Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Real Food for the Spirit

As mothers and wives, we typically carry the responsibility of providing nourishing foods to our families.  Many mothers are becoming increasingly aware, and vocal, about the benefits of whole foods, untainted by man-made chemicals or treatments.  There is a very strong emphasis these days on organic, natural produce, and on abstaining from foods that are highly processed.  We're becoming better at making sure things are safe for our families and will help our kids to grow. 

But do we pay as much attention to our Spiritual nourishment as we do to our physical nourishment?

The bloggers at Keeper of the Home addressed this issue in a post recently, that I thought I'd share through here; check out their post, Real Food for the Spirit.  We should all reflect on what we're putting into our own systems, and whether we're showing enough concern for nourishing our souls with God's truths, or if we're more prone to filling ourselves with superficial, processed 'food'.  And it's a great time to remind ourselves that these are matters of eternal consequence - infinitely more important than whether we choose to eat grains or not - so while we are still called to be good stewards of our bodies by what we put into them, our spiritual well-being needs to hold the higher priority. 

To God be the glory, forever and ever, Amen!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The Perfect Model

"The Lord is gracious and compassionate; slow to anger and rich in love." Psalm 145:8

I love this verse.  Every time I read it - or very often sing it since it's been set to music in a popular worship song - I reflect on His grace and how His love endures in spite of all my failures.  It's a beautiful reminder of how great God is as He deals with us.

But is this verse only to be used to acknowledge those attributes in God, or merely to take comfort as the objects of that grace? By all means we ought to embrace the comfort found in these truths - what would we be if it weren't for His love?  But to stop there is to stop short, for, "All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." (2 Tim. 3:16)  We need to seek the sanctifying truths in such verses and ask God to work in us through them. 

Psalm 145:8 doesn't directly address us, but rather talks about those attributes of God.  Of course, whenever we hear of God's grace, mercy, compassion and love we always think of ourselves because we are the recipients of that grace.  But we aren't supposed to just rest as the recipients of such grace; we ought to strive to imitate and reflect it.  As Christians, we ought to be in a constant state of purification and sanctification as we allow God to work in us through His Spirit, making us more like Him.  If the Lord is gracious and compassionate, we ought to desire to be gracious and compassionate as well. 

Where is one of the best areas to help refine these attributes in us?  In our homes, raising our children.
What better encouragement towards being slow to anger than a toddler who you have just finished correcting, and then turns around and does the exact same thing again?  Or a pre-schooler who is convinced they know what's best and who challenges our authority? 

James reminds us that the trials we face will help bring us to a point of maturity and completion - "not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4).  There are going to be rough patches raising children - we all know this.  But we should be glad that the trials we do encounter are providing opportunities for us to learn to be gracious, compassionate, patient and loving like God. 

Practically speaking, what do those traits look like in the home?

It means not blowing our tops when something gets spilled - sure it might be frustrating to have to deal with such a mess, but it was likely a result of carelessness, or even just a side-effect of a little guy growing so fast and not knowing how to handle it yet, and there was likely no sin committed, so we can hardly count our anger as righteous at such an instance.
It means forgiving our children when they have sinned and not holding it over them, making them dwell on their own shortcomings.
It means not losing it because it's 11:30 at night and they're still awake and calling us and we have things we need to do; putting aside our agenda to provide for them in the way they need and assuring them that they are precious to us - at all times of the night.
It means sitting down with your child for the third time that morning as you explain to them why they shouldn't do something instead of screaming at them.
It means disciplining our children firmly and consistently, never out of violent anger and always with love.  Joel R. Beeke made the point in his book, Parenting by God's Promises, "We must enforce and enrich every act of discipline with large doses of love."  Why?  Because that's what God does for His children - something which we can't deny as we've seen His faithfulness in our own lives.  God has set the supreme example of disciplining with love - the Bible doesn't say that He does not get angry, but rather that He is slow to anger, that His anger is righteous, and that He is rich in love even when He is angry.  What an awesome model for us to follow.
And it also means setting the example for our kids, like our Heavenly Father has set for us - and openly acknowledging when we come up short and pointing them towards the better model: Christ.

We have the perfect example laid out before us of gracious, patient parenting, and when we set that as our standard we'll likely see many areas we can improve on: Are we truly being gracious?  Does our parenting style reflect compassion?  How much slower can we get to anger while still being firm in our limits and correcting our children?  And how much more love can we lavish on our children as we raise them? 

And the best part?  While we can set a new standard for our parenting as we strive to emulate our Heavenly Father, He is the most gracious, the most compassionate, the slowest to anger and the richest in love, so when we fall short - which will happen - we never need to be afraid of turning to Him, confessing our failures, and asking for His help to make us more like Him.

To God be the glory, forever and ever, Amen!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Rejoice in the Lord - Always.

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice."  Philippians 4:4

What does it mean to you to rejoice in the Lord?  And furthermore, what does it mean to do it "always"? 

For many of us, this verse may seem a bit perplexing.  How can we always be rejoicing?  Wasn't Paul aware of what sort of things can complicate the life of a wife and mother?  Was he unaware of the anxieties that accompany those roles, and how many concerns we have brought before us day after day?  And what about those seasons of sorrow that all of us face?  Surely we are excused from rejoicing then?

But that's the beauty of scripture: "All scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." (2 Timothy 3:16)  Which means that the word "always" is in there for a reason, and there's also a good reason why Paul felt the need to admonish the Philippians to rejoice twice: it's easy to forget to do this!

But what sort of 'rejoicing' are we called to do?  Is this an un-natural behaviour where in the face of deepest sorrow, we as Christians are never allowed to weep or mourn?  Of course not.  Christ wept at the mourning of the Jews after the death of Lazarus.  He was sorrowful to see the despair that death brings.  Christians aren't required to be perpetually happy and never sad.  There may be those that you've come across who don't seem to understand that, and who may feel like it's a sin to be sad, but they forget that we are called to, "Mourn with those who mourn." (Romans 12:15)  No, we have freedom in God to experience the emotions that He gave us.  But we also have the responsibility to not sin because of our emotions. 

You should notice that the verse doesn't instruct us to "rejoice in our illness", or "rejoice in the loss of your loved ones," but rather, "Rejoice in the LORD."  That is why we are called to do it always - because we always have reason to rejoice in Him!  While our circumstances themselves may not prompt us to rejoice, the faithfulness and goodness and sovereignty of our Lord should! 

In our illness we should rejoice because we have a faithful Father who will comfort and heal according to His will.  In times of loss we should rejoice because we know that the victory has been won and that death has lost its sting.  In seasons of tension and hurt in our relationships we should rejoice because we are benefactors of the eternal love of God, which He will never remove from us.  Only in the Lord will we find our unending cause to rejoice! 

Now, I must admit that I feel this in particular is a verse that is profitable "for training in righteousness", as referred to in 2 Timothy.  When you think of training for something, there's the implication that perfection does not come naturally, and that sometimes there will be mistakes that you need to correct, learn from, and move forward from.  Does it come easily for us to rejoice at all during the hardest seasons of our lives?  No - but that's because in our fallen state we had forgotten that there was something as constant and faithful as God which we could eternally rejoice in.  But as we train in righteousness, and God continues His good work in us, we can find ourselves coming to a point where we don't need to work so hard to rejoice in our sovereign God.  We'll find ourselves, by His grace, remembering that while under the sun there is a season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1), He does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17); He is always faithful - and that is a great reason to rejoice. 

So what is your burden today?  What is weighing on your heart, or breaking you down?  Whatever it is, we need to remember that while there may not be much cause to rejoice in our hurts and anxieties, God welcomes us to cast all our cares upon Him, and that is one of the incredible reasons why we are called to, "Rejoice in the Lord always."

To God be the glory, forever and ever, Amen!