Wednesday, May 27, 2015

"Contenders"

My heart is heavy as I sit down to write. I am trying to process (like you) the events happening in our culture. Large homeschool family known for their whole lifestyle is front-and-center in the news. Once known for purity, now known for incest and molestation. What in the world is going on?
Is homeschool the problem?
How did this happen?

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I have been in hard place in mothering. Dealing with bad attitudes and children being unkind. I have said to them dozens of times, "Our home will be a safe place. It is the only safe place we can ever have. If our home isn't a safe place where we build each other up, where would that place be? The world will tear us down but it won't happen in this house." Our homes are to be a refuge. I will fight with all I have to protect my children and our home. 

One of the most surprising things I have learned since being a parent for 12 years is that the greatest attacks of the enemy against my children have come through avenues within the Church. When my two oldest were tiny, there was a very dangerous person lurking in the nursery around the babies. The leadership had no idea. That was my first stunning revelation that we can't let our guards down. The Church nursery should be the safest place ever, right? (thankfully, it can be with strong leadership who have the eyes of a shepherd). Well, it wasn't then. We have dealt with crazy people and false teaching. I feel like most of my energy is spent shielding my kids from false teaching. Gone are the days where our children are taught the Word in most Churches. It is usually regurgitated false teaching packaged in a pretty DVD program or a book. I praise God for safe Churches who still teach the Word of God to children. They are out there! 
I feel like we will go to the ends of the earth to avoid certain foods for our children but when it comes to spiritual food, we are giving our children fast-food junk for every meal! :(
And wondering why they are sick spiritually. 
The knowledge of MAN is elevated above God's Word. Our children are starving for living water and daily bread. 

Our flesh is drawn to a fancy system that promises results. Whether that is homeschooling your children and keeping them from every possible form of evil... or a Christian School with a great record of pumping out "Christian kids" or the latest DVD series on parenting or the youth group. Whatever it may be pales in comparison to simply spending time with Jesus in His Word and letting Him teach you how to raise your children. Then giving them His Word instead of using man's "formula" that has NO power to save.  

When God spoke clearly to my heart and told me to teach my children His Word, I had no idea what that looked like. The first thing I did was call the only "homeschool mom" I knew and ask her to tell me what to do. Just tell me what curriculum to buy!! Thankfully, she told me that the first years should be about building relationship and teaching disciplines. She discouraged me from buying some big curriculum set. But I still bought so much stuff those first few years, you would think I had 50 kindergartners. Then we began to memorize God's Word and I began watching Him teach them and meet with us in powerful ways while we studied His Word together. We all 3 began to grow. I probably grew the most.... in my knowledge of the Word, in my faith, and in my FRUIT. God's Word produces fruit in our lives. It isn't striving. It is just the natural result of the planting of the Word. 

Years later, a dear friend began to share with me about her homeschool experience. That there was a world out there full of legalism and sexual abuse... cloaked in the name of Christ. That she and her husband had not only seen it first hand but also experienced the consequences of breaking free of it. A world full of secrets and hypocrisy and really messed up sexual sin. Controlling Church leaders who focused on appearances and outward religion. She actually warned me to be cautious of Duggars years and years ago. 

I knew nothing of that world and I was grateful. I only knew God asked/commanded me to teach my children His Word and educate them at home. Teaching my boys at home was so pure and beautiful. It was hard work but it was fruitful work. It was so hard for me to believe there was a perverted version of this out there. But, there is always a perverted version of what God declares holy and good. The enemy knows how to take something beautiful and make it gross. Then people struggle to distinguish between the authentic and the counterfeit.
The counterfeit is confusing because it can even be the same act yet somehow perverted by motives of the heart. 
This may be a little strange but consider the act of sex. Inside a godly Christian marriage it is holy and beautiful and RIGHT! Yet the enemy takes this same act outside of marriage and uses porn and perversion to make the very same physical act gross and dirty and wrong. 
So, is sex the problem? No. The enemy's version of it is.
Not only does the enemy have his counterfeit version, he places God's name on it so that people will associate his evil with God. 

We have to be able to distinguish between good and evil. The only way we can do that is by being in the Word every day. That is where our spiritual vision will come into focus.
Homeschool isn't the formula for raising godly children.
You can teach your kids the Word without homeschooling them.
Just be faithful to raise them up in the Lord!

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Good things can become idols in our lives. Ministry, health, children, appearance, perfection, etc...
I have watched people worship ministry and neglect their families.
Worship their health and their whole life revolves around it.
Worship their appearance so that they are willing to destroy to protect it.

I love having babies :) but the Word tells us moms there is something better.
When I read this verse, it was like ice water on my face waking me up.

 "...to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and 
a name 

better than sons and daughters; 

I will give them an everlasting name 

that will not be cut off. 


And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve him, 

to love the name of the Lord, and to worship him...

 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer."
Is 56:5-7
Better than sons and daughters? I seriously thought to myself as I read.... 
"Better than sons and daughters? What could be better than having babies???"
 I read on and discovered that it was the name we have been given. The NAME OF JESUS. To focus on binding ourselves to the Lord and serving Him. 
Worshiping Him. 
Spending time in His house of prayer!
That has to be our highest goal. Higher than having babies and motherhood.
On Mother's Day, one of my favorite things the pastor at our Church said was,
"If you are a mother and you came here expecting to be worshiped, we aren't going to worship you. We worship Jesus."
Ha! I amen'ed that! Motherhood isn't to be worshiped. 
This verse tells us to LOVE THE NAME OF THE LORD and to worship HIM!
As moms, we have to remember our first love!
First Jesus Christ. Then our husbands. Then our children.
I joke with Tim as we are constantly serving the children that they are the BRANCHES. 
We are the vine. :)

But even before that is Jesus. Our true vine.
Perfection in motherhood won't save our children. God's Word and His Spirit Will.
We have to be relying on God's power and strength.
This doesn't mean we aren't CONTENDERS.
This is my current motherhood verse:
"To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me."
Col 1:29
"strenuously" meansto grow weary, tired, exhausted
"contend" (agonizomai) means- to enter a contest, to contend with adversaries, 
fight,  struggle...with difficulties and dangers, 
to endeavour with strenuous zeal, 
strive: to obtain something

Put those 2 words (strenuously contend) together and you have got my definition of motherhood.





Whenever a pastor or a person we have loved or followed falls into sin, it is so discouraging. Because you think "if they can't do it, I can't do it!".
Sadly, I have watched when pastors fall into sin... the confusion that sets in. 
The Church usually splits. Half of the Church embraces and "chooses forgiveness" while the other half wants Church discipline. The enemy divides the Church and the name of Christ gets drug through the mud. 
How do we respond to these situations? 
Are there really just the two camps to choose from?
Camp 1: "The judgemental" (condemnation-heavy)
Camp 2: "The graceful" (no judgement whatsoever- anything goes)
You see how this is the perfect environment for division?

I believe there is a 3rd camp
One that is full of truth AND grace. A camp who cares more about the name of Christ than their own. A camp who is GRIEVED over what the sin has done to the name of Christ.

The truth is sexual sin in leadership is UGLY and (according to Scripture) they have disqualified themselves from leadership. There is a standard. 
"This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be an elder,  he desires an honorable position.”  So an elder must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife.  He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach.  He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him.  For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?
 An elder must not be a new believer, because he might become proud, and the devil would cause him to fall. Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the devil’s trap."
1 Tim 3

There is forgiveness and restoration but leadership is forfeited.
I think one great way to see if there is true repentance is if the guilty party is more concerned with "being justified" or more concerned with what they have done to the name of Christ and His Church.
Let's say the "fallen" pastor starts another Church down the road and takes half the Church, I do not believe there was true repentance. True repentance would involve humility and saying, "I am just thankful for forgiveness- I am no longer qualified for Church leadership. I can spend the rest of my life praising God and thanking Him for forgiving me. I can not continue to hurt the body of Christ for HIS NAME'S SAKE. I will not do anything that could cause more damage or division."

Next question, if they can't make it, how can we?
Well, that is a serious question. One I have wondered as I watch pastors (I respect) fall.

The good news is that the ONE Who did make it, lives inside of us and HE is how we can make it. He's our hope of glory.
I think I have said on here before that statistics say that 1 out of 10 believers "finish well".
I don't know about you but that's one of the most depressing things I have heard!
I so desperately want to finish well. 
I want my marriage to finish well.
I want my children to finish well.
How????
By the power of Jesus Christ living in us. 
"To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me."
Col 1:29

Yes, we struggle and contend with all our might but it is CHRIST'S power that will get us all the way to the finish line. 
I want to say what Paul said on his death bed...
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful."
2 Tim 4:7

Once I told the pastor (who discipled me) that I was so proud of him for staying the course.  I asked him how he did it and he said, "I look around and see all these wounded soldiers strewn across the battlefield and by God's grace I am still standing. It is only by God's grace that I am still standing and in the battle".

The longer I live for the Lord, the more soldiers I see go down and it scares me. Am I next? Are you?
Not if we are relying on Jesus and not ourselves.
If there is secret sin or pride creeping in, then yes... we are next.

God, protect us by the power of Your Name! 
Help us to continue standing and fighting!
Help us to FINISH OUR RACE without being disqualified.

We can put on the best show and have kids who look perfect on the outside, but where are our hearts? 
We deal with that here in our home
Our kids are being unkind to each other and constantly arguing at home. 
Then are asked to lead worship at Church. 

We have a serious talk about standing up in Church and giving an impression of godliness when our hearts aren't right. That is hypocrisy. That is a SHOW. How we treat people in our home is the FIRST step. If that isn't right, there can't be ministry. Because it will be ineffective and unproductive.
Character comes first.

"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;  and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;  and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."
2 Peter 5 

 I don't want people to think our family is perfect because we are so far from that. I want people to know we are completely relying on God and His power within us. It is all for His Name, not our own. This latest situation has made me question whether or not to continue to blog. I NEVER want our family or the way I have chosen to mother to be the focus. 
I want young moms to follow me as I follow Christ but there truly is no "formula".
I have tried to cling on to so many "systems" or "formulas" for raising godly children.
There isn't one. Except for Col 1:29!
That is the only formula I have found.
STRENUOUSLY CONTENDING in motherhood with all you've got...yet empowered by God.





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I want my children to choose the way of Holiness.
I cannot imagine how hard that will be for them in this culture.
But I believe God will show them how to be victorious.

And a great road will go through that once deserted land.
It will be named the Highway of Holiness.
Evil-minded people will never travel on it.
It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways;
fools will never walk there.
Is 35:8
There is a highway. They can find it. My prayers and God's Word will show them where it is and how to travel it. 
They will fall. We all fall short. 
Here is the standard:
"Please forgive me for what I've done wrong. "The Lord will certainly give you and your family line a kingdom that will last. That's because you fight the Lord's battles. Don't do anything wrong as long as you live."
1 Sam 25:28
I love this verse also...
"My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin
But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One."
1 John 2:1

The goal is to NOT SIN.

That should be our aim. There is no sin that God doesn't give us the power to say "NO" to. The cool thing is that it is GRACE that teaches us to say NO.
 "For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age"
Titus 2:11,12

"No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, Who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."
1 Cor 10:13

Those are verses we HAVE to teach our kids.
I have not enjoyed reading about the Duggar mess. It is GROSS. Sin is GROSS.
But it has motivated me to talk to my children about what is appropriate behavior and how to respond to someone who tries to do something inappropriate.
We have talked in basic terms to our children like,
"your private parts are holy"
"your husband/wife will be the only one who its ok to be naked around"
"if anyone tries to see your private parts, that is NOT OK"
"respect each other's privacy"
"do not joke and make fun of other's private parts"
"YOUR JOB IS TO PROTECT YOUR SISTER AND YOUNGER CHILDREN"
I tell the boys that they are defenders of the weak and vulnerable. That is who the enemy goes after first. They must learn to PROTECT and fight for the weak. 
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I hope and pray that we are ALL examining ourselves. Making sure we haven't elevated anything above Christ. Not even our sons and daughters. Not motherhood. Not health. Not ministry. There is something better...
To bind ourselves to the Lord and to serve Him! To love the name of the Lord and to worship Him about all others!

Don't buy into a "system" or "man's formula". Those things won't work and only lead to serious pain. If you are like me, you want something to hold on to. To put your trust in. But God has removed the things I tried to hang on to other than Him. I tell Tim that it feels like we are walking on a tight wire with no safety net. I am terrified of heights. I WANT something to hang on to. But, God says... "eyes on me. I won't let you fall".
"Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault.  All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen."
Jude 1:24, 25

We have to deal with our children's hearts. The behaviors will follow the heart. 
It reminds me of wack-a-mole when we try to change our kids behavior instead of asking God to change their hearts. Sin will keep popping up in different places unless it is dealt with at the heart level. 
We have to contend for our children through prayer! Exhausting ourselves in the battle for them. Protecting them from the gospel of MAN which tells them to try harder and look better.  Our kids have to know that , when they do fall, we will be their advocate (just like JESUS). But that there will be consequences of their actions.
My mom used to always say, "You live with your choices". 
It's true. 
We have to make good choices with God's help so that we are buried under the consequences of our sin and disqualified from ministry.
That would be the worst consequence of all to me.

The goal is always to say no to sin. That is possible through Christ.  
The gospel of Jesus says that we don't live a changed life, we can live an EXCHANGED life. Knowing that Jesus is the only ONE who finished with a perfect score. "He-in-us" is our HOPE OF GLORY.
 "Christ in you, the hope of glory."
Col 1:27
Keep your eyes on Christ. Not man. 
Elevate HIS Name in your life. Not your own. 

"Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
but to Your Name goes all the glory
for your unfailing love and faithfulness."

Ps 115:1

If we are to present our children fully mature in Christ, He must be the ONE we proclaim.

"He is the one we proclaim
admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ."
Col 1:28

Help us, God, to teach and admonish our children so that we may present ALL of them fully mature in Christ.

Be Blessed~
Steph
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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just beautiful! Yes and amen!! -Jordan

Anonymous said...

Amen, and amen. THIS. yes, this is truth and love. This is the ONLY way because HE is the only way. Not formulas on purity or family lifestyles that look good. This preaches God’s Word to the situation as well as our daily lives. I am cheering for Jesus that shined through you in this.
Alyssa

Erica said...

So much truth and encouragement packed into this. I feel totally pumped for battle! Thank you for sharing for love for Jesus with us.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for always speaking GOD'S truth in love. I needed to hear every word of that. I need to refocus on Christ. - Erika