Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A New Home...

I finally caved and changed my site to Wordpress. You can now find me at this address:


Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Dream So Big

Recently, I was asked to write a book review for my church's women's newsletter. This has been one of my favorite books, so I thought I would share here as well.

“I will cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills His purpose for me.” (Ps. 57:2) 

Every woman has dreams. Even in strong, theological circles, in which we cultivate biblically informed emotions, women still have dreams. But not all dreams become reality. Friends desert us. Sickness overtakes the home. A longed-for husband never arrives. The womb remains hollow. Children forsake our teaching. Somewhere along the way, the wavering heart convinces us there must be something more. This can’t possibly be it.

So, we tuck our dreams away, wondering if we must resign ourselves to a life of unfulfilled hopes.

In the book, A Dream So Big, we find the story of a dream. A husband and wife celebrating twelve years of marriage, a growing family, enjoying a safe and comfortable home, solid career options, surrounded by dear friends. Dreams seemingly fulfilled. Capped off by the unexpected excitement of a third child being conceived!

The pregnancy quickly revealed a major concern. Baby Pfeifer was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder, and doctors called for an abortion, warning that the baby growing in Nancy’s womb would be, “incompatible with life”. Instead of onesies and diapers, the shower consisted of frozen meals in preparation for a painful homecoming upon the bittersweet birth. Eight days together enjoying this precious new baby was all the Pfeifer family had before he was taken to his eternal home with Jesus. Dreams crushed.

If you are looking for a theological treatise on God’s sovereignty in the midst of suffering, you won’t find it here. This is a quirky book, full of interesting vignettes from life in Africa. Yet, it is a sobering reflection on how God took the big dreams of one family, stripped them bare, and replaced them with something better. After baby Stephen’s death, the Pfeifer’s left behind all familiarities and served as dorm parents at a mission community in Kenya for a year. As they considered the poverty, injustice and spiritual darkness of their foreign home, God revealed a new dream. A dream to care for the orphans of Kenya, extending their initial commitment to a permanent relocation to Kenya, working in the mission community full-time and establishing a lunch program serving several thousand starving children each week. A dream calling Steve and Nancy to take in abandoned twins, Ben and Katie, giving them a home and a heritage of faith.

Though you may not find a theological treatise on God’s sovereignty in the midst of suffering, you will find a real-life story of how God’s ordaining providences transform the dreams of His people into something far greater. Inscribed on baby Stephen’s gravestone are the words, “ Having fulfilled the purpose the Father had for him, he returned to the Father”. The Pfeifer’s look back on how their earthly dreams may have been shattered, but were replaced with eternal dreams – dreams to serve the lost, and share the love of Christ in a tangible way. Of these dreams, Steve aptly says, “Our story is really all about Jesus. He is our beginning, our middle, and our end. And He can use anything and anyone for His purpose.”
For a lengthier review of this book, see Tim Challies comments @ http://www.challies.com/book-reviews/a-dream-so-big

Friday, September 6, 2013

The point of my life is not usefulness

This morning, one of my dearest friends posted a link to an article. Because I love to read so many various perspectives, and I trust this friend's judgment and often value what she values, I clicked on the link to read. Such a simple story, and yet filled with simple wisdom. 

Immediately, this writer's thoughts resonated with my daily experiences. I often wonder if I am really being useful at all. And the purpose of much of what originally formulated my own writing has been to study how one becomes more useful. So when I first read this post, I was thrown a bit and had to re-read it a couple times. She says at one point:

no matter where I am or what roles I’ve been given, the point of my life is not usefulness, but in knowing God and enjoying Him forever.

So, does that mean that I don't pursue usefulness at all? No, just that if my pursuit is knowing God and enjoying Him forever, then I will naturally be useful to His kingdom. Whether it's in grading papers, cooking a meal for my family, picking up my friend's children from school, or teaching a group of goofy middle school girls, usefulness cannot be my goal. Christlikeness is the goal - Christ maintained perfect communion with the Father. Usefulness is an overflow of that relationship.

Read the rest of her article here:

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Lost Art of Reading

Taken from my guest post @ riverbendchurch.com
I love to read a good book. I love to skim multiple books at a time. In fact, there has not been a time when I didn’t have numerous books in a scattered pile next to my bed, with bookmarks sticking out and highlighters clipped to the covers. I read everything from theological journal articles to blog posts from moms to the latest statistics from news outlets.

Many people will generically say, “I really don’t enjoy reading, it’s just not my thing.” While it is certainly true that there can be many factors (of which we won’t have time or space to address here) affecting whether or not a person naturally likes to read, it remains a learned practice to one degree or another. Personality, giftedness, and learning disabilities certainly play a role in the development of a child’s reading abilities and habits. However, what we want to address here is the why and how the discipline of reading serve as a critical part of your child’s character development.

Most parents want their children to be good readers. This article is not mean to serve as an academic expose on the various technical approaches. But, it will provide some practical points about the reasons children miss out on the discipline of reading, why they ought to cultivate good reading habits, and how we can help them. Let me first propose why reading is no longer a natural development in the lives of young children.

Fast-paced society
Everything moves fast today. If the microwave takes longer than sixty seconds to reheat something, we are annoyed. So sitting down to read a book for thirty minutes feels like torture!

Driven by technology
Gaming systems, Instagram and Facebook accounts, TV, iPhones for 3rd graders…there is no end to the distractions facing children today. Forget reading, that’s boring!

Extracurricular activities
Children are carted from one sporting event to the next, taking gymnastics and music lessons, going to craft camps, after-school tutoring. Of course many of these activities provide helpful and needed stimulation. But let’s face it – fifty years ago (really even twenty years ago!) children did not have near the options they do now. It’s like going to the grocery store, seeing over a dozen cereal options when you just need one for sustenance. Reading? Isn’t that just something we do in school?

Disconnected families
Because of the hectic schedules in our families, the resulting lack of conversation and gathering around the table, leaves little time for connecting, much less reading. By the time we all get home, we are exhausted and irritable – it’s time to veg out.

Now let’s consider the affects of neglecting the discipline of reading in a child’s life.

Not a thinker
He will rely primarily on what he is told for knowledge, instead of being able to apply a biblical worldview through the discipline of reading, leading to determinations about how he will live. He will hear a sermon, a lecture at school, or a conference session, and have few insights about how to interpret the information being thrust at him. More than that, he will have little motivation to go home and dig deeper to test the accuracy of what he heard.

Poor writing ability
Good readers make good writers. As a former teacher, I can accurately say that I am greatly concerned about the many students heading to college who cannot formulate a well-structured sentence and have no idea how to do research without Wikipedia.

Easily swayed by popular opinion or peer pressure
Lacking solid examples of character found in the great stories of early missionaries, war heroes, and the like, young people today lack the understanding of what it means to stand for something.
Whew! In light of all this “bad news,” how do we help our children cultivate a love for reading?

Make it a family event
My mother took time each night to read with my sister and I. Now, I have watched my sister do the same with her two children, and reading has quickly become one of their favorite activities. They cannot imagine going through an entire day without reading at some point. On a practical note, I think it’s important to introduce children to books other than only a Bible storybook, even at a young age. This teaches them about the varied types of books and allows you to help them apply biblical principles within other stories as an additional teaching method.

This is a challenging discipline, because most mothers end their evenings exhausted from a day filled with cleaning, disciplining, preparing dinner, running errands – the goal is typically to get the children to bed so that you can still have a few minutes prepping lunches for tomorrow and decompressing with a bath or quiet time. But, I promise you – your children will look back on it as a fond memory and a meaningful time spent together – I certainly do!

Demonstrate the value of it
Being able to properly analyze the content of what we read allows us to identify something as simple as the difference between a review and a critique. As you read scripture, or other books with your children, have them write a brief summary of the material, followed by a paragraph critiquing it. If they aren’t old enough to write well yet, ask them leading questions and have a brief conversation.

I remember reading a story to my niece on her front porch last year, and I would stop periodically throughout the story, asking things like, “Did that little girl in the story make a good decision?” followed by “Why?” or “Why not?” As we talked she was able to identify biblical truths that applied to the circumstances in the story. Even better, a day or two later when my niece was heading toward a misbehavior situation, I reminded her of the girl in the story and she was able to recall how that might apply to her current dilemma. Use your family reading choices to help train your children in biblical living.

Regard it as a biblical discipline
The proverbs are replete with instruction for wisdom. And that wisdom is gained by reading, studying and meditating on the word of God. Similarly, in Deuteronomy 6:6-9, parents are advised to pass on this wisdom to their offspring:

 “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

One of the best ways we learn is by reading and repeating. So if you desire for your children to know and love scripture, and be able to apply it to all of life, they must grow up in an atmosphere where reading is practiced regularly. Read with them, read to them, and ask them to retell the story to you.

Reading may not always be fun, and the more we neglect it as a regular discipline, the less fun it will be. But it can be eternally rewarding, leading a child to a redemptive understanding of God. Children ought to view reading as a normal part of their daily lives. There are many more considerations and resources we could pursue, but for now, go home and start reading with your kiddos!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Our Satisfier

I know a lot of discouraged people these days. If not for God's grace, I would be one of those people too. And I am sure I will be at some point in the near future, and then I will need someone to encourage me. As I was considering all these hurting people, it made me think back to a time in my life when I had a friend who was deeply discouraged - she was burdened for the salvation of her children (as any mother should be), she was trying to help several people around her who were deeply distressed, and she was facing some frustrating concerns in her ministry. At the time, I was away for a few weeks, pursuing my master's degree in California in a summer intensive program. When I returned, I gave her a letter summarizing some of what I had been learning from my professors. I need these reminders myself as I seek to encourage those who are currently hurting. Here is a portion of that letter.

When I was at school, one of the main things I remember hearing from one professor over and over again, was in regards to the cross. We often tend to think that the cross is all about our salvation and about acquiring heaven. And it is, but it is even more about being transformed and restored to the image of God (which is how we were created) day by day. The “new man” Paul speaks of putting on in his letters is Christ – Christ is the new man! We are putting on Christ every day. We know the two greatest commandments are to love God and love others. That should be your priority at all times. And when you evaluate your life and how you are progressing, it should be in regards to those two commands. In causing you to be dissatisfied with some of what you see when you examine your life, God is giving you an opportunity to find your complete satisfaction in Him. When you wish that you could be more diligent or have more time to minister to various friends and to teach specific things to your children – He is showing you that it is only in Christ that you can minister effectively at all. Take heart, you are ministering when you simply love others, even if you can’t give them all the particular time or attention that you would like. These are opportunities for us both to be saturated in the Word, because that is truly the only comfort we can give to others. Reason with your friends and your children from the Word. May it be on the tip of our tongues in every conversation we have with these dear ones. Here is one brief “nugget” that I think might be helpful in your conversations with both your friends who are struggling with hard providences right now, and even in your communication with your kids:

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:8-11)

Jesus had truly become the Satisfier of Paul’s soul. And I know He is your Satisfier – now teach your friends and your children to find Him most satisfying! All men will sacrifice most willingly for that which they find most satisfying. Ask your friends, ask your children – what are you zealous for? What do you value most? What are you living for? (and don’t let people get away with the cliché response of “for God’s glory”) Get practical, especially with the kids. For instance, you could ask if they are finding more value in their friends or a certain toy than in Christ. Obviously as lost souls right now, they can’t find Him most satisfying. But by pointing those things out to them, Lord-willing they will begin to see that nothing else can satisfy them permanently, and so they will cry out in need of a Savior. We are so well taught with doctrine that we can recite these answers flippantly without dealing with our hearts. Asking ourselves these questions is how you and I can see our own sin more clearly and flee from it. And we aren’t just fleeing from it; we are fleeing to Christ, the Satisfier!

Friday, July 12, 2013

What do we do with all this knowledge?

You can read my current article over at The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood by clicking on the link below. Here's a sample from it:

Applying what we take in through daily reading proves to be an increasingly significant challenge. Access to books, sermons, articles and even brief quotations come at an overwhelming speed.  Our attention spans are vastly short, evidenced by our inability to linger in meaningful conversations or to recall with specificity what we have read. Immersion in an array of information may be the very reason daily application of truth becomes so difficult.

Our commitment to scripture might mean we disconnect at times. Turning off the computer or stepping away from books and commentaries allows us to be refreshed in the “pure milk” of the word. As Paul instructed Timothy, “all scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16). The appropriate place for advanced technology and limitless resources ought to be stimulation – not saturation – of our spiritual lives.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

When it's not your big day

Today I have a contribution posted with my friends over at The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood. I am so grateful for these folks, as they have undergirded my theological and practical study of womanhood and gender issues for several years now. What a joy to interact with them! I heartily recommend bookmarking their site as a place to find regular encouragement and resources!


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Connecting the online world to your world

In a day when resources inundate us at the click of a mouse – everything from a organizational tool found on Pinterest to a systematic treatment of dispensationalism – we often find ourselves submerged in mass information, yet lacking in the application of it. We access more resources in less than 60 seconds than ever possible in history, and yet by the obvious state of the evangelical church, we have never been in more desperate need for the daily discipline of biblical living.

Knowledge and theological prowess represents many churches and seminary communities, but Christians continually ask, “Why can’t I seem to overcome this particular temptation?” or “How do I implement this principle I just read in a way that maximizes its effects?”

As someone who completed a portion of my graduate degree online, and who enjoys research, I often sense this dilemma within my own heart and mind. In considering the disconnect between what we read and how we live, let me offer some suggestions:

Transfer one principle from the article the same day you read it. If it’s a recipe, jot down the name on a list to go back later for further consideration. If it’s a helpful article on how to cultivate a love for reading in your children, identify one item that can be put into practice immediately, and do it that night. Keep a notepad next to your computer, and discipline yourself to write down at least one thought you have considered while reading a specific piece.

Teach or “rehearse” the article to your spouse or a close friend within just a couple of days, while the information is still fresh in your mind. We remember things we repeat, and by sharing the information with someone else, you can evaluate its usefulness. This may help you decide if the topic is actually worth the investment of more time and resources.

Acknowledge that the application might look very different in the context of your own life than in the authors. Your home is likely unique in comparison to theirs, you may have varying authorities who play a role in the implementation of a particular principle, and your own expectations and preferences will be different than those of the writer.

When reading articles that address a controversial subject, we must always believe the best about the writer. As Paul teaches to the Corinthians, “love believes all things” (I Corinthians 13:7). We ought not “troll” around websites searching for opportunities to rebuke or chastise the author(s) because we believe we have some corner on truth. It seems more and more people follow Twitter feeds and blogs for the purpose of finding something wrong so they can provide public correction. While there is a time and place for biblical discernment leading to critical analysis, wisdom and love demand careful consideration before doing so.

And as the saying goes, “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” – if you find something that you genuinely disagree with, it doesn’t mean the post is without value. I am a complementarian and a Calvinist, yet I enjoy and benefit from reading a number of pieces on issues such as gender and soteriology, written by those who would not identify themselves with those same mindsets. In fact, by engaging with those who share varying perspectives, we experience a softening and sharpening in our own thinking – softening, in the sense that we likely become more compassionate and patient towards those who may not share our viewpoint, and sharpening, by either confirming what we already know to be true or giving us helpful information needed to obtain a more accurate position. In the end, it is such humility that may win over our supposed opponent – or at the very least allow us to be friends.

Above all, we must weigh everything against Scripture. If a principle takes away critical amounts of time from your husband or children, or puts unnecessary burdens on the family’s finances and resources, you must give careful consideration as to its true value. For example, marriage and parenting articles may provide encouraging suggestions to implement in the home, but the proper approach acknowledges your husband’s leadership and appeals to him in love. Decisions about what is helpful will vary from home to home.

Applying what we take in through daily reading proves to be a significant challenge. Access to books, sermons, articles and even brief quotations come at a speeding rate. Our attention spans are short, evidenced by our inability to linger in meaningful conversations or to recall with specificity what we have read. Being immersed in a sea of information may be the very reason daily application of truth becomes so difficult.

Our commitment to Scripture calls for a “disconnect” at times. Turning off the computer or stepping away from books and commentaries allows us to be refreshed in the “pure milk” of the Word. As Paul instructed Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tm. 3:16). The appropriate place for advanced technology and limitless resources ought to be stimulation – not saturation – of our spiritual lives.

Monday, May 6, 2013

A lesson on emotions in the life of Helen Roseveare

For nearly twenty years, Helen Roseveare served as a missionary in the Republic of Congo, establishing medical services in the remote village of Ibambi. She persevered despite periods of civil unrest, lack of resources, and even amidst the revealing of personal weaknesses and failures, which sometimes threatened to undo her. In most biographical descriptions of Helen’s life, she is characterized as having a hot temper, difficulty relating well to others, and being easily discouraged.

Helen herself wrote often of her unsteady emotional responses to the circumstances she encountered throughout her time on the mission field: “I tended to call certain sins weaknesses – or human frailties – and thereby to excuse them. Unhappiness, loneliness, fear, inferiority, all began to be acutely present.” At one point, Helen’s emotional instability became so evident that a woman from the mission center in the village confronted her. Helen described this encounter: “Danga…took me to task for this un-Christlike behavior. ‘Don’t excuse yourself. Call sin sin and temper temper. If you can only show us Doctor Helen, you might as well go home; the people need to see Jesus’”.

Like Helen, our emotions oftentimes wreak havoc on those around us, and most deeply, on our own souls. Noel Piper comments, “The outward circumstances of Helen’s life may be different from that of many of us, but her inner battles were the same. And as we all know, our inner battles don’t stay inside. They spill out and injure innocent bystanders, usually the people that we care about the most.” It can be a help to our own spiritual welfare when we see those inner battles revealed in someone else, as it can serve in granting us a better perspective on our own inner battles before they run out of control. Life circumstances often display the measure of a woman’s emotional stability, or lack thereof.

Emotions are not bad in and of themselves. However, when not rightly understood through the lens of Scripture, emotions can quickly become a rash and exaggerated response to what is taking place in one’s life. What begins as a nervous thought morphs into an extended period of fearful introspection because we have failed to apply biblical truth to the initial problem. We speak the truths about God’s sovereignty and goodness, yet we find ourselves filled with despair, tormented in our beds at night by doubts and worries about what others think of us.

The Bible does not actually use the term emotions, however, we can find many places in which the scriptures do address the “inner man”. The psalmist said to himself, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Psalm 42:11). He identified a feeling, an emotion, which was plaguing his soul. And then he spoke back to it: “Hope in God”. The emotional upheaval within us is oftentimes an indication of our spiritual state. If we are disturbed by our feelings, we must identify what is behind them, which is typically a spiritual problem.

How do we examine our emotions? Mark Deckard provides a simple yet precise method: “A desire or emotion is right when it is appropriate to the context a person is in. Negative emotions can be correct when they are responding to the context of living in a fallen world.” For instance, it is right to have a sense of sadness when a loved one dies; or to be angry when a child is murdered. Our problem is that many times, our emotions are not biblically appropriate because we have allowed our sinful hearts to inform our emotions, instead of using biblical truth gained in our minds and applying it to our hearts.

Jonathan Edwards, in his studies on religious affections, wrote a great deal on emotions: “Affections and all their components – will, emotions, desire, belief, must in the end arise from the work of Scripture in our lives and therefore be compatible with Scripture in their actual outworking”. We cultivate godly emotions by allowing the work of Scripture to take root in our minds and hearts, and then teaching our emotions to be compatible with that Scripture. Our emotions, just as every other part of our being, must be brought into submission to the Word of God. It is only by the finished work of Christ, applied to our lives through the working of the Holy Spirit, which can transform our emotions to be pleasing and honorable.

One of Helen Roseveare’s favorite hymns summarizes the peace she experienced when her emotions were controlled by the Spirit: “Hope, hope, radiant hope – soon all dark shadows must flee. Then with what joy, full, complete, I shall be ever with Thee.”

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Though you slay me...

Recently, I ordered a new album from Shane & Shane, a favorite Christian duo of mine. The album, "Bring Your Nothing" is chock full of powerful lyrics, often quoted directly from Scripture. Some draw us into joyful contemplation of all that will be made right one day when we inhabit our New Jerusalem, and others bring to mind the magnificent exchange of Christ for our sin.

One song I have been singing over and over the past week is "Though you slay me," a beautiful description of the believer's comfort when he/she is submissive to God's will, even if that includes trials and suffering. My suffering in this life has really been quite limited, and I know many people even now who are facing far greater hardships than I have ever encountered. That being said, we all know what it's like to deal with simply the inner struggles of doubt, disappointed hopes, painful relationships, injustices, and so much more.

I recently heard a conference breakout session by Elyse Fitzpatrick, in which she talked about the loneliness that seems to envelop us, particularly women. Despite leading busier lives than ever before, filled with relationships and responsibilities, bring up the word "loneliness" and most women find that it resonates with some type of inner discomfort they've experienced.

Whatever our hardships are - broken relationships, fearful and anxious thoughts plaguing our sleepless nights, long unanswered prayers, or overlooked apologies - we are still meant to turn in rejoicing to the One who took our place, being slain on our behalf. When we focus on what seems to be taken away from us, we must consider the One who had everything taken from Him - even fellowship with His Heavenly Father - all so we could be rescued! When we reflect on this, it is then that we can praise Him. It is in these meditations that we can bless His name and worship Him most purely.

Here are a few lines from the song:

Though You slay me, yet I will praise You
Though You take from me, I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me, still I will worship
Sing a song to the One who's all I need

Friday, April 12, 2013

Satan's campaign waged in the abortion clinics

One of my favorite sermons that I return to over and over when interacting on issues like abortion and homosexuality is from Dr. John MacArthur, entitled, Abortion and the Campaign for Immorality. In it, Dr. MacArthur lays out a pivotal case for why we can identify the agenda of pro-abortion movements as being a campaign for evil.

It is this evil campaign that we see in our current media outlets and the justice system. The same groups wanting us to jump on their bandwagons for civil rights and helping the starving in Africa, are the same ones wanting to bind our mouths shut and turn a blind eye to the wailing screams of those precious babies who are being torn to pieces coming from their mother’s wombs! Dr. MacArthur says, “To me it is ironic that those who pride themselves on defending the rights of the weak, murder them in the womb when they are the most weak. What kind of hypocrisy if that? Self-congratulating pseudo-humanitarians advocate a deadly force of violence unleashed against infants that makes the Nazi Holocaust look mild by comparison.”

He goes on to quote Planned Parenthood as claiming that unwanted pregnancy has essentially become a sexually transmitted disease. This debased mindset of our current culture has resulted in a demand for an instantaneous “solution” to this “disease” – those who find themselves in this predicament, as well as those who service such clients, believe that there should be a quick, relatively painless and simple method by which they can rid themselves of it and get right back to the daily grind as usual.

How have we come this far? And who is the author of this despicable movement? The liberal culture? The media? The legal entities that first pursued the Roe v. Wade case decades ago? No, the author of all evil is Satan. Dr. MacArthur says, “We just have to go back and understand that Satan is a murderer from the beginning, right? This is a satanic thing. He is the father of lies and he’s the father of murder…Satan particularly goes after babies. He did in Moses’ day; he did in Jesus’ day. He wanted to kill all the young children in Egypt because of the fear that a deliverer would come.”

Where do we find encouragement and hope amidst such darkness? Of course, in God’s Word, but to be more specific, we anchor our soul’s hope in knowing that all will be set right when Christ returns for His Bride! This doesn’t mean that we ignore what is happening or lie down in defeat, but it does mold our thinking and our interactions with those we have opportunity to influence on such topics. While the horrors of the Gosnell case are alarming and we ought to bring attention to it, the greater horror is that so many remain without Christ.

We are often very quick to speak up on issues of morality, such as abortion, homosexuality, pornography, etc. We even devote an entire day to spearheading our efforts in unison with the hope that others may realize what a devastating occurrence takes place each time a young woman enters an abortion clinic. These are noble and helpful things. More importantly, though, we must call those who remain in darkness to the healing and merciful light of Christ Jesus.

Kermit Gosnell needs a savior, and so do the thousands of people who work in such places, as well as the patients who must often be divided in their hearts at what they are doing. Satan has captured their hearts and overtaken their minds with the deceptions of hatred and murder. In love, we must share with them that this does not have to be. Again, Dr. MacArthur provides some gentle relief here, stating, “Can murder be forgiven? Ask the apostle Paul. He was a murderer and a blasphemer and he found grace. There’s forgiveness and restoration completely available in Christ.”

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Garments far better than we can make for ourselves

I do not know how to sew (yet), but I have several friends who are quite talented at creating skirts, pillows, and other such wonderful items! I often envy their ability to do the family mending and be able to make beautiful baby shower gifts for others. One thing I have learned, however, in talking with these friends about their various sewing projects, is that many times the end product is not what they actually planned on when they started. Maybe they had to simplify it when they realized all the intricacies that were in the original pattern. It is possible that after a fitting, adjustments had to be made which altered the character of the piece. Sometimes this can be disappointing to the seamstress, as she had big dreams of the result and spent hours plotting out the design - all to have it literally "unravel" in the end!

This morning, as I was reading a devotional by Charles Spurgeon at 5:00am because I could not get back to sleep, I thought about this analogy to sewing. In reflecting on Matthew 6:30, Spurgeon says this: "He who made man so that when he had sinned he needed garments, also in mercy supplied him with them; and those which the Lord gave to our first parents were far better than those they made for themselves." Anything we ever make for ourselves will not even come close to what God can and does create for us! All our anxieties and plans have no place in the Lord's kingdom.

I have been plagued by sleepless night recently as I often indulge sinful anxiety over what the future holds for my life. I moved away last year to try and pursue opportunities for full-time ministry, and after six months of relying on my parents for income, it was time to come home. Though there were many hopeful jobs I encountered, they were all either part-time or unreliable enough that I could not continue there. In my mid-thirties, I came home ready to "give up" in a sense my dreams, and settled on going back to school (again!) to get my RN license and become a nurse. Long story short, I just found out in recent weeks that despite already having bachelor's and master's degrees, my admittance to the program will be based solely on a GPA of just my nursing-related classes, which is solid but definitely not at the top of the applicants. So all the hard work I put in to get my degrees and graduate with honors will not really be considered and there is a good possibility I will not get accepted. Let the anxiety begin! Anyone who knows me well, knows this has often been a weakness in my life, and every time I think I have conquered it, the Lord reminds me that it will only be permanently conquered as I look to Him in faith and seek His kingdom first. All the things that may be "added unto me" may not be exactly what I was thinking.

Therein lies the problem. We quote verses like "Seek first" in Matthew 6:33 and "delight in the Lord" in Psalm 37:4 and use them as a blanket confirmation that if we simply seek and delight, we will get what we want. However, sometimes what we want is not always what brings God the most glory. Many times, He is glorified in us as we conform our hearts and minds into alignment with His. And this is where the rub is - we end up stomping our feet so to speak in a refusal to do it HIS way. For me, this means my mind spirals out of control considering things like - "how will I make a living?" "what will people think if I tried something else and then don't do it?" "why can't I find a job where I can use my abilities and gifts, but still provide for myself?"

Spurgeon may have written his devotional about trusting the Lord to clothe us, but it is easy to see that the application can be made for any provision we are seeking. Right now, I am concerned about the "garments" of my future - a job, a husband, children, security, income, ministry, so many things! My sin makes me need a different garment - one that can only be provided fully in Christ. And because the Father so graciously provides that garment, who am I to say back to Him, "well this isn't what I had in mind"? Like Spurgeon's words, I must remind myself that His garments will be much better than anything I could make for myself. When I consider many of the great missionaries and others who gave their lives in ministry to the Lord, submitting to whatever He called them to, I am reminded that it was not typically what they had first imagined themselves doing. God had a better plan and in time, He revealed it by hemming in their ways.

I am planning to learn how to sew very soon - I hope! Someone gave me a very nice sewing machine a while back and there are a number of women in my church who would be happy to teach me. Maybe this means I will be able to approach it with a different attitude now, realizing that my creations probably will not turn out how I originally planned, and that will be OK. In a favorite biography of Robert Murray M'Cheyne, he was quoted as saying: "It has always been my aim, and it is my prayer, to have no plans with regard to myself, well assured as I am, that the place where the Savior sees meet to place me must ever be the best place for me."