She is not mine.

Image result for infant

I am a new mom.  A “FTM” (First Time Mom) as all the bloggers and texters say.  Most of my friends back home in the midwest are years ahead of me, sending their kids to preschool and gradeschool, but here in Denver we do things a little more slowly and I am 33 with a baby two weeks old today.  These last two weeks have been a whirlwind, including unexpected medical diagnoses, hospital stays, and a three week early adjustment to parenthood – but some of the most amazing moments in my and my husband’s life.  One thing, however, that is rocking my world Spiritually is the new “opportunity” to die to myself.

There are many truths out there that circulate so rapidly that they sound cliche.  “Marriage is a mirror” and such, but in two short weeks I am beginning to learn anew what it means to die to myself and to surrender my selfishness.

The Christian life, the path of salvation, is often called the fight of faith.  We are engaged in a Spiritual battle for holiness.  We are killing our sin so that it will not kill us.  We are pressing on towards the goal, we are dying to ourselves, we are fighting for sanctification.  This is Biblical.  This is right.  This is honoring to God.  And it is indeed God’s plan to sanctify us:

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification…”

– 1 Thess 4.3

Our sanctification is a process, and God reveals our sin and our depravity in bite-sized pieces.  He asks/commands/enables us to fight our sin one day at a time.  If God were to reveal the depths of our selfishness and pride as well as confronting our sinful habits all at the moment of conversion, we would become overwhelmed and give up.  But graciously He gives us the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin, empower us to fight it and when we begin to live by His strength and overcome it, He takes us to the next battle front.

My new battlefront is selfishness and possessiveness of this tiny baby girl.  Children are indeed a treasure from the Lord (Ps 123.7).  They are a blessing, a gift, and a joy.  They also provide heartache, pain and uncertainty.  But fundamentally, they are not ours.  They are God’s and He has entrusted parents as stewards of them.

We learn quite quickly, at least on a superficial level, that everything we have is God’s and that lesson is usually focused on finances:

“What do you have that you did not receive?  And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”

– 1 Cor 4.7

The church at Corinth was caught up in an internal battle arguing over which teacher was the greatest and factions were forming accordingly.  Paul spoke out against this sin, encouraging even those who claimed to follow him to be humble and remember the Gospel.  Nothing that they had, no Spiritual insight or wisdom was of themselves – he said – but only a gift from God.  This reality is true about everything.  Everything in the world is God’s, and He has given of His abundance to us as stewards to care for and utilize everything unto His glory and honor.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains,
The world, and those who dwell in it.”

– Ps 24.1

This includes not only our physical possessions, our faith, and our Spiritual gifts and abilities – but children.  My daughter is God’s.  He has given me the remarkable privilege and responsibility to function in the role as her mother, but she is not mine, she is God’s.  He knew her before He formed her in my womb.  He has a perfect plan for her entire life.  He knit her together and He loves her more than I ever can or will.  He knows the hairs on her head, and He knows every single thing she will ever think, feel and experience.  She is His.

That is a difficult thing for a FTM to remember.  Yes, it is good and wise to set up relational and emotional boundaries.  Just because I am a steward and not an “owner” does not mean that everyone has equal say and equal access to my daughter.  I have been charged to protect and care for her, to teach her the truths of God, to love her.  But it also means I die to myself and get up in the middle of the night to feed her – even when I am exhausted – and I allow friends and family to enjoy her and be part of her life.  It means we partner with the Church to commit to raising her up in the ways of the Lord.  It means my husband has parenting rights and together we bring her before God and surrender her to Him and to His plan.  It means we trust God for today and for her future.

Fighting the battle of selfishness and control means fighting the fight of faith.  It means dying to self in order to trust God.  Martin Luther said it well:

“Faith honors him whom it trusts with the most reverent and highest regard since it considers him truthful and trustworthy. There is no other honor equal to the estimate of truthfulness and righteousness with which we honor him whom we trust . . . When the soul firmly trusts God’s promises, it regards him as truthful and righteous, and whatever else should be ascribed to God. The very highest worship of God is this, that we ascribe to him truthfulness, righteousness, and whatever else should be ascribed to one who is trusted.”

– Martin Luther

What do you have today over which you boast, or on which you base your confidence?  What do you have today that you claim as your own, that you seek to control, that you hold too tightly?  Let us remember that nothing we have – no financial success, no skill or ability, no wisdom or social status, no relationship and no child – nothing we have was not given to us.  Everything is God’s, and He has given us access and ability to utilize all of those things to glorify Him and to make much of Him.  Let us therefore seek to surrender all of those things to Him.  Let us remember that He is sovereign over all of them.  Let us trust Him and His plan, and fight the fight of faith – thus laying hold of eternal life.

“Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

– 1 Tim 6.12

Is Change Really Possible?

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Rom 12.2

Do you think people can change?  Are people created with personality flaws that will be constant throughout their lives, or can God fundamentally alter sinful tendencies?  Do you get aggravated with someone and write him off thinking, “That’s just who he is”, or do you lovingly point him to the answer?  Do you settle into your own routine/habits, or do you examine yourself daily to fight sin?

I think that our culture is confused.  We have an abundance of counselors, self-help books and self-enrichment courses that encourage us to change and grow, but we also are inundated with messages about self-acceptance, being who you are and loving you for you.  Dove has a video on social media that has gone viral about learning to see yourself as others see you, because you are more beautiful than you think you are.  And the Christian community is just as confused, when we sing a song called “You Can Change Who You Are” immediately followed by one called “There Can Never Be A More Beautiful You”.

The message of Christianity is a message of hope.  We, in and of ourselves are an abomination to God because we are sinful.  God is holy and perfect, and any small sin is grounds for damnation before Him.  But God, through the work of salvation via Jesus Christ, offers forgiveness for sins and the ability to changed fundamentally.  People are sinful and so were “you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6.11).

So how do we change?  It starts with the mind through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Paul says that we as believers offer ourselves daily to the Lord and that we do that by being daily transformed by the renewal of our minds.  He explains it a bit more clearly in 2 Cor 10:

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.  We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.

2 Cor 10.3-6

Taking every thought captive.  That takes a lot of discipline.  What do you think of when you hear the word discipline?  Children being scolded by their parents?  Legalism?  A successful person who manages well his time and money?  There are spiritual disciplines that we can employ to help us in our journey – I highly recommend a book by Donald Whitney called “Personal Spiritual Disciplines” if you struggle on this front or just want to know more!

So how do we take every thought captive?  Let me give you a personal example of this in my life.  About six months into my time living overseas, I developed an uncharacteristic fear in my life.  I love adventure, trying new things, adrenaline…and I have always loved to fly.  But I lived in a third-world country where the airplanes had a strange affinity towards crashing.  Two jetliners went missing – large air-busses full of passengers!  One they think went down in the jungle, another somewhere in the sea.  There were so many plane crashes that there was an article in the national newspaper documenting all of the downed flights with numbers of casualties per flight in the first six months of the year.  Suddenly the fear of flying gripped me.  A plane went down in my city, killing all 27 people on board and I started developing a stress just to hear flights pass by overhead.  For three or four months I lived in terror because my job required regular flying: at least four flights a month!  I tried taking Xanex to relax me, and that did not help.  It got so bad that I actually refused an assignment for work.

But then I was confronted with the sin of fear.  Fear is, at its root, a lack of trust in God.  What was the worst thing that could happen?  I could die and go to Heaven!  I began reading through Hebrews in my quiet time and verse 1.3 caught my attention:  “[Jesus] upholds all things by the word of His power”.  Jesus is continually speaking you and me into existence.  If he were to stop speaking, we would cease to exist.  He is also speaking airplanes into existence.

It was with this knowledge and new found appreciation for the practical sovereignty of God that I began the discipline of trusting God and taking those thoughts captive.  As I packed my bags and would start to feel fear I would pray, “Lord I trust you and your plan”.  As I would sit in fear at the terminal I would pray, “Lord I know that you are speaking me into existence and I trust you.”  And as I would board the plane and imagine the crash I would pray “You are speaking this airplane into existence.  If we crash and I die, I’m coming home to you.”  I probably prayed that prayer and took captive my fearful thoughts a thousand times over four or five flights.  Then one day, the fear disappeared as suddenly as it came one.  I love to fly again.

You have to be aware of your sin before you can take your thoughts captive.  Pray to the Lord to reveal it to you and stay in the Word.  He will do it.  Then become aware of your thoughts and habits, and fight your sin with the Word of God.  Jesus, when He was tempted by the Devil fought with the Word (Matt 4).

Every.  Single.  Thought.

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”

Col 3.17