Elizabeth George on Getting First Things First

Elizabeth George on Getting First Things First One of the interesting things about The Art of Homemaking conference was that most of the sessions were less about homemaking and more about our hearts as homemakers. I was very grateful to see each of the speakers emphasize our heart attitudes because this is truly where ministry to our families flows from. It was a great reminder to get first things first–to prioritize the spiritual over the physical.

Elizabeth George was one of the fist female authors I was introduced to as a new Christian. Her book A Woman After God’s Own Heart has had a tremendous impact on my life and I am sure many of you could say the same. This was the second time that I have been able to sit under her teaching and as always, her joyful, sweet spirit seemed to exude from the pulpit where she stood.

The hallmark of Elizabeth’s ministry has been the phrase “a woman after God’s own heart” which she takes from Acts 13 where Paul recounts God’s description of David as being “a man after my heart, who will do all my will.” Early on in her Christian life, Elizabeth was struck by this description of David and desired for the same to be able to be said of her. Since then she has filled numerous books by fleshing out what this heart attitude looks like for women in all stages of life.

Last weekend, in typical Elizabeth George fashion, she encouraged the women of the conference to make God the first priority in their homemaking with on simple challenge: meet with God each morning.

It is simple, but oh so hard to implement isn’t it? The excuses I could make to not come to the Lord first thing in the morning are numerous: I have three little ones who need me immediately (much more than God does!); I recently started homeschooling the oldest which has been much more time consuming (as well as wonderful!) than I ever imagined; the laundry is never done; the house is never spotless; I have this blog that I like to write at…. You get the picture. And yet, what is life–what is the point of all of these activities–if they are not grounded in and fueled by a vibrant relationship with the Lord?

Elizabeth reminded her audience that we can only live as women after God’s own heart one day at a time–each morning is a new opportunity to praise him and make much of his gospel. Keeping this in mind, she challenged us to start every day with him, so that we can live every day with him. You see, we can easily hop into the first task on my list for the day without every meeting with the Lord, but in doing this we deny ourselves the grace made available to us through his word and prayer.

This point was hilariously made as Elizabeth shared her temptation as a new believer (at the time she was a young mother) to put her quiet time off until the end of the day. Just before going to sleep she would read her Bible and pray and feel very encouraged in her faith, viewing things through the lens of Scripture. She benefited immensely in that short time before her head hit the pillow and she drifted off into dream land. Then the next morning she would quickly begin her day in her own strength, trying desperately to minister to her family well. The time she had spent with the Lord the previous night had little benefit on her day because an entire night had passed. She would drift off to sleep each night with a godly attitude, but struggle throughout the next day to keep Christ central to her thinking. Soon she realized the importance of starting her day off with sweet fellowship with the Lord so that it would have more of an influence on the rest of her day.

It takes a great deal of motivation to be able to meet with the Lord first thing each morning (especially when you have to beat the little ones up!), but Elizabeth had this encouragement from Jesus to give us:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5, ESV)

This is indeed motivating isn’t it? We can do NOTHING without relying on Christ. And what better way to exercise our dependence on him than seeking him each day in the Word and fellowshipping with him in prayer before we ever attempt to minister to others? In this way, spending time with the Lord first thing isn’t a mere discipline, it is an expression of the heart which communicates our utter dependence upon him. It is an admission that we need for him to infuse us with his strength–as Elizabeth phrased it–to be able to accomplish any good work. This is the fruit of the gospel. This is what Christ won for us on calvary and yet how often we do not draw from the well of nourishment our souls crave!

Lord, let us be women who seek you first and who have much to share with others as a result!

How Michelle Duggar Relies on the Grace of God

Last weekend I had the joy of attending The Art of Homemaking Conference with several of my friends here in Fort Worth, TX. I even had the opportunity to meet Amy, the winner of the book/conference giveaway that took place here, at Desiring Virtue, in June. She flew in all the way from Indiana to spend time with family and be encouraged through the conference in her role as a homemaker! What a joy it was to meet and spend time with her, challenging one another to view our ministries as expressions of the gospel!

While the entire conference was encouraging (can you imagine over 1,000 women there to focus on homemaking?!), I would have to say that Michelle Duggar and Elizabeth George were my favorite speakers of the weekend. Today I would like to share some of what encouraged me from Michelle, and on Friday I will post about Elizabeth George’s session.

First of all, let me just say that this was my first time to see Michelle Duggar in person. I was very impressed by her gentle and quiet demeanor. She is EXACTLY the way the TLC reality show presents her: quiet, joyful, honest, and humble. It was a pleasure to hear her speak on homemaking and motherhood. Who couldn’t use a little advice from a mom who manages a home of 21? Wait, is it 22? 23? You get my point.

As she quietly took the stage the auditorium hushed in anticipation of all the wisdom she would be able to share, but Michelle quickly expressed that all she had to offer was the advice that others had passed on to her as well as what personally works for their large family. She humbly emphasized that she isn’t a super mom and she doesn’t get everything right. She illustrated her need for the grace of God in two very moving stories:

The Joy of the Lord

The first story was from early on in her life as a mother when she felt completely overwhelmed with the responsibilities she carried as a mom. In all of the stresses of the day, in a dark laundry room with tasks mounting and little ones needing her, she began to cry in desperation, wondering if she could make it as a mother. She wondered how she could possibly be faithful to teach and care for her little ones in a way that honors the Lord when she felt so frail and weak. It was in that desperate moment that God reminded her of 2 Corinthians 12:9 and it as been her anchor ever since:

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, ESV)

From that moment on Michelle decided to rely upon the grace of God for the ability to minister to her growing family rather than her own strength. At this point in her message, she took the opportunity to emphasize that while God has not changed her circumstances (if anything he has made them more stressful!) he has changed her heart. He has taught her to allow his joy to be her strength rather than being swept away in the storms of stress that quite literally swirl around her!

Learning Self-Control

The second story Michelle shared was of another turning point in her parenting. It was still relatively early on in her life as a mom when the Lord worked through their regular homeschool Bible time to reveal a particular sin to her. Now, if you have ever watched an episode of 19 Kids and Counting, you will probably find it hard to imagine Michelle ever reacting in anger toward her children’s disobedience, but she shared with us that as they talked about Proverbs 15:1 (“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”) the Lord brought a heavy sense of conviction to her.

Like most mothers of little ones, her days provided many opportunities to respond in anger toward her children. She realized that she had not been practicing self-control toward her children in this area and broke down with tears in front of them. Michelle took the opportunity to repent and asked her children for their forgiveness, assuring them that she would make every effort in the future to respond to them in gentleness and grace.

This of course cannot be accomplished apart from God’s enabling grace. As she had already shared, the same stressful, irritating, and sometimes enraging circumstances that provide opportunities to sin occurred in her life on a regular basis. Michelle would have to daily–and sometimes minute by minute–make a conscious effort to submit her emotions to the Lord’s reign and ask him for the strength she would need to speak gently and quietly to her children. As countless people have witnessed through the Duggars’ TV show, the Lord has certainly been faithful to provide Michelle with the grace necessary to maintain this soft spirit toward her children!

These two stories were very encouraging to me as they revealed a side of Michelle’s life that the cameras don’t always capture: her utter reliance upon the Lord’s power for everyday life. It was a great reminder that even the most “successful” of moms must seek her strength from the Savior! May we all be women who echo with Michelle: “The joy of the Lord is our strength.”

On Friday I look forward to sharing some of the key lessons I learned from Elizabeth George’s message.

Book Review: Fit to Burst

Fit to Burst by Rachel Jankovic“If you are like me, then motherhood may be the first time you were really tested in the business of laying down your life. I am not saying I never did anything hard before I became a mother, but motherhood is different. For one, most other challenges that I had experience with ended. Motherhood is not just a job, it is an identity. More importantly, it is an identity that begins and ends with giving.” (Rachel Jankovic, Fit to Burst)

There are a lot of mothering books out there. Many of them promise commiseration, practical help, vision, or encouragement, but few of them offer all of the above in short, 3-5 page chapters that a mom of little kids will actually have time to read and savor. Fit to Burst: Abundance, Mayhem, and the Joys of Motherhood does just that. Each chapter is barely longer than a blog post, but filled with the wisdom and wit we have all come expect in Rachel Jankovic’s writing. It is good that the chapters are short, because their depth demands lengthy contemplation and let’s face it, someone in our home is peeing in a bathroom waste basket and in moments we will have to decide whether said basket will be cleaned or chucked. Wait, is that just in my home? In any case, I’m sure that every mom with little ones will appreciate not only the short chapters, but most importantly the insightful words within them!

Like Jankovic’s first book, Loving the Little Years, her follow up, Fit to Burst, is filled with chapter after chapter of encouragement for mothers of young children. By encouragement I don’t mean the “You’re doing great! Don’t be so hard on yourself! You’ve got this!” kind of encouragement, but the “Yeah, I know it is incredibly tough. I’m right there with you; let’s seek the Savior’s wisdom together!” kind of encouragement. This is exactly what makes Jankovic’s writing so powerful. She comes to you as a fellow warrior in the battlefield of motherhood, but doesn’t spend too much time commiserating with us over the power of the enemy and his weapons. Instead, she challenges the soldiers around her to take up the arms given to them by the Victor and to faithfully wage war with the strength he provides. While she challenges mothers to “get down to business” so to speak, she never implies that this should be attempted apart from the grace of God. Quite the opposite actually:

But His blood will change you. When Jesus is all, things happen. When you believe to your core that you are forgiven and loved, one of the first things that happens is you start doing things. Fruit is intimately connected with forgiveness. When we are forgiven, we do not gallop out into a life of ambiguity and indifference. We do not become great negotiators of whether or not it matters that we aren’t doing things. We become filled with gratitude, love, joy, and peace. And then, having a firm foundation of another’s righteousness, we are free to go out and do.

In many ways I feel as though Jankovic’s writing serves an integral purpose in the lives of Christian women. Blogs and books focusing on gospel-centered living and grace-filled thinking are (praise God!) becoming more and more available to women who have been inundated for years with list-driven Christianity. Jankovic skillfully brings the doctrinal truths of the gospel into the real world of mothers who are struggling to understand their glorious calling in the midst of dirty diapers, meal preparation, sibling squabbles, loads of laundry and overall feelings of hopelessness. Each chapter of Fit to Burst brings the glorious realities of the Kingdom of God to bear on the everyday lives of mothers. As we read, we are forced to deal with sinful thought patterns and expectations that we never realized where there; we gain a better understanding of the real battles being waged in our hearts; and we are given hope to overcome through our powerful, sovereign King. Her books are real, biblical, challenging, and invigorating. I would highly recommend both of them–Loving the Little Years and Fit to Burst–to all of my readers. If you are a mom of little ones or know a mom who could use some biblical encouragement, don’t hesitate to draw from these excellent resources.

You can purchase Fit to Burst: Abundance, Mayhem, and the Joys of Motherhood here on Amazon. I also highly recommend visiting FeminaGirls.com where Jankovic, her sisters and her mother regularly serve up thoughtful and helpful articles for women in all stages of life.

Bite-size Theology: God’s Unchangeableness

God's Unchangeableness

“In virtue of this attribute, He is exalted above all becoming…” (Louis Berkhof)

As we continue on in our Bite-size Theology series, we find ourselves in the middle of what are known as the “incommunicable attributes” of God. These are the attributes he does not share in common with humanity. In short, they are the qualities that make him substantially different from all of his creation. Last week we stopped to consider how God is independent of his creation and has no inherent need for anything.

Today, we focus on a very closely related attribute: God’s unchangeableness. While God’s independence describes his self-sufficiency, his unchangeableness (also referred to as his immutability) describes how this self-sufficient God has never, nor will ever change.

Definition

God is unchanging in that he is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

In studying God’s unchanging character, it can be helpful to focus on three different areas: God’s person, God’s purposes (i.e. plans), and God’s promises.

1.) God’s Unchanging Person:

God’s unchangeableness means that his being, essence, and character do not change in content or quality. He does not lose or gain any attributes over time, nor do any of his attributes fluctuate in quality. James 1:17 tells us that with the “Father of lights” there is “no variation or shadow due to change.”

While creation is constantly changing and being changed (just think of the ever-expanding universe!), the Creator is eternally unchanging, steady and dependable. While we humans have the ability to grow in things like knowledge and wisdom, our God has possessed these qualities in their perfection for all of eternity.

In his book The Christian Life, Michael Horton explains that while our ability to change can either mean getting better or worse, for God the ability to change would only mean becoming less perfect. Why is this? Well, if God could become better, it would mean that he wasn’t perfect to begin with. If he could get worse, then his ability to become imperfect only proves that he was never truly was perfect to begin with.

Another way to think of this would be to say that God’s total being (all of his nature and attributes) is complete and in need of nothing. Thus, the God who perfectly embodies love, justice, wisdom and knowledge has no need of growing in love, justice, wisdom or knowledge. He already possesses these attributes–and all his other attributes–in their fullness.

There are several passages of scripture that explicitly argue for this distinction between God and his creation. In Psalm 102 we see God’s unchanging character set against the temporal earth and stars–objects of our world that seem so steady and so eternal:

Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
but you are the same, and your years have no end.
(Psalm 102:25-27, ESV)

In Malachi 3:6 we see God’s unchanging character set against his people’s fickleness: “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” While the Israelites were prone to change, their God was steady, faithful and constant. For this, they had much to be thankful for!

2.) God’s Unchanging Purposes:

Due to the truth of God’s unchanging nature, we can be confident that his plans are also unchanging. In other words: what he has decided to accomplish, he will bring to pass. In regard to his unwavering purposes, Isaiah 46:9-11 says this:

for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
calling a bird of prey from the east,
the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
I have purposed, and I will do it.
(Isaiah 46:9-11, ESV)

3.) God’s Unchanging Promises:

Similarly, God’s promises–those things he has told us he will do–cannot be broken. Once again we must remember that his very character is unchanging, therefore his promises cannot go unkept. In Numbers 23:19 God says this: “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19, ESV)

Why It Matters

It is a great comfort to know that God will not–indeed, cannot–change. If it were possible for the Lord to change in character then we could never be certain of his trustworthiness. He may be loving today, but will he be loving tomorrow? He may be just today, but will he be just tomorrow? He may be sinless today, but will he be sinless tomorrow? Without the knowledge of God’s unchangeableness, we would live in a constant state of uncertainty at best and a fearful state of dread at worst. For who would not dread a God who could one day become evil?

Thankfully the Scriptures tell of a God who is unchanging in person, purposes and promises. We can count on him to be himself in all of his perfection for all of eternity, for as Paul explained to Timothy: “He cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)

Because he is unchanging, we can have confidence in all that he has promised to do. We can cling to the truths of Scripture and find hope, peace, and encouragement in them. For instance, I am reminded of the famous words of Paul in Romans 8: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39, ESV) What if we could not hold on to this precious truth of God’s unwavering love for his children? What if he could suddenly stop loving those he had promised to love? If not for the doctrine of God’s unchangeableness, we would have absolutely no guarantee that he wouldn’t.

Gospel Relevance

Is there any greater encouragement to a believer than knowing that our salvation is guaranteed by an unchanging God? As believers, we can be secure in the knowledge that God will never change his mind about forgiving us! Once we are counted righteous through the blood of Christ–once we are justified by his atoning work on the cross–we are forever righteous in God’s sight. There is no turning back for this God who has chosen to set his love upon us! Consider Romans 8:38-30:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30, ESV)

You see, as an unchanging God, his plans cannot be altered and what he sets out to accomplish he will complete! So it is with you and I, dear sisters. If he has saved us, he will both keep us and sanctify us. His unchanging character will not allow anything else.

This doctrine should also cause us to faithfully preach of the gospel message to others. If God’s character can never alter, then his wrath will eternally burn against sin. Those who do not accept Christ’s atoning work on the cross will be judged for their sins. There will be no last minute change in God’s mind, therefore we must passionately preach the good news of the gospel to those who are walking toward an eternity of God’s judgement.

Talk Back and Connect:

  1. How does God’s unchangeableness affect your view of him? Can you think of a practical way this truth impacts your life?
  2. What promise that God has made to us is most dear to you? How does the fact that he cannot fail to follow through on this promise encourage your soul?

Offering the Love of God to Our Children

Credo Blog Guest Post “But I don’t know how to love!”

The statement caught my husband and I off guard. We turned our eyes away from our frustrated four year old and stared at each other in disbelief. Sometimes the most profound statements have a way of simply slipping out of the mouths of children and this was one of those moments.

The conversation had begun like many others in our home. Perhaps a toy had been taken from a sibling or a harsh word had been uttered in anger. Whatever the exact circumstance, he had once again failed to be kind to his brother, revealing an unloving heart in the process. As we often do, my husband and I took the opportunity to remind our son that loving others means being kind to them and seeking to make them happy, even if it means not getting your way. When you love someone, we reminded him, you treat them the way you would want to be treated.

It was in response to this common correction that our brilliant little theologian made his argument. And he couldn’t have been more on the money. After taking a moment to compose ourselves, my husband and I affirmed that what he said was true.

“Yes son, we know that you don’t know how to love, and that is exactly why you need Jesus so much…”

Join me at Credo Magazine where I’m sharing how Jesus can forgive and teach our children.