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The One Thing

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I haven’t written much lately, and it’s not because of a lack of desire. It’s not because of a lack of time (most days). It’s not even an issue of writing material.

I think it’s because I am a Martha

I approach life with a sense of duty, purpose, and a to-do list. I struggle to rest if tasks are left incomplete. I work with pride both in my giftings and in the fact that I’m sure others don’t have nearly as much on their plates as I do. My haughty heart can get pretty ugly.

The thing is – writing is a work of rest. It may not be the same for all writers, but I need a quiet mind and a still soul to process my words before they ever arrive on the computer screen. This is hard for a Martha like me. The dishes that need to be washed and dried, the dog that needs a bath, and the bread that needs to be baked for the church dinner two days from now, demand all my brainpower. This afternoon, my husband literally took the sponge out of my hand and forced me out the door reminding me that every extra chore I completed was eating into my writing time.

I desperately want to be a Mary.

I want to approach life with a sense of reverence and awe at the hand of God. I want to take respite in His sufficiency even if the to-do list is missing some checks. I want to humbly listen to the voice of the Master, soaking in His wisdom and the hope of His sacrifice for me.

Hard work and faithful service is a good thing. Jesus’ followers ought to be marked by a desire to be diligent in the roles to which we are assigned. We are called to be living sacrifices. Our churches and homes would not function without the hands-on effort of the Marthas.  Those who tend to be laid-back or shy can even learn valuable lessons from the bold and assertive members of the body.

A Martha may simply have her priorities mixed up which leads to inevitable burnout and bitterness. Let me explain from an example in the Old Testament.

After the rebuilding of the wall in Jerusalem, Nehemiah and the Levites spent time reading and teaching the law to the Jews who had returned from exile. After hearing and understanding their grave sin, they mourned, ripping their clothes and covering themselves in dust. After their confession, the leaders encouraged them to “Stand up and bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting.” What follows in Nehemiah 9, is a beautiful song, tracing God’s faithfulness to his people in spite of their failures over and over again. The next chapter, outlines the continued response of gratefulness from these rescued Jews. They committed their lives, finances, and resources to the care of their refocused, God-centered culture and the recently rebuilt Temple.

Isn’t it interesting that Nehemiah didn’t return to Jerusalem and immediately set up a Temple-serving schedule. He didn’t pass the offering plate or lecture those whose children had married pagan spouses. The people’s work and sacrificial living was fueled by repentance and worship after spending time with God’s Word.

Marthas (like me) have the tendency to rush to the final step. We serve and give from an empty well because duty trumps worship. The beauty of Mary’s heart though is her desire to know Jesus first. She was hearing the Word from the Word himself. Who would pass that up? The service of Martha was tiring and frustrating because she didn’t have the humility of Mary first.

This is more important than ever as I close out our homeschool year and take on some more duties at church again. I must prioritize God’s Word. I must allow the Holy Spirit to convict my soul leading me to repentance and then worship. The effort I put into all the obligations must be fueled by these heart attitudes first. It is only then that I can experience true rest even in a busy schedule.

Furniture will gather more dust. More church emails will need to be sent. One more meal will need to be prepared. But only one thing will last. Only one Person will empower me, satisfy me, and love me. May my Martha heart learn from Mary and choose the One thing that will never be taken away.

Scavenger Hunts and How Can It Be?

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It sounded like a great idea at first. We could purchase the $1 scavenger hunt map, find the interesting memorabilia displayed in the two small museums, and become experts of the history of Winter Garden, Florida. It would be a chance for family bonding and count as an educational outing for our homeschool year.

It wasn’t that simple.

The twelve treasures were located in small boxes both inside and outside the historic buildings across the downtown. Each required reading a few paragraphs of historical information, answering a question based on the reading, and stamping the map with unique labels. I mapped the locations with the gps coordinates provided and dragged the family on a wild goose chase around the city. Although my inlaws had some knowledge of Winter Garden’s history, many of the locations were almost impossible to find or missing key elements like the stamp for our map. What should have been a fifteen to twenty minute search around a museum, turned into a couple hour process.

As I waited for the waitress at the local pizza shop to find the treasure box hiding behind the menus on the hostess stand, it hit me that I was holding the maps. I had been writing in the difficult answers. And there was not a child to be found. They had found a sidewalk bench and were waiting somewhat patiently for me to finish the work.

To complete the task, we headed back to the main museum to turn in our maps in exchange for a unique Winter Garden Historical Society patch. The museum guide congratulated my three children on a job well done as he took the maps with my work written all over them.

My work had earned their reward.

As I stood outside on that gorgeous December day, I was struck with the visual illustration I had unintentionally acted out with my family.

 

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

2 Timothy 1:8-9

His work is my reward!

The task was insurmountable. Generations of humans had tried and failed. The work was complete and perfect. He “redeemed the curse of the law” and tasted the sting of death. He was victorious.

Instead of a scavenger hunt map, I turn in His record of righteousness and instead of a patch, I receive rescue from my sin and everlasting life.

As Charles Wesley so beautifully put it hundreds of years ago…

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

May my daily duties and tasks be done today with the realization that I am walking in victory through Jesus. May the amazement of His unconditional love for me be the motivation to love and serve others in my path today! How can it be?

The Work of Rest

“Turn off your phone tomorrow. Spend time with your family. It’s your day off, take advantage of the chance to rest,” she said.

My dear friend seemed to look right through my “I’m fine” mask as she diagnosed my exhausted state. It’s been this way for months now. The racing schedule, the too-short nights, the never-ending needs leave me craving rest. I thought I was hiding it well, until that conversation a few nights ago. My throat tightened as the suppressed emotions made a hasty appearance.

“I am tired,” I admitted and her hug caused the tears to come. She had noticed for a while, and firmly reminded me again to unplug – to rest. As I drove home, I thought about the other sweet friend who has sent me several encouraging cards and texts lately, the anonymous gift that was left at the church for me, and the letter of gratefulness from a church member to our whole family for the time we invest in them. Maybe our burnout isn’t so invisible.

We did turn off our phones and tablets that Monday. We enjoyed a day free from texts and email notifications. We sang kids’ songs in the van as we headed to pick up church supplies and stuffed ourselves at our favorite Chinese buffet. It was a tiny step forward in the refueling process.

As I put away the groceries that evening though, I was frustrated. Why did I still feel so tired? I had taken my friend’s advice. We had unplugged for at least twelve hours! Why was my heart still heavy with the burdens of the upcoming week? Why did I dread the next homeschooling day looming on the horizon? Wasn’t I supposed to feel light and refreshed after our family day?

I think I’m learning a difficult truth.

Rest is work. 

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

More specifically, rest is a gospel work.

Yes, my weekly calendar is packed with both expected and unexpected duties. Children alone can turn my well-laid plans on their heads in a moment. I desire to serve my husband well. I want to meet the needs of my church family in a timely manner. I want to be a productive member of my community.

I fear, though, that even if all of those responsibilities were miraculously fulfilled, I would still suffer from a unsettled heart. My lack of rest doesn’t ultimately stem from a busy life, but from a misplaced hope.

I have forgotten my neediness. I have been deceived by pride. I have convinced myself of my own strength when I have none.

So, how do I come to Jesus with my unrest? How do I burden myself with His easy yoke, not my bulky one? John Bunyan describes this passage in Matthew like this:

“This coming to Christ is a running to him, a flying to him from the wrath to come. When all refuge fails, and a man is made to see that there is nothing left in him but sin, death, and damnation, unless he flies to Christ for life; then he flies, and not until then. There is a sense of absolute need of Jesus Christ:……….He who truly comes, must forsake all, cast all behind his back and cling to Christ alone.”

I haven’t been flying to Christ. I have been trudging to the cross, all the while convincing myself that I don’t really need to be there. I have forgotten that that good news of Jesus is only good news when I am convinced of the bad news. My uneasy, tired existence ultimately reflects the root of sinful self-dependence incurable by even the longest night’s sleep. No wonder I have been exhausted lately.

Maybe you’re overly tired too. I know a nap and a kid-free day seems like the best solution, but it may only be a short term one. Perhaps we can dig a little deeper together by confessing our tendency for self-reliance and disregard for the work Christ has already finished for us. I am convinced that it is possible to live a life of rest even on the craziest of weeks. It will take work, but not the human effort kind. The more we work to admit our weakness, the more the Spirit will work in our souls offering His incomparable rest.

“It is the grace of the new covenant, the grace of all graces, which comforts the soul when it is disturbed. The same love that brings you everlasting life will also give you daily bread.”

-Richard Sibbes

Rest well, my friends.

 

Why every mom should study Revelation

This past summer, I finished up the first half of a study in the book on Exodus, and while I plan to finish the second half eventually, I felt compelled to skip to the last book of the Bible, Revelation. Because so many controversies and questions surround those final chapters of Scripture, I was hesitant to dig in. What if I didn’t understand the apocalyptic language? Would it be a waste of my time? Maybe I should just stick to more approachable books!

I couldn’t shake the fact that it would be a great time to study the coming judgment with Egypt’s plagues fresh in my mind so I began by listening to the audio version on my phone as I cooked and cleaned around house. I found myself stopping in the middle of my chores, captivated by the descriptive picture John paints about the future of our world. I was thrilled to find that my husband owned a copy of Dr. James Hamilton’s commentary on Revelation.  I could use it to clarify some of the verses that still stumped me.

At the time I am writing this, I am a bit more than half way through the book and have been struck over and over again by beautiful gospel themes that have brought a new purpose to my living. I am convinced that every busy mom needs to study Revelation.

Here’s why:

1. Revelation offers a bigger perspective on mundane concerns.

Meal prep, laundry, kindergarten reading homework – a mom’s day-to-day life is full to the brim with the mundane. Repetitive tasks can make the most resilient of mothers want to lose her mind. Worries about money, educational choices, and car repairs run through our distracted minds all day long. Revelation offers a bigger view. It’s impossible to read about trumpets, seven headed dragons, and eternal rejoicing without seeing that God is coordinating something much greater than my little daily problems.

2. Revelation reminds us that the mundane matters.

God is the master story weaver. Nothing escapes His attention or care. This is true even when we label our lives as “boring” or “unimportant.” Think of it this way. Our call as humans is to be image bearers of our God. This has been true ever since the Garden of Eden. While we fail often at reflecting His glory, goodness, and love, the daily responsibilities we accomplish bring organization to an otherwise chaotic world. In that, we are bearing God’s image just as he created order out of nothing in the beginning.

Our mundane duties also have a future purpose. Courtney Reissig explains it this way in her book, Glory in the Ordinary.

“Our work is preparing us to rule and reign with Christ in a new earth, where the curse is gone, and we will work for God’s glory, always.”

I might scrub the dirty skillet little harder or complain a bit less about the smelly trash when I think about the eternal objective of my work. What I practice now will be used forever!
It’s not just our work that matters, however. He is using the interactions, struggles, and joys I experience each day to further the reach of His kingdom. In other words, my story is combined with your story to complete His story.

3. Revelation gives us a renewed sense of Jesus’ glory and power.

A thousand things demand our attention during a twenty-four hour period. It can be hard to know which task or person should receive the focus of our limited time and energy. I reach the end of most days exhausted and uninspired, and I’m sure you can relate. Before long, our obedience is fueled by guilt and duty, and we find ourselves mindlessly plugging away with no passion or excitement. We turn to our phones or computers for comfort and encouragement, but instead find comparison and conflict.

Revelation begins with a description of Jesus in chapter 1. John says He was clothed in a long robe with a golden sash around his chest. He had white hair and eyes like fire. His feet were like “burnished bronze” and his voice roared like many waters. Can you imagine seeing your Savior like this? John immediately fell at Jesus’ feet at the sight of His glory. His power is overwhelming and His love is immeasurable, yet the next words recorded are, “Fear not!”

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross, we do not have to fear the judgment of a holy God. Because Jesus overcame our slavery to sin, we can obey the call to faithful living in these last days. James Hamilton describes this passage,

“The incomparable glory of the risen Christ motivates John’s audience to heed what John has been commissioned to write. The matchless splendor of Heaven’s King attracts the attention and compels the obedience of the churches John addresses. The risen Christ in glory summons forth obedience from his churches.”

The book of Revelation causes us to wake up from the apathy of mindless Christianity. It renews our hope in an ultimate victory against Satan and his followers. It comforts us in the midst of deep suffering, and gives a greater calling to pursue.

We can rejoice and obey on even the most difficult days of motherhood because of the words proclaimed in Revelation 11:15:

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

Amen.

Peeling Wallpaper and Vulnerability

It was a whirlwind thirty-six hours.

My friend, Katie, and I drove from the Pennsylvania mountains to the quaint towns of New England to visit a mutual friend for the day. Typical of most close friendships, we never ran out of words the entire time. We ate pizza and salads and smoothies, giggled at the massage chairs during our pedicures, and shared the deeper struggles of our hearts as mamas and wives late into the night.

We couldn’t visit New Hampshire without experiencing some of the history of our country. We spent several hours exploring Strawbery Banke, an outdoor living museum of centuries-old homes and gardens. It was like stepping back into the 1700’s as we peeked into bedrooms and outhouses. We wondered what it would have been like to cook over an open fire in the kitchen. We were shocked to see a co-sleeping bassinet with very little difference to today’s cribs. We imagined the lives of these first citizens of our nation.

Near the end of our visit we entered a home built in the early 18th century. From the outside it looked like the other refurbished homes we had already explored. On the inside, however, it was completely different. The museum had purposely left it almost completely untouched.

Peeling layers of paint, a half a dozen wallpaper patterns, and exposed beams told a fascinating story. The smell of age made it difficult to fully breathe. We gripped the shaky stair rail and spent only a few moments in the creaky upstairs before we slowly made our descent.

The lack of renovations gave an intriguing narrative of this home. Births and deaths. Laughter and tears. Arguments and harmony. Beautiful upgrades and bad design choices. Hope and fear. The walls had seen it all.

I sensed a vulnerability in this home absent in the other renewed structures around it and yet it was my favorite of all that we explored that day.

I haven’t been able to shake the parallel between that old house and my tendency to shine myself up in order to impress. Even my “vulnerability” can be carefully curated to give the impression of openness, while holding back the ugliest parts of my heart.

Can I say something blunt? I think true openness is virtually impossible online. It is too easy to pick and choose the sins we confess. It is too easy to filter our mess. We love to #keepitreal while downplaying the damaging effects of our brokenness.

Is there someone in your life who regularly sees and shares the ugly, peeling parts of your heart? Is there a safe person who has proven her trustworthiness over time? Do you share your shortcomings to a friend who allows you to vent, but will eventually point your heart back to the truest Friend of all?

The Jesus-following life was not designed to be led in isolation or behind shiny masks. Galatians 6 illustrates the tension and balance between personal accountability and community support.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

We are multifaceted people. We process thousands of emotions each day. We carry dozen of burdens as we navigate this broken world. We are formed by stories and scars. We will each be held accountable for our sins and our response to the gospel of Jesus.
However, community is vital to our growth too! We can truly answer the call to bear each others burdens only when we share the ripped wallpaper and broken beams of our heart. Painting a shiny veneer over our true struggles only looks good for a time.

We fulfill our calling to holiness by returning over and over to the accomplishments of Jesus and pointing our friends in that direction too. Vulnerability for vulnerability’s sake is worthless. Openness without gospel-shaped hope is ineffective and will never bring lasting change.

Transparency allows us to look beyond the ugly and see the beautiful tapestry God is weaving with the thread of His grace and we look forward to the day when His ultimate Restoration is finally complete!

Slow Growing

On the first Saturday of July, our town will host the annual 4th of July celebration. We have a unique advantage because the parade progresses down Main Street – directly in front of our house. Traditionally, we’ll invite our friends and their lawn chairs over to collect candy and clap along with the Rinky-Dink Dancers from the next town over.
Once the parade is finished, we’ll head to the park across the street to sample deep-fried oreos, maple cotton candy, live local music and handmade crafts. The day will finish with fireworks over the Tioga River which we can watch from our front porch.

There is a certain amount of comfort in the repetition of celebratory events. Another year is passed, yet the people, the love, and the home remain the same.

On the other hand, all the years can run together.  Without pictures to see how old the kids were or even how many we currently had, I can’t rehearse specific details of each year.  There was the scorching year that the fire trucks stopped every few feet to spray the kids with their giant hoses. I honestly can’t remember if that was 4 or 5 years ago. Maybe it was even more!

The daily monotony in the home can feel very similar. The days run together with another set of PB&J’s made, more teeth brushed, and one more floor swept. The family photos on the wall mark a moment somewhere between the birth of that child and the present. I’m not always sure how much time has passed since that marker in time.

The cycle feels like a hamster wheel or one maybe one of those really bad slow motion dreams. Each day includes a lot of work, but the progress forward is little to none.

My sister recently saw a picture of my youngest and remarked at how old she looked. Until then, I was blinded to the fact that she has indeed grown taller and is losing her toddler features.

A few weeks ago, a friend commented on the polite response of my son when they interacted before church. It blessed my heart and opened my eyes to the slow, barely visible improvements in his behavior.

The most encouraging thought of all – at this time last year, my baby girl was still in diapers!

My own life reflects the growth that can’t be seen on a daily basis. Sanctification is slow, hard, and monotonous. I feel no significant change when I wake up from one day to the next. I struggle with the same besetting sins and am reminded of the same spots of weakness. My spiritual life is more similar to the unhurried growth of an oak tree than the rapid sprouting of our backyard grass. It’s barely visible most days.

“The growth of trees and plants takes place so slowly that it is not easily seen. Daily we notice little change. But, in course of time, we see that a great change has taken place. So it is with grace. Sanctification is a progressive, lifelong work (Prov 4:18). It is an amazing work of God’s grace and it is a work to be prayed for (Rom 8:27).”
(John Owen – The Holy Spirit, 108-109)

As time gradually passes, the Shepherd of my soul stays the same. It is His work, not mine that will ultimately conform me to His Son. I can take comfort in the repetition of habits (confession, prayer, Bible study, etc….) that change me even when I don’t see it immediately. I can change only because He is constant.

We have a little over a month until school starts up again. I plan to use that less structured time for investing in growth in grace even if I can’t see the results until years later. I will be finishing my study of Exodus, taking some unplanned naps, travelling with my family, and enjoying Fourth of July fireworks, of course.


I will also be working behind the scenes on some writing and speaking projects for the Fall. Things may not be extremely active here until those deadlines have passed. But I’d love to keep in contact via Instagram and the Kitchen Table Newsletter.

 

When the World Doesn’t Need Your Voice

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Social media is loud.

Google says, “Every second, on average, around 6,000 tweets are tweeted on Twitter, which corresponds to over 350,000 tweets sent per minute, 500 million tweets per day and around 200 billion tweets per year.”

Let those numbers sink in for a second. It’s no wonder that on some days posting on social media feels like standing in the corner of a crowded party yelling at the top of my lungs for someone to pay attention to me.

Social media is the place to be. Churches and Christian organizations have realized that Facebook posts and YouTube videos are incredibly effective in sharing the gospel message. This post from almost four years ago describes the incredible benefit of smartphones and social media in the spreading of Scripture. The growing platforms of pastors and Bible teachers prove that the Holy Spirit is indeed using online ministry for God’s glory.

 

Could it be, however, that social media has encouraged laziness in our gospel witness? Have we forgotten the command to “go into all the world” and instead expect the world to come to our website or fan page? I have been convicted of this very thing recently.

Matthew 9 records the words of Jesus to his disciples,
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

We have each been given a harvest field in which to labor. Mine happens to look like a tiny town in the Pennsylvania mountains. It includes a 177 year old church in an even smaller community and a toddler who has yet to give her life to Christ. It might also occasionally include a waitress or gas station attendant as I travel to visit family and friends (also included in that harvest field). My crop looks different and may yield different God-ordained results than yours, but we are each given the stewardship of time and talents to work the ground of our harvest field.

My heart has been grieved for the lack of time I spend in prayer for my lost extended family. We live miles apart and there is the very real likelihood that I will never interact with them in person again, but I can beg God to send a laborer to their field. I can ask the Spirit to pursue their lost hearts in a way that I will never be able to through an Instagram post.

The problem is that I too often spend time sowing and attempting to reap in fields that are not mine. While some may be called to speak to gigantic audiences, most of us will influence much smaller groups. I can spend huge amounts of time crafting the perfect tweet or advertising my latest blog post for those who will scroll right past.

Instead of using social media as a tool for ministry, I have turned it into a buffer to keep me clean from the sweat and tears involved in true gospel labor. I post a status from a godly worldview or pick a timely Bible verse and check the “witnessed today” box in my mental t0-do list of spiritual virtues.

The entire world does not need my singular voice. It will most likely get drowned out by all the noise anyway. Those in my path, in my everyday interactions, those in my harvest field need it desperately though. How are they to hear without someone preaching? (Romans 10:14).

Father, forgive my laziness and apathy toward those who are facing an eternity without You. Deliver me from the temptation to take the easy route when sharing my faith. Help me to offer my life, not just my tweets, for the furtherance of the good news as Jesus laid down His life for me. 

“If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”
– Charles Spurgeon

Impossible Joy

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Sing it with me!

“I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart! Where?”

“The joy of the Lord is my strength!!” Clap Clap

“This is the day! This is the day that the Lord has made! I will rejoice and be glad in it!”

Can you hear the bouncy tunes in your mind? Do they conjure up memories of Sunday School days gone by? Do they remind you of a simpler, easier, happier time of your life?

It’s hard to hum these songs when your heart is heavy with loss. Singing about joy seems impossible when misery is your closest companion. How do you rejoice in a day that is filled with monotony and stress?

Joy? Cheer? Delight? Surely these proclamations must only be for children or those adults with extremely easy (and wealthy) lives. Yet we can’t escape the extremely straightforward commands in Scripture to rejoice and to do it always! (Phil. 4:4)

Could it be that joy is more than a reaction to the circumstances surrounding us on a given day or season? Could it be that joy might be an act of faith?

A simple online search returns dozens of verses including the seemingly contradictory words: joy and suffering. At first glance, it makes no sense. If my son cuts his finger and runs to me, bleeding, I offer comfort and a bandaid. I don’t encourage him to rejoice in his pain – to realize that something good will come from the slice in his thumb.

We can’t overlook the fact, however, that in this silly illustration, my son ran to me. His faith in my mothering skills gave him the confidence to give me his problem and to let me care for him. His heart found joy in the capability of his mother.

The bridge between suffering and rejoicing has to be faith. Our joy remains constant, not because of what each day holds, but because of our trust in the One who holds our days.

The joy of the Lord is my strength. Faith in His sovereignty, His holiness, His power, His compassion – faith in His character not mine – will result in a joy that testifies to those around me that I trust in something bigger than my circumstances.

True joy without faith in the Giver of everything good is virtually impossible.

I am both convicted and comforted by the words of the Puritan minister, Samuel Ward in Sermons,

Live by faith. Rejoice through faith in the Lord. It is the neglect of this exercise that will allow discouragement to erupt, and Satan to interrupt your happiness and spiritual cheerfulness. It will cast you in to the dumps and into mourning……Keep your faith, and it will keep your joy…..Show me your faith by your joy. Use your faith, and have joy; increase your faith and increase your joy.

 

What Do You Believe?

It was a proud parent moment.

Our oldest recently competed in a Bible quizzing competition and finished with a perfect score. Some may say that it seems fitting for the pastor’s kid to win, but I saw the time he spent studying and reviewing the references and definitions. His victory had more to do with his hard work than genetics.

The danger of such Bible clubs and competitions is the temptation to memorize Scripture simply for the reward.  The beautifully inspired verses become a string of words learned in a particular order. The child knows the Book but not the Author.

It’s so incredibly important that we as parents and teachers take the extra time to explain the meaning and context behind the passages alongside memorization. Show them Jesus before moving on to the next section to master. We may be surprised at the Spirit’s conviction and encouragement in our own souls as well.

The Christian walk does require discipline, however. Giving our kids the opportunity to hide God’s Word in their sponge-like minds and tender hearts can stock their spiritual arsenal for the battles that are sure to come.

During my teen years, I participated in an intricate system our youth pastor designed for accountability in spiritual disciplines. We would record our points each week for Scripture memorization, devotions, visitation and outreach, and the occasional “bonus” activity in exchange for a variety of rewards. I and my closest friends were top earners each week leading our respective teams to victory. In my mind, reading my Bible or chatting with senior citizens on a Sunday afternoon seemed like a perfect exchange for 500 points and a pizza party the next Wednesday.

Now that I’m twenty years down the road, I have a problem with this system. There are definitely rewards for spiritual habits, but they don’t come in the form of candy bars or amusement parks. Without meaning to my youth pastor was creating a shortsightedness in his teens. The return on my spiritual investment might not come until I am forced to rely on His Word in a deep valley or unexpected storm. And when the prize does come, it will be in the form of more firmly rooted faith, unexplainable joy, or a confirmed identity.

This kind of spiritual exercise is not just for those in Bible club and youth groups though. We live in an increasingly dark culture yet our default is often to blend in by being gray — not quite dark, but not completely light either. We flounder when trials come because we have not invested in our foundation during the calm seasons. We live as pseudo-spiritual people, having the right lingo and right lifestyle, but not truly knowing the God we supposedly serve.

My husband has recently started a new sermon series entitled, “We Believe.” His underlying theme is this – what we believe will always affect our everyday living. Our love for our Savior grows in direct proportion to the time spent getting to know Him through His Word. Our love for others grows in direct proportion to our love for Jesus. It’s a constant cycle of progress and growth until we reach our final home.

Ironically, as I write this morning, I am listening to conversations of those around me at our local coffee shop. Two mommies parent a little toddler girl and another couple is discussing our new President and his controversial decisions. Their views are affecting their living. If I were sitting at the table with them, would I be able to confidently share my beliefs? Would I be able to communicate the pursuing love of of heavenly Father? Would I be able to clearly share the Book that informs my conclusions? Would I be able to support it all with a life that reflects my convictions?

May we know and memorize the Bible, not for ribbons and medals, but for the prize of Jesus himself and may our knowledge translate into lives that proclaim the unfathomable love of our all-powerful God.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it  and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
II Timothy 3:14-15


I often think I’m doing well at living what I believe. This article from a Christian-turned-atheist challenges that conclusion:

Do Christians Actually Believe What They Say They Believe?

Radical Humility: Thoughts on Biblical Submission

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A few weeks ago, my husband came to the end of chapter 3 in his sermon series on Colossians. As he prepared to preach on the gospel in our relationships, he asked me to say a few words to the ladies of our church about verse 18.

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

My initial reaction was not one of a submissive heart. I refused, feeling intimidated by speaking in front of a full auditorium on such a gigantic subject.

Eventually, I agreed to speak to our ladies because I believe it’s important for the women in the Church (both married and unmarried) to understand that submission is not a scary or bad thing – instead it is  a beautiful part of God’s plan for relationships.

radical-humility-thoughts-on-biblical-submissionA simple definition of submission can be found at any online dictionary. Most use terms similar to rank under or to obey.

Out of the context of marriage submission happens all the time….corporate settings, government settings, even fast food settings. It’s how relationships work best. If everyone is a leader, no work gets done and there is continual strife.

When we take that definition into the marriage realm, we can see that our role as “submitters” is just that – a role. It does not define us as individuals. It does not make us inferior or “less than.” It doesn’t mean we can’t offer an opinion because we are remaining quiet at all times. Practically, however, our role means that we give in at some point.

When Adam and I just can’t see eye to eye on a decision. When he has given me the time to give my reasons and make my arguments, but still strongly feels that God is leading us in a different direction, what do we do? It is in those times, that I step into my “role.” I submit to his decision (even if it goes terribly wrong).

Side note: if it does go terribly wrong, I should take it humbly. There’s no need to point out that I was right and he was wrong!

As wives we were created as helpers. Genesis 2:20-22 describes it like this:

” So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.”

The only reason Eve could be created to be a helper is because she was like Adam. This is a beautiful thing because she was created with her own personality and talents yet her role was to support Adam in his responsibilities.

In the same way, our role is to help our husband on his mission or calling using our own giftings. That’s why submission can look completely different in different homes. There are no traditional or “godly” submissive jobs. I can’t tell you what it should look like in your marriage. I can be submissive while working on the investments of our family’s money in the same way that I can be submissive while doing the dishes.

Finally, it’s so important to realize that submission is a requirement for all believers.

Scripture is packed with instructions to every Christ-follower, married and unmarried, men and women, adults and children, to live with a spirit of humility and submission to various authorities. In other words, submission is NOT a women’s issue.

That means that I can submit to my husband’s authority knowing that he has the calling to submit as well. In fact, my submission to him is only a tangible expression of my ultimate submission to Christ

That means that those women who are not married or have been widowed must still practice submission even if there is no human authority over them anymore in the form of a father or husband.

Because submission is a universal calling for all believers we are all on equal footing. When I realize this overarching truth, then I can more easily agree with and even thrive with this definition of submission in marriage from John Piper:

“Submission is the defined calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership, and so help to carry it through according to her gifts.”

I could sum up my thoughts on submission in one simple sentence:

My submission in the home is an act of worship and awe at the submission that Christ showed by obeying His Father to Rescue me.