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.

How to Survive a Cultural Crisis – “In all this, Christians are tempted to become panicked or to speak as alarmists. But to the extent we do, to that same extent we show we’ve embraced an unbiblical and nominal Christianity. Here, then, are seven principles for surviving the very real cultural shifts we’re presently enduring.”

How Premarital Sex Rewires Your Brain – “Dopamine, Oxytocin and Vasopressin are three powerful and important products released during sex between a man and a woman in a committed relationship and helps couples bond. When they are introduced in casual sexual relationships, however, they can cause much trouble.”

Why You Can’t See Your Biggest Flaws – “Virtues of gifts and temperament have a corresponding “dark side” because our gifts and natural temperament are bound up with the idols that dominate any not heart filled with the gospel of grace. Without a thorough knowledge of the gospel, we look to good things—human approval and relationships, the exercise of power and accomplishment, the control of our environment and self-discipline, the enjoyment of comfort, privacy, and pleasure—and make them into pseudo-salvations. So the person who makes an idol out of human approval may be a sensitive artist, and the one who makes an idol out of power might be a courageous leader. But gifts and temperament in the service of idols—and this is our normal state—always are a mixed blessing. They have a good side—they produce virtuous behavior—but they lead the person into a corresponding sin or vice as well.”

Does God Like Making You Suffer? – “Our heavenly father does not take any pleasure in causing us to suffer. He is not a cosmic sadist. Yes he uses suffering for our good. Yes he uses suffering to make us more like Jesus. Yes he works all of our sufferings for his glory and our good. But he does not enjoy breaking us. He does not take a perverted pleasure in seeing us brought to nothing. All suffering is the result of sin in the world (not necessarily personal sin, but the fact that sin is in the world).”

I MIssed My Son’s Birthday – “Five years ago I didn’t know that the greatest joys of my life were already here, and yet not quite here. I didn’t know that the Lord was using the suffering of an empty cradle to teach me what it means to love two sons more than I ever would have known possible. Perhaps I need to be reminded of that when I allow the worries of the present age to overshadow the glory that is to come. Perhaps I need to be reminded that while I bemoaned my situation five years ago, my children were waiting all the while. And, right now, as I consider the worries of the present age, there’s an empty tomb in Jerusalem, the first installment of the glorious kingdom of Christ.”

Accepting “No” As God’s Will – “The prayer of faith is not a demand that we place on God. It is not a presumption of a granted request. The authentic prayer of faith is one that models Jesus’ prayer. It is always uttered in a spirit of subordination. In all our prayers, we must let God be God. No one tells the Father what to do, not even the Son. Prayers are always to be requests made in humility and submission to the Father’s will.”

One of the things I have been reflecting on recently is how much a child changes during their first year of life. When you consider the number of things that they learn during that timeframe – from learning to hold their head up to learning to walk and say words – it really is a marvel. I would guess that there is no other single time in life when so much physical and mental growth takes place 365 days. With that being said, a lot of growth happens in the parent’s life during the first year as well. Here are some of the lessons I have learned over the past month:

Prepare to Be Humbled – It is inaccurate to say that this lesson is merely from the last month as I began learning it the first week of my child’s life. As someone who had been around a lot of kids throughout my life I thought I had a good grasp on what to expect from motherhood. It turns out I was wrong. Being a parent means being prepared for the unexpected and when the unexpected occurs it doesn’t take long to realize that there was no way to prepare for it. What you think you know can get turned on its head without a moment’s notice. Just as your child is learning to make sense of this world you are learning who your child is and how much you are reliant on God to parent them well. This lesson in humility is a good thing, but it doesn’t mean that it is an easy thing.  Yet God graciously redeems the difficult times to use them for His purposes and glory.

The Exception Shouldn’t Become the Expectation - Because your child is always changing, it is tempting to think that every new experience is a new milestone. For example, my husband and I took our kid to my work to meet some of my colleagues. Our little one was a trooper, staying up longer than normal and being pleasant the whole time. I thought this meant she had learned to consolidate sleep and extend time between naps. It turns out God was just generously allowing us to have some time to introduce her to others. When I start letting my expectations be shaped by the exceptions, I am bound to be disappointed. God doesn’t owe me a thing. The fact that He mercifully allows some days to go a little better than the rest as if the sun was shining down on me just a little bit brighter doesn’t mean He owes me those days. Instead I would do well to thank Him when they occur and to cherish them rather than count on them this side of Heaven.

Training Time – As I wrote about previously, it didn’t take me long to realize that even at a young age my child is beginning to understand things. Because of this, I know that I can begin, in very small ways, to train her in regards to how she should behave. What I’ve been reminded of, though, is that as I am training her, God is training me. He is molding and shaping me not only into the type of parent He wants me to be, but into the type of Christian He desires of His children. Recognizing that parenthood is one of the most refining experiences a person can go through makes me appreciate even more the privilege it is to be a mother.

Be The Example I Want Followed – Because my child is already beginning to make sense of the world around her, she is already beginning to observe my behavior and how I respond to things. Part of raising her up in the way that she should go means being an example of what I desire for her. It is my hope and prayer that she would come to know and serve Jesus at a young age and that her life would be defined as someone committed to Him. If this is what I want for her, I need to make sure that I am living the same way and therefore setting an example for her to emulate. She is learning all the time. I need to make sure that I’m teaching her the lessons  I want her to know.

It is such a privilege to be a parent. It is not without its challenges but the blessings are so very sweet. I’m grateful that God uses me even though I still have a lot to learn. And I’m grateful that in His perfect timing He teaches me just what I need to know.

What God Doesn’t Need – “God doesn’t need us. He’s managed to achieve quite a bit without our help, thank you very much. In his kindness he allows us to participate in his mission. Let’s strive for excellence. But more importantly, let’s place our confidence in the God who does great things through weakness.”

What We Mean When We Say Amen – “Amen means ‘let it be’, ‘so be it,’ ‘verily,’ ‘truly.’  When you finish your prayer with ‘Amen’ you are saying, ‘Yes Lord, let it be so. According to your will, may it be.’ It’s a final note of confirmation at the end of our prayers.”

New Use for the Smartphone – When a camera is an easily accessible as reaching for your phone, it means all kinds of things can be instantly captured – including a disputed call in the French Open.

A Heart-Breaking Description – Warning – this is a graphic description. In testimony before Congress a former abortion doctor describes the procedures he used to perform. It should not only make our stomach turn, but should drive us to our knees in prayer.

Five Lies Sin Tells Me – Next time your tempted to do something that is against God’s directives, ask yourself whether you are believing one of these lies.

Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:19

“Relax,” people say. “It’s not that big of deal.”

And in regards to many things that we spend our time worrying and fretting about they are right. Unfortunately often times when we hear this remark it is not in response to our fear but in response to our adherence to God’s standards. If Satan can convince us that it is not a big deal to ignore one of God’s rules than it is a short trip to believing that it is not a big deal to ignore many or most of them. Yet, loving Jesus means devotion to the same things that were important to Him, and the passage above and others (for example John 6:38) make it clear that doing the will of the Father was of utmost importance to Christ.

There are many things in life that we should probably be more relaxed about, but our commitment to obeying God’s commands should not be one of them. Because of our deep love for Him we should desire to do the things that please Him, and to teach others to do the same.

Jesus Doesn’t Think My Doubt Is Cool - “Entering Jesus’ kingdom and walking daily with Jesus requires me to have a humble, trusting, loving, believing faith in Christ. Jesus calls me to have a simple, genuine faith in his character and his promises. When I tell my children that something is true, they believe me. They know that I love them, and therefore they simply trust me. They don’t demand proof, they simply trust. In the same way, I know that Jesus loves me and always has my best interests in mind, therefore I am called to simple faith in him.”

5 Ways the Bible Shapes Our Work – Have you ever wondered what applying Scripture to your work might look like? Tim Keller gives us five truths to consider when it comes to our work and our faith.

Are Sports as Worthy as the Arts? - “The boundaries on a field or court create a space, and the rules of the game eliminate anarchy. It is within this framework that great athletes are free to express beauty and power and majesty. It is within these rules and boundaries that the skill and nuance and improvisation come out. Without rules, all the ability that God poured into athletes would have nowhere to adequately be exhibited.”

Let Us Read, As In Read - “Faithful interpretation at its best is faith-filled repetition. God speaks through what we say from what he has said. And that means what we do with texts says more about our hearts than our intellects. By grace, we lean humbly on him, the divine author. We put our ear next to his heart by putting our eyes intently on his word. That’s when we shed the scales of carnal preference and cultural pressure.”

Do You Want to Be a Burden to Your Children? – “In the Body of Christ, there are not people who have burdens and people who don’t. We are to ‘bear one another’s burdens’ (Gal. 6:2). We are all a burden to be borne, just in different ways.”

How To Manage a Home By Faith - “Yes, God loves me in a complete and glorious way that I cannot comprehend. And in the abundance of his love, God gives me grace to do good works and makes my mundane tasks more than meaningless. This physical world and the tasks of folding laundry and vacuuming the living room are not something separate from grace and knowing God. In the midst of our everyday lives is the very place we receive his grace to live in a way that reflects our Savior.”

Working with college students it is not unusual for me to encounter individuals who are struggling with their purpose in life. Many of them recognize that they are at a crossroads and that the decisions they make regarding their major and course of study will in some ways dictate the trajectory that their life will follow. Although from my perspective I can assure them that the choices they make are very likely not permanent (I know many successful people who work in fields unrelated to their college major), I understand the pressure that they face. The realization that adulthood is upon them is hard to contend with. They don’t want to make the mistake of pursuing the wrong path.

It’s not just college students who struggle with the question of purpose though. Many individuals in all walks of life ask themselves whether they are in the right field, at the right company, or in the right job. Stay-at-home parents may wonder if they should consider employment outside of the house. Working parents may ponder whether it would be better if they were at home with the kids. Ministry participants may struggle with whether they are serving in the right capacity. Others may wonder if the neighborhood they live in is the best for their current stage of life. Questions of how we spend our time, where we live and what we should invest in are integral to who we are, and they are often the most difficult questions to fully feel at peace with our answers.

The Christian, however, can find assurance in the midst of these questions because we know that regardless of where we are, our task is clear.  In whatever situation we are in, in whatever circumstances come our way, our goal is to share and reflect the Good News of Christ. While we may not know the specific reasons for the places that God puts us, we can know that He intends for us to be an ambassador for Him wherever we are (2 Cor. 5:20). It is not so much a question of whether we are in the right place, but whether we are doing the right thing with the place that God has put us in. Our circumstances may seem uncertain, but our calling isn’t. Even when we don’t know the “why”, the “what” is abundantly clear.

For those that follow Christ this should be an encouragement. As we passionately pursue God’s will for our lives, we can trust that He is working all things for the good of those who love Him (Ro. 8:28). Therefore, while we should be listening to Him to determine if He has called us to something new, we should also be committed to obeying Him in where we are today. It is important that our focus isn’t so much on “what’s next” that we forget what we are to do now. Namely, that we should be intentionally and explicitly sharing the Gospel with those that He brings across our path. He has not placed us where we are by accident. There are individuals that He desires to reach for the sake of eternity, and He uses His children to accomplish that purpose.

It’s easy to get caught up in wondering whether we are where we are supposed to be because of the many options that seem to exist. Perhaps though, the enemy would rather we spend time contemplating whether we are getting everything from life that we want that we neglect to share with those that have no hope except in what this life affords. Perhaps if we spent more time contemplating their future in terms of eternity, not only would our purpose become more clear, but we would concentrate on fulfilling it, and not on musing where God may lead us next.

 

Trusting God With My Child’s Salvation – “Take heart, Mom & Dad. Jesus is sovereign over your children’s salvation. And he faithfully goes after his lost sheep (Luke 15:4), whether they’re in the time-out corner of their preschool class or walking through cancer and chemotherapy. Our Father is more concerned with redeeming our children for his glory than we are.”

Surviving the Dangers of Prosperity – “We need to realize that if not for the work of God in our lives, we would have never experienced these abundant blessings. How many good things come our way that we didn’t work for or earn or achieve, but were just given into our laps through the homes we grew up in and the culture we live in? These blessings come through the things that God has done in the past and is doing in the present for us.”

We Are A Deeply Needy People – “Rather, what we see in the exercise of spiritual gifts are the excellencies of the Spirit to magnify Christ by meeting the needs of the saints through mutual service and expressions of encouragement. When spiritual gifts are exercised, the church is built up just as Christ promised.”

The Secular Salvation Story – “We are all telling a story, living by a story, evangelizing a story. One story is ancient and rugged. The other modern and banal. One confronts. The other caresses.  One truly saves. The other falsely succors. Choose your story wisely. For one starts grim, but ends in life. The other looks cheery and ends in death.”

The Best Way to Spend Your Life – “David served the purpose of God in his own generation and fell asleep. Wouldn’t it be great if people said that about you at your funeral? ‘She served the purpose of God in her generation.’ Wouldn’t that be great to have on your tombstone? ‘He served the purpose of God in his generation.'”

Brace Yourself for Suffering – A reminder that the time to prepare for suffering is before it arrives.

©iStockphoto.com/funkd

©iStockphoto.com/funkd

As any parent can tell you, there are a lot of unanticipated challenges when it comes to raising kids. Just as soon as you think you have a routine down and you are beginning to understand your child, they throw you for a loop. This doesn’t even take into account the host of difficulties that are introduced when your child begins interacting with other people. As they start establishing relationships it means that they will deal with their own expectations and their own disappointments, and as their parent you have to try to help them navigate the difficult road.

Raising children isn’t the only arena of life that comes with its surprises though. We might think things are going along fine when we are blindsided by a challenge we never even dreamed of. With all the time we spend fretting about what might happen, it’s the things we never consider that often knock us to our knees. We do a poor job of forecasting what the future may hold. When faced with a problem, we are often at a lost of what to do.

However, as I tend to remind myself, even if I am surprised by what I’ve encountered, God is not. He knows the good and the bad that will come into my life, and just like I should turn to Him in thanksgiving when I am blessed, I should turn to Him in trust when I am challenged. He is not unaware of the difficulties that I face. Even more so, before I was even aware that a problem existed, He has already provided what I need to glorify Him through it (See 2 Peter 1:3). He has a plan to meet my needs before I knew that I had them. The Great Shepherd leads His sheep by still waters and in the valleys of shadows and death (Ps. 23); He prepares the path that they will tread. Although I may be walking it for the first time, He has already gone ahead, ensuring I am equipped to do His will in the midst of the pain.

Knowing this should change my perspective when I am challenged by what life holds. When difficulties unbound and the way forward seems uncertain, I can trust that He knows where the path leads. I may not know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future, and He has graciously promised that He will give His children what they need. I can trust that He will provide even if I don’t yet know how. As I do so, my focus ceases to be on the problem that is in front of me and is instead on the One Who has already solved it.