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Conviction Comes To Interrupting Chicken


Yup, Little Miss Active Listener went rogue again. Tigger-like, she bounced right over reflective, soft-spoken Joe with her over-eager interjections.

I could say the interrupting words were well intentioned, borne of desire to build relationship and connect. I could say that.

But I know better.

Contrition

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Psalm 51:3

Jim and I were in the kitchen with our friends Sadie and Joe, enjoying some Sunday morning omelettes. Joe was summarizing a new book. I was Interrupting Chicken.

Hon! Stop interrupting, my husband broke after one of my break-ins. Let him talk!

I shut my mouth. Those words about how it’s the fool who answers before he listens (Proverbs 18:3) came to mind.  Guilt- the good kind- moved in.

After an awkward moment of silence, Joe continued, still calm.  I listened to him- and to my wounded ego- without interrupting either. In a few minutes. Joe left to help at early church.

But I didn’t say a thing. Any thing. And I didn’t do the right thing.

Conviction

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:17

But I knew the right thing to do.  James 1:19 has been a quote-out-loud verse in this house for years. Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. And I know Proverbs 18:23 pretty well, too: Whoever covers his sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and forsakes them finds mercy. 

Obedience required confession. And not in a vague Sorry-if-I-offended-you way.  Because confession- like thanksgiving- demands particulars. Precision like, Forgive me, Joe because for repeatedly interrupting . Or, sorry I wasn’t a patient listener.  Specific. 

I knew what I had to do. Interrupting was a sin of commission. I was doing the wrong thing. But to go on without confessing, that would add to it a sin of commissionWhoever knows the right thing to do- confess to Joe- and fails to do it, for him it is sin. 

There was conviction. I knew the right thing to do. 

Confession

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. James 5:16

But my pride had kept me from confessing as a first response, before Joe left for church.

And silence when there’s sin to confess wastes away the bones (Psalm 32:3). So the ‘ole bones groaned for the next three hours at church. But when we all got home, I did the right thing.

Hey Joe, I’m sorry I kept interrupting you this morning.

I don’t know if I added Please forgive me, or not. But I know meant it. And what’s more. I know Joe gave it.

That wasn’t the first time I’ve been selfish and rash and had to confess to a friend and I’m pretty sure, it won’t be the last. Because our gracious God reveals convicts us, bit by bit. There are sins we don’t even know we commit. A year or a month ago, I might not have seen Interrupting Chicken as a sinner.

But I do now.  And once we  know the right thing to do, it’s on us to do it.

Ongoing and over and over again.

Continue

And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. 1 John 1:28

In a message on James 4:17, Russell Moore says that confessing our sins is critical for every Christian.

Then he explains why it’s so important to make things right,

Because the Christian life is about the Gospel. Because you and I understand that we are sinners. Not that we were sinners. That we are sinners. And that we are constantly in need of grace and mercy.

So what does the Holy Spirit drive us to do? He drives us to an ongoing confession of sin….

Because this is how God is drawing you near to him by the confession of your sins…The point is, you ask for forgiveness…so that you can be freed and liberated from that…

The most miserable Christian in the world is not the who is aware of his sin and is confessing it. It is the one who does not have his sins being exposed and repented of so [he can] experience the blessings of fellowship and walking in Christ.

It sounds so awful and terrifying. So does a surgeon. A surgeon rips you up to take the tumor out. So does the Word. It’s healing. 

Confess and repent is part and parcel of the Christian life until we see our Lord face to face, and are like him. And it’s not so morbid really, it’s actually, very lightening and relieving, and as Moore said, healing.

Confession, Interrupting Chicken can assure you, is good for the soul. 

Conclusion

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. Ecclesiastes 12:13

So what do you do with conviction? Do you stuff it inside and protect your pride? Or do you confess it and find fellowship?

During a swim at our friends pool this week’,  my 11-year-old, called me over and asked in confidence and with conviction,

Hey Mom, do you think I should say sorry to Mrs. Mills? I accidentally dropped a cheese cracker in the water and she told us kids not to have food in the pool.

You can guess this mama’s answer.

 You know the right thing to do, Son. Go do it.

Grant me never to lose sight of  
the exceeding sinfulness of sin,
the exceeding righteousness of salvation,
the exceeding glory of Christ,
the exceeding beauty of holiness,
the exceeding wonder of grace. 
The Valley Of Vision, “Continual Repentance”
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On a Lunchable Restored and a Kindness that Leads to Repentance

The note the boy wrote. Lower right on our bathroom mirror reads, “John 11, Jesus wept.”

 

Son, you get the Lunchable. Would you like some ice cream too? 

Those words cut across every grain of my don’t-back-down, actions-have-consequences, hold-the-line parental instinct.

And then some.

On the table was an “Uploaded Pizza Lunchable.” Despite the absence of whole food health, these had somehow weasled their way as a field trip lunch tradition. But when one son had pitched such a fit about a reasonable bit of homework, his Lunchable was off the table. And when he refused my warnings, ice cream for dessert was too.

Because of what, in the education world, we call  “Escalation” and “Red Zone” and “Level 5.”  Because of his kicking and shouting and chair-banging. You might call it a good, old-fashioned temper tantrum. At home we call it raging and losing control or, how I classed this one: out-of-your-head mad.  

Mind over matter, I kept telling myself. Tune it out. Don’t engage. Ignore the beast and wait for the boy. Keep on. 

But the self-talk was to no avail. I managed to finish all of two sentences of a work report in the half-hour my boy lay writhing on the floor. I couldn’t tune out the beast and my mind couldn’t hurdle this matter. And I couldn’t just keep on.

So- better late than never-I thought, and dropped to my knees to pray.

Mrs. Business Relents

…Have Mercy. Help me. Help the boy. Amen.  Then a still small voice said, Relent, even as a loud, mad voice wore on.

The Lunchable’s yours, Bud. You can take it on your field trip. And the loud, mad voice was stilled.

What did you say? it said.

You get your Lunchable back I said.

Then, the silencer: Wanna have a  bowl of ice cream with me? 

Kids need to know parents mean business, child-rearing gurus say. As if I’m not Mrs. Business herself. Give a consequence, set your face like flint and stick to it-I generally subscribe to that. Relenting went against every sound disciplinary principle I knew.

Except one.

Kindness Leads To Repentance

Because our Father in heaven, the Prima Parent and Best of dads, does not deal with us according as our sins deserve nor repay us according to our iniquities. He relents. Sometimes, even before we repent. Romans 2:4 tells us one reason why. (This sermon by Derek Carlsen explains the context of Romans 2 well.)

But between warnings in verses 3 and 5 we read,

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

The Lord does not turn a blind eye to sin or make nothing of it.  It is there and it is real and it is offensive to him, Carlsen says.

But God is patient and his kindness waits for us to repent. That is why sinners aren’t consumed.  When God proclaimed his name to Moses way back in Exodus 34:5-7, he opened with “The LORD, The LORD, a God merciful and gracious.”  The reason judgment hasn’t crushed us all is because of God’s kindness and forbearance and patience. God waits for us to repent and come to Him in his Beloved Son.

Charles Spurgeon said it so well,

GOD is often exceedingly good to those who are utterly unworthy of such treatment…The goodness of God to a man of evil life is not intended to encourage him to continue in his sin, but it is meant to woo and win him away from it. (Charles Spurgeon, Sermon #2857)

But kindness isn’t always received this way. It doesn’t always woo sinners away from sin.

Wisdom Required

But God blessed us- the boy and me- this time and it did. My restoring the Lunchable and scooping the ice cream did woo Gabe from his selfish fit. He worked a glorious repentance from a tiny act of kindness.  He turned from writhing on the floor to homework at the table.  And based on the writing on the bathroom mirror that night, Gabe had turned from sin to God.

But yes, Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death. Yes- be diligent to discipline him. And yes, mercy does triumph over judgment and yes, we are to ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 

It’s all there lumped together and it’s all true. And we do fail and we won’t always do discipline right. We’ll cave when we should wait and hold the line when  we should release. It’s only with divine guidance that we can know when to relent and when to keep the consequences in place and sit tight. Only with the wisdom from above that we will apply these truths aright.

Thankfully, it just so happens that we serve a kind, kind Father who gives wisdom generously and without finding fault to everyone who asks.

Gabe and I are living proof.

My “Whoever does not love his brother, who he can see, cannot love God who he does not see.” (1 John 4:20) To which Gabe’s, “I see you and I love you” made immense and soul-rejoicing sense. God’s truth got through.

 

*Gabe’s reference to “see you and love you” in the photo at the top rejoiced this mom’s heart. He was connecting to 1 John 4:20, which I had written on their bathroom mirror a week earlier.

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The First Point Luther Nailed And How It’s Still Reforming Me

Wise men are men, and truth is truth. -Richard Hooker

Martin Luther, like the other epic hero Reformers, was only a man and a flawed one at that.  His “Jewish Problem” was evil. This post won’t attempt to whitewash a sinful saint named Martin Luther.

But, in point of fact, it always has been flawed ones that God uses to build- and reform-his Son’s Bride. And since it was October 31, 1517- 500 years ago to the day- that Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door at All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg and with that stroke, set off the Protestant Reformation and since his reforms still impact sinning saints like me, I thank God for Martin Luther today.

Like him or not, there’s a lot we can all learn from Luther. Like his concept of Christian repentance- which happens to be the very first of the 95 theses.

Luther’s First Thesis: A Life Of Repentance

When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. That’s it. The first thesis.
Biblically defined repentance is changing one’s mind, so that one lives differently (see Thesis #3). It means turning from sin to Christ. Repentance is the path to forgiveness of sins and favor with God. We repent and believe and are saved (Matt. 4:17, Mark 6:12, Acts 2:38, Acts 26:20).
But repentance  doesn’t end when we receive Christ Jesus as Lord. It’s a life-long process. It’s not, as Luther wrote (Thesis #2), a sacrament of penance administered by the clergy. That’s not so much the issue today as the notion that repentance is one and done. As if real Christians, strong Christians, are the one who never have to turn from sin, who never have to repent. The ones who might say, Oh, no. I’ve never changed my stance. I’ve always lived this way.

Really?  I think. Because it seems like that means you’re either God-like and divine or deceived and blind. And I betray my own proud, sinful heart.

Because, truth be told, we don’t see all of our sin at once. Our sins are layered, like onions. We peel a layer off and- lo! and behold- there’s another. We don’t see all our sin. 

From as much as you know of your sin…

Which is why I like J.I. Packer’s definition of repentance so much. He explains,

Repentance is turning from as much as you know of your sin, to give as much as you know of yourself to as much as you know of God. 

This definition, like Luther’s first thesis, helps me see repentance as a lifelong pursuit, a way of living. Not one and done. We confess as we see more of our sin.

Because Christians are not comfortable with our sin. We regret it and don’t settle with it. We want to repent, that times of refreshing might come.

I tell our boys that repenting “is a really big thing to do. Because it means Christ is at work in you.”

We’ve got to live like continual confession is okay.  Which means we’ve got to welcome the confessions of others. And to receive God’s cleansing and forgiveness (1 John 1:9).

Because our Christian lives are continual mid-point correction, like swimming to a target on the beach when your dominant arm always pulls your front crawl that way.

We constantly reorient our strokes, our walk, our lives to align to as much as we know of our Lord.

Not a man who never goes wrong.

You might say we’re in constant reforming mode. By grace alone, through Christ alone, we’re constantly, “making good.” My Reformation Study Bible explains repentance is the ongoing turning from sin in the life of a Christian. Ordinary Christian life will include times of profound sorrow for remaining sin. So good grief, and the repentance that follows is part and parcel of ordinary Christian life.

Continually turning from our sin, to our compassionate, gracious Savior who is Himself in us. Repenting, then is a revelation of the mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Because like C.S. Lewis explained,

A live body is not one that never gets hurt, but one that can to some extent repair itself. In the same way a Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble—because the Christ-life is inside him, repairing him all the time, enabling him to repeat (in some degree) the kind of voluntary death which Christ Himself carried out.  (Mere Christianity 1952; Harper Collins: 2001. 62-63).

Christians stumble. We go wrong. We see our sin and get up and repent. And run on and stumble and see more of our sin and repent.
So, with Christ in us, repairing us all the time, as we see our sin, we repent. But try as we might, we’ll never see it all.

The answer we need when we don’t see it all

Don’t despair. Our Maker knows our frame.

And He knew his servant Martin Luther’s flawed frame too. He saw the sin that Luther himself couldn’t see in himself and, therefore, could not repent of and confess. But seeing Luther’s spiritual blindness, takes us straight back to one of the most precious Reformation truths.

Now I borrow from Trevin Wax to close. 

Luther’s anti-Semitism, egregious as it is, does not lead me to abandon his rediscovery of justification; it leads me to lean harder into it. Here’s the glorious truth: the reality Luther saw so clearly provides the answer to the sin he didn’t.

In other words, Luther discerned the reality of justification by faith alone better than he discerned the sinfulness in his own heart and life. And it’s that reality of justification by faith alone that levels us all and drives us to our knees–thankful for the clear example of horrendously flawed theologians articulating the only doctrine that gives hope to all of us who are horrendously flawed. It’s only in the security of being wrapped up in the righteousness of Christ that we can say, “Challenge me, Lord. Change me, Lord. Expose my wickedness.”

In the end, when death came for Luther’s mortal body, and the last of his parasitical sinfulness was destroyed, his final words contained no more vile epithets toward the Jews, but only a deathbed confession of his Jewish Messiah: “We are beggars; this is true.”

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  

Romans 5:1-2

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Hand Over Hand

I can’t do this, Mom. It feels weird. It’s too hard.

I’ll help you, Son. I’ll hold your hand until you get the feel of it. Cursive is hard.

HoH It: If it’s good and new, and really hard to do.

It’s the most basic, for the most needy. It’s the highest degree of help and the least amount of independence. It’s what therapists and teachers do when there is no other way to progress.

My day job proves it. When success eludes a student tracing a shape or cutting a line, we guide that hand. We go Hand over Hand, or HoH for short.

My mom job confirms it. The way to get squashy spoons held by chubby hands into target mouths and little-boy hands connecting those tricky cursive loops is to hold those hands in ours.

A funny thing about cursive: you need to know cursive to write cursive. You can’t be linking and looping and curving one letter smooth into the next without unless you already know how form each letter and connect one to the next. Cursive is a catch-22.

Which explains why Gabe’s first couple cursive “can’s” looked more like “rln’s” than anything. And why “and” looked a whole lot like “onol” and he wanted to quit two minutes in.

And why he needed help.

A Way Through Our Catch-22


Someone said, “Repenting is siding with God against yourself.” That’s hard. About the hardest thing we’ll ever do, since when we first believed and a thousand times hence.

Repentance means dying to self. And dying, even little deaths, is no fun at all. It’s admitting specific wrongs-like gossiping, breaking my word, being harsh with the boys. And who likes to admit he was wrong?

In a chapter of Mere Christianity called “The Perfect Penitent,” C.S. Lewis our dilemma-why we so desperately need God’s hand guiding ours to turn it right and repent.

It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death. In fact it needs a good man to repent. And here comes the catch. Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it… 

It cannot happen. Very well, then, we must go through with it. But the same badness which makes us need it makes us unable to do it.  

Can we do it if God helps us? Yes, but what do we mean when we talk of God helping us? We mean God putting into us a bit of Himself, so to speak. He lends us a little of his reasoning powers and that’s how we think; He puts a little of His love into us and that is how we love one another.  

When you teach a child writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters; that is, it forms the letters because you are forming them. We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hand while we do.  

Repentance is a gift of God. But it’s also killing part of yourself. Thomas Brooks wrote, vividly, “Repentance is the vomit of the soul.” 
It’s doesn’t feel good. It feels weird. We need God’s hand over ours to do it. 

God Grants Repentance, He Provides This Lamb

When Peter told the Jerusalem church how God’s great grace reached even to the Gentiles, Dr. Luke recorded this reaction: They glorified God saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:28). 
Matthew Henry wrote, “It’s not only his grace that accepts [our repentance], but his mighty grace that works it in us, that takes a way the heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh. The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit; it is He that provides himself this lamb.”
It’s how I forgive and give up the last word, how I refrain from anger and the only possible way I can kill selfish me and repent. God helps me. I want to, but it’s too hard, I pray. 
And He puts a little of His reason and love in me and away we go. I admit the wrong, see how I offended God, change course, and turn to Christ. 
But it takes a good person to repent. And I’m not good. But in grace, He made a way through. Your right hand supported me, David said, and your gentleness made me great (Psalm 18:35b).

When Dependence Is A Good Thing

I don’t want to push the analogy too far. The boys don’t need me to feed them anymore. And with a little more practice, Gabe will master those looping letters. In this life on earth, growing up means less dependence on mom and dad. Independence is good. It’s maturity. 
But in the spiritual realm, it’s the opposite. We’ll never get so mature that we need God less. Instead, as we grow in faith, we become more and more dependent on our Heavenly Father. God designed it that way: He wants us to rely on Him.
Because feeling strong and independent, writes Jason Meyers leads to a cesspool of self-sufficiency and independence that leads us away from God. Feeling weak is the best garden for the flowering of dependence upon God’s sufficient grace. 
Spiritually, dependence is good. 
Since the hand that created the world (Acts 7:50) and feeds it good things (Psalm 104:28), that both saves the righteous (Psalm 138:7) and avenges the wicked (Deuteronomy 32:41) is the very same hand that holds all our times (Psalm 31:15) and even our breath (Daniel 5:23), we’d best have that hand guide ours. 
Then I put a loving-mom hand on Gabe’s little-man hand.
And hand over hand, away we wrote. 

I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.
Nevertheless, I am continually with you; 
You hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, 
And afterward you will receive me to glory.
Psalm 73:22-24