Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hey Momma of Littles, With Your Bible On Your Lap...

Dear Momma of Young Children,

I've been thinking about you so much lately. You don't know it, but I see your FaceBook posts and I often just stop and pray for you. 

I know you're tired. I imagine you're stressed. 

You may feel at odds with yourself because you have baby weight you haven't lost. 
Your house may not look like Pottery Barn and Pinterest make you think it should. 

You have so many things you're responsible for!

I remember those days. It truly does seem like yesterday that I was getting my kisses from brownie batter smeared lips, and changing more dirty diapers than I could count.

I wish so much that you could come sit in my cushy chair and let me prepare a hot cup of tea for you and just pour my heart out to you face to face.

Since I can't, I'm hoping you'll hear what I have to share...

I really, really, really messed up big time when my children were little and I was feeling overloaded. I did something that I so wish I could take back today. But I can't.

I outsourced. 

I found a way to have someone come into my home and spend lots of the playtime with my children so that I could do the things I thought were more important.

At times, I pursued different careers at home so that I could just get a break.

Oh, what I wouldn't give today to have a do-over!

I would never again outsource my time with my children, as I now know that people aren't kidding when they say that it goes so fast.

I have a teenager now, and one who soon will be. How that happened so quickly, I can't tell you.

I would go back to those days and I'd outsource housekeeping if I could, but not playtime.

Now, may I tell you what I did right?

I shared my passion for God's Word with my children as though I was giving them the very breath they needed for living.

Because that's how I need it, and I knew the same was true for them.

Before they were old enough to read, I taught them how to observe the text of Scripture by teaching them to ask the 5Ws and an H questions of everything I read to them from it.

The Word has always been a huge part of our lives, of our day.

I remember when my son was born, and how it took me 3 days before I could get myself settled in his nursery...him in my lap, and me reading the Word over him. At that point, I NEEDED the Word! It had been THREE days since I'd been in it, and that felt like an eternity.

Just last night one of my children was humming and I asked, "Is that a hymn?"

Their response was, "Yes. Anytime something comes into my head that I don't want to be there, I just start humming a hymn."

WOW!! Thank you, Lord!

I remember a book that shaped my heart so deeply back then. It's by Ruth Graham Bell and it's called, "Prodigals and Those Who Love Them." You can find it here. 

This book made such an impact on my heart regarding my most important role as a mother because in it are the stories of John Newton and St. Francis, both who lost their mothers at a young age. One at 7 and one at 12, if memory serves me correctly.

Yet BOTH of them gave credit to their mothers and what they had poured into their hearts when they were boys, as being what God used to draw them to Himself when they were men.

So Momma, may I encourage you?

That open Bible that's on your lap...please read it to your children. Please realize that even when they're wee little ones, God will use His Word in their hearts.

And if your Bible is on your shelf, please go get it. Open it to the book of John and read to your precious babies about Jesus.

You don't have to rely on Bible can read the actual Word to them.

Let them draw pictures as you read. Let them build what they're hearing with Legos. Teach them to act out a Bible verse or lesson...either with their little bodies, or with their favorite stuffed animals.

Just give them the Word. 

You'll never regret it.

My children are old enough now that they're teaching me truth from the Word, and it's AWESOME!

My son LOVES the Old Testament...Kings, Chronicles, Samuel...I think he's read them all about 10 times. He amazes me when he starts telling me about the battles he knows so well, and the precepts he's learned that lead to application for his life...and often for mine. :)

My daughter loves Esther and Ruth, the Psalms and Proverbs. She's so quick to run and get her Bible and hand it to me, page open to the Scripture she thinks would be an encouragement to me.

I don't tell you any of this to brag...for I have Christ and Christ alone in Whom I boast.

I share it with you to let you know that when the season for reaping what the Lord has had you sow into your children comes, you can't begin to imagine how AWESOME it is!!

Please, make pouring the Word into your children your absolute chief ambition as a mother. I am begging you. Truly, pleading with you.

Don't leave that as a once or twice a week job that somebody at church takes care of.

There is NOTHING you will ever do as a mother that will have a deeper, more eternal impact on your child (and their children, and their children...) than teaching the Word to them yourself.

Just think...your obedience to God in this one area has the great potential to affect GENERATIONS...some you'll likely never even meet!

I recently received my Grandmother's Bible in the mail. She's been with the Lord for many years now. 

I remembered all the times that I had gone to her home and how every morning without fail she'd spend an hour in her chair reading the Bible, and as an adult now I wanted to see for myself what she'd observed from it.

It's hard to write this without just weeping, but her Bible is FULL of notes that only a true student of God's Word would have known to write. 

The front cover lists the dates of all of the times that she read the entire Bible cover to cover within a year.

It's such a gift having her Bible here to read, such a gift!

Yet I can't get one question out of my mind. Of all the times that I visited her home, why didn't she ever insist that I sit with her for that hour? Why didn't she teach me what she knew and loved so dearly? Had she done that with her own children when they were little? 

All questions for which I don't have answers.

There was one time with her, though. I hope I never forget it.

She was living in an Assisted Living home and her sight had gotten so bad that she couldn't read anymore. I was visiting her. It was just the two of us. I asked her what she'd like to do, and she told me she'd like for me to read the Bible to her.

"Where would you like me to go, Mom?"

"To the book of John, honey. It's my favorite."

I opened up her large print Bible and read to her, and she soaked it in like...well, like the breath of life that it is. It was such a sweet time to share.

About a year later, I was at her bedside for 6 excruciatingly painful days, as I watched her die.

By day 6 I was so MAD at God that I went into the bathroom and almost screamed at Him through my tears..."Is THIS how you treat someone who has served You their whole life?! 
Is THIS how you honor Your servants in their last moments?! WHY can't You just let her die?!"

In that moment of my complete brokenness, the Lord was so gracious to me. He showed me that He had known all along how mad I was at Him, and that He hadn't forsaken her. He was still in control.

I walked out of that bathroom and said, "Let's pray over her."

My mother, aunt and I stood over my Grandmother and prayed. 

Then we decided to read the Word over her. I remember one of them asking, "Where should we read?"

I knew.

We went to John. 

John it here.

After I read John over my beloved Grandmother for the second and last time, we then sang Amazing Grace together.

And all of a sudden, the death rattle was gone. 

My sweet little Mom took one last breath...a peaceful one, and her soul was instantly in the presence of her beloved Lord.

I kissed her one last time, and left the room.

I really hadn't planned on going into that whole story. But if it causes just one mother, one grandmother to stop and evaluate how you're spending your valuable time with your children and grandchildren, then I'll consider that it was worth it.

Much love to you today,

Thursday, October 09, 2014

How To Discern The Difference Between Conviction and Condemnation

This is a topic that has been on my mind for many years now. 
I've searched the Word, sought Godly counsel, and spent hours in prayer.

I am compelled to share with you what I've learned, as I know that I'm not the only one who has struggled in this area.

My deepest heart desire is to honor Jesus in what I say and do, yet I'll be the first to tell you that I fail daily. 

I cling to the hope that I have in 1 John 1:9 that says, 
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself the WHY behind that verse? WHY does God continue to forgive us and cleanse us when we choose to walk in unrighteousness (sin)?

To answer that question, there are a few things we need to consider...

1. Confess in the Greek means to agree with God. 
To me, practically speaking, that means when I confess my sin to my Father I tell Him, 

"LORD, Your word says that you hate the perverted mouth, yet I just said a curse word.
You HATE that, and You sent Jesus to pay the price for the very sin that I just committed. 
I am sorry, LORD. I want to hate this sin the way that you do. Please forgive me, LORD."

TRUE confession means that we call sin what God calls it. We don't sugarcoat it when we sin. We go to our Father with a broken and contrite heart and seek His forgiveness.

2. IF - that IF is so important. 
IF we confess our sin, He has a promise for us to claim when we do. He is FAITHFUL. God NEVER breaks His promises. NEVER!

3. He is RIGHTEOUS. Think about that for minute. 

God is the only completely righteous judge. 
When He forgives us our sins and cleans us from ALL unrighteousness, He does so based upon the completed work that HIS SON did for us through His death, burial, and resurrection. When the Father looks at us through our covenant with Him that is in Jesus, He HAS to forgive us our sin because once we've confessed, what He sees in us is the righteousness of Jesus!

4. We are then cleansed from ALL unrighteousness. Everything! 

I was talking with one of my family members recently and they were saying, "But this is all my fault because of the sin I committed."
That "sin" they were referencing was long ago confessed and forgiven. 
I looked at them and said, "I don't know what you're talking about."
They said, "The sin. The wrong things I did."
Again I said, "I don't know what you're talking about."
Once more they said, "The bad things I did. You know..."
I told them, "God says that your sins are forgiven. It's not my job to keep a running tab on them."

Oh, what a precious look came over my sweet family member. What relief flooded their face!

I want to encourage you with something, Reader.

  • If you are in daily fellowship with God...
  • If you are a woman in Biblical submission to your husband...
  • If you have Godly Titus 2 women whom you are transparent with about your life and whom you ask to help you see any blind spots that may be areas of sin for you...
  • And if you are keeping short account of your sins, confessing as soon as the Holy Spirit convicts you of them, PLEASE...please hear my heart on what I'm about to say...

If you are living like what I've described above and people have set themselves up as your judge, telling you that you're in sin when you can't see Biblically that you are, nor can your husband or Godly counselors, I encourage you to let those situations rest in the hands of  Jesus.

If you have sought a one-on-one time to speak with those who are accusing you, and they refuse to meet with you, or they set stipulations upon your meeting that are not in accordance with God's Word, you are free.

What might that seeking look like?
Scripture tells us to GO TO one another. To talk WITH one another. When someone instead decides to try and convict you in the court of Facebook Messenger, email, or some other form apart from talking with you in love, I believe you are released.

Released to what?

To pray for them. To pray diligently for them. To pray for God to bring reconciliation in His timing, but until then, to move on in what He has called you to in your walk with Him.

What if the one who is accusing you is bound up in legalism, or in false teaching?

I believe that there is a definite time to divorce yourself from such a situation. Paul admonished the Galatians for being so easily bewitched by those who were trying to take them back under the Law. 

He also wrote several times and called false brethren or false teachers out by name, warning the Body of Christ not to associate with such people.

There's a vast difference between gossip and calling a false teacher just that. Paul gives us examples of both in his letters to the churches.

What if they tell you they have a "word from the Lord" for you?
Well, my knee jerk reaction is to tell you to run for the hills, quite honestly... unless that word comes straight from the Word and they come to you in a spirit of humility with their Bible open, and their hearts and attitude controlled by the love of Christ.

If you are a new creation in Christ, you have the Spirit of God dwelling within you. And if you're living a life like I described above, you can be assured that He is faithful to convict His children when He sees a reason to.

A wise counselor would approach you in humility with an "I may be seeing this incorrectly, but could we please talk about a few things?" kind of attitude. 

A false teacher, or a friend who isn't operating under the power of the Holy Spirit comes with guns ablazing because they see themselves as servants of God sent to set you right!

How do we tell the difference between conviction and condemnation?

Ask yourself this...

What does Jesus do in your heart when you've sinned?

I can tell you what He does in mine. He makes it crystal clear! 
He doesn't tell me what a piece of junk I am. 
He doesn't call me names. 
He doesn't berate me.

He tenderly, but firmly if needed, reminds me of my unconfessed sin and calls me to repentance. 

I once had to call a national company and ask someone in customer service to forgive me for something I had done. She wasn't the person I had originally talked with, but I knew that I HAD to call and ask for forgiveness.

The sweet voice on the other end said, "Oh, it's ok Mrs. Womack."

I replied, "Thank you, but it's not ok. 
I'm a Christian and what I did was sin. It's so not ok. 
It's what my Savior came and died for, to pay for that sin. 
I know I'm asking you to speak on behalf of your whole company, but would you please forgive me? 
Is there anyone else that I need to ask forgiveness of? 
I'm so very sorry."

And yes, I wept through the call.

So what does condemnation look like?

Someone else trying to force their agenda on you.

"You will act as I WANT you to act, and you'll do it on MY TIMELINE, or I will slander your character to anyone who will listen. I'll also hound you and hound you like a playground bully until you do what I think you should do."

"I will write every single grievance I have against you into an email or a letter and send it to you, even after you've graciously asked me to talk with you on the phone, or to come over and have a cup of tea with you to talk things out."

"I will tell you every ugly thing I think about you in a short novel because you didn't act the way I think you should have."

"I will believe the worst in you instead of being big enough to return your phone calls and discuss the issue with you like an adult."

This is condemnation, and it DOES NOT come from Christ! 

Where is the love of God in any of the above?

Some years ago I was walking through a situation with someone whom I now believe with all of my heart to be a false brethren...after hours and hours in the Word, on the phone with Godly counsel, and on my face, that conclusion became very clear.

I'd never before encountered such calculating evil in my life! 
Scary, manipulative evil.

Because this was such a new experience for me, I didn't know what had gone so wrong. I spent HOURS crying out to the Lord asking Him to show me my sin. 

I begged Him by claiming 2 Timothy 3:16-17 to Him over and over. I'd say, "Lord, you tell me your Word is breathed by You and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. Lord, PLEASE...reprove and correct me! PLEASE show me where I'm wrong in this!"

I have lost count of the number of times that I cried that prayer out to Him, and nothing ever came. He never once revealed that I had sinned in the situation.

Instead, He provided a first hand witness that to this day says she will tell the entire story of what happened if ever the Lord leads us to take it to this person's authority.

And, He gave me Exodus 14:14 to cling to for two years... 
"The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent."

And for two years I did, except for with a very few people so close to the situation that there was reason to discuss it.

There were so many times that I could have set the record straight with one phone call, with one Facebook post, etc.

But I kept silent.

Then one day the Lord laid it heavily on my heart to speak about it. So many people were being hurt, lied to, and manipulated that He made it clear it was time to say something.

I did so without using a name.

OH the backlash that came from that! 

YET also....the freedom that it gave countless confused saints! 
I've lost count of the number of people who reached out to me thanking me for sharing as I did. 

As the backlash hit, I again went to my Titus 2 women to ask if I'd done something wrong. I went to the Lord in prayer and seeking Him through His Word.

The condemnation quickly came, and it was vicious! 

I'll never forget that night.

He laid Ecclesiastes on my heart. A book I had never studied in full.

This is where He sent Ecclesiastes 3:7, and I was dumbstruck as I read the words on the page...

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—
A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.

He is not a God of accidental phrasing!

There is a REASON that "be silent" comes before "speak."

Wow, even now as I read back through this entire passage, it speaks to relational situations of strife.

Who knew there was a time to embrace and a time to shun embracing?!

But doesn't that make sense?

The application of that one verse alone is wide. 

When the person or people in your life who are attacking you fall into any of the below categories, perhaps a time to shun embracing is in order until God restores your relationship, should He choose to.

1. They don't take responsibility for their own actions, but are quick to blame you.

2. They are always in some sort of drama.

3. You've never heard them say they could be wrong, nor heard them apologize for anything.

4. They judge you, or take offense at things you do that had nothing to do with them. And they do so without ever asking your intent. 
In essence, they are fabulous story writers!

5. They "prophesy" over you, yet won't come to you in humility (and fear and trembling at the fact that they're supposedly speaking for God!) as God the Father sent His prophets of old.

6. They quote Scripture at you that is completely out of context.

7. They air all of their previous grievances with other people to anyone who will listen. They are gossips.

8. They hide behind email, letters, or Facebook. 

9. They LOVE being looked up to, and will do just about anything to elevate themselves.

10. They're constantly judging their Pastor, or a respected ministry, or other Believers...yet they'll never go and speak to those particular people face to face.

Yep, I think these are calls for a Biblical time to shun embracing.

Yet, never shun praying. 
Praying casts your cares upon Jesus.
Praying sets you free. 

And one last thing I've learned...sometimes Jesus allows these times in our lives to draw us deeper into relationship with Him.

That's been my experience. 

I can truly tell you that all I want, after all I've been through, is Him.

My family is RICH icing on the cake of my relationship with Jesus.
My friends who are true are blessings I don't deserve, but whom I deeply cherish.

Trials complicate our lives in many ways, but they also simplify them.

They clear away the fluff very quickly and force us to find that which we will cling to. 

For me, it's Jesus Christ and it always will be.

Look to Jesus. 
Just trust Him to walk you through the pain, because He will. 

And He will deal with those who are falsely accusing you. You don't need to defend yourself.

He is the righteous Judge, and He will fight for you while you keep silent.

I pray that you are encouraged, and set free in Christ to lay aside anything which is taking your eyes off of Him and the purpose He has for your life, to His glory.

If that's know what to do. 
1 John 1:9 it.
Do it now, don't wait another second!

If that's condemnation...cast it to Jesus, and trust Him with the situation. He will guide you as you seek Him in prayer, His Word, and Godly counsel.

In His Love,