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.

The Sanctifying Work of Parenthood – “Many people describe marriage as the laboratory where our spiritual growth is fostered and developed. I find it to be equally true of parenting as well. God has used parenting in my life to refine and change me in ways I had not anticipated. He’s given me a child who requires more than I was trained to handle so that I would depend on him and not my own strength. I’ve also learned things about myself I never knew and have seen things in my heart I never wanted to see. I’ve come face to face with sins I didn’t know were buried deep inside, sins like impatience, selfishness, irritability, and discontent. While uncomfortable and sometimes downright painful, the sanctifying work of parenthood has been necessary and good.”

Busyness is Not A Virtue – “Likewise, going on about how busy you are isn’t conversation and doesn’t lead anywhere — except making your conversation partner bored, or worse, peeved. People who act super busy send the same message, making time spent with them never feel quite whole. Interestingly, I find that most people who are legitimately occupied — with their work, or family, or art, or what-have-you — rarely play the “too busy” card, or go out of their way to make time for meaningful connection exactly because they’ve been busy.” (H/T)

The God of the Old Testament - “Nothing short of chronological snobbery would make us think that in contrast to God’s biblical followers we are better placed to judge the character of God. Biblical saints expected God, the judge of all the earth, to do what is right (Genesis 18:25), and it was not out of delusion that their hearts panted for God as the deer pants for water.”

Should We Be Eating More Bugs? – Ok, I admit it. The primary reason I shared this article is because of the headline. However, don’t dismiss it. It contains some interesting food for thought (pun totally intended.)

When I Want to Edit My Life – “When I grumble and complain and fight against God’s will, I am critiquing his story. When God’s will seems slow or unclear, I grab the pen and try to scratch out my own plan. I become an editor, telling my Author that his story is headed in the wrong direction.”

12 Terms for How Christians Participate With Christ – This is a helpful chart that may prove beneficial in furthering our understanding of how we co-labor with Christ.

As long-time readers of the blog know, I have a birthday tradition. Even during the seasons when I haven’t been a frequent blogger, I try to always take the time to write an annual birthday post. I do this because I think birthdays are a wonderful time to reflect on what God has taught you over the previous year and how He is working within your life to conform to the image of His Son. For this reason, and others, I love birthdays. One would think that this affection for this annual event would cause me to look forward to mine with much anticipation. However, for the first time in my life that I can remember, my birthday kind of snuck up on me. When a friend mentioned it yesterday, it took me awhile to figure out what she was talking about. Much has changed over the past year and the biggest change has been that I added the title of “mommy” to my resume.  As such it is easy to get caught up in how my little one is growing and developing, and forget all about thinking on how I have. I suppose there is some good in this; if for no other reason (and there are lots of other reasons) motherhood is good because it teaches you humility. However, I still think it is good to recount what God is doing in my own life and therefore the birthday post tradition continues.

When I think back over the last year there is one lesson in particular that stands out amongst the many things God has done in my life. Namely, I have learned what it means to have faith in the midst of my fear. In the past, even if I never articulated it, I tended to act as if having faith meant that I ignored what I was afraid of. Instead of acknowledging that there were hard things in my life, I would simply try to turn my attention from them and focus on something good. While there may be times where there is wisdom in this approach, it doesn’t actually demonstrate a lot of trust in God to work within the situation that is scaring me. Instead it was an odd twist on the cliché that “ignorance is bliss.” While I certainly was not unaware of the struggles that I faced, I could at least pretend that they weren’t having a significant impact on my life. However, I’ve learned that trusting God means coming to Him with what is hard. It means putting the good things and the bad things at the foot of the Cross. Faith isn’t very strong if you only exercise it when things are going well. Relying on God means acknowledging what’s scaring you, stating why it’s painful, and trusting that in the midst of the challenge, He is doing something good. It doesn’t meant that the difficulty will go away – oftentimes it seems that He does more in our lives when the struggle remains. It does mean that the God is not unaware of or unconcerned with your hurt. He can meet you where you are – in the midst of the fear, just as much as when He has safely gotten you through it.

This can be a humbling lesson to learn. It can be especially poignant in those circumstances where we thought we were well-equipped to “handle them on our own.” It’s often in the situations where we think we should have things under control that God graciously reminds us of how futile it is to rely on our own strength. He has promsied to provide (Phl. 4:19); He asks us to trust that He will (see Prov. 3:5-6; Phil. 4:6). Having faith in the midst of our fear may not change the challenge that we face, but at least we are resting in the One who we know can handle it. And in doing so, He changes us.

 

Finding Our Strength

May 14, 2013 — 2 Comments
And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. – I Samuel 30:6

 

We’ve all had days where we are tired and weary.

Our endurance is gone. Our heart is drained.

The physical exhaustion doesn’t compare to the spiritual taxation. If we were simply worn out, we could sleep and be restored. But there’s a heaviness that’s greater than mere fatigue. We are burned out – in every sense of the word.

Yet on days like this, God is still on His throne, just like He was on the days where it felt like we were on the proverbial mountaintop ready to soar above the clouds. His eyes have not lost sight of us; His children are still firmly in His grasp. Even while we may think we are too tired to take another step, He is busy working out all things for the good of those who love Him according to His good purpose and plan (Rom. 8:28). While we falter, He is still faultless. We change with the seasons, the days and the months; He remains the same (Jam. 1:17) – faithful and true to the end.

It is because of this steadfastness that even we are weak, we can find our strength. Like David, who had to contend with far worse circumstances than we are likely dealing with (people wanted to stone him), our endurance is not found in our own abilities or talents. We can’t continue on simply by willing ourselves to do so – at least not in perpetuity. No – instead we must find our strength where David found his – in the Lord. And we shouldn’t just simply turn to Him and acknowledge His fortitude and power (although that’s a good start). We must strengthen ourselves in His might. Because He is strong, we shall not stumble. Because He is faithful, we shall not fear. Our hear is encouraged not only because He is strong, but because He is, so we may be too.

It is one thing to rely on someone else’s strength. We have all done this from time to time – whether it’s because we needed a jar open or because a heavy box needed to be carried. It is another thing to be strengthened in God – to find our perseverance in His power. When we are weak, we shouldn’t just acknowledge that God is strong and able to do all that He desires and give us all that we need. But we, like David, should be strengthened in Him, knowing that because all these things are true, we can endure.

6 Discontinuities Between the Old Testament & New - A helpful chart on six things that were discontinued with the New Covenant.

Should Christians Be the Best at What They Do? - This states well something that is an old soapbox of mine. It’s not enough just to be competent at your job; as Christians we are empowered to do our work with excellence in a way that unbelievers simply aren’t. (It’s worth reading the post that sparked this contribution as well.) (H/T)

The Danger of Always Looking at Ourselves - “[Beauty] has the power – whether because we possess it or because we lack it – to trap our gaze forever upon ourselves, like Narcissus. At the same time, it also has the power to draw us to the ultimate source of all beauty. We are, after all, made in the image of God, which bestows us with the kind of beauty that Dove can neither give nor take away.”

When My Children Act Out in Public - “In reality, my responses [to when my children act out] can often reflect the idols lurking in my heart. The ones I’ve established on a throne to worship, crafted out of my own wishes and desires. These idols are not made of metal or stone, but they are idols just the same. Because when I care more about the thoughts and affirmations of other people than about what God thinks, I’ve created an idol. When I measure my value and success by the verbal accolades from others about my boy’s good behavior, I’ve created an idol. And when I react out of embarrassment to my children’s behavior, it just might be because I’ve put my idol in first place before God.

Prayerlessness is Selfishness - “If I believe that prayer works, if I believe that prayer is a means through which the Lord acts, if I believe that God chooses to work through prayer in powerful ways and in ways he may not work without prayer, then it is selfish of me not to pray. To pray is to love; not to pray is to be complacent, to be unloving, to be selfish.”

Grace Greater Than All Our Worries - “Trust is the opposite of worry. It requires that we believe all that God has told us about himself. It requires that we believe he is better than everything else, that we trust in his character, his goodness, and his grace (Psalm 9:10). It requires that we look back to all the ways he has provided for and strengthened us in the past. We know what he has said and therefore we have the confidence in what he will do in the future. Trusting God requires that we believe he cares for us, that we keep our eyes on him, not our circumstances (1 Peter 5:7).”

 

Defining Terms

May 13, 2013 — 2 Comments

When I teach, it is not uncommon for me to ask my class for a definition. Sometimes this is because we are learning new concepts, but often it is because I have found that there are some words that we use frequently without having a clear grasp of what we mean when we say them. Words like “strategic,” “segment,” and “objectives” sound very sophisticated, but if we lack clarity regarding our intentions when we use them, they become pretty pointless. Defining our terms helps ensure that we know what we mean by the words that we say; it helps ensure that our purpose is clear.

In a similar way, it may be helpful for us to define our terms when we pray. We often use phrases like “travel mercies” or “bless this food” without even really thinking about what we mean when we say them. We may ask God for “success” in a particular venture without considering whether we mean success by worldly standards or Kingdom ones. We should be clear about what we are petitioning for from God, not because He is unsure of what our intentions are (He knows our hearts (Lk. 16:15), after all) but because it helps us determine whether our hearts are aligned with His will. If we are clear that when we ask for blessing we are asking for God to use a circumstance for His glory then that becomes the basis upon which we evaluate whether our petition is granted. If, instead, we are asking for God to take a circumstance and orchestrate it according to our desires, not only do we risk asking God for something that is not accordance with His good plan, but this becomes our point of comparison for whether God has responded affirmatively to our prayer. Consequently we evaluate the effect of our prayers based on their temporal impact, not their eternal one.

It is good to go to God and ask for His hand on our lives. However, perhaps our prayer life would be even further enriched if we stopped to think about our definitions for what we are asking. It would be good to compare what we mean with what Scripture promises. In doing so, not only may we gain clarity regarding the intention of our prayers, but we can help ensure that our heart’s desires are aligned with His.

A Mother’s Day Letter - As you continue to honor and celebrate your mom (after all this activity shouldn’t be reserved for a single day), say thanks to all the moms who chose life for their child and who allowed others to be moms as well. (H/T)

Has God Left You in the Fire? - “God is no inattentive smith with the proverbial too many irons in the fire. Every moment of your trial is under his intense scrutiny. He brings infinite wisdom, infinite love, and infinite power all to bear on you when you suffer. His unlimited, eternal resources are engaged to ensure that your trial will not consume you, will not overwhelm you, will not burn you up and leave you wasted in the fire.”

10 Simples Strategies for Prayer – “I know very few people who don’t struggle with prayer. We know we should pray, but doing so consistently and fervently is not easy. Most of our praying is reactionary – that is, in response to a problem – rather than proactive, lifestyle praying.” Here are some strategies to try and change that.

The Power of a Parent’s Words - “My response to my children, whether it is with actual words or even just the tone of my voice, reveal the condition of my heart.” A convicting, and encouraging, post pertinent to any parent.

in Defense of Sports – “I believe sports are a gift, a good gift, that God gave through human creativity for our enjoyment. They should be participated in at every level and in every way as such. And just like all of life, we ought to approach them with thoughtfulness, discernment, and intentionality.” As one married to a sports fan, I appreciated this post.

There Really is a Reason – 12 Benefits of Afflictions - “God is the great artist who produces the ultimate masterpieces – sons and daughters in the likeness of his Son Jesus Christ. So he makes every stroke of the Master’s brush, every tap of the Sculptor’s chisel count.” Here are twelve ways afflictions may be used for good in our lives.