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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.

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.

Headache-free Bible Study for Children

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Most Christ-focused families realize that Bible study is an vital step in spiritual growth. After all, how else can our children know and love the God of the Bible if we don’t take time to read His words?

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There are many helpful books and articles on developing a family worship time – a few minutes a day set aside for Bible-reading, prayer, and singing as a family.  I wouldn’t begin to act like our family has arrived in this area. Unfortunately this special time gets lost in the mix of busy weeks, sick kids, and Netflix binges. So, if you need help in this area, you may want to read, Family Worship, by Donald Whitney. His ideas are simple yet effective in setting up a regular time of corporate (or combined) worship time in your home.

Recently, however, our family has had success in individual Bible study times for our boys. As parents, we want them to grow to desire the corporate aspects of church worship and the sweet fellowship of private study equally. Because things have been going so well for the last month or so, I thought I would share our ideas with you!

*Ages 0-3

These are formative years. Don’t discount reading to them before bed from a children’s Bible such as the Jesus Storybook Bible. While the illustrations initially catch our two year old daughter’s attention, she is starting to learn words such as Jesus and sin. This is so important in her understanding of her sin problem and her Rescuer in the next few years.

*Ages 4-7

When our middle son saw that his older brother was spending time studying the Bible each day, he wanted to follow suit. There is only one problem – he can’t quite read.

Enter: The Bible App for Kids

I hope you already have this app on your phone or tablet. We have had it for a few years, but have only used it while waiting in the doctor’s office or similar situations. Using it strategically as a Bible study tool has been a wonderful help for our pre-reader. This app traces Scripture from Genesis to Revelation highlighting some of the most well-known stories along the way. Each is a separate interactive chapter with animated characters and music to keep the child engaged. At the end of each story, are several questions for comprehension. It has been exciting to see our son’s excitement to get to his “Bible time” each morning after breakfast.

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As he gets older and advances in his reading ability, we will incorporate actual Bible reading and he hears Scripture read aloud in family worship times and during homeschool. Until then, I’m so thankful for this technology that helps bridge the reading gap!

*Older Child (8-12)

Our oldest can read fluently and is starting to grasp more and more theological concepts, and we knew we wanted him to have a strategic plan for Bible study. My husband created a little reading plan for him based on the book of John.

Each morning, armed with his Bible, a notebook, and a pen, he reads the assigned passage (some are meant to be read 2x). Then writes down the meaning of the verses as he understands them and one take-away thought to remember. Because he is still young, however, he needs some guidance in his study. So each evening after his siblings are in bed, he discusses what he studied with either my husband or me. This gives us the chance to check his comprehension and discuss any important theological themes in the reading.

It has been so precious to see him grow in his desire to know God through his Word and his assigned passages are often challenging or convicting to me as we work through them together.

***

All of these Bible study methods are free and simple, and none of them are particularly time-consuming which is important in this season. I have honestly been shocked to see how quickly these ideas have become a habitual part of our morning routine.

What about you? Do you have ideas for Bible-study for young children? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. We’re always game to try something new!

 

On Cat Naps & Good Works

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“Mommy? Mommy? Oh! she’s sleeping!” came the little voice from outside my door before I heard little footsteps retreating down the hallway.

I had just laid down for a cat nap before preparing dinner and was grateful that he had decided to let me rest for a few minutes.

On Cat Naps & Good WorksMy momentary deep sleep was soon interrupted when he returned with a Spiderman blanket for my body and a clean washcloth to cover my feet. Seeing that I was cozy enough, he turned off the lamp on my bedside table and pitter-pattered out of my room once again.

He wasn’t done, however. Now that I was snug under the blanket, he determined that I would need some fresh air from the ceiling fan which he could not reach after several attempts at using my bed as a trampoline.

It was time to recruit help. Soon his older brother joined in Operation Help Mommy Sleep which resulted in bright ceiling lights shining in my sleepy eyes and frustration from the commander who whispered loudly, “You’re going to wake her up!”

The next step of his mission was to drag the oscillating fan from his bedroom into mine and attempt several different outlets before finding one that would work the best for his plan. I was incredibly grateful for the blankets he had so carefully placed over me when he turned the fan to its highest setting several inches away from my face. When goals his were finally accomplished he left the room with a whispered, “Good night, Mommy”

Needless to say, I got up from that rest time feeling far from refreshed. However, even though my eyes still felt heavy, my heart was full. In his four year old way, he had truly attempted to serve me. His gift was far from perfect, but I accepted it with joy (and quite a bit of laughter), because I know his heart toward me.

In quite the same way, the gifts and “sacrifices” I place at God’s feet are never perfect either. They so often come from a heart with misplaced motives and selfish desires. Even the good I do is tainted with sin. However, because of Christ’s perfect life and self-sacrifice, those imperfect acts of service are pleasing to Him.

As the Westminster Confession of Faith says:

“Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in Him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreproveable in God’s sight; but that He, looking upon them in His Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.” (Westminster Confession 16.6).

The fruit of my faith in a perfect Savior, is a sweet offering to God. 

The Liturgical Home {an interview with Allison Burr}

The Liturgical Home {an interview with Allison Burr}

I am so thankful for the many online resources provided by women who hold God and His Word in high regard. Allison Burr is one of those women. I have had the opportunity to follow her ministry for several months and was so excited to hear of her upcoming webinar series for moms like you and me.

I thought it would be great for you as my readers to catch a glimpse of her heart and passion for other women and theology so I contacted her with a few questions.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.

I am a homeschooling mother to 4 children, ages 11 down to 3.  I have been married to Chris for 16 years, and last year we relocated our family from Minneapolis to Franklin, TN, so we are most decidedly northern transplants to the South.

The Lord, in his gracious providence, converted me to Christianity at the age of 27, a mere 6 weeks after I had given birth to my first child.  Mercifully, my husband was subsequently converted a few months later.  Our journey has been difficult and grace-filled, full of beauty and brokenness all at the same time.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. (1)

Recently, I heard a seminary professor use this definition of theology, and I think it is spot-on for this conversation:  “All theology is the application of God’s word, by persons, to all areas of life.  Therefore, all theology must be pastoral.” He went on to say that theology is implicitly personal, comprehensive, intellectual, volitional, and emotional.

Working from that definition, we can see that our knowledge and understanding of God’s word as revealed to us through the Bible is practical; it has meaning and application to every single area of our lives, our minds, our wills, and our emotions.  So we are working out our theology every waking hour of our day.  The way we think about current events, feel towards our husbands, act towards our melting-down children, organize our schedules and homes, create our family culture, discipline our children, communicate with other women, control our wayward emotions — each of these reflects an outworking of what we believe to be true about God, and to whom our allegiance lies.

There is certainly a place for theologians in the pulpit and in the seminary classroom.  But just as critical to the Church (the redeemed people of God) are faithful theologians in the home — i.e., domestic theologians.  In many ways, I think, we have greater influence within the Church.  Our pastors (whom I love and thank God for) have direct access to my family 2 hours a week.  I, on the other hand, have direct access to my children 24 hours a day.  As such, my husband and I are their primary influencers.  What a glorious and humbling role He has given us within the home!

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. (2)

If you walk into any Christian bookstore (which I don’t often recommend), you will find a whole lot of sentimentalism and borderline heresy.  Sadly, much of it is specifically geared towards women. Somehow femininity has gotten all tangled up with a rubbish heap of soft-pedaled prosperity theology, with a sugary layer of sentimentalism as the pink bow. Now, praise God that there is a small but growing number of female Bible teachers who are faithful to expositing the word of God in substantial and significant ways.  But far too much of what is advertised specifically toward women (and therefore, what women are buying) is unhelpful at best and damaging at worst.  We don’t need self-help; we need a Savior.  And that Savior is found in the richness of the scriptures — not in someone’s 10 steps to a happier week.

Related to that major stumbling block, I think, is a widespread reluctance by women to read books and listen to sermons and lectures by (male) pastors and theologians.  My joke is:  Dr. Sinclair Ferguson (a favorite Scottish theologian) speaks half as quickly as I do and yet dispenses twice as much wisdom in every phrase.  So why listen to Allison Burr, when you can listen to someone who has spent a lifetime mining the riches of God’s word and meditating on the person and work of Jesus Christ?

What I am trying to say is:  just because you’re a woman (and I’m in the same camp here) doesn’t meant that we can only learn from other women.  I have joked that RC Sproul has taught me far more about homemaking than anyone else.  And has he ever specifically addressed the topic of homemaking? Nope.   Yes, Titus 2-style mentoring and teaching is critical for us as women. But there is so much more Bible to study, and God has created the office of pastor/elder to feed his flock. Let’s not neglect the importance of sitting under the preaching of your pastor every Sunday morning, and perhaps hunting down a great series or two on the internet to have queued up on your iPod for the next early morning walk.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. (3)

First and foremost, I love, love teaching biblical truths and their wide application to my own children.  I am privileged to do that 7 days a week.  And there are always heap-loads of kisses and hugs and snuggles involved in the midst of it.  What could be better than that?

Secondly, I love to take hold of my status as a sub-creator (as JRR Tolkein puts it), and as fully participating in my status as a trinitarian creator (as Dorothy Sayers puts it) in my own home.  Don’t think there is value in creating a functional and beautiful mud room? Think again! You are creating, bringing forth, and applying the glories of a smooth schedule and organizational structure that brings beauty and order to the lives of your children.

Hesitant about trying to implement some habit-building amongst your crazy crew?  Don’t be! You will be giving them life, and life in abundance, when they learn to take hold of practices and habits that will help shape their childhood and their adult lives.  We mothers wield tremendous influence and power — let’s not waste it.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. (4)

Last summer, I launched 3 podcasts: Cultivating the Kingdom (theology for women); The Straight Stick(practical application into family life); and Melody, Mystery & Mayhem (a family-oriented podcast full of stories, silliness, and songs).

In an effort to streamline my efforts, I converted The Straight Stick to a 60-second video-podcast, hosted on my Instagram feed and on my website.  This has given me the chance to include my kids in all the recordings and to learn how to speak “on point” in a much more efficient manner (something I will probably struggle with until I meet Jesus face-to-face!).

Just this week, we began recording new segments for Season 2 of Melody, Mystery & Mayhem podcast (to release the last week of August).  The Lord has graciously provided some very talented folks to help our family with this aspect of ministry for our 2nd season, and we are humbled and delighted to be working alongside some folks who will be new to the Melody, Mystery & Mayhem crowd!

As for Cultivating the Kingdom, I decided to push pause on interviewing theologians for a bit, and instead will be teaching live, online webinars.  I am offering 3 new webinars on 3 different theological topics.  I am exceedingly nervous and excited, and am continually praying that the Lord would grow me as a lifelong student of the Bible, and as a teacher who is ever faithful to the word of God.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. (6)

As I just mentioned, each webinar course will address an entirely different topic.  The first course in September is “The Liturgical Home,” and I am using as a foundation the first half of James K.A. Smith’s book: You Are What You Love.  (You don’t have to read the book to take the course). This 4-session webinar will look at the Augustinian view of affection-forming (ordo amoris), how our habits shape our desires, what types of liturgies might already be present in your home, and how we as mothers have the gift of creating and implementing new liturgies that reflect the realities of the Kingdom of God.  And you might just want to take the course to find out what I mean by the word liturgy!  🙂

The second course will run 4 sessions in October and is called Building Foundations: Our Calling for the Younger Years.”  This is what I wish an older, wiser homeschooling Christian mother had told me 11 years ago, when I was a brand-new mother and a brand-new believer.  I knew nothing about everything, and so much of those early years were a disaster or much harder than they had to be.  My oldest is now 11 1/2, and my 4th child is 3 1/2, and so I am still in the thick of (imperfectly) implementing my theology in this area of child-rearing, but sometimes wisdom wrought the hard way is still worth sharing!

The third is a 3-part webinar entitled “Fear & Motherhood: Identity and Remembrances in Times of Crisis.”  Quite providentially, I scheduled this to land in the first weeks of November, in the midst of our upcoming presidential elections.  I have been asked countless times about handling fear as a mother (particularly as it relates to the cultural and political environment in which we find ourselves).  So I decided to dig deep into some long-dead theologians, and the book of Romans, in order to exhort my own soul — and the souls of any others who want to join me — about what it is we need to know, trust, and remember when our world seems like it is falling apart.

**The cost for each course is $15, but if you elect to sign up for all 3, there is a $10 bundle discount.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. (7)

TruthBeautyGoodness.net is the umbrella for all our other ministry endeavors.  You can find all the details there about podcasts, webinars, and any other resources I have created.


I’m so thankful for Allison and her heart for the gospel! Sign up for the Fall 2016 Classes HERE. You’ll be so glad you did!

 

Police Shootings & the Average American Mom

Our nation has been rocked again with the news of two men who were fatally shot in altercations with police officers and also multiple officers killed during a protest in Dallas. This kind of news brings deep sadness, outrage, and protests from those in their immediate community as well as the rest of us around the country.

I am not usually one to write pieces immediately after an event. Instead I read reports and reflections from those much wiser than me and pray quiet prayers in my heart for the families and lives involved in tragedies such as these.

Police Shooting&The Average AMerican Mom

Although my kids are young enough that they can be sheltered from stories like this, I couldn’t help but think, however, after hearing the news this week that the #blacklivesmatter movement has real implications for my own life as a stay-at-home mom. You see I think #blacklivesmatter, while an important hashtag, reflects a deeper theological truth that our children must realize as we train them in God’s Word.

The term imago dei is Latin for “the image of God”. Christians use it to succinctly describe the relationship between God and man explained in Genesis 1:27.  All humans reflect their Maker regardless of his or her physical characteristics. Our souls were created by an Almighty God to mirror His glory back to Him. Again various authors have written much more eloquently than I will, but this idea must be a part of the training of our children. In other words, because that other boy in my child’s Sunday School class was made in imago dei, he should be treated with kindness. Because my son’s little sister was made in imago dei, her worth in God’s eyes requires that he treats her with love and respect (even when she steals his favorite toy).

When our children learn the value of human life at a young age, their eyes will be open to the devaluing of human life in their society. Side note: this plays out in many more situations than police brutality. Abortion, abuse, and euthanasia are all sourced in a lack of appreciation of the worth of ALL human life.

I don’t have many solid answers for our nation’s violence issue. Shootings at nightclubs, schools, convenience stores, and even churches all point to the sad brokenness and sickness of a world ensnared by sin.

This is exactly why Jesus came. There was no one else who could begin the process of repair for people so lost and evil. While we don’t yet see complete perfection, it is coming! This our hope in the darkness.

In the meantime, may God burden our hearts as parents to instill in our children a deep love for their fellow human beings and a deep sense of responsibility to protect them when at all possible no matter the race, no matter the color, no matter the uniform, no matter the sin.

And may we never become numb to another soul entering eternity. May we pray for our neighbors who live in a very real fear for their lives. May we give them our support, prayers, and ultimately the hope of a soul Rescuer.

The gospel is for everyone. Period.

No Time for Quiet Time

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Shortly after the birth of one of my children, I was commiserating with a few friends at small group. Two of them had newborns and one had three small foster children. We discussed the difficulty that we seem to face as mothers when it comes to our time with God.

When moms are sleep deprived and off-schedule, it can be extremely difficult to find a steady quiet time with God. The cycle continues when we go several days (or even weeks) without that communion causing us to feel even more discouraged and malnourished spiritually.

I’ve noticed that this same thing can happen even without newborns in the house. A bad night’s sleep, a busy week, or poor time-management can throw us off schedule more often than we’d like.

No time for quiet time
So! What’s a mommy to do? Here’s a few ideas that may help:

1. As soon as possible, create a daily schedule. 
During the first few weeks after a sweet baby arrives, it’s virtually impossible to plan out a day. An exploding diaper or colicky little one can wreak havoc on a schedule.
After a couple months, though, it becomes a little easier to get into a routine. I’ve found that it helps me to write out a daily schedule and post it on the fridge until it becomes a habit. (Yes, my dear husband makes fun of me for this OCD move).
Start by scheduling a 15-20 minute time exclusively for your time with God. Hopefully, this time can grow later on, but at least you have it carved out of your day.
Stick to your schedule as closely as possible remembering that flexibility is necessary on certain days. What seems a little forced at first, soon becomes a regular, special part of your day.

2. Spend time with God wherever and whenever possible. 

Unfortunately, I find that my quiet prayer time can get interrupted quickly so I have some backup quiet spots: the shower (not foolproof) and the kitchen sink.
In the 10 minutes or so I spend in each respective location God and I can catch up a little bit.
I’ve been surprised at the things He’s spoken to my heart during these short conversations.

3. Use technology.

I love technology. I use my laptop, iPad, and phone regularly to strengthen my faith. I have used several Bible reading plans on the YouVersion app. If I get behind, I can easily adjust my reading to catch up.
I also listen to sermons and podcasts on my phone or iPad while I do other housekeeping duties. It’s a great way to preach grace to myself while also checking things off my to-do list. Find some of my favorite podcasts on the Resources page.

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Whatever you find works for you in the craziness of motherhood, remember this:

Our God isn’t limited to a living room recliner and a 1 hour minimum to speak to our hearts. You may be surprised at what He uses to comfort, encourage, and challenge you.
Please don’t feel guilty for not reaching certain standards in your devotion time with Him.

Christ completed a perfect relationship with His Father for us so we can enjoy the freedom to approach God even in imperfect circumstances.

To the weary mom….

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A man, he works from sun till sun, but a woman’s work is never done.

I can hear my mom sighing at the end of another long day. She quotes this little saying while putting away one more load of laundry or packing one more lunch. As a mom now myself, these words have so much more meaning to me. The work is never done. There always one more dish in the sink or one more toy to put away.

As our family has grown, my homemaking standards have lowered. I can leave those clothes in the dryer and fold them tomorrow. I guess the floor could be swept after breakfast in the morning. It’s not that I wouldn’t love to live in a perfectly clean, model home, but with three small children, that dream is far from reality. At the end of the day, my body and mind just want to rest. I long to sit down with the work completely done.

That feeling of incompleteness doesn’t just stop with dust bunnies and piles of superhero figures though. I find myself longing for rest in many areas of my life. When will I stop wrestling with the sin of discontentment? Will I ever stop struggling with my identity? Why do I find myself clinging to the same idols over and over again? When will Jesus come back so my soul can finally rest?

While I don’t have a chapter and verse to support my theory, I imagine that an Israelite high priest may identify with some of those same feelings. He worked every day in the temple offering sacrifices for the sins of the people. With a nation so large, there was a never-ending stream of brokenness for which to atone. In the rooms where he worked, there were altars, candles, and holy artifacts, but no chairs. No place to sit. No place to rest. The work of salvation was never finished.

That is until Jesus arrived on the scene.

Finally, the endless cycle of sin, confession, and sacrifice could be broken. He did the work His Father asked Him to do. There was no need for God to lower His standard of holiness. Christ accomplished the task perfectly and completely. The necessity of continual sacrifices in the temple was done. It was finished.

And our High Priest sat down.

  • He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high….Hebrews 1:3
  • Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven…Hebrews 8:1
  • But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God….Hebrews 10:12
  • looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

If Christ has sealed our salvation, why do we find ourselves often unsettled? Why does rest seem so elusive? Why do we attempt to continue to offer sacrifices in hopes of God’s favor?

Sitdown

He isn’t striving. He isn’t stressing. He isn’t struggling.

He is sitting down.

He invites us to rest in His accomplishments – to sit down in His finished work.

Is your kitchen far from magazine worthy? Have your children found your last nerve? Is that besetting sin rearing its ugly head today?

Sit down (physically if you need to) and rejoice. The ultimate undertaking has been completed for you. Because of Jesus, the weight of perfection is no longer on your shoulders. Instead, you carry a burden made light by His atonement and a yoke made easy by His redemption.

It is only in Jesus’ settled location at his Father’s side that our souls can find ultimate peace.

 

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Should I teach my kids about Hell?

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Should I teach my kids about Hell-

It was my turn to teach the ladies Bible study. As I flipped to the correct chapter in our curriculum, my heart sank a little. Hell. I was going to have to teach 20 adult women about the reality and necessity of the worst place ever! Why couldn’t the topic have been more uplifting?  I could find a lot to say about joy or faith! The more I studied, though, the more I was shocked to see that even the doctrine of Hell can point us to hope.

Kevin DeYoung says this about the place of eternal damnation….

“Christians should have anguish in heart at the thought of eternal suffering, but we should also see the glory of God in the Bible’s teaching on eternal punishment”

Many deny the reality of Hell or the fact that a loving God could send unbelievers there. Even those of us who believe it it’s existence wrestle with those same questions. Isn’t God merciful? Isn’t eternity a little too long for 70 years of “mistakes”?

In order to have a better understanding of Hell, we first have to seek to know the character of God. I could write a series of 1,000 posts highlighting all of the aspects of God. He is perfectly faithful. He is perfectly loving. He is perfectly good. He is alway present. He is always seeing. He is always understanding.

He is all of these (and more) all of the time. We can’t separate God’s attributes from one another.  When He is showing mercy, he is still 100% just. When He shows love, he still shows total power.

Sin is the polar opposite of who God is. Because of His perfect character, the ONLY reaction he can have toward the sin in all of humanity is wrath – complete righteous anger. There is no other option. What terrible news! This eternal God MUST punish our wrongdoing with eternal death.

The worst thing about this terrible place created for Satan and his demons, is the ultimate separation from God and anything good! It’s not the red horns or hot flames that make this place unbearable. It’s the utter absence of joy, hope, peace, and love. The oppressive darkness and evil there cause unimaginable torment.

That’s not the end of the story, though. Remember that even in His infinite justice, God is immeasurably merciful. His character caused Him to offer His Son, Jesus to bear the brunt of punishment. Christ was made to be sin even though not one part of Him was tainted with wrongdoing. God poured out that eternal, unbearable, wrath on Jesus. He made a way out for us.

This is hope. This is the good news. This is the gospel.

Should I teach my kids about Hell (2)

So, to answer the question posed in the title, yes. If we are to fully teach the gospel to our children, they must realize the seriousness of their plight without Jesus. When we downplay the bad news, we inevitably downplay the good news. Here are a few thoughts when approaching this subject with your little ones.

  • Teach on an age-appropriate level.                                                                                                              Just like any other difficult topic (death, terrorism, adultery, etc….) it’s important to use wording and explanations that make sense to that particular child. For instance, I wouldn’t introduce words like brimstone or damnation to my 4 year old. Instead, I might explain it as a terrible place with no happiness or love (see next point).
  • Focus on what is NOT in Hell.                                                                                                                      Many times, when describing Hell, our minds jump immediately to fire, darkness, and demons. As I mentioned earlier, the worst part of this place is the absence of God and His goodness.  Our children need to grasp the severity of being separated from our Creator forever more than the hotness of the flames.
  • Do NOT use Hell as a sole motivator for salvation.                                                                                  One of the worst things we can do when teaching our kids about the gospel is to coerce a prayer based out of fear of Hell or a desire to live in Heaven. Following Christ is a commitment and brings eternal life that begins immediately, not just when we die. Encourage your child to see their need of a Rescuer from their own sinful hearts today, not just a terrible place in the future.

When we share the gospel with others (including our children), we are often afraid that they will be turned off with words like punishment or Hell, but without that terrible news, the gospel doesn’t fully make sense and definitely isn’t glorious. Without the darkness, we would never cherish the light!

“I (Jesus) have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes

in me should stay in darkness.”

John 12:46

A call for joyful moms (and Christians)…

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Motherhood can seem like a rollercoaster. One minute you find yourself at the top of the hill enjoying the fruits of your hard work and the next you are careening down the hill of spilled milk and sibling rivalry. Each day can hold sweet memories and head-banging frustrations.

I’ve noticed a pattern of negativity among modern moms. We vent about those annoyances and even our humorous stories are tainted with sarcasm. Mothering is hard. Life is hard. Somehow we feel better by complaining about it.

I think that’s where we have gone wrong. In an attempt to be authentic and real, we have lost our joy. We have adopted an attitude of martyrdom about the requirements of this God-given job.

DDpostgraphic (13)

Several years ago, I watched a skit of Bob Newhart as a psychologist. A patient comes into his office for counsel, and after some hilarious introductory comments, she begins to describe her paralyzing fear of being buried alive in a box. He listens to her struggles for only a few minutes before he gives her his advice summed up in two words. “Stop it!” Throughout the rest of the skit, he answers every argument with that same phrase! “Just stop it!” No matter the issue, she needed to just quit it!

It would be the same situation, if I wrote a blog post like this simply challenging you to stop focusing on the negatives of motherhood or life in general. Within ourselves, we have to power to just “stop it”. The sin and failures of our heart cannot be changed with more law. It is only the power of the gospel that transforms!

Let’s look at John 16:33….

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

Jesus himself acknowledges that the Fall brought brokenness and trouble into every corner of our world. He doesn’t encourage us to muster up some surfacey happiness that will never last. Instead He points eyes to His work. He has overcome. My joy in motherhood and in life is the joy of the Lord not my circumstances.

Because He is sovereign over even the most minute details of my day, I can be joyful.

Because He has given me grace that covers my moment by moment failures, I can can be joyful.

Because He loved me before I even acknowledged Him, I can be joyful.

JoyofLord

I’m not hoping that Christian moms of the 21st century become happier or bubblier about the circumstances they find themselves in each day. I’m praying that moms become so enamored with the love of Jesus that the joy of the Lord oozes from their every word and deed.

The joy of the Lord is my strength…..Nehemiah 8:10