People often say that “familiarity breeds contempt.” This may sometimes be the case, but perhaps even more frequently familiarity gives birth to complacency.  We may not have disdain for those things or people that we are most familiar with, but we do tend to get accustomed to them. As we acclimate to their presence, our care of them tends to wane.

This is often seen in marriages. The formalities and niceties that permeated the dating relationships can disappear as couples live their lives day-in and day-out. We make assumptions about what our husband or wife thinks because we believe we know them so well. Hurt feelings are disregarded and compliments end because we’ve simply grown used to having them around. Our attention to details tends to fade.

Because of this proclivity, we sometimes forget to ask the same questions of our spouse that we would a close friend. These like “how are you doing?” become perfunctory rather than an ardent inquiry into their well-being. For the Christian, an even better question that is often neglected is “how can I be praying for you?” Because we assume we know what is going on in our spouse’s life, we may not think to ask.

However, regularly and intentionally asking our spouse for their prayer requests has several benefits. Namely:

You better understand their challenges and struggles. When you catch up with each other and the end of the day there is often a list of discussion points that must be covered. You need to compare calendars, make plans, and ensure you are on the same page with one another in regards to the kids. While doing this you may think that you have a good understanding of your loved one’s day, but likely you have only a cursory overview. Asking for specific prayer requests helps reveals what issues are most pressing on your spouse’s heart. It reveals what areas or issues are causing them concern, and allows you to partner together in facing them.

You are better prepared to help them. Building off the previous point, when you are aware of the issues that your spouse must contend with during a day, you know better how you may bless them. You may think that your are helping your spouse because you are preparing dinner and getting the laundry done, but perhaps what they really need in that season is someone to take the car in for an oil change which they have intended to do for the last several weeks but it just never got done. This is a simplistic example, but it illustrates the point. We tend to do the same thing that we’ve always done assuming that what has been beneficial in the past carries the same benefit into the future. People and marriages go through seasons and different needs arise. Asking your spouse for their prayer requests not only allows you to petition God for help on their behalf, it may be an opportunity that God uses to speak into your heart on how you may bless the one you love.

You can follow up and keep track. When you say a general prayer for your spouse, God is faithful to respond. The challenge is that you don’t have any idea what the response was. Because you were not specific, it is difficult to demonstrate a specific answer. This means that you can’t follow-up with your spouse to see whether their needs were met, nor can you know whether continued petitioning is needed. Additionally, you have no record of God’s faithful and generous response to your requests, because all your requests were abstract. Throughout Scripture God calls His people to remember what He has done in their lives. Knowing how He has responded to your prayers is one aspect of this. If you have only made general requests on behalf of your spouse, all of your recollections will be general too. While this may provide some comfort the next time you face an uncertain or scary future, specificity would probably provide even greater assurance as you recall the things God has done.

You show your spouse love. One of the marvelous things about prayer is that even nonbelievers tend to appreciate it when you pray for them. Lifting your loved one up to the One who loves them even more than you do and Whose purposes can not be thwarted (Job 42:2) demonstrates your affection and concern. Your spouse will likely face many situations where you can not tangibly provide them what they need. However, you can always pray. As you do so, you are asking the One who controls all to intervene on their behalf. What is a better indication of love than that?

In the busyness of the days it is easy to assume that you know how you should pray for your spouse. However, purposefully asking them for their requests has numerous benefits. As we do so we reveal that our familiarity has not caused us to grow passive. Instead, the more we are aware of their concerns, the more likely we are to bear their burden as our own (see Gal. 6:2). The more we know how we should petition, the more we see the response and the effects of those prayers. And the more purposefully we pray, the more demonstratively we show our love.

The End of Me – “God has called me to be a mother, yes, but first and foremost he has called me to live by faith in the new identity that he has graciously bestowed upon me. He has called me to believe that my life is hidden in Christ, therefore I am called ‘holy and beloved,’ and am counted among God’s ‘chosen ones’ (Col. 3:12). With the strength of the indwelling Spirit, I can now put to death what is earthly in me and ‘put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator’ (Col. 3:5,10).”

8 Email Mistakes You Make –  “I have put a lot of time and thought into the best email practices and have identified 8 dumb email mistakes you may be making (which is to say, 8 dumb email mistakes I have found myself making). Many of these mistakes apply to everyone, though some apply primarily to those of us who tend to sit at a desk most of the day.”

God Loves Us More When He Loves Us For His Glory – “God’s love for us, that makes much of us for his glory, is a greater love than if he ended by making us our greatest treasure, rather than himself. Making himself our end is a greater love than making us his end. The reason this is greater love is that self, no matter how glorified by God (Romans 8:30), will never satisfy a heart that is made for God.”

Sorry Kids: Back to School Means Back to Bedtime – “One of the odd characteristics of our time is our apparent need  for scientific verification of what we should know by simple common sense. Well, help now comes in the form of a research project undertaken by University College London. The bottom line—children with a fixed and consistent bedtime performed better on tests of cognitive ability.’

Nobody Ever Came to Christ Because He Knew Himself to Be Elect – A powerful truth to remember as we evangelize.

Christian Men Think Clearly Christianly – I don’t know how many readers are men, but I thought this post did a good job addressing how Christian men should differ in their response to an attractive women.

Trusted Provision

August 7, 2013 — 2 Comments

I have never once forgotten to feed my child.

Seriously. 

In the time that she has been in this world I have faithfully, and sometimes at the expense of sleep, given her the nourishment she needs.

I consider her feeding routine when planning my day and I prepare for her consumption needs before I leave the house. My husband and I talk about her schedule when we are making plans. Ensuring she doesn’t go hungry is a priority.

Yet despite all this care and attention. there are times that if you listened to my child when I place her in the high chair, you’d be convinced that something quite different was going on.

You may be tempted to think that food is only provided at special occasions and therefore she has to hurriedly scoop it up with rapid inefficiency.

You may be inclined to believe that she only eats when she loudly cajoles me to give her what she desires.

You may even think that I purposefully test her patience – waiting until she is miserable and upset until providing her relief.

None of these are the case.

Yet, as a friend recently reminded me, sometimes my child’s response at the dining table is similar to our response to Christ.

When my daughter gets antsy my faithfulness of the past seems to be obliterated from memory, much like when I worry about the future, forgetting about God’s steadfast provision.

I grow impatient when God’s plan doesn’t align with mine and can throw a temper tantrum that, while unseen, would put a hungry kid’s to shame.

I complain about what I lack, consuming the gifts God has given me with selfishness, entitlement and little appreciation, believing I have to protect what is “mine” lest anyone take it away.

I convince myself I am figuratively starved, when all the evidence suggest I’m well-fed.

My response and that of my kid are eerily the same.

Yet just as I desire to do good to my child, my Heavenly Father delights to do good to me (Mt. 7:11). 

And much like I shake my head at my kid’s antics, God must similarly look at us and marvel at our lack of faith.

After all, He’s always provided in the past. He promises He always will (Mt. 6:25-34).

And while I wish my child would have confidence in the moments between when I place her in the chair and the first bites enter her mouth, I’m grateful for the revealing, if painful, lesson it affords. In my own times of uncertainty, I can look back at all God has done before, and trust that wherever He has placed me now, He will continue to do the same.

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.”