Parents, Your Tiredness Is an Opportunity

No parent likes to be tired. God created us to need rest to function and raise up our kids another day. A good night’s rest is a gift, and we see this more clearly when it’s lacking—and let’s be honest: For most parents, quality sleep is often lacking

When the nights are interrupted and the morning starts early, all I want is not to be tired. To feel like I can conquer what’s ahead. To greet the day with joy. Or, to use nap time to accomplish something, rather than give into my need and nap myself.

I’m often so busy fighting tiredness that I forget to look for what God may be doing in and through it. If he promises to work all things for our good, this extends even to our fatigue—so rather than seeing tiredness purely as an unwanted hindrance, we can seek the opportunity within it to look for God’s good purposes.

Five Opportunities Tiredness Gives Us

What might these be? Parents, your tiredness is an opportunity:

To seek God’s plan above your own

I’m never more aware of my desire to control things than when they spin out of control. This includes sleep. When I’m rested, I get the crazy idea that I’m in charge of my day. I carefully craft plans and am sure I’ll execute them. But not on tired days. On tired days, I’m barely getting by. I’m aware of my weaknesses, my needs. I see how my life is in God’s hands.

Tiredness awakens me to the reality that I’m not in control.

And this is a good thing, parents. Scripture says pride comes before destruction (Proverbs 16:18)—how often do we pridefully think “we’ve got this”? On tired days, we have an opportunity to taste reality: We’re desperately in need of God, our Sustainer, every moment and all the time. What an unexpected gift, to see clearly through the fog of fatigue!

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10 Truths to Set Leaders Free

Friends! I’ve collaborated with some sisters in Christ from Revive Our Hearts to offer you a free ebook: 10 Truths to Set Leaders FreeWhether you lead a large women’s ministry at your church or simply gather with a few friends to study God’s Word, we all need to know God’s truth in order to point others toward it. That’s why we’re excited to deliver this ebook.

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CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR FREE E-BOOK

We’re exploring the most common lies leaders believe and the truth that sets us free. Here’s an inside peek:

LIE #1: A leader must meet everyone’s needs and expectations. (Melissa Kruger)

LIE #2: I must be strong and always have it together. (Kristen Wetherell)

LIE #3: If I work hard serving the Lord, ministry will go smoothly. (Susan Hunt)

LIE #4: My leadership role makes me more valuable and important. (Shannon Popkin)

LIE #5: My ministry is more important to God than my marriage and family. (Erin Davis)

LIE #6: It won’t matter if I skip my personal time with God. (Kelly Needham)

LIE #7: I’m the only one who can do it. Ministry depends on me. (Leslie Bennett)

LIE #8: I’m responsible for changing people’s lives. (Linda Green)

LIE #9: My ministry is insignificant compared to leaders with larger platforms. (Paula Marsteller)

LIE #10: Ministry is so busy there’s no time to rest. (Judy Dunagan)

Together, let’s speed ahead leaving the dust of lies in the rearview mirror.

Good News for Stressed People

If you’re stressed out, raise your hand.

My hand is raised, and I know I’m not alone. Millions of Americans—Christians included—would say the same. I often don’t know stress is affecting me; I’m usually fine one moment, and crying the next. And as much as I want to blame stress, making myself a victim of its pressures, I know I need to take a deeper look at my heart.

What’s at the root of our stress, beneath the circumstances that seem to cause it? And how does God’s Word speak to our struggle with it?

Moses’ Heavy Burden

Moses found himself in a difficult position after the Exodus. God had delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, bringing them miraculously through the Red Sea and into freedom. Moses and the people had beheld God’s great glory and power in the destruction of their enemies and the provision of divine rescue. They saw him do what they could never do for themselves.

After crossing the waters, the people continued to see God provide, as he sent manna to nourish their hungry bodies and water from a rock to quench their thirst. God also provided wisdom and justice for the Israelites through Moses, who would “judge the people…from morning till evening” (Exodus 18:13). But there was a problem—

When Moses’ father-in-law [Jethro] saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?” (v. 14)

Jethro was concerned for Moses, and rightfully so. The Bible doesn’t tell us that Moses was “stressed out,” per say, but there were either indications of this, or Jethro had the foresight to see the coming effects of what Moses was doing.

Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.” (vv. 17-18)

Wearing Ourselves Out

Do you resonate with this account? Perhaps your intentions are good, but you’re wearing yourself out because you’ve taken on too much and not asked for help. Or perhaps you’re obeying God by simply doing what he’s asked of you, but circumstances have become heavy with tension, complications, or hardship.

Like Moses, we’ve seen God’s great works throughout biblical history; more than Moses, we’ve beheld God’s greatest work in delivering us from sin and death through Christ. Yet, like Moses, we may be carrying heavy burdens, unable “to do it alone.”

Jethro’s response to Moses reveals three important truths about stress that we should take to heart:

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Moms, It Is Our Privilege

On hard days of mothering, it’s easy to see it purely as a type of suffering, rather than a blessed privilege. And it is a type of suffering. Motherhood is tough. It requires us to give up our plans in favor of what our kids need most. It demands our preferences for theirs. It’s strenuous on our bodies as we carry babies and hoist toddlers, and it tests our hearts as we soak up tears, discipline in love, and spend ourselves for little immediate return.

Yes, motherhood is a form of suffering. But in the middle of its trials, when we’re exhausted and weary, we can quickly forget what a privilege it is––often at the same time as when it’s hardest.

Pictures of Jesus

As I rocked our infant daughter in the quiet of her room, the day’s trials melted in light of the moment. Wise words from a mentor came to mind: “Remember what a privilege it is to be the picture of Christ to her.”

What a privilege indeed.

Don’t we need to know this truth, mommas, when it seems we can’t catch a break? When our kids are demanding so much from us, and we aren’t sure we can give any more? When our patience runs low because our little one has pushed our buttons and tested our love?

Consider Him

We need to know who Jesus is—what he’s already done and what he’s doing right now. Then and only then, as his Spirit works in us, will we grasp what a privilege it is to reflect him as we mother.

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How to Make Sense of Confusing Bible Passages

What in the world?

I was reading Psalm 128 and I thought, Surely this passage is used to promote the prosperity gospel:

Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,

   who walks in his ways!

You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;

   you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. (vv. 1-2)

I kept reading:

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine

   within your house;

your children will be like olive shoots

   around your table.

Behold, thus shall the man be blessed

   who fears the Lord. (vv. 3-4)

Now I’m even more confused, I thought. What about homes that never see the blessing of children? Does this psalm apply equally to them?

Five Principles for Confusing Bible Passages

Let’s be honest: Scripture can be confusing sometimes. As we grow in our knowledge of the whole Bible story, we run into these passages that can feel like roadblocks on a straight-and-narrow journey. So what do we do with them? How do we make sense of confusing Scripture passages?

1. Read the surrounding verses.

From the pulpit, Pastor Colin Smith often says, “Interpret Scripture in light of Scripture.” This is sound wisdom because all of God’s Word is breathed out by him and is useful for our growth (2 Timothy 3:16). It’s perfect and without error, which means God cannot contradict himself. So, if a verse or passage seems difficult, confusing, or misplaced, we interpret it in light of what directly surrounds it. Ask the following questions:

  • What did the author say immediately before and after?
  • What did they say in the previous chapter(s)?
  • What’s the message of the book as a whole?

Seek answers to these questions, and you’ll find you have a much clearer idea of what’s intended in the initial passage. Let’s apply this principle to Psalm 128:

Psalm 128. The surrounding psalms were written upon the return of God’s people from exile. God had restored their fortunes and blessed them by delivering them from their enemies and bringing them home. What the psalmist writes isn’t, “If you’re good, God will bless you,” but “God has been good to you and has restored that which you lost when you were in exile.” It would’ve been clear to God’s people that this blessing was far from what they deserved for the very sin that sent them into captivity—yet God was faithful and kind to them.

2. Think similar and different.

Now consider the whole of Scripture and where you’ve seen similar words or themes. Ask, Where have I seen this before? You can also ask where you’ve read something seemingly contrary to what you’re reading, which will shed light on the meaning of the present verses.

Psalm 128. I read the word “blessed” and immediately think of Jesus’ words in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). The poor in spirit are those who fear the Lord (Psalm 128:1), who recognize their sin and confess their eternal need for a Savior. Jesus says that God’s kingdom will be theirs—and to have such blessing is the ultimate way in which “it shall be well with [them]” (v. 2). So Psalm 128 isn’t necessarily about God promising earthly prosperity—although blessing does come from “the labor of [our] hands”—but eternal prosperity, the good and security of our souls.

3. Consult sound commentaries.

One of God’s good gifts to the Church throughout the centuries has been commentary on Scripture, written by learned, wise theologians who love God and his Word. We should always try to interpret what we’re reading with the help of the Spirit and other Scriptures before reading other interpretations since they can influence our thinking. (Of course, we want to be influenced for good—but we’ll grow more in studying Scripture as we seek our own interpretation first, even if it gets corrected).

Psalm 128. English minister Joseph Caryl clarifies the meaning of verse 4: God extends his goodness both in family blessing and in spiritual blessing. He says,

…the man fearing God shall be blessed more than [with wife and children]: his blessing shall come in the best way (Psalms 128:5): “The Lord shall bless thee out of Zion”; his temporal mercies shall come in a spiritual way, yea, he shall have spiritual blessings: “He shall bless thee out of Zion”; and he shall have blessings beyond his own walls: “Thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel.”

4. Study the passage with other believers.

If a passage of Scripture still confuses you after seeking context and reading commentaries, ask a friend or small group to look at the verses with you. Share your struggles with it, pray together for the Spirit’s clarity and help, and discuss it.

Some of the most enlightening moments for me have happened with other believers, as they explained truth to me in a fresh way and guided my interpretation of God’s Word. Who might you ask to open the Bible with you? What burning questions could you bring to your small group this week?

5. Submit yourself to God’s Word.

Ultimately, the secret things belong to the Lord (Deuteronomy 29:29). We won’t be able to grasp everything we read fully, nor will all our questions be answered. If we could wrap our minds around God—all he is, all he’s planned, and all he’s said—he wouldn’t be worthy of our worship. His ways and thoughts are infinitely higher than ours, and this is the way it should be (Isaiah 55:9)!

So, at the end of the day, when we can’t fully understand what we’re reading, we choose to trust the One who speaks without error. We trust his invitation that when we seek him with all our hearts, we will find him (Jeremiah 29:13). We trust in Christ’s promise to give us the Helper, the Spirit of truth, who will guide, counsel, and lead us into truth (John 15:26).

And the more we hunger to know him more and treasure the infinite depths of his Word, the more we will worship.

[Post Credit: Unlocking the Bible]

Three Helps for Ministering to Women with Chronic Pain

I’m a wife, mother, and member of our church, and I’m involved in women’s ministry—

I’m also a woman struggling with chronic pain, which affects all of these roles.

At least 100 million Americans have chronic pain. This means that one in three people at your church fights a daily battle with physical issues ranging from mild discomfort to debilitating affliction. Some struggle to exercise and clean their homes; some find it difficult to work jobs; some can’t pick up their children or carry groceries; others are laid up in bed and can hardly function.

The reality? Most of the time, you won’t know about these pains and their emotional and spiritual implications—many people with chronic issues don’t look sick or weak, and we struggle to ask for help. So what can you do, as a leader, to minister to the hurting women in your congregation? How can you support us, both spiritually and physically?

Three Helps for Ministering to Women with Chronic Pain

I certainly don’t have all the answers, but because I have chronic pain, I’m familiar with what we strugglers often desire and need (even if we won’t admit it). Three helps come to mind:

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Don’t Be Introspective. Examine Yourself.

There’s a fine line between self-examination and introspection.

Self-examination is good. Scripture exhorts us to examine and test ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5). So how might this important spiritual discipline take a turn for the worse? Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains:

What’s the difference between examining oneself and becoming introspective? I suggest that we cross the line from self-examination to introspection when, in a sense, we do nothing but examine ourselves, and when such self-examination becomes the main and chief end in our life.

Though self-examination can be rewarding for Christian growth, I’ve often crossed the line—and learned how detrimental introspection can be. It’s unprofitable because it’s an end in itself; it leaves us navel-gazing and discouraged. I’ve hung my head many times in its defeat. Nevertheless, we can look to God’s Word and see how self-examination, rightly deployed, is healthy and effective.

A look at Psalm 139 will help us grasp the power of self-examination as a tool in God’s hands for our growth.

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14 Ideas to Make Your Bible Reading More Consistent

For many Christians, reading the Bible consistently is a challenge.

In 2017, the American Bible Society reported that only 20% of Americans read their Bibles at least four times each week. This means that 80% of Americans read Scripture less frequently than that, if at all.

But God says his words are like food—“Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3). And no human can survive without food. If we’re not eating, we starve.

And if we aren’t feeding on God’s Word consistently, so will our souls.

Read Your Bible, Feed Your Soul

When our newborn baby entered the world, everything changed—especially our sleep patterns. There were mornings when my husband and I struggled to peel ourselves out of bed to meet with the Lord in his Word. But the struggle was worth it. Most mornings, we fought the temptation to keep sleeping (only by God’s grace) and were grateful we did, as it meant starting our day in communion with him through Scripture and prayer.

It meant feeding our souls.

Hearing God speak through our Bibles was a game-changer for us:

  • He hid his Word in our hearts and would bring it to mind by his Spirit.
  • He renewed our minds, setting them on eternal matters, and gave us eyes to see through this perspective moment-by-moment.
  • He gave us his armor to help us fight sin and temptation.
  • He reminded us that Christ is our highest joy and our most valued treasure.

I’ve heard it said, you don’t remember every meal you’ve eaten, but the meals you’ve eaten have sustained you. We may not recall every Scripture we’ve read, but God sustains our trust in him as we choose to consistently feed on his Word.

14 Ideas to Make Your Reading More Consistent

There’s no one way to open Scripture—everybody’s devotional time will look different—but there is a right way to pursue it: consistently.

As you seek God in his Word, begin by asking him to give you an ever-deepening desire for this pursuit. Call on him to help you put away the distractions of tiredness, tasks, and trivialities. Plead with him for eyes to see the glory of Christ in Scripture, and for ears to hear the good news of the gospel in everything you read.

Then, commit to reading every day—even if only for five minutes at first—and pursue specific ways to make this reading a habit. Here are several ideas for you, in no particular order:

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Three Takeaways from TGCW18

It was standing-room-only.

At 7am, our panel discussion had an attendance that far surpassed what we’d expected. I thought 30-50 women might come (morning people!); instead, the room was packed. This turnout spoke of the universal experience of human suffering, and more importantly, of our desire for hope in the midst of it.

This event was one encouraging part of the whole of TGCW18. The hunger and passion in our room that morning was but a tiny sliver of what had been displayed in the main hall, as a vast ocean of women from across the globe worshipped Jesus together.        

Here are my takeaways from TGCW18:

To listen to Jesus is to live.

God’s command is simple: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5). But obedience to it? Far from simple, for we’re naturally drawn to whatever will itch our ears and suit our passions. We’re a rebellious people who’ve wandered and turned away from listening to the truth (see 2 Timothy 4:2-4).

But our turning away is our death:

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey…by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply…But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish.” (Deuteronomy 30:15-18, emphasis mine)

I confess, I often want to listen to Jesus so that I can accomplish other things; in this, the Lord and Savior of the universe becomes a means to my own selfish ends. But in running after other gods—like attention, influence, comfort, or success—my sorrows only multiply (Psalm 16:4). To be drawn away to worship and serve idols yields the fruit of sin and death: discontentment, anxiety, fear of man, and an incessant hunger for what will never truly satisfy.

But to listen to Jesus through his Word is life. In seeking to love him, walk in his ways, and keep his commands, we gain more of him and, therefore, the truest, most satisfying life possible. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

Is my greatest desire to listen to Jesus and, therefore, to love him more and be satisfied in him? Do I trust his promised, sanctifying work to gradually expel these other loves from my heart as he gives me more of himself?   

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