Gospel Truth

I have been working on this post in my head and my heart for over a week now, so I’ll apologize in advance for its getting a little bit heavy.   I won’t make any apologies for my boldness, though, because… well, Paul never did!

For the most part, I am absolutely loving this DVD that Lindsay picked out for our girls while she was here. It is a live worship service aimed at kids, and the music is wonderful. Pippa can sing a few of the choruses already and almost every word of Rainbow, the song Linz introduced us to while she was here. The slower songs are incredibly worshipful, and when I watch it with the girls, I find myself singing along and even getting a little tearful (always a good sign for me).

Between the songs, the worship leaders take turns sharing a Bible verse that is relevant to the song they are about to sing. Great again! I love that they keep the music grounded in Scripture, even if some of the lyrics to get a smidge off-topic.

But. (You knew there would be a “but”, didn’t you?)

After one of the slower, more thoughtful songs, one of the worship leaders gives a “gospel” talk and an invitation for the kids to become Christians.  I was so, so disappointed with the “gospel” that was being presented to these kids (and to mine, right in my living room!)

I want to qualify what I’m about to say with a million disclaimers because I have no intention here of being critical of or villanizing these people in any way. I believe they have hearts for the Lord; I simply do not believe they have chosen their words very carefully or understood the gospel accurately enough. I also believe that the way they presented the gospel is the way it is presented by a lot of children’s ministries, and possibly by a lot of churches as well, but I do not believe it is a gospel that saves.

Several great Christian authors, among them the girltalkers, have written of the importance of preaching the gospel to oneself daily.  Not only are we apt to forget, if not constantly reminded, how much we are in need of saving, but we are also quick to lose sight of exactly what took place in the moment of our salvation.

There were two main phrases used in this DVD to describe what one must do to be saved: “ask Jesus to be your friend” and “ask Jesus into your heart”. These phrases are as familiar to the average churched person as the words “Jesus” and “Christian”, and yet neither one is found anywhere in the Bible. There is certainly a kernel of truth in each of them: God does earnestly desire our friendship, in a sense, and through the Holy Spirit, we do have Christ in our hearts once we are saved. But neither of these is the means of our salvation.  I waited and hoped for something to be said about recognizing our own sin, or about Jesus’s death on the cross in our place, but it simply wasn’t there.

Scripture speaks for itself as to what the true “good news” is about Christ:

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul writes this:

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you; unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (emphasis mine).

We may feel as though our greatest need is for a true friend, or for someone or something to fill the great void in our hearts, and I believe that is what some ministries might be appealing to.  But in fact, we have a much greater need, whether we realize it or not: we need to be saved.

Romans 3 says this:

22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (my emphasis again)

Scripture is clear and my own heart testifies that I am a sinner.  That all of us are sinners.  We must understand and believe that we suffer from this illness before we are in a position to joyfully accept its cure, but, *praise God*, through Christ there is a cure!

Christ, who lived a perfect, sinless life, died in my place so that I don’t have to.  I can only be made right with God by faith in that truth, by God’s grace and nothing that I can do myself.  I guess for some, this is a tough pill to swallow, but I think it is the sweetest news I have ever heard.  It is heavy and deep, yet simple enough for a child to understand and believe, and there is no need to water it down.  In fact, we are in grave danger of preaching a gospel that does not save if we do.

I intend to make it a habit to rehearse this truth to myself, not only so that I will be clear about it when I have the opportunity to share it with others, but also so that I am reminded each day to live my life in praise to the One who saved me.

And just so you believe me that I really do love *almost* everything about my new DVD, I will end with one of our favorite songs.  Pippa calls it ‘the sleepiest one’!

The Ten Commandments: Where Are They Now?

On Sunday morning, our overview of the Old Testament in church brought us to Exodus 20: the Ten Commandments, and I have been desperate to blog about it ever since!

“1 And God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am Jehovah thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

4 Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any likeness [of any thing] that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them, for I Jehovah thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation of them that hate me, 6 and showing lovingkindness unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.

7 Thou shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God in vain; for Jehovah will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath unto Jehovah thy God: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 for in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore Jehovah blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.12 Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which Jehovah thy God giveth thee.

13 Thou shalt not kill.

14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

15 Thou shalt not steal.

16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.”

Our pastor took a little tangent from his sermon to address the current debate surrounding removing the Ten Commandments from classrooms and courtrooms. I wasn’t taking notes, so you’ll just have to settle for a healthy mixture of paraphrased sermon and my thoughts on the matter.

When our pastor began talking about the ‘Commandments Debate’, I have to admit I began to fidget in my seat a little.  The truth is, it’s not an issue I’ve ever really felt was worth fighting for, and I was a little afraid I was going to be told that I ought to feel that it is.  Instead, he articulated (*way* better than I could have) exactly how I’ve always felt about this issue (and so many others like it that many Christians take up arms about in the political arena), and went on to put these amazing commandments into their proper context for a redeemed person.

God never intended the Ten Commandments to fix society, or even to fix individuals.  No one can cure their own sin problem by obeying these commandments or any list of rules, and God certainly knew that when He gave them to Moses.  These rules would do two things: show the people the extent of their own sin, and give an already redeemed people (freed, in the Israelites’ case, from slavery to the Egyptians, and in the Christian’s, from slavery to sin) a picture of God’s holiness to model their lives against.  In either case, these rules are not for society; they are for God’s people.

There is undeniably some value in people being aware of the Ten Commandments – I am certainly not suggesting Christians should grab their picket signs to have them removed from public display.  But there is also a very real danger that those who do not know of God’s incredible grace in sending Christ might get the impression that if they are keeping these rules, they can earn God’s favor.  If we want to display this list of rules for the outside world to see, wouldn’t we do better to also display Christ’s own words regarding these commandments right next to them?

From Matthew 5:

“21 Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: 22 but I say unto you, that every one who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of the hell of fire.

27 Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28 but I say unto you, that every one that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

In fact, as difficult as it is to keep the Ten Commandments, they are only the tiniest tip of the iceberg that is God’s standard of holiness.  We are doing Him and those around us a huge disservice if we present these commandments as some sort of divine self-help guide.  The fact is, we cannot help ourselves.  We can only be right with God because Jesus lived the perfect life that we could not, and died to pay the penalty that we could not pay.  Christ earned our salvation, because we could not.  We cannot restore our broken relationship with a holy God by following rules.  The relationship can only be restored by complete faith and trust in the One who never broke any of the ‘rules’.  No exceptions.

So where does that leave the Ten Commandments?  Is the believer in Christ off the hook for trying to live these commandments because He already did?  If you’ve ever been tempted by this thought, check out Paul’s reiteration of the Ten Commandments to the church woven through this passage.  I was once again blown away by the consistency of God’s Word when I heard these verses with fresh ears.  God’s standards have never changed, although on this side of eternity, they seem to get higher all the time as we grow in the knowledge of His holiness.  How amazing that His grace is big enough to cover all of my failings!

Ma Nishtana?

Those who celebrated Passover this weekend will probably know that the title of this post, taken from a popular Passover song, translates to (roughly, I’m sure): “Why is this night different?” The song’s answer to this question comes in several verses about the traditions of the Passover meal, but I (naturally, or this would be very short post indeed) have my own answer.

Passover, of all the Jewish holidays, has always stood out to me as the really exciting one, the one that I could relate to best, and perhaps the one I imagined I knew the most about. The story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt and the plagues that culminated in a strike against all of Egypt’s firstborn is one that every Sunday-school-goer (willing or otherwise) will know. It has always interested me that Jewish people still celebrate (quite rightly) God’s deliverance of His people from this unthinkable plague by way of the blood of an innocent and perfect lamb.

To the Christian, this event, although completely literal and true in its own right, also paints a beautiful picture of God’s provision of His perfect Son, whose blood covers over our sins. I was just discussing some of this a few months ago with my friend Dana (see, Dana? If you had a blog, I would totally have linked you just then. See what you’re missing out on? Of course, I could always edit the link in, if, say, you wanted to start your blog with a post about your Passover festivities this weekend…), and then today we were blessed to hear a whole sermon on this very topic.

Our guest speaker today, Roger Wambold, director of Hebrew Christian Fellowship shared some amazing insights into the Passover festival, and almost as soon as he started speaking, I was blogging in my head. Such fascinating stuff!

So, open up to Exodus 12, grab a cup of coffee and have a read of some of my favorite new insights into the Passover festival, in no particular order:

  • If a household was too small to have its own lamb, a provision was made (in verse 4) that one lamb could serve for more than one household. In this way, *no one* of God’s people, regardless of age or socio-economic standing, was excluded from God’s provision of safety from the coming destruction.
  • The lamb was taken from the other lambs and “kept” for four days before it was slain (verses 5-6). Apparently during this time, the lamb would become a part of the household, almost like a pet. It was a time for scrutiny to make sure he was absolutely flawless. I couldn’t help but think of those who were friends of Christ’s during His earthly ministry, observing His perfect, sinless life, but at the same time growing attached to Him as a friend and beloved brother. I can’t begin to imagine their shock and denial when His true purpose (dying on the cross) was revealed.
  • The blood of the lamb was to be applied “on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses” (verse 7). Can you picture it? A dab of blood on either side of the door and one above? What a visual image of the cross! Amazing.
  • The people of Israel were to follow the above instructions, and then stay in the house until the plague had passed by. *But* this was only to be done once. The instructions for remembering the Passover as a festival for the generations do not involve reapplying the blood to the doorposts. This one time application of blood was completely sufficient for all the generations to come.

Throughout his message, Rev. Wambold repeatedly asked the question, “Who would *not* take advantage of this provision?” Under the circumstances, it is not surprising that *all* of the Jews took God up on His plan of protection. They knew there was no other means of escape, and they recognized His grace in providing this means of rescue.

In John 1:29, John the baptist says this of Christ: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Check out some other New Testament references to Passover here and here. In Christ is the complete and perfect fulfillment of everything that first Passover was about. We all, like the Israelites trying to escape from Pharaoh’s heavy hand, are facing death, but God has provided an escape at great personal cost. Christ was the ultimate, perfect, spotless Passover lamb, utterly innocent but brutally killed. We apply His blood by faith that He has completely paid the penalty for the sin of the world. For my sin. For yours, if you believe.

Rev. Wambold concluded his sermon with these words:

“Who would not want to take advantage of the marvelous provision Christ has made? Good question.”

Good question, indeed.

Virtuosity Revisited

gemscopy.gifI must have read Proverbs 31 about twenty times since I mentioned it the other day.  I promised to write something more about it, and I was sure at the time that I had plenty of insights to share, but the truth is, I’m stuck.  To do it justice I would need to blog about one or two verses at a time, since there is not a single aspect of this virtuous wife that I can look at and think, “Well, I’ve got that one under control.”  Every single verse contains something I need to work on.  If these verses were my to-do list, it would not have a single check on it.  Oh, dear.

But then it occurred to me: this is what the Christian walk is all about. I read God’s Word. I become aware that He is Holy God with standards so impossibly high that I could never reach them. Ever. And then, if my heart is where it ought to be, I remember that this Holy God loves me anyway.  That He knows I can never reach His standard, but that there was One who did.  And that His death and resurrection meant that I am forever freed from the judgement I deserve for *not* being who God says I ought to be.

Then, as I glance back at the same words that once condemned me, I remember this:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

So, here’s what I can do through Christ who strengthens me for all the good works He has prepared for me (Ephesians 2:10).  I can be the kind of wife who will bring happiness and security to my husband, never being a burden to him, but always lightening his load (verses 11-12).  I can help him to be all that God wants Him to be (verse 23).  I can look after all the affairs of our home (27a), feeding all the hungry little mouths here (15), and then looking to see who else might be hungry around me (20). With my spare time (27b), I can look to see how I might bless my home financially, either by stretching the pennies that my husband works so hard to bring home, or by thinking how I might bring in some more pennies (16, 19, 24) without compromising my purpose as a wife and mother.  And above all these things, I can remember that my beauty comes not from any of the physical things I might sometimes concern myself with, but from a heart that fears the Lord (30).

It is a tall order, to be sure, but it is not my order to fill.  It is only mine to submit to the God who will shape me into this woman.  I pray that I will have a willing heart, even if it does come to getting up at 6 AM every morning!

Water For Thought

glass_of_water.jpg I’ve been nursing a dull headache all morning. I don’t get many headaches, so when I do, I can usually pretty quickly figure out what’s causing it. My first thought is always, have I had my coffee? If not, then problem solved. Lately though, I’ve been getting headaches because I’m not drinking enough water. Nursing mothers require a pretty crazy amount of water, and I just always forget that. Every night I go to bed just a little bit parched, and I think, I really must remember to drink my water tomorrow. But come morning, I drink my orange juice and then my coffee, and I feel pretty okay, and I forget again. Every so often it catches up with me, and I have to have a two- or three-day water-thon to get feeling normal again. Today was one of those days.

So this morning I dragged my dull headache to Bible study with me, where, wouldn’t you know it?  We were studying, among others, this passage in Isaiah 41. “17 When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them. 18 I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. ”

Of course the fulfillment of this prophecy has and will come on several levels, but looking at its partial fulfillment in Christ lead us to this well-known story in John 4, and these verses in particular: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Now I don’t have a lot of experience with thirst. I’ve been told it is a painful and debilitating thing to be truly in need of water. But I do know that if I can have a headache after just a few days of not drinking as much water as my body would like me to drink, then my body must really need water. Yet, as I start to feel the symptoms of this thirst, I often look to other things first. I crave coffee when I feel a headache coming. I reach for a snack when my mouth starts to feel dry.

And isn’t that *just* how I am with the Lord sometimes?  ‘Hmm… I’m feeling lonely/worried/overwhelmed today.   Maybe I should… pick up my Bible? Call out to God in prayer?’ Those are almost never my first thoughts, if I’m honest.  ‘I know!’ I think.  ‘I’ll call my mom/ask a friend for advice/play on the computer for a while!’  And sometimes, those things help a little.  I feel better.  I can go on.  But I haven’t addressed the real need, and sooner or later, I’ll have to realize, once again, that God has been waiting for me all along with a lovely, tall glass of water that is exactly what my soul needs.

I am so thankful for the picture and reminder God has given us of our own spiritual needs in our daily, urgent physical needs. The Bible is so full of imagery comparing God to water, to bread, to air!  There’s also a beautiful picture here of God comforting His people the way that a nursing mother can comfort her child. If you’ve ever nursed a baby after leaving her with grandmom and a couple of bottles overnight, you know what that kind of blissful comfort and satisfaction looks like!  What if with each drink, each meal, each breath, I remembered the God who gave me those things, and that my need for Him is greater than my need for any of those things?  It might just whet my appetite for the only One who really satisfies.

The Real Deal: Part 2

41b7eajwmwl_ss500_.jpg

I mentioned a few weeks ago how my ladies’ Bible study of Isaiah has really impressed on me how well God’s Word holds up to close scrutiny and how it authenticates itself.  This morning, we finally reached the chapter of Isaiah that we’d all been waiting for.  Chapter 53 (and the couple of verses before it) is one of the “Servant Songs” written to foretell Christ’s life and death.  Go ahead.  You go read it.  I’ll wait here.

Just wow, huh?

A tiny bit of background for anyone reading this who is not very familiar with the Bible.  Isaiah was an Old testament prophet who spoke and wrote down his prophecies hundreds of years before Christ was born.  I mentioned in my last post how he called king Cyrus by name before he was even born, but this chapter about Christ is where the real meat is, for me at least.

What must have been going through Isaiah’s mind, I wonder, as he was speaking and writing down these words from the mouth of God?  The people of Israel believed that their Messiah would come in great majesty and take up the throne of David.  What would Isaiah have made of these words (53:2): “For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” ?

They believed their Messiah would be for *them* only.  What must he have thought about these words, then? “so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand. ” (52:15, emphasis mine).  (This great mystery is referred to quite a bit in the New Testament, particularly in Ephesians 3.)

And what about His purpose?  The Israelites thought he would bring political success to Israel.  Yet these words describe His excruciating mission on earth: “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” (53:11)

Not a king who would come in power and strength, but a servant who would willingly give his own life to bear the sins of mankind away.  What a beautiful, bittersweet picture Isaiah painted of our Lord.  I just wonder how much he understood.

Another verse appealed to the more analytical part of my brain, as another ‘proof’, if you will, of how perfectly Christ fulfilled the many prophecies about himself written in the Old Testament. Isaiah 53:9 says this: “And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.”  The New Testament tells us in Matthew 27:37 that Jesus was crucified between two robbers, fulfilling the first part of the prophecy.  Then a few verses later, starting in 27:57, we are told that Jesus was buried in the tomb of a rich man.  Some Bible scholars believe there are over a hundred such specific prophecies of Christ in Isaiah alone, and each one has found its fulfillment in what we know of Christ from New Testament eye-witness accounts.

This verse that Pippa memorized for her AWANA Cubbies club this week, sums it up very nicely:
Photobucket 

(PS  I don’t think all the red marker is supposed to look so gruesome.  She just loves red.  And purple.)

A Sunday Apology

I owe my family an apology today.  In fact, I owe my family an apology most Sunday mornings.  This is me by the time we leave for church (ten minutes late) each week.

2_grumpy-cour.jpg 

This is usually what our Sunday morning looks like prior to that moment.

6:00ish  Beatrix wakes up and I nurse her in bed.  When she’s done she coos happily while we continue to doze.  Love that kid.

7:00-8:00  Pippa and Romilly wake up, and instead of going downstairs and getting started with our day, we pile them into bed too and try to pretend we’re still sleeping in spite of Pippa’s chatting with Allie and Aboba (imaginary friends/stuffed animals), and Romilly whining,”No-no-no-I-don’t-want-it-I need-my-deeting(sleeping)-bag-I-need-my-Mommy” (She’s not a morning person, but we love her, too.)

8:00 Head downstairs and, for some reason, eat breakfast as though we are staying at a fancy resort and the only thing on our agenda for the day is lounging by the pool.

8:30 Suddenly realize that we should be leaving for church in a half hour and everyone is still in PJ’s with very bad hair, then scramble around bickering over who’s changed and dressed more babies until we walk out the door ten minutes late.  At least. (Whose idea was it to start church at 9:30, anyway?)

This seemed like a topic worth blogging about because I think it’s a malady that strikes a lot of Christian families on Sunday morning. Maybe it’s just that a time-pressured situation brings out the worst of our own sinful nature, but maybe it’s more than that. The Bible, in 1 Peter 5 has this to say about our enemy, “8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Does he, the devil, want us going to church with quiet, joyful hearts ready to worship God and hear what His Word has to say to us? No way. He wants us distracted by our own selfishness, angry with each other and maybe, if he’s lucky, so frustrated with the whole ordeal that we throw up our hands and decide just to stay home.   I confess I’ve let him have his way far too often (though thankfully, as long as my wonderful hasband is around, skipping church is not an option in our home.)

The simple answer to all this comes in the next verse.  “9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”  Resist the devil.  Know that he is real, and he is there, and he wants the worst for us.  But know that God, who wants the best for us, is stronger, and stand firm.  We are told elsewhere that if we resist him, he will flee.  He knows he has no real power over us.  Amen!

But I was not thinking about all this this morning…

Usually, once we’re out the door, a calm settles over us all.  My head clears and I regain my perspective.  Then I have the ten-minute walk to church to try to focus my mind and heart on the Lord and prepare to worship Him.  Today, about two minutes into our walk, I said to Trevor, “I’m sorry.”

I should have quit while I was ahead.   Instead, I went on to say, “… but I feel like every Sunday morning we sleep too late and we run around and everybody gets to get all dressed up and look nice but I get whatever time is leftover and my hair looks awful and blah, blah, blah…”  Whoa, where did that come from?  I really thought I was going to apologize, and then suddenly, I wasn’t apologizing at all.  I was excusing my behavior and trying to lay blame on everyone but myself.

I think I was particularly aware that I was doing this today because I *just* read an article on this very topic yesterday.  It was written by the husband/father of the lovely ladies at Girltalk, a pastor, and though I was a little lost through some of the sports talk at the beginning, this part at the end hit me right between the eyes.

“If my so-called confession extends beyond a very specific (acknowledgement of sin) sentence or two, then I am most likely excusing my sin, and requesting understanding for my sin, rather than sincerely asking forgiveness because of my sin. So I have learned to be suspicious of any confession of sin that is lengthy. Genuine conviction of sin is evidenced by a sincere, specific, and brief confession of sin, without any reference to circumstances or the participation of anyone else. When I sin, I am responsible for my sin, and the cause of my sin is always within my heart and never lies outside my heart.”

So, to my husband, and my family, let me try this again.  I was grumpy this morning.  And I’m sorry.  Can you forgive me?

Day of Rest

Photobucket

(Auntie Audrey, Grandma, Trev’s Dad)

This pretty much sums up how we’re all feeling after the pace of this week.  Ironically, the three people in the photo are back at it again today, having taken the train to center city for some sightseeing.  It’s our young and spry family of five who are taking the day off today.  All five of us are stricken with a cold, to varying extents.   I’m not sure how the elder Youngs have managed to escape it, but there’s no slowing down die-hard holiday-makers.

On Tuesday, we all stopped by my mom’s store for coffee before going to Pennsbury Manor while Trev worked his one day for this week.  It was a lot of outside time, and it was pretty cold, but Pippa was delighted to get to carry the keys around for our tour guide, and a good time was had by all.

Yesterday we went to the zoo. ‘The zoo?’ you may ask. ‘But it’s February…’ Ah, then you must not know about the great winter bargain at the zoo. If it’s in the 50’s out, you get in for $5. If it’s in the 40’s, you get in for $4. If it’s in the 30’s, $3…. You get the picture. Let’s just say we got in cheap yesterday! I realized while we were there, to my shame, that Romilly had not been to the zoo since she was about Beatrix’s age. She *loved* it. She was out of the stroller running around the place all day (after all, we were the only ten people crazy enough to be at the zoo yesterday), and she literally leapt for joy and laughed outloud with each new animal she encountered.  Except maybe for this one:

Photobucket 

This ‘little’ guy, aged 9 months, wanted to be her friend, bless him.  He was trying to high-five her and even put his nose against the glass to show her his silly side, but she wasn’t having it.  This is her walking to me very quickly.  I thought this little cub saw a kindred spirit in her.  A playmate.  A friend he hadn’t met yet.  Trevor thought the look on his face was more like, “Mmm… afternoon tea!”  and I think Romilly sided with him.

Anyway, when faced with the prospect of leaving at 9:30 this moring to catch the train for another cold day of sightseeing with our poor drippy girls, we had to call a younger Young family pow-wow, and we decided to have ourselves a day of rest.  At present, the girls are all napping, which they *desperately* needed, and we’ve had  chance to breathe.

Well, it wouldn’t be right to blog about resting without some mention of what the Bible has to say on the subject.  I could discuss how God rested on the seventh day after completing all of His creating, or how He established the sabbath as a day of rest for his people Israel.  I could even get into why we tend to have our day of rest on Sunday instead of Saturday, the original sabbath, but to be honest, my one day of rest hasn’t cleared my foggy brain quite enough for any of that.  Instead my weary head turns to these verses in Matthew 11:

“28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

What a wearisome thing life is, isn’t it?  When I start to become overwhelmed with life, I have to bring myself back to these words. “Rest for your souls…”  Sometimes we think if our bodies could just get the rest we need, our souls would be just fine.  But without Christ, our spiritual burden is much greater than any physical or emotional one we’ve ever carried.  Our labor apart from Christ is that of one enslaved to a master we can never appease.  Working to satisfy appetites that grow only hungrier, and at the same working to find approval from a Holy God whose approval we know we do not deserve.  What a burden!  There is nothing so restful as trading that burden for whatever the Lord, who made me and loves me, has in store for me.  Whether He would call me to the farthest corner of the world to share His love, or simply to wake up three times in the night to *cheerfully* tend to my poor sick babies, it is a lighter yoke than bearing my own sin.  What an amazing God, to offer us rest not only from the physical labors of life, but also from striving to earn our favor with Him.  We can rest, because Christ has carried that burden for us.  So simple, so sweet, and so easily forgotten, but today I am thankful *again* for the truth of the rest I have in Him.

The Trouble with Leisure

coffee-cup-and-computer.jpgI have *no idea* where this week went.  My in-laws are arriving tomorrow night from England, we are having a birthday/dedication party *at our house* on Sunday, and I have a to-do list a mile long.  (I should tell you, because you are probably concerned that I am taking the time to blog about this, that today has been a *much* better day, and my to-do list is a lot shorter now, so I am pausing to reflect on what I have learned from all this. )

I knew all week that I would have today – *really* have today because my step-mom has the big girls all day so I can get things done – to clean, shop, do laundry, tie up some loose ends on eBay, and generally scurry around being productive, but I told myself I would *not* leave all of that for today.  Can I tell you, honestly and truly, what I have spent most of my ‘free’ time on this week?  Playing on the internet.   Yes, I’m going to call it playing.  True, some of it has been constructive: I’ve worked some eBay listings and revived my blog.  Some of it was edifying: I’ve been spending some time here and a little here.  Some of it was even for Trevor, who wanted my suggestions for a theme for his new blog.  I could probably build a pretty convincing case for how usefully I spend my time online, but I know (and more importantly, God knows) that *most* of it has been pure leisure. Entertainment.  Playing.

‘Well, what’s wrong with that?’  you might ask.   Sometimes, I convince myself absolutely nothing.  My babies are fed and clothed and happily playing/sleeping/eating lunch, I’ve managed to plan dinner/empty the dishwasher/do a load of laundry… why shouldn’t I have some ‘Me time’?   Well, here’s why. First of all, Ephesians 5 says this: “15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”  Hmmm… the best use of my time?  As with so many things in the Christian walk, this is not a question of “Am I allowed to do this?”  but rather a question of, “Is this the best thing for me to be doing right now?  the most pleasing to the Lord?”  I don’t believe it is a sin for me to spend time on the internet, getting to know other moms and developing relationships and learning about how to be a better mom, but there sure are better ways I could spend my time (especially when my home is messy and my two-year-old is holding a book at me and saying very urgently, “Mommy-read-to-ME, read-to-ME, read-to-MEEE”).

Even more than that, this passage struck me this week at my Bible study on Thursday morning (if there were a website for that, I’d be linking to it left and right!)

“13 If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; 14 then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (italics mine)

This heart attitude should be present not only in regard to the sabbath, but every day and in everything we do.  And here’s the clincher:  I *know* it’s true.  When I (occasionally manage to) put down my own desires and focus on the things of the Lord and on the work that he has for me to do, it really does bring about the result God says it will (delighting in Him).  On the days when I wake up and start my day off in prayer and in His word, I continue to seek after the Lord and use my time well throughout the day.  But some a lot of most days I wake up, and the very first thing I want to do is get my computer on.  On those days, my longing for leisure time has become an idol in my heart.  Ugh.  Conviction is just no fun sometimes.

Now of course, the flip side to this is that God has created good things for us to enjoy.  I believe that relationships (yes, even online ones) are a gift from God to be enjoyed and used to His glory, but when anything, *anything*, starts to take His rightful place in my heart, it is time to put that thing back in its place.

Now, back to my to-do list…

His Favorite and His Best

The word “favorite” gets thrown around pretty freely in our house.   First and foremost, “You’re my favorite,” is probably my favorite (see? there it is again) thing that Trevor says to me.  I think I like it even more than “I love you.”

Since this has always been something that we’ve said to each other, we found it tricky not to say it to Pippa after she was born, whenever she would do something particularly endearing (which is *all* the time).  Now that there are three precious and irresistible little girls in our life… well, you can see where this is going. We say it to all of them! (You can only imagine the looks we get from people who only hear us saying it to one of them. Apparently, this is *not* something you’re supposed to say to children?)  But we *mean* it! Any parent of more than one child knows this bizarre, paradoxical sort of love. You think with each one’s impending arrival that you will never possibly be able to love the new one as much as the others, but the love is always there, and each child really and truly is “the favorite”.

But I digress.  The reason I have been thinking about favorites is this fantastic new book  that I’ve started going through with some other married ladies at church.

412oyajubrl_aa240_.jpgI have only worked through the very first lesson of the very first chapter, and already I can tell this book and the accompanying study are going to hit hard. Try this question on for size: “Have I burdened my husband with being the source of my self esteem?” Yikes! If not the source, then certainly a source. I count myself incredibly blessed to be called his “favorite” most of the time, but what of the days when I’m not? (What of the days when I don’t deserve to be because I’m acting like a spoiled little girl?!?)

The bottom line is: my value does not (and should not) come from my husband’s high esteem, it comes from my Maker’s.  We, the human race, are God’s favorite.  We bear the unique distinction of being made in His image, and while He called all of His creation “good”, only mankind was pronounced “very good.”  Just wow!  When I relate this favoritism to my crazy love for our girls, and remember that the Bible is clear that a parent’s love for a child is only a glimpse of the Heavenly father’s love for His children, I am awestruck!  If the God who created the universe loves me that much, then why would I look to anyone else for my value?

(Note: The title of this post is shamelessly lifted from this adorable book the girls have out of the library right now.  We especially love when Daddy reads it: he does a pretty mean British accent!)