Don't Mistake Fruit for the Law

I once read a stofy from a parenting book of brother and older sister playing Marco Polo in the pool and they end up fighting because the brother is cheating. The mother has a short talk with the brother about how cheating is not OK. He justifies it by saying, "But then I'll never win because I'm younger". The mother replies that cheating is wrong and leaves it at that. OK, fine. But then she turns to the eldest daughter, who kept the "rules" of the game and proceeded to chastise her for about 3 times as long as she did the younger brother for being angry with her brother for "breaking the rules".

I agree that anger should be addressed, but the sole chastisement was on the fact that she wanted to be a "rule keeper" in the game.

The story conveys that the "rule keepers" are the ones in need of the most chastisement. It never addresses why the older sister is apt to be a rule keeper but that clearly "there is something more important then the rules".

If the rules weren't so important, why did Jesus have to die because we failed to keep them?

I'm not saying we're saved by the law, we are not. But the Bible is clear about working out our salvation with "fear and trembling". Repentance is key to salvation. Without repentance, we cannot know we've broken the rules and need Him. But the law wasn't abolished; it was fulfilled by what we could not. We are still called to obey--not to be saved,  but becausewe are saved. If we went on ignoring what Christ died for, we have no sacrifice left for our sins because we've trampled the blood of Christ.

Does that mean we should never mess up? No. It does mean we are called to repent when we do and move forward in Christ. Not live a lassiez fare life or even careless life, forgetting what Christ died for. His Spirit is what works in us to walk out our faith and grow fruit. The law comes down to two things: love God and love your neighbor. These are encouraged throughout the whole of Scripture as being evidence of a child of God.

But don't minimize sin. It's what Christ died to save us from. We should want to flee from it. On the other hand, if we are following a set of rules out of legalism, (the belief that our works will save us), we are on dangerous road. But if we are acting out of the love Christ has for us, and simply can't help but obey or want to obey, there should be no chastisement over that.

So where does grace come in?

Grace catches us when we fall. And we willfall. But it's not there for our advantage. Extending grace to our children is vital, but repentance is just as vital. If a child doesn't understand the weight of sin, he/she will not understand the beauty of grace, or the need for it.

There is a little tweaking in this book that rubs me the wrong way in areas, which is why I find it important to discuss here. I continue to press on because I'm waiting for the ultimate "point" of the book to be made. It seems the author is trying to build a foundation of what grace is and what it looks like. In light of that, however, it makes it appear that obedience is not [as] important. The book glorifies grace covering sin over the desire to be obedient. In some parts, it suggests that anyone who wants to "follow the rules" have it all wrong and are walking in law, not grace.

I find that to be too much of a blanket, because that is not always the case. People who may appear to be "rule followers" might actually be walking in the Spirit, and going where He leads. To tell them that they are being "too righteous" (even though I would never label myself or anyone else that) is to say what?

Not everyone who desires to be obedient is a Pharisee. Some are David's. This is an important heart issue we each must get to the root of, personally.

Legalism

A good gauge for knowing if you're in legalism, is if you expect everyone to follow every "rule" you do -- and if they don't, do you judge whether they are going to heaven or hell based on these rules? We must be careful not to add man made laws or rules to what God has called us to. The point is, we can't do it without Christ. And without Him working in us, any works we do are dead anyways.

Conclusion

What I think the author is trying to get the reader to understand, is that our children need to understand that their good behavior or "good works" (or our "good parenting") isn't what brings them into right relationship with Jesus. That's the bottom line. Unfortunately, it seems as if she has to take you through a long trail of things "not to do" in order to get you to that point. And without knowing the "point" ahead of time, it can really make it look like the rules don't matter at all.

The book, Give Them Grace, is written from the perspective of parents who believe that good parenting produces good kids, and therefore are assured salvation, when in fact it doesn't work that way. Our children's salvation isn't based on anything we do. But I do believe our children can be lead astray by what we failto do to guide them. That doesn't mean God can't redeem--but we do need to heed His voice and walk in obedience, too.

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Apologetics

Dearest friends. Yesterday there was an uproar on a Facebook page concerning a handful of pagan believers accusing {whether rightly or falsely} a Christian of attacking another person. A pagan. According to the accusers, there was no provoking and it was blatant. This stemmed from the voting at Circle of Moms for the Top 25 Faith Blogs by Moms. Before I go any further, let me just say that I do not accept paganism worship as being OK. Why? Because God does not stand for it. Actually, He does not stand for any worship to any other god's but Him. It's stated in the First Commandment.

Whether or not the accusations are true really is moot at this point. My concern was for the discussion that followed on Facebook between the Christians and the pagans.

I can resonate with the mode of defense many Christians were using because I used to do the same thing ~ and I realized it got me nowhere. Would you permit me to offer you some alternatives when talking with non-believers about our faith? Graciously? :) These are the things that set us apart. Again, I understand we can get angry and frustrated, especially when people attack US and disrespect US. It's almost natural to want to react. But it really shouldn't be. It is through the Holy Spirit you have self-control, even when you're being attacked. But attacking back will get you nowhere, except backwards.

So, if you come across someone who doesn't believe in Jesus, keep a few things in mind as you converse together:

  1. We represent God. Every word that comes out of our mouth is a direct representation of God. Kind of a heavy cloak to carry, yes. But the Bible talks extensively about guarding our tongues and being careful that no idle talk comes from our mouths. Aim to be kind and loving even when the other party isn't. Answer questions when they are asked, but deliver as graciously as possible.
  2. We are called to love our enemies. It should be no secret that pagans/Paganism is an enemy of God. I was asked last night "So why is it the Pagan community is always at the source of all this type hate?" There seems to be a false belief in Paganism that Jesus accepts pagans and He is at the center of all faiths.  We know this to be untrue. But, we can still share the Truth in love. No, it's not always easy. Believe me. I know it's not always easy. Our bent is to hate all things that God finds unacceptable, but we need to recognize there are people under these pagan beliefs.  People we are called to love. And, we should offer them hope. There is always a chance of rejection, but we must at least try planting {not hitting the seed with a shovel}.
  3. Non-believers do not hold to the Bible ~ until the Gospel has been presented and accepted, typically, the Bible is not usually well received among non-believers. Editied to include: Christians need to be careful how we are presenting the Word. Are we spouting it off as venom, or are we speaking it in love and humility? I did not write this as clearly as I intended, orginially. I do believe in the power of the Word, but I believe how we present it plays a role in that as well. :) {Thank you, Kimberly}.
  4. We do not know their past. Some people have been wounded by Christians or the church and therefore are quite bitter toward all Christians based on their own experience. We must really tread carefully. As you know, not everyone represents Christians or Christianity accurately. One woman stated in that thread that  "Christianity is all about materialism, the better a Christian is the more expensive stuff they have." Is she far off from why she would believe such a thing? What are preachers preaching from the pulpit? A "name-it-and-claim-it 'gospel'". That's what she knows of Christianity. :(

Whether a person is pagan, Muslim, Buddhist, or of any other faith does not give us the right to disrespect them as people. They are still people created by the same God who made us and as long as a person has breath, there is still hope.

Yes, please reject the idol worship. Present the truth. Pray for growth and move on, if that is what we must do.

As crazy as it sounds, if rebuking is in order, even that can be done respectfully. ;)

But we must be careful in how we conduct ourselves friends.

Please know, I am guilty of this very thing and speak from experience. I have never seen anything good come out of answering in defense. I am in no way saying that you may not offend someone, even through words of grace (I successfully did so last night!) But be lead by the Spirit so you can be held blameless. :)

We are sisters in Christ and we are growing together. We are not perfect people and we will not always conduct ourselves as such.

Remember the old adage : Kill 'em with kindness.

Naming 2011 - My One Word

{I am also being featured at {in}courage today} There are so many things God knows I need help on. However, there is one common thread that runs through everything I am, and it's something I fight for on a daily basis. But, I have not armed or equipped myself properly for the battle.

2011 will be a year of equipping myself as well as being mindful and intentional about fighting the fight.

It will be my year of

Joy.

Joy is not something that comes easily for me. It's a fight every.single.day. But I haven't been as equipped as I should be. I am not prepared, even though day after day I face the same challenges. Day after day I'm not armed and often find myself shot down. Defeated.

This year will be a year of change--a year of joy.

Joy by sandpiper, on Pix-O-Sphere

Most every goal I've made this year points to joy. My mission statement conveys joy:

"To be lost in God, devoted to serve, and a recipient of grace & joy. To be a joyful help meet who is supportive and ambitious; to be intentional about making our home a peaceful haven. To be a joy-filled mother who graces her children in word & action; to be attentive, consistent, & diligent in teaching and training. To be a passionate writer for God, using my messy life as a testimony for His glory."

{like this mission statement? Get yours here.}

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In order to fight for joy, I must take deliberate steps to win that fight, each and every day. Such steps include:

  • Memorizing scripture. Hiding God's word in my heart gives me ammunition to defeat the lies of the enemy.
  • Practicing joy-filled speech & tone. As I memorize scriptures on joy, it should be in the front of my mind on a consistent basis. This will allow me to take careful heed to the words that come out of my mouth and how they are spoken. That doesn't mean I have to constantly act vibrant and over do it. It simply means my words are grace words. My tone is soft-spoken.
  • Reading God's word and praying regularly. I read God's word, but not regularly. What happens is, I read for a while and become complacent, believing that I've gotten my "fill of strength". Then you know what happens? I become drained of my "fill" and become SO weak that I struggle to even pick up my Bible again. I need God's strength consistently, constantly, and regularly.

These are all goals I've already put into my year. But since I know JOY is my ultimate goal, it will constantly be at the forefront of my mind. (Or at least it should be!)

Even if joy is to be a lifelong battle that I need to fight for, I need the tools to do it so that I can at least be in a fair battle. This constant defeating is enough to tear and crush a person's spirit. My family needs me whole. God desires joy in His children - no matter the circumstances. I find I struggle with it even in times of plenty.

What is your word for 2011? What are you calling the coming year? Share in community by clicking the button below:

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5 Ways to Nurture Your Children

I've written about how I was leading more of a "robotic" life by going through the motions of meeting the physical needs of my children, yet forgetting the importance of nurturing them. I've discovered 5 wonderful ways to help nurture my childrens minds and spirits (spiritual lives). And I don't necessarily think something has to be straight from the Bible for it to have a spiritual impact. Like reading a good book can be soul-nurturing [as long as the book is good, as God wants us to think on good things. Wait--that is straight from the Bible....ahem.] Moving on....

Here are some ways I've come across to be great for tying heartstrings with your children:

1. Read quality books aloud. Not only is this nurturing for the mind but for your relationship with your child. Sometimes it can be challenging to get your child to sit with you to read. If you have another child, especially a younger child, grab that child, open a book, and begin reading. You might be surprised to see your older child make their way over to listen in as well. After getting over that initial "resistance hump", reading time will be an enjoyed time with you and your children.  Some great character building books include fables, Beatrix Potter stories, books by author Thornton Burgess, and of course Bible stories.

2. Conversations--and many of them. Children ask a lot of questions. Many times I tend to push them off as insignificant. But I need to remember, though I know much of how the world works (as compared to a child) , my children don't. They are trying to understand the world they live in by asking questions. This gives me an excellent opportunity to engage in conversation. It is time well spent and much is learned. Children will value our opinions and direction more when we take the time to listen to them and answer their curiosities.

3. Share a hobby. Find something you all enjoy and pursue it together. My daughter and I share many of the same interests while my husband shares many interests with our first son. The point is to take the time to be interested in the things they are interested in. Help them foster their talents. If you don't know much about what they do like, search it out and learn! Or better yet, have your child teach you. My daughter is in ballet and I don't know a thing about the moves or what they are named. She has been teaching me. And together, we are working on a short ballet dance for her to "perform" at our church, but as surprise birthday present for her daddy. She is coming up with the dance. The only thing I'm doing is giving input and helping her remember what moves go with which part of the song. The bottom line is, we are working together, and she is being nurtured.

4. Special 1-on-1 time. In addition to spending small bursts of 1-on-1 time with each child everyday, every week, my husband or I take one child out to breakfast for their own special time. We let each child decide who they want to go with because it gives us a bit of insight to that child's greatest need. As a matter of fact, this opened my eyes quite a bit to how much my children needed me, even though I'm home with them all day. A couple of my children needed me to go to breakfast with them. I thought for certain they would choose their daddy. This has allowed me to adjust our time spent at home, to better fill their "tank".

5. Speak grace. This may be one of the most crucial aspects of nurturing [or tearing down] a child. Our words and our tone have such an impact on our children, you could not even imagine. Not only do they learn from us how to speak to others [by how we speak to them], but they learn our very hearts through our tone and words. Are we speaking in frustration? Anger? Annoyance? They know. Speaking words of grace is the best, and I mean best way to diffuse anger and create an environment of peace. The Bible speaks of this well:

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

I cannot even begin to tell you how true those words are. And it helps to get to the root of our frustrations, and deal with them.

A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:13

And it isn't just our face it makes cheerful, but the face of our children. It isn't just our spirits that would  be crushed, but our children's.

This list is my no means exhaustive. There are many ways to nurture our children, but they do all have one thing in common: our time. Our children see what's most valuable to us by how we spend our time.

What are some ways you nurture your children? Let's add to the list and share ideas.

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Photo credit (my lovely sister)