The Fine Art Of Selection – This is a topic that God has placed on my heart a lot over the past year. In fact, I was planning to (and may still) write about it. But this post from Randy Alcorn is excellent and contains a lot of sound wisdom regarding how we steward our time.

What Does It Mean To Abide In Christ? – “In a nutshell, abiding in Christ means allowing His Word to fill our minds, direct our wills, and transform our affections. In other words, our relationship to Christ is intimately connected to what we do with our Bibles!”

Has Secularization Made Us Smarter? – “Progress in sciences & technology is a step-by-step group effort across generations, with the baton being handed off repeatedly. The unthinking nitwits who repeat the self-inflated theory that we are the smartest people who have ever lived only make themselves seem dumber than if they had remained silent on the issue.”

You’re Awesome – But Not That Awesome – A great reminder that as humans we are special amongst God’s creations, but because we are fallen human, we’re not as special as we like to think.

A Baby Changes Everyone, Not Just Everything – “Watching our kids, we’ve been given a window into the nature of family and community. We are not lone individuals doing our own thing in this world. We are who we are because of the people around us. A baby brother has completed and fulfilled our other two children, enhancing the life of our family in ways I never expected”

The Complacent Christian – “If we assume this desire and concern is not merely feelings but action, it describes the very opposite of complacency. Zeal is like a flame that brings a pot to a boil—it causes our affections for God to come to a boil so that we pursue what delights him and fight against what dishonors him. Zeal is spiritual heat, spiritual energy that flows out through the godly characteristics of love, joy, hope, peace, and so on. It is not a grace on its own as much as it is a quality that affects every part of the Christian life, making us zealous in the way we love, zealous in the way we express hope, zealous in every area and every characteristic and every fruit of the Spirit.”

Do As I Say

August 6, 2013 — Leave a comment

We’ve all probably heard the phrase “Do as I say, not as I do.” Those words have drawn contention from many a teenager’s heart. After all, if someone is telling you to do something it seems that the very least they could do is be adherents to their own advice. It’s understandable to question the wisdom that they are espousing when they aren’t even willing to follow it.

Although it is easy to make sense of the ire that the phrase engenders, it is also easy to comprehend what causes someone to say it. When we are giving advice to another, we tend to offer dispassionate, sensible insight. When we are looking at our own circumstance, we tend to make things harder. We may know what the proper course of action is, but we take in a variety of emotional and personal factors that aren’t part of our consideration when issuing instructions to another. Often times, these additional considerations cause us to do ourselves a disservice. We don’t do what we know we should because we are more inclined to do what we want.

I’ve found that this tendency can be routinely observed in my own life when I am exhorting someone else to trust in God. When speaking into another’s life it is easy to focus on God’s sovereignty and goodness (Rom. 8:28)  and to point out the need to trust God in all circumstances (Prov. 3:5-6), relying on the fact that He will orchestrate the situation for His glory and our good. However, too often I fail to instruct myself to do the same. Instead, I fall into the temptation of thinking that my worry will somehow alleviate the stress of the unknown. I act as if I have the ability to dictate the outcome and that I can craft a plan that will ensure the best result. The fallacy of this is easy to observe when I’m looking at another; I’m less inclined to point it out in myself.

However, just because it is not easy to point out my own lack of trust and the sin of my own worry, it doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t do it. Instead, when I find myself focused on the situation instead of my Savior, I need to tell myself what I would tell a friend “Get your eyes back on God.”  I need to recognize that this is good advice – for both of us, and I would be wise to follow it. I should do as I would say and trust that just like God will work for good in their lives, that He will accomplish the same in mine.

Free Resources – Christian Audio is offering a free download of Basic Christianity by John Stott’s this month (H/T). Ligonier Minsitries is offering  of In Christ Alone by Sinclair Ferguson as a free eBook. Logos is offering Heaven: Where It Is, Its Inhabitants, and How to Get There by D.L. Moddy as their free download of August.

How Were Old Testament Saints Saved? – “[W]hat if you lived during a time when Jesus hadn’t arrived, namely, the period of the Old Testament? Were you saved by your obedience to the Law? Did God just give everyone a “free pass” until Christ arrived? How did salvation work for those who were still waiting for the gospel of Jesus?” (H/T)

How To Get Kicked – “If you’re dead spiritually nobody is going to bother you. Satan isn’t going to bother you – he’s already got you. People won’t persecute you.  Sure, people will sin against you because that’s what all people do.  But try to do something for God and you’d better expect opposition.  Nobody kicks a dead dog. But once Jesus gives us life and we begin to serve him, Satan doesn’t like it.  And neither do lots of other people.  You’ll get flack sooner or later.”

The Purposes of the Heart – “I want to do the right things. I want to do the right things for the right reasons. In fact, I want to do the best things for the best reasons, the highest things for the highest reasons. Sometimes I know I do this. Sometimes I know I don’t. Most of the time I’m just not sure.”

When to Unfriend Someone on Facebook – I thought there was a lot of wisdom in this post about a very modern-day quandary.

Advice For Those Seeking Marriage – I haven’t listened to the complete broadcasts, but these excerpts are worthy of consideration for those seeking marriage. Links to the entire broadcasts are also provided.

Resolving Conflicts – Many different types of relationships are inflicted with conflicts. This post provides some helpful reminders of how Christians should resolve them.

Being Moved

August 2, 2013 — Leave a comment

When we hear a great piece of music or watch a compelling movie, we often talk about how we were “moved.” It’s an interesting choice of words since there was probably very little actual progression on our part. Our emotions may have been stirred, our thoughts may have been captivated, but it is likely that any migration was theoretical in nature. Our physical position presumably remained stagnant.

Christians often talk about those who don’t know Christ in much the same way. We ask that God would move in our hearts to reach the lost so that our motivation for spreading the Good News would increase. These petitions not withstanding, our attempts to manufacture a sense of urgency portends that we have little appreciation for how critical the subject is. After all, people don’t have to request a feeling of compulsion for leaving a fiery building. It’s a natural reaction to recognizing the exigency of the circumstance. Similarly, our stated desire to reach the lost shouldn’t only result in our emotions be heightened. Our feelings shouldn’t just move; our feet should. As Christians we are commanded to love God and to love our neighbor (Mk. 12:28-31). Both of these things will result in us telling others about what God has done in our lives, and what He desires to do in theirs. Both of them will result in us sharing the Gospel with those who don’t believe.

The danger is that if we are only concerned with our feelings, they won’t result in the requisite actions. We may be content with a heart that wishes for others to be saved, without doing anything to help ensure that this happens. People do not respond to the Good News of Christ because someone wishes that they would. They respond because the message of the Gospel was shared. God has the ability to do this without our help, but as children beloved by Him and desiring to serve Him, He graciously grants us the privilege of participating in this mission. If are satisfied with only feeling for those who don’t know Christ, we miss out on the joy that comes from watching others reptant and put their faith in Him.

It’s one thing to feel saddened for those who don’t know Christ; it’s another thing altogether to be willing to sacrifice our friendships and reputation so that they may hear of their need for a Savior. However this awareness (and hopefully a repentant response) will not develop simply because we are sorrowful that there are those who don’t know Jesus. We must be wiling to go to them, talk to them, and be intentional about displaying Him in their lives. It is fine if we ask that our hearts would be moved, but we should also make sure that we do.

“but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and lthe wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
– I Cor. 1:23-25

Dates, Doctrines & Dead People – “The deeper I have investigated the history of the church the more I have grown to appreciate the power and authority of the Word of God — because I have seen that power vividly illustrated in the testimonies of generations of believers. Scripture alone is the authority for all we believe and do; but history provides wonderful affirmation of the truthfulness of those foundational biblical truths.” (H/T)

Jesus Worked a “Secular” Job – “[I]f we stop and think about Jesus’ life, we see that he was doing so-called secular work as a carpenter or a fisherman for many more years than he was a preacher and teacher.”

The Joy of Discipleship – “Cross-carrying is not “happy go lucky” stuff. And yet, the love of Christ — love for Christ — for the Christian is seen as a more delightful experience than all the world’s charms and flesh-feedings. The very reason we take up our cross is not because dutiful religion is more fun than no religion but because we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, that taking up our cross is better; it’s more freeing, not less. The yoke and burden Christ offers is easy and light.”

Where Missionaries Are Sent From and Where They Go To – “The CSGC reports that ‘of the ten countries sending the most missionaries in 2010, three were in the global South: Brazil, South Korea, and India.” Other notable missionary senders included South Africa, the Philippines, Mexico, China, Colombia, and Nigeria.’ (H/T)

But He Is Not My Neighbor – “I think we’ve inadvertently taken the parable [of The Good Samaritan] and restricted the meaning of our “neighbor” in the other direction, thus doing the very thing Jesus is forbidding. We’ve come to think that our neighbor is only a person inextreme need — the person bleeding on the side of the road. But what about the person who is not bleeding on the side of the road, but has other, much smaller but still very real needs?”

Get Rid of These 6 Things – “Getting things done has always been difficult. Whether it is more difficult today than in days past is a matter of speculation and hardly worth the effort. What is clear, though, is that we have many things, some good and some bad, competing for our time and attention. I believe a key to productivity today is a willingness to exercise self-control by refusing a lot of the capabilities our devices offer us. Maybe you should consider getting rid of these 6 things.”

Kindle Deal: Tactics – I’m currently reading Greg Koukl’s Tactics and it is great. The Kindle edition is on sale for $1.99.

 

This post contains an affiliate link.

As readers of this blog know, I recently acquired a new role as “mom.” As God would ordain it, shortly after I received this title, several of my friends became first-time mommies too. As a result, I have had many conversations, Facebook messages, texts and emails with questions, frustrations and sheer confusion as we travel this road together. I thought it might be helpful to put share some of what I’ve learned for other followers of Christ who are starting this journey or who anticipate doing so in the future. Perhaps the fact that it’s not brand-new to me, yet I’m not far removed from the initial induction either, gives me a different perspective than most have on this subject. If nothing else, I’m sure it will give me something to look back on and laugh about in the years ahead.

Dear New Mom:

Welcome to the craziest roller coaster ride that you will likely ever experience. If your little one has been on this Earth for at least 24 hours, you are probably already aware that motherhood isn’t exactly like what you anticipated. In a short amount of time this new role can take you on more twists and turns than a high-speed racetrack. You will likely experience some of the greatest thrills of your life as a result of this new responsibility, and at the same time, you will likely face some of your biggest doubts and fears. If you are in one of those times where the doubts seem to outweigh the joys, let me assure you, it does get better. It’s not that the questions won’t persist – they will, or new ones will appear – but in the midst of wondering whether you are doing it right, your little one will give you a charmed smile that makes you realize it’s all worth it.

You’ve probably already faced the question that every new mother is asked – “how is it going?” It’s a loaded question because everyone expects to hear your litany of reasons why you love being a mom. Yet sometimes those reasons can be obscured by the enormity of the task. If you’re like me, the first few weeks of taking on this new job are harder than you imagined. But you don’t want to say that. Otherwise people may think that you don’t recognize what an awesome privilege you have been given. It’s o.k. You can both acknowledge that it’s hard and be grateful that God saw fit to give you this opportunity. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive, regardless of how people respond. The sleepless nights, the dependence that your little one has on you, the concern over each new development and whether it’s “normal,” combined with a tidal wave of hormones that are rushing through your body – these things are not easy. But remember this – even if there are moments where you think you can’t handle it – God didn’t call you to this role expecting that you would do it all on your own. He called you to this ministry with the desire that you would depend upon Him to accomplish what He has called you to do. There are days where you will wonder if you are good enough – you aren’t. But He is. And as you rely on Him, He will provide you with the grace, wisdom, strength and fortitude you need to be who He desires you to be as you parent this little life.

You may have already forgotten what your life was like before your little one arrived. It’s amazing how quickly they integrate themselves. It is true what they say – your life will never be the same. While eventually your little one will learn to sleep through the night, and you will again too, restlessness will now accompany your nighttime dreams. If you were a heavy sleeper before you became a mom, you can probably kiss that goodbye. Your child’s cry will quickly disabuse you of the ability to block out any sound in order to count sheep. You’ve also probably realized that being a mom means that your life is now about sacrifice. Motherhood is great at revealing those areas of your life that you thought were “yours” – those things that are supposed to be under your control and are not to be messed with. Your schedule, your preferences, and your proclivities are now subjugated to the development of this little life.  Privacy is probably a thing of the past, at least for quite a while, as any mom whose toddler has stuck their fingers under the bathroom door can tell you. It’s o.k.; your Savior gave up a lot more on your behalf (Phil. 2:7). While sometimes the lessons are hard, be grateful that God has used this new responsibility to conform you more into the image of your Son. He could have used a different role, something that didn’t come with a child’s love and affection.

I would hate for you to think that being a mom is all about giving things up though – you also gain a lot. You will garner a new appreciation for the love that your Father has for you as you realize in a new way what it meant for Him to sacrifice His Son on your behalf (Jn. 3:16). You will also probably quickly learn to take things in stride more; your little one will change so much from day-to-day that you quickly learn that there are a lot of things in life that aren’t permanent so it’s best to concentrate on those things that will have eternal significance. You will also get adept at multi-tasking in ways that you probably didn’t expect; you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in the short spurts that your child naps.  And if you are blessed to be married to a man who is a great dad, your love for him will grow even stronger as you get a front-row seat to watching him train up your child according to God’s ways.  Your life won’t be the same, it’s true; and you will be so grateful for that fact.

As with any ministry that God gives us, there are good days and tough days when it comes to being a mom. However, as with any ministry the most important thing to remember is that being a mom is not about you. Your job as a parent is to put God’s glory on display – both in how you parent and in the way you respond to the challenges that it throws at you. When you don’t know what to do you will be tempted to seek wisdom from a lot of places – your mom, the Internet, friends and strangers that have walked the road before. However, while they may have good advice, make sure that the first place you go is to the One who created the life that you’ve been entrusted with. While others may be parents, God called you to parent this child. And your child is not the same as mine. Let motherhood draw you into a deeper dependence upon your Heavenly Father.  Seek His wisdom and His help as you walk the road that He has set before you. He is the One who has called you to this task, and He is the One who can best equip you for it.

Finally, remember this, while you always be a mom, you only have a limited time to parent your child. Make the most of that time. Be  intentional and diligent about telling your child about Christ. Pray for your child and pray with them. Model for them what it means to be a Christ follower, and talk with them about it too. Your child will learn a lot from you; at the end of the day, make sure you have taught them what is most important.

Welcome to mommyhood, dear one.  It’s a wild ride for sure. But thankfully, if you are a child of the King, it’s not one that you ride alone.

The Servant of the Lord – What does it mean to serve the Lord? A review of some Scripture on the subject.

So Who You Gonna Trust? – It’s tempting to try to figure things out ourselves, and develop our own solutions to problem. But as this post reminds us, that’s not what God has called us to do.

Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Modern Literature? – I admit – this article hits on a subject that I’ve briefly considered. But it gives a response that I had not.

8 Ways Satan Keeps You From Worship – “Satan wants to keep you from worshipping the One he hates. He wants to keep you from doing the right thing, whether that is spending time alone with the Lord in Scripture and prayer, attending and participating in public worship services, or any other thing that will draw you closer to the Lord. Here, courtesy of Thomas Brooks, are eight ways Satan will keep you from worship.”

A Feast Renewed – A profound reflection on Christ’s first miracle. You will likely not consider the wedding feast at Cana in the same way again.

The Beautiful “Must” – “We don’t like Jesus’ intrusion into our lives. We don’t like His outlandish claim of Lordship and dominion over our habits and thoughts. We don’t like His calls to complete trust and obedience. He forces His way into our houses, and it’s a bit uncomfortable. At least at first. But then, in retrospect, we find that this is an invasion of grace. Of love. Of mercy. It is an through His demands that we find true freedom and hope and joy.”

Anticipated Future

July 31, 2013 — Leave a comment

Like many people, I have a penchant for planning. I work hard to consider what needs to be done, who I need to catch up with, and allocate the time needed to do those things. If I had to choose between a spur-of-the-moment activity, and a planned event, I would most likely choose the latter. Spontaneity and I are on friendly terms, but we are not close. I would much rather have an appointment on my calendar than try to “squeeze something in.”

While there are many benefits to this proclivity, one of the downsides is that I tend to think that if I work hard enough, I will be able to plan for everything. The foolishness of this, however, is obvious as soon as the sentence is stated. As you and I both know, you can’t plan for everything. Life is full of surprises – some of them good and some of them not. Regardless of what category they fall into, we have all experienced some things that simply could not have been anticipated. At least not by us.

There is Someone, however, who does know what will happen in our lives. Our great God and King is not caught off guard by what crosses our path. While we may not be able to predict what will happen next, He is well aware of it. And just like He is knows what will come, He knows what we will need in order to glorify Him through it. If we don’t have it now, He will provide it. Or He may choose to change the circumstance so that what we currently have can be used to put His majesty on display. Either way, He does not let us encounter the future without a plan and provision for using it for His glory.  We may not know what we need for our unknown future, but He does, and He can prepare us for what we will encounter next.

Worrying about the future, then, is senseless, not only because as Scripture tells us, our worry doesn’t produce any fruitful results (Mt. 6:27), but because worry presumes that our confidence is in what we can do, and not in what God is doing for us. Instead of trying to scheme on how we might conquer what we think may happen, we would be better served by trusting in the God Who knows what will occur. Our future may be unanticipated by us, but He has already planned and prepared for it.

The Joy of Not Sinning – “Putting sin to death is never easy—life does not bring much that is the rare combination of easy and worth doing. Sanctification is no exception. Yet few things are more rewarding, more encouraging, than seeing victory over sin, seeing a pet sin begin to look ugly, seeing its power erode, seeing its prevalence diminish. Few things bring so great a sense of God’s pleasure and so great an opportunity for worship than not sinning in the face of what was once a near-irresistible temptation.”

The Urgent vs. Important – “At the end of our lives, when we look back, most of the seemingly urgent things will be long forgotten. What we will thank God for—or regret—is what we did about the important things.”

Amusing Our Youth to Spiritual Death? – “Teenagers are perfectly capable of learning doctrine. If our schools can teach our children chemistry and biology, physics and geology, algebra and geometry, political science and economics, then we can certainly teach them theology and apologetics, Christian ethics and philosophy.1 Why should we be satisfied with placating them with pseudo-theological drivel? It’s time for us to realize that youth ministries centered around activities instead of the Word are worse they ineffective; they are amusing our kids to their spiritual death.”

I Wouldn’t Forget If My Neighbor’s House Was Filled WIth Frogs…Would I? – A great post on our tendency to forget to thank God for His blessings, even when they are abundant and profound.

Should We Stop Saying “The Church Hurt Me?” – “Nothing makes us self-interested quite like pain. Hurt people act in self-protecting ways. Sometimes that’s lashing out. Sometimes that’s running away. Sometimes it’s both. Saying “The church hurt me” is often both–running away and lashing out. But the way of Christ is reconciliation and peace.”

The Toughest Conversation I’m Glad I Had – “I trust that on that last day when we all stand before that great judgment throne, the fear of man will be exposed for utter foolishness. The weightiness of eternity presses us into deeper dependence on Christ to do what he’s called us to do—while we still can. To be paralyzed by fear of human opinion, rather than stirred to declare the truth that can deliver from destruction, is a most saddening tradeoff.”

If anyone is keeping track, you know that I’m a bit behind on my blog of monthly parenting lessons. I have learned that I am just going to have to accept the fact that my schedule is no longer my own. At any time a little one can get sick, or go through a growth spurt, or have their sleeping patterns change, and my carefully crafted agenda goes out the window. However, I still appreciate the practice of recalling the lessons I have learned as I experience my first year of being a parent. Since my little one turned six months the same month as Father’s Day, my plan was to write what I’ve learned from watching my husband be a father. Despite my tardiness, I’m sticking with that plan.

Dads should be tough and tender – I’m blessed by the fact that not only am I married to a man who is a great father, but I had a great dad myself. One of the things I’ve learned from watching both of them is that a good dad is both tough and tender, and knows when it is best to exhibit each of these characteristics. One of the things I appreciate about my husband is that even though our child is very young, he is already purposefully and intentionally correcting her behavior when it is needed. However, I also value the fact that he desires to provide her comfort and reprieve from pain what that is appropriate. Dads have a difficult job; the good ones know when they need to be tough, but they are equally (and maybe even more eagerly) adept at showing compassion and love.

Dads and daughters have special smiles – When I tell the story of my little one being born, I often include the fact that my favorite part of the experience, besides my little girl’s arrival, is seeing my husband’s face when she made her debut. I have never seen joy express itself in quite that way before. Similarly, my daughter beams with delight when her dad gets home from work. She smiles for a lot of people but there is a special one that is reserved for him. It’s the way it should be and it thrills me that they share this connection.

Dads bring the fun – I think I’m a fairly fun individual, but in my role as mom, I’m all about protecting my little girl. My husband, however, is great at balancing the need to protect her with the desire to make sure she has fun. Even at this young age, he’ll come up with new games that they can play together – all the while making sure that while she’s safe, she’s also busy learning to try new things. I haven’t managed to get it in writing  yet, but I’m hoping he will agree to teach her how to drive. I think I’m going to be the quintessential nervous wreck if that task is left to me.

Spiritual Leadership Starts Young – The most important role that a dad has is being the spiritual leader for their children. While it may be tempting to think this doesn’t apply until the child can engage in conversation, as I’ve already mention, children start learning things from a very early age. I so appreciate that my husband is purposeful about including our daughter in our desire to serve, honor and know God. It is our prayer that one day this desire will become hers as well.

Six months went by fast and it’s amazing to think of all the things I’ve learned in that time. I’m looking forward to what I will continue to learn – not only about being a parent, but about being the woman God desires for me to be.