Three Encouragements for Women on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is two days away, and I wonder how many women are dreading it. On a day set aside to honor the invaluable work only women are able to fulfill, many are left feeling tender and disappointed, wishing we could skip the day altogether and get on with Monday. For women with and without children, Mother’s Day evokes a host of emotions as it exposes dreams, longings, fears, and hurts in an especially poignant way.   

Is the pain of this day redeemable?

The truth is, the role of “mother” is important and worth honoring. The mothers who bore us, raised us, and sacrificed for us should be acknowledged, thanked, and loved. But it is all too easy for us as women to slip into a blinding self-focus on Mother’s Day. For those in the trenches of mothering, the desire to be acknowledged (or just to be given a break, for goodness sake!) can grow too big, leading to anger and frustration when expectations are not met. For those longing for marriage and family, struggling with infertility, grieving the loss of a child or mother, or praying for the return of a wayward child, the hurt may feel insurmountable. Sometimes, this leads to feelings of self-pity or despair.

Is the pain of this day redeemable? For women who are in Christ the Redeemer, we answer with a resounding “Yes!” Here are three truths to help us lift our gaze and live with gospel-shaped hope on Mother’s Day.

Joy and Pain are Realities for All.

On Mother’s Day especially, it’s easy for women to feel alone in their pain and struggles. All of us can easily fall prey to the lie that no one is hurting as deeply as we are, and this makes our own pain feel magnified. But, in a fallen world, pain is a reality that goes hand-in-hand with joy. Every woman, regardless of her circumstances, experiences some mixture of the two, and it isn’t necessary or wise to try to compare levels.

The woman longing to conceive a child sees pictures on social media of smiling mothers with their arms full of (what appear to be) smiling, well-behaved children, and she believes that woman’s life is all joy. But pictures never tell the whole story. The exhausted mother of four, struggling through what feels like monotonous work in the home, sees the childless woman with (what appears to be) a fulfilling career, and she covets the freedom and professional success that woman has. But she too isn’t privy to the the whole story.

Pain is real for all, but for those in Christ, we know it isn’t the end of our story. “Weeping may tarry for the night but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5). The gospel gives us hope on Mother’s Day by reminding us that. . .

Motherhood is Bigger Than Us.

Whether a woman has biological children or not, she must remember that God’s purposes for motherhood are bigger than her. While children certainly bring joy (and pain), they are blessings to steward for a purpose greater than a mother’s personal happiness. God created mothers and motherhood so that his image and glory might be multiplied across the face of the earth (Genesis 1:28). And when his image was marred by sin, God allowed motherhood to continue so that he might send a Redeemer, both human and divine, to bring salvation to the world: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).

“Mother” is a role, not an identity. As Christian women, we are made in the image of God and created anew in Christ Jesus for the purpose of good works. Christ is our defining identity (Ephesians 2:10). For some, the good works prepared for us by God include raising up physical children in our homes. For all of us, these good works include raising up spiritual children (disciples) within the local church. When we remember that motherhood is bigger than us, we can rejoice on Mother’s Day in spite of our circumstances. We can shift our gaze upward, giving thanks to God for using a mother to bring the Savior of mankind into this world.

Christ Redeems All Things.

Around this time last year, I drove past a church sign that said, “Join us Sunday as we celebrate mothers!” I cringed inwardly as I imagined  this might cause hurting women to shy away. While the Church may honor mothers, we celebrate so much more!  We celebrate a risen Christ, who is redeeming every ounce of pain his children experience both for his glory and our good. We celebrate a Savior who is making all things new. No woman should avoid this celebration on Mother’s Day Sunday. 

One way Christ has already redeemed the pain of motherhood is by expanding its definition and purpose. In her book (A)Typical Woman, Abigail Dodds says, “You may have been denied biological children, but there is no childlessness in the new covenant. You have been given children beyond counting in Christ to love, nurture, and disciple, as Paul and Jesus did.” In Christ, motherhood goes far beyond bearing and raising biological children.

Although this truth doesn’t negate all the pain women feel regarding issues of motherhood, we have the blessed promise that God is working our pain for good as he uses it to make us like Christ (Romans 8:28-29). And we have the sure hope that this pain is not forever. A day is coming when tears, death, mourning, crying, and pain will be no more (Revelation 21:4).

So, on Sunday let’s take time to honor our own mothers, both those who raised us and those who have discipled us in the faith. Let’s lift our gaze from ourselves to Christ, worshiping him and trusting him to carry us through our pain and redeem all our unmet expectations and longings. And let’s bless the Lord for the gift of motherhood and his good purposes in it. He alone is worthy!


Nurturing Life in a World of Death

Nurturing Life in a World of Death

One of the most challenging aspects of my current season is the constancy with which I must feed other people. Perhaps it’s safe to say that no one thinks about food more than mothers. Even from the earliest moment a pregnancy is detected, a new mother must begin to consider her role to nourish another. When a baby is born, a mother is immediately faced with the daunting task of eight to ten feedings a day. As months go by, the number of feedings necessary to sustain life lessons, but the menu becomes more varied and complex. And the need certainly never lessens.

Preparing food is neither my greatest gifting nor my greatest enjoyment, but I have developed the skill out of sheer necessity. My boys must be fed multiple times a day, and, sadly, I often view the constant responsibility to feed them as more of a burden than a joy. But, as the Lord has faithfully strengthened my body to nourish little lives day-by-day, he has done a slow but sure work in my heart as well, showing me more of the great privilege and responsibility women have to image him as life-givers. This role is not less than the provision of physical nourishment for other people, but it certainly extends far beyond it.

A Gift, Not a Curse

When I am pouring what feels like the hundredth cup of milk for the week, I am quick to lose sight of the undeserved gift all women have received in both our calling and ability to nurture life in a world cursed by death. The beginning chapters of Genesis bring me back to this perspective-shifting truth: Adam and Eve did not deserve to live one moment beyond the moment of their sin. After all, God had promised that disobedience would lead to death (Genesis 2:17).

God would have been righteous in immediately striking his human creatures dead for their rebellion in eating fruit from the one forbidden tree in the garden. But we see a beautiful foretaste of God’s lavish mercy in the fact that he didn’t. Adam and Eve’s spiritual death was immediate, but their physical death was mercifully delayed. Although God cursed his children because of their sin, even his curses displayed beautiful whispers of his love and grace as he spoke of their continued ability to bring forth life in a world now corrupted by sin.

The toil would be hard, but man would image God as provider by working the ground to bring forth food. The pain would be great, but woman would image God by taking this food and giving it to others to nourish life–even new life within her own body!  And, eventually, one woman would nourish the life of a Son who would defeat the serpent and the curse of death once and for all (Genesis 3:15)!

Before his wife ever conceived a child, Adam named her Eve, which means “life-giver.” By faith, he believed she would be “the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20). As daughters of Eve, all women share her calling to image God as life-givers, and this ability to nourish both physical and spiritual life is an amazingly undeserved gift, not a curse. This is the truth our hearts need as we chop veggies and make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches day after day.

What if I can’t cook?

What if a woman hates to cook, or believes herself to be no good at it? What if she isn’t married and doesn’t have a biological family to feed every day? Do these things negate the calling and ability of certain women to nurture life by feeding others? No. As the Scriptures make clear, nurturing life encompasses more than breastfeeding babies or putting a delicious and beautifully presented meal on the table every night. Our world is full of people needing to eat, and, as women, we are called to offer this food in a variety of ways.

When a woman meal plans, grocery shops, and prepares food for her family, she nourishes life. When a woman provides a meal for an elderly widower in her church, she acts as a life-giver. When a woman orders pizzas and serves them to her small group, she sustains life. When a woman ladles up bowls of hot soup to put in the hands of the poor and homeless, she images the giver and and sustainer of life. When a woman feeds children who aren’t her own in order to give their weary mother a break, she is being a life-giver. 

In all these instances, God is less concerned with a woman’s skill and more concerned with her faith (Hebrews 11:6a). Christian women nurture life as they are continually sustained by the life of Christ. As we walk by faith that leads to obedience, God grows us in the skill and strength necessary to feed others well to the glory of God. Being the best cook isn’t essential because even the most delicious of foods cannot ultimately satisfy. Whether we serve others takeout or a home cooked meal, they will always come back hungry for more. And this is by design.

Serve the Bread of Life

Why do these children constantly need to eat?!?” I’ve said it myself, and I’ve heard other moms say it. The demand for physical nourishment is a constant (and often exhausting) part of this life, but it is a beautiful and necessary reminder from the Lord that “man does not live by bread alone” (Deuteronomy 8:3). When the bread of this life leaves us wanting, we see clearly our need for a better type of bread.

As those called to image God by giving life, women must serve up sustenance for more than this life only. Nurturing physical life affords us opportunities to nurture spiritual life. As women, we fulfill our calling as life-givers by continually feeding others the food of God’s word–the only food that leads to Christ, the Bread of Life. Those who eat hot bread from our ovens will eventually die, but those who feast on “the true bread from heaven” through belief in him for salvation will have eternal life (John 6:47-50).

Feeding others is important work. It’s God-like, gospel work. When we feed others in our wombs, through our breasts, or with our hands, we tell the story of a God who is faithful to feed his people the Bread of Life when they deserve only death. As we serve up meat and bread and fruits and vegetables, we tell others of the one who gave the bread of his flesh for the life of the world. We must call those we feed to look to him in faith, so they will never hunger or thirst again. Sisters, in our marriages, parenting, friendships, and relationships within the Body and with the lost, let’s faithfully nurture life. In world where death cannot be escaped, let’s feed others the risen Christ.


The Goodness of Good Friday

The Goodness of Good Friday

There is a giant elephant in the room of life.

No one wants to talk about it. We really hate to even acknowledge it exists. But none of us can get around it. Its effects are deeply personal and universally widespread. They leave nothing and no one untouched. They are, quite literally, earth-shattering.

We try to live our lives pretending this elephant isn’t really a big deal, but it’s the reason our world is full of natural disasters, crime, poverty, sickness, hatred, oppression, and tragedy. The elephant’s ravaging effects loom large in our world, but the elephant itself emanates from our own hearts. It begins with wicked desires that give birth to wicked deeds (James 1:15). The fruit of these desires and deeds are fear, guilt, deep shame and separation from the one who made us, the only one who is truly good. 

The elephant is sin, and not one of us can avoid its fruit or its ultimate sting–death.

Whether we are aware of it or not, all of us attempt to deal with our sin, guilt, and shame in various ways. We hide, pretend, excuse it, or accuse others for it. We ignore sin’s heinousness and glorify it as good (or at least “not that bad”). We strive to self-atone through good works or prideful self-loathing so we can feel the faux peace of self-forgiveness. We offer grace to ourselves from ourselves because “we’re only human” and need not expect too much. We live for today as if judgement and death will never really come. And all of these efforts are so futile, so inefficient.

But on a dark day over two thousand years ago, God himself dealt with our sin, guilt, and shame. On this day we call Good Friday, God the Father took all that is unholy and placed it on his perfectly holy Son. Jesus the Christ hung naked on a cross, publicly punished and shamed by the Father for the world to see. In this, God demonstrated that the “elephant” of sin is a serious problem that cannot be hidden or ignored. It cannot be glorified or justified away in our own efforts. It cannot be excused. And God has not excused it. He has crushed the perfect Son in whom he delights that he might forgive rebellious children and make us holy.

How could the Father love us this much? For one will scarcely die for a righteous person…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:7-8). Let’s not miss all that this love has accomplished for us. Let’s dwell on why Good Friday is so good.

The One Who Dealt with Guilt

The guilt we feel as human beings is not imagined, false guilt. We cannot avoid feelings of guilt because, deep within our hearts, we know we are truly guilty. We have transgressed the Creator King’s righteous law, and we stand legally condemned (John 3:18), awaiting God’s just judgment (Romans 2:5-9). And blood is required. 

For the wages of sin is death. . . (Romans 6:23)

. . .and without the shedding of blood there is not forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22b).

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life (Leviticus 17:11).

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses. . . (Ephesians 2:8)

On Good Friday, Jesus took upon himself the just wrath of God our sin deserved. He paid the penalty for our guilt in his death that we may be declared “not guilty” in him. In a beautiful paradox, God was able to remain justly holy while justifying sinners through our faith in his Son (Romans 3:26). Only the love of God toward us in Christ vanquishes our guilt. By faith, we can stop striving to suppress or rid ourselves of the guilt we feel and boldly proclaim: There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! (Romans 8:1)

The One Who Dealt with Shame

But what about our shame? Although we are legally declared righteous before God through faith in Christ, how do we deal with the fact that our current practice does not match our new righteous position? Even in Christ, we still fight remaining sin. Christ has been righteous in our place, but deep down we know we are not yet truly good. In beholding the holiness of Christ, we have seen ourselves for who we really are, and it is painfully shameful.

When Christ hung on the cross–the very emblem of suffering and shame–he took upon himself not only our guilt but also our shame that his holiness despised. He is not only the founder of our faith but also the perfecter of it (Hebrews 12:2). In other words, by faith in him we need no longer feel shame for former sins or the remaining sin we still struggle against. In Christ, our holiness is as good as done.

For by a single offering, he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:14).

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life (Romans 6:22).

The fruit of sin is shame, but the fruit of being in Christ is progressive holiness. The benefits of  salvation are more (though certainly not less) than our being declared righteous by faith. By faith, we are also being made holy, and God will finish the work he started, bringing us to sinless perfection when we meet him face-to-face (Romans 8:30).

The One Who Dealt with Death

If the death of Christ on Good Friday was the end of the story, we couldn’t call the day good. If Christ dealt with our sin and its fruit on the cross but failed to deal with the sting of sin through the resurrection, where would we be? Paul tells us.

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:17-19).

Good Friday is truly good because resurrection Sunday is coming, the day when death lost its power and sin lost its sting!

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of all who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. . . The sting of death is sin. . . but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:20-22, 56-57).

Look Up!

Today and every day, let’s look at our sin honestly. May we despise it, mourn it, and humbly confess it. But let’s not linger there, pridefully navel gazing in an attempt to deal with sin on our own terms. Let’s direct our gaze heavenward to Christ the perfect one, looking to him to deal with our sin and its fruit. Christ was high and lifted up on Calvary’s hill to bear our guilt and shame in his body and to pay for our sin through his death. He rose from the grave and ascended into heaven to rule with all authority—high and lifted up as the conqueror of death!

Good Friday is good because the Holy One bought back for himself what was lost because of sin in the world he created good. His resurrection is the proof that he is, indeed, making everything sad [and bad] come untrue, both in our hearts and in our world. Look at your sin but linger on Christ, thanking God for his indescribable gift!


Beware the Gospel of Self: Why Radical Grace is the Only Good News

Beware the Gospel of Self: Why Radical Grace is the Only Good News

The New Testament is full of warnings for Christians to beware false teachers–those who proclaim a distorted gospel that leads others away from the gospel of Christ (Matthew 7:15, Acts 20:28-30, 2 Timothy 4:3-4, 2 Peter 2:1).

We might imagine that false teachers are easy to pinpoint, but they slither their way into local congregations slowly and subtly. They slide through the front doors of the church unnoticed– comfortably situated in the minds of many who claim Christ but have been inundated with falsities wrapped in a Christian guise. False teachers proclaim their message everywhere we turn–from social media to billboards, blogs, and bestselling books–and it’s not difficult to see why many in the church have become their disciples.

False teaching can sound so right. It’s popular and self-affirming— wrapped in punchy cliches that tickle the ears and make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. Instead of heralding the good news of God’s undeserved grace for sinners, false teachers herald the “good news” of you and me and them. At first blush, their message sounds delightful and full of hope, but it actually isn’t good news at all. In fact, it’s damning news.

The gospel of Jesus Christ, on the other hand, doesn’t appeal to anyone apart from the divine intervention of the Holy Spirit. Grace–the good news that God has provided for us in his Son what we neither deserve nor can provide for ourselves– brings us low before it lifts us high. Grace rips the rug of self-righteousness out from under our feet. It  brings us to our knees in painful acknowledgment of our own inadequacy before it raises us in Christ. But the gospel of grace is humanity’s only hope. It’s the only truly good news for sinners.

As believers living in a world overrun with the gospel of self, how do we guard ourselves (and others) from subtly believing this falsehood? Simplistic as it may sound, the way to battle the lie is to know, believe, and proclaim the truth. We must discern and clearly articulate how the gospel of grace differs from the gospel of self and speaks a better word. Here are three primary ways:

You (Don’t) Have a Good Heart

Have you ever heard someone say, “She made a mistake, but that’s not really who she is. Deep down she has a good heart.” The gospel of self promises that, despite our sins, we can rest in the fact that we are basically good people. While we naturally want to believe this about ourselves, grace debunks the prevalent myth that human beings are born with a fundamentally good nature.

The Bible is clear that all of us are born into this world with deceitful, sin-sick hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) inherited from our first parents Adam and Eve (Romans 5:12,19). The way we live flows from the condition of our hearts (Proverbs 4:23). In other words, we aren’t sinners because we sin; rather, we sin because we are sinners. Any outward morality we have is polluted by inward desires (often unrecognized even by ourselves) for our own autonomy and glory (Isaiah 64:6-7). We come into this world with no desire for our Creator or his glory.

This is far cry from the warm fuzzy messages of self-goodness we are saturated with at every turn. But grace is only good news when juxtaposed with the bad news of our utter depravity. Basically good folks don’t need a bloody, substitutionary, atoning Savior (Galatians 2:21). Jesus Christ was the only human born into the world with a truly good heart, and the forgiveness God extends to us through him becomes precious only when we see just how desperately we need it. As the puritan Thomas Watson said, “Until sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.”

(Don’t) Believe in Yourself

Almost nothing sounds better to us than this oft quoted mantra of the American way: “Believe in yourself! You can accomplish anything!” It’s a positive word of empowerment that tells us we’re self-sufficient and able–a word we love to hear and are naturally prone to believe about ourselves. But, the truth is, we are not self-sufficient. We were created to live in joyful dependence on our Creator, the one who gives and sustains our very life and breath (Acts 17:28).

Grace reveals to us that we enter this world as spiritually dead slaves to sin (Ephesians 2:1) who exchange the truth of our dependence on an all sufficient Creator for the lie of creaturely self-sufficiency. Blinded to our need, we worship and believe in ourselves rather than in God (Romans 1:25). We strive in our own strength to clean up our behavior and achieve goals the world applauds, and, from the outside, it may look as though we’ve achieved success. But self-sufficiency is a lie.

Not only are we dependent on God for our physical needs, we are completely dependent on him to meet our ultimate spiritual need as well. Spiritually dead people are powerless and needy when it comes to our real problem. No amount of self-belief can resurrect a dead heart, but the gospel of grace has the power to save those who believe, not in themselves, but in Christ (Romans 1:16). Why? Because Christ is the perfect and powerful one who conquered sin and death. He’s been and done what we cannot be and do for ourselves. Self-belief will eventually crush us under impossible expectations, constant striving, and ultimate failure. But belief in Christ leads us to a hope that won’t disappoint (Romans 5:2-5).  

(Don’t) Be True to Yourself

Humanity is obsessed with the concept of personal identity, and we often go to great lengths to figure out who we truly are. Discovering and remaining true to one’s unique identity are key virtues of the gospel of self, but the Bible simplifies our identity quest by showing us there are only two underlying identities for all human beings made in the image of God: Dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1) or alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:5).  

Grace beckons us to come to Christ as we are in our sin, but it never leaves us as we are. Christ called those who would follow him, not to be true to themselves, but to deny themselves and prepare to die to the sinful nature that had defined and shaped every part of them until that point (Matthew 16:24). By faith, we share with Jesus in his death as our old identity is crucified, and we share with him in his resurrection as we are raised to a brand new nature and identity in him (2 Corinthians 5:17). When we trust Jesus for salvation, his sinless identity becomes ours!

In Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit who enables us to put off the deeds that were characteristic of our former identity and put on Christ-like living that matches our new identity (Romans 8:13, Ephesians 4:22). In other words, grace frees us to stop striving so hard to be true to ourselves and, instead, devote ourselves to lives of good works that are true to Christ.

The Only Good News

Beware the gospel of self–a message that falsely affirms us and is radically at odds with the biblical gospel of grace. Grace exposes the truth of our sin, powerlessness, and misplaced identity. It tells us we are not enough in order to freely offer us Christ, the one who is more than enough for us. He alone is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). May we turn away from trusting ourselves and say with the apostle Peter, “Lord, to whom [else] shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69).


Raising Men of War

Raising Men of War

Whether it’s a nerf gun, a slingshot, or a plastic sword and shield, my three boys love a good pretend weapon. My youngest, in particular, has a proclivity for turning everything from tree limbs to decorative crosses into the battle arms he wields on his mission to slay the bad guys. For him, a battle is always on the horizon.

These weapon-loving, warrior-like tendencies so common in little boys have the potential to worry parents, making us wonder if our little boys are prone toward violence. While the realities of sin make this a legitimate concern, I believe these tendencies are given by God to be cultivated for his purposes and glory. This begins by teaching our little men not to use their nerf guns to shoot people in the face or their swords to bang up the walls of the house. It continues as we explain to them why fighting and wars are even a part of our lives in the first place.

War–of both a physical and spiritual nature–is far less than ideal, but it is a reality of life in a fallen world. While our boys might not serve in one of the five branches of the American military, they will certainly not escape battle. Either they will “fight” in cowardice for the kingdom of darkness, or they will fight with courage for the Kingdom of God.

If we are seeking to raise up Christ-like men of God, then, by extension, we are seeking to raise up men prepared to war against the enemies of God–namely sin and Satan. As Christian parents, it’s our job to help our boys channel their warrior inclinations, training them to fight the right battles with the right weapons for the right reasons.

The God of War

Our boys need to understand that the God we serve is a God of righteous war (Exodus 15:3). He is committed to justly defending his holiness and mercifully rescuing a remnant of his undeserving children from enemy captivity, transforming them into a holy people for his own possession who proclaim his glory (1 Peter 2:9).

In the beginning, the world God created was good and free of conflict. Peace reigned in the Garden of Eden where a Holy God lived with his children–a King with his royal vice regents. But things changed when evil embodied a serpent who slithered into the garden to deceive God’s children, tempting them to distrust and disobey his word. In this act, Satan foolishly declared war on the Almighty Creator. Adam and Eve succumbed to the serpent’s wicked plot, and, in their rebellion against God, Satan drew them into his camp to do his bidding.

Surely saddened but not surprised by this rebellion, God went to war. Adam and Eve were expelled from his holy presence (a place where sinful people cannot dwell), and an angel with a flaming sword was placed at the entrance of the garden. But before their expulsion, God gave his rebel children a promise of hope. God foretold a lifelong battle between the children of the woman and the children of the serpent, and he promised that a child of the woman would one day crush the head of the evil snake (Genesis 3:15). God would win the war against sin and evil through a victorious warrior.

The Victorious Warrior

The most important thing we can teach our boys about war is that they are not God’s promised victorious warrior of Genesis 3:15.  In fact, they come into this world as cowardly cohorts of the enemy, powerless and lacking any real desire to free themselves from his grip. They need to trust a warrior to fight and be victorious on their behalf, just as David, the (then future) Israelite King fought and conquered Israel’s greatest enemy Goliath for them. 

There are whispers of God’s victorious warrior on every page of Scripture, hints of his coming and his ultimate victory. But he first comes on the scene and does battle against God’s enemy in the most unexpected and unlikely way. Jesus Christ is born into obscurity and poverty. When he grows up, he wields no sword for battle against the enemies of God’s people but willingly lays down his life unto death, crucified by the ones he came to defeat. For two days it looks as though evil has won, but Christ’s final victory against sin and Satan is inaugurated on the third day as the Spirit of God powerfully raises him from the dead.  

Through Christ’s atonement, sin has lost its ultimate power. Satan and his forces have been disarmed (Colossians 2:15). The victory is secure, and Christ will soon return as a conquering warrior on a white horse. He will consummate the victory against the enemies of God with his sharp sword (Revelation 19:11-15) and put an end to fighting and war forever! We must repeatedly share the good news of this victorious warrior with our boys, pleading with them to put their hope for salvation in him alone rather than in their own perceived strength.  

The Ongoing Battle

Though the ultimate victory for all who are in Christ is secure, the battle still rages until he returns. Bible teacher Nancy Guthrie says, “Satan is like a snake whose head has been crushed but whose tail is still whipping around creating havoc.” We need to prepare our boys for a lifelong battle against sin and Satan in the strength that Christ their victorious warrior provides (Ephesians 6:10). They must not sit back passively, letting the enemy’s tail “go to town” in their lives and the lives of those God puts in their path. No, they must be ready to pick up their weapons and fight for truth, holiness, purity, humility, and justice. They must be prepared to stand and fight even when they stand alone. 

Their weapons are will no longer be nerf guns and plastic swords, but the arsenal available to them in Christ will be better than their little minds can now imagine. Truth will be their core support. The righteousness of Christ will be credited to their hearts. The message of good news about the victorious warrior will lead their feet to tell others how to find peace with God. Faith in the sinless Christ will extinguish the fiery accusations of the enemy that still plague them. Salvation secured forever will guard their minds from fear of condemnation. And the living and active sword of God’s word (Hebrews 4:12), coupled with prayer in the Spirit, will give them offensive power as they labor for God’s Kingdom until he comes (Ephesians 6:14-18).

I’m raising my boys to be men of war. They may never march in the infantry, ride in the calvary, or shoot the artillery. They may never fly o’er the enemy, but–by God’s grace–I pray they will fight the good fight in the Lord’s army.

A Prayer for 2019

2019 is in full swing, and I haven’t written a list of resolutions or chosen a “word of the year.” It is on my heart, however, to be more dependent on the Lord through prayer in this new year. I often busy myself so much that I neglect deep communion with God, pressing on in my own strength to accomplish what I need or want to do. How arrogant and foolish to function as if I have no need of the one who fills my very lungs with air! In view of this tendency, I felt that a prayer (rather than a list) for 2019 would be most helpful. Pray with me this year.


Father in Heaven–set apart yet near,

Help us to wonder at your unmatched power,

worship your great might,

submit to your sovereign hand,

trust your infinite wisdom,

and cling to your perfect goodness in all things.

Help us to fear your great name.

Jesus the Christ–image of the invisible God,

Help us to rest in your perfect record

trust you as our substitute,

believe in your salvation,

and bow to your Lordship over our lives.

Help us to rejoice as we share your suffering now,

that we may hope to share your glory for eternity.

Let us hide ourselves in you and abide.

Apart from you, we can do nothing.

Holy Spirit–helper who dwells within, 

Rain down in great power.

In your kindness, reveal our sin

and lead us to continual repentance.

Guard us from evil,

keep us in faith,

grow us in holiness,

and drive us to desperate prayer.

Save our lost children, neighbors, and friends.

Exalt the name of Jesus in us.

In 2019, as we seek to glorify you, our triune God, focus our hearts on…

building relationships rather than results,

growing our faithfulness rather than our following,

cultivating humility rather than visibility,

working for your fame rather than our own names.

It’s in the strong name of Jesus we pray.





Food, Fitness and The Gospel: Why Your Body Matters but Can’t Save You

Food, Fitness and The Gospel: Why Your Body Matters but Can’t Save You


It takes only a quick scroll through social media feeds during the summer to reveal that we live in a body-obsessed culture. Swimsuit selfies abound this time of year, but they aren’t the only manifestation of our complete obsession with how our bodies look and feel. Excessive exercise, restricted eating, binging and purging, gluttony, negligence, and substance abuse are other tell-tale signs that we have veered off course in the way we think about and relate to our bodies.

Last year, I wrote an article about my own struggle with an eating disorder as a teenager. Anything that human beings love and adore more than God Himself is an idol, and during high school I worshipped at the altar of my ideal, size-zero body. While this led to severely disordered eating for a season, my eating habits were not the root of my issue.

My ultimate problem was that I took cues about the purpose of my body from the culture rather than from God Himself. I sought to control my body as a means to my own end rather than caring for it as a means to bring God glory. I looked to the image of my body for my happiness and worth, and this left me in a mess. So, what does God have to say about the human body? How do we glorify Him by loving and caring for our bodies without simultaneously worshipping them as functional gods?

Created Good

During the first century, the heresy of Gnosticism began to slip into the early church. The Gnostics believed the human spirit was intrinsically good and the human body was intrinsically evil, but the Bible tells a different story. In the first chapter of Genesis, we learn that God completed his creative work with the fashioning of man and woman—spiritual beings with gender-specific, physical bodies. Then, God looked back over all of his material creation and declared it very good (Gen 1:31). The human body is not intrinsically evil because it was created by a good God who declared it to be good. The body is a beautiful part of God’s design and plan for humanity, but it was never meant to be our god.

Corrupted by Sin

When Eve was deceived by the serpent, she doubted the goodness and truth of God’s Word and, together with her husband, disobeyed God by eating food from the one and only tree He had declared off limits.  As a result, the entire human race was plunged into sin, and all of God’s good creation—including the human body—was subjected to corruption.

While our bodies are not intrinsically evil, they are now cursed with weakness, disease and ultimately death. Furthermore, they are now agents of the rebellion and idolatry flowing from our hearts. We falsely believe that our bodies belong to us rather than to God, and this belief typically manifests in one of two ways: 1.) We obsessively control  our bodies for the purpose of our own glory or 2.) We are controlled by the fleshly desires of our bodies for the purpose of our own pleasure. The first may look like like hyper-fitness obsession, self-starvation and body selfies, while the second looks more like laziness, overeating for comfort, substance abuse or sexual immorality. These are different extremes of the same root problem. In both cases, we are worshipping and serving the creature (ourselves) rather than the Creator (Rom 1:25), and when our god is our stomach, we are on a path that leads to destruction (Phil 3:19). 

Redeemed by Blood

In sin, we make our bodies idols, but through blood, God transforms our bodies into the spiritual temple of His Holy Spirit. When Jesus came to earth in bodily flesh, He lived a perfect life and died a bloody death on our behalf. He bore all of our sins in His sinless body on the cross, so that all who look to him by faith for salvation might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Peter 2:24). Dying to sin means that we turn away from worshipping our bodies for our own pleasure and glory and begin stewarding our bodies as temples for God’s Kingdom purposes. The line between faithful stewardship and sinful idolatry is easily crossed, so the Word of God is critical in helping us discern the difference.

The Bible teaches that  faithful stewardship of our bodies is less about health and wellness and more about godliness, purity, and sacrifice. Nowhere in Scripture will we find a list of specific foods we should or should not eat. There is Christian freedom when it comes to what we eat (1Timothy 4:4), but all of our eating and drinking must be motivated by a desire for God’s glory (1 Cor 10:31). The Bible does not outline how often we should work out for optimal health but exhorts us to focus primarily on training ourselves in godliness. While bodily training has some value, godliness has value both in this life and the life to come (1 Tim 4:8).

Does this mean we should eat whatever we want whenever we want it and sit on the couch all day? No. As those walking by the Spirit, we practice self-control (Gal 5:25) rather than being mastered by our appetites (1 Cor 6:12-13). There is value in learning what foods best fuel our bodies and consistently eating those foods. There is  value in regular exercise and bodily fitness. But that value doesn’t rest in the fact that exercise might produce a more attractive body and that eating well might lead to long life. Healthy eating and exercise hold value because they enable us to expend our bodies in service to Christ and others during our years on earth. In view of the gospel, we are called to offer our bodies as living sacrifices and die daily to our fleshly desires for self-worship (Rom 12:1).  Sometimes this means hitting the gym when we would rather succumb to laziness. Other times it means skipping the gym in order to better serve our families and neighbors.

Resurrected to Glory

We don’t proclaim the Paleo, Vegan or CrossFit “gospels” because food and fitness cannot ultimately save our souls or our bodies. No matter how well we eat and exercise now, our physical bodies are still plagued with weakness and are moving toward death and decay. This should not cause us to lose heart but to refresh our hearts with the hope Christ alone offers. The redemption Jesus provides through His blood is not only for our souls now but also for our bodies in the life to come because “he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus…”(2 Cor 4:4).  So, our hope is not in the preservation of our frail, earthly bodies but in the One who will resurrect and transform them to perfect, glorious bodies (Phil 3:21). Our earthly bodies matter, but they are not ultimate as the world would have us believe . Christ is ultimate. He has bought us at a steep price, and we are not our own. May we glorify Him alone with our bodies, both in death and in life, now and forevermore. 



Taste and See: A Letter to my Younger Sisters in the Faith

Dear Sister,

I would love to meet for coffee and tell you what I wish I had understood and experienced ten years ago. Hindsight is 20/20,  isn’t it? The Lord  teaches us through time, and I suppose this is why the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul exhorts older women to teach the younger women “what is good” (Titus 2:3b). We live in a world that promotes a superficial view of goodness, and we are prone to lose our way—failing to see and believe the One who is truly good. So, if we were sipping coffee and chatting, here’s how I would seek to challenge and encourage  you through what I’ve learned:

*Boast in the Lord*

Regardless of your age or season, you will always be tempted to look to yourself for a defining sense of worth. Whether it’s grades, career success, athletic achievement, the size of your body, quantity and quality of material possessions, number of instagram likes, relationships and attention from the opposite sex; you will find yourself grasping within for a reason to boast. You may be blind to this desperate need to boast in yourself because it often happens within the recesses of your heart even when it doesn’t spring forth from your lips. In addition to worth and value, you will naturally strive to find personal goodness and an ultimate sense of righteousness within. How tempted you will be to claim your own kindness, charity, service, morality, or the fact that you have “checked all the spiritual boxes” as reasons God should count you worthy of His Kingdom. In Psalm chapter 34 , King David writes,

My Soul makes its boast in the Lord;

 Let the humble hear and be glad..

Oh, Magnify the Lord with me,

And let us exalt his name together!

How was David— the warrior King, conqueror of tens of thousands, and man after God’s own heart—able to confidently boast in God alone rather than in his own success or perceived worthiness?

*Taste and See God’s goodness*

The Bible teaches that God alone is good, and He alone is worthy of our boasts. You may know this to be true, but there is a difference in mentally agreeing with truth and personally experiencing that truth. David was able to boast in the Lord because he had tasted the sweetness of God’s goodness in his own life. He encourages his readers to do the same:Taste and See that the Lord is Good (Psalm 34:8A). Jonathan Edwards explains this well:

There is a difference between having an opinion that God is holy and gracious and having a sense of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet and having a sense of its sweetness. A man may have the former yet know not how honey tastes, but a man cannot have the latter unless he has an idea of the taste of honey in his mind.

Until you taste the goodness of God yourself, you will desperately seek to define your value and worth in some “goodness” of your own. Only in understanding God as infinitely good will you discover that human goodness in any form doesn’t measure up. It cannot and will not give you ultimate value, joy, or eternal life.

So, practically speaking, how does one taste and see the goodness of God?

*Take Refuge in Christ*

For you to experience the Father’s goodness, you must trust Him enough to take refuge in His Son. Jesus alone is the shelter God has provided for your salvation and eternal protection. Those who hide in Him are promised ultimate joy.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!

Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

…The Lord redeems the life of his servants;

None of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned

(Psalm 34:8-9, 22)

No matter what you achieve or how good you are, you will never meet the righteous requirements of God’s goodness because your heart is corrupted by sin (Jer 17:9, Psalm 51:5). Jesus alone meets God’s standard, and he came to earth as a human to live the life you couldn’t live and die the death you deserved to die. He has sheltered you from the righteous wrath of God you deserve by absorbing that wrath in your place. Jesus’s death on the cross is the visible proof of God’s goodness toward you. You take refuge in Him by looking to Jesus and trusting Him as sufficient to make you right with God. As you daily draw from the well of the gospel through God’s Word and His people (the Church–you cannot do it alone), you will  taste the sweetness of God’s perfect goodness and find it so satisfying.

*Reflect His Radiance in Trials*

Taking refuge in Christ does not mean that your life on earth will be free of trouble and hardship. Scripture is clear that you should not expect your life “hidden in Christ” to be easy. On the contrary, following and identifying with Jesus is a call to die to yourself (Luke 9:23) and lose the life you have known. It is a call to stop taking your cues from the world and looking within for your sense of worth, happiness and goodness. It is a call to recognize that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22) but God is working all things out for the ultimate good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Roman 8:28)  even when “good” doesn’t always look the way we want it to look yet. Sister, your best life is not now. It’s later. And it’s eternal.

Those who look to him are radiant,

And their faces shall never be ashamed. . .

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,

But the Lord delivers him out of them all.

If you are in Christ, your freedom from condemnation and eternal deliverance from trials of this life are secure. Take refuge in Jesus when the storms of life rage by saturating yourself in His Word, surrounding yourself with His people, and rehearsing His gospel to your heart daily.  The radiance of His glory will be reflected in your life as you trust Him, and you will find His goodness sweeter and more satisfying than any  worldly treasures you may lose. Do you doubt it? Taste and see.

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Psalm 27:13

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. -Jim Elliot


When You Feel Lonely At Church

When You Feel Lonely At Church


A friend recently shared with me how terribly lonely she feels at church on Sundays. “Everyone has their place and their people, and I just don’t know who to sit with. I kind of feel invisible,” she explained. She isn’t alone in her feelings. Another friend shared how disconnected and lonely she feels in her small group. Even after a few months of gathering with this group, she is struggling to develop strong connections with others.

The sad reality is that too many people feel estranged and lonely even while gathering to worship with tens or hundreds of other believers. If the God we worship is a God who places the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6) and believers make up the family of God (Galatians 4:4-5), then shouldn’t Church gatherings be a time of deep fellowship?

Foundation of Fellowship

In his first epistle, the apostle John explains that he has proclaimed the gospel of Christ so that believers might have fellowship with God the Father through Jesus Christ. This fellowship with God leads to eternal life and fellowship with each other (1 John 1:3). In modern church culture, we often equate fellowship with socializing or eating together, but John makes it clear that Christian fellowship is much deeper. The Greek word for fellowship in this passage is koinōnia and means “that which is shared in common”. A life-changing encounter with the good news of the gospel is the shared commonality of all true believers. Thus, authentic fellowship is always grounded in gospel truth, and it is this truth that binds people from every nation, tribe, race, gender, and class together as one Body of Believers. Because of a shared faith in Jesus alone, we are immediately connected with people we may have absolutely nothing else in common with. So, if this common gospel bond exists why is loneliness still so prevalent?

Christians gathering as Christians

It almost goes without saying, but for gospel fellowship to be experienced, Christians must gather together. This happens in the context of the local church and includes both large gatherings for corporate worship and small group gatherings of two or more believers (Acts 2:46). Both types of gathering are essential parts of the Christian life, but deep abiding fellowship with others will not happen simply by sitting together in the rows of a worship center on Sunday mornings. As my husband says, “the Christian life is lived out in circles, not just rows.”

True, gospel-founded fellowship is experienced as we put our feet under the same table with other believers–sharing food, conversation, and life. It’s lived out in one-on-one mentoring relationships and developed in small groups that enable us to know others at the heart level. And it happens when Christians gather as Christians. In other words, these gatherings are more than just social events where followers of Christ hang out, play games, and talk about the weather,  jobs and kids. When Christians gather, Christ should be present in our conversations. As we share joys and burdens and dreams and disappointments, we must speak the truth of God’s Word to one another in love. This does not mean that every gathering should be a Bible study or every conversation must be about theology. It does mean, for those who have been transformed by the power of the gospel, Christ is never absent in our minds and hearts and, therefore, should never be totally absent in our conversations and gatherings. We will talk about about what we truly love because “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt 12:34). When Christians gather as Christians, deep connectedness results and loneliness has no place.

Hospitality and Vulnerability

Growth in authentic fellowship with others requires an abandonment of the “church consumer” mentality. First Peter 4:9-10 teaches that each believer is to use his or her individual gift(s) to serve others, and all are to practice hospitality without grumbling. To combat loneliness in the church, we must take our eyes off ourselves and learn to see  people we might welcome and serve. Hospitality has been defined as “the generous reception of guests, visitors, or strangers” and it requires both open small groups and open homes. Do we notice people on the fringe and welcome them in as part of the family? When we feel unseen and lonely ourselves, do we plug into a small group or volunteer in an area of church ministry and ask ,”How can I use my gifts and who can I serve?” Do we reach out to someone we could mentor in the faith or even ask an older believer to mentor us?  Sticking to ourselves or close to people we already know (people who don’t require too much of us) often feels most comfortable, but it is not most Christ-like. 

As we welcome and serve others, we must let the facade fall. The experience of authentic gospel fellowship necessitates vulnerability. Like Paul, do we love others enough to share not only the gospel message but our very lives as well (1 Thes 2:8)? Sharing our lives means laughing and crying together. It means sharing food and time and all the resources God has given us . It means being transparent about personal sin. It means being willing to pray together, search the Scriptures together, encourage each other, and speak hard truths in love. It means humbling ourselves enough to hear and receive hard truth from those who love us. It  means learning to trust others because ultimately we trust Christ.

Hope of perfected Fellowship

 Christian fellowship will always fall short in this life here on Earth, and we will all struggle with feelings of loneliness from time to time. Even in seasons of richest community, there will be hints of longing for something more in the deepest places of our hearts. However, as we faithfully practice hospitality and embrace vulnerability and service, loneliness will fade and the buds of a fellowship rooted in the gospel of grace will begin to blossom visibly. These blossoms that grow in the Church offer a beautiful foretaste of the day when every tear of loneliness will be wiped away because the dwelling place of God Himself will be with man (Rev 21:3). When that glorious day comes, we will see Jesus face to face, and He will dwell with us fully.  We will be His people. He will be our God. And loneliness will be no more.


Defined by Grace

The last days of a calendar year are typically a time for reflection and resolution. It’s good for the soul to look back—to trace God’s faithfulness through the various blessings and trials of the year gone by. When I look back on 2017, my heart swells with gratitude as I see so clearly the many ways God has graciously cared for our family in a year of change and transition. I see His hand of provision in many unexpected beautiful ways.  

It can also be beneficial to look ahead and mentally prepare for the fresh start of a new year. There are certainly noble goals and improvements worthy of our time, intentionality, and discipline. I have already been formulating a mental list of things I want to do (or need to do better) in 2018: More exercise, more consistent time in the Word, better meal planning, less sugar, more prayer, more quality time with each child, etc. Motivating as these lists may be, they also make it easy to feel overwhelmed before the new year even begins.

Evaluating ourselves–our blessings, our hardships, our work, our (perceived) successes and failures our plans, our goals–seems the most natural and beneficial way to end one year and begin the next. We live in a world where most people define themselves by the work they do or the earthly relationships they possess. We tend to define happiness as the absence of pain and suffering. We define blessing as material prosperity or good health or a beautiful, intact family. The problem with evaluating and defining ourselves (and our year) by these measures alone is made clear by either the inflated pride or deep discouragement we often experience as a result. Is there is a better way? What if we ended and began each year looking not at ourselves but at God? How would it change our outlook on the year to recognize that our true worth and the purpose of our days is found only in light of who He is?

God as Creator

As believers, we often acknowledge God as our Creator and ourselves as His creation, but too often we fail to let this truth define our own personal sense of identity and worth. Human beings are the crown of God’s entire creation–rational living creatures, made male and female in His very image and likeness to reflect His glory in a way that no other part of his creation can (Gen 1:27-28). After God created humanity, He declared His creation to be very good, not based on anything inherent in the creation itself but because each human being was made and loved by Him, the good Creator.  C.S. Lewis puts it this way:

God’s love, far from being caused by goodness in the object, causes all goodness which the object has, loving it first into existence and then into real, though derivative lovability. God is Goodness. He can give good but cannot need or get it . . . It is good for us to know love; and best for us to know the love of the best object, God.

God as Redeemer

God intended for His love to wholly define the human beings He created and for us to respond to that love in joyful obedience and service. Instead, we spurned the love of our Good Creator and responded in disobedience and rebellion. We exchanged God’s truth about who we are for a lie and thought it better to look to the creation (ourselves, other people, our work, our stuff) rather than the Creator for our worth and purpose. God would have been just and righteous to leave us in our darkened rebellion, separated from Him forever by our own choice. But our God is more than a holy, just, loving Creator. He is also a gracious Redeemer. God sent Jesus to die for our sinful rebellion so that His righteous wrath against sin and evil would be satisfied and our lost identity as His beloved children would be reclaimed. Jesus came that believers might be defined by God’s grace:

He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will . . . In Him we have redemption through His blood the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace… In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge for our inheritance . . . (Eph 1)

God as Sustainer

Scripture teaches that believers are created anew in Christ Jesus for the purpose of good works that God prepared for each of us in advance (Eph 2:10). Work is important in God’s economy, and He has given each of us specific work to do for His glory during our years on Earth. But our work must stay in its proper place. It was never meant to define us or become the measure of our sense of worth. When we look to any part of the creation–ourselves, our work, our stuff, our relationships– rather than the Creator Himself to tell us who we are,  we make the creation an idol of our worship. And our idols cannot sustain us through the mountains and valleys, changes, delights, and disappointments of each new year. Our idols of work and self and even good relationships cannot carry us through to the end. There is only one who is worthy of our worship. Only one who can and will sustain us. We must be faithful in the work He has called us to and look to him as our helper in the midst of every high and low.

Listen to me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, You who have been borne by Me from birth and have been carried from the womb; Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you. I have done it, and I will carry you; And I will bear you and I will deliver you (Isa 46).

As we reflect on the joys and trials of 2017 and look forward with plans for 2018, may we fix our eyes on the God of creation, redemption, and sustaining power. He is the one who tells us who we are. He is the one who holds each day of our lives here on earth and offers the meaning and purpose that we that we so desperately long for those days to hold. He is the one who will carry us through to the end.