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.



As long-time readers of the blog know I have a bit of a tradition going where I write about how people have made a difference in my life. It’s my way of acknowledging some of the richest blessings God has given me. It is unfortunate that up to this point I have yet to write about my mom. It isn’t for a lack of material; in fact, the exact opposite is true. It is hard to encapsulate in a mere blog post all the ways that my mom makes a difference. Because of that, this may be the first of many such posts. It is fitting however, that I at least attempt to articulate how my mom has enriched my life and the life of others. There are few people I know who so consistently make a difference for God’s Kingdom yet do so in such an understated and often unrecognized way. The main way she does this? She’s a servant. It’s one of the first words I think of when I think of my mom and one of the things that I’m convinced she will be most acclaimed for when she meets her Lord. Here are just some of the ways my mom makes a difference through how she serves:

She serves faithfully. – As anyone who has had the privilege of serving alongside my mom knows, if she commits to do something, you can all but guarantee that she will do it. She is often the first person to be somewhere and the last to leave. It doesn’t matter what role has been assigned to her, she will do whatever bit of service is most needed in order to ensure that the ministry she has committed to is carried out with excellence. I can’t think of a single time that she refused to do any particular task. As a teacher she taught her students the importance of diligence and she is a living representation of it. She serves unwaveringly and tirelessly, pouring out her life in order to bless others.

She serves expansively. - Not only does my mom serve faithfully, but she serves in a variety of different capacities and ministries. From leading a junior high small group, to coming alongside young moms, to reach out to those who, like her, have lost their husbands, if she sees someone in need and believes that there is a way she might be able to bless them, she is there to do so.  She cooks meals, babysits kids, teaches Truth, prays fervently, shares wisdom and does a variety of other things. It seems that almost any time our church puts out a call for volunteers, my mom is checking her schedules and commitments to see if there is one more way that she can minister to others.  She doesn’t restrict herself to those areas of service where she is most comfortable or where she is most naturally inclined. Anyone and everyone is a potential object of her ministry commitment.

She serves with love. - It would be easy to read what has been written so far and to think that my mom serves so well because she is such a hard worker and she is excellent at managing her schedule. But to come to that conclusion would miss one of the most important reasons that my mom is so effective in her service; she loves those that she serve. Again, because she serves in so many different ways this means she loves so many different people. She cries for them when they hurt, she prays for them when they struggle and she cheers for them when she sees God’s good work in their life. For my mom, serving isn’t about getting things done. It is about loving others so that through doing so, they may experience the love of Christ.

She serves to serve her Savior. – The single most important thing to know about my mom and her commitment to serve is that ultimately it is not the people that she is ministering to who are the object of her service. She serves them because when she does so she is serving Christ. I am convinced this alone is the reason everything else I have written above is true. She serves faithfully, expansively and with love because when she looks at those she ministers to she sees the sacrifice, grace and forgiveness of her Savior. She may grow weary, but she knows that He does not. It may seem that she has been overlooked, but she knows that the One who matters sees it all. It’s because she loves her Lord that she serves those He has placed in her path. It’s because He was a servant (Mt. 20:28) that she has committed her life to the same.

As you can see from what I’ve written, my mom is an exceptional human being. The fact that God choose such a woman to be my mom is one of the greatest blessings He has ever given me. I have learned so much through her words and through the way she lives her life. I know that I’m not alone in that regard.

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.