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.

Sinner in the Hand of Angry Saints – “It is a great thing to rejoice in our standing as saints before the throne of God. It is a joyful thing to know that God’s peace with us is not dependent on nor grounded in our obedience to His law. It is, however, a bad thing to forget that though we are in Christ, sin has not yet been completely eradicated from our lives. It is a bad thing to forget that sin is a failure to do what God commands, or to do what He forbids. Let us, as He forgets our sin, forget its curse. But let us confess its presence. And let’s not, due to our truncated means of discourse, embrace a truncated theology.”

How Can We Tell When God is Really at Work – This post looks at four distinguishing marks that Jonathan Edwards identified that indicate God is working.

Weakness Is An Advantage – “God was breaking Elijah as a way of preparing to use him, and he is often at work in the same way in our lives. Someone we trust betrays us; or we lose our job; or we have a sudden decline in health. In all of this, God is at work—removing our idols, those areas of false trust, false joy, and false hope. Because if dependence is the objective, weakness is an advantage.” *(H/T)

The Wedding Vows 20 Years Later – I very much appreciated this heartfelt and honest look what wedding vows mean to one couple as they celebrate their 20th anniversary (and how it differs from when they first uttered those words.) (H/T)

Joy Cuts Through Everything – Dallas Willard defines joy as “a pervasive sense of well-being.” This video explains why.

Spend Your Day With Eternity in Mind – “Every day matters. Every hour matters. So spend it with eternity in mind.”

Busy & Blessed

July 29, 2013 — Leave a comment

Life is busy.

Often times it feels that just when we have managed to complete one task, three more pop up on the to-do list.

We use technology to organize and prioritize, all the while giving ourselves more projects to complete than we will ever have the opportunity to commence (I’m looking at you, Pinterest.)

We shuffle back and forth thinking that our multi-tasking makes us more efficient, meanwhile we never give our full attention to any one thing.

And we often find ourselves complaining about all we have to do, and all that is left to complete. Our obligations grow longer while our time seems to shrink. We don’t get to do all the things that we want to do, because we are so focused on all the things we haven’t yet finished.

Yet in all of this, what we fail to realize is that our busyness is often a sign of blessing.

The fact that we have so many places to be – it’s an indication of the community that God has graciously provided.

The chores and home repairs that never seem to end – they’re a result of God’s provision in giving us a place we call “ours.”

The bills we pay, the obligations we keep, the work that we must get up for each day – they are a result of God’s good gifts.

We may feel like we’re flailing in the wind, but more often than not that rushing we feel is the whirlwind of God abundantly pouring out His blessings. Those who have little, don’t feel busy. That is reserved for those who have much. 

So the next time I am tempted to get overwhelmed by the tasks that I still haven’t done, or the goals I make little progress towards achieving, I hope I remember that the reason I’m tired when I lay down to sleep isn’t because of what I lack in life; it’s the result of all I have been graciously given. While I may wish I could do more, I am grateful for all that God has seen fit to fill my life with.  After all, those who have been given much, are those God has generously blessed.

Doubting Your Doubts – “The answer to doubt is God. The answer to our questions about tithing, membership, gender roles, politics, sin, and any other aspect in life that gives us pause is God. The blight of our generation is that we believe we are god.”

How Jesus Exposed the Idol of Self-Glory – “Self-glory is revealed to be an idol in our heart when the Lord presents us with an opportunity to glorify him by speaking the truth about our convictions or our sins, yet we are unwilling to do it for fear of what someone else will think of us.”

I Hate/Love Being Busy – “We daily are rushing from this place to that, this appointment to that one, this activity to the next. We hurry, hurry, hurry until we finally drop at the end of a day and we lay down exhausted. While we might complain about the pace of our lives at a given moment, isn’t there that little piece of you that glories in your busyness? I know there is for me.”

Dallas Willard’s Granddaughter Eulogizes Him – This is old, but I still think it is worth viewing. It is very touching tribute for a grandfather that was obviously very loved.

The Big Question of Grief: Who Am I Now?  – I found this article put into words something that often isn’t considered in the midst of grief. Namely, when you have lost someone (or something), you become disoriented about what that means for who you are in light of this new reality (even for those who know that their grief is temporary in light of the Cross.) (H/T)

Is Your Child A Christian? – This is a question that every Christian parent probably wrestles with, and this article provides some helpful perspective to consider. (H/T)

Wanting Something Less

June 10, 2013 — 2 Comments

It is not uncommon for people to express a desire to want more out of life. This is the impetus for why many people switch jobs, careers, churches, or marriages. For one reason or another they believe that the proverbial grass is in fact greener on the other side, if only they could get to it. Of course many of them find that once they cross the chasm their unfulfilled desires still exist. It turns out that long-term contentment is not a result of the circumstances you are in.

On the other side of the spectrum you may find Christians who talk about how they wish God didn’t trust them with quite so much. We know that no trial or travesty comes to us without it being under the purview of God’s sovereign plan and it is His desire that our lives would be a glorious reflection of Him. Knowing that He will equip us to do the good work that He has called us to do (Eph. 2:10) and that often times it is through the difficulties in life that our mettle for ministry is formed, we may wish that God’s plan for us were a little less grand. Given enough time most Christians can articulate how God used difficulty to accomplish good things in their lives, but sometimes we may wonder if we can withstand the problem long enough to get to the payoff.

In His wisdom and graciousness though, God is not prone to letting us off easy when it comes to accomplishing His good purposes in our lives. He knows that when we get to eternity the difficulties will seem inconsequential compared to the eternal glory that they produced. As C.S. Lewis stated, “It is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.” God wants us to experience the full expanse of His love and despite our short-term desires to the contrary, He is not willing to let us sacrifice eternal significance for temporal comfort.

It may be tempting to wish for less of the responsibility of trials; it is understandable why we would desire that hardship be reserved for another. However, let us not forget that it is often through difficulties that we experience God’s love, grace and kindness in ways that we neglect to pay attention to during times of ease. May we desire that our lives be filled with His glory – by whatever means will produce it.

Study to Serve

June 6, 2013 — 2 Comments

iStock_000000641866XSmallMy dad used to tease me that I would be a great professional student. As with most humor the reason this was funny is because there was truth behind it. I am one of those rare people who love school. I appreciate the organization, I treasure the learning and I actually like the process of studying. Having dedicated time to learn new material works well with both my introversion and my tendency to collect things (like random facts.) Academic pursuits are invigorating for me.

Since I am no longer a student in any official capacity it would be easy to think that my days of studying are over. After all, no one is going to issue me a pop quiz. Finals week does not cause me to stay up late and attempt to cram (since now I’m the one giving the finals I stay up late to assess how successful the cramming was.)  Report cards are a thing of the past. Studying, it would seem, would join it.

While I may not be sharpening any number 2 pencils or purchasing any blue books, it doesn’t mean that my study sessions are over. There is a far more important report than the one that arrived in the mail every semester. At the end of my days there is an account that I will give to my Maker regarding what I did with the blessing of marriage that He gave me. Giving an account that will honor Him is one that requires even more diligence and focus than my hardest exam. It requires that I study.

This may seem like an arduous task for something that is supposed to be a delight. And let me assuaged any concerns by stating that I deeply and profoundly love my spouse and being married to him is the second greatest gift in my life after my salvation in Jesus Christ. However, serving him in a way that pleases Jesus doesn’t come naturally. Serving anyone goes against our sinful nature because our desire is to please ourselves. Serving another person in a way that will be best for that other person requires awareness, expansive knowledge and spontaneous recall. In other words, it requires that I study who my husband is so that my service is prompted by what would most benefit him. The aim of my study then is not so that I can pat myself on the back for my good performance, but that through our marriage my husband is encouraged and God is pleased.

What things should I study? There are at least four areas on which I should focus:

1) Study his habits  – Maybe your spouse always forgets where they put their keys. Or maybe you know that he likes a glass of water before dinner or the house cooled before he goes to sleep. When you studying your husband’s habits it makes it easier to know how to best serve him because you can more easily identify areas where you loving assistance would be most appreciated, and most beneficial to him. Diligently observing how he regularly organizes and operates his day while reveal specific ways that you can do good to your spouse and as a result display Jesus’ love to him.

2) Study his hobbies  – It seems to be en vogue for husbands and wives to spend their time separately. We want to allow each other to “be their own person” or so the reasoning goes. However, when you got married God joined you together (Mt. 19:5) and it makes sense then that there would be some crossover between what the other partner likes to do. Hobbies are a wonderful indication of what someone values because they demonstrate how a person chooses to spend their time. Studying your spouse’s hobbies doesn’t mean that you have to go to the golf course with them every single time or that you have to become an expert in their favorite team or movie genre, but it does mean that you should be able to converse about these things. If something is important to your loved one it should be important to you. Serving your husband means that when you spend time together it shouldn’t always be about what you mutually like to do or worse yet what you exclusively want. Sometimes simply sacrificing your time to pursue a hobby that your husband values is a wonderful way to serve him.

3) Study his heart – The Bible teaches us that where our treasure is our heart will be also (Mt. 6:21). In order to serve your husband well it is important to study what he values. For some, a home cooked meal every night is a meaningful and significant way to serve them; for others they could care less about this. It is important that we don’t always assume that we know what our husband needs, but that we are diligent about studying who he is in order to serve him in the way that will be most significant for him, and in keeping with what he treasures.

4) Study his holiness – If we are going to serve our spouse well, one of the things that we should be cognizant of is how God is currently working in him in order to make him more like Christ. As someone who cares for our husband, we should be helping and supporting their sanctification. This doesn’t mean that we should strive to do the work of conviction in our husband’s life; that is the Holy Spirit’s role and frankly He does a much better job of it. But it does mean that when we know our husband is striving to conform a certain aspect of his life to more closely mirror God’s desires, we can support, encourage and help him in doing so. We should be celebrating the work that God is doing in our husband, and doing so requires that we are careful to pay attention to how God is working to make our loved one more like Him.

There may be a temptation to read all of this and to think “well that sounds sweet and all, but what about what the husband should do?” And I get that our prideful nature wants to make sure that we aren’t extending ourselves in service if it is not going to be reciprocated. However, there are two things to keep in mind. First, our obedience to Christ shouldn’t be contingent on another person’s response. We are called to serve others (see Gal. 5:13) and our husband should be first on the list of those who receive the outpouring of our service to Christ. Secondly, Christian husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church and there is no one who served more sacrificially than when Christ laid down His life to take on the sins of the world that we may be saved and spend eternity with Him. In other words, while this isn’t supposed to be a one-way street, we can’t let whether or not our spouse is going in the right direction deter us from pursuing what God has called us to do.

It may sound unconventional to study our spouse in order to serve them well. We may be tempted to think that this should be a natural outpouring of our love for him, and in reality, it should be. But in order to serve him in a way that is most beneficial to and appreciated by him requires diligence, focus and intention. In other words it requires study. May our studying of our spouse lead us to serve him in a way that will bring more glory to God, through our lives and his.

Nine Examples of the Internet Changing Our World – We are kind of used to this whole Internet thing by now, but it’s helpful to recount at least some of the ways it has changed things. (H/T)

Two Kinds of Funerals – “The contemporary funeral deals with grief by indulging it, even feeding it. A successful funeral — with its heart-wrenching personal testimonials, its parade of mourners pouring out their anguish, the emotional manipulation of the congregation — works by creating an emotional catharsis. The upsurge of feeling can indeed feel cleansing. As at the ending of a tragedy, the emotions are purged. The bereaved feel drained. The aftermath, in Milton’s words, is “calm of mind, all passions spent.” The grievers really do feel better. But how different is a traditional Christian funeral.” (H/T)

Doubt Your Doubts – “The answer to doubt is God. The answer to our questions about tithing, membership, gender roles, politics, sin, and any other aspect in life that gives us pause is God. The blight of our generation is that we believe we are god.”

Two Kinds of Regret, One Kind of Hope – What’s the difference between godly and godless grief? This post helps articulate the difference as well as the different results that they produce.

Does Your Inside Match Your Outside? – “The word hypocrite comes from a word meaning actor. A hypocrite’s an actor, a pretender. He professes some value or belief but his private life does not match it. He’s not pure in heart.  So to be pure in heart means our words match our thoughts. Our outer life matches our inner life.”

Tracked Time

June 4, 2013 — Leave a comment
©iStockphoto.com/Devonyu

©iStockphoto.com/Devonyu

As a fan of organization it would come as no surprise to those who know me that I like systems. However, when you become a parent having a system to manage all of the ins and outs becomes a necessity, not a preference. Your child’s doctor, babysitter, grandmother, or concerned friend will all want to do what is “normal” for your kid. Because so much changes so quickly, “normal” is a shifting definition. The only logical solution is to note and record what happens during the day.

Because of the need to keep such records, I have become astute at tracking how much time I spend doing various activities with my kid. On any given day I can give you a fairly precise review of what happened the day or week before. I can report how much time my child spent eating, how long she slept, and at what times these events occurred. I have a detailed understanding of how the day has been invested, and based on my recorded schedule, I can give you a pretty good indication of whether the day was a “good” one or not.

Recently, I wondered what would happen if I did something similar with the time I invested in my relationship with God. What would the record look like if I noted when I prayed, at what frequency, and at what length? Would my daily schedule reflect a commitment to ingest and digest the Word of God? Would the resulting report show that I spend as much or more time pursuing Him as I do going after many lesser things?  If I stood before the Great Physician and reviewed the daily details of my life, would the diagnosis of any soul troubles be readily apparent?

I’m concerned that if I were to do such a thing, I would quickly be aghast at how I spend my time. When I realized how many hours in any given day my child spends intaking nutrition I was astonished, yet I wonder if my investment in my spiritual growth can be even slightly compared to the investment in her physical maturing. The moments and the minutes of the day can pass by so quickly and it is easy for our focus to wander from the things that are primary and be distracted by that which eternity will find futile. If we kept track of what we spent our time doing, perhaps our tendency towards diversion would dissipate.

The danger, of course, is that we would measure the value of our relationship merely by the time that we spent investing in godly activities. Or perhaps that we would spend a perfunctory amount of time seemingly investing in our relationship with our Father only to cross the to-do off our list. Just like my child doesn’t keep a timecard to assess my feelings towards her, neither should a simple count of minutes be the sole determinant in our evaluation of our love for our Father. However, the way we invest our time is at least one indication of what we value and treasure. It would be good to consider whether our moments, as well as our days, are spent pursuing things of eternity.