From Law to Liberty |by Jenn

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It’s 8am and I’m *just* waking up! My kids are at that glorious age where they are sleeping in a little and know how to get to the Disney channel. Instead of celebrating this small victory of extra sleep, I immediately feel guilty. I SHOULD have gotten up earlier! I SHOULD have taken the extra time to exercise. I SHOULD have already finished my Bible reading. I SHOULD have gotten my emails out of the way for the day. I SHOULD be getting the homeschool day underway. A dear friend once told me, “we have to stop ‘shoulding’ on ourselves and ‘shoulding’ on others”. As if the “shoulding” weren’t enough, my internal voice begins to justify my terrible actions of sleeping in. “Well you need that extra sleep, you stayed up working past midnight.” “I’ll just start my structured schedule tomorrow.” And so on…

One of my favorite authors, Tullian Tchividijan (grandson of Billy Graham), talks about the big ‘L’ law and the little ‘l’ law in his book “One Way Love.” The big L law is God’s law and the little l laws are the laws we impose on ourselves every day. He also refers to these as self-salvation projects. As I was reflecting on the guilt and condemnation I was feeling just by simply sleeping in, I realized I was imposing a whole host of little l laws (not to mention many cultural laws) on myself! This is not the freedom Christ has set me free for! I’m all for structure and actually thrive in it. However, when that structure runs my life and breaking it brings an overwhelming sense of guilt and condemnation, that is not good. What it showed me was that I do from time to time use that structure as a means of self-salvation. It gives me a sense of worth and value to have all my boxes checked off neatly. To know that what I’m doing matters, that I myself matter. Even if no one sees it. I’m accomplishing things and therefore I am winning…a race that is really only against myself.

In God’s marvelous love for me He reminds me, that all the value, worth, acceptance and position I crave. I already have in Jesus! Isn’t that amazing?!?! I’m killing myself everyday striving for something that Jesus already died to give me! Sonship with God Almighty! (Romans 8:5) I am an heir of God!!! (Romans 8:17) I have inherited GOD HIMSELF! Therefore my identity can stand firm in WHOSE I am, not who I am! I can now enter a rest that is supernatural. Not because of what I do but because of what Jesus did! As Tullian says, “The internal voice that says do more, try harder. Do this and live! Gets drowned out by the external voice that says, “IT IS FINISHED”! Now *THAT* is good news!!!

I can hear the questions coming. Well what do I do now? I still have that long list of things to do: homeschool, Bible study, clean the house, meals, work and on and on. Are you suggesting that I just DO NOTHING and rest??? Neglecting my family? Absolutely not! We are now free to work out of our identity in Jesus, not FOR our identity! We have freedom to do those things as a labor of love, instead of a way to justify ourselves. Free to break the rules and tell that inner voice to be quiet. Our evenings have been so busy lately! I had done some meal planning and had meat already thawed. I realized there was no way I would be able to cook dinner at dinner time. All the sudden it dawned on me, I can make dinner for lunch! Who made the rules that this meal is only for dinner? And WHY am I following it?

Elyse Fitzpatrick has this to say in her book, “Good News for Weary Women.” “So what’s the takeaway for women in our context? Recycle if you like. But recycling doesn’t justify you. Eat organic foods and give birth to eight babies in your bathtub if you like. But whole grains and natural births don’t justify you. Walk for whatever cause you like: be pink, be green or dress in camo print. God isn’t impressed. None of those things justifies you. Homeschool or don’t homeschool; be married or don’t be married.Live in the city, live on the prairie; love highbrow classical music, groove to Lecrae or bow humbly before ‘And Can It Be That I Should Gain?’ None of it justifies you; none of it is enough to make you righteous before the Lord. But don’t worry- the position of justifier has been filled. His name is Jesus. You don’t need to audition anymore. Rejoice!”

When you feel the overwhelming sense to justify yourself remember, Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

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I Swear I Didn’t Teach My Kids THAT | by Julie

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My son clobbered his brother because something or other went awry during a game of Minecraft. My other boy flipped the game board in a move to rival the Real Housewives of New Jersey’s infamous table flip because he was losing. Then there was that LOUD argument at the grocery store over what flavor Pringles to buy, an Academy Award winning meltdown at a friend’s house because one kid was bored, kids streaking across the house naked after showers, and the always shocking faux pas of a four-letter word slip. And that was just this week!

Screaming, mayhem and the chaos of a 3-ring circus are hallmarks of my household in spite of the effort I put forth to be a good parent. I take my kids to church every Sunday; teach them Christian values. I’m present and involved in their lives; aware of what they’re doing and who they’re doing it with. They have rules and boundaries and lots of love. And yet they still behave badly, make poor choices and deliberately challenge me.

Unfortunately, when this behavior occurs in front of onlookers the door of judgment swings wide open. Truthfully, when my children are at school or other people’s homes, I’m often told how well-behaved they are, but they’ve definitely had their share of cringe-worthy moments. So when I hear people weighing in on the unflattering behavior of other’s children and parenting, I tend to shrink back a bit and internalize the condemnation.

And while as mothers I think we’ve learned to tune out the gossip, ignore the stares and stay the course, there is one remark that will always cut to the core. As a mom struggling, doing her best to raise two beautiful, but rambunctious boys, the wind is always knocked out of my sails when I hear somebody automatically assume that a child is behaving poorly because a parent isn’t doing their job or something terrible is going on at home.

If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you? Every mother has uttered this cliché statement in hopes of driving a point home, and invariably the answer is a resounding “NO” complete with eye roll and sassy tone. Likewise, if your mother told you not to do something, does that mean you’re definitely not going to do it? And again, the answer is a big resounding “NO.”

Truth is, young and old, while we take in what we’re taught, what behavior is modeled to us and resulting consequences, we are not controlled by it. Our decisions are still our own, and if we’re set on doing something or ruled by emotion, nothing is going to derail that train . . . not even being grounded from your iPhone for two weeks.

As much as I may wish I could control my children with a remote control, it’s simply not reality.

God has created us all, especially teenagers, to be individuals and make our own choices . . . good, bad and ugly. And while there are adults who are blatantly, even criminally, falling short of their parental responsibilities, many of us are truly trying to do the best we can with the resources we have and the results are mixed to say the least.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Did you catch that, “when he is old,” not necessarily tomorrow or next week. Like many things in life, you might not see the fruits of good parenting until your child is old. Now if that ain’t sobering. . .

And to complicate matters of parenting even more, we live in a world where we are not the only “teachers” our children have, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Children don’t always learn inappropriate behavior at home. They are exposed to a host of negative behavior and language via television, the internet and schoolyard friends.

As Christians, we need to stop judging and start supporting other parents. We need to stop commentating from afar on how we’d do things differently and take a step closer to lend a caring hand. We need to be a friend, a helper, a support system. We need to reserve judgment and invest in the lives of those God has placed in our path; go deeper to reveal the true story, not just the sensationalized headlines.

We need to remind ourselves that we too often disobey our Father in Heaven, and I’m confident it’s not because he’s doing something wrong as a parent.

All children are not created equal. While some are naturally agreeable and “easy” to parent, others naturally test boundaries. Some have learning or physical disabilities, some are subject to bullies, some have mental health disorders and others still struggle with self-esteem issues and the list goes on and on.

Not all parents are created equal either. While some are blessed with picture-perfect marriages and abundant finances, others struggle to make ends meet. Some battle health problems and depression, some are lonely, some are overwhelmed and others are single parents.

Think of parenting like a video game. While some of us are on level one, parenting with ideal circumstances, some of us are navigating the obstacles of the advanced level, pitfalls and challenges at every turn.

Seriously, in my household asking my children to brush their teeth is met with the resistance of a request to scrub a public restroom with a toothbrush. And my boys’ reaction to losing their video game for a day is akin to missing their senior prom. Some days their displeasure with household boundaries and consequences result in stubborn, hour long standoffs. I assure you I’ve read all the parenting books and attempt to impose the proper discipline, and believe it or not, they still don’t always comply.

So if you see me or any other parent losing their marbles in Target or taking a tear-filled, self-imposed timeout in the bathroom while their children run amuck for a few minutes, please try not to judge and make us feel like even bigger failures than we already do. Instead, offer us a kind word, a gallon of ice cream and the assurance that we’re not the only ones raising miniature hellions. And don’t forget to remind us that God promises everything will turn out ok in the end.