Monday, March 9, 2015

A Way Out From Temptation

Twice this past week I've walked into my 2 1/2 year old's room after her "quiet time," only to find a sticky, greasy, smelly mess.  Thankfully it wasn't a poop mess.  We've had that mess before and I hope to never live that nightmare again.  On this particular occasion the two messes were accomplished with creams and lotions. 

The first mess was with Desitin.  Apparently her Elphie (stuffed elephant) needed "cream" on his bum.  And so did the walls, the bedspread, the dressers, even her clothes and hair.  The minute I opened the door and caught an overwhelming whiff of that smelly diaper cream, I knew there was trouble.  The second mess was with body lotion.  Same story. 

After the first mess I gave her a firm scolding.  Turns out my scolding wasn't as effective as I had presumed it to be (this happens more than I would like).  While the second mess was accomplished by a different "cream," it was in fact the exact same crime.  Hadn't she learned her lesson after the Desitin fiasco?

Turns out it was my lesson to learn.  It wasn't until after the 2nd mess and scolding that I realized I needed to remove ALL "creams" from her room during quiet/nap time.  I wanted to believe that she could resist the temptation and leave them alone.  But who was I kidding?  She's two.  She's immature.  Those scented creams that spread like butter were just so deliciously enticing.

So often the Lord uses these life experiences with my kids to teach me a spiritual lesson.  He's sneaky like that.  From this experience I was reminded that like those enticing scented creams, sin is even more deliciously enticing to the desires of my flesh.  Especially when my flesh is weak due to weariness, immaturity, or the daily trials of life.  

James 1:14 speaks to this:

"...but each one is temped when, by his own evil desires, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death."

When weariness has set in, my desire in motherhood is to lash out in anger and then escape to a place of self pleasure and satisfaction.  There are many times when, like James depicts, I feel that my desires literally drag me away from God's heart and entice me to sin.  And the truth is, it happens so quickly.  Are you currently being dragged away and enticed into sin because of fleshly desires?

The good news is that you and I have been promised by our gracious Father a WAY OUT!!!! 

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." 1 Corinthians 10:13

God allows us to be tempted, though He never does the tempting (James 1:13), BUT in His faithfulness He always provides a way out.

In Allie's case, God used me to provide the way out.  I removed the object(s) of enticement.  As parents I firmly believe that while our children are young we act as God's faithful way out for them.  We set biblical boundaries for them so that they do not have to face certain enticements of the flesh.  Based on their spiritual maturity, we discern (through the Holy Spirit) what is and is not wise for them to see, hear and do.  As they age and grow in their relationship with the Lord, they begin to discern (through the Holy Spirit) these things on their own.

But, like you and I understand, this will always be a struggle  for them while they live here on earth because they are innately sinful.  Their flesh wants what it wants and they are in constant battle with it.  Like us, our children will never reach a level of spiritual maturity where they cannot be enticed to sin. 

So they must act wisely.  And my little trial with Allie reminded me that many times acting wisely is removing that which is enticing them (us) to sin.  We must pray that our kids have the spiritual discernment and wisdom to remove those objects of enticement in their lives.

I wrote earlier of my tendency to act out in anger toward my kids.  A few years ago, I hit a point where I was so incredibly disgusted (and embarrassed) with how easily I was dragged away and enticed to sin by exploding in angry outbursts against my kids.  I began to cry out to the Lord for help.  I wanted a way out from this temptation.  

He showed me two obstacles to remove:  physical weariness and procrastination.  My physical weariness was making my flesh easily prone to emotional outbursts.  My procrastination was causing me to set unrealistic expectations on my children.  I would put off things I had to do and then when I finally did them (last minute) I would freak on my kids because they weren't cooperating. 

So, I removed physical weariness by giving up late nights.  I do my best to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.  Appropriate rest for my body has been God's faithful way out for me.  I removed procrastination by doing my best to keep a steady consistent schedule for my to-do's.  When I stick to my schedule, my angry outbursts are few and far between.  But when I procrastinate and get lazy, I'll admit that I explode.

Friends, the truth is that my flesh still desires to stay up late and have lazier days.  But my deeper desire is to please God and reflect His love to my kids.  So with His help, I try to take God's way out and remove those obstacles that drag me away and entice me to sin. 

If you are still reading this then I presume you feel the same way I do.  Your desire is to please God and reflect Him to your kids. 

So together, let's pray that God gives us discernment to know what obstacles we need to remove from our lives that tend to drag us away and entice us to sin.  

And let's also pray that God will give us wisdom on what obstacles we need to remove or keep away from our kids' lives. 

And finally, let's pray that our kids learn to listen to the Spirit's guiding by removing obstacles that will entice them toward sin.

Join me in prayer.

Lord,
Thank you that You have promised to faithfully provide a way out for me and for my kids when we face temptation.  Will you help me see the way out you are providing for me.  Please grant me discernment to know what obstacles might be enticing me toward sin.  

Will you also help me as I parent my children.  Give me discernment to set wise boundaries for them.  Show me what obstacles to remove from their lives that are dragging them away and enticing them toward sin.  

And  please help my kids.  As they seek You, grant them discernment and wisdom when facing temptation.  Grant them the courage to trust Your boundaries and the determination to remove those obstacles that deliciously entice.  Father, draw them to Yourself and keep them from evil.  Provide them a way out like You've so kindly promised! 







Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Discernment

We all have those childhood and adolescent memories we will never forget.  Some good.  Some bad.  Some silly.  Some scary.  Some humiliating.  Some exhilarating. 

But what about those memories that you look back upon and wonder whether a different or better choice would have changed things, for the better or perhaps for the worse.  

I often look back and wonder about choices I did or didn't make.  I don't necessarily have regrets, but I do replay decisions I've made and ponder whether they were the right ones. Like...

If I hadn't slid down the stairs on a blanket, would I have broken my arm? 

If I had spoken up when a neighbor boy was being bullied, would the bully have stopped?

If I had agreed to be the "girlfriend" of that shy little boy in fifth grade, would he still have married me 11 years later?

But there is one particular "If I had..." look back that I replay more often than the others.   Bear with me for a few moments and let me take you back to a spring afternoon in 1990.

My little sister Ruth and I were walking home from the bus stop which was a few blocks from our house.  I was a spunky little fourth grader and she was a shy little first grader.  And we were doing what sisters do when they are on their way home from school: talking, singing, giggling together.  We were about halfway home when a big brown car pulled up beside us.  It wasn't a car I recognized.  A man rolled down his window smiling at us. 

"Hi girls," he said.  "Your mom asked me to come pick you up and bring you home."

I can remember feeling confused at first.  I looked a little closer at him trying to figure out if I knew him.  I was sure I didn't. 

"It's okay," he said.  "I'm a friend of your mom's and she asked me to come get you.  She had an emergency and needs me to bring you home."

I looked over at my sister.  I could see a spark of fear in her eyes.  And I could feel something inside me sounding an alarm. 

I quietly said, "No, thank you." 

I grabbed my sister's hand and we walked away.  And the man in his brown car drove away.

I replay this scene back in my mind quite frequently and I always ask myself the same two questions.  

What if I had said "ok" and gotten into that big brown car with that man I didn't know (with my little sister in tow)?  I can only imagine the horrors that could have been ours.

And, why did I say no?  Sure, my parents had taught me not to talk to strangers.  But I was so young and the man was pretty convincing.  I could have easily been tricked.  But I wasn't.  I somehow, even through a cloud of uncertainty, saw the evil I was facing.  But how?

Friends, for as many times as I've asked myself this question I have only been able to come up with one answer:  God gave me discernment that day to see wrong from right.

Romans 12:9 says to, "Hate what is evil; cling to what is good."

Well duh, that's obvious right?  But is it really?

How many times have you and I been in situations where our moral vision was cloudy?

Not every moral decision is crystal clear.  Sometimes we have to discern wrong from right in a blurry haze of uncertainty.

The same is true for our children.  Each one of them will face countless decisions where their moral vision is clouded by a blurry haze of uncertainty.  And like my fourth grade self, they will want to hate the evil and cling to the good.  But they will need God's discernment to do it.

So how do they get it? 

1.  They pursue a knowledge of God.

In order to hate evil and cling to good,  one must know the difference.  If our kids want God's discernment in those moments of uncertainty, then they must know God.   

2.  They pray and listen to the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 6:18 says to "pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests."

Romans 8:26 says, "the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."

John 14:16-17 says that the Spirit of Christ will be our "Counselor" and is "the Spirit of truth." 

These are things we must model and teach our kids.  They need to know that discerning between evil and good (wrong from right) can be challenging at times, but that God's discernment brings perfect clarity.  So, we must help them to know God by teaching them His Word.  We must help them know how to pray by modeling and encouraging them to pray.  We must help them to listen for and recognize the Spirit's counsel by sharing our own experiences of this.

But most of all we must pray fervently for them.  We must beseech God's throne of grace and ask Him to bestow upon each of our kids His perfect discernment.

Because, like me, when my kids look back upon their childhood and adolescent memories, I want them to stand in wonder and gratitude at how God's discernment kept them away from evil.

Will you join me in prayer?

Jesus,
Will you graciously give my kids discernment as they face those decisions in life that are clouded by a blurry haze of uncertainty.  As their little hearts seek You, please reveal Yourself to them.  May they know You and in turn, may they have discernment to hate evil and cling to good.  Give them ears to hear and eyes to recognize Your Spirit's counsel and guidance.  And Lord, may they stand in wonder at how Your gift of discernment keeps them away from evil and brings them close to Your good, pleasing, and perfect will.   

Monday, January 5, 2015

GUEST BLOG: The Armor of God

Erin, a friend I have great respect for wrote the following blog.  Her prayer is powerful!  Join us in faithfully praying for our kids!

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Becoming a parent has made me desperate ... More desperate than I've ever been before. Desperate for more sleep, for more time by myself, desperate for a date with my husband, for some peace and quiet. I'm desperate to eat dinner at a normal pace, to take a shower or use the restroom without a visitor.  But more than anything, desperate for The Lord.

My oldest started kindergarten this fall. She loves it.
But she came home this week with news of a bully. It started out that the girl called her names and accused her of doing silly things like cutting inline or wearing "ratty" clothes. Through the lens of a kindergartner it's hard to know what's really going on so I encouraged her and helped her come up with strategies. Then yesterday the bully girl stole my
sweet girl's lunch. Enough is enough.

She sobbed today when I dropped her off. She never does that. So I held it together and then cried on my way home. I sat at my kitchen table, Bible study in front of me and just cried.

"I'm desperate Lord, my baby is getting picked on."

"I'm desperate Lord, I need to trust you to go before her - that you'll fight for her."

The study I am working through reminded me today that The Lord is a warrior (Exodus 15) and also the God of peace (Romans 16).  I didn't realize how desperate I am to actually believe this truth.

I certainly want this situation to get better and I'm doing the right things to get there with her teacher but I also know this is a war.  It's been won, thank you Jesus, but the enemy is battling for me and
for my daughter.

When I read Renee's post a little while ago about how she prays for her kids at school, specifically their protection, I was pressed by her sharing and my situation to begin praying the armor of God in
Ephesians chapter 6 over my kids.  I've prayed this for myself, but realize how important it is to pray it for them as well.

Pray with me.

Gracious Heavenly Father, you have no grandchildren.  These beautiful babies you've blessed us with are Your children, just as we are.  And
just as they come to us for help, look to us for protection - so we come to You.

We pray that our children would be strong in your power, putting on Your full armor every day.  We know this is a battle that is mostly unseen.  We pray they would wear Your truth around them as a buckle,
with the breastplate of right relationship with you guarding their hearts, their feet on the solid ground of your peace.  We pray their faith in You would be a shield in front, above and behind them - to
protect them when the enemy shoots something their way.  We also pray they would guard their mind with Your salvation.  Thank you that You are Savior.



Lastly, we pray they would be so in love with Your Word that it would be their weapon - what they use to fight back with.  We pray we'd teach them Your Word now and that it would be gathered up in
their hearts.  And we pray they would love also to talk with You about everything, no matter the situation.

Jesus made it so clear that You want to give us good things, even more than we as parents can imagine (Luke 11).  We cry out to You.  We are desperate for Your wisdom in how to parent, but also desperate to
trust in You.  Thank you that Your word promises that if ask for anything, that you give it to us because you are quick to give, want to give and are also a gracious giver (James 1). 


In Psalm 139, you tell us that you hem us in, in front and behind.  Wrap Your arms around our children today.  Teach us to equip them with Your armor so they are prepared.  And don't let us veer from keeping our eyes fixed on You, praying constantly.  We know the best thing we can do is live a life that points them to You.  Help us do that.  We  are desperate.  We love you.