An Open Letter to Myself: On Motherhood, Writing, and Identity in Christ

I wrote this as a print-out for our nursery, to keep close and read when weariness, fatigue, or a number of emotions hit during the first weeks and months of raising a newborn baby. I hope it might also encourage you, moms!


Dear Kristen,

You’re doing it. You’re fulfilling the work of ministry God has planned for you! He’s given you a wonderful gift in your new daughter, and though the days feel long and nights, even longer, this is precisely where he wants you. Right here in this nursery. You’re exactly where you should be.

As you navigate this new season of motherhood, remembering this and other truths will make the difference between running unhindered and running with weights and sins pulling you down (Hebrews 12:1). This is why I’m writing you this letter, not because I foresee all that will happen, but because I can anticipate your heart—I know your struggles, anxieties, and fears, and want to proactively preach God’s Word to you.

Continue reading

Advertisements

10 Promises for Your Bible Reading

Many mornings, weariness threatens to win.

Like a thick cloud, it opposes my time in God’s Word, obscures my desire to read, and keeps me from seeing the light of truth. My weariness might be circumstantial – a disappointment or an ongoing trial – or it may be physical – a long night of little sleep or the lingering annoyance of chronic pain.

I desire to dive into the depths of Scripture, but weariness wants to keep me in the shallows. I yearn to explore the endless riches of knowing Christ better, but weariness tempts me to apathy and tricks me into settling for less.

I need God’s help when I come to his Word. We need God’s help. Only he can overcome the shallows of our weariness and enlighten our clouded hearts with his truth. He actually promises to do these things when believers read their Bibles—

But do we trust his promises?

Continue reading

Before You Were Born, We Prayed for You

No parent is completely ready for their first child.

At least that’s what we’ve heard. Our first is due soon. It’s a girl, our precious daughter — we are thrilled beyond belief. She is a gift from God, a sweet treasure we don’t deserve, but one we’ve been entrusted with for as many days as her Creator has planned. Many moments, I’m stilled by the wonder of such a gift, and in the next breath I’m anxious, thinking, How on earth will we ever be ready for her?

We won’t. Not in the sense of having all the answers, or anticipating what’s coming. Perhaps we’ll be ready in the way of stuff: the baby registry, doctor appointments, showers, nursery, classes, the works (okay, maybe not the birth). These are good essentials that will help us navigate uncharted territory — but they aren’t the most valuable way we can prepare for our daughter in these expectant months.

The best thing we can do is pray.

Continue reading

Why I Read Christian Books All Wrong

I have a problem – a reading problem. When I read certain Christian books (especially those written by Puritans and the modern-day writers who love them), I can walk away from their paragraphs and pages discouraged, rather than built up and spurred on in the faith. I’ve felt everything from prideful offense at these books, wanting them back on the bookshelf, to embarrassment, as I fight a sense of defeat.

But why?

These are rock-solid books. Faithful books. God-glorifying, Christ-exalting, gospel-centered books, many of which have stood the test of time, and for good reason. So what is my problem? What is it within me that causes me to read this way?

The problem is with my heart, which is easily deceived. I forget important realities that should filter all the reading we, as Christians, do:

Continue reading

The Power of Confession in Your Small Group

Our small group is unlike any other group I’ve known. It’s not because we all get along (though we do), nor because we’re like-minded (though we are). And it’s certainly not because we have it all together.

Actually, the fact that we don’t have it all together is the reason I love our small group. Confession marks our time together, and it has changed at least three things: the way we interact, the way we pray, and the way we pursue godliness.

1. Confession changes relationships.

In a small-group setting, walls come down when everyone walks in the light. But this doesn’t just happen. We must choose to set aside our pride and talk openly about sin. Initially this talk feels uncomfortable, but the sooner we confess to one another, the sooner grace-fueled relationships characterize the group.

Honest confession melts away the mirage that certain people are “better Christians.” It enables us to live on the level ground of the cross, rather than in the false worlds of comparison, guilt, pride, and condemnation. Confession—or a lack thereof—also flows from each person’s walk with Christ. If we walk in the light before him, we’ll feel more comfortable walking in the light before others.

Continue reading

Evil Predestined by God’s Hand and Plan

Today, we remember the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City. We lament. We grieve. And we hope.

There is nothing new under the sun. What can be said when terror strikes? I find myself deeply disturbed and yet uncomfortably familiar with the hatred and death that is ravaging our world. Another attack, another groaning. “How long, O Lord?”

Our comfort is the cross.

In Acts 4, we read that John and Peter were praying, on behalf of all the believers, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, that they might continue to speak God’s gospel with boldness. The men had just been arrested for speaking the truth in the public sphere. Here is what they pray:

Continue reading

Your Work Matters

Today’s article is pulled from the archives in honor of Labor Day.


For the past six weeks, I’ve been engaged in a leadership course for The Orchard Network, focusing on doctrine, life and skills according to the Bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our second session last week was on work. That’s right. Work. That thing we find ourselves occupied with for the majority of our days, weeks, months and years. That labor we put forth when we’re not at home, being social (though work can be social!), serving in church, or interacting elsewhere.

The session was simply titled “Work Matters.”

Work must be significant because of the amount of time and energy it demands. By its very nature it should make us curious as to why it’s so all-encompassing, and how we can make the most of it.

I will seek to respond to our three “homework” questions, while also phrasing them for you, so that you can equally get thinking about the work God has you doing.

The three questions are:

How can I reflect in my work that I’m made in the image of God?

Where are you creating and inventing?

My work as a Content Strategist and Manager is extremely creative–literally! I’m constantly designing graphics, writing, brainstorming ideas and content, planning marketing campaigns, and dreaming about how things could look on the web.

While it’s quite easy for me to see how my work is creative, I’d imagine some of you reading this are scratching your heads. Perhaps you don’t feel like your work is creative at all. But any time you innovate and find a new way to make a process more effective, whether its teaching your children obedience in a fresh way or helping a customer determine the most delicious combination for their dinner order, you are exercising the creativity of the Creator. If this isn’t clear to you right now, ask God to help you see where you are bearing his image in this way.

Where are you bringing what was once formless into order?

Because my job did not exist prior to my hiring, everything was new at first. There was a boatload of vision to dive into, a job description to understand and expound upon, and a never-before-established pattern of work to execute every week. And what I’ve come to realize is that no two weeks look the same, so God is giving me the chance to consistently bring tasks and projects into order.

What about you? How are you bringing what was once formless into order through your work? Another way to think about this is, “What problems are you solving?”

Continue reading

20 Practical Ways to Kill Sin Every Day

Sin perplexes us.

We love it, and we hate it. We embrace it, and we war against it. We act on it, yet we don’t always understand why. Sin is alluring and confusing, pleasurable and destructive. The redeemed heart has been set free from sin’s power, yet still wars with sin’s presence—and sin distances us from the God who willingly came to rescue us from it.

When I asked friends, “What are some sins and areas of temptation we must fight every day?” the response was overwhelming: jealousy, laziness, discontentment, control, discouragement, pride, a sharp tongue, vanity, slander, inadequacy, anxiety, fear, selfish gain, impatience, anger, disobedience, lust, fear of man, and critical judgment of other Christians.

20 Practical Ways to Kill Sin Every Day

Which of these resonate with you? Do others come to your mind? No Christian is exempt from the battle with sin, and it’s wise to consider what and how we’re actively fighting each day. But we do not fight alone:

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:9-11)

Believer in Christ Jesus, you are dead to sin and alive to God – and your calling is to “consider yourself” in this way. So what does it look like to fight sin on a daily basis, when temptation is all around you and spiritual death is sin’s goal (James 1:15)?

Ponder these 20 practical ways to “consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God” by killing sin today:

Continue reading

Three Ways God Uses the Prayers of His People

Some prayers are long-suffering prayers.

You pray and pray for answers, for God to act, and you wonder if he ever will as the months and years pass with seemingly no change. The chronic condition, the unbelieving friend, the prodigal child—you entrust these to him with patient pleas…and you wait for God to do something.

Other prayers are answered quickly. You identify a need and ask God to meet it, trusting he can – and he does. He acts in a recognizable way, and answers promptly.

Whether your prayer requests have been long in the making, or you’ve identified a fresh need just today, here’s one reality you can cling to: God uses the prayers of his people.

God Uses Earnest Prayer to Effect His Will

Rewind to the days of the early church.

Peter had been arrested and imprisoned during a time when King Herod was laying violent hands on Christians (Acts 12:1-3). The apostle was under intense guard, secured by four squads of soldiers and bound with chains. His situation seemed impossible to escape—

But the church prayed for him.

So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. (v. 5)

What happens next is astounding. “On that very night” (v. 6), God frees Peter through the intervention of an angel, who causes the chains to fall off his hands. The angel instructs him to follow, leading him through the iron gate, which “opened for them of its own accord” (v. 10), and into the city. Peter thought he was seeing a vision – until he came to his senses: “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me” (v. 11).

God’s Word is clear that Peter’s rescue relates to the church’s prayers. “On that very night” tells us how God responded to the people’s pleas. And we’re told that these pleas were “earnest,” as the church believed God could deliver Peter and asked boldly that he would.  

Believer, in a similar way, God uses your earnest prayers to effect his will. He planned before time began that you would pray at divinely orchestrated moments, that he would hear your pleas and respond in his timing and according to his plans. Whether God answers quickly and obviously, as he did for Peter, or you don’t see his answer in your lifetime, you can trust that he’s at work – even within your own heart as he changes your desires and molds your will to his. Your guarantee that he hears you is Jesus Christ, who gave you entrance to the Father’s presence and his ear when you trusted him to do so.

God uses earnest prayer and effects his will through your petitions. Knowing this, how might you earnestly pray to him today?

Read the rest of the article at iBelieve.

How Suffering Can Change You for the Better

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16)

The marathon runner perseveres in his training in order to someday finish a grueling 26.2 mile race. The hesitant child presses on through eating her vegetables because she knows there is chocolate ice cream sitting in the freezer.

Perseverance is rooted in hope. We persevere when we believe that what awaits us is worth the fight.

Paul knew this. His eyes are not only on the future, but he knows this fight of faith is accomplishing something else of great worth along the way: the renewing of our inner self, even while our outer self is wasting away. His point is this: Suffering changes us, for the better, right now.

That is hard to believe! In Romans 5:1-5, Paul helps us understand how this inner transformation happens and where it begins:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

Continue reading