If anyone is keeping track you know that this post is a bit late. I’m learning that sometimes life with an infant is just like that. Your days, weeks and months are hard to predict, and just when you think you can, they learn a new behavior or pick up a new habit and the whole schedule shifts. Thankfully, there’s little chance of being bored. Even more thankfully there are lots of lessons to still learn. So here are some of the ones I learned during my little one’s fourth month:

Laughter is good for the soul – I know this isn’t exactly a new lesson (see Proverbs 17:22). However, there is nothing quite like the first time your child knowingly and consciously gives you a big belly laugh. All of a day’s troubles can seem to momentarily disappear as you watch their face light up. If you can get them to do this repeatedly, several times in a row – that’s a huge bonus. In the hustle and bustle of things we can forget the joy that comes from a good laugh and we can be quick to dismiss those moments of simple joy. It’s important to cherish them when they come. Sometimes they will be few and far between which makes them all the more precious and sweet.

Pray over the little things – It’s probably not uncommon for new parents to spend a lot of time in prayer. There are so many unknowns with raising a little life. When they are young, it’s hard to tell if you are doing a good job since their cries can mean anything from “I’m tired” to “I’m in pain.” to “I am just having a rough day and this is the only way I know to express it. Personally, I found myself spending time in prayer over my little girl’s future but didn’t dedicate enough time to praying over those seemingly “insignificant” things that can rock a new mom’s day. God cares about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field (Mt. 6:25-30); He certainly cares about whether my little one is learning to nap. I need to seek His wisdom and help in all things – not just the ones that seem readily obvious are outside of my control.

Be careful what you say – Having two nieces is often a great reminder that I need to be careful with my words; I don’t want to say anything that I wouldn’t want them repeating. However, my four-month old has taught me that this vigilance should happen a lot sooner. We have sung songs to her since before she was born and after she arrived it was how we spent a considerable part of her awake time. As we have done so, she has learned to “stand” when we say that word (she holds onto our hands, of course, but the effort to stand when she hears the word is all hers). Already she’s picking up on things that are going on around her and learning to respond accordingly. My words should reflect the kind of heart that I want my child to have – a heart that is pleasing to God.

Say “yes” to help – I’ve written before about the blessing of helping hands, but it bears repeating. People who are willing to do things for you are gifts to be treasured. It’s easy to think that you should have things together – after all, your child is four months old already! But, as already mentioned, things are constantly changing and when you think that you have a handle on things, that’s just about the time that you can get knocked off your feet. I think it’s also important to realize that there’s likely a spiritual element at play here. Not only are we to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2) but Satan would probably like few things better than to make us feel alone, discouraged and without support. When people offer to help – take it. When they don’t offer and you need it – say so. And make sure you are relying on the Helper. Being a parent is too big of a job to do it in your own strength.

Tricks of the Trade - Some things you don’t ever learn until you are a mom. Here are some I’ve learned:

a) Get a mobile that runs on batteries – not a wind-up one. Trust me – when your child has woken up for the umpteenth time because their wind-up mobile ran out just as they were falling asleep, you will thank me.

b) Sunshine is a great stain remover. If onsies, blankets, burp cloths, etc. get soiled (and they will), hang them in the sun. This worked better than any chemical compound I found.

c) If your child adopts a “lovey” or you want them to, get two of them. If one gets dirty (or worse yet, lost!) they can still have their precious security blanket to cling to.

Stuff Christians Say – “It seems to me that there are at least two varieties of words in the Christian lexicon, those that are trite and those that are specific. ‘God thing’ is a trite phrase that has no objective meaning and there is not much to lose if we never use it again. ‘Propitiation’ is a very precise term that has a distinct meaning. It is this second category that I believe we need to hold on to and we need to hold on to such words without shame. We impoverish ourselves when we lose these words. We impoverish ourselves if we never learn and teach these words.”

Virtuous vs. Narcissistic Leadership - “ A virtuous leader will love those with whom he or she works but narcissistic leaders will not because they cannot. The bottom line is that leaders having skill alone is insufficient because, in the long-run, bad character sabotages skill every time.”

The Light Does Shine in the Darkness - A powerful reminder that in the midst of evil, we can still be witness to God’s glory.

He Is A Kind Man - R.C. Sproul, Jr. Writes a moving tribute about the kindness of his dad.

Undermining God’s Plan for Marriage - “The basis of a marriage reflecting God’s plan is how it reflects the gospel. In other words a marriage is reflective of God’s plan in so far as it reflects the marriage between Jesus the husband and the church the bride.” (H/T)

12 Terms for How Christians Participate WIth Christ – The title is pretty self-explanatory; the accompanying chart is helpful.

The Coming Payoff

April 25, 2013 — 2 Comments

When I was younger, my mom would preach the value of retirement accounts. “Compounding interest” was the key phrase and I still remember a newspaper article she saved that illustrated how if you started saving when you were young, you would have significantly more than if you waited until you were older and tried to “make up” for your lack of earlier diligence. My mom wanted us to learn what a lot of people only discover through experience – it may seem like there are “better” things to spend your money on when you are young, but when you are older you are going to be glad you made the sacrifice to save while your obligations were few. It may seem like retirement is a long ways away, but the years go by quickly. The payoff for your diligence will be here before you know it.

Although it may be odd to state it, it is helpful to think of our relationships the same way – particularly the relationship with our spouse. The day-to-day sacrifices may seem small, but their value accumulates over time. A decision to defer to our loved one’s preferences or a choice to serve rather than be served may appear insignificant in the moment, but it reaps dividends in the end. Not only do we grow in our willingness to demonstrate love the more that we practice it, but we demonstrate a pattern of behavior to our spouse that displays their importance in our lives. It is easy to say “I love you” much like it is relatively easy to earn a single paycheck. It takes diligence to act on this love day-in and day-out even when the benefits of doing so aren’t seen in that moment.

Unfortunately, many people approach their relationship with their spouse in the same way that many people approach retirement. Sacrifices aren’t made early on, and then they try to “make up” for it when crisis hits. Equally unfortunately, often times this has as little chance for success in relationships as it does for retirement. When the small choices to love aren’t made, it is even more difficult to make the hard ones.

The decision to save for retirement when you are young is a decision that is made because you recognize that statistically you are probably going to need that money when you are no longer employed.  It considers the long-term view, anticipating the future that you desire to have and making choices now that will help prepare you for that desired stated. In the same way, choosing to demonstrate love, forgiveness, grace and appreciation for our spouse in the moments and the days that we have now is preparing us to fulfill the vow that we made on our wedding day. Namely, that we will love in sickness and health, better or worse, and that nothing but death will tear us apart. May we look to the coming pay-off of our choices, recognizing that as we do so we are diligently preparing for the days ahead.

No Blessing Like Health – Except Sickness - A poignant reminder that it is often our infirmities that make us more effective ambassadors for God.

Escaping the Train to Auschwitz - This is a powerful story of one young boy’s capture and evasion, and how he shares his story with the next generation to ensure that a similar tragedy never happens again.

Envy Hunts in a Pack - “But even gospel-driven sanctification can misfire. Instead of actually applying the gospel to the sin in our hearts, we just wave the disinfectant at the gunk, acting as though the mere presence of the gospel will have some magic effect. We can’t just wield the gospel like a mantra that is supposed to spontaneously transform the filth into fullness and fruit.”

The Lost of Mentoring - This article offers three essentials to mentoring and gives us reasons why we should consider making the investment to do so.  (H/T)

Is Sincerity Enough? - “So a person can be very sincere and not believe in that objective truth. But will their sincerity keep them from experiencing the consequences of not believing in and trusting in Christ? This is where I think we need to realize that by all means we should be encouraging and tolerant (in the right sense) of people’s different viewpoints—but in the end, let’s not apologize for what Jesus actually said. We shouldn’t minimize it by saying, “Well, the important thing is that people are sincere.” Well, it is important whether or not people are sincere. But in the end, it’s also extremely important whether they are right and believe what is true.”

Real Beauty – “We are tempted and begin to think, Oh, it’s not that bad. I deserve this. It’s not a big deal. But the minute we give into sin, Satan twists things by overvaluing the sin and undervaluingthe power of the cross. Once we’ve sinned, we jump to thoughts of never being able to be forgiven, of grace not being enough, of being too evil, too dirty and too unrighteous. That is why the truth of what Christ has done is so amazing. When we confess our sins, God forgives us. He sees what Jesus has done, and He accepts us as clean and holy. He sees us as beautiful.”

Royal Position

April 24, 2013 — Leave a comment

When Kate Middleton wed Prince William in 2011, the world received a crash course on the bestowing of royal titles. It wasn’t long after they said their “I dos” that it was announced that William and Catherine would henceforth be known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, respectively. For those in the global audeince unfamiliar with the customs of a monarchy, it seemed like a strange pronouncement. We know about kings and queens, princes and princesses, but that’s generally as far as our knowledge of such things goes.  Additional titles seem unnecessary. However, this practices confers upon an individual honor, prestige and significance. The titles that one accumulates dictate their place in society.

Because we may be unfamiliar with this practice, we may not give sufficient weight to the title that we have been given as Christians.  Scripture tells us those who have repented of their sins and placed their trust in God are children of the King (See Gal. 3:26, John 1:12, Col. 1:13). We are called the heirs of Christ, and as heirs have been given an eternal inheritance (Ro. 8:17, Eph. 1:11-14). This title was bestowed upon us not because of any greatness or achievement that we obtained, but because God in His great mercy loved and saved us even while we were His enemies. Whatever title or position we might have here on Earth it pales to the royal position we have in eternity.

It is important, however, to realize that unlike Earthly titles which confers prestige upon those that bear them, the children of the King are called to be servants (John 12:26; Gal. 5:13). It is their humility, and not their self-esteem that is to increase as a result of their position. It is acknowledging our own inability to be significant enough to earn God’s favor that prepares us to accept the sacrifice that His Son made on our behalf. The honor that accompanies our title is not ours, nor is any prestige. The One who gave us the right to be called His kids is the one to Whom all glory and praise should be attributed.

So when the days are tough and the miles long, let us not forget that it is not our position that we have achieved on Earth that is ultimately going to matter. However, lest we think that our royal position is caused for arrogance or conceit, let us also remember that it is Christ alone who deserves exaltation for the fact that we are children of the King.

Five Ways to Avoid the Drain of Busyness - Feeling overwhelmed and drained by all you have committed to? This article offers five helpful ways to avoid that.

Washing the Feet of the Saints – “We should never think we are above doing these “foot-washing” kind of jobs. Neither should we underestimate their significance. Even the grubbiest of tasks are holy, if done for the glory of Jesus Christ. After all, didn’t our Savior Himself stoop to wash the feet of his disciples? We should consider it an honor to do dirty jobs for Him.”

The “Right Time” God - “Don’t mistake God’s patience for His indifference. Understand that God will act when God will act, and that His time of action is going to be right. We know this of course. Of course we do. But that’s about the second coming of Jesus. The first coming of Jesus happened in a similar way. Not early, and not late, but right on time…”

Non-Christian Complementarianism? - In regards to a recent interview with Gabrielle Reece, the author remarks “[a]s I watched this, it occurred to me that someone might conclude that this is a non-Christian version of complementarian marriage. But actually, ‘non-Christian complementarianism’ is a contradiction in terms—something on the order of ’round square’ or ‘four-sided triangle.’”

Jackie Robinson & The Pattern of Jesus - Jackie Robinson’s impact on baseball is well-known. This post looks at what enables him to have that impact even when many were against him.

A Special Request Home run - This article should be read by all baseball fans, and if you aren’t one, you should read it anyway.

Friendship & Fear

April 23, 2013 — Leave a comment

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,

and he makes known to them his covenant. (Psalm 25:14)

The fear of the Lord is an oft-discussed, and debated, topic of the Christian life. Perhaps this is because we tend to think of love and fear as dichotomous. The fact that we serve a loving God is taught to us from a young age. John 3:16 and “Jesus Loves Me” are staples of a young child’s church experience. The topic of fearing God is usually left to much later in their Christian education. By that time many in the church have begun to think of God as a caring grandfather who simply shakes His head at His children’s missteps. It is no wonder that it is difficult to reconcile the concept of fearing God with this caricature that they have created. Their concept of God has been stripped of His awesome power and startling majesty, and they can’t figure out why they should fear a God who, in their minds, is known for His affability.

Yet throughout Scripture, we are commanded to fear the Lord. This doesn’t make God any less loving. In fact, as we grow in our understanding of the awesome power of God it can help us see that His love for us is all the more remarkable. He didn’t need us; yet He choose us. However, just because He choose us doesn’t mean that He is not the King of Creation to Whom all glory, honor, praise and respect is rightly given. We are to fear Him because we are to understand Who He is. And as Isaiah experienced when he encountered God, who He is should drive us to our knees.

As the the Psalm quoted above makes clear, fearing God is the basis of our friendship with Him. This is interesting because if asked, we would likely respond that it is His love that is the foundation of our relationship. And it is true that we can only love God because He first loved us (I John 4:19). Fearing God, however, accomplishes something in our hearts that simply responding back in love does not. When we referentially defer to God, we recognize our dependence on Him. This helps give us the proper perspective of Who God is, and why we should humbly submit our lives to Him. Friendship with the Lord is for those who fear Him, because it is those who fear Him who rightfully acknowledge His rule in their lives and who subjugate their lives to Him and His Will. We realize that is it only through Him that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28), that He alone is sustaining our lives (Acts 17:25), and that we are utterly dependent upon Him. The friend of God is the one who cast themselves completely upon His care, trusting in His good provision.

So the next time that we read a Scripture or we hear a sermon about how we are to fear God, let us fight the desire to bristle at this biblical command. Those who are friends with God will fear Him, because those who are friends with God rightfully acknowledge who He is.

Recently, I had the privilege of speaking to the Women Bible Studies at Compass Bible Church. If you are interested in watching the video of the teaching you can do so at the link below: (Pardon the waning voice at the end. God graciously allowed me to get through the message before I lost my voice the next day.)

 

Cries of the Heart – “In the Psalms, David described himself as one wounded and crying in his bed at night. This same David spoke of the happiness that came when he took his cry to the Lord. With that same confidence, let us begin our journey toward a response to the cries of our hearts. We might be surprised to know how much bottled-up sentiment will be uncovered. When God speaks we will not respond by saying, ‘Don’t say a thing;’ rather, we can rest in God’s comfort, knowing that God has bothered to hear our cries, to know our tragedies, and to come near in our need.”

Brennan Manning & Me - Writing on Brennan Manning’s death, the author gives a moving tribute and states “If you read him, please remember that the Holy Spirit is working through him in spite of all his personal failings. Thank God, because that’s how He works in all of us.”

Ware on Louisville Teammate - Kevin Ware’s injury was part of the national conversation about the NCAA tournament. Too bad what his teammate did in response was not also as widely told. (H/T)

The Sage’s Lament – It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer volume of material that is published. Tim Challies (with a little help from Thomas Manton) reminds us of the opportunity that lies therein.

Why Does God Command Us to Serve Him? - “God doesn’t [need] anything.  He doesn’t need our worship, our work or our money.  So why does God command us to worship, serve, and give our money to him?”

How Tim Keller Made Peace With the Wrath of God - “Because if there is no wrath by God on sin, and there is no such thing as Hell, not only does that actually make what happened to Jesus inexplicable—Jesus staggering the way He is, asking God, “Is there any other way?” [and] sweating blood means that He was wimpier than hundreds of His followers, if there was nothing like [God’s wrath]—but…the main thing is, if you don’t believe in the wrath and Hell, it trivializes what He’s done.” (H/T)

9 Things You Should Know About Margaret Thatcher - The Iron Lady died recently. Here are some things you may be surprised to learn, including the fact that she helped develop soft-serve ice cream.

In Focus

April 9, 2013 — Leave a comment
©iStockphoto.com/halbergman

©iStockphoto.com/halbergman

Throughout Scripture Christians are commanded to love and serve other people (See John 13:34-35Gal 5:14; Phil. 2:1-11) . Other believers are to receive first priority when it comes to our efforts (Gal. 6:10, but that does not negate our responsibility to extend this commitment to anyone God places in our path. Our commitment to Christ is reflected in how we treat others (John 13:35) and therefore how we treat others should regularly reflect our growing sanctification.

The challenge is that a lot of times this commitment to love and serve others can be inconvenient, to say the least. We have our own priorities and obligations and we wonder how we are going to achieve all that we want to if we are constantly focusing on those around us. However, as I was reminded recently, one of the reasons that the Christian is able to keep their eye out for how they can serve others is because they are confident that God is keeping His eyes on them. We don’t need to worry about who is taking care of us because the Creator and Sustainer of all things has us firmly in His hands (John 10:28).

It’s easy to spout these truths; many Christians have heard them since they were children in Sunday School. However, our degree of trust in them is displayed based on how we conduct our lives. If we are constantly focused on making sure our needs are met and our goals are achieved than its unlikely that we will have time to focus on others. If instead we trust that God is focusing His attention on us and there is no one who can provide for us better than Him, than we are free to walk as Jesus did – seeking out those who are in need and extending ourselves in order to serve and love them.

Just as God ensures that the sun is going to rise (Mt. 5:45) and that the flowers are going to bloom (Lk. 12:27), He has promised that He will provide for the needs of His children (Lk. 12:22-31). Instead of worrying about these things, He wants us to be focused on how we can be His ambassadors of love to those lives which He causes to intersect with our own. As we do so He gives us the double blessing of being used by Him to accomplish His purposes. And what better thing is there to focus on than that?