Four Creative Ways to Be Generous

Perhaps, like me, you wonder if it’s possible to be generous when finances are tight.

I’ve wrestled with this question, since it can feel like my family doesn’t have “wiggle room” for spontaneous financial gifts. I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of needs around us—an ailing saint, a new baby, a financial crisis—and in my discouragement over finances, pride has taken root.

It’s a pride that says, “It has to be us who meet such-and-such a need.” Pride that doubts God’s goodness and ability to provide for all our needs. Pride that asserts my natural desire for independence and control, rather than a humble submission to what he’s allotted for us.

Grace-Fueled Generosity

The Lord has humbled me with a simple reminder: Generosity comes in many shapes and sizes.

Generosity is the overflow of a humble heart—an attitude, not a one-size-fits-all act. If it were only about money, many of us would be disqualified from exercising it. But since God has called all his people to generosity of spirit, there’s more to it than meets the eye:

God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. . . . They will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them . . . because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. (2 Corinthians 9:8, 13–14, emphases mine)

Paul is exhorting the church at Corinth to give cheerfully to their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. He encourages them that no gift ultimately comes from their striving or efforts or resources, but rather from their sufficient God, the Creator and Provider of all. He alone “is able to make all grace abound” to them for the purpose of generosity. And Paul says this grace fuels “every good work”—not only monetary giving, but works of many shapes and sizes.

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A Question About Christian Satire

Love is patient and kind.

Our God commands us to love him first and foremost, and to love our neighbor as ourselves—but are we doing this online? Especially when we disagree with our neighbor?

I’ve been saddened by the lack of love strewn throughout Christian circles on the web in recent years. Lately, someone brought a satirical article to my attention that called out by name a person with whom the author disagreed, poking fun at them and attempting to make them a laughingstock to the reader.

My heart broke.

Is satire funny and helpful when it deals with ideas? Yes. But this was about a person. Someone created in the image of God. Someone who genuinely believes they’re following Christ.

Loving Our Neighbor

Doesn’t our great God call us to more than this? Doesn’t he command us to love others because he first loved us—even when we sorely disagree with them?

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2017 Reading Favorites

The saying is true: Less is indeed more.

Or shall I say fewer? I chose to read fewer books this year, with the goal of comprehending and enjoying them more. And it worked! Rather than pressuring myself to read 50 books in haste, I didn’t set a goal; I simply read. I chose one or two books at a time and relished their messages (instead of five or six at a time, rushing through them to meet my goal).

In fact, I’m not even going to tell you how many books I read. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how many you read—just that you read, and engaged the mind, imagination, and heart God gave you. (If you read one book and grew because of it, good for you! If you didn’t read any, set a goal to read at least one great book in 2018. You won’t be sorry!)

So, yes, 2017 was another year of great books. The titles I’m sharing with you below were my favorites, and they follow the criteria I first used in 2015’s Reading Favorites article:

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Beware These Seven Gospel-Distortions

A dear friend of mine worked in a bank overseas for about a year, handling large amounts of money. During training, she had to study various bills and learn their details, so she could easily discern counterfeits if they came along.

She studied the real thing so she could identify distortions.

The same goes for the gospel of Jesus Christ. As leaders in the church, we want to be women equipping women to know the gospel so we can identify false “gospels” and grasp how the truth applies to our lives.

But where do we start?

Build the Foundation

We begin with the gospel to build a firm foundation for all our events, gatherings, Bible studies, and small groups:

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…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (Romans 5:1-2, 8-9)

Three questions are answered in this passage that we can use as a framework to help our women build a firm gospel-foundation:

Saved from what? The wrath of God. There is no gospel apart from the wrath of God and his righteous judgment against sinners (v. 9). This is an uncomfortable reality, but one we must teach our women because ignoring or belittling sin does not mean sin goes away. God is the standard—and we have sinned against him.

Saved by whom? Jesus Christ. Christians are saved from the wrath of God by the righteous blood of Jesus, the spotless sacrificial Lamb who absorbed the wrath on our behalf (v. 8). Only Jesus has the power to save desperate, dead sinners from God’s wrath by giving them eternal life in his Name, accomplishing what we never could.

Saved how? By grace through faith. True faith says, “I bring nothing to the table. I come empty-handed, but Christ gladly gives himself to me.” We teach our women that faith is trusting Jesus to rescue us from sin because we know we can’t rescue ourselves. And faith is trusting Jesus to do this apart from anything we have done.

Beware the Distortions

When the women in our churches forget the gospel, they’re more likely to be carried along and tossed about by the world’s ever-changing ideas. So, just as it’s important for us as leaders to build a firm foundation for the flock under our care, we must also beware the distortions at work in our world and churches.

Here are seven we should be aware of as we seek to lead women well:

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Is the Word of God a Quick Fix?

When you come to God’s Word, are you looking for a “quick fix”?

I was struck by the following quotation, as I read through one of Pastor Colin’s sermons from the radio series The Anatomy of Faith:

God may be saying to you, “Instead of looking for a quick fix to the problems in your life, you need to establish a regular pattern of receiving my Word with faith, so that it will bear long-term fruit that you have not been bearing in years.” You never know what God is going to say to you, but you know he is going to say it through his Word. (Colin Smith)

This statement is striking because it pegs our human tendency to view God’s Word as a “quick fix.” I’ll bet that I’m not alone in wanting to hear God speak truth into my heart. But I’ll also bet that many of us tend to be drawn to Scripture thinking we need an instant solution for our troubles, rather than nourishing, consistent sustenance for our souls.

In effect, the Word of God becomes a means to an end, and—I admit—it’s usually a selfish end! Deliver me from circumstantial trouble. Show me the next step I should take in my own carefully crafted plans. Make sense for me of this enigmatic reality that makes up God’s sovereignty.

God’s Word can easily become information for our brains, rather than nourishment for our souls. Instead of genuinely loving and craving the Word, we can use the Word for selfish gain, hoping that it will give us a way out of worldly troubles and suffering.

Scripture becomes a “quick fix.”

So how can we learn to love God’s Word increasingly more every day? How can we avoid looking to Scripture as a mere “quick fix”? I think there are three key points in Pastor Colin’s statement above that will help us see how we can—only by God’s grace—grow in loving the Word:

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10 Bible Verses to Strengthen You As You Wait

The waiting game is the least fun game to play.

We’re averse to it because we like knowing outcomes. We’re especially averse to the waiting game when the outcome we’re anticipating is a positive one, as gratification is delayed. But waiting, no matter the context, tests our faith. It exercises our dependence on the God who initiates it for our good and his purposes—

Every day of waiting is another day of learning to trust him.

My husband, Brad, and I are waiting for our baby to come. Every hour of every day feels like pulling teeth, as we have zero control over the timing of her arrival. Every contraction gives me pause as I wonder, Is this the one? So I’ve grown discouraged over dashed hopes and the unfulfilled longing of meeting our child as another day passes…

What are you waiting for? Physical healing? A restored marriage? A promotion at work? A rebellious child? A cross-country move? The salvation of a beloved friend?

As I’ve been pouring over Scripture this week, I’ve asked God to teach me his character and ways during this time in-between, and I hope and pray the following verses will strengthen your faith while you wait, as they have strengthened mine:

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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:

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