Unflappable Faith

That’s what we have in Christ. A sound assurance of a real thing–faith that is based not on myth, but on events. Faith that rests on the work of Another, Jesus, and goes deep into our bones, actually waking them up and putting flesh on them and assembling them into a body, a bride.

This deep-into-my-bones faith is unflappable. Not because I’m unflappable in my personality or wiring, but because the object of my faith–it’s Founder and Perfecter is unflappable, unchangeable and utterly peaceful.

When God called me through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, He didn’t give me a better personality. He gave me flesh and heart. He didn’t give me a new outlook on life. He gave me a life. Faith in Jesus isn’t  a tweak on my personality, it is His death for my death and His life for my life.

Faith in the Son means death and resurrection, for Him and for me. It means dry bones being raised up and given a name.

Even a weak faith can be unflappable. A weak faith sustained by the Word of His power is unflappable. It survives amid the tumult of the soul and the voices that seem to want to stamp the flicker out of existence. So, I take heart and courage, that it is the object of our faith that makes it solid. It is the reality that is believed in that makes our faith more than wishful thinking.

My faith and the grace that I received through Jesus is as real as the water that dripped down my face at 15 years old when I plunged into waters of baptism. It is as present and near as the bread and the cup that I taste in my mouth at the Lord’s Table.

Strong faith in something make-believe is piteous. Faith in an idol, made with human hands, however strong and self-assured that faith is, effects nothing. But a weak faith in the real and saving YHWH is worth more than any earthly thing.

What can I do when I’m weak in faith? Stop looking at my weak faith and keep looking at it’s Founder and Perfecter. Quit talking about my faith and look at the cross and empty tomb (and here I am talking about talking about faith, hello irony!). Stop agonizing over my weakness and being troubled by its presence and keep gazing at and proclaiming His Gospel of grace and peace through Jesus. There is peace in the soul for those weak in faith–unflappable peace, because it was founded by the Prince of Peace before the foundation of the world. That’s a truth to hang everything on. A truth to actually have, not just talk about. Thank you Lord, for your peace.

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
(1 John 5:1-5 ESV)

Why I’m Not The Better Mom

This post has been waiting its turn and today’s the day.

Perhaps you’re familiar with a very popular blog called, “The Better Mom.” I have read a dozen or so articles from the blog. Suffice it to say that I’ve read things I agree with and things I disagree with. The turmoil of reading the things I disagree with is enough for me not to read it regularly and I am not wanting to comment specifically on it.

But I do want to comment on this idea (which seems ever popular among Christian moms) that there is a formula to “better” and if we follow the three steps to finding a good attitude and take control of all the externals of our life, everything will sail along the way it’s supposed to.

I want to comment on it because it’s a flat out lie.

I can’t be The Better Mom, because I’m not better. I’m two things: I’m sinful and I’m redeemed. I’m broken and I’m healed. I’m dead and I’m alive. That’s it. Not better– as if I’m climbing my ladder toward good. All the needful things have been done for me. And what’s been done isn’t “better,” it’s The Best.

We so much want to be able to control things. If I eat this way, I’ll feel good all the time. If I read my Bible in the morning, I’ll never be grouchy with my kids. If I start training my kids at 1 month old how to sleep correctly, they’ll be great sleepers.  If I have natural labor, my child will be healthy. If I’m always available to my husband, he’ll never look at porn. If I do do do, I will be be be.

That’s just backwards and untrue.

Here’s how it really is: Because of what He has done. He has done. He has done. I am His. I am His. I am His.

All of the sudden the three tips to a new attitude sound pretty small. Jesus bled and died to take away my sin. He was buried and three days later God made him alive again and not only have I died with him, I now live in him.

There’s my new attitude.

Life is filled with practicalities. We must DO things after all. We must eat something and therefore we must decide what it is we will eat. But if we think for one second that by putting the Gluten-Free Organic Whole Food Tofu in our mouth, or gutting out drug-free childbirth, or waking at 5am for devotions and free trade coffee puts stars on our holiness chart and somehow makes us a better mom, we’ve messed up the Gospel, big time.

It is for freedom that we have been set free. Must we submit again to our own yoke of slavery and law? Food and exercise and peculiar routines and habits do not commend us to God. Jesus commends us to God.

Better is never enough. Better is not good enough for God. But Jesus is Best. He is good enough for God. He is mine and I am His.

And with my life hidden with Christ in God, by His Spirit, a marvelous work happens that makes who I am forever: His daughter clothed in righteousness, match who I am right now: His daughter struggling against the remnants of sin (also clothed in righteousness). The Holy Spirit is aligning the two realities. It’s called sanctification.

Notice that I’m struggling against sin, not preferences. And what is sin? Sin is rebellion against God. Sin is not: eating donuts or surfing the web or fertilizing the lawn or having a bedtime at 9:00 o’clock. All of those things could be done by a sinful heart, which would make their action sinful, but they aren’t sin.

I could fertilize my grass because I want to look “better” than my  neighbor. That’d be sin. Or I could fertilize my lawn because I love my neighbor and I don’t want to negatively impact his property values with my unsightly yard. Hearts are sinful, not fertilizer.

I guess that’s the long way of saying I’m not The Better Mom. But I am a redeemed mom. I am a needy, desperate, satisfied and loved mom. I am a sinner-saved-by-grace-alone-through-faith-alone-because-of-Christ-alone mom. And that’s way better than all my efforts to be a better mom.

Envy and Imitation

The Lord has been bringing to mind the topic of envy a lot lately.

Not long ago, Tim Challies did a great series on it and it’s got me thinking about imitation and sanctification and what envy does with them.

Envy is wanting what someone else has, and, even more than that, wanting it in such a way that you hate the person who has it. For instance, Cain murdered Abel because the sacrifice Abel gave was better. Cain was envious, among other things. And Challies reminds us of Pilate’s words, “It was out of envy that they had delivered him up” (Matthew 27:18).

So Jesus was delivered up to die, out of envy. Serious stuff.

I’ve heard that comparisons are the culprit of envy, especially for moms. I sort of agree. I’d say it like this: a sinful heart that is dissatisfied with its lot compares itself to others in such a way that what others have becomes desirable in their eyes, so much so, that what they have looks even worse than before.  And the cycle continues: they have something better than me, what I have looks worse. I start to despise them for what they have. More than that, I despise God for what they have, because He could give me what I want, if He really loved me. Whoa.

Ugly, isn’t it. And I’ll say right here that I’m guilty. I have longed for other people’s stuff and even longed to be other people! Anyone who went through Jr. High can probably relate. But God has cut the root out of my envy and here’s how He did it: He gave me all things, including His Son.

“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
(Romans 8:32 ESV)

What a miraculous sin-killing truth! I have the Son, I have salvation, I have the Kingdom of God forever! Who cares about so-and-so’s nice wood floors? Who cares if they are smarter and prettier than me?

Let’s go farther though. Sometimes we envy godly things. Twisted, but true. We envy someone’s spirituality. Their God-given gifts of the Spirit. Their godly parenting. Their disciplined lives. Here’s where envy does it’s most insidious work. It takes a good example and corrupts it, leaving us empty-handed.

We are meant to watch each other’s lives. We are meant to observe each other’s godliness. We are meant to work out our salvation together and learn from each other. Consider these commands to imitate other believers:

“For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.”
(2 Thessalonians 3:7-9 ESV)

“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”
(Hebrews 13:7 ESV)

“Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.”
(3 John 1:11 ESV)

“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”
(Philippians 3:17 ESV)

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”
(1 Timothy 4:12 ESV)

Isn’t it clear that we’re meant to watch others lives, to compare, in a way, so that we can imitate those who are examples among us? I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t have a number of people around me that I could imitate. I do what they do. I parent like they parent. I talk like they talk. Why? Because they’re better at it than me! Because doing so brings me closer to my Jesus. It is a sweet providence that He has given me brothers and sisters to imitate.

He does it because He loves me, not because He’s bringing the hammer down saying, “Abigail, you just need to be more like so-and-so. You are so messed up.”

No. That’s not the way He does it. He lovingly puts His arm around me and says, “Look over there, follow their lead. That will take you on safe paths. That will lead you to the still waters.” And all the while, He is the one leading me and Christ is THE example. I imitate them, not because they’re perfect (no way!), but because they are imitating Christ.

One other way that envy completely turns our Christian life upside down is it reverses one of my favorite verses: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. (Romans 12:15-16 ESV)

If I’m envious, I don’t rejoice with those who rejoice. I weep out of self-pity and anger with those who rejoice. And I don’t weep with those who weep. I rejoice at their misfortune, because it makes me feel better about myself. I weep at the rejoicing and rejoice at the weeping.

The cross of Christ cuts out our envy, pride and self-absorption so that we can weep and rejoice at the right time.

The cross of Christ makes love possible. It removes envy and replaces it with love. I can look at the good work of God in a friend’s life and have overflowing joy on their behalf. Because I am part of Christ’s body, the Church, with them, rejoicing over them is the same as rejoicing for myself! We’re on the same team! We’re part of the same body!

The cross of Christ makes imitation glorious, not cheap. I can see the example set by my sisters and run in the way of godliness because of them. What grace there is in glorious imitation!

And where would our parenting be without imitation? Exhibit A, B, and C:

what vomit under the Christmas tree teaches me about the Glorious Incarnation

It’s been a long couple months at the Dodds’ house.

From German yellow jackets nesting between our ceiling and floor to washers and water heaters on the fritz to being rear ended at a stop sign to the stomach flu taking us out one by one over the course of a month and a half.   I feel like we’ve been through the ringer.

And Tuesday, the 21st, as I’m thinking of the million and one things I still have to do before Christmas arrives, our son walks into my bathroom with a face as white as snow with the sad tale of having not made it to the bowl.  Hence the vomit under the Christmas tree.  Poor guy.

So, I commence clean up, unwrapping presents covered with the unspeakable stuff and start to wonder what this is all about anyway.  I start going over all the things we’re supposed to do that we may not now be able to do this Christmas.  And, thanks be to God, I remember Jesus.

Jesus, who came to earth in the only way any of us do.  In a mess.  Maybe Mary vomited during his birth.  Who knows.  But I don’t have to wonder whether it was messy or not.  I’ve given birth enough times to know about that.

Perhaps Jesus was a little 4 year old who didn’t make it to the bowl, and spoiled his family’s plans for the day.  He certainly wouldn’t have been sinning if that were the case.  He would have simply been human.

And yet, for having entered humanity, He never lessened His glory.  His glory wasn’t compromised by a messy birth or intestinal disruption.  Somehow, the fact that He came in flesh and bore with our weaknesses increases His glory.  We see more of who He is because of it.

Yesterday I read on Desiring God a quote from Martin Lloyd Jones,

Jesus Christ has not been changed into a man; it is the eternal Person who has come in the flesh. That is the right way to put it.

It’s refreshing for me to remember that Jesus is a Person.  The Person.  The Perfect Adam.  The Glorious Incarnation in a vomit-filled world.

God, in His infinite grace to His daughter, teaches me more about Christmas through vomit under the Christmas tree than by having everything fall into place the way I had planned.

So that’s what I’m thinking about this Christmas.  The presents will be wrapped in clean paper.  The kids will get better.  The car will be fixed.  All things will one day be made right.  But the biggest thing has already been made right.  God the Man has come to Earth to save people from their sins.

Bought.  Paid for.  Loved.  Forgiven.  Free.  That’s who I am this Christmas.

All because of a messy birth 2,000 years ago.