Throw Yourself Under the Wings of Your Redeemer and Into His Promises

Ruth is a woman who came boldly, and importunate before her redeemer, and she was not rejected but welcomed with steadfast love by him. Ruth is a woman who found safety under the wings of Boaz, because she knew he was a merciful and kind redeemer. There is so much we can learn from her, throwing ourselves under the wings of our Redeemer is one of the most important ones.

This is an excerpt from pastor Ben Merkle’s series on Ruth*. I pray you will find in these words encouragement and that you will fear not come under God’s wings and aim to be, by God’s grace a woman of faith, a Proverbs 31 woman.

“Ruth shows us what it looks like to embody the attributes that are in Proverbs 31. What is the most striking thing about Ruth?

Ruth’s loving-kindness, her faithfulness, her steadfast deep devotion and commitment to the promises of God. She throws herself with complete faith, headlong into the promises of God and in particular, she throws herself into the promises of God with respect to the relationships and trials that God has put her in. So she has this deep confidence in Yahweh. And it is so funny because why would this woman from Moab have this confidence? Why would she have that?

But God gives her this deep faith that she is able to take God’s promises and utterly commit herself to them and live out that commitment through her relationships, through her marriage, through her relationships as a wife, as a daughter in law, ultimately as a mother as well as she has children. She is somebody who looks at her relationships and her covenant commitments around her and sees what faith will look like in those relationships, and she does it after trial after trial gets thrown at her. She does it in the context of those sorts of trials that will make every one around you say, “Why are you still here? Why are you still committed to this? Clearly this is a dead end, just quit and go home. Or as Job’s friend would say “Just curse God and die because this is ridiculous.”  And yet Ruth will continue to throw herself at that.

And if you think about that all of the descriptions in Proverbs 31 start to make sense. This is a woman who is devoted to her husband, to her family, to everybody who is around her and she is spending herself on their behalf because of her deep faith. Ruth shows us what that would look like. Ruth shows you how to do this even when heavy trials come on you and every one is saying quit… Ruth hangs on because of her deep hessed, this loving-kindness that just keeps getting better and better the more the trials come at her. That is the virtuous woman. That is the one who that is described in Proverbs 31. That is a woman of valor who is a fitting wife for a man like Boaz, for this mighty warrior. And then when you see that, when you start seeing it that way, you start seeing that the virtues of the virtuous woman are all the natural implications, the natural result of being a woman of faith. If you are a woman of faith, if you have a deep commitment of God then these are the works that are going to flow from that. Faith without works is dead; if you have a living faith you have living works.”

Maybe today would be a perfect day for us to read Proverbs 31 and the book of Ruth all in one sitting.

Let’s pray that we will learn to throw ourselves under God’s wings, into His promises with deep faith. A faith that will be manifested in living works toward those around us even in the midst of trials.

Blessings,

Becky

*You can listen to the whole series on Ruth entitled, The Lovingkindness of God, by Pastor Merkle here. This particular excerpt comes from part three which you can listen here.

 

Because We Never Stop Being Moms -Book Club- Chapter Four

This is certainly a strong chapter, don’t you agree? In this chapter, Saying Hello to Please God, the author challenges us to see if we are not acting like Eli, “this sad figure in Israel’s history [who] is the quintessential example of a father who chose to please his sons rather than God and lost everything he cherished as a result.”

We are like Eli when we hear that our children are not being faithful to the Covenant, when they are not walking in the Lord and we pretend we are dealing with the matter using words, an infinite number of words that sound hollow in our children’s ears. We are like Eli when we refuse to do what we know God wants us to do, but instead we only keep up having conversations with our children -while fooling ourselves knowing that the reality is that they are not listening to us.

“Eli was fully aware of his sons’ actions, and he knew that they were not only in the wrong but in danger of the Lord’s judgment. He certainly nagged them and criticized them, but he did not restrain them and ultimately both he and his sons paid the price.”

How many times we, parents in the church, have not done everything in our hands to restrain our children from doing evil? May the Lord have mercy on us!

Moms, if you are reading this and have younger children, don’t fall into this trap. The world is telling you that the best thing you can do to make your little one come to her senses is not the rod, but a good conversation. Beware of this philosophy; if you start following this pattern of not doing the hard, biblical thing, of not doing something beyond a good talk with your daughter to restrain her from sin, you won’t be able to find a way out of this terrifying maze when she grows up. Remember, the sin of not restraining our children often starts when they are young.

And as always, there is a heart issue behind our actions -or behind our lack of obedience-. In the text we read that Eli honored his sons more than he honored God.

“Eli’s sin was that he treated his sons as more weighty or important than the Lord. He was so concerned with maintaining the peace that he didn’t have the courage to do what the Lord required him to do.”

The authors give us some good examples on page sixty-one in which we can clearly see when parents are nagging their children and not seeing changes: the sluggard child, the one who parties every Friday, the girl sleeping at her boyfriend’s house, the one who abuses their parents’ provision, the child who gets drunk over and over again and brags about it on Facebook, the one who is disrespectful, the one who is unloving, the one who shouts and wants things done her way. But we can also think of lesser examples that if are not dealt with, will only lead to our children’s destruction. Oh, that the Lord will give us a humble heart that recognizes and admits these struggles. That He will give us grace and courage to deal with the most difficult issues and stop pretending that things are really not that bad.

The key in how to act once our children are adult but are living a sinful life under our roof (or somewhere else with our credit card) is found on page sixty-one:

“While parents cannot be held responsible for the sins of their independent adult children, they are responsible for what goes under their roof. When dad and mom, like Eli, become enablers of a sinful lifestyle, they inadvertently dishonor the Lord and share the sin and guilt of their kids, even though that’s the farthest thing from their minds.” (emphasis mine)

We know that in this life there is no neutrality. We are either building or destroying. We are either enabling sin in our children’s lives or we are restraining it. 

Sisters, we have a God full of grace who not only gives us grace to endure the hard providences in our lives, but One who also gives us grace to obey Him in the most difficult things. His Grace is sufficient.  God can give us the grace to open our eyes and see what we have been trying not to see all along because “we feel entrapped by our love and hope for them.” The questions are real, “What would happen to them if we told them to choose between right and wrong? What if they chose wrong?” But there is no way around, the only way to keep our hope for our children anchored in Christ is to obey our Lord.

And, oh what a great and unshakable hope we can have in Christ! In our Savior! To know that He hears our prayers, to know that His promises are truth, to know that His desire is to save families! What a blessed hope!

On page sixty-four we read some practical things that the Lord might call us to do in order to restrain the sin in our children’s lives, but I like the way the author summarizes it:

“Parents don’t always have to actively chastise their irresponsible children. Often the best thing for us to do is nothing. Sometimes love looks like taking a step back and allowing them to experience the fruit of their choices (Galatians 6:7)… If we continually step in to “protect” our children from the consequences of their wrong choices, we may be guilty of honoring our children above the Lord by standing between them and the chastisement the Lord is bringing upon them… Remember that the Prodigal son only came to his senses when his circumstances were so bad that he longed to eat pig food.”

And I am reminded again of this powerful article in which Abraham Piper and his father John write about the time in which Abraham was excommunicated from his church. It is certainly a powerful testimony of a father who honored God more than his own son and the way God answered his prayers. It is a story that will build up your faith and renew your hope. It is a story like the ones that God loves to write.

This is something that I understand should be dealt with as a couple. I encourage you to talk to your husband about your concerns, read this chapter with him and answer the questions on p.68 together, seek the counsel of wise men in your church, and mostly don’t lose hope.

  Trusting in God with you,

Becky

Because We Never Stop Being Moms -Book Club- Chapter Three

Chapter Three, You Say Good-Bye But He Says Hello, brings to our attention the generation of twixters, those in our age who are trapped between adolescence and adulthood.* Jim Newheiser quotes an article from Desiring God, and writes that this “Peter-Pan” phase is “characterized by identity exploration, instability, focus on self, feeling in limbo, and a sense of limitless possibilities. These characteristics accompanied by transience, confusion, anxiety, obsession with self, melodrama, conflict, and disappointment.” Sadly, this phenomenon is not only happening outside the church; it happens among us too. And it happens because parents allow it to.

This is a good place to stop and consider, especially if we still have teenagers or young adults at home (or college), these questions that I formulated after reading this chapter:

1. Am I always trying to come in between the actions of my children, their choices, and the consequences of these?

2. If I see that my son or daughter is instable, selfish, always confused, filled with anxiety, notable obsessed with self, egocentric, non-reasonable, do I always find myself excusing his/her behavior in one or another way? Do I always find myself giving explanations to cover up her sinful behavior?

3. Does my son or daughter who is still depending from us -the author mentions good reasons for this- have a plan that include a time table and good reasons for this? Do I find myself promoting this economical dependence in order to have always the “right to say so-and-so”?

4. How am I doing to practically teach my daughter or son the dangers of self-gratification?

5. If you are a mom of younger ones (teenagers), do you find yourself constantly contacting your child’s teachers to ask for extensions, for “one more opportunity,” or to try to explain the teacher that “she is a great student” even though the facts are shouting the contrary?

6. What practical steps are you taking to teach your son that we can’t enjoy the fruits of prosperity without having to sacrifice and work hard?

“This self-centered narcissism is at the heart of what drives this lost generation.”

7. When our children complain about hard work, do we teach them what the Bible says about perseverance or are we are prompt to encourage them to look for another job, something more fun and that would bring them pleasure, and help them to their “self-realization”?

“A Christian perspective on labor…must include a profound joy that originates in understanding that our work is for the Lord, who labored and languished on the cross for us. We work out of deep gratitude, whether our job is boring, strenuous, or dull.”

8. Am I encouraging my children to be financial and emotional independent to build their own families or to pursue their own selfish pleasures?

“Dr. Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, warns that ‘the delay of marriage will exact an undeniable social toll in terms of delayed parenthood, even smaller families, and even more self-centered parents.”

9. Am I ready to let my children grow? If not, this is the time to seek the Lord and pray earnestly that He will give us the confidence that He has a plan for our children. Trying to hold them back (emotionally or financially) will not only affect us and our children, but also the church.

“Even though it doesn’t feel like it, and even though our hearts want to help and continue to parent our adult children, sometimes the most loving thing you can do is to say good-bye.”

The section at the end of the chapter “Let’s Talk More about It” has very good questions also. I encourage you to go through them.

Remember that I am just like you, learning how to be a good mom in this new stage of life, and so far, I can say that there is one thing I am absolutely sure is essential in parenting our adult children: prayer.

And, Sisters, it cannot get more practical than this. Prayer is where we start and where we end. “Always prayer before action,” as one of my dear friends reminded me lately.

 

 

Thank you for all your comments, they are rich, thoughtful, and are definitely making the reading of this book a more profitable endeavor. Thank you so much.

Next week: Chapter Four: Saying Hello to Pleasing God
Optional “Homework”: Read the articles and listen to the sermons under More Resources (there are six links, maybe one per day?).

Becky

* Twixters as defined by Wikipedia

More Resources:

A Church-Based Hope for “Adultolescents.”

Sermon: Get a Holy Ambition and Skip Adultolsecence.

An excellent article by Douglas Wilson: A Childish Life.

“We have entered the era where every self manufactures his or her own ethical system and hangs it from his or her very own hook in the sky. One might say the closets of our generation have a whole lot of “self space.”” D. Wilson

Sermon by Al Mohler: The Generation that Won’t Grow Up.

“Adulthood is meant for adult responsibilities, and for the vast majority of young people that will mean marriage and parenthood.” Al Mohler here: The Delay of Marriage and the Decline of Church Atendance.

 

“How do you live as a mature Christian in a culture that celebrates adolescence? How do you maintain the gravity of the Gospel in an era when the most immature person in any given room is likely to be the most celebrated?” Al Mohler (Oh, Grow up!)

Another excellent article by Matt Walsh: Adolescence: A Modern Plague, but there is a Cure.

“So, yes, adolescence can last until 25. It can last until 55. It can follow you right into your casket. We created it, and we can abolish it. And we can do that simply by expecting more out of people.”

From Diapers to Adulthood -Why Every Struggle Counts-

Screen Shot 2019-03-22 at 7.24.06 PMGod has brought me close to three beautiful mommas of young children, three wonderful friends with whom I enjoy sharing prayers, laughs, meals, coffee, deserts that involve chocolate and berries, and messes that only 3-10 yo children can make.  Yesterday we had a conversation about the difference between the battles and struggles mommas of young children have to deal, with those that mommas of adult children face.

And you know what, momma of little ones? That conversation made think of you. Don’t feel bad when older women come to you, give you that particular look, a pat on the back, and say somehow sarcastically, “Oh, don’t fret over potty training, or school choices, those are nothing compared to what you will be dealing with in a few years.” or “Seriously? That tantrum will be nothing in a few years from now. Just wait, one day you will be wishing it all were about little things like this one…

The seemingly small battles are not small battles at all. The problem is that sometimes we are not used to see the big picture, the whole story; we are so tangled up in our daily duties and to-do lists, that we forget what we are actually doing with those little ones we have at our table every morning spilling milk on the floor. Keep this in mind, every decision we face, everyno,” everyyes,” every step we take (or not take) is important because day after day, over and over, we are building character in our children’s lives. The over-looked tantrums of a two year old boy, will eventually turn into the slamming of a door of a teenager, and then into a husband who yells at his wife. With every decision, with every moment of discipline, with every hug, with every book we read aloud, and with every prayer we are building an adult’s character.

And if you are the mom of adult children, please, don’t despise the struggles of younger mommas. Encourage them instead to persevere, to keep pressing on. Remember that you were once changing diapers and asked in every single online forum help on how to choose the best how-to-read curriculum; remember that you didn’t know how to teach your little one how to be polite and look in the eye of the elderly woman at church; remember that every time you asked your child to turn off his game-boy when having company (iPods were not in the market yet) was a big thing.

Each struggle, each decision that my husband and I have made in the last 20 years has brought us to where we are now with our young adult children. There were no short-cuts; it has been a day after day race.

So be encouraged; what you do today is important, is your vocation, is what God has appointed for you to do in this season. You are not just doing ordinary things. You are building lives. Read that again: You are building lives. Your words and example, your time and prayers, your hugs and the correction you firmly give in love, all are needed in the process. Don’t be weary of doing what is good. God has promised that in due season you will reap, if you don’t give up.

Becky

A Christian Community is not a Dream World.

Westminster Bookstore

This year I’ve decided I had to re-read some books on relationships that cannot be read only once. Face to Face by Wilkins is one of them, the other one is Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  In my opinion, these two books complement each other perfectly. Wilkins warns us about the sin of isolation, and Bonhoeffer reminds us that yes, we are called to live in community, but that “Christian brotherhood is not an ideal, but a divine reality.”

Here are a few passages of Bonhoeffer’s book where he explains this in more detail:

“…One who wants more than what Christ has established does not want Christian brotherhood. He is looking for some extraordinary social experience which he has not found elsewhere; he is bringing muddled and impure desires into Christian brotherhood…”

 

“Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christan, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves.

By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over like a dream… Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to him…A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community.  Sooner or later it will collapse… He who loves his dream of a community more that the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.”

 

“Even when sin and misunderstanding burden the communal life, is not the sinning brother still a brother, with whom I, too, stand under the Word of Christ? Will not his sin be a constant occasion for me to give thanks that both of us may live in the forgiving love of God in Jesus Christ? Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly  teaches me that neither of us can never live by our own words and deeds, but only by the one Word and Deed which really binds us together -the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. When the morning mist of dreams vanish, then dawns the bright day of Christian fellowship.”

 

“What love is, only Christ tells in His Word. Contrary to all my own opinions and convictions, Jesus Christ will tell me what love toward the brethren really is. Therefore, spiritual love is bound solely to the Word of Jesus Christ. Where Christ bids me to maintain fellowship for the sake of love, I will maintain it. Where his truth enjoins me to dissolve a fellowship for love’s sake, there I will dissolve it, despite all the protests of my human love.”

Yes, I have many times built ideal dreams of the Christian community in my mind, and yes, the reality is different; but as I have been given the grace to see the imperfections in it and not deny them, I have loved it even more.

For grace to grow, build bridges, and edify lives today,

Becky

Well Worn Paths

Habits, says J.R. Miller, are well worn paths.

It doesn’t matter if at the beginning of this new year you decided or not to set new goals, or to try new habits. You will, by the end of 2014, have made well worn paths. We make habits and they make us. We better be intentional about them.

One day you open your email on your iPhone first thing in the morning, and three months later you keep doing it. You skimmed through “only one chapter” of an assigned book for school,  and when the semester is over you realize you didn’t actually read one whole book. One day you eat more than you should have (hey, it’s only “once a month”), and at the end of the year you are eating in the dark, when no one else is watching. You answer with a harsh word to your husband after dinner, and four months later, you don’t know other way to answer. You are too busy to look on your children’s face when you are at the computer, and a year later they don’t remember your eyes. Habits. And not one of them was planned. Well worn paths that lead to sin, to isolation.

May I encourage you -as I preach this to myself as well-to choose carefully which path you will walk day after day this year?

Print these articles and study them. Read them over and over until you have mastered them, until they become yours:

The Habit of Prayer.

“We should form the habit of praying at every step, as we go along through the day. That was part of Paul’s meaning when he said, “Whatever you do, in word or in deed—do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” He would have us include every word we speak—as well as every deed we do. Think what it would mean to have every word that passes our lips winged and blessed with prayer—always to breathe a little prayer before we speak, and as we speak. This would put heavenly sweetness into all our speech! It would make all our words kindly, loving, inspiring words—words that would edify and minister grace to those who hear. We can scarcely think of one using bitter words, backbiting words, unholy words—if his heart is always full of prayer; if he has trained himself to always pray before he speaks.”

The Habit of Thanksgiving.

“The only way to get thanksgiving into its true place in our lives—is to have it grow into a habit. A habit is a well worn path. There was a first step over the course, breaking the way. Then a second person, finding the prints of feet, walked in them. A third followed, then a fourth, until at length there was a beaten path, and now thousands go upon it.”

The Habit of Happiness.

“The secret of Christian joy—is the peace of Christ in the heart. Then one is not dependent on circumstances or conditions. Paul said he had learned in whatever state he was, therein to be content. That is, he had formed the habit of happiness and had mastered the lesson so well, that in no state or condition, whatever its discomforts were, was he discontented.”

John Angell Adams delivered on January 4th, 1856, an address to young men in England about the force an importance of a habit.This is an excellent read for the family table (especially when there are young adult children).

“Man is a bundle of habits.”

“It is of importance to remember, that though we are made up of habits, they grow out of single actions. And consequently, while we should be careful and solicitous about the habits we form, we must be no less so about the single acts out of which they grow.”

The Habit of Diligence.

James Alexander wrote a series of letters for his younger brother, and in one of them he tells him about the importance of the habit of diligence.

“Even small things are important, when they become habitual. Plato, the Grecian philosopher, once rebuked a young man very severely for playing with dice. “Why do you rebuke me so severely,” said the youth, “for so small a matter?” Plato replied, “It is no small matter to form a habit!”

While you have your books before you—try to think of nothing else. If you find yourself beginning to be weary, rouse your mind by thinking of the value of time, the use of learning, and especially your duty to your God.”

 

“Habit will make those things easy—which at first seem very hard. By constant practice, men become able to do astonishing works”

On the Formation of Habits, from another letter of James Alexander to his younger brother.

“Every habit you form is one stone laid in your character.”

“You are young, and cannot choose for yourself what is best. But your teachers select those studies which will tend to give your mind proper habits. Pay all possible attention to these studies. Be perfect in them. Every hour now is worth more to you than a day is to me. Every day is confirming you in some habit, either good or bad. And if you are not careful to aim at those which are good, you will most assuredly fall into such as are bad. You cannot be too much in earnest then; attend to everything which your teacher advises.”

Praying that I will be faithful in making good habits this coming year.

Becky