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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10 Great Resources for New Moms

I became a mom to our beautiful baby girl last year.

Newborns are precious and wonderful. But the challenges that accompany them? Hard and wearying (though completely worth it). I quickly learned that a-lack-of-solid-sleep plus not-knowing-what-I’m-doing equals an emotional rollercoaster and therefore a great need to be well-resourced and rooted in God’s eternal truth.  

The following books, podcasts, and other resources greatly encouraged me through the season of new motherhood. Here are 10 suggestions to both nourish your soul and equip you as you get acquainted with your newborn:

1. Risen Motherhood

Risen Motherhood exists to encourage, equip and challenge moms to apply the gospel to their everyday lives. A 15-20 minute podcast started by two young moms, Risen Motherhood is delightful and practical. I love listening to this podcast when I’m driving, nursing, or picking up around the house. Between the co-hosts, Emily and Laura, there are eight kids, lots of momma-experience, and a great love for Jesus. The best parts of the podcast are their humility (they never claim to have it all together) and practical application of the gospel to motherhood and parenting.

2. New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional

Paul Tripp’s one-page daily devotional readings are full of street-level application of God’s grace. As new moms, we need the timeless realities of God’s Word to give us perspective when we’re tired, discouraged, bored, and frustrated. Tripp excels at helping his readers view all of life through the finished work of Jesus Christ: In him, we are approved by God, filled with the Spirit, freed from sin’s bondage and lies, and helped by his grace. I always come away from the day’s reading grasping more clearly how God desires to transform my heart, and this encourages me as I begin another day with my baby.

3. Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood: An Eleven-Week Devotional Bible Study

Author Melissa Kruger clearly had moms in mind as she wrote this Bible study. Not only is the content directed and relevant to moms of any stage, the format of her book is excellent for new moms: She includes each Bible passage within the book and space for journaling, meaning no extra tools to remember! I’ve been so helped by her ability to draw out biblical truth in a fresh way, and so comforted to know many moms have walked this road before me. Most of all, I’m reminded of how near God is to me through his Son, and that I can ask him to help me glorify and enjoy him each day of motherhood.

4. New Baby Survival Guide: Bite-Sized Bible Reading for New Mothers

The description for this book reads, “A new baby is a wonderful gift from the Lord, bringing great joy but also sleepless nights, constant laundry and, sometimes, total exhaustion. It can be hard to read your Bible and pray. These bite-sized Bible readings from the book of Psalms are designed for you to dip into and be refreshed by the Lord.” The authors Cassie Martin and Sarah Smart edify through their compact study of several Psalms and entertain through real-life anecdotes (I laughed out loud multiple times). I enjoyed reading each day’s passage and praying the closing prayers with our daughter.

5. Mom Enough: The Fearless Mother’s Heart and Hope

“This short book by eight women explores the daily trials and worries of motherhood….The paradox of this book is the secret power of godly mothering. Becoming mom enough comes as a result of answering the question, ‘Are you mom enough?’ with a firm no. Who knew the answer no could actually be empowering when our strength is rooted in Christ? These short readings on Christ-centered mothering are the perfect length for nursing sessions or naps and will deeply encourage your heart.

Read the rest of the article at iBelieve.

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.

Six Unique Ways Women Bring Life and Health to the Church

Do you recognize these women?

Sandy loves people. She’s gifted in making someone feel like they’re the only person in the room. Not only does she ask insightful questions and listen well, she remembers conversations and follows up later. Because of her warmth and kindness, women in the church to gravitate toward her.

Joan is a gifted leader. She also has a knack for teaching the Bible to women. Church staff come to her about recommendations for resources and seek her guidance about the direction of women’s ministries. She loves leading Bible studies and small groups, and takes great joy in seeing women grow in knowledge of and love for God’s Word.  

Cynthia’s wheelhouse is hospitality. She isn’t married and doesn’t have kids, yet she’s a spiritual mother to many. There’s rarely an evening during the week when someone from church isn’t spending time at her home. The women know Cynthia’s door is always open, so they take advantage of her standing invitation, gaining wisdom and life skills in the process.

God’s Beautiful Plan for the Church

Who are these women? They’re the women of your local church, designed and gifted by God for specific purposes. They’re the women who, alongside the men, are fulfilling God’s plan for his church:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ… (Ephesians 4:11-14, emphases mine)

Two important truths stand out here about the church:

The highest measure of a church’s life and health is Christlikeness. When we talk about the “life and health” of a church, we aren’t talking about its size, programs, or leadership, at least not in isolation. These may be indicators of a church’s life and health, but not its foundation. Rather, Paul says a healthy church body is unified in the faith and in the knowledge of Christ, both of which cause the church to reflect him in increasing measure – which is its highest goal.

Christlikeness is attained as men and women do the work of ministry. How does God bring about Christlikeness within his church? Partly through the gifts of its congregation. God intends to use sinful, flawed, undeserving people – men and women alike – for “the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” All our varied gifts and efforts in serving the church aim toward God’s goal of Christlikeness.

Six Unique Ways Women Bring Life and Health to the Church

Knowing these truths, what are the unique and varied ways women contribute to the life and health of the church? What are some facets of their “work of ministry” that build up the church toward the goal of Christlikeness?

Read the rest of the article at iBelieve.

How to Be Sure You’re Marrying “The One”

If Christian marriages are to picture the gospel (Ephesians 5:22-33), then believers in dating relationships need to be able to answer the question, “Am I willing to serve, sacrifice for, and forgive the person I’m with until death do us part?”

If you are seriously dating someone right now, ask yourself that question. If your answer is “yes,” then it’s likely you’ve found “the one.”

See, finding “the one” is less about demanding from the perfect person and more about choosing to serve an imperfect person – flaws, sins, and all – the one whom God has intentionally placed in your path. 

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When Satan Demands to Have You

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you…”

Jesus spoke these sobering words to Peter before going to his death. And what a terrifying thought!—to be had by the evil one, to be under his dominion and rule and a prisoner to his deathly purposes. Jesus continued,

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:31-34)

Yes, this exchange would’ve been sobering for Peter—how should it impact us? Equally sobering is Satan’s active work to make this a reality for as many people as he can—and especially for Christians. If you’re a believer, what the enemy wants is to fail your faith. He wants to have you: eternally defeated, estranged from God, condemned for eternity—

But Jesus promises he won’t let you go.

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A Prayer for the Hurting This Christmas

Heavenly Father,

You are Immanuel, God With Us. This brings me such comfort, as I am hurting badly and need to know that you are near. This time of year is filled with gifts and the blessing of Christ coming into the world—but I can’t help but grieve. I can’t help but wish that all was well, or that I could run from the pain. All is not well. I am hurting.

My great comfort is that you see me and have provided for my deepest need; you’ve forgiven my sin and washed me white as snow. The grave offense that once kept me from you has been dealt with in Christ. Thank you, Father, that there is now no condemnation for me because of your Son, my Savior. I want to preach to my soul your salvation because this reminds me that you will not leave me or forsake me in my pain. You are with me, Immanuel. Even when it hurts. Help me to know this, to believe you.

Give me eyes to see you this Christmas in ways that I wouldn’t apart from the pain…

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6 Great Books to Read at the Start of the New Year

What would it look like for you to know Christ in 2017?

Resolutions toward physical fitness, habit changes, and life goals are commonplace in any given December, and when placed under God’s ultimate control, these are good pursuits. But there’s a better pursuit, the Bible tells us, one that takes to heart—well, our hearts.

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

To prioritize growth in godliness for the purpose of knowing God is every Christian’s job, whether at the start of a new year or the dawn of each new day. Morning by morning, as we wake up with breath in our lungs, we’re beckoned to spend our moments on the greatest pursuit in existence: to know Jesus more intimately and to become like him.

One way to move toward this goal? Read great books. Not just any Christian books—great books. Books bursting with true, theological riches. Pages plumbing the depths of the gospel of Jesus. Titles trumpeting the value of holiness, the perfection of God’s Word, and the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice for sinners stumbling their way to glory. Turn the pages and treasure the paragraphs of great books that will spur you on to know Christ and grow in godliness.

The Bible comes first. Great books follow. Here are six I’d recommend you read this new year…

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10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Posting on Social Media

I have a love-hate relationship with social media. Love, because it keeps me connected with friends and family, and is a useful tool for communicating information, events, and resources. Hate, because I see the controversy it spikes and the pride it stokes. I love to hate social media; most weeks I threaten to rid of it altogether. And I hate to love social media because of how it fuels the selfish ambition and vanity within my heart.

But everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving—unless, of course, it is inherently evil (1 Tim. 4:4-5). So, if God has given humans the vision to create a tool like social media, God’s Word says that it is good and is not to be rejected—if we can thank God for it.

We can only thank God for what is good, helpful, and honoring to him and others. So, our overarching question is, Can I thank God for social media by embracing it as a good, helpful, and honoring tool?

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How to Date with Holiness, Honor, and Humility

I was flabbergasted and a little shook up. About four years ago, as I progressed through the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, I was flabbergasted that couples existed who waited to kiss until their wedding day and shook up because, if God commanded this, then I had already blown my chance over a high school romance.

Even still, something was not sitting right with me about this premise. So I went to my pastor.

We sat in his office and talked for a solid hour about the purpose of this book and the thoughts it advocated on dating. I still have the email he wrote to me, finishing up our conversation. He said:

I also think we need to be wise about our dating approach. To go out to dinner and a movie with a “date” is one thing. To go for a weekend trip to a cabin in the woods is putting oneself in a situation where one is more removed from helpful boundaries…

Helpful boundaries. Let’s talk about them.

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