A Hurried Life Hurts the Mission – “One of the simplest ways of being out of step with the world is not living to keep up with it. I am not advocating a life of laziness but rather a pursuit of presence. It’s a perseverance in abiding, not a fleeing for fleeting moments.” (H/T)

New Research: 64% of Americans Believe Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage Is Inevitable – The title speaks for itself. Read the article for a thorough recap of what the new research reveals, including people’s thoughts on whether a pastor should be able to refuse to preform a marriage of a same-sex individuals.

Those Grammar Gaffes Will Get You – An interesting article about grammar mistakes, and those you think are errors but in reality are not! Here’s to prepositions at the end of sentences!

Goodbye Google Reader – As you may have heard Google has announced plans to discontinue Google Reader. CNET has some alternative RSS readers for you to consider.

How To Let Peace Rule – “If we’re to find peace, we must become a pupil of He who is our Peace, Jesus Christ. He who is the Word. And this bit of Word, ‘Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,’ is a fine educator.”

A Vision for A Christian University – Some practical and help thoughts about establishing, and maintaining, a Christian school of higher education.

 

 

 

Entrusted to Share

March 13, 2013 — 2 Comments
Girls / gossip

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Childhoods are littered with pinky swears and “cross-my-hearts” as secrets are shared and promises are extracted to keep them confidential. As one child conveys their dreams and crushes to another, they are entrusting their friend with news that they want to keep private. In fact, most of the time when we think of an entrustment we think of something that is supposed to be protected. We deposit money in a bank because we trust that they will keep it until we need it. We obtain safes to guard our most valuable possessions. When we trust someone or some institution with something that is ours we are doing so in the hopes that it will not be given to another.

However, God has entrusted us with something for the expressed purpose of giving it away. He has given us the gospel of salvation, not to keep it to ourselves but to share it with others. Unlike other entrustments, our task is to broadcast this news far and wide. Our goal should be for as many people to hear it as possible.

Unfortunately, we often treat the Gospel more like schoolyard secrets. We are reluctant to broach the topic of eternity with another afraid that we might somehow offend them. We are reticent to discuss salvation because we fear the questions we may not be able to answer. Instead of freely sharing the gift that we have been given, we are content to keep it confidential, only partially admitting to ourselves that as we do so, we are complicit in the condemnation of others.

However, we would do well to remember what Paul wrote about what it means to be entrusted with the Gospel. According to I Thessalonians 2:4 the reason that they were given the message of salvation is because they were found to be “approved by God.” Knowing about repentance and faith isn’t simply a gift then, but a responsibility. We have been approved by God for the good work of sharing His message with others. It is an honor that we should not take lightly, it is a task we should not neglect.

So the next time someone asks you to keep something “just between us” let us remember the message that God has expressly commanded that we not keep to ourselves (Mt. 28:16-20). Let’s be diligent with sharing what He has entrusted us with that many more may come to know Him.

Prayer Is A Great Place to Begin – “Most prayer requests ask for God to give external blessings. But biblical prayer, like counseling, deals with how God meets us, comforts us, changes us. Retooling our prayer requests is an accessible way for believers in a church to begin to teach each other to talk about the things that really matter, the things that are on God’s heart. If you are praying for matters with personal consequences, then you will have conversations of consequence.” (H/T)

Deus Absconditus – “Perhaps, like Jesus, there are times when the best we can do is to yield ourselves to the God who seems hidden behind the clouds—and perhaps to acknowledge that the journey of faith is not always the warm assurance of perpetually clear skies that we thought it might be. For those outside of faith, such admissions may well be a needed authenticity.”

God Is Not A Tease – A reminder that God is always at work for our good and His glory even when it seems like potentially good things are being snatched from our hands.

A Home For God – “While we long for our heavenly home, let’s strive to make our earthly home a place of peace, order, joy, and laughter. And let’s make this our prayer: “Lord help me to build the kind of home where all who enter find it ‘impossible to keep from thinking of God.'”

Love to The Uttermost – A free e-book for Holy Week from Desiring God.

Hungry

March 12, 2013 — 2 Comments

Having a baby reminds you of something that we all know but we rarely spend much time thinking about – our bodies are wired to crave food. As a new parent can attest, no one needs to teach a child how to be hungry or how to express their discomfort when that hunger goes unsatisfied. God graciously created us so that even before we could do much of anything at all, we desire the fuel we need in order to keep on functioning. Without it and without the ability of babies to express their state of need, parenting as well as surviving infancy would be much more difficult.

Not only do babies recognize their need for food even before they can articulate that the desire for it exists, they also consume it on a fairly regular pattern. Newborns seemingly consume it around the clock and new mothers can feel like all they do is feed the baby, change the baby, only to put the baby to sleep and start the cycle over again. As they grow the feeding pattern remains fairly consistent. There may be longer lengths of time between meals, but babies still eat at fairly regular and predictable intervals. And they eat whenever they need to. They don’t push aside a feeding because they are busy or because they don’t “feel like it.” Eating is a priority for them – they do it regularly, frequently and with an intensity that speaks to its importance. And on some days they eat even more often than normal because their bodies are getting ready to grow.

One may wonder why I’ve embarked upon such a long discussion of a child’s eating habits and it’s because I think that it can teach us a lot about how we are to approach the God’s Word. Christ said that His food was to do the will of the One who had sent Him (John 4:34). As Christians, we should desire to imitate Christ and therefore what fueled Him should also be what drives us. However, in order to do the will of God we have to know the will of God, and God’s will is most prominently revealed through His Word. Therefore, if we want to be fed through obedience as Christ was, we must banquet in the bounty of the Scriptures. We must feast on the truth of the Word of God so that we may grow and develop into the people He desires us to be.

Unfortunately, many people approach this task as many adults approach their meals. They are quick to grab some tidbit of Scripture as they rush out the door, much like they grab their breakfast to eat in the car. They take a “drive thru” approach to their study of Scripture, hurried to make it to the next activity or function. Unlike an infant, if they miss a “meal” their disdain is not quickly voiced and rectified; they are content to partake of Scripture on an ad hoc basis. Their “feeding” is not regular, frequent and prioritized. It is haphazard and scattered. They are content with morsels when they should be seeking a banquet.

It should come as no surprise when we approach Scripture this way and neglect to see the growth in the Christian life that we desire. After all, one of the reasons an infant grows more during the first year of life than they do at any other time is because they are constantly providing their bodies the fuel they need in order to mature. Without such nourishment, their growth would be halted and their bodies diminished.  Similarly when we neglect to fuel our walk with God with the sustenance of Scripture, our growth will suffer as well.

Therefore, next time we hear the cries of a hungry baby or witness a toddler signaling their desire for more, may it remind us of how we should hunger for the food that fueled Jesus. Next time we’re tempted to remark on how fast a little one has grown, may we recognize that they did so because they frequently and consistently partook of food, and if we want to experience growth in our walk with God, we must similarly dine in His Truth. May the insatiable hunger of little ones drive engender a similar appetite for the God’s Holy Scripture, and may their hunger for food prompt us to dive deeper with more frequency and intensity into the riches of His Word.

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It seems like any time you turn on the television there is a new way for people to win money. Whether it is classic game shows like Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune, or more recent inventions like Survivor and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, the chances to get-rich-quick seem to abound. Most, although not all of the shows, don’t seem to involve any special talent. It is a matter of perseverance, happenstance, and the wherewithal to compete.

Recently, however, a new show called Gold Rush has debuted. Unlike the shows referenced above, Gold Rush is not about people stumbling upon opportunities to win some money. Instead, this show is about prospectors who seek to strike it rich by finding the quintessential “mother lode.” These individuals aren’t just taking advantage of the opportunities that seem to present themselves; they are seeking out ways to discover gold. They are on a proactive quest, a mission that they are determined to complete.

When it comes to evangelism, it seems that Christians can learn a lot from these televised attempts at wealth creation. After all, we are often tempted to consider evangelism much ilke the contentestants in the game shows that were discussed in the opening paragraph. We ask God to help us “take advantage of the opportunities” to share the Gospel. We try to be mindful of “open doors” and desire to respond appropriately when conversations turn to things of God. Much like a contestant on the Price is Right, we hope we don’t blow our chance if and when our name is called.

However, our efforts to share the Good News of Christ would no doubt be strengthened if instead we approached evangelism more like a prospector on a quest for gold. Instead of praying that we would “take advantage” of opportunities, perhaps we would ask God to help us “find opportunities” to share His Word. Instead of waiting for the chance to presented to us, perhaps we would proactively seek situations and settings that would allow us to display the richness of His Word. If we approached witnessing this way we wouldn’t be content with simply stumbling upon an open door, we would mine for them – digging deep in the lives of other so that we might strike at a just the right time with the Truth of His Word.

It’s possible that the reason there are so many game shows that feature contestants willing to take advantage of opportunities and so few game shows about contestants who go out and seek them is that the latter requires much more effort than the former. So it is with our evangelism. However, as I would imagine is true with the contestants on Gold Rush, when you are out seeking opportunities for Christ there is a much greater chance that you will find just what you are looking for, and as a result, the reward that comes from helping bring others to Christ.

Consumed

March 6, 2013 — 2 Comments
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As I’ve written about many times before, I am a planner. Being a planner means that I constantly have things on my mind as I try to anticipate what I need to get done and where I need to be. Years ago, I read a book that helped me add some organizations to these thoughts by encouraging me to not keep my to-do list in my head. Instead, increased productivity was promised if I would simply either write the task down and schedule it or complete it right away. While this certainly helped with freeing my thoughts from my list of to-dos, it didn’t completely cure my planning ways. My thoughts may not be focused on tasks, but they still are focused on the future, living in anticipation of what may be next.

For many this probably sounds like a good thing, however, as any planner can tell you, there is a fine line between being future-focused, and being a worrier. When you are constantly thinking of the things that you need to know or the opportunities that may (or may not) come your way, it’s easy to become obsessed with what “might be” rather than being content with what is. Our thoughts are indicative of what we treasure (see Luke 12:34and if we’re constantly thinking of “what’s next” we are likely discontent with “what is.” 

Scripture, however, encourages us that our thoughts shouldn’t be centered on the tasks to complete or the opportunities that we may have. Instead, as the Psalmist writes, the blessed person is the one whose “delight is in the law of the Lord” and who mediates on it “day and night” (Ps. 1:2). Our thoughts shouldn’t be focused on what our concerns and priorities, but instead they should be focused on God’s. Our desire should be that what is on our mind increasingly mirrors what is on His. Our contemplation should not be our list of to-dos, but the truth contained in His Word.

If we were to do this, if our thoughts were centered on His Word, than there wouldn’t be time or the opportunity for them to be consumed with our worries. If we were constantly focused on our Father, than we wouldn’t be hindered by our fears. Meditating on Him and His Word not only puts things into perspective, His perspective, it obliterates anything lesser that may seek to distract and sideline us. When we are consumed with what He has to say, we aren’t troubled by our own thoughts and considerations.

This is by no means easy. Regardless of whether you are a planner or a person of spontaneity, it takes discipline to center our internal dialogue on the truth of Scripture. However, God promises that when we do so we are “blessed”  – not only because we are delighting ourselves in the same things that He is, but because we are demonstrating that our treasure, and our trust, are in Him.

 

 

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Lessons of the 2nd Month

February 27, 2013 — 2 Comments

My little one is officially a little over two month’s old which means that’s the amount of time that I’ve been doing this parenthood thing (although I still technically think parenthood starts before the baby makes their official debut in this world but the amount of time she’s been out of the womb makes a convenient marker for assessing what I’ve learned). As any parent can tell you, it’s amazing the amount of things that can change in such a short period of time. A little one becomes more alert and engages more with the outside world during their second month. This creates some special moments and some challenges as well. Through it all, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned:

  • Parenthood is revealing – One of the things that a new parent quickly learns is how revealing parenthood is. The source of your strength is quickly on display. If you have been relying on yourself, all it takes is one sleepless night or one fussy day to demonstrate that you can’t do this gig in your own strength. The areas of sin that are so easily concealed under “normal circumstances” become unmasked when your child is crying and you have no idea what to do. Frustrations, insecurities, anxiety and other heart issues come out as you realize there are no step-by-step instructions on how to make things better. Hopefully these revelations drive us to our knees in prayers. Hopefully, they remind us of what we always should have known – we were never intended to live this life on our own strength anyway. 

 

  • There is no “normal.” –  There are a monumental number of parenting books at a new parent’s disposal. Add that to the number of blogs that are focused on the subject and there are no lack of published opinions available to the parent. Each book or blog post spouts the author’s perspectives, and most promise a system to tackle the problems that permeate a baby’s young life. The challenge is that no two babies are the same. What worked for one baby, or even one group of babies, may not work for your kid. “Normal” is an aggregated label, and unfortunately your individual child isn’t an aggregate. It takes patience to learn your own kid’s proclivities and in doing so you may find that what’s normal for them, isn’t what the books say at all.

 

  • Take what you can. Discard the rest. – Because there is no normal, everyone’s well-meaning advice may not work for you. Take what you can, filtering it through what you have already learned about your own child’s preferences and tendencies, and discard the rest. It doesn’t make you a bad parent if you don’t follow every piece of advice, especially because it won’t take long before the sources of advice will contradict each other. Also, just like each child is unique, people’s parenting styles differ too. What may have been a turnkey system for one person, may not fit your personality or how you desire to interact with your child. That’s o.k. People give advice because they care. Remember that. Appreciate that. But you don’t have to follow everything they say.

 

  • A smile can change a day.  – In the midst of the challenges there is nothing quite like when your kid smiles at you. You can be in tears because you just can’t figure out the best way to put her down for a nap, and she can look up at you, coo, and give you a bright, big smile and suddenly everything that seemed so strenuous moments before, evaporates. You may still want to figure out how to ease into nap time, but you also realize that for the most part, your little one is doing just fine. They’re learning; you’re learning, and that smile can seem to say “it’s o.k. – we’re going to figure this out together.” And you likely will. And the smiles at that moment will be all the more sweet because of the joys you shared along the way.

Being a parent is a privilege. It is a gift from God and a ministry that isn’t to be taken lightly. Thankfully, in the midst of all the uncertainties of being a parent, we can trust in the One who is certain, knowing that even as our kid changes, He never will (Ja. 1:17).

Proactive Prayers

February 26, 2013 — Leave a comment
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It’s not uncommon to hear about some scandal in the Church. Whether it’s a small issue that only local congregants know about, or a large one that receives national media attention, it is not uncommon to be reminded that the Church is made up of sinners and as such there are going to be times where we, and God, are disappointed by its members’ actions.

When I hear about such incidents, one of my first responses is to pray for the people involved. I ask that God would be glorified even in the midst of the hurt and the embarrassment. If it is something that is played out on the national stage, I also often ask that those who speak representing the Church would do so in a way that demonstrates God’s holiness and not in a way that is fodder for soundbites and pundits. I believe that this is an appropriate response. After all, while people may let us down, God never will. Our dependent should be on God alone and these circumstances often serve as a reminder of that fact.

However, I’ve recently been convicted that praying after the events occur is not enough. While asking God to redeem a situation is appropriate, it would be better if I were praying against them before they ever occurred. It would be good for me to be regularly lifting up those in positions of influence and authority – in the church I attend and in the Church around the globe. It would be wise if I did not merely react to these situations, but sought to proactively pray against the devil’s influence and strongholds in people’s lives. I need to not only respond after the fact, but I need to be mindful of where vulnerabilities may lie and to pray that God would work in those individuals’ lives before those vulnerabilities are exploited and the Kingdom of God is marred as a result.

Having this proactive approach requires diligence. It is much easier to simply watch as scandals unfold, shake my head, and pray that God would restore and redeem in those circumstances. However, being proactive about my prayers not only petitions for God’s hand in circumstances before scandal occurs, it makes me more mindful of what I am doing to represent God and His Kingdom well. It reminds me that although my life may not play out in the news media, there are people who’s impression of Christ is being formed by the way I behave. And I need to be proactive about praying that I would represent Him well too.

On Loan

February 6, 2013 — Leave a comment
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When I was younger I loved going to the library.  I was a voracious reader and the fact that you could obtain a book, read it, and then return it for another one was delightful to me.  When I realized I could check out multiple books, it was even better. I didn’t have to spend my hard earned allowance to get a new treasure to read; I could simply borrow it from the library and return it when I was done.

As I grew older, I went to the library less and less. While I’m sure that there were many reasons for the decline in my library visits, I believe that one of them is that I became more concerned with acquiring books I wanted. It wasn’t enough just to have read the book; I wanted to keep it – to make it my own. The library isn’t fond of its patrons highlighting and underlining in their texts, but if I owned the book I could do that to my heart’s content. Additionally, owning the book allowed me to refer back to it as often as I wanted. It was mine and I could do with it what I want.

I’ve been thinking about this tendency towards possession a lot since I became a parent. We tend to think of our children as “ours” and consider it our job to mold them and shape them into the person that we think that they should be. We’re protective of them, sometimes beyond the natural concern of someone who is responsible for the care of another and more like an individual who believes their identity is tied up in the life of someone else. We’re quick to defend our parenting practices reminding others that they can do as they want with their own children, but with our kids we’re the final arbitrator and judge. Our kids, our rules we say, and we feel confident that this is the way things should be.

Despite this proclivity, the Bible teaches us something else about our kids. Scripture says that our children are to be arrows that are shot out to do the work of the Lord (Ps. 127:4-5). If our kids are supposed to go out from us, they obviously aren’t ours to possess. Instead, God has given us charge of them for a time – to teach, train and correct them in the way of the Lord – and then He expects that we, like Hannah, will give them back to Him (I Sam. 1:27-28). We aren’t to see them as ours to do mold and shape as we will. We are to see them as a ministry that God has called us to for a time and as with any ministry, our aim should be God’s glory and not our own.

When your child is young it is difficult to imagine a time where they won’t need you for every little thing. Unfortunately, some parents act as if that time doesn’t ever end. They see it as their responsibility to direct their child’s life long after God has called them away from that particular part of the parental ministry. Perhaps this is because they think of the child as “theirs” rather than “His.” Perhaps it’s because they don’t recognize that the child is on loan. And just like the library wanted their books back within a certain time frame, God expects us to “give” our child back to Him as well, fully recognizing that they were never “ours” really anyway.

Casting A Big Net

February 4, 2013 — Leave a comment
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When asked, many Christians would likely acknowledge that they find evangelism to be challenging. I like to think that they want to evangelize, but they are inhibited by many concerns that flood their mind. “How will I know the right thing to say?” “Is this person ready to hear the Gospel?” “What happens if they ask I question that I don’t know the answer to?” These and other thoughts often stop a person from doing what their heart compels them to do  – reach out to someone who doesn’t know Christ and tell them the Good News of His death and resurrection and the salvation that comes from repenting and trusting in Him.

The apostle Paul was not stopped by such concerns. As my husband recently observed, Paul cast a big net. He knew that not every evangelistic effort would be successful, but that didn’t prevent him from diligently presenting the Gospel to those he encountered. He wasn’t picky about who he presented the Gospel to or a particular method or strategy for doing so. As he writes  in I Corinthians 9:22, he became “all things to all people, that by all means [he] might save some.” (emphasis mine). His concern wasn’t limited by geography, receptivity, tradition or his persuasive ability – his concern was that more people would hear the good news of Christ. He realized that it was his job to present the Gospel by whatever means possible and to whomever would listen to it; it was God’s job to save (see I Cor. 3:6-7).

It modern-day evangelism we often take the opposite approach. We look at those around us and, instead of casting a big net, we narrow down our evangelistic field. We look for those that we think are most likely to respond. We pick a favorite method or strategy and use it as our turnkey way for presenting the Gospel. We seek out the familiar – groups or types of people that we have effectively reached before – and focus our efforts on them. Instead of fishing with a net – we often use a single pole.

There are probably many strategic reasons for the evangelism tactics that we employ. However, I fear that often in our effort to engender the most effective evangelism scenario, we neglect to actually evangelize those that God places in our life. Paul knew that not all he presented the Gospel to would be saved, but he diligently presented it because he was confident that some would be. May a similar confidence prompt us to evangelize as he did – casting a big net that some may come to know Christ.