Archive for Bible Study

Still, Still, Still: The Missing Key to Adoration.

There’s no shame in listening to Christmas carols before Thanksgiving in my book. They somehow bring all of the sentiments we hold dear–home, family, faith, hope, love– and tie them all together in one musical, merry package. {And who can lift your spirits like Bing Crosby or Perry Como?}

One of my favorites Christmas hymns, “O Come, All Ye Faithful” says,

“Come and behold Him, born the King of angels,

O Come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.”

I love it because it beckons you and me to worship.

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Isn’t that exactly the call we need when we have over-burdened ourselves with mammoth to-do lists?

Before we pull a Black Friday all-nighter, coordinate/dress/photograph a Pinterest worthy family Christmas card, bake ourselves into oblivion,

before we run to do one more thing,

we need to bow.

Worship is our first priority. 

And we need to worship rightly,

because worship can so easily shift and drift into false worship of anything and everything. 

As conservative Christian women, we’d confess that we do, in fact, worship. Oh, yes. We document our quiet time on Instagram, yes we do. #soblessed

When talking about our quiet time, we can produce lists, plans, schedules, and studies. We trot out our favorite commentary and think we’ve done okay. That’s all good,

but have we worshiped?

Have we quieted our heart at all before the Lord?

Have we taken the time to recognize His presence and ascribe Him the worth He is due, or are we so busy talking to Him and telling Him all that needs to be blessed and done and fixed?

Come, let us adore Him. Let those words do their work on your tired soul.

When was the last time you were still in the presence of God? Still, as in, quieted, weaned, submissive, yielding-– nothing to say or dictate, no agenda but to know Him, see Him in His beauty, acknowledge and adore His presence?

And if it has been a while, have you replaced worship for service? Let’s be honest, service is safe. You can control it. Yes, I’ll do this. No, I’ll not do that.

Worship requires submission and admission that God is greater and worthy of anything and everything, and that’s a little scarier than service.

Some have spent their entire life in ministry and service and have never surrendered to the Lord. We’ve given parts, sure. But we cling and hoard those secret loves that we refuse to part with. We still fight and demand self-adoration. We say, “No, Lord. That’s too much. I can’t release that.”

I like this quote from Joseph Carroll:

“The first essential condition for true worship is total submission. The second essential is that Christ alone should be glorified. We must meet these conditions, submitting ourselves absolutely, without reserve, to Jesus Christ.

In Revelation 4:11, we find the worshipers ascribing worth to the One on the throne, telling Him he is worthy.

“You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.”

What have they done? They have abdicated and cast their crowns before the throne, divesting themselves of their glory and saying, “You are worthy to receive glory, and You alone.” Honor and power follow. These three things are what men seek: to be glorified, to be exalted, to be honored.

Therefore to worship Jesus Christ, we must divest ourselves of all desire for glory and honor and power; for He and He alone is worthy of such.”

“O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.”

So much clamors for our attention this season.

The world promises we can have it all.

Advertisers tell us that if we do more, buy more, we’ll be happier, more glamorous, more, more, more.

God says to be still. Adore. Come unto me.

“One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to meditate in His temple.”

Let’s take a few minutes today to do this: be still, truly adore, and go forward mindful of God, aware of His presence, submitted to His will, and active in His service to love others and exalt Him. This is the worship-ful life.

 

The Beauty of Humility: A Christian Woman’s Ornament

One of the most beautiful adornments of a Christian woman is the grace of humility. The Christmas story is jam-pack full of examples of humility for us to emulate.

“Humility is simply the disposition which prepares the soul for living on trust.”-Andrew Murray, Humility

A humble woman trusts that God is good and can be trusted with all the aspects of our lives.

“Our humility before God has no value, except that it prepares us to reveal the humility of Jesus to our fellow men.
― Andrew Murray, Humility

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How do you know if you are humble before God? The tell-tale sign: she’s humble and gracious to her fellow man. Our regard for God is seen in our treatment of others and our mistreatment of others betrays all of our claims of “loving God.”

Humility colors all of our interactions with other people. It enables graciousness, the ability to act with appropriateness and thoughtfulness in any situation. Those who’ve received grace live gracious lives.

In real life, graciousness looks like this:

A humble woman uses common courtesy. She doesn’t interrupt others because she doesn’t assume that what she has to say is so important that it must be said right now.

She doesn’t make others uncomfortable by asking probing personal questions because she doesn’t assume that people owe her an answer.

She doesn’t seek attention but rather promotes others.

She’s socially sensitive and thinks before she speaks. She considers the feelings of others. “Venting” (verbal vomiting) and telling people off is not something she does.

When she acts in less than courteous ways, she shows that she knows better by making it right and apologizing for her shortcoming.

A humble heart gives rise to kindness, courteousness, and a host of other virtues so that social graces come naturally.

Humility is one of the chief characteristics of Christ’s life in the gospels. We see humility throughout his life, and at his death, but we see it first in His birth.

 

We can hardly wrap our head around the fact that our King, Jesus,  left his throne for a lousy stable in order to save sinful, hateful people. A humbling act for our benefit.

We see Mary’s humility as she says “Yes, Lord,” to whatever God ordained for her life. This meant misunderstanding, scandal, pain, and a life of trials for her, ending in the gruesome murder of her Son on a cross. She signed up for pain knowing that God’s ways are always higher than our plans or temporal pain.

Humility gives up it’s rights and doesn’t demand it’s own way. 

Isaiah 53:6 reminds us that in our flesh, we all want our own way: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

We also see Mary’s humility in her interactions with Joseph. She believes him and follows him to Egypt when he tells her he was warned “in a dream” (eye roll!) “by an angel” to flee. A proud Mary might have asserted her rights or pulled the “I’m the one God chose to carry His Son” card so you’ll listen to me.  But her lifestyle of humility shines through in her interactions with her husband at home.

We see Joseph’s humility as he refused to “get even” with Mary when he found out she was expecting “miraculously.” He could have socially shamed her. But he was godly enough to refuse to give into vengeance. A humble heart is quick to protect like that. It’s the proud who loves to avenge.

We see Jesus humility in His birth. No shiny-floored birthing room. Just a dirty animal place.

And again, we see Mary’s humility as the stable-birth-room is invaded by shepherds right after she just.gave.birth.on.a.dirt.floor and we see her demeanor is not one of “give us a little space” or “who do you think you are barging in like this?” In the noise and excitement, we see she was quiet before the Lord, “pondering” all these thing in her heart.

Where do you find yourself today?

Maybe you think humility doesn’t matter too much because your moments are mundane or menial and considered “unimportant” by the world.

Did you know that the fiber of your character is being woven by every humble interaction you have with your children, your neighbor, your fellow church member, that sick parent you’re caring for?

Did you know that your influence is not determined by a spotlight on a stage or by thousands of followers on social media, but by the tiny, seemingly unimportant words and deeds of your everyday life?

Did you know that the most influential person in the Kingdom is the humblest?

That the strongest is the meekest?

That the One who sees all sees all of your unseen and unnoticed works, words, and actions that you’ve performed on His behalf?

He knows when your hands served as His hands in another’s life.

Did you know that our humble Lord will take up your cause when you are mistreated? That God resists the proud and refuses to bless the works of the self-reliant and self-serving? Call it what you will–ministry, social work, or sacrifice–if pride is present the Lord rejects it. “Pride renders humility impossible.”

“The truth is this: Pride must die in you or nothing of heaven can live in you. Under the banner of the truth, give yourself up to the meek and humble spirit of the holy Jesus. Humility must sow the seed or there can be no reaping in heaven. Look not at pride only as an unbecoming temper, nor at humility only as a decent virtue: for the one is death and the other is life; the one is hell and the other is heaven. So much as you have of pride within you, you have of the fallen angel alive in you; so much as you have of true humility, so much you have of the Lamb of God within you.”

Andrew Murray

This Christmas, we have the opportunity to deal with so many different people. We have ministry opportunities, and family gatherings, we run into friends and neighbors, and even some people we’d rather not spend time with. Let’s make humility a matter of utmost importance and prayer. Let’s let our interactions show that we are under the control of the Master and that we represent Jesus correctly.

Do you need to find humble friends?

It’s counter-cultural to seek out the meek. In our flesh, we want to be associated with the people calling the shots, the loud, assertive, flashy, and popular. But, believe me, befriending the humble woman and finding the women who are dealing humbly with their family and church members is where it’s at. You’ll rarely find them on stage or seeking the spotlight. You may not know what they are doing at all because they don’t have to announce it to everyone. You’ll know them because they’re gracious and courteous in their interactions. They’re not frazzled, but live lives of peace and contentment. They know their God and they’re servants just like Him.

Surround yourself with these lovely women. Encourage them. Learn from them. And as you ponder all the examples of humility this Christmas, ask God:

“Where am I proud?” (great resource here)

“How have my interactions with others not reflected humility and how can I make that right?”

“What steps can I take right now to put pride to death to show my love for God and to have proper relationships with others?”

 

Too Busy To Abide

Wanted to share some printables that I made for my home using the art of Helen Allingham, an English watercolor painter who lived during the Victorian era. Her scenes are domestic and soothing, cozy and inviting. They mostly depict cottage life and pastoral scenes. They make me want to step into the painting and stay.

In my own devotions, I’ve been meditating on God as our dwelling place.

We’re all busy, aren’t we? And slowing down is a choice.  I’ve had to say “no” to good things so that I can make room for the “best” things and honestly, every fall as Peter and I evaluate our commitments,  I have to make the choice all over again because I can’t afford to miss structured time, intentional times, with the Lord.

Psalm 90 “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.”

The words dwelling place conjure up images of relaxing, enjoying, reclining, and staying in one spot for a long time. In a world that is fast paced and glorifies the “busy”, we, by default, hesitate to abide. In fact, we’re too busy to abide. Abiding is for the lazy. Abiding is for the loafer. We’re Martha people with things to do and kids to raise and all.the.stuff. And yet God has called us to rest and refresh in Him.

I think it’s safe to say that most of us relate better to God as a refuge or a tower or a place that we dart in and out of in times of trials. When things get really bad, we reason, I know who I can count on: My Refuge. And when trouble comes, I know I always have the fall back: our Strong Tower. It’s like God is our default–plan B when we can’t handle life ourselves.

God wants to be our Dwelling Place.  Period. God never meant for us to live frantic lives independently of Him.

This is what I’m focusing on this week.

Anyway, I was very much blessed by a talk by Holly Stratton (SermonAudio) on Three Laws for Christian Women and I’ve made reminders for myself that you are free to print and enjoy.

The Law of our Mind: Christlike Humility

Helen Paterson Allingham 1

Phil 2: 6-8

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

The Law of the Mouth: Kindness

Proverbs 31:26 “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”

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The Law of the Heart: Forgiveness

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Eph. 4:32

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

 

I hope you have a great week. Feel free to share what you’re learning, reading, or listening to in the comments.

 

 

For the mom who had a rough day

For the mom who had a rough day, who didn’t live up to her ideals, who blew it with her kids, who wasn’t what she should have been, who acted like the mother she vowed she’d never be,

bad dayFor the wife who is discouraged and lonely, hopes dashed, carrying more than your weight of the load, wondering how you ended up here instead of happily- ever-after,

For the college aged girl who is struggling to figure out life, who can’t change her circumstances, who is just beginning her journey but is already afraid, can’t see light at the end of the tunnel, wondering if life is supposed to be this hard,

For anyone who is feeling the weight of discouragement,  the tension between the hurt you are feeling and the joy that you know you should have, I want to offer some hope that has helped me when discouragement seems to be the emotion of the day, week, month.

I know it seems that discouragement puts you in limbo, but it actually can serve a purpose. Discouragement can be a catalyst to drive you to God. 

Here are a few things that have helped me:

1. See where you’re stuck. Often it’s on the wrong things.

My thoughts are “sticky” and often get stuck on the negative instead of thinking Truth. Satan sends condemning thoughts:

You’re house is such a mess. You’ve failed your kids. You’re so fat. You’ll never have it together. 

Sometimes discouraging thoughts come from within: This will never change. She’ll always be a problem person. He’ll never change.

Grace says that I am not the sum total of what I did on my worst day. I am whole in Christ.

If I can change my situation in a godly way, then of course I should. But if I can’t, I need to make a choice. I can dwell on the negative and continue to spiral downward or I can take action and lasso my rouge thoughts. Take your thoughts to scripture and see if they line up with truth.

2. You Live Grounded.

Just like a boat has an anchor that keeps it from going adrift when storms come and the tides change, we need to be anchored in the truth about what we know about God. Grounded in grace, attached to the Vine, abiding in Him.

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I’ve found this to be true especially in times of discouragement. Trials come, waves crash, and the water can be choking, but no matter how crazy the storm gets, we can only drift so far because we are secure in Christ.

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Although my life may seem to be shifting out of control when I’m anchored in God’s word and my communion with Him is strong and focused, the storm almost doesn’t matter.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea: Though the waters thereof roar and be troubles, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.” Ps. 46: 1-3

3.  Live With Expectant Hope

Even when things are unplanned and unpleasant and I feel the weight of the disappointment, I have hope. Like the Psalmist in Psalm 42 who laments his problems, but then reminds himself “Why are thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God. For I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.”, we, too can lament our problems, but then realize that we also have hope.

Our primary hope is God.

We pursue many things feverishly. The psalmist said that he pursued God and desired God like a thirsty deer after the chase of the hunt pants for cold water.

Our trials can drive us to thirst for God or to despair.

In “down” times, I have to ask myself, “Why are you so sad? What’s been taken from you that you love so much?” In other words, “Sarah, what are you hoping in? Why are you living like God is dead and not on the throne?”

What’s the remedy for my cast down soul? Hope in God alone. 

When everything else has been stripped away,

When the thing you worked your whole life for crumbles before your eyes,

When the worst thing you can imagine becomes your reality,

you will still have God and He can never be taken from you.

This life is a moment, but my relationship with God is for eternity, so whether I feel like it or not, I must hope in God alone.

4. Re-train and renew your mind to remember the truth.

We are inundated with media and messages and they can really weigh on our soul without us even knowing it. The nightly news, the politics on Facebook, wars, killing, the inhumanity and cruelty we see on a daily basis can really discourage us. Negativity breeds negativity in the mind. We need to be super careful what we feed it.

This is why meditating on scripture is crucial for me. I can’t read the Word and walk away from it, because it won’t “stick” in my mind. I have to put it in front of my face. My friend Joy writes a verse on her hand so she can see it while she works. Do what you have to do to remember God’s word.

 

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5. Walk with hopeful expectation.

Even though things are not what I expected right now, I can have confidence in God. I know that God is with me, and is working this situation out for my good and His glory. Maybe I won’t get relief from my circumstances, but God is making me holy in the process of submitting to His will. He’s breaking my stubbornness and selfishness, showing me that my self-reliance was really living like an orphan when I had loving Heavenly Father. Not one detail of my life is out of control or overlooked. 

I know we live in a feelings oriented culture where if you do something when you don’t feel like it, it’s termed unauthentic or hypocritical.

But the Christian is reminded to “train yourself to godliness.” 1 Tim. 4:7b

Just like I don’t always feel like washing my dishes or saving money or dieting, I do it because it’s right. And,

whether I feel like living under the authority of the Word of God or not on a particular day, I train myself to do it because it’s right.

In times of trouble, seek God’s face.

When we can’t change our circumstances we should seek to change our attitude.

Hang in there, friend. Your God is bigger than this and He won’t fail you.

Don’t Put All Your Eggs into One Basket

We’re reading through Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands and we’re working on chapters 4-6 this week.

Last week, my friend Lisa brought me eggs, and I found myself recalling this farm-y saying over and over again: “Don’t put all your eggs into one basket.”

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And as I read Instruments, I kept thinking of that “one basket” and realized that when we love or serve anything other than God, we’re putting all our eggs into one basket, and it’s the wrong one at that! I envision Ma Ingalls gathering her eggs and putting them carefully into a basket to sell in town. Now imagine that her basket has no bottom to it and consequently, can never be filled.  Yet, she keeps dropping the eggs in over and over again as though eventually with enough energy, persistence, or creativity, the basket will somehow fill.

We do the same thing when we place our hope for happiness in things that weren’t meant to and can never deliver hope.

I’d just be happy if…

If only I had this…

Things will be better when…

That one thing. That one thing that can never deliver.

It might be a good thing that your heart dwells on for just a little too long.

It no longer becomes a “nice to have” but morphs into an “I must have” or else. Your fist tightens and your heart clings a little too tightly. An expectation, a demand, my ideal version of my life.

You hand craft this little idol in your heart and you now set out to worship it. You come to believe that you can’t live without it or you’ll never he happy. You make “provisions for the flesh” to accommodate it. You spend time and money on it. You get mad when someone else has it. You wake up thinking about it and go to bed dreaming about it.

“What our heart clings to and confides in is what we truly worship.”

We all worship. The question is who or what are we worshiping.

I think we often use God and others to get what we want. Let that sink in. Instead of loving God and others first and best, we use them to accomodate our own ends. We wouldn’t actually say that, so we re-name the terms to make it more palatable, but the end result is the same. We use God and people in our idol-serving, mini-kingdom-building endeavors.

We want to reign supreme, so we live life independently of God. We resist the authority in our life. We war with anyone who doesn’t see life on our terms. Life as an idolater is unhappy and hard, and when we are conflict we tend to blame others when our problems are really the fruit of our own idolatry. We’ve sown a harvest and now we are reaping it.

“All human desire must be held in submission to a greater purpose, the desires of God for His kingdom.” Instruments, pg. 85

God has a plan for our lives. He is going to use us for His kingdom purposes. I think the biggest lesson to learn from these chapters is that God will not use someone who is sinning to get what he/she wants. In fact, God will continue to make your life hard and resist you.

“The goal of God’s grace is his own glory, as he calls out and purifies a people that belongs to him alone. When he owns their hearts unchallenged, these people will be eager to do what is good in His eyes…His jealousy for our hearts is not a threat, but our ONE TRUE HOPE. Our God is eternally unwilling to share our hearts.” pg 85

I hope as you read, that you are encouraged to change as the Holy Spirit leads you and to do what is right regardless of what others around you are doing. Don’t wait for your husband to change before you change. Don’t wait for that prickly person to straighten up before you do what is right. You are responsible for you and God wants all of your heart now.

This is a wonderfully challenging and convicting book and one that will be life changing if we are meek enough to receive instruction. Let me know what you’ve learned so far in the comments or in the FB group.

Happy reading.

A Supreme Priority that Changes Everything

I’ve always noticed patterns. Maybe it’s the artist in me, but patterns and correlations jump out at me immediately in art, nature, and when it comes to life in general, but not so much when it comes to my own life.

After having a week of company a dear friend warned, “Take care of yourself. You’re always sick after company.”

I was shocked. “I am? I hadn’t noticed that.”

I’m the mom who makes sure everyone gets their daily supply of vitamin C, protein, and leafy greens, but who skips breakfast (and sometimes lunch) in the bustle of it all and then I wonder why I get shaky.

I’m the mom who takes kids to their gazillion doctors appointments when I haven’t had a physical myself for nearly ten years. (I know.)

supreme priority

Last night in family devotions Peter shared an interesting correlation between lack of love and all the other vices known to man.

Every sin ever committed had , at its root, a lack of love for God and others, and a super-abundance of self-love.

He read 1 Cor. 13, the love chapter, and then went on to explain that love is really the singular fruit of the Spirit that is the basis for all other “fruit.”

He read this excerpt from Ray Steadman on the fruit of the Spirit:

 “It has been pointed out that all of those qualities really are manifestations of the first one, love — that, after all,

joy is love enjoying itself;

peace is love resting;

patience is love waiting;

kindness is love reacting;

goodness is love choosing;

faithfulness is love keeping its word;

gentleness is love empathizing;

and self-control is love resisting temptation.

Love is the key; love is the main thing. This chapter, therefore, is setting forth that quality of love which is the work of the Spirit of God within us reproducing the character of Christ. Now once you have love all these other qualities that are part of the fruit of the Spirit are possible to you.

If we have the love of God in our hearts, then we can be patient; we can be peaceful; we can be good, loving, faithful, gentle, kind, and all these other qualities.

But without love all we can do is imitate these qualities, and that is what produces a phony love. One of the most deadly enemies of the Christian cause is phony love. That is why, in Romans, Paul says, “Let love be genuine,” (Romans 12:9a RSV). When you come into the church, especially among the people of God, love must be genuine. If it is not, it is hypocrisy. If it is put on just for the moment, if it is an attempt to put on a facade, to act like you are kind, thoughtful. gracious, faithful, and so on, but it all disappears as soon as the situation changes, that spreads death within the whole community. Genuine love, however, will produce all these qualities. ~ Ray Steadman Commentary”

I was thankful for this correlation because I am a “woman who loves God”, but truth be told, sometimes I don’t.

And I’m a woman who loves people,  but some days I wish people weren’t so needy. (Translation: I’m selfish some days.)

And this is not okay because I want my life to be characterized as being a loving mom, wife, friend, and neighbor.

So I need this reminder every day and I need God’s “shed abroad” love in my heart overflowing my life every day.

I don’t want to fall into the trap of blaming circumstances or limitations for my lack of love and joy because I know full well that I am 100% responsible for me and my own actions, reaction, and affections. I know the Source. I choose to draw from Him or not.

I know that you, too, want to love God and others well.

Imagine what loving God supremely would look like in our homes, communities, and churches? Imagine how it would change every interaction.

Selfishness and personal pettiness would be kicked to the curb. Moodiness and a critical spirit would be replaced by care and concern for others. Serving others would become the norm.

This is what we need today in our homes and desperately in our churches.

It may seem simplistic but this is the need: more love to Thee.

Maybe its simplicity makes it easy to ignore. We’re often enamored more with things like being known as wise women or discerning women, when what we need desperately is to be known as loving women.

It goes back to our primary purpose and calling. It’s the only safeguard for our heart when trouble comes and dreams are broken and the unthinkable becomes our reality.

And loving God is easier when you know Him and His great love for you. His ridiculous, super-abundant, chasing, steadfast, restorative love for you.

Today, have one aim: to love God. Then watch as His love runs in and fills you and overflows your life so that you can love others the way you’ve always wanted to.

5 Surprising signs of life we hate

I don’t know about you, but there are things in my Christian life that I wish weren’t part of it. You know– all the doubts, insecurities, and shortcomings that are part of the equation in our fallen flesh.

I’ve not been online for various reasons (watching Little B, Bek’s graduation, getting Em ready for her missions trip, planning upcoming construction/renovations) but I wanted to post this quickly to address a common thread in my inbox lately: unpleasant parts of our fallen life and spiritual growth that give us anxiety.

signs of life

I wanted to give you hope, because these inner struggles are actually signs of life and evidences of God’s grace, and when we recognize them as such, we can move forward with a sound mind and peaceful heart instead of getting stuck in guilt and self-condemnation.

Fears from your correspondence:

1. “I don’t pray enough.” Can I just say that I can’t imagine anyone thinking that they actually pray enough. Every time you feel guilt about not praying enough, recognize that the Holy Spirit gives you the desire to pray, and that feeling of “not enough” is a sign of His grace in your life. (And then pray! :))

2. “I constantly fail.” Who doesn’t? Don’t believe the lie that so-and-so is perfect. They aren’t. They just struggle in different ways than you do. When you realize you’ve failed, confess it and move on and do then next right thing. Don’t compare yourself to others. Look to Christ.

3. “I’ll never change.” That is not the voice of God telling you that, but of self-condemnation and the Accuser. It’s true that you’ll never be perfect, but in Christ we do have the tools to change and the Holy Spirit’s job is to prompt you towards change so that you’ll look more like a member of the “family” of God. If the Holy Spirit convicts you of an area you need to change, this is another evidence of His refining work in your life. Rejoice!

4. “I’ve ruined my ministry by ________.” You may have ruined your reputation, but unless you’ve built your ministry on a house of cards of your own false goodness or some lofty pedestal of “perfection”, your sin handled properly is ministering gospel grace to those around you. The only way you can ruin your ministry it to sin and not make it right or to promote yourself and your own reputation instead of giving glory to Christ. People know you aren’t perfect and don’t expect you to be.

5. “I must be the world’s worst mother.” The horrible mothers in the world don’t give this a thought. The end. You are an imperfect mother on assignment from God to do your best with the tools you have now and to point your kids to Christ. I’d wager that your awareness to your own shortcomings actually means that you are a pretty amazing mom who gives yourself too little credit.

Don’t just believe your thoughts. Run them through the sieve of Scripture and see truth and discard lies. When you are in Christ, you are loved, accepted, and being conformed. It may seem painful sometimes, but we can take comfort knowing that God is working for our good. He is for us!

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2 Thes. 1:11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.

1 Thes. 5: 23, 24 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. 

 

 

Interview with Christine Hoover and a From Good to Grace Giveaway

Really excited to share this interview with Christine Hoover with you today and offer a giveaway of her new book, From Good to Grace for you and a friend!  If you aren’t familiar with her book, I semi-reviewed it here after I disagreed with the Gospel Coalition’s review which basically said that this dependence on grace and the Holy Spirit was not enough to lead to holiness and change. Many of you wrote that this was your faulty understanding as well, years ago, and that God had brought you through trials to bring you to the end of yourself and show you that dependence on the law for salvation or sanctification was futile. The law was meant to be a schoolmaster, holding our hand, leading us to the Savior.

I had a few questions for Christine after reading her book and wanted to share them with you.

Sarah: What causes us to get the “gospel” so wrong?  Especially those of us who have been brought up in solid gospel preaching churches?

Christine: The gospel is not innate to us. It’s an announcement of good news that we must hear and proclaim to ourselves over and over again. We must let it consistently sink down deeper into every crevice of life. We get it wrong so often because what I term the goodness gospel–spiritual growth through self-effort–is innate. We tend to innately believe that external behaviors can change internal realities, so self-effort has an appearance of wisdom to us. We must, as Paul says in Galatians 5:1, “stand firm in the liberty for which Christ has set us free”.

So there’s this fight to live in the grace Christ has won for us, but I think in our churches we often focus on what the gospel says about salvation, but we aren’t always talking about how the gospel applies to our sanctification. How do we grow? How does the Holy Spirit work in our daily lives? What does it mean to walk by faith? Without understanding these concepts, we naturally revert back to the goodness gospel.

Sarah: On a practical level, what does preaching the “grace gospel” look like on a daily basis? You talked in the book about what you dubbed “Autism Days” and how those emotionally hard days were when you needed to remember God’s love. Can you talk us through your thought process. What verses do you cling to? How do you prepare yourself for the highs and lows of emotion that we women experience throughout life?

Christine: My emotionally difficult days usually circle around discouragement regarding my children, self-doubt regarding writing, and struggles with being a pastor’s wife. My thoughts tell me that I’m not good enough or that I’m not doing enough. When I’m thinking along those lines, I typically go back to two anchors.

One is, “What has God asked of me in this?” Almost 100% of the time, I am condemning myself rather than experiencing the conviction of the Holy Spirit. God has asked me to be faithful in my roles, but I am putting additional standards on myself, such as having perfectly behaved children and people at church who are perpetually pleased with me. I know God’s conviction when it is biblical, specific, and hopeful, not condemning. There is no condemnation ever for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1).

The second anchor is adding “But God” to my thoughts. Am I good enough? No, but God has made me righteous in His eyes through Christ. Am I going to disappoint people? Yes, but God has given me His unchangeable approval in Christ.

I’m not saying that my emotions immediately change, but going to these anchors leads me to ask the Lord for help in believing what is true and help in being faithful to Him in my roles.

Sarah: Parenting is one place where I think we can unknowingly train our kids to a behavioral gospel. We praise good behavior and scold negative behavior. We use phrases like “Good girl” and get excited when our kids act and behave in appropriate ways that make us look like the “good mom.” Do you think we are ingraining the goodness gospel in our kids?

Christine: This is a good and important question. In parenting my kids according to the gospel of grace, it helps me to think about the role of the Law. According to Galatians 3:19-25, the Law teaches us that we need something beyond ourselves and our own abilities and behaviors in order to be righteous. In other words, I look at the law and I see my inability to be good and it leads me to Christ.

This is so applicable to parenting. I want to teach my children what God says is right and wrong and to obey Him (the Law), but I can’t stop there. I have to help them understand that they are unable in and of themselves to fully obey and “be good”. This leads to the gospel: Jesus was perfect on their behalf and they are given the opportunity to accept it by faith.

After salvation, I want to teach them that faithfulness to God is the most important pursuit. I am leading them to Jesus and teaching them to walk with Him, not just to obey me. I want them to go to Him in Scripture, know Him through Scripture, ask Him for help and leadership, and learn to obey His voice. Of course, I am going to be a primary voice in their life, but the question is who is leading me as I lead my children? Myself and my own desires, understanding, and effort? Or am I trusting that God will speak to my children and help them grow? I must pray toward that end, otherwise I am tempted to be their Law and Holy Spirit.

Sarah: How has writing this book impacted the way you parent? How are you intentionally training your kids to understand the love and grace of God?

Christine: What God has taught me about grace has greatly impacted my parenting. The most helpful thing I’ve learned about grace is that I am not an orphan (John 14:18). I don’t have to take care of myself. I have a Father who loves me, cares for me, and nurtures me. He delights in me and sings over me. Knowing that lights me up with joy, but it also compels me to lay down my life for the One who has sacrificed so much for me.

 

This has everything to do with parenting. I want my kids to see me delight in God and enjoy Him and serve Him, because kids really do love what their parents love. I want them to see me so confident in God’s love for me and that He loves them the same way. Because God’s love toward them will compel them to faithful obedience (2 Cor. 5:14). I know that’s not super practical, but the old adage is true: you can’t give away what you don’t have.

Thanks, so much, Christine, for joining us here today and sharing what the Lord is teaching you.

If you’d like to enter a contest to win a copy of From Good to Grace for you and a friend, you can enter whichever way is easiest for you:

1. Comment on our Instagram pic and tag your friend on IG.

2. Tweet about this giveaway and tag your friend and @joyfilleddays on Twitter.

3. Share this on FB and tag your friend and @joyfilleddays.

Make sure you tag @joyfilleddays and make your post public so I can count your entry on the social media outlet of your choice. You can enter once on each social media platform for a total of 3 entries.

Contest ends midnight, Friday, 3/13/2015, EST.  Physical book mailings for the US only. Outside the US, you’ll win a Kindle version of the book. Giveaway courtesy of Baker Books and Joyfilleddays.com. 

The Immersion Bible Study Plan (And A Printable)

Yesterday I talked about a few of my resolutions for 2015, which you all know I hold loosely. I told you how I picture entering the New Year as Israel standing on the side of the Jordan river, about to enter the Promised Land—new phases, and new promises to grasp hold of.

If I could encourage you to have one resolution–a lifelong resolution–it would be to study your Bible. If you don’t have a plan, now is the perfect time to begin.

Immersion Bible Study

There are so many great Bible Reading Schedules available online. My friend Kara has a page of resources here..

This year I’m using the Immersion Method outlined here by John MacArthur.  He states:

First, I begin with reading the Bible. That seems obvious, but quite frankly, it’s where many people fail. Too many Christians are content with a second-hand knowledge of Scripture. They read books about the Bible instead of studying the Bible for themselves. Books are good, but collateral reading can never replace the Bible itself.

Studying the Bible is more than reading a passage once and consulting a commentary. That’s studying the ideas of another man. (Although commentaries are super helpful for many things!)  For more info on how to study the Bible accurately, I highly suggest Jen Wilken’s Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds.

The immersion method is about saturating your mind for a season with one particular passage.

Here’s how it goes:

If you want to try this, begin with a short book, such as 1 John, and read it through in one sitting every day for 30 days. At the end of that time, you will know what’s in that book. Write out on index cards the major theme of each chapter. By referring to the cards as you do your daily reading, you’ll begin to remember the content of each chapter. In fact, you’ll develop a visual perception of the book in your mind.

John MacArthur 

I always benefit from this type of study and I know you will too! We use this method on a smaller scale with our teen youth group to get them ready for Bible Quizzing. Also, over the years, I’ve used this method to study books I needed to know more about (Ephesians, James, Philippians, Titus, etc…) and it really has helped me gain a better understanding of each book as a whole.

I’ve decided to read each NT book 10-20X (such a compromiser, I know. Sorry to disappoint, Dr. MacArthur!) from shortest book to longest per this article, “How to Change Your Mind” by Joe Carter (read it! excellent!). I’ve made a PRINTABLE {Immersion Bible Reading Plan}to stick in my Bible to help me keep track. Feel free to use.

It may take you well over a year, maybe even 2 or 3 years, especially if you have little kids. If the thought of committing to the entire NT is overwhelming, choose a book and start there. Something is always better than nothing. I know how easy it is to become overwhelmed. Take it in small chunks.

Your turn: Did you choose a reading schedule? What’s worked for you? What advice would you give to younger moms who don’t have chunks of time but want to get into God’s word?

Mary’s secret for peace {for all of us.}

Do you find peace elusive? Do circumstances dictate your mood? Does the behavior (or misbehavior) of others rattle you and threaten to steal your joy?

On what does your happiness depend?

One of the greatest lessons we can learn is that peace is not dependent on circumstances when you are in Christ. When my peace is threatened, I know my focus is on the wrong things: problems, injustices, situations.

Getting alone with my Bible and some time with the Lord is really the needed re-calibration for my anxious heart. “Thou wilt keep Him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on Thee, because he trusts in Thee.”

Mary-of-Nazareth-Nativity

Perfect peace.

One of my favorite examples from scripture, as you already know, is the humility of Mary.

Mary exemplifies a peace filled heart.

Mary’s world was turned upside down and we see her in a state of surrender. Angel appears, news delivered: You’re going to deliver the Messiah.

Peace. Belief. Surrender.—>And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38

Mary was living in a time when women had few rights. She was not master of her own destiny. She was dependent on God and she knew it. She called herself a servant–one who does the will of another.

Mary had few resources. She didn’t have riches or influence or people in high places that could get her out of a fix.

It’s easy to romanticize the manger scene with a soft-focused nostalgia. But think about Mary in her material state, flesh and blood, pregnant and uncomfortable with no where to give birth after traveling on a donkey to get to her birthing room, which turns out is no where, because there was no room for them. Plan B: Give birth in a stable on the ground.

Picture her giving of herself in order to give life to another, like every mother does. Her delivery wasn’t sterile or pain free. Shaking, sweating, panting, cold, hot, writhing in pain, holding her breath, frantic to survive another contraction and hoping the excruciating pain would soon be over. Her attitude on the dirt floor and hay bed of a birthing room: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord.”

When shepherds interrupted the scene to see the newborn, and people were invading their space, chattering on and on about the angels and the stars, about the news, and why they were there…

with all that noise and confusion after you just gave birth.in.a.stable.

and we see that Mary is not joining in with the noise and confusion, and is not agitated or demanding her space or rights, but is simply quiet. At rest. Pondering. Unaffected by the outward circumstances. She knew her God and she simply trusted Him. “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

We see very little of Mary during the Lord’s 33 years on earth. We assume she did what normal mothers do. Night after night she nursed baby Jesus. She changed diapers, rocked, burped Him, cleaned a home, made meals, swept floors, cared for Joseph. Nothing spectacular by the world’s standards. Just faithful care for the people around her in her own little sphere of influence. But when we do see her, she was doing the right thing, and following the teachings of God. She followed Joseph when he was warned in a “dream” to flee to Egypt. We don’t see any recorded resistance to Joseph’s leadership. Then, years later, she was faithfully bringing the Lord to the temple when he was 12. Before Jesus first miracle, we see her instructing the servants to “do whatever He tells you.” Her steadfast heart was the same. She still saw herself as a servant of the Lord and trusted in Him.

And this is the secret to our peace as well. We need to see ourselves as servants of the Lord, to do what He commands, to walk where He leads, to serve in humility where He puts us.

Your life may seem mundane and maybe you are doing small things by the world’s standards. You may be obscure and poor and hidden. Maybe you are changing a baby’s diaper, or maybe caring for an elderly parent. And while you’ll never receive recognition for these things, an nobody seems to notice or care, God does see and notice. In fact, you are His servant doing His bidding right there as you feed that baby in the middle of the night, and as you calm that anxious loved one with Alzheimers.

Mary taught us that the ordinary, as well as the extraordinary, are to be embraced as “unto the Lord” and as “from the Lord.” This should teach us to say, with Mary, “Yes, Lord. Anything. Everything. Whatever you think is best for me.”

Mary held the “The Prince of Peace” in her physical arms. We have something better: We are “in Him” and have Him in our hearts.

Col. 3:1-3 “If you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

This Christmas, why not hand over that thing that has toyed with you and robbed you of your joy for so long. Why not meditate on the Prince of Peace and the one who did so much to bring peace with God to your life, heart, and eternity? Like Mary, why not trust God with everything and proclaim yourself a handmaiden/servant of God?

Why did we allow that small thing to steal our joy and peace again? What can threaten our peace now?