Saturday, December 26, 2015

Where God Dwells

He is the One we celebrate this month: this Word-made-flesh, who arrived in our midst to shine light where before only darkness had been. But God’s desire to walk among us did not begin with the incarnation. In fact, God’s desire has always been: to dwell with mankind. 

"In the beginning," God created man in His image. Surely it was paradise to walk with God through His garden in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). But man’s choice to heed his own desires, instead of His creator’s, exiled humanity from God’s paradise (yet not from the hope of His presence). 

Even as man abandoned Him, God did not abandon His desire to dwell with man. He chose Israel, an insignificant nation by human standards, to be His own treasured possession. “I will be their God, and they will be my people” is the common refrain of the Old Testament prophets who spoke God's desire to His people, again and again. 

After rescuing Israel from slavery, the Lord provided a blueprint for His dwelling place, the tabernacle, among His people.
“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them,” the Lord instructs Moses atop Mount Sinai (Exodus 25:8). A holy God longing to live with His people, God made a way by which He could dwell with His sinful, but nonetheless chosen, family. 

Then Jesus Christ was born. Never was God’s heartfelt desire more clearly seen than in the face of Christ: the Word - God - in the flesh. And that divine flesh dwelt among us! The word translated “dwelt” in John 1:14 is the same word used for tabernacle in Exodus passages. Literally, Jesus “tabernacled” among us. One modern translation puts it this way: "The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood."

 But what about now that Christmas is over? What about now that Jesus no longer walks the earth? For those who belong to Christ, His physical absence actually means a more intimate dwelling with the Lord! Paul writes, “For you are the temple [tabernacle] of the living God. As God has said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be my people’ ” (2 Corinthians 6:16). Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

We are now God’s dwelling place. Those who accept Christ into their lives, and who are in Christ, having been united to His resurrected life, are told that “the Spirit of God dwells within you” (1 Corinthians 3:16).

He dwells in His children, in the heart, in the spirit, in the mind, in the very essence of our being. We are transformed by our union with Him and share in His life (Colossians 3:4). We are tabernacles of the Lord; our bodies are His temple; His dwelling place is in and among His people.

In this post-Christmas season, my prayer for you is:

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sharing and Savoring the Story

When [the shepherds] had seen [Jesus], they spread word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. ~ Luke 2:17-20

Can you imagine the joyful ruckus those shepherds made, as they shared with others what the angels had told them, what they had seen with their own eyes in the stable? A Savior had been born, Christ the Lord! Those who heard their report marveled, and surely many believed Jesus to be the Son of God. 

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” 

Most every mother can recall the precious events surrounding the birth of her child — perhaps, the moment she discovered she was pregnant, what time she had her first contraction. Then baby’s first steps, first bottle, first word become memories to treasure.

How much moreso would Mary, the mother of Jesus, who knew from even before his conception that He was the Son of God! He was to fulfill every Old Testament prophecy that pointed to the Messiah. Surely, she savored the special moments that Luke records: his unusual birthplace, the shepherds and their stories of countless angels filling the skies, the wise men who traveled and brought regal gifts in humility, Anna and Simeon’s prophecies and declarations in the temple.

But Jesus’ mother did not announce His birth from the rooftops. Instead, she silently savored what God had proclaimed and performed, cherishing each memory in her heart.

“The truths of Christ are worth keeping; and the way to keep them safe is to ponder them. Meditation is the best help to memory,”  writes Matthew Henry.

For us, too, there are those sacred moments with God, where He speaks in His “still, small voice” through His word, and we hold onto and meditate upon that precious gift. Then, also, there are those moments to share with a shout what the Lord has done, through the marvelous miracle of His love and grace to us.

This season, may you savor (as Mary did) the special times you spend with Jesus. This Christmas, may you share (as the shepherds did) the joyful story of His birth and life with all who will hear! 


Monday, December 14, 2015


Glory to God in the highest! And on earth, peace to those upon whom His favor rests. (Luke 2:14)

“Peace on earth.” We sing it so often this time of year that we may not stop to ponder it. So I’m inviting you to stop and ponder:

What does this pronouncement of peace really mean? Do you see peace on earth?

It only takes a day’s worth of newspaper headlines to remind us that the planet has not called a ceasefire. Far from it: War, domestic violence, hate crimes, divorce, strained relationships reach all corners of the globe. As Christians, we trust the Lord, who has said that at the end of all things, He will wipe away every tear from our eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away (Rev. 21:4). Oh, the marvelous hope that we have for a future overflowing with peace!

But what about for now, for today, for this very moment? After all, the angelic army declared peace on EARTH, specifically. Did they have their heads in the clouds?  Worse yet, were they just plain wrong?

To start, let’s confess that our common concept of peace may differ from God’s. It takes only a few Scriptures to see that clearly:

Jesus has reconciled everything to Himself, having already made peace through the blood of His cross. (Col 1:20)

Having already been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)

Jesus has already given His peace to His people. (John 14:27)

For Jesus Himself is our Peace. (Eph 2:14)

In summary:

Peace is found in Christ. Peace IS Christ!
I am in Christ.
I have peace with God by faith.

Or an even shorter summary might go like this:

Peace is JESUS.  And peace is NOW.

So the angelic peace proclamations weren’t primarily about eliminating global conflict or relational disharmony or even our own unsettled emotions. The gift of peace was Jesus Christ Himself: presented in the humble, mind-boggling wrappings of an infant. God with us, Emmanuel, is our peace. Jesus’ life in us (Romans 8:9-11, 1 Corinthians 1:30, Colossians 1:27) and our life in Him (Colossians 3:4) is peace.

Peace is not beyond our grasp any more than Jesus is; peace is a gift – a package deal - that accompanies our salvation. The more we fully live in and look to Jesus in every circumstance and for every relationship, the more fully we live in and experience the peace that the multitude of angels proclaimed to those awestruck shepherds, all those years ago.

(Incidentally, if you’re wondering about the “favor” part of Luke 2:14, be assured: God’s favor and pleasure and delight rest upon you, because they rest upon Jesus. Read Ephesians1:5-6 and Matthew 3:17.)

Friday, September 11, 2015

In Which God Gives Me a Song

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. ~ Psalm 40:3

Nobody told me this would feel like grief. That sending off my firstborn son - whom I know is in God’s good hands - to his school of choice, into a future that I happily anticipate– would leave me with this sloshing, splashing bucket of sorrow in my gut. 

They say when you have a child, it’s like a piece of your heart is walking around outside of your body. Well, I’m still adjusting to my six-foot-tall chunk-of-heart living 300 miles away. I miss him with a visceral missing: his chatty dinner conversation, his young-man swagger, his broad shoulders and even broader grin, his penchant for knowing when I need a helping hand or a bear hug.

Don’t misunderstand: I’m also full to overflowing with Jesus’ peace and joy; I see God’s fingerprints all over these sorrows – and even when I don’t, I know He’s there. I know one day my “inner bucket” won’t feel so heavy. It’s just wondering how to deal with it in the now.

I mean, I have a life to live, a husband and son to love and enjoy, responsibilities calling my name, bathrooms crying out for Clorox. But grief still sucker-punches me in the most mundane moments: as I chop vegetables for dinner, in the middle of Zumba class, while driving to pick up Ben from co-op. I have to pause to catch my breath and blink back my tears.

And so I listen, once again, to Tim Keller’s “Praying Your Tears.” I retreat into a book or Words with Friends, drink coffee and stare at the mountains, waiting for this feeling to go away. It doesn’t.

So I budget a few hours with God on a Saturday afternoon, thinking that maybe I need to talk this through with Him; maybe He’s got a quick-fix Scripture for me, something to turn off this spigot (okay, firehose).“God, I know you’re there. Can you just point me to a passage, a promise, to be a strong wall against these pounding, tidal wave emotions? That’s all I need. I’ll be fine. Really.”

But God doesn’t give me a verse or a promise that afternoon. Instead, He makes this crystal clear: These emotions aren’t sinful, and they will take time to subside. Gulp.

It wasn’t until the next day, in worship, that God truly answered my plea - but not with a Bible-verse-band-aid to stop (or at least hide)my bleeding; no. He gave me a song. A song that I sang loudly, as what felt like half a bucket’s worth of tears streamed down my cheeks. Relieved to find tissues in my purse (for once), I didn’t leave the service to collect myself or check my face for mascara tiger-stripes. Those tears were worship and lament and praise and prayer, and I didn’t want to miss a moment of Him.


It was like God said: “I have given you Myself. You need Me every hour, every moment. You have no idea when your flash flood emotions are going to break loose, or when they are going to stay calm for the day. But no matter what, I am here. My BIG buckets of joy and peace and life in you remain constant, long after this sorrowful one is emptied. No matter what peaks and valleys your emotions travel today, I am fulfilling every promise I’ve made to you, in you. Even in this hour.”

I think about Jesus’ very human emotions. He was no stranger to grief and sorrow. A friend who mourned with his friends at their brother’s graveside. A Saviour who wept over people who would not receive His salvation. An intercessor who cried ashe prayed. I remember that the tender human heart of Jesus is to be my heart also.  

So maybe the goal in this season is different than what I have been thinking this past month. Maybe the goal isn’t:

…To cry less. (Or, at least, less visibly.)
…To “get myself together.”

Maybe, instead, the goal is:

…To cry every tear in God’s presence.
…To more fully receive whatever He’s offering when those sucker-punches come.
…To open up my heart to receive other hurting hearts whom God sends my way.
…To let the tender compassion of Jesus be expressed through my life.

By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life. ~ Psalm 42:8

Listen to the song that God gave me here.

Friday, September 4, 2015

God's Self-Portrait (In Seven Words)

Imagine: You are called upon to introduce God. You are limited to seven adjectives, seven descriptive phrases, that capture His essence. Not words that describe his roles (Creator, King, Judge) or the things He loves (His people, Justice, Holiness). But describe Him, Who He is.

So, what would your seven words be? (Go ahead; write them down. I’ll wait.)  

God had previously revealed Himself to Moses via a burning bush, and through the Law He gave Israel through Moses hand. But a shrub on fire and those lists of rules were just not enough for Moses to really know who this God was. So Moses asked God to reveal His glory (which means, literally, His “weight,” His very essence), and God agreed.  

And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.” Then [God] said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you.” (Exodus 33:18-19)

God’s unveiled His glory, His goodness, to Moses by speaking seven words and phrases.

And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining mercy for thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin . . .” (Exodus 34:6-7a*)  

Did you catch all seven?

1. compassionate
2. gracious
3. slow to anger (longsuffering)
4. abounding in love (covenantal love or hesed)
5. abounding in faithfulness
6. maintaining mercy (again, hesed)
7. forgiving

So, how does this compare to your list?  

Perhaps you wrote words like: Holy. All-Knowing. Powerful. Creative. Ever-Present. Just. Pure. Surely, we see God described with those words (and many more) throughout Scripture. Yet, when He chose to reveal His glory at Moses’ request, He didn’t choose phrases that highlight His awe-inspiring, flawless ‘other-ness.’ He chose words that communicate His inviting accessibility, His relentless love for His people, His dogged faithfulness. As Sally Lloyd-Jones (author of the “TheJesus Storybook Bible”) puts it, God’s hesed is His “never-stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.”  

This is God’s self-revelation. This is how He defines His goodness, His glory.

God’s winsome self-portrait reappears throughout the Old Testament, like a chorus that never grows old. Whether in corporate prayer, individual worship, or penitent prayer, these phrases have been employed by God’s people ever since God first spoke them to Moses on a desert mountain. (See Numbers 14:18, Nehemiah 9:17, Psalm 86:15, Psalm 103:8, Psalm 145:8, Joel 2:13, and Jonah 4:2. And that’s just for starters.)

In the New Testament, this familiar refrain seems to fade. Oh, there are whispers of it in 2 Corinthians 3 and 4, which we’ll explore in my next post. But it resonates fully and clearly in just one passage: John 1:14, 17-18.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth . . . For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. But the only begotten Son, who is at the Father’s side, has declared Him.  

Why are God’s seven words all but absent from the New Testament? Because they are embodied – literally – in the body and life of His Son. Jesus shows up: God’s spoken self-portrait wearing human skin. Grace and truth – used together, as they are here (twice!) – are resounding echoes of the word used in our Exodus passage (twice!): hesed, the persistent covenant love and faithfulness of God. Jesus’ life, from manger to cross and beyond, sings that same precious lyric of God’s glory.

Jesus Christ is God’s goodness, His glory, personified. He is compassion, grace, longsuffering, covenant love and faithfulness, mercy, forgiveness. That awesome revelation made on Mount Sinai to Moses more than 3,000 years ago is now a Person, who calls us to trust Him, follow Him, and live out His life in us, as we behold God’s glory in His face (2 Corinthians 4:6).

So, what does this mean for your life and mine? Stay tuned: That’s the topic of my next post.

(*NOTE – For the purposes of this meditation, I’ve omitted Exodus 34:7b, which continues God’s self-description: “by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation.” This phrase is repeated in Exodus 20:5-6 with the qualifying phrase, “of those who hate (or reject) me.” God is the Judge of those individuals who are not part of His covenant family. Because I’m discussing God’s character as it pertains to believers, I have purposely left out this portion of the passage.)

If you’re hungry for more: read this

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What I Remember

"Can a mother forget her nursing child?

Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?

But even if she would forget that child, I would not forget you!

See, I have carved your name on the palms of my hands.

(God, in Isaiah 49:15-16a)

In high school, my friend Glen (who stood in awe of my prodigious memory for detail) commended my ability with this pronouncement: “Mind like a Steel TRAP!”

In college, my roommate Sondra wore a T-shirt with a pixilated cartoon of a 30-something woman lamenting to herself: “I can’t believe I forgot to have children!” We roared over the idea of overlooking something so monumental.  

In my 30s and early 40s, I became multi-tasker extraordinaire (this is required of all moms, right?): organizing field trips, leading women’s meetings, keeping up with friends and family, homeschooling, and (obviously) parenting and “wife”-ing, cooking and cleaning. (Ummm, the cleaning, maybe not so much. But that was due to intentional neglect, not early dementia.)

Now I’m in my early 50s. I’m convinced Glen would hide his head in shame. I can relate to that spacy girl on the T-shirt. And when I attempt to juggle more than a few things, I inevitably drop and break a couple of them. Here’s the evidence:

I forgot to grocery shop. Last week, the boys cried out, “Mom! We need food TODAY! You can see the back of the fridge!!” This is a major calamity for them. And for the life of me, I couldn’t conjure up what on earth I was supposed to buy to fill that fridge.  When I asked what they wanted me to buy, they looked stunned, and a little terrified. “But Mom,” they protested,” you always know what to buy for us. Right, Mom?” My poor starving children. 

I forgot to make dinner for my family one night last week. It just didn’t occur to me. Somehow, they survived, if only by scraping from the (empty) fridge whatever leftovers they could find.

I forgot about Ben’s school books. When I finally remembered to look for the texts he needed to read before classes start, they were nowhere to be found. I couldn’t even recall if I’d loaned them out, or if they’d been borrowed in the first place and we’d already returned them. (There are likely other options regarding their whereabouts, but they have not yet occurred to me.)

I forgot the time of a field trip I’d scheduled. So when I posted a “helpful“ reminder to those participating, I posted the wrong time! Thankfully, only two families took me at my last-minute word and showed up three hours early.

I used to tell myself “Well, if I can’t remember it, it must not be that important.” 
I don’t say that any more.

When I look at all I’ve forgotten in the course of a week (I’m assuming I’ve forgotten a lot of things that I don’t remember forgetting, if that makes any sense at all), I just laugh out loud. Perhaps I should take it a little more seriously, but I don’t really see the point. I haven’t seriously harmed anyone (to my knowledge) unless you count the repeated wounds to my pride.

Years ago, I thought I had to keep every duck in its proper row, so that life would run smoothly. The women I most admired did just that, and I always imagined that my house and family and life should look more like theirs anyways. But I’ve learned in the past decade that my life has a lot of random ducks flying and splashing and swimming every which way but loose. And that I have far less control over all the noise and commotion than I once believed I did. That’s okay with me; I know more completely that God's in charge of each and every duck, and that He has never once dropped anything while juggling.

Anyways, I’m convinced I really do remember the important stuff:

. . . Talking and laughing with my sons, enjoying their company

. . . Appreciating my husband, even on days when I’m in no mood to do so   

. . . To watch for and celebrate God’s fingerprints in the ordinary and extraordinary moments, the best times and the worst times of life  

. . . To set up my percolator the night before, so I don't have to think in the morning 

. . . The blessing of wise friends who are also fun

. . . Hundreds of one-of-a-kind memories from my sons’ childhoods

. . . My favorite songs and Scripture passages, which point me to Jesus again and again

. . . Our favorite Seinfeld episodes (The Chinese Restaurant!)

. . . To daily inhale the beauty of shadowed mountains and an ever-shifting sky in my own backyard, all made by the God who also made me, and who never forgets a solitary thing.

That steel trap has long since given way to years of rust, but I’m fine with that (although I don’t know that my teenagers are). There’s an ocean of peace in knowing that God is the manager of all those scrambling ducks. Even back in my more coherent days, when I thought I was manager of my life, He was. 

Always has been, always will be, no matter what I remember or forget.

Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
Or ever You had formed the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. (Psalm 90:1-2)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

My Favorite Hiding Place

I loved playing hide-and-seek as a child. Especially when we had friends over: they didn’t know about my best hiding spots! The empty shelf waaay in the back of the closet in Dad’s study, behind all the outdated coats and jackets. If I curled up in the fetal position, I fit perfectly.

Or the upstairs crawlspace, with the secret door behind my sister’s bed, which led like a tunnel into the study.

Or the Narnia-like wardrobe in the back corner of the basement, colossal enough to imagine it really could transport you into other worlds, complete with friendly fauns and white witches.

As I hit my teens, the game of hide-and-seek lost its thrill, but I still had a knack for finding good hiding spots. I don’t mean dim crawlspaces and oversized closets.

If the human race is divided into two categories - those who fight and those who take flight - then my temperament definitely puts me in the latter. When conflict rears its head, it takes every last nerve I have to step forward, instead of scanning the horizon for someplace to hide until the coast is clear.

I’ve learned the tricks to hiding in plain sight: in a good book, in silence, in Zumba class, in turning off my phone. Of course, reading and exercise are good things! Except when I use them to escape what I don’t want to feel or do or face.

There are things that God has clearly told me to flee: sexual immorality, idolatry, greed, youthful lusts (see 1 Cor. 6:18, 1 Cor. 10:14, 1 Tim. 6:9-11, 2 Tim. 2:22). Not once does He tell me to flee challenging circumstances, trying relationships, frustrating conversations, my own stressful thoughts and emotions.

As God has gently revealed my tendency toward this flight reaction, He has also graciously shown me something surprising in His Word: He has already provided a hiding place for me, safer and more certain than any I could ever discover myself. 

He is my hiding place.

He is: 

… a shield surrounding me. ~ Psalm 5:12 

… my rock/fortress/defender, saving me from my enemies. ~ Psalm 18:1-3, 31:3, 62:6-7 

… my defense and refuge. ~ Psalm 59:16-17

… my rescuer. When I’m in trouble, he hides me in Himself. ~ Psalm 27:5

… my hiding place and protector. ~ Psalm 32:7

… like a mother bird, sheltering me close beneath her wing.  ~ Psalm 57:1 61:4

In fact, “[my] life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

So when that flight instinct kicks in? 

I turn to God, the most secure, most comforting, best hiding place that I have ever known. Whatever hard conversation or person or event I face, I know that I do so from beneath His sheltering wing, from behind His shield which surrounds me, from within the strong refuge of God Himself.

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield...

(from Psalm 91)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Portrait of a Perfect Father

As we approach Father's Day, many do so with heavy hearts and mixed emotions. If our fathers have disappointed us, abandoned us, mistreated us, or left us through death: what a gift to know that we have a Perfect Father, who has never and will never disappoint, abandon, mistreat or leave us! And if our fathers have done their best and we couldn't wish for any better - even then: what a gift to know God as the Father who loves us infinitely, without fail.

Our Perfect Father...
...loves His children.
Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1)
As a father has compassion upon his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. (Psalm 103:13)
...knows and understands His children.

O Lord, You have searched me and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar; You comprehend my path and are acquainted with all my ways... (Psalm 139:1-3)

...enjoys His children.
“The Lord your God is in your midst, the Mighty One, who saves; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you with His love; He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17) responsive to His children.
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion... How gracious He will be when you cry for help! As soon as He hears, He will answer you. (Isaiah 30:18-19)
...guides and teaches His children.
The Lord delights in the way of the man whose steps He has made firm. Though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His right hand. (Psalm 37:23-24)
He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry  them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young. (Isaiah 40:11)
...protects His children.  
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God...” (Isaiah 43:1-3)
...comforts His children.
The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. (Psalm 34:18)
...corrects His children.
Do not be discouraged when you are corrected by Him, for whom the Lord loves He disciplines... For our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best, but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. (Hebrews 12: 5-6 & 10) generous with His children.
The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them. (Psalm 145:17-19)
How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures. (Psalm 36:7-9)
...provides for His children.
And my God shall meet all your need according to His riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
...prepares a future for His children.
“In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. .. I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:2-3)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Maturing into Dependence

I marveled as I watched my eldest, robed in blue, swagger up to the platform: How on earth did this miracle baby grow into a 6-foot, 18-year-old young man, ready to grab the world by its tail and head to college? Is he really ready to handle his own finances, manage his life, move forward into adulthood - without me?!

I’m not whining, really! If Matthew still needed me to take care of him, if he couldn’t function without his mom and dad, if he felt too ill-equipped and insecure to venture beyond his childhood home, then we would not have done our job. He is ready to navigate the challenges of life with discernment –to live out his unique God-given calling, relying on His wisdom, and knowing when to seek wisdom from teachers, friends, mentors (and yes, hopefully, sometimes, even us!).

In short, maturity for a young man leaving home is, at least in part, related to growing in independence from his parents.

So, what is maturity in God’s dictionary?

I know how I would have answered 10 years ago:
Doing more “right things” and fewer “wrong things”
Not being tempted any more
Emotional stability, no matter my circumstances
Having a more upbeat, extroverted personality
Serving more, reading the Bible more, praying more, _______ more (fill in the blank!)

But that’s not it at all, I know now. Maturity is less about the external measurements we might take of ourselves or others; it’s more about knowing Jesus deeply, growing in dependence upon Him more, and upon myself and others less. Of course, this will be reflected in the externals: behavior, attitude, demeanor. But those externals are not the measure of maturity in Christ. My relationship with Him and dependence upon Him are.

Here are a few depictions of maturity from God’s Word:

Being filled with Jesus, so that we are not swayed by the variety of ideas and false teachings that assault us every day. Maturity means our words are characterized by truth and love. (Ephesians 4:13-15)
Trusting that the God who called you to Himself is always at work in you, maturing you from your first day to your final one on earth. (Philippians 1:6)

An active dependence upon God, who works in us, in our desires and choices for His glory. (Philippians 2:13)

Seeing the bigger picture when our faith is tested by suffering. Maturity means choosing to continue to trust God in spite of what we see, enduring through the hard times as well as the easier days. (James 1:2-4)

Walking steadily in faith and growing closer to Jesus, and choosing to thank God daily along the way. (Colossians 2:6-7)

Exercising faith in Christ in your daily life, which causes faith to grow strong, and multiplies love for others (2 Thessalonians 1:3)

In short, spiritual maturity is related to growing in dependence upon Jesus.

Jesus Himself (undeniably the most spiritually mature person who ever lived!) depended upon the Father in this way. In John 5: 19 & 30, He said:

 “I assure you: The Son is not able to do anything on His own, but only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son also does these things in the same way . . . I can do nothing on My own. I judge only as I hear, and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (See also John 6:38, 12:49-50, 14:10, 17:4)

Matthew, my firstborn, even as you grow into independence from your earthly mom and dad, may you grow in dependence upon your Truest Father, who will always be with you (and whose Spirit lives within you) wherever you go.

May you continue to grow: in responsibility, in love and compassion toward others, in your skills and abilities, in problem-solving, in facing the challenges that lie ahead. And may you grow in Christ: in trusting Him more and more in those responsibilities, in the love you share with others, in your wisdom and abilities as you navigate your life with an ever-deepening dependence upon Him.