When God Rewrites Your Job Description

As a woman, what’s your job in your home?

Give me your answer in 3, 2, 1 . . .

I know it probably didn’t take you three seconds to answer that simple question. In fact, I bet in those three seconds you came up with a list something like:

  • Wife
  • Mom
  • Grandma
  • Cook
  • Maid
  • Chauffeur
  • Menu Planner
  • Event Planner
  • Fun Planner
  • Disciplinarian
  • Floor Scrubber
  • Medic
  • Lawn Keeper
  • Seamstress
  • Accountant
  • Interior Decorator

I could go on. We’re all spinning lots of plates.

In fact, several months ago I was struggling to keep all the aforementioned plates spinning. I was praying for right perspective on my priorities when I felt the Holy Spirit rewrite my job description.

“Your job is to be a Comforter.”

“Come again, Lord?”

“Your job in this home is to be a Comforter.”

That seemed like a massive oversimplification to me. But considering how exhausting it was to try and be the end-all, be-all, I was willing to do some investigating.

I discovered that God is the original Comforter.

In Isaiah 51:12 He says, “I, I am he who comforts you.” Second Corinthians 1:3 calls Him the “God of all comfort.” Psalm 23:4 reminds us that God’s rod and staff (power and protection) are a source of comfort even in dark valleys.

Being a comforter to others is part of the character of God, but what does that have to do with me?

I am like the moon.

The moon doesn’t give off any light of its own. It simply reflects the sun. According to Genesis 1:26–27, my design as a woman is carefully crafted to reflect the character of God. One of the qualities I am uniquely equipped to reflect is the role of comforter.

My design as a woman is carefully crafted to reflect the character of God.

Certainly men can be comforters, too, but not in the unique ways we can as women. I’m able to comfort my husband like no other can. I’m able to comfort my children like no other can. I’m able to extend comfort to others through my home like no other can.

If you’re questioning how to prioritize what’s on all those spinning plates, let me encourage you to start by asking, “How does this comfort others?” Certainly your family can be comforted through warm meals and a clean home, but I found many of the things I was doing weren’t comforting anyone. This helped me know what tasks to let go of since my desire is to reflect God more brightly.

How about you? How are you equipped to uniquely comfort those around you? Are you willing to let God rewrite your job description to help you better reflect Him to those in your home?

Is Your Girl Drowning in Busyness?

I’m on a quest to inspire young women to live lives of radical faith. I want their faith in Jesus to make a difference in the way they live. I want it to change how they see the world. I want them to be willing to take risks for the Kingdom.

But I’ve encountered a bit of a roadblock.

Our girls are drowning in busyness.

Is it the culture? Nope. (Greater is He that is in them, than he that is in the world, after all). Are they uninterested in radical faith? No. They want to live radical lives for Christ. So, what’s the problem?

It’s their day planners. Young women have so much to do; they don’t even have time to pray or read their Bibles, much less do something radical. Our girls are drowning in busyness. We need to throw them a life raft!

In many ways life for the average middle school and high school girl has started to resemble a pressure cooker. Here’s a bird’s eye view of the problem:

  • Because of the pressure to get into a good college, many girls opt to take Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Experts say each AP class will likely result in forty-five minutes of homework every single school night. If your girl is in three AP classes—say, AP English, AP Biology, and AP Math—she’s spending almost two and a half hours doing homework after each eight-hour school day.
  • 23% of young women spend two to five hours per day practicing a sport or musical instrument.
  • 21% of young women spend at least ten hours per week working for pay.
  • Most of them are spending two to ten hours per week hanging out with friends.

Let me do the math for you.

We all get 168 hours each week. Between school, sports, and friends, girls are spending eighty hours of that time. Add in some time for sleep, and 133 hours are gone. Now factor in family time, involvement in church, and time for fun, and we’re well past 168 hours.

Ale wrote us about it on the Lies Young Women Believe blog,

“I so desperately need a rest. I’m too busy. My relationship with the Lord is getting weak. I have no time for anything, not even for myself—doing college homework, helping people who need me—I wanna accomplish everything!!!! Most of the time, I’m at church which is a good thing, but being involved in so many things is driving me nuts!”

How can we raise up the next generation of true women if they don’t have time to know God’s Word? How can we pass the baton to a group of girls who are too tired to finish the race?

We can’t hope for our girls to value silence, stillness, and Sabbath if they never see us doing the same.

The specifics of how to create margin will vary from person to person and family to family, but I know one thing for sure. We can’t expect young women to resist the pull of busyness if we don’t do it first. We can’t hope for them to value silence, stillness, and Sabbath if they never see us doing the same.

My mission to raise up a generation of radical young women starts here, with those of us who are a little further down the road. As we model balance, we are teaching an invaluable lesson to those who will run the race next.

So, how about you? Is busyness a roadblock to radical faith in your life? How can you encourage the young women in your world to say no to busyness in order to chase hard after a radical faith?

Note: Portions of this post are taken from my new book, My Name Is Erin: One Girl’s Plan For Radical Faith.

Why Our Kids Don’t Need the “Little g” Gospel

I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).

There are all kinds of little “g” gospels. These are messages we preach to ourselves citing the (false) reasons God will surely love and accept us.

  • There’s the gospel of association: “I’m a Christian because I was raised in a Christian home.”
  • There’s the gospel of achievement: “God loves me because I do so much for Him.”
  • There’s the gospel of comparison: “I am holy because I’m not as messed up as she is.”

These are all false gospels. Association, achievement, and comparison will never give us victory over our sin.

There is a little “g” gospel that is particularly dangerous and tempting as we parent. It’s the gospel of goodness. “God will love me if I am a very, very good boy or girl.”

But there is another little “g” gospel that is particularly dangerous and tempting as we parent. It’s the gospel of goodness. “God will love me if I am a very, very good boy or girl.”

We preach this gospel to our children when we give them the impression that church is about sitting quietly through a sermon. We do it when we try to spackle over our own junk whenever we head into church or gather with other Christians. We do it when we reduce the Bible down to a list of don’ts. We do it when we believe the lie that parenthood is about raising well-behaved children rather than radicals for Christ.

When Paul wrote this first letter to the church in Corinth, he wanted to get one thing straight—there was only one gospel he cared to preach. It was the only gospel with any power after all. It’s Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Jesus’ death on the cross is the only way you and your kids can:

  • have power over sin.
  • be reconciled to God.
  • live holy lives in a corrupt and godless generation.
  • be salt and light to your lost neighbors and friends.

The good boy/good girl gospel will never get you or your kids there. Only Jesus Christ and Him crucified ever can.

The good boy/good girl gospel will never get you or your kids there. Only Jesus Christ and Him crucified ever can.

I realize there are levels and ranges of spiritual maturity with our kids and grandkids. I’m not advocating you show your two-year-old The Passion of the Christ or try to explain propitiation to your preschooler. But I think Paul’s creed is a good one: I am here to preach Christ and Him crucified. No little “g” gospel will work instead. The message my children need to hear me preaching most often is that Jesus paid the price for their sin. His love and acceptance of them is not rooted in their ability to be good.

As we seek to influence children who know Christ and ultimately devote our lives to Him, let’s seek to preach the gospel of grace, not goodness.

Getting Serious About Gratitude

Yesterday, I wrote about God’s warning against spiritual envy from Jude 12–13. While that passage hit me hard, it felt like a walk in the park compared to what I read next.

Jude 14–15 reads,

“Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

At first glance this sounds like a battle between God and the culture to me. Maybe Hollywood, pop music, and tabloid magazines are about to get their due. After all, they must be who Jude is describing as committing so many ungodly deeds, right?

Keep reading.

“These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires . . .” (v. 16)

Cue record scratch sound effect.

The sinners God’s judging here are:

  • grumblers
  • malcontents

In other words, they’re complainers. They are being judged because of their lack of gratitude, not because of some sin we would perceive to be more grievous or devastating.

This shouldn’t surprise me, I guess. God commands gratitude often in His Word:

“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (1 Chron. 16:34)

“Let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.” (Heb. 12:28)

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:18)

I’ve got to confess that it’s easy for me to gloss over these verses. I know I should be thankful, but if I’m not it seems like no harm, no foul.

Perhaps that’s why Jude takes such a dramatically different approach to the issue. Instead of simply reminding us to be thankful in warm and fuzzy terms he describes the judgment due to those who do not thank God for all He has done.

True gratitude, the really, really good stuff that fills our hearts to overflowing and delights our giving God isn’t a result of rule following but of a constant reminder of the beauty of the gospel.

Jude may have been referring to the wilderness generation here, or he may have some other group in mind as he describes the coming judgment, but I know he could have just as easily been talking about me.

Gratitude is not something I am good at, despite the fact that God is so deserving. Discontentment is my default. Complaining is sadly common practice for me. The beauty of God’s Word is that it helps us recalibrate when we’ve gotten off track. In this case, the clear image of God judging those who chronically complain and habitually choose discontentment has the power to remind us to do things differently.

Now, before you add the words “show gratitude” to your to-do list for tomorrow, let me give a little disclaimer. For achievement-driven, to-do-list-loving, Christian women like me, gratitude can so easily become something that feels like a rule: We must give thanks because God commands us to.

That’s true. It is a commandment, but true gratitude, the really, really good stuff that fills our hearts to overflowing and delights our giving God isn’t a result of rule following but of a constant reminder of the beauty of the gospel. If we are going to put anything on our to-do lists, it should be to remember all that God has done for us, that we never earned or deserved.

Let’s start right now.

What can you thank God for? Will you choose contentment by focusing on all He has done?

Leave a comment below by Monday, September 30, letting us know what you’re thanking God for. Then we’ll choose one of you at random to win Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.


Putting an End to Spiritual Envy

You know these are good things—kingdom building things—and yet, somewhere deep down you feel something other than excitement, joy, and the need to celebrate. You feel something a lot like envy:

  • A friend of yours is asked to be the speaker at your church’s women’s event. She hits it out of the park, and there’s a huge response.
  • Someone you know gets a deal to write a Bible study with a big-time publisher.
  • A family in your church moves to the foreign mission field and are part of a mighty move of God.
  • Your sister is a gifted prayer warrior. When she prays, things happen. Her prayers seem to have more power than yours.
  • God clearly intervenes in someone’s marriage, or with their child, or with their health while you continue to pray for Him to do the same in your life.

I can relate. Pride often rears its ugly head in my life when God is clearly using and working in the lives of others. I know better, and yet . . . I still feel a little jealous when God’s hand rests on someone else’s shoulders.

Perhaps that’s why Jude 11–13 has hit me like a two-by-four in recent days:

“Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.”

To know who Jude is dropping the hammer on here, we must do our Old Testament homework. I’m sure you’re familiar with Cain. In Genesis 4 Cain explodes with anger because God favors his brother’s offering. His envy results in murder.

When we are upset about the gifts God gives others, we secretly and selfishly want attention or accolades and don’t like it when others get it.

We don’t bring offerings to the altar anymore, so this may look slightly different in our lives. But we follow the way of Cain any time we are angry, jealous, or put off by God’s clear favor in someone else’s life.

What was Balaam’s error? If you’ve never read Balaam’s story you should check out Numbers 22–23. For now, the main thing we need to know about Balaam is that he wanted to use the gifts God gave him for his own gain.

When we are upset about the gifts God gives others aren’t we doing the same thing? We secretly and selfishly want attention or accolades and don’t like it when others get it.

Korah was guilty of this. Korah’s rebellion is outlined in Numbers 16, but here’s the gist:

“They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, ‘You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?” (v. 3)

Korah and his followers hated hierarchy. They refused to place themselves under spiritual authority because they thought it meant someone was better than them. (By the way, Korah and his cronies were swallowed up by the earth!)

These stories sound dramatic, but they all have one thing in common—spiritual envy. These are simply folks who resented God’s hand in the lives of others.

Jude has strong words for those of us who, like them:

  • are jealous of God’s favor
  • use God’s voice for personal gain
  • want to be in charge
  • resent spiritual authority.

And Jude gives us six clear word pictures for what spiritual envy makes us:

  1. Hidden reefs: a danger that’s hard to detect.
  2. Shepherds feeding themselves: greedy and bad for the herd.
  3. Waterless clouds: useless.
  4. Fruitless trees: in case you missed it . . . useless.
  5. Wild waves of the sea: destructive.
  6. Wandering stars: giving misleading guidance to travelers.

This is the cost of our spiritual envy. It makes us a danger to Christ’s Body and robs us of the fruit God intends to bear in our lives.

I don’t want to follow the way of Cain any longer. I don’t want to repeat Balaam’s error or participate in Korah’s rebellion. Instead, I am reminded that God’s blessing is as much a gift when I’m a bystander as it is when I’m the recipient. What’s good for Christ’s Body is ultimately good for me.

What about you? Do you ever struggle with spiritual envy? How do Jude’s words resonate with you?

Psst . . . for a second lesson I’m learning from these verses, check out tomorrow’s post.

The Time for Action Has Come

Yesterday I wrote about the influx of readers at LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com who are struggling with porn. I urged you to get involved by talking about this difficult issue with the young women in your life.

But I know those won’t be easy conversations to have.

Porn is a serious issue, but it is not an unpardonable sin.

Porn isn’t fun to think about. It certainly isn’t easy to talk about. It’s one of those issues we prefer to imagine impacts somebody else. Or for those who know the dark truth—that porn can sink its teeth into anyone—talking honestly about it can be amongst our worst fears.

If you fall into the category of women who have wrestled with porn, let me take a moment to talk just to you. I wish I could take you out to lunch and tell you that yes, porn is a serious issue. But most importantly, despite what Satan is whispering to you, porn addiction is not an unpardonable sin. Jesus Christ is more than able to deliver you and take away the shame you may be feeling. You don’t have to hide, in fact you could join me in leading a charge to set others free.

Because this issue has become too big for us to remain silent.

You may have read about Britain’s sweeping reform this past summer. Saying that the “darkest corners of the Internet” pose a threat to children, British Prime Minister David Cameron rolled out a radical and controversial plan to stop porn’s influence on his country’s youngest citizens.

The plan essentially blocks porn on most computers, smart phones, and tablets. Filters for adult content will become the default setting, and to access porn, citizens will have to prove they are eighteen or older. Cameron also demanded that Google and other search engine companies do more to hide porn from kids.

Cameron announced, “I am not making this speech because I want to (moralize) or scare-monger, but because I feel profoundly as a politician, and as a father, that the time for action has come. This is, quite simply, about how to protect children and their innocence.”

Has the time for action on the issue of porn come? Let’s look at what’s at stake:

  • One study found that 93.2% of boy participants and 61.1% of girls had been exposed to porn.
  • The number of fifteen to seventeen year olds who have had multiple exposures to hardcore porn is somewhere around 80%. 
  • The average age of first Internet exposure to porn is eleven years old.

Fact: Our kids are seeing porn. We know we don’t want this, but we should really know why. Here’s a great article from Focus on the Family that outlines the harmful effects of porn better than I could, but let me hit the highlights.

Porn is a big deal because it:

  • Wreaks havoc on marriages.
  • Creates unrealistic expectations.
  • Is addictive and progressive.
  • Causes emotional trauma to children who are exposed.
  • Leads to earlier sexual activity.
  • Devalues monogamy, marriage, and child rearing.

This list is not intended to batter those of you who have struggled with porn. You likely already know that porn can make a mess of things. But I think it’s critical for us to see in black and white what porn can do.

If that list isn’t devastating enough, there is plenty of evidence that easy access to porn has led to an increasing number of people struggling with compulsive and sometimes violent sexual behavior. Did you know that the FBI’s statistics show that pornography is found at 80% of the scenes of violent sex crimes or in the homes of the perpetrators? 

Porn matters because it launches an attack against so much of what God has created and treasures. But we’re not the prime ministers of a major world power. We can’t drag Google into the boardroom or force the citizens of our nation to change the settings on their personal computer.

So what can we do? I’d like to propose a three-pronged counter attack.

1. Pray

Prayer moves mountains. In Matthew 17:20 Jesus says,

“If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.'”

When we see the numbers and realize how big the problem is, doing something about our culture’s porn problem can feel like climbing Mt. Everest. But nothing is impossible with God. I believe the avalanche of comments we’re seeing on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com are indicative of a fresh attack by the Enemy. He is seeking to take young women out with the aftershocks of porn addiction, and he is succeeding. When the spiritual battle heats up, it’s time to draw our swords. One of our greatest offensive weapons is prayer.

I’m setting aside the entire month of September to pray about this issue. Would you join me?

2. Go on the offensive

The availability of the Internet is the number one contributing factor to the rabid spread of porn. So, let’s take our fight to where the battle is already being waged. Will you use your Facebook, blogs, and Twitter feeds to spread the word about this issue?

Here are links to some great articles to get the conversation started:

3. Talk to the Next Generation

I know I already asked you to speak to the young women in your world in yesterday’s post, but we mommas know how to make sure things get done. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Please, make it a point to talk to the young women in your world about the dangers of porn. The chances are sky high that she will be exposed to it early and repeatedly. Just one exposure can take her down a terrible path in the absence of someone to lovingly speak God’s Truth and stand up against the pervasive lies of culture about sex. If porn usage and addiction is going to decline (instead of continuing to rise) we must help future victims armor up.

Who can you start that conversation with?

That Girl’s Secret Porn Addiction

Catch Josh McDowell and Nancy today and tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts as they discuss how (and when) to talk to your children about sex as well as how to help them deal with temptation.

Did you know Truewoman.com has a little sister blog at LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com? It’s a site much like this one targeted at young women (mostly high school and college aged) with the goal of identifying lies and replacing them with God’s Truth.

Young women have a secret. They’re addicted to porn.

I have the privilege of running that blog, and the 30,000+ young women who visit there every month are a passion of mine. I often say that if I could, I’d put their pictures on my refrigerator (that would be a big fridge!). These are great girls who love the Lord and want to know how He calls them to live.

But they’ve got a secret. They’re addicted to porn.

They write to us about their sin, their secrets, and their shame. Here are their actual words:

“I am someone who struggles with porn, and I’m a female. How can I beat this struggle? There doesn’t seem to be help for females struggling with porn. What should I do? I don’t want to tell anyone because it’s embarrassing, and people would judge me.”

“I am also a female who struggles with the temptations of porn . . . I try to stay away from the temptations, but I always seem to go back to it. I feel guilty, and I want to be free from this sin. I feel sick about it.”

“I became a Christian recently, but before that I struggled with porn and masturbating. I still struggle . . . I have repented of it many times, told God I’m sorry and that I will do better, but I just can’t stop! I’m at my wits end, and I can’t tell my mom. Please give me some advice and pray for me!!!!!!!!”

Comments like these used to trickle in at a rate of one or two per month, but lately they’ve come in an avalanche. Every single day we hear from a young woman who is addicted to porn—and often porn’s lustful sidekick, masturbation.

Why am I telling you this?

Because these girls are your daughters, your nieces, and your neighbors. They are sitting beside you week after week in church, terrified that someone will find them out. They wear shame like a blanket. It covers them and tells them they must stay hidden, no one can know, no one will understand.

And because they do not tell, they are not free. James 5:16 gives us the anti-venom to the kind of sin that makes us sick:

“Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. They prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

While it’s true that only God can forgive our sins, it’s also true that there’s tremendous power in confessing our sin to each other. Those of us with a few more years under our belt may already know this secret, but young women don’t seem to. They’re so afraid to disappoint us that they refuse to tell. The pull of porn is so strong that they cannot find victory on their own, and so they stay trapped in the cage of sin and shame.

Ask God to use you to help free those young women who are held captive by porn in your world.

I love those girls too much to leave them there. I’m determined to pry them out of the cage that porn creates, but I can’t do it on my own. I need your help. I need you to talk to your daughters and neighbors and nieces about porn. No doubt, it’s likely to be an awkward conversation, but the stakes are too high to keep avoiding it. And I need you to keep talking. Our culture offers plenty of “teachable moments” to talk about porn. Seize them!

Would you be willing to ask God to use you to help free those young women who are held captive by porn in your world? It’s not a mission for the faint of heart, but one I’m afraid we can’t avoid much longer.

Let’s be True Women by taking a stand against the Enemy in this area and fighting for those younger than us who have fallen into porn’s painful pit.

A Fleshy Assessment: Ten Questions to Ask Yourself

After reading Erin’s post, catch Yvonne Welch’s story, “Healing From Bitterness,” today through Wednesday on Revive Our Hearts.

As I write these words, I am nine months pregnant. Those of you who have been there know that is a very “fleshy” season of life. That’s true in a very literal sense (I’m talking to you, extra large maternity pants!), but I’ve also found it to be true in a spiritual sense.

When our flesh creeps into the driver’s seat, we need to ask God to intervene so His Spirit can rule.

All the focus on the physical that is a natural part of pregnancy (“I’m so tired,” “My feet are so swollen,” “I need two scoops of ice cream STAT!”) has unfortunately translated into a season where I am extra fleshy in my walk with the Lord. In this season, I’ve learned to pray this simple prayer daily: “Lord, let your Spirit rule over my flesh today.”

You don’t have to be pregnant to experience this fleshiness. In fact, catering to our flesh is something the Bible warns us against often. In Matthew 26:41 Jesus was frank about the internal tug of war between our flesh and our spirits:

“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Paul wrote about doing battle with his flesh in Romans 7, proving that even the superheroes of the faith get fleshy if they didn’t watch it. In Romans 8:5 Paul wrote that there are really only two options for each of us: we can live according to the flesh, or we can live according to the Sprit. We can’t do both at the same time.

Romans 8:8 gives us the most dire warning concerning our flesh:

“Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”


I want to please God, don’t you? And since indulging my flesh makes it impossible to please God, I need to be on guard for those times when I am letting my flesh rule me and seek to be more Spirit-led.

With that in mind, I’ve learned to be on the lookout for signs that my flesh is ruling the roost. I’ve turned those signs into a little “feeling fleshy” assessment below. Let me encourage you to take the test yourself, and ask God to reveal pockets of fleshiness in your own life.

Feeling Fleshy?

  1. Do you find it nearly impossible to control your appetite for things like food, affirmation, or stuff, or do you find that with the Lord’s help, you are able to have regular victories over the things you most crave?
  2. Do you have to regularly force yourself to pray and read the Bible, or do you genuinely enjoy nurturing your Spirit in this way?
  3. Do you have a near constant desire to be entertained through things like your iPhone or TV, or are you okay with moments of quiet and reflection?
  4. Is serving others a chore or a delight to you?
  5. Do you find that you often “replay the tapes” of conflicts and disappointments with others, or are you able to readily forgive and let things go?
  6. Does going to church feel like an obligation or

    an opportunity for filling and fellowship?

  7. Are your emotions ruling you (including anger, sadness, or frustration), or are you able to choose contentment?
  8. Do you feel dependent on others to be “okay,” or do you have a general feeling of security and peace?
  9. When it comes to sin, do you more often experience defeat or victory?
  10. Would a hard look at your schedule reveal you are most concerned with Kingdom priorities or earthly priorities?

The first statement in each question should send off alarm bells that your flesh rules in that area. The second statement is an indication that the Spirit has greater control. Obviously, these things aren’t black and white. That’s why Jesus spoke about the tug of war between the flesh and the Spirit.

We will go back and forth between the two, sometimes daily and sometimes hourly. Only Jesus was able to master living by the Spirit at all times, so we need to heed His advice to “watch and pray.” When our flesh creeps into the driver’s seat, we need to ask God to intervene so His Spirit can rule.

In what areas of your life do you recognize the tug of war between the flesh and the Spirit? What can you do the next time you’re feeling fleshy?

Lessons from “The Devastation”

Fact: You are either heading out of the wilderness, or you are heading into it.

My pastor, Tim Cook, recently preached a killer sermon about Jesus’ time in the wilderness. I was struck by his description of the wilderness where Jesus was led and tempted. Tim told us the wilderness described in Matthew 4 was the area that surrounded the Dead Sea. It was thirty-five miles long and fifteen miles wide with almost no drinkable water. Because of this, birds were known to drop out of the sky dead mid-flight if they attempted to cross the wilderness. The ancient Jews called this spot “The Devastation.”

This nickname alone provides tremendous context for the forty days and forty nights Jesus spent in the wilderness. This wasn’t a serene camping trip. It wasn’t a personal retreat. Jesus’ time in “The Devastation” was a time of anguishing trials. When we see this story correctly, we are more able to apply the example of Jesus to our own lives the next time we find ourselves in the wilderness of devastation.

Rapid fire, here are five big lessons Matthew 4 teaches us about The Devastation:

1. The Wilderness Often Comes After A Victory.

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17).

These are the words God the Father spoke just before Jesus was led into the wilderness. Jesus was baptized and the heavens literally opened up. The Spirit of God came down like a dove, and God’s voice boomed approval from heaven. Talk about a spiritual high! But in a heartbeat, Jesus was led into the wilderness where He faced forty days of intense trial.

We like to think of our spiritual lives as a steady climb up a predictable hill. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and eventually we will summit, having “arrived” at the apex of what it means to follow Christ.

But the reality is there will be very high highs, often followed by very low lows. God is God, and we are called to be faithful at both elevations.

2. Sometimes, God Chooses the Wilderness for Us.

Matthew 4:1 says, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

God didn’t simply allow the wilderness. He chose it. It was according to His plan and by His leading that Jesus entered The Devastation.

We don’t like to think that God would ever choose suffering for us, but it is so important to know that God is sovereign, even in The Devastation. He isn’t surprised when we end up there. He didn’t fall down on the job, resulting in our suffering. Sometimes He simply allows suffering, and sometimes, as was the case in the life of His Son, He chooses it because it is for our good.

3. The Tempter Thrives in the Wilderness.

Jesus hadn’t been in The Devastation long before the Enemy seized the opportunity to strike. Matthew 4:3 records,

“The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’”

When we face periods of tremendous loss or disappointment, we are especially vulnerable to the lies of the Devil. He would like nothing better than to convince us that God is not really good, or that He doesn’t really love us, that His promises are not really true, or that He’s not there at all when we face seasons of pain. If you are in the wilderness now, learn to recognize the lies of the Tempter.

4. You Need God’s Word To Survive the Wilderness.

Every time Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, he quoted Scripture. Like a broken record, when Satan came at Him with a lie, Jesus responded with, “It is written.”

The Bible tells us that God’s Word is the antidote to our sin (Ps. 119:11). When the armor of God is described in Eph. 6:10–18, the Word of God is listed as our sword. In other words, it is our only offensive weapon.

God’s Word can shore you up, get you through, and help you win big battles. The kicker is you must study God’s Word when you’re not in the wilderness in order to have the right weapons in your arsenal when The Devastation comes.

5. The Path Through the Wilderness Leads to the Kingdom.

Immediately after Jesus’ time in the wilderness, my Bible adds this little notation: “Jesus Begins His Ministry.” Jesus walked out of The Devastation and straight into life-transforming, kingdom-building, culture-shaking ministry. God has a habit of taking our seasons of loss and turning them into big gains for the Kingdom.

If you are in The Devastation right now, grab on to God’s promise that He will redeem it (Rom. 8:28), hold on with both hands, and look forward to what God will build on your time in The Devastation.

Would you describe this season of life as The Devastation? Do you sometimes feel like you may not make it across without dropping dead? Consider the lessons Jesus teaches from the wilderness and take hope.

A Call to Live Like People Matter

As I read the Gospels, one fact is undeniable to me—Jesus valued people. Over and over He allowed Himself to be stopped, inconvenienced, and used by the people around Him.

There was the time He retreated to a mountain hideout for some much needed rest only to be chased down by a crowd of needy seekers. What did Jesus do? He healed them. Then there was the time He was literally on his way to heal a sick girl when another woman grabbed His robe and got His attention. He stopped and tended to her need. There was the time He went way out of His way to heal a demon-possessed man that others saw as a lost cause. Oh, and there were the children Jesus urged to come to Him even though they seemed to pull Him away from His many ministry responsibilities . . .

To be honest, the fact that Jesus always seemed to make time for others doesn’t always sit well with me. That’s because valuing people isn’t one of my strong suits. I tend to elevate tasks and schedules and crossing items off of my to-do lists. These things fit nicely into the boxes I draw for how I want my life to look. In contrast, valuing people requires much of my time and energy. It’s often messy. It rarely sticks to a schedule.

Valuing people means adopting an overt willingness to be inconvenienced. It means doing things that cannot be measured. It means developing relationships based on who people really are and not who we want them to be.

My son, Eli, had a meltdown recently because we had other families over to our house, and they messed up his room. Just that morning he had spent hours making his room neat and tidy. I was trying to explain the value of sharing, friendship, and hospitality (this writer momma can be a little wordy!) when my husband simply said, “Son, people are more important than our stuff.”


That’s what valuing people looks like. It means accepting a dirty house because people have been loved, cared for, and entertained within the walls of your home. It means accepting a schedule in flux because you are determined to make time for others whenever necessary. It means considering the tasks on your to-do list less important than the people you’re doing them for. It means measuring success through relationships—not how neat and tidy your life looks.

I’ve got much to learn in this area, but I recognize that at the end of my life I want people to say I lived like Jesus—that means I must value people. As I’ve urged the Lord to grow me in this area, I’ve asked myself these questions. Ask them of yourself and consider this: Do I value people?

  1. When someone calls me unexpectedly, do I accept their call or call them back ASAP or ignore them because I’m in the middle of something “more important?”
  2. At the end of the day, do I measure my value by a) what I was able to accomplish, or b) who I was able to love well?
  3. For you mommas . . . when your children ask you to play with them, do you usually do it, or do you usually dismiss them because you have laundry to do, dishes to wash, and dinner to cook?
  4. Do I have time set aside when I “do ministry” (such as teach Sunday school or lead a Bible study), or am I willing to minister to others whenever the opportunity arises?
  5. Do I make a habit of going out of my way for others?

We are unlikely to value others as freely and often as Jesus did, but we should pay close attention to the fact that He lived like people were important to Him (because they are!). To be more like Him, we must do the hard work to follow His example.

Do you live like people matter? What’s one thing you can do today to be more like Christ in this area?

Loose Lips Sink Families

“Loose lips sink ships.” They also have a way of sinking entire families. Don’t believe me? Just ask Zeresh or Potiphar’s wife or the many wives of Solomon.

These were wives who did not hold their tongues. They are wives who whispered unwise words into the ears of their husbands. As a result, they are wives who watched their husbands lose fortunes, favor, and even their lives. Here are their stories . . .

Solomon’s Wives
Solomon started out as a man zealous for the Lord. As a result, God blessed his socks off (1 Kings 4:29–34), but Solomon eventually turned to false gods. What led him astray? Was it his wealth? His power? His celebrity status? Nope. It was his wives. 1 Kings 11:3–4 records,

“He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after others gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God.”

Solomon’s wives encouraged him to turn away from God. Solomon listened. As a result God tore his kingdom from him (1 Kings 11:31).

Potiphar’s Wife
Potiphar’s wife was a pot stirrer. She liked to cause drama, and she liked to draw her husband into the fray. In Genesis 39 she famously tried to entice Joseph to sleep with her. When he refused she lied to her husband, stirred things up, and pushed her husband’s hot buttons. We all know Joseph was imprisoned as a result, but Potiphar may have endured a worse blow. In Genesis 39:5 we read that it was because of Joseph’s presence that Potiphar’s home was so blessed. We can assume that when Joseph was gone, so was God’s favor. Potiphar’s wife blocked God’s blessings with her scheming.

Haman’s Wife, Zeresh
Zeresh’s story is truly a cautionary tale. Her husband was Haman, the chief official of King Ahasuerus. The more famous wife in this story is Esther, the king’s wife who saved her people from annihilation. Sadly, Zeresh did not play such an honorable or admirable role. Esther 5:14 records,

“Then his wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, ‘Let a gallows fifty cubits high be made, and in the morning tell the king to have Mordecai hanged upon it. Then go joyfully with the king to the feast.’”

Zeresh was encouraging her man to make a power grab (after all he deserved it!). As he confessed his frustration with Mordecai, she fed the flames and urged him to do something about it. She stroked his ego and said what he wanted to hear. Haman liked her idea and ran with it, but Zeresh had dished out bad advice. Haman was hung on the very gallows his wife encouraged him to build (Esther 7:10).

These are not happy marriage tales. There are no happily ever afters here, but there is a theme we should pay attention to. In each story, a husband made a disastrous decision (or a series of disastrous decisions). His choices were his own, and he faced the consequences God dealt him. But in each case, there was a wife in the wings encouraging her man to do wrong. The woman (or women) behind each great man failed to speak wise words and then had to watch as their husbands fell hard.

Then There’s You . . .
Lean in, listen close ladies. Your husband listens to what you say. So do your sons and the other men in your circle of influence. I realize this may not always feel like it’s true. I know there are times you feel you repeat yourself constantly or that the men in your life just tune you out, but it’s more likely that your words are having a huge impact. Eventually, those words are likely to translate into actions. With that truth in mind, it is important for us to evaluate what we say and make sure it is wise, helpful, encouraging, and a right reflection of who God wants our men to be.

This is not an easy thing to do. It requires us to weigh our words and make sure they are worth saying. Sometimes it requires us to keep our mouth shut. It also requires us to avoid the landmines stepped on by the women I mentioned above. We must:

  • Avoid tugging his heart toward something other than the Lord.
  • Resist the urge to stir the pot.
  • Ditch the desire to stroke his ego or push his buttons for a reaction.
  • Stay calm when he is riled up or angry with others.
  • Steer clear of the temptation to encourage him to grab power or position outside of the Lord’s timing.

For both men and women, our words have tremendous power. They can motivate others to live more like Christ or be exactly the push they need to make choices that are less than God-honoring. With that sobering reality in mind, consider how you talk to the men in your world and ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I think about what I say before I say it?
  • Do my words encourage and equip toward righteousness?
  • Am I a wife and a mother who encourages wise or foolish action?

The Ministry of Pancakes

I had a toddler at home and a baby in my belly. Most days I was crippled by pregnancy symptoms that made it difficult to put one foot in front of the other.

Can you think of a time when your circumstances were tough? Freeze-frame that memory in your mind for a moment. We’ll come back to it.

I had told some friends at church that I was struggling. Many of them looked at me sweetly and offered a genuine, although not very helpful hug or shoulder squeeze. While it is true that none of them could do anything about my exhaustion, nausea, or fear, I was desperate for someone to do something, anything, to help me.

And then a sweet lady in my church did. She called me late one evening and extended a strange invitation, “When you and Eli get up in the morning, come over in your jammies. I will make you pancakes.”

I could have said no. I could have been too embarrassed to show up sporting my morning look of messy hair and mismatched pajamas. I could have kept my mask of perfection firmly glued on my make-up free face. But the pull of a breakfast I didn’t have to cook on dishes I didn’t have to wash was too much for me. The result was a steaming pile of pancakes loaded with butter and maple syrup, and a morning of ministry to my heart that filled me back up when I was empty.

That was the day I learned about the ministry of pancakes. I’m not talking in code here, not offering some deep theological truth. I’m simply saying we can be a balm to the hurting, the lonely, the sick, and the desperate through the simple gift of

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a hot breakfast. It’s an idea we can trace straight back to Jesus.

In John 21, we find the disciples fishing. Jesus had appeared to the disciples once after His resurrection and then presumably disappeared. Likely more as a coping method than a fish-finding mission, the disciples returned to what they knew: the lake, the boat, the fishing nets worn through with familiarity.

And then in John 21:9, we read that the disciples returned to shore one morning to find the Savior with a fire already burning, fish cooking, and bread ready to eat. “Come have breakfast,” he said (v. 12).

Now, I’ll take a steaming stack of pancakes over a fish breakfast any day, but the fact remains that Jesus tenderly reached out to His hurting and confused disciples through a simple, hot breakfast. Over that breakfast He confirmed His love, clarified their calling, and gave them a chance to clear the air.

In the midst of that He had an interesting conversation with Peter:

“Peter, do you love me?”

“Lord, you can see my heart. You know everything. You know that I love you.”

“Feed my sheep.”

That conversation was layered and private. I wouldn’t begin to try to figure out everything that was said (and unsaid) between Peter and Jesus. But I’ve always thought “Feed my sheep” could be translated this way—prove that you love me by taking care of my flock.

The super spiritual version of that means we are to feed others truth. Peter went on to pastor the Church. He did a lot of lamb feeding that had nothing to do with food. But what if we can boil Jesus’ words down to their simplest possible definition? What if we can love Jesus well by feeding others?

Think back to that hard time I asked you to freeze-frame in your mind. What would a stack of pancakes cooked by a caring friend have meant to you in that season? What would a hot breakfast prepared by loving hands have done for your soul? With that in mind, how could the ministry of pancakes bless someone in your world? How could you be like Jesus this week by simply offering to make someone breakfast?

I suppose those questions could stay rhetorical, but I’d rather they didn’t. I would rather you make a commitment to minister to someone in need through the practical step of cooking them breakfast.

I can’t make that phone call for you or run to your local grocery store to pick up the necessary supplies, but I can take out some guesswork.

Let me know how it goes!

My Very Favorite Buttermilk Pancake Recipe

3 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
3 cups buttermilk
½ cup milk
3 eggs
1/3 cup melted butter

In a large bowl mix dry ingredients. In a separate bowl mix wet ingredients. Blend and drop onto a hot griddle.

Have Mercy!

Catch Encouraging Your Husband to Leadtoday on Revive Our Hearts for a very practical discussion about the ways wives can encourage strength and leadership in their husbands.

Inspired by a great series written by True Woman’s own Paula Hendricks on the beatitudes for the Lies Young Women Believe blog, I’ve been studying Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5 for several weeks. (What can I say; I’m a bit of a slow learner!) Last week, my studies took me to Matthew 5:7,

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

It is perhaps one of the simplest formulas in all of Scripture. If we show mercy, we get mercy. Easy as that. Mercy means to show compassion to; to bear with; to be lenient toward. I certainly want God to show compassion toward me and to be lenient toward my sin (even though I deserve punishment). Jesus makes it clear that if I want mercy, I better make a habit of dishing it out.

We all like to think of ourselves as merciful, but I had a hunch Jesus didn’t include this statement to make a rhetorical point. Maybe I needed the reminder to practice showing mercy.

With that thought in mind, I decided to ask the Lord who I was not being merciful to. The answer came into my heart in a single beat.

“Your husband.”

Come again, Lord?

“You are not merciful to your husband.”

As I mulled it over, I realized God was right (of course). I am so quick to point out my husband’s shortcomings, so eager to talk to Jason about what he has done wrong. It is so rare for me to offer him slack or to be forbearing toward those habits which I find annoying or frustrating.

Here’s a simple example. In our house, taking out the trash is Jason’s job. He has a little habit of waiting until not another sliver of paper can fit into the can. I could ignore his choice to let the trash overflow. I could take the trash out myself. I could kindly say something like, “Honey, could you please take the trash out?”

But I rarely do. I huff and puff and mention that the trash is overflowing again and that I had to remind him again.

My expressed annoyance may get the trash removed, but it doesn’t demonstrate mercy. Instead, I show my tendency to want to pounce on everything I think my man is doing wrong.

Any wives out there thinking of their own overflowing trash cans right about now? Or the fact that you point it out every single time he comes home a little late for dinner?

Maybe it’s your children you aren’t merciful toward. Do you take every opportunity to point out what they’ve done wrong? Are you quick to remind them of messy rooms or backpacks off the hook, or do you default to loving leniency?

How about your co-workers? Do they have the freedom to mess up, or do you look for reasons to pin them to the wall?

Jesus’ words are a simple formula for all our relationships and interactions. If we want to receive mercy (and we do!) for the many times we miss the mark, fall short, or screw up, we must make a practice of showing mercy to those around us. Even when they make the same mistakes over and over again.

So, let me encourage you to pray the same prayer I prayed after reading Matthew 5:7.

“Jesus, who am I not showing mercy to?”

Listen. And ask Him to give you the strength to extend mercy more often.  

Is It Time to Re-Think Your Family’s Sports Schedule?

From baseball season to fantasy football leagues, sports are tightly woven into the fabric of our culture. Since this is a blog for women, I may not be writing to many die-hard sports fans or professional players, but that doesn’t necessarily mean sports aren’t playing a major role in your life and the rhythm of your family.

A Huffington post article, The Final Four, Travel Teams and Empty Pews, recently asked the question, “Who is winning the competition between sports and religion?” Until I read it, I wasn’t consciously aware that sports and faith had stepped into the same ring, but the numbers I read concerned me:

  • In a study of sixteen declining congregations in the U.S. and Canada, the number one reason cited by clergy and church members for failing attendance was the “secularization of Sunday.” Many church members cited their kids’ sports as being the most critical factor.
  • More than 1/3 of congregants in a separate study said school and sports-related activities was “quite a bit of an issue” when considering their church attendance.
  • About 2/3 of “Easter Christians” polled said they attend church only twice a year because they are too busy with other commitments including kids’ sports programs.  

Shouldn’t someone throw the flag here? Isn’t it time we notice that sports are pulling Christians out of the pews? There is bound to be a ripple effect. Church isn’t just something we do. Church is the artery that pumps blood to so much that is necessary to run the race of faith well. Soccer games and baseball practices are not a good substitute.

The article held up those church leaders who are scrambling to respond to this trend by adding sports programs of their own, creating additional service times, etc. If churches are reaching people for Christ with these methods, I say, “Go team!” But I think it’s important to throw the ball back into the parents’ court and ask a bold question. Do our kids really need to be involved in sports?

Lets think it through for a moment:

  • What do our children really learn through sports involvement?
  • What do our families really gain by enrolling our children in organized sports activities?
  • What is really on the line when our kids miss a lot of church or our family doesn’t attend church together because of sports?

The answers to these questions need to be squeezed through the grid of God’s Word, not just our personal preferences. What is the purpose of parenting anyway? What should be the priority for our families?

I believe as parents we are called to do more than just raise good kids. Our mission is to make disciples. We also need to work hard to show them how to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). We must teach them how to make God their most important priority.

Can God be your highest priority if you play sports? Sure. I’m not talking about some legalistic line in the sand that asks all Christians to choose between sports and Jesus. But I would like Christian parents to join me in considering whether our children’s activities are contributing to discipleship or simply to busyness.

What does this look like practically? Does it mean all Christians must sit the bench? I don’t think so.

At our house it means we allow our son to play one sport in one league, and we vigilantly guard Sundays so they’re activity-free. Sports still occupy two nights per week for a span of a few months, which applies plenty of pressure to our family calendar. Would my son like to play more? Yes. But we are not willing to divvy up the time and energy that would require.

My little guys are little. I realize that makes me a bit of an armchair quarterback on this issue, but it’s less about rules and more about establishing a family priority. I hesitate to put the cart before the horse and predict what we will do in future parenting seasons, but we plan to fight hard against allowing sports to play too big a role in the lives of our children or family.

More and more leagues are being offered, more and more practices scheduled, more and more pressure applied to our children to excel in sports for one simple reason: there is a demand for these things. If we as Christian parents called a colossal time out and re-evaluated our involvement, it might make a difference in the bigger picture. It might not. But it would certainly make a difference in our children, our families, and our churches.

So, whaddya say parents? Shall we pull out the playbook of God’s Word and hold up our family schedules to it? Shall we stop going along with the sports-crazy crowd and dare to ask if raising good soccer players might be competing with raising sold-out disciples?

It’s a course that might not win us any parenting trophies in our sports-crazy world, but Paul seemed to have known that was coming when he gave us this important thought to consider (utilizing sports language no less!):

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” (1 Cor. 9:24–25)  

Does your family calendar reflect that you are seeking a perishable or an imperishable crown?

To Moms Everywhere . . .

There’s not a potted plant pretty enough to say all that needs to be said to you. There’s not a Hallmark card sweet enough to sum up our gratitude.

Mommas, you are the warriors of our world. You are equal parts soft and strong. You are paramedics, nutritionists, comforters, counselors, personal shoppers and chefs, teachers, and principals. You are life-givers and life-enrichers. Let’s face it, without you we’d all have candy for breakfast and stomach aches by lunchtime. We would feel lost in this big, scary world, but you tether us to the soft edges of home. You guide, instruct, nurture, and pray.

And all of this even though your job is often thankless. There is always one more load of laundry to fold. One more crisis to resolve. One more meal to cook. Being a mother means a lifetime of work that seems small but adds up to big stakes in the lives of your children (and their children, and their children . . .).

I know, because I’m a momma too. Because every single day I have a brief moment where I consider faking the flu so I can stay in bed and let the inmates go ahead and run the asylum. Because I know motherhood is the toughest job I will ever do, and there are no guarantees that all that effort will translate into the fantasy family in my head. Because I know our culture doesn’t get it and doesn’t esteem motherhood anymore, making our work feel even more unnoticed and unappreciated.

Because of all this, and more, I didn’t want to miss the chance to be the balm your tired mom feet may need. Or rather, to let God’s Word do that work for me:

“‘I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him saying, ‘Lord, when did you see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matt. 25:36–40)

Clothing little bodies. Putting cold washcloths on warm foreheads. Making endless plates of mac n’ cheese. Creating a home that says, “You’re welcome here any time.” Gassing up the car again to visit children and grandchildren in far away places. It doesn’t go unnoticed, momma. And the ripple effect of your efforts to mother go far beyond your children. Look past the “least of these” in your world, and see that your service and sacrifice has Kingdom implications.

You don’t have to work to be noticed, because Jesus already sees all you do. Your prize isn’t just a great Mother’s Day gift or a fancy brunch. It’s knowing your life is a living demonstration that sacrifice is worth it, that love doesn’t have to be earned, and that living for more than ourselves is worth every mess, stretch mark, and sleepless night.

So moms everywhere, I salute you—but you don’t need my props. Your work is God-honoring and eternal. The treasures you are storing up will outlast this Mother’s Day (and the next one, and the next one . . .).

Your family is a gift, momma, and your thank-you card has already been delivered through God’s Word. Press in to the One who gave them to you, and press on!

PS: Need to be encouraged in your role as a mom? Take our 30-Day Mom Makeover here.

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Praying for More Than ‘Safe’

I pen these words a few days after a bomber took out an eight-year-old as he waited for his dad to cross the finish line of the Boston marathon. There’s not a single day I drop my son off at preschool that I don’t think about Sandy Hook and have to fight the urge to do a U-turn in the school parking lot, bring him home, and lock all the doors. Then there are super viruses, bacterial infections, and childhood cancers. It’s enough to make me want to say this desperate prayer all day, every day, “Jesus, keep my kids safe. Jesus, keep my kids safe. JESUS, PLEASE KEEP MY KIDS SAFE!”

But our kids aren’t growing up in a safe world. In fact, no child ever has.

It’s natural to want our children to be protected from harm, but lately I’ve been thinking that when we spend all our energy praying for our children to be safe, we are missing something big. We are asking God to be our children’s safety net. Is it possible that instead He wants to call them to something dangerous?

This is how Jesus taught us to pray:

“And [Jesus] said to them, ‘When you pray, say:

‘Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.’” (Luke 11:2–4)

Jesus doesn’t teach us to avoid asking for needs to be met. “Daily bread” represents the essentials of life. Health and safety certainly qualify. But asking for those things wasn’t the essence of His prayer. His focus was on the Father’s will.

The words “your kingdom come” slay me when I think about praying for my children. I spend so much of my time praying for my kingdom. I am supposed to be praying for His.

With God’s kingdom in mind, is safe the most important thing for my kids to be? When I look hard at the life God calls us to as Christians, the answer is clearly no. The Christian life is not a safe life. It is a call to live counter-culturally and to willingly engage in battles that are big and costly.

Ephesians 6:12 offers this perspective:

“We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

We want our children to follow Christ, but that likely won’t lead to an easy, safe life. It means they will need to pick up their cross. It means they will need to lay down their lives. It means they will become warriors in battles against the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” It means they won’t always be “safe.”  

I have a friend who has often prayed this prayer for me:

“Jesus, make Erin and her family dangerous to the Enemy.”

Dangerous? It’s the opposite of safe. But the truth is no matter how much we wish it wasn’t so, there is no guarantee of safety in this world. And while it may temporarily soothe our anxiety to beg the Lord to hide our kids from all threats of harm, there is a better prayer we can be praying:

“Lord, make my child dangerous to the Enemy.”

It’s a prayer that may not wrap us up in comfort like begging the Lord to keep our kids safe has a tendency to do. It is a bigger prayer with bigger implications than a safety net can ever offer. But decades from now, after I am long gone and my kids come to the end of their own lives, if I’m honest, I hope they won’t have played it safe. I hope they will have given everything they have to further God’s kingdom. I hope others will see they were a serious threat to those spiritual forces of evil. As their momma, prayer is a huge part of my job, so I’m resolved to pray for more than safety. Yes, I want them to be protected, but even more than that, I want them to be dangerous.

Will you join me in praying for God to make our kids a generation that is especially dangerous to the Enemy?


A Timely Reminder for Tax Day

Moms, join Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Hannah Keeley for tonight’s online Mom Mastery Summit. Catch this great interview on Lies Women Believe at 7 p.m. on MomMasterySummit.com.

Uncle Sam is very, very mad at me. At least that’s my assumption based on the massive tax bill he slammed on my husband and me this year. When the tax man delivered the bad news, I initially felt panic, but as this day (the day when all taxes are due) approached, I started seeing the unexpected financial blow as a blessing. Yep, a blessing.

Here are a few things I’ve learned (or re-learned) this tax season.

1. God is my provider.

Genesis 22:14 says, “So Abraham called the name of that place, ‘The LORD will provide’, as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.’”

Some translations insert a name of God into this passage, Jehovah-jireh, meaning the Lord provides. In Numbers 11:23, God Himself illustrates the same point after the Israelites had been grumbling that they didn’t have what they needed:

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Is the LORD’s hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.’”

This image here is of a God with short arms, too short to reach down and provide for the needs of His people. But God does not have short arms. In fact, His arms are long enough to reach into my needs and your needs and the needs of people around the world. He is a capable and willing Provider. I can doubt that if I want to, or I can stand back and watch as God’s promise to provide comes true for me.

I was talking to a friend about this recently, and she said that she always reminds herself that she’s never met an older person who’s said, “Well, there was that one time when God didn’t provide.” Good word!

He is faithful. He can be trusted. Providing is part of His nature.

God has provided for us in miraculous ways in this season of financial stretching. It wasn’t until I was very aware of my needs that I had the clarity to look around for all He has done for me rather than depending on what I could earn for myself.

2. I am called to ridiculous giving.

In the midst of this season of financial strain, we have had more opportunities than usual to give to others. It hasn’t made sense. No financial planner or money expert would advise us to give more to others when our finances are strapped and yet, each time we’ve given, the money has been returned to us in some way.

Paul writes about this mystery in 2 Corinthians 8. He is bragging on the churches of Macedonia who gave generously despite their “extreme poverty.” In fact, Paul was clear that they gave “beyond their means” and God multiplied it for Kingdom gains.

Deuteronomy 15:10 addresses giving to the poor and says,

“You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake.”

We tend to think of giving as something that’s optional once all the bills are paid, but God wants us to give to others often and with happy hearts, even when it stretches us. I can tell you from recent experience that opportunities for sacrificial giving are a gift.

3. Dependence is a Good Thing!

I’ve frequently heard Nancy Leigh DeMoss say, “Anything that causes us to depend on Christ is a good thing.”

When the bank account is full, when bills are easy to pay, when we’ve got a two-month emergency fund, our human nature is always to coast a bit. But when we are squeezed financially or in other ways (spiritually, emotionally, relationally), suddenly we are reminded how much we need the Lord. This is a blessing because when we are reminded of our need, we have the opportunity to cling to Him. John 15:4–5 says,

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

I’m just a branch. A branch that is severed from the vine is ultimately useless. I need this reminder from time to time. Self-sufficiency is a beast I must fight hard against. So, whatever it is that causes me to cling is a good thing.

So, thank you Uncle Sam. You are an able teacher. I am grateful for the reminders you’ve given me this year (and thankful to see April 15 come and go on my calendar!).

How about you? Are you facing unexpected hardships? Financial burdens that seem impossible? Circumstances that feel hopeless? If so, I hope tax day can remind you what it’s reminded me: God is an able provider, He calls me to ridiculous giving (even when it seems impossible!), and anything that causes me to cling to Him is a good thing!

The “Same-Sex Marriage” Debate: An Action Plan

Yesterday, I began a dialogue about so-called “same-sex marriage” by examining the facts of two cases currently being debated in the Supreme Court. You likely didn’t need to be reminded this is an important issue, but let’s take a hard look at what’s really at stake.

The two cases the Supreme Court is debating have the combined power to radically alter the legal definition of marriage. We may want marriage to stay defined as the union between one man and one woman for lots of reasons . . . tradition, comfort, affirmation of our lifestyle. But it’s important for us to know much more is on the line. Ephesians 5:28–32 says,

“In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (emphasis mine).

From a biblical standpoint, at the heart of our understanding of marriage is that it was designed to be a picture of Christ’s relationship with His bride, the church. Ultimately, it’s not about loving who we want to love or living how we want to live as much as it’s about putting the great mystery of Christ’s passionate love for His bride on display.

Right now the courts believe it’s their job to adjudicate the legal definition of marriage. Regardless of where the courts land on this, it’s the church’s job to protect the picture. We make great gains in this area when we guard our own marriages diligently and refuse to let the idea seep into our thinking that marriage is essentially a contract that can be re-written or broken, or that it is about our personal happiness. Which leads me to three action steps:

Action step #1: View marriage as a picture of Christ and the church.

We need to make sure our stance is rooted in protecting the essence and definition of marriage presented in the Word, because that definition has something to teach us all about God’s love.

Action step #2: Love homosexuals well.

I could just as easily say love “all sinners” well–whatever the nature of their dominant sin patterns. The principle applies across the board, but we seem to have a hard time as the church truly loving homosexuals, and we’ve done some collateral damage as a result.

The story found in John 8:1–11 is great homework for this point. In this passage, Jesus encounters a woman embroiled in sexual sin. Clearly, her lifestyle didn’t match up with God’s standards for holiness. Jesus didn’t ignore that, but He first stood in front of her as an advocate while the crowd clamored for punishment. He did say, “Go and sin no more,” but not until after she had been introduced to the Savior in love.

We won’t win the homosexual argument in court cases or scathing blog posts. The Gospel is the only hope we have for hearts to be made new. Those who embrace a homosexual agenda or lifestyle may not be persauded by our agenda or point of view. But there is still a God in heaven who can transform lives with His irresistible grace. 

A true story makes this point well. It’s about a lesbian English professor who encountered a pastor and his wife who simply loved her well. They didn’t try to get her to change her lifestyle. They didn’t rail at her with those verses against homosexuality I listed yesterday. They did love her, extend hospitality to her in their home, pray for her, live out God’s Truth, and patiently engage her heart and mind over an extended period of time, as the Spirit was drawing her to Jesus.

The answer to this issue, and all issues where the culture moves against God’s Truth, is revival. We need hearts changed by the Gospel, not more people who agree with us on laws and court cases. Speaking of revival . . .

Action step #3: Pray about what’s happening in our culture. Ask God to intervene.

Here’s a verse quoted so often that we tend to gloss over its power:

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chron. 7:14)

Our divided land certainly needs healing, but the deepest changes we need will not come through legislation or public policy. Prayer is not our only work. But we have no more vital work as Christians than to pray. And no other work is likely to have its desired results until we first cry out to Him in prayer. Let’s start praying for God to move. And let’s keep praying until He does. 

The culture is shifting away from a biblical worldview at pell-mell speed. Research persistently indicates that people are leaving the church in droves. Of those of us who remain in the church, fewer and fewer look to the Bible as the source of Truth. What’s happening in the courts and in the arena of public opinion is a byproduct of a bigger problem: people desperately need God and His Truth in their lives.

So let’s do the hard work required to get on our knees and stay on our knees in prayer, asking God to heal our land and to use us as truthful, gracious ambassadors for His Gospel. He has promised He will hear us and respond. With that in mind, let me issue a call to action you can do right where you sit. Ready. Set. Pray.

Understanding the “Same-Sex Marriage” Debate

I’m a news junkie. Ever since my first “real” job as a newspaper reporter, I’ve had an insatiable craving for the news. I can’t get enough of it. I want my finger firmly planted on the pulse of what’s happening . . . until recently.

It seems every news feed is honed in on the “same-sex marriage” debate. The eyes of the nation are firmly fixed on the Supreme Court as the justices decide how marriage will be defined for our entire nation. Despite my training as a journalist and instinctual urge to be in the know, this week I’ve reverted to a head-in-the-sand response.

  • How am I supposed to feel about “same-sex marriage”?
  • If my convictions go against the roar of the crowd, what should I do about it?
  • How can I have an impact on an issue so huge it has found its way to the highest court in the land?
  • How do I balance standing for God’s Truth and “judging not?”

And so I generally avoid the topic. I discuss the issue only among like-minded people. I freeze with fear. I consider the battle lost and wave a tiny white flag toward the culture. And yet . . . I know if Christians collectively put their heads in the sand our nation will suffer. There is more at stake here than public policy. There is more on the line than preferences and platitudes.

So I will force my head up. I will look hard at the issue and my own heart. I will squeeze it through the filter of God’s Word. I will think long and hard about what’s on the line, and I will act and ask God to intervene.

I hope you’ll join me. Before we tackle next steps, let’s take a look at the facts.

What’s Happening In The Supreme Court?

Recently the Supreme Court started hearings on two landmark cases:

Case #1: United States versus Windsor

This case examines the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA was passed by huge majorities in the House and Senate in 1996. It was signed into law by President Clinton and through it, the federal government defines marriage exclusively as the union of a man and a woman. It also explicitly says no state must recognize same-sex unions conducted in another state.

Case #2: Hollingsworth versus Perry

This case came about after two same-sex couples were denied marriage licenses in the state of California as a result of the passage of Proposition 8. Prop 8 was adopted by California voters in 2008 and amended the California constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. This reversed an earlier state Supreme Court ruling legalizing “same-sex marriage.” A federal district court in San Francisco later ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional. Then the panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sustained that decision. It has now been volleyed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The back and forth trajectory of these two cases through the court system is indicative of our nation’s feelings about homosexuality. It is an issue that is heated and polarizing.

And yet, no matter what happens in the courts, this is an issue where public opinion seems to be shifting. A Gallup poll recently reported that 54% of Americans would vote for a law granting marriage benefits in “same-sex marriage.” Only 39% said they would vote against such a law.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 58% of Americans believe it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to marry.

What Does God’s Word Say?

The facts indicate Americans in general are increasingly in favor of same-sex marriage, and there is a possibility the courts will pass down rulings reflecting this shift.

But as Christians, we are called to avoid the temptation to think like the crowd and base our beliefs on what’s happening in the culture (Eph. 4:17–24). God’s Word is our guide for what is the best way to live and what justice truly looks like. So, as we think through the homosexual debate, the most important question we can ask is, “What does the Bible say?”

I’d like you to do your own homework here. Avoid the temptation to think you already know the breadth of God’s thoughts on this issue. Instead, run to the Word yourself and ask God to show you His heart for marriage, sexuality, and the law of the land.

Here are several verses to get you started:

Leviticus 18:22
Leviticus 20:13
Romans 1:26–28
1 Corinthians 6:9–101

Spoiler alert: The bottom line is God’s Word takes a clear stand against homosexuality. And yet we still have to wrestle through questions like these:

  • Is it the court’s job to defend the picture of marriage given to us by God’s Word?
  • As Christians, are we doing kingdom work by focusing on this issue if we’re not also sharing the life-giving, transformational Gospel message?
  • What is the best way to stand for God’s Truth without compromise?

Before we go any further, let’s allow God’s Truth to sink in. Let’s seek Him, truly seek Him for an action plan. Then we’ll pick up here tomorrow with “The ‘Same-Sex Marriage’ Debate: An Action Plan.”

Managing Your Manna

Oh, the Exodus. What a strange and troublesome blot on the story of God’s people . . .

Every time I read about how God delivered His people from slavery with dramatic interventions like plagues and the parting of the Red Sea I am amazed. But within a few pages, when God’s people start grumbling about petty issues like food, frankly I want to slap them silly.

How could they doubt God’s goodness after all they had seen? How could they gripe about the menu when God had delivered them from slavery? How could they consistently be such a stubborn people when God had demonstrated such a soft heart toward them? If I had been among them, surely I would have responded differently . . .

Hindsight has a way of distorting reality, doesn’t it? Since I can read the Israelites story from beginning to end, I tend to take on the role of backseat driver. I can see where they zigged but should have zagged. I can see where they grumbled but should have worshipped. I can see where they doubted but should have trusted. When I read their story, I start to feel a little self-righteous.

But lately, it has occurred to me that I don’t always do a good job of managing my manna. Manna are those things I beg God for, but once He delivers, I start complaining.

My children are a good example. I prayed and prayed for those little boys. I asked God to make them strong and healthy and brave. Oh, they’re strong all right—strong-tempered, strong-willed, and very skilled at strong-arming my day. I hear myself complaining to God about them when He has done exactly what I asked and given me exactly what I requested.

My marriage comes to mind. Ooh how I begged God to let me marry that boy fifteen years ago. And yet, my regular marriage prayers sound more like a gripe session about all that needs to change instead of an expression of gratitude for my husband.

My job is another example. I love what I do. I get to write and speak and occasionally travel. About eight years ago, I quit my job as a high school history teacher because I wanted to become a Bible teacher. For nearly a year I sat in an empty home office with nothing to do, nothing to write, and no one asking me to speak.

All day every day I begged God to give me opportunities to teach His Word. He has done it. And yet, with nearly every deadline or speaking engagement my first response is to grumble. It turns out that being a Bible teacher is hard work. It requires studying (and more studying), sacrifice, oh . . . and actual effort on my part. God gave me exactly what I asked for and yet, so often I complain about it.

What happened when the Israelites failed to manage their manna? What was God’s response when they complained after He gave them exactly what they asked for?

“Now the people began complaining openly before the Lord about hardship. When the Lord heard, His anger burned, and fire from the Lord blazed among them and consumed the outskirts of the camp. Then the people cried out to Moses, and he prayed to the Lord, and the fire died down. So that place was named Taberah, because the Lord’s fire had blazed among them” (Num. 11:1–3).

The memory of that fire must have lasted about as long is my own memory of God’s goodness. Before long the people started complaining that they didn’t have fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic (Num. 11:5).

How ungrateful do you have to be to complain about a shortage of leeks? Moses got caught up in the collective misery and asked God to kill him in order to deliver him from the sound of the Israelites’ constant complaining (Num. 11:14).

What a hissy fit! And all over some herbs and meat!

There are loads of warnings in this story, but here’s my big takeaway:

1.    My default is to complain, even when God gives me exactly what I ask for.
2.    When I allow my heart to go there, I can expect anger to be God’s (righteous) response.

I wonder if you need the same reminder?

Are you managing your manna well? Do you receive the things you ask God for with a heart of gratitude and praise? Or are you more like me and those stubborn Israelites? Is grumbling your default? Do you tend to approach God always asking for more?

Got the Grumpies?

Have you ever noticed that grumpiness cuts deep ruts? A grumpy day or two and before you know it, your go-to mood—and the routine mood of your family—is grumpy.

A while ago I noticed that I had a few Grumpy Gus’ living in my house. First, there’s my four-year-old Eli who doesn’t seem to have a right side of the bed. He wakes up cranky and pouty most mornings.

Then there’s his toddler brother, Noble. I know they aren’t called Terrible Twos for nothing, but is it too much to ask that those fits are served with a smile?

My husband has an incredibly even temperament. I can’t say he’s been grumpy per se, but I don’t see a lot of smiles on his face, and frankly, I don’t hear his robust laugh often enough.

Oh, and then there’s the ringleader of the grumpies . . . me. The winter always puts me in a funk and lately I’ve been irritable, short tempered, cantankerous, and well . . . grumpy.

I happen to know that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:21–23). When we are light on these virtues and heavy on their opposites, clearly God has work to do in our hearts. With that in mind, I opened the Word and did a topical study on “joy.” The way I figure it, joy is the best vaccine against the grumpiness that seemed to be spreading in our home.

Early in my studies, I found this little gem:

You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. (Ps. 4:7)

That verse leapt off the page at me as the way to get out of the grumpy rut and cut a new, more joyful path. So, I’ve started praying this prayer for each member of my family every morning:

“Lord, put more joy in our hearts than others have when their grain and wine abound.”

It’s a simple prayer and a simple request. But since Galatians 5 makes it clear that joy is the fruit of God’s Spirit at work, and since our grumpiness is a side effect of our own sinful nature, I need to depend on God to give us more joy.

It’s not the same as slapping a smile on our faces. It doesn’t necessarily mean a change in circumstances. Notice that the Psalmist doesn’t ask God to change his circumstances so that he is the one with wine and crops in abundance. Instead, He simply asks for God-given joy that exceeds the temporary happiness others might have as a result of a moment of prosperity.

Has it worked? Yes, it has. I’ve noticed a change in the climate of our home. There is, overall, a lot less unnecessary grumpiness and a lot more smiles, laughs, kind words, and happy days. Spring isn’t here yet. Our circumstances haven’t changed, but God is answering my request to put more joy in our hearts.

Has grumpiness cut deep ruts in your house? With your family? At your workplace?

Might I suggest you pray a prayer that is making a difference for us? Will you join me in praying Psalm 4:7 often and making 2013 a year where joy flows like wine?

“Jesus, please make this a year when you put more joy in our hearts than others have when their grain and wine abound. Amen.”