Forgotten

This whole experience of reading the Bible all the way through is teaching me so much. Particularly, my slog through the prophets has really taught me how casually I view the Word of God. There are Christians worldwide who crave a Bible to read… and here I am, most days, thinking to myself “Ugh, how am I going to propel myself through the book of Ezekiel?”

Clearly, I need to pray for a heart that delights in all of God’s word – not just parts of it. But even though my attitude isn’t always in the right place, God is always blessing my reading with teaching. This week has been a really good example.

To set the stage a little bit, I fell off the obedience bandwagon HARD over the holidays. I ate sinfully, neglected my Bible reading, and neglected to pray regularly. I felt the Holy Spirit tugging on my heartstrings, asking me to come back. But it’s been a struggle. Kind of like being dragged out of bed to get back to school after a long holiday.

So, back to this week.

In my own personal reading, I was reading Ezekiel. As I mentioned, I have struggled to motivate myself to read all of the pronouncements of judgements on nations whose histories and geographies I only have a minimal grasp. But in Ezekiel 33, which is where I started reading this week, God gives some warnings which are a little more generally applicable:

“Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet if he trusts in his righteousness and does injustice, non of his righteous deeds shall be remembered, but in his injustice he has done he shall die.” (Ezekiel 33:13)

This was a good reminder of things I wrote about a few weeks ago, not to trust in works but Christ’s atoning sacrifice.

And then later this week, I turned to my BSF homework, where we are in Hebrews where I read:

“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of truth, there no longer remains an atoning sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgement, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” (Hebrews 10:26-27)

I thought about all the times over the last few weeks when I actively chose to ignore my Bible, or let my head hit the pillow without praying, or ate a second (or third!) cupcake (cookie, whatever) not out of hunger but out of perceived emotional need. And I started getting uncomfortable with my behavior.

And then, for my discipleship group, I read in 2 Peter:

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” (2 Peter 1:5-9)

… … … … woof.

I have decidedly not been supplementing my faith with self-control or steadfastness. I was not bearing fruit. I forgot that I was cleansed from my former sins. In fact, I returned to those sins with the full knowledge of judgement.

You hear a lot in evangelical circles these days that Jesus would leave the ninety-nine to find you, that when you’re lost and alone and afraid He would knock down mountains and break down doors to find you. All you need to do is look up, child!

Well, here’s the thing. Yes, Jesus will come and find you if you are His. But after Jesus comes and finds you, he tends to tell you everything you’ve ever done and it is not a comfortable experience. He wants you to know – like He wanted me to know – that my sin is real, and has real consequences. But praise be to God, who uses His scripture to cut our hearts with the knowledge of our transgressions, and calls us to repentance.

Inside out and upside down

In my continued march through the Old Testament prophets, I read through Habakkuk for the first time in my life. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even know Habakkuk was a book of the Bible until I was in college, and even after that I sometimes forgot it was there altogether, or else thought it was part of the apocrypha. Whoops.

But I know it’s there now! And, immediately I loved it. It starts:

How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?

Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.

Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted. (Habakkuk 1:2-4)

Sometimes I feel like this. There are lots of things I observe that make me want to say, “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?”

There’s a line in the musical Les Miserables that I think of often when I watch the news or turn on social media:

“The law is inside out, the world is upside down!”

Doesn’t the world feel like this right now? Especially if you’re a Bible-believing Christian? Something is profoundly Not Right. The law is perpetually turned inside out. I know God is listening – but, honestly, sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like we’re in that space between Malachi and Matthew where there is no response whatsoever.

But! God responds to Habakkuk:

Look among the nations, and see;
wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days
that you would not believe if I told. (Habakkuk 1:5)

Now, of course, God is responding very specifically to a very specific circumstance (specifically, the rebellion of Israel and Judah and the punishments they were in for as a result). But, I think there’s a general principle to be drawn from this, which bears out through scripture.

God is always doing something, and His justice doesn’t sleep. He is also eternal, and therefore His timing is not our timing.

When Habakkuk was inquiring these things of God, God was lining up events, people, cities, stars, and the rest of creation, for his son to be born in a lowly place in Bethlehem hundreds of years later.

Who would have believed it if God had told them?

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

What an encouragement to hold on, trusting in God to fulfill his promises.

I will fight against you

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As I mentioned, I’ve been reading through the prophets over the last few months. One thing that has really stood out to me is God’s wrath – particularly as I’ve read through the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah, of course, was prophesying to God’s people in Judah. The condemnations and punishments he proclaimed on behalf of God were specifically for that people in that time (and not to inform specific government policies in modern secular governments – another story for another day). But, there’s a lot I think we can still learn. A lot of really terrifying things, as it turns out.

So we know that from essentially day one of settling in the Promised Land, the Israelites did not uphold their end of the covenant God made with them. They forgot who rescued them from slavery in Egypt, who fed them in the desert and fought with them as they came into the land they were to posses. God is patient across generations and over hundreds of years. He begins to warn his people to turn back to him with their whole hearts, or they will face judgement.

Through Jeremiah, God makes this gut-punching statement:

“I myself will fight against you with outstretched hand and strong arm, in anger and in fury and in great wrath.” (Jeremiah 21:5)

Ugh. Honestly, I read that sentence and had a physical reaction to it. Can you imagine? Flip just a few books before earlier in the Bible and you will read “The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you,” (Deuteronomy 1:30), and “Do not be afraid or dismayed; be strong and courageous. For thus the Lord will do to all your enemies against whom you fight,” (Joshua 10:25). For those who listened to Jeremiah, how terrifying that must have been to hear. God himself, the creator of the universe in all of His power, might, and righteousness, was going to fight against his people.

If that doesn’t make you freak out, I honestly don’t know what would.

And then I realized – oh man – this is me, without Jesus.

Just a little farther along in Jeremiah, God says:

“Execute justice in the morning,
and deliver from the hand of the oppressor
him who has been robbed,
lest my wrath go forth like fire,
and burn with none to quench it,
because of your evil deeds.’”

“Behold, I am against you, O inhabitant of the valley,
O rock of the plain,
declares the Lord;
you who say, ‘Who shall come down against us,
or who shall enter our habitations?’
I will punish you according to the fruit of your deeds,
declares the Lord;
I will kindle a fire in her forest,
and it shall devour all that is around her.” (Jeremiah 21:12-14, emphasis mine)

This immediately reminded me of Revelation:

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:11-15)

Judged according to what they had done.

Now, there’s this idea out there that judgement and hell are only for those really bad people. Like, Hitler-level-bad. Have you been mostly good? Didn’t get any coal in your stocking at Christmas? Eh, you should be fine. This idea is that people are, in general, mostly good.

But Jesus – who, remember, is God – the one who wrote the Old Testament! – said:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21-22)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

I don’t know about y’all, but I am not good. Not by any stretch of the imagination. And, I’m sorry, I don’t mean to insult you, but you aren’t good either. My guess is that you’ve maybe gotten angry once or twice in your life. Maybe you’ve lied – even a little white one! Maybe you’ve gossiped, which steals the reputation of another person. Maybe you’ve overeaten. You’ve probably put other things before God in your life.

Why do I think you might have done these things? Because I have. And I suspect we’re not all that different.

So here’s the good news.

God knew that the Israelites couldn’t be good on their own. He gave them a covenant, and asked them to make sacrifices to atone for their sins. When Jesus came, he brought a new covenant. He was the sacrifice made for us, so that when we stand before the final judgement and are asked to give an account for our deeds, we can rest on the deeds of Jesus.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

“…And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,” (Hebrews 5:9)

Praise God from whom all blessings – like security from justified wrath, and the assurance of salvation – flow.

 

 

The perfect parent

Jonah & The Whale Sculpture in Israel

I know, I know, I know. I promised more updates, and more updates were planned. I took an unplanned step back from social media and other internet things to deal with some real-life things which I will probably write about in time. I’ve been reading Job and some of the minor prophets and have found great encouragement, and wanted to start writing about that first.

First: Jonah. I actually read the book of Jonah a few months ago, but my Bible happened to fall open to those pages a day or so ago and I was reminded of my observations, which perhaps aren’t super new but, honestly? I kind of had to laugh when I read chapter 4 (bear with me here), after Jonah sees that God averted disaster for Nineveh because of its earnest repentance:

But to Jonah it seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”

Any parent reading this probably knows what I’m going to say: Does this not sound like a parent dealing with a child? I don’t know about y’all, but, HEAVENS! This is exactly me and my toddler, almost every day.

But… if I’m honest, it’s also probably me and God, almost every day. How frequently am I mad that God for not doing what seems right in my eyes? How often am I mad about the things God has provided for me, rather than thankful? Am I satisfied with God’s mercy and his justice and how He carries out both?

God was so patient with Jonah, and so merciful to him. God shows us here how He is the perfect parent who shows discipline and mercy to those “who cannot tell their right hand from their left,” and for those who know better. I am so thankful that His ways are not my ways, and that He is always teaching me with His word.

Earnest prayer

Hi! It’s been a while. We traveled to the East Coast in the middle of October and, predictably, both kids got sick during/after travel and things have taken a while to settle back into a routine. I finally feel like I’m back to normal and can sit down to write.

Before I get down to business, I have a couple of housekeeping items:

  • I’ve been thinking about adding some diversified content to the blog for a while. So while my main focus will still be what God is doing, I’m plan to post twice weekly; the main content remaining God and his sanctifying work in my life, and the second weekly post will be a recipe or creative kid project or something similar that falls into the broad category of homemaking. These things are tangentially related to the most important thing, but they’re still a part of this new life I’m living.
  • To that end, I have a new Instagram account for the blog which you can view in the sidebar of my blog or by going directly to the account on Instagram (kat.maybe_). The Instagram account will largely serve the “Homemaking, Maybe,” posts.

And now, a return to our regularly-scheduled programming!

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I pray recently. As I mentioned, I re-arranged my day to make prayer and Bible reading a priority. It’s… well, let’s say it’s working in fits and starts. But as to the prayer part, I’ve been trying to write down the things I pray about daily. I don’t write out the whole prayer, but I’ve started taking notes under broad categories of the prayer:

  • praising God by naming His attributes,
  • asking for His will to be done in situations that are on my mind,
  • asking him for my “daily bread” needs, asking for forgiveness for sins, and
  • asking for deliverance from the evils I face.

This model (introduced to me by our pastor and modeled after the Lord’s Prayer) is super helpful for being consistent in things I should always be praying for (my children, for instance). But it does kind of lend itself to getting stale with prayers. A few times, particularly for the things I pray about every day, I feel like I’m reciting my multiplication tables to God rather than bringing him the earnest pleadings of my heart.

I’ve particularly felt this way when I’ve been praying about a conflict I’ve had. The issue is not really resolved, and bitterness started to set in. I had incredibly ungracious thoughts about this situation and the parties involved. Recognizing that I was totally powerless to stop this calcification of my heart on my own, I started to pray daily. I honestly didn’t feel like praying about it. It even took me a few days to add it to my daily list of things to pray over. The advice C.S. Lewis gives on this topic was really what kept me going:

“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”

So pray I did. Weeks went by with me praying the same thing, over and over, not really liking praying about it. And then, one day, God answered the prayer. The issue is still not resolved (which is mostly what I expected) but one day while I was acting as though I loved my neighbor, I just felt a change in my heart. It wasn’t a dramatic change, and there is definitely still work to be done through prayer and practicing love, but it felt like a page turned.

Last week in Bible Study Fellowship, we were in Acts 12. Peter and James are imprisoned, and James is murdered by Herod Agrippa. Things are looking rather bleak for Peter, and “earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.” (Acts 12:5, emphasis mine) Peter goes on to be miraculously delivered by an angel from prison. The church was so surprised when he returned to them that they thought he was a ghost.

Reflecting on all this, I didn’t feels my prayers over this situation were particularly in earnest. But, I was also reminded of what Paul says in Romans:

Likewise 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. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. – Romans 8:26-27

How encouraging it is to know that the Holy Spirit is always working in the prayers of a believer, making us obedient and helping us to pray in earnest even if we don’t feel in earnest. What a joy to be able to pray and rest in the knowledge that our prayers are perfected, heard, and will be answered.

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 16-17) Amen!

For to such belongs the kingdom of heaven

It’s been a week.

The “back to school ick” is running rampant and we became its victims this week. One by one, our entire family was overwhelmed by snot and coughing and exhaustion. My husband had a really busy week at work with some later nights at the office and sometimes at home. My mother-in-law, who usually helps when things go off the rails, got sick as well and needed to rest at home. So for a few days it was just me and our circus all to myself.

I was feeling pretty crummy, of course, so I let the kids watch many more movies in one sitting than I ever have before (except for long car rides). During my “forced” quiet time while they were watching “Pooh” movies, I was scrolling through Facebook and Twitter. But what I probably should have been doing was reading my Bible and in prayer with God. I was completely and totally untethered to Truth. And, what’s worse, I knew it and I just ignored it. Just a few weeks ago I had resolved to not eat the bread of idleness, but there I was, snarfing it down.

Predictably, it didn’t take me long to unravel.

It was the end of a long, difficult week. Neither kid napped Friday afternoon, so we were all grumpy after dinner. Before bedtime, I had to suction the our youngest’s nose out so she could take her bottle. She hates nothing as much as she hates that saline spray and suction bulb. She screams and cries and flails and oh my heavens it is SUCH an ordeal.

The baby screamed and cried. The toddler, who seems to think yelling at her sister will stop her from crying (I don’t know how she hasn’t noticed yet that this method has the exact opposite effect), was also screaming.

I had been incredibly patient all week, but I was tired and exasperated from fighting kids to help them. I started to cry. I grabbed the toddler and deposited her in her bedroom and slammed the baby gate behind me.

“I can’t handle both of you right now, I will be back later,” I snapped.

Later, with baby sister in bed, I went and got our oldest out of her room. I felt terrible. I knew I had scared her by crying and yelling and I had been unkind with my words. I took her out to the living room and sat on the couch with her. I told her yelling at other people is always naughty. She shouldn’t have yelled, but neither should have Mommy. I apologized. As I was saying that I was trying to be a good mommy, but sometimes I just don’t get it right, she interrupted me. Turning to face me, she patted my head and said:

“You’re good, Mommy.”

All in one sentence and totally unawares, my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter showed me the grace I did not deserve, could not earn, and was ashamed and yet so eager to have. It was like I was hit with a lightning bolt of pure joy. I bawled. She thought I was laughing so she laughed, and soon I was laughing too.

I should be living in that lightning bolt of pure joy every day. How amazing, how wonderful, that God can teach a grown woman about the radical grace of Jesus through her child. I see more clearly every day, “for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)

Putting away the bread of idleness

Through various Bible reading plans and studies, I wound up reading Proverbs 31 three times this year. Yes — I willingly looked at myself through the lens of this mythically perfect woman not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES. And you know what? I was not totally discouraged. Rather, I was challenged, in more ways than I expected.

One of the things I noticed in my readings of this chapter was this woman’s use of her time. She is a cheerful worker (v.13), she rises early (v.15), she is not idle (v.27).

Can I admit something to you? One of the things I covet most is my idleness. I want to sleep in. I want to sit on the couch and read or watch a TV show or nap when the kids nap. These things in and of themselves aren’t bad when rest is needed (more on that later), but they are my natural tendency. I give in. A LOT. I eat the bread of idleness whenever I get a chance and declare it good by telling myself, “I’m a mom, I deserve this.” But this year God has been convicting me of the wrongness of my habits via Mrs. Proverbs 31.

I’m sure many people reading this know of that one incredibly spirit-filled person in their lives who rises at some ridiculously early hour to read their Bible and spend time with God in prayer. I know a few people who do this and have always written this off. “It is NOT for me,” I’ve said. “I have KIDS.”

Every mom knows exactly what I’m talking about. Amen?

There is also the legitimate issue that the early morning hours are not my best. I am not a morning person (and that’s an understatement). If I were to rise early and read my Bible and pray, I wouldn’t be giving God my first fruits. I am my most alert and at my leisure during the kids’ nap time. But during nap time, if I’m not giving into my love of idleness, I’m usually working out, showering, and maybe doing one household chore if I can squeeze it in. So I do my Bible reading at night before bed. But if I’m honest with myself, this is giving God my last fruits. At the end of the day I want to spend time with my husband having an actual adult conversation without interruptions from our beautiful babies, and then I want to go to bed. God is getting the last MAYBE half-hour of my day.

This Sunday our pastor preached a great sermon on prayer that kind of kicked me in the rear. All of these things I’ve been thinking about Mrs. Proverbs 31 swirled around as I was listening to the sermon and I was really convicted that it was time to bring this part of my life and lay it on the altar for God to use.

The confluence of these convictions led me to come up with The Plan. I was going to rise at 6AM, work out, shower, and get going. I would do my Bible reading and prayers during nap time. After dinner and the kids’ bedtime would be 100% my husband’s and mine. I would go to bed early, and I would start all over again the next day.

Perhaps what happened next was entirely predictable. In a series of events that seemed pulled from the very pages of The Screwtape Letters, The Plan completely unraveled.

I went to bed a little later than planned because I wasted time on social media. Not a problem in and of itself, BUT, the baby woke up at 3:50AM. I got her back to sleep no problem, but I was wide awake until after 5AM. I knew what was happening even then – and I prayed that God would not let Satan (who had clearly sensed opportunity and was trying his best to take it) steal the day. I had to give in and set my alarm forward to 7:30. No working out. By the time we reached the kids’ naptime, I was completely wiped out. I had to sleep when they did. No working out, no Bible time. It will be done in the evening, not like I planned.

But even in a day like today there have been bountiful mercies. Some fights I was expecting with our toddler never emerged, both kids napped for a long time in the afternoon and I was able to get the rest I needed to catapult me through the rest of the day. As I sit here writing this, both kids are playing nicely on the floor and not harassing each other (don’t get me wrong, I know this will not last!) I’m discouraged by the way today went, but I know that Satan wants that discouragement to keep me from trying again tomorrow. By God’s grace, it won’t!