Behold, the Lamb of God

Divine-Relationship-Between-Parents-And-Children

“The next day again John (the Baptist) was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked by and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’  The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.  Jesus turned and saw them, ‘What are you seeking?’  And they said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’  He said to them, ‘Come and you will see.’  So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.  One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.  He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ).  He brought him to Jesus.  Jesus looked at him and said, ‘So you are Simon the son of John?  You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter).”  - John 1:35-42

This past Sunday as our church discussed the passage of Jesus calling his first disciples, one of the questions presented for consideration was, “Whom do you identify with in this story?”  After thinking for quite some time, I could not pull myself away from the image of John the Baptist motioning to his two disciples as Jesus approached: “Behold, the Lamb of God,” he exclaimed!  When his disciples heard this pronouncement (the revealing of who Jesus was), they left John to follow the One they had been waiting for.   I wondered how John must have felt as he watched his two friends walk away.  Was he sad to see them go?  After all, they had been his disciples for what we assume was many years.  They had probably spent much of their time together; walking, eating, laughing, and talking with one another about the awaited Messiah, the Redeemer of Israel and all of Creation.  The men must have surely become very dear to him over those years.  Was there a sense of loss as they left John’s side to follow behind Jesus?

Or perhaps John was filled with joy because he knew that his ultimate purpose in discipling the two men was that they might one day recognize Jesus for who He was and, leaving all else behind, follow after Him.  The parting of his disciples was evidence that John had done what was required of him:  he had prepared the way for the Lord.  All the years he had spent with the men, testifying and teaching about the coming Son of God, was for that moment; for that purpose.

I”m sure it was a little of both.

As parents, our goal and mission is the same as John’s: that our children would one day leave us and follow hard after the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.   All the minutes, days, and years that I spend teaching my children about Jesus are in hope of the day they might look up and say, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”  What a bittersweet day that will be for I know that my mother’s heart will grieve because that season of my life will be over.  But oh, how greatly will I rejoice to watch them pursue and learn from Jesus – the Lamb of God who takes away their sins, loves them more fully than I, and who will teach them greater things than what they may have learned at my knee.  And at the end of this precious and oh-so-short season, by the grace of God, I pray that I will rejoice and exclaim:  “…I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” – 3 John 1:4

Free to Obey

I sin daily.   An outburst of impatience toward my children, a snarky comment to my husband, anger, laziness; the list goes on and on .  And in those moments I hear a mocking voice: “If you really loved Jesus, you would obey him.  How petty and tiny your love for Him must be.”

I answer back, “No, you’re wrong.  I do love Him…I’ll prove it.  I’ll do better tomorrow.”  And the next day, despite my best efforts, I find myself singing the same song, third verse, a little bit faster, and a little bit worse: fail, condemnation, guilt, resolutions, self-righteous effort, repeat.  It’s a vicious cycle that I would be willing to bet most of us have struggled with and found the results of such striving to be anything but liberating.  Instead of boldly coming before the Throne of Grace we feel shame and approach hesitantly, if we come at all.  Our day to day walking out of this Christian life is bereft of the joy we’ve been promised and feels more like a heavy burden we must struggle to carry.

Yes, Jesus says that if we love him we will obey him.  But what does he say love is?  “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love:  not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  1 John 4:9-10

I can only love Jesus because He has loved me before the foundation of the world; I can only obey because he has already lived in perfect obedience to the Father.  This is the good news of the gospel: that we have been extravagantly loved and set free to obey by Him who has declared, “It is finished.”  The gospel doesn’t tell us to strive in our obedience…it sets us free to obey from a place of love and humble gratitude to One who is the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

“The key to a godly life is not more and more self-generated effort.  Instead, Jesus is saying, ‘Love me and your obedience will flow naturally from that love.’  The secret to obedience isn’t formulaic steps found in a self-help book.  It is a relentless pursuit of love for him.  How then do I cultivate the sincerity of love that motivates obedience?  By focusing more intently on his love for me than on my love for him, more on his obedience than mine, more on his faithfulness than mine, more on his strength than mine…if we intently focus on how we’ve been loved, irrevocably, eternally, freely, and without merit, if we contemplate how obedience (or lack of it) doesn’t faze his love on whit, then we’ll find within our hearts a growing desire to obey.  Why?  Because love like that changes people.  It draws us toward him; it make us want to be like him; it makes obedience attractive.  Resting in our perfect acceptance before him and in his intense desire to have us for his own will cause us to want to please him.  It will make us love him, and love for him will always eventuate in godliness.”  - Elyse Fitzpatrick, Comforts from the Cross

“It’s not my zeal, it’s that your love is strong.  It’s not my strength, it’s that you’re faithful.” – Jon Thurlow

Identity vs. Role

When I became a wife and mother, I distinctly remember wanting to do both of those things with excellence.  Which, in and of itself, is not a bad aspiration.  Loving your husband and children well is one of the traits of a godly woman listed in scripture (Titus 2:4), and is most definitely something to strive for.  But as time went on, as responsibilities mounted, and as failures increased, I became more and more discouraged and hopeless.  In many ways, I felt as though my worth was diminished when I fell short of what I felt a good wife and mother should be.

For the better part of three years, this was a constant struggle.  I could not wrap my brain around why I felt so ill-suited for walking in the roles of wife and mother when that was all I had ever really wanted to be.  Finally, revelation came when I read this article from The Resurgence.  At it’s core, I realized this was a sin issue.  As Tim Keller so wisely observed: “Sin isn’t only doing bad things, it is more fundamentally making good things into ultimate things.  Sin is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God.”

That is precisely what I had been doing: making the worthy goal of being an excellent wife and mother into my ultimate reason for existence.  As I continued to read, I discovered why I had been so hopeless.

The article continued: “’How is your present disappointment, discouragement, or grief a window on what has actually captured your heart?’  When we depend on anything smaller than God to provide us with the security, significance, meaning, and value that we long for, God will love us enough to take it away. Much of our anger and bitterness, therefore, is God prying open our hands and taking away something we’ve held onto more tightly than him.”

My continual feeling of discouragement was the grace of the Lord to me because it showed me that I had been confusing my role and my identity.  When we make our identity out of anything other than being a son or daughter of God, we will ultimately taste the bitterness of failure when we don’t measure up to a set of standards, rules, behavior, etc,.  But when we fashion our identity solely from being a child of God, there is no room for failure or disappointment because that identity is one we didn’t earn and, therefore, we cannot diminish or take away from it.  It doesn’t depend on us, never has depended on us, and never will depend on us.   And that is why the gospel is so glorious and it is the very thing that frees us to walk even more fully in our roles.  When I understand that my worth comes from what Jesus did for me, it propels me forward into loving my husband and children well.  How can I not help but extend grace to my husband when I see the great grace God has poured over me and my weaknesses?  There is nothing for me to do but to overflow with love onto my children because of the love the Father has lavished on me, simply by being His daughter.

Do I still aspire to be a good wife and mother?  Absolutely.  But it’s not who I am; it’s what I do.  It’s a role that I am blessed and honored to fulfill.  But even more than this, my ultimate goal is to craft my identity solely from being a daughter of my Father.  This is who I am and who I was created to be.  Nothing more, nothing less.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” -1 John 3:1

Prayer for Change

Sometimes there comes a point where things have got to change.  And you know this change isn’t going to come through a to-do list, a new schedule, or any sort of “I’ll-try-harder” resolve of your own.  No, this is the kind of change that comes from reaching the end of yourself and exhausting your best and feeble efforts.  It’s a very bittersweet place to be: seeing yourself in glaring light and knowing that continuing in your own strength will not bring about the fruit you desire.  But how sweet it is to see your weaknesses in the glorious light of Christ.  How freeing to be assured that His burden is light and there is much good fruit that will come when we cease from our striving and trust in Him to do the work through us.  There is really no better place.

The past three months have resulted in me arriving at this intersection.  The choice should be simple: I can be stubborn and press forward in insisting that I can do this on my own, or I can humbly surrender and yield to the leading of my gentle Savior and rest in His faithfulness to my family and to myself.  And so, from a place of exhaustion and desperation, I cried out to the Lord and prayed:

Father, change my heart towards my husband, my children, and my home.  Not because I don’t love them, because I do.  Deeply.  Not because I would change anything about my life, because I wouldn’t:  I don’t long for a career or wish that I was somewhere else in life.  I am beyond thankful for a wonderful and godly husband, three (and a half) beautiful, healthy children, and a home to steward and build with and for those I love most.  I am abundantly blessed.  I don’t wish for any of this to change.

Lord, where I desire change is within the deep places of my heart, where sin and selfishness abound.

Change the attitude that causes me  to feel like my children are often distracting me from something I’d rather be doing or hindering me from what I think I need to get done.  Root out the frustration I feel when the dishes and laundry pile up and the hand towel is lying on the bathroom floor…again.  Cleanse me of the continual need for my own love and encouragement above that of my husband’s.  Cause my vision to be less on me and my needs, which never seem to be satisfied, and turn my gaze towards the goal of glorifying your great name and blessing my family.

I know that you have already graciously and gloriously atoned for my sinful heart.  Would you help me, Jesus, to walk in it?  Open my eyes to see the joy that comes from laying down my life for the sake of those I love.  I am not a wife and mother to fulfill my needs or to be served; I walk in these roles that I may freely give of myself for the benefit of another.  I have been blessed to be a blessing and because of that, I am able to give what I’ve been given without fear of running out.  Any and every good thing that I can give comes from You, and You always have more than enough.

Jesus, may I bestow the same mercy that you have poured upon me.  Help me to extend the same grace that you have offered to me.  And above all, may I overflow with the great love that You have lavished upon me.

For your glory and our joy, I ask you to help me find fulfillment in a life that is hidden in you.  May I be satisfied in you so that you may be glorified in me.

Gratitude in the Midst

It’s been an extremely busy season for the Kubicina household for the last 6 months. I have so many things buzzing around in my heart that I am feeling a little frazzled trying to sort everything out in a way that is truthful, encouraging, and will actually make sense. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to sit down and write about all that the Lord has been working out in me: between moving, vacation, daily life, church life, visiting family, illness, and all the “blessings,” that accompany a first trimester, I’m finding myself with very few free moments that don’t result in a nap. :) But this afternoon, in the midst of my busyness, I was reminded of the goal that I set at the beginning of the year to list 1,000 things that I am thankful for.

I feel this to be especially needed when we are engrossed in seasons where life is hectic.  I know my own tendency is to focus on my circumstances and overlook the seemingly mundane moments that the Lord has placed before me.  Every season has blessings if we fix our eyes on the One who is the Giver of every good thing.  He is not stingy with us and He delights in our gratitude because it speaks the truth about who He is and how He lavishes love on His children.  Even in the midst of haste, or circumstances that would seek to overcome us, we have the honor of highly exalting and deeply enjoying Jesus.  Through the redeeming work of the cross, we have received the greatest gift of all – the indescribable reward of glorifying our Father.   When our eyes are set on our faithful Savior and not on life and it’s troubles, we find ourselves in the place where our hearts are at rest and are fully enabled to delight in the abundant joys of every season…morning sickness and all.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”  – James 1:17

#21 – A backyard!!!

#22 – Chubby-armed baby hugs.

#23 – My husband: for the ways he shows me the grace, mercy, and love of Jesus…especially when I feel I least deserve it.

#24 – Domestic Kingdom: this blog has encouraged me immensely.

#25 – Tea, tea, and more tea.  I’m not going to lie, though…I miss my coffee.  *first trimester will be over soon; just in time for Pumpkin Spice season!*

#26 – My bed, sleep, and all things restful.

#27 – Dreaming of the little person the Lord is shaping inside me.

#28 – Porch swinging with my family.

#29 – Watermelon, strawberries, and peaches!

#30 – The sound of Josh and Grace talking and singing together before they fall asleep each night.

#31 – Watching Gideon’s bowed, plump, little legs learning to walk.

#32 – A new job for Brandon to help us continue to drive down that debt!

#33 – Worship music playing in the kitchen to lift my eyes above my circumstances.

#34 – Watching friends being blessed by the Lord for their steadfast trust in His faithfulness.

#35 – A precious new nephew!

#36 – Family and friends who drive 800 miles to visit us.

#37 – Beautiful Summer nights that give us a break from the heat.

#38 – Brandon and I agreeing on paint colors and loving our choices.

#39 – Our house church group; how I love them and thank God for each one!

#40 – A big kitchen to gather family and friends around food and the goodness of God!

 

Let Me Hold You Longer

I read this poem in a book years ago (before marriage and babies), and for some reason it popped into my mind today.  I did a quick Google search, teared up as I read the first stanza, and was sobbing by the third.

As a mommy of little ones, I occasionally find myself wishing that one of them (or all of them, depending on the day!) would hurry and reach the next milestone.  Whether it’s sitting up, walking, eating solid foods, or sleeping through the night, it’s hard to keep myself from longing for the day when so-and-so will start doing such-and-such and therefore make my life a little easier.  Though the growth and arrival of a child’s “firsts” truly is exciting, I was reminded again of the reward to be found in the whole-hearted embracing of this momentary season.  I pray that I will not spend my time wishing-away the demands of these tiniest years; that I will proclaim, as David did, that THIS is the day the Lord has made.  And because He has ordained it for me, I can be rejoice and be glad in whatever it holds (Psalm 118:24).  And at the end of 2 a.m. feedings and sleepless nights, mis-pronounced words, and hours of brushing hair into braids and pigtails, I pray that my heart will overflow with the grace-drenched, joy-filled memories of these years.  To God be the glory.

A picture book has been made out of this poem; you can purchase it here.

Let Me Hold You Longer
By: Karen Kingsbury

Long ago you came to me, a miracle of firsts:
First smiles and teeth and baby steps, a sunbeam on the burst.
But one day you will move away and leave to me your past,
And I will be left thinking of a lifetime of your lasts.

The last time that I held a bottle to your baby lips.
The last time that I lifted you and held you on my hip.
The last time when you woke up crying, needing to walked.
When last you crawled up with your blanket, wanting to be rocked.

The last time that you ran to me, still small enough to hold,
The last time when you said you’d marry me when you grew old.
Precious, simple moments and bright flashes from the past -
Would I have held you longer if I’d known they were the last?

Our last adventure to the park, your final midday nap,
The last time when you wore your favorite faded baseball cap.
Your last few hours of kindergarten, last days of first grade,
Your last at bat in Little League, last colored picture made.

I never said goodbye to all your yesterdays long past.
So what about tomorrow — will I recognize your lasts?

The last time that you catch a frog in that old backyard pond.
The last time that you run barefoot across our fresh-cut lawn.
Silly, scattered images will represent your past.
I keep on taking pictures, never quite sure of your lasts…

The last time that I comb your hair or stop a pillow fight.
The last that I pray with you and tuck you in at night.
The last time that we cuddle with a book, just me and you.
The last time you jump up in our bed and sleep between us two.

The last piano lesson, last vacation to the lake.
Your last few weeks of middle school, last soccer goal you make.
I look ahead and dream of days that haven’t come to pass.
But as I do, I sometimes miss today’s sweet, precious lasts…

The last time that I help you with a math or spelling test.
The last time when I say that yes, your room is still a mess.
The last time that you need me for a ride from here to there.
The last time that you spend the night with your old tattered bear.

My life keeps moving faster, stealing precious days that pass.
I want to hold on longer — want to recognize your lasts…

The last time that you need my help with details of a dance.
The last time that you ask me for advice about romance.
The last time that you talk to me about your hopes and dreams.
The last time that you wear a jersey for your high school team.

I’ve watched you grow and barely noticed seasons as they pass.
If I could freeze the hands of time, I’d hold on to your lasts.
For come some bright fall morning you’ll be going far away.
College life will beckon in a brilliant sort of way.

One last hug, one last good-bye, one quick and hurried kiss.
One last time to understand just how much you will be missed.
I’ll watch you leave and think how fast our times together passed.
Let me hold on longer, God, to every precious last.

 

Image Source
 

A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission, around the Table.

The tradition of mealtime, especially in America, seems to be slipping into a thing of the past.  We no longer come to the table (if we eat at a table at all!) with gratefulness to a generous Giver, but rather in casual indifference; much like taking our vehicle to a gas station for a fill-up, that we may continue on in our busyness..  Tim Chester vividly illustrates that one of the main themes and portraits of Scripture is the beckoning from a loving Creator, to his creation, to come and dine with Him.  That they may come partake of His glorious goodness and extend that goodness to others, that the feast of God may be full.

I was challenged by so much in this book.  Convicted at my own nonchalant attitude towards food and mealtime, I finished this book with renewed vision for my kitchen and dining room.  I felt excited and exhorted to make our family’s table a place of refuge, fellowship, thankfulness, joy, and love.  I confess that in the course of my day, it is much easier to eat breakfast and lunch as I work: finishing up this project or starting that chore, while my children sit quietly at the table observing my haste.  My heart feels purposed towards the goal of cultivating gratefulness towards the Lord for the food that He sets before us each day.  I look forward to teaching my children of the goodness and grace of the Father at each meal time; telling them of the rich love that He has poured out on us in everything…even sandwiches.  Whether you’re wanting fresh insight into the blessings of cooking, eating, or hospitality, I highly recommend this book to you.

Some of my favorite quotes (and it was hard to narrow it down!):

“…the community of the broken, gathered around a meal, finding hope in the grace of Jesus.  This is what church is meant to be: a community of broken people finding family around a meal under the tree of Calvary.”

“…food isn’t just fuel.  It’s not just a mechanism for sustaining us for ministry.  It’s gift, generosity, grace.  Jesus gave thanks and broke bread.  In so doing, he affirms that food is to be received as a gift from God.”

“The world is more delicious than it needs to be.  We have a super-abundance of divine goodness and generosity.  God went over the top.  We don’t need the variety we enjoy, but He gave it to us out of sheer exuberant joy and grace.  God’s creative joy wasn’t only for the beginning of creation, leaving us ‘eating leftovers.’  God continues to sustain creation out of joy.”

“Not only did God give us food, He also ordained cooking…every time you place a meal on the table with quiet satisfaction, you’re sharing the joy of the Creator at the creation of the world when he declared everything good.”

“The Lord’s Supper is a call to God to act in keeping with his covenant: forgiving us, accepting us, and welcoming us to the Table through the finished work of Christ.”

“This is salvation: to feast abundantly and to feast with God.”

Click here to purchase this book.