read the original article that prompted this discussion, check out What to Do About Santa




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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Today's Pain, Tomorrow's Joy



“So…does it hurt?”

My friend’s eyes were fixed on me as I rocked my newborn in the church lobby. I could see a mixture of excitement and dread on her face. Her hands were clasped over her bulging, eight-month tummy. We had been through every step of our first pregnancies together, but I had made it to the finish line first. And now she wanted to know: What was beyond that mysterious curtain? What did childbirth feel like?

“Well,” I began. I looked down at my baby’s creamy cheeks and wispy angel eyelashes. Did it hurt? When I looked at him I couldn’t remember. I looked up at the ceiling. “Well,” I began again. Visions of my hospital room flashed through my mind. The pain, the pressure, the confusion, the intensity. How do you even begin to explain the pain of childbirth?

The simple answer is, yes. Childbirth hurts. But women who have been through it know it’s more complicated than that. It’s a complicated pain.

When I talk to expectant moms about childbirth I compare the pain to what it’s not like. It’s not like breaking your leg. It’s not like burning your hand. It’s not destructive pain. It has limitations and it has a purpose. Unlike breaking a bone, the pain of childbirth produces something new and beautiful. So, while childbirth is characterized by pain, the end goal of the pain changes the way we experience it.  

Our lives on this earth are also characterized by pain. Every time we see the news we feel the weight of this world’s suffering. But, just as in childbirth, a Christian’s pain has an end and a purpose. Our pain is mixed with hope because it is bound to this world only. It has limitations, sovereignly put in place by our creator. Our pain is quickly coming to an end and there is indescribable joy waiting for us on the other side of it. But for now, we groan.   

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.” (Romans 8:21-24)

We groan under illness, under disciplining our children, and under our hurting brothers and sisters around the world. We groan under temptation and the consequences of sin. We groan under heartbreak and loss.  

But one day our groaning will be over. One day we will see our savior face to face. He will wipe away every tear. We will stand before him, clothed in the radiant purity of his own righteous robes, and hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:23)

Each of the five times I was in labor I remember at some point having the same thought: "Is there any other way through this?" In the most intense moments I thought I would not survive. I remember turning to my husband and saying, "I don't want to do this. I changed my mind." He laughed nervously and said, "Um...I think it's a little late for that." 

There is no other way through this life than through the suffering God has planned for us. But if we forget to look past the suffering to our final reward, we will lose strength. Corrie ten Boom, after surviving a concentration camp during World War II, used to carry around a little square of satin. On one side was a jumble of colored threads. On the other side was a beautifully embroidered gold crown. She would hold it and recite by heart:

"My life is but a weaving betwixt the Lord and me,
I do not choose the color - he worketh steadily. 
Oftentimes he weaveth sorrow and I in foolish pride,
Forget he sees the upper and I the underside." 

God has guaranteed that we will experience suffering in this life. But he has also promised that one day it will be over. One day we will be in our true home. There will be no death there. No pain, no suffering. No sleepless nights, no fatigue. No fears will tug at your heart. No corridors of anxiety will beckon your mind to follow. You will be safe in the arms of your creator forever. One of my favorite hymns shows how this perspective changes the way we experience suffering: 

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of his glory and grace."

We can make it through because we know what is waiting for us. When I look into the faces of my babies I can’t remember the pain it took to get them into this world. Whatever pain you are facing today, look at your savior. See your future hope. One day your pain will be gone. And when it’s gone, it will be gone forever.


“You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:20-22)



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Thursday, November 2, 2017

How to Have a Quiet Table with Little Ones



If there was one word I would use to describe raising boys it would be, “Loud.” Boys are loud when they play, when they fight, when they love, when they talk, when they sing, and even when they rest. As a mom of five boys I’ve accepted that the noise comes with the territory.  

But I also want my boys to value peace. When it comes to peace kids don’t know what they’re missing. It might seem like they’re having a blast screaming their heads off from morning ‘till bedtime, but it’s exhausting for them. It’s stressful – not just for us, but for them, too. They need a chance to process the world around them. We are responsible for providing them with a peaceful environment, and that requires training them when and how to be quiet.

A quiet area we have been focusing on is the dinner table. For a long time dinner was such a noisy affair that my husband and I dreaded it. We couldn’t wait for it to be over so we could catch our breath and rest. But then we decided dinnertime is the time to catch our breath and rest. As a family.  We knew it would take some work, but we decided it was worth the investment.

Why?

The main reason we strive for a quiet dinner table is because peace glorifies God. 1 Corinthians 14:33 says, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” This is our chance to show our kids what God is like and how we can be like Him.

It also teaches thoughtfulness - not just thoughtfulness from our kids to us, but from us to our kids, too. It shows them we care about what they have to say. We care so much that we won’t talk over them and we won’t let other’s talk over them, either.

A quiet table also teaches self-control. But is it really worth it? It might be easy to think, “Noise is no big deal. I have to choose my battles.” But self-control over the big things starts with self-control over the little things. It’s possible for kids to learn peace and quiet at the table. Sometimes it’s us as parents that need the self-discipline to make it happen.

How?

Our boys are 7, 6, 5, 3, and 1. A quiet table didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it’s still a work in progress – progress being the key word. If you expect to have a quiet table instantly you will get discouraged. This is a process. We started by talking to our kids about all the reasons mentioned above. We also tell them that while they need to respect and obey Mom and Dad, this is for them, too. This is not a parental power trip. We love them and want them to get as much enjoyment out of this family time as possible.

This process takes an extreme amount of grace. Noise is not always disobedience. Quite often it is childishness. Childishness isn’t a sin. In fact, the Bible speaks of children with tenderness and love: “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 19:14)

That’s why we are slow and careful about laying down blanket rules. We rarely say, “No talking,” because then we have to treat every slip-up as disobedience. Instead we say, “Remember what we talked about, boys? Let’s be very quiet so we can hear each other one at a time.” If they insist on talking we say, “You may be excused. Sit in the other room until you are ready to be quiet.” They don’t like being separated from the family. When they come back we say, “We’re so glad you’re back! We missed you.” Our kids learn that participating in family events is a privilege. We try to keep our training clear and consistent without being burdensome to the kids.  

There are some nights when just Mommy and Daddy need a chance to talk. That’s when we say, “Only Mommy and Daddy may talk right now. If you have something to say, save it up and tell us after dinner.” Since we’ve been working on a quiet table for a couple years now, the kids have no problem with this. They don’t feel snubbed or belittled. They silently swing their legs, eat their food, and smile at us. We smile back. We are a team.

We’ve had some precious times around the table. We learn what our sweet introvert is thinking. We hear what the 7yr-old learned from Sunday’s sermon. We teach our kids how to pass food, say please and thank you, and how to make their own knock-knock jokes. But we couldn’t do any of that without a quiet table. A quiet table has led to quiet hearts. And that is something worth pursuing.




"The Gospel-Centered Mom is the single best parenting book I've read since becoming a mom." - Amy T.
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