Friday, May 30, 2014

Your Simple Job

A theme that keeps coming up for me this week as I read other blogs, journals, talk with friends, and do my "She Reads Truth" Bible Study on the book of Nehemiah is work. What has been interesting to me is how over and over again, the same message regarding work has emerged: Your simple job is a holy job. You don't need to go do something "radical" (in today's globally mission-minded sense) to be "working" for Christ. Whatever you are doing, right now, right where you're at is being used for holy purposes, and is therefore "radical" just by your obedience to get the work done.

In The Message (a paraphrased version of the Bible), Eugene Peterson states in the introduction to the book of Nehemiah: "It is common for us to refer to the work of pastors, priests, and missionaries, as "sacred," and that of lawyers, farmers, and engineers, as "secular." It is also wrong. Work, by its very nature, is holy. The biblical story is dominated by people who have jobs in gardening, shepherding, the military, politics, carpentry, tent making, homemaking, fishing, and more..."

In Nehemiah chapter 3 there is a list...a long list of the many helpers that helped repair the walls of Jerusalem. Name after name after name appears and then, next to each name, the job each person helped to complete. Chapter 3:15 states:"Shallun the son of Col-Hozeh, leader of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate; he built it, covered it, hung its doors with its bolts and bars, and repaired the wall of the Pool of Shelah by the King’s Garden, as far as the stairs that go down from the City of David." The description seems tedious and insignificant, especially after reading so many other names and jobs listed beforehand. But day 4 of the "She Reads Truth" study in Nehemiah had this to say about his "insignificant" work:

Can I tell you a little secret about one of these builders that may shed some light for us? Did you notice Shallum, in verse 15? He’s just one of the dozens listed, but he repaired the wall of the Pool of Shelah. No biggie, right? Well, it is actually a huge deal. It’s one man, sacrificing his time and effort to rebuild his community because of the larger vision at stake. But there’s more to the story there.
In John 9, they’re calling this pool “Siloam,” but don’t be confused – it’s the very same one. This time, we’re there hundreds of years later with Jesus – as He heals a blind man, declaring His divinity in miracle form. Then in Acts 3, in the very same place, Peter heals a man who has never walked. THIS is an important place, right?
Could it be that the section of the wall God has given you is important for your sanctification and His Glory today, but that He might also have an eternal plan for the work you’re doing? 

My job right now is being a full-time, stay-at-home, homeschooling mother to four young children. I spend a lot of time slicing fruit, folding laundry, wiping bottoms, and breaking up fights. In other people's eyes, it is a much less glamorous or praise-worthy job than say a fireman who rescues people from burning buildings, or a surgeon who saves life after life on an operating table. But who really knows the eternal impact of my job?! Who will my children become? And their children? And their children's children? And if I don't do my job well, meet their physical and emotional needs, train them up in the truth, and teach them about the Lord, how could that affect all of those future generations?! My obedience and commitment to doing my job well truly does matter.  Neglecting my job or failing to recognize its eternal purposes is like tossing a lit match into a dry field. Who knows how far that fire will spread or the (generational) destruction that may come from such a seemingly tiny spark? 

Sometimes we feel like we need to be "out there" making a difference. But we can be obedient to Christ in any job, even at home: "God sanctifies our work. Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Clothe the naked. Hey! I do that everyday! Who knew that I could be completing the corporal works of mercy right in my own home?" (from the article "Asking for a drink", Soul Gardening, A Mother's Journal). As a mother, your acts of mercy (feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked,) may right now just be referring to your very own children, but the truth is, they are His children. And ultimately, what you do for them, you do for Christ. ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40.

Your work is important. Your work is holy. It has eternal purposes and affects eternal souls. No matter what your current job is, "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men." Colossians 3:23.

Because hundreds of years from now, miracles may happen at your wall. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

"...think about these things."

In January I decided to take a break from Facebook as part of my New Year's Resolutions to simplify my life. Amazingly (for me) I actually did go three entire months without ever logging in. Then, just a few weeks ago, I thought, "Oh, I'll just start sending one or two photos from Instagram to Facebook for all of my non-Instagram friends to see." That led (of course) to comments, and messages, and once again being lured into the Facebook trap. One of the main reasons I initially left Facebook was because I was just so tired of reading and seeing lies. Tired of reading about all the ways this world has forsaken the Truth. Tired of people reveling in their sin. And I'm one of those people that can't just "see" that stuff. My beliefs force me to confront those lies. To speak the truth in love. But sadly, Facebook doesn't want to hear it. I'd quote a Bible verse or share a Biblical view on something and immediately be labeled "aggressive", "condescending", "hurtful", "intolerant" or "ignorant." Now even though it was disheartening to be called names by people who I know are unbelievers, the worst part is that most of these comments came from people I grew up with, went to Christian school with, and who profess to be Christians.

Same sex marriage was the hot topic last night. And I had "Christian" after "Christian" telling me that I was being hurtful by calling it a perversion or a sin. I was told that it was okay for me to have my own "opinion", but not to ever, EVER try to convince anyone that my opinion was in fact truth or the only way to interpret things.

But the Bible says it is a sin, and that we are born in sin. In Genesis 19, and Leviticus 18:22, and Leviticus 20:13, and I Kings 14 and 15, and Romans 1:18-32, and I Corinthians 6:9-11, and I Timothy 1:8-10, and Jude 7. Homosexual sex, like any other form of sexual immorality (or sexual contact outside of a God-defined marriage) is a sin. It may not be a popular viewpoint today, but it is what the Bible teaches. And if you believe that the Bible is God-inspired, infallible, and supremely authoritative, then you cannot ignore these passages.

God designed marriage in the garden of Eden between a man and a woman. Marriage is a physical representation of Christ's relationship to His bride, the Church. It is also meant to be a union that produces children. Genesis 1:27-28, "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Again, to Noah, God says in Genesis 9:7, "And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”

What our culture is trying to do, is "divorce" marriage from its God-given function. Even without same-sex marriage, culturally we have lost the beauty of what God intended marriage to be, of what it was designed to represent. Marriage has become all about "me", about "my rights", and "my happiness" about "equality". And that is why divorce, broken homes, and now same-sex marriage is rampant, even in the church. There is a lie in our culture that "Jesus loves everyone and everything." That Jesus would never tell someone what to do or ask them to stop sinning. That is not the truth. Jesus said to sinners: "Go now and leave your life of sin." John 8:11. Jesus was perfect. He was Holy. He was God. And a holy, perfect, God cannot love sin. In fact, Jesus' message was so radical, so UN-popular, that it got him crucified. He didn't come to condone sin, He came to die for it. It was SIN that nailed him to that cross. And it was real love.

The truth though, is that Jesus died for EVERY type of sin. Anger, murder, pride, lying, stealing, and every single type of sexual immorality (lust, adultery, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, rape, etc.). But for Christ's blood to atone for your sin, you have to confess it. You have to acknowledge sin as sin! If it isn't sin, then Christ didn't need to die for it, and you don't need a Savior.

Romans 3:23 states that: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

And Romans 3:11-18 reveal what our sin looks like:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
    they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Romans 6:23 teaches us about the consequences of sin: "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

And how do we obtain that gift?  "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved... For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:9, 13

Christ died for our sins. Every single type, and every single one. If we confess our sin and our need for a savior, and if we confess that Jesus is Lord, we are free from sin and will have eternal life. (John 3:16).  But if we let a secular worldview or even what is "legal" influence what we believe is "right" or "wrong" instead of what the Bible SAYS is right and wrong, we make ourselves vulnerable to believing that we are without sin. "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." I John 1:8.

Tonight I have again decided to leave Facebook. This time for good. And this time, it isn't just to simplify my life. It isn't even to avoid conflict with people who think differently than me. I can handle that even though I don't like it. No, this time I am leaving Facebook because I don't believe that the amount of time I spend reading about the world's lies and sin and trying to argue the truth should outweigh the time I spend focusing on Christ.

Philippians 4:8 says: 

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." 

Those aren't the things on Facebook. So I am done.

The ironic truth is that I wasn't arguing my points to shame people or judge people or in any way claim to be better than the worst sinner on Earth. I am that sinner. It was my sin - MY SIN - that nailed my king to that cross. He died for me. My pride. My lies. My anger. My lust. I just desperately want others to see that without Christ, there is only death. Physical death and spiritual death. And the only true "equality" is the fact that we are all equal in our sin at the foot of the cross

Thursday, May 15, 2014

On Their 5th Birthday...Why We Have Chosen to Let God Be Our Birth Control-er

DISCLAIMER - I am not speaking here to the "general public" but to people who profess Christ and the authority of the Bible in their lives. I have already received one very rude comment from a non-Christian, but I am not addressing non-Christians here or expecting them to act Biblically in the area of fertility. I am also not trying to tell anyone what to do, but am trying to encourage fellow believers to seek Christ in this area of their life rather than mainstream culture (or even mainstream Christian culture which I believe has been heavily influenced by our secular culture in this area). My husband and I have been heavily convicted by Christ in this area of our lives, and I am simply trying to share our story and convictions with a genuine heart. It took someone else stepping out boldly and sharing this with me to send me searching through the scriptures, and I hope to do the same for someone else.***

Five years ago today I was lying in a hospital. Three tiny babies had just entered the world 13 weeks early and each weighing about the same as a 2lb sack of sugar. For the first two years of our marriage, my husband and I had used the birth control pill to prevent pregnancy. Actually, I had run to the nurses station on campus practically the minute Robert proposed to me between my first and second year of grad school. I didn't even think about it. I was getting married! It was time to go on the pill! For two years I took it faithfully. Never really even thinking about not taking it. That's just what you do, right? You prevent babies for a few years so you can have fun, "enjoy" each other, make money, buy a house. And the world (and most Christians and family members) encourage this pursuit. It's rare to have a mother/brother/aunt/cousin encouraging the opposite. I don't think I had ever heard ANYONE wish a pair of newlyweds "May you be blessed with many children!" or "Good luck conceiving on your honeymoon!" I bought into the whole scene. I thought it was good for us to be "alone" for a few years, but is that in any way Biblical? God's command to Adam and Eve was to "be fruitful and multiply" (Gen 1:28), not "focus on yourselves for a few years. Do what you want. Make lots of money, and when you're ready, have 1.3 children and call it good so you minimize parenting time and can get back to having fun much sooner!" It sounds ridiculous coming from why do we accept it coming from the world?!

Two years later we felt "ready" to have children. I stopped taking the pill and was just sure I'd be pregnant in no time! A month went by. Then another. Then a few more. Then it had been half a year. 9 months. When the one year mark of not taking the pill came and went, I got worried. Not to mention I was super sad and it felt like everyone around me was getting pregnant with more and more pregnancy announcements being made practically each week. Oh, the irony. I had taken a pill for two years to prevent the very thing I was now so desperate for. So again, without consulting God, we took charge and headed to the doctor's office to "get me pregnant". I begged my family medicine doctor to write me a prescription for Clomid. I had been charting my temperatures and monitoring my cycles, and I knew that since going off of birth control a year prior, my body had never resumed ovulation. I needed a drug to kickstart those ovaries. And kickstart it did! I took ONE dose of Clomid (a pill you take by mouth for 3 days in a row) and BAM. Not only pregnant...but what did my wonderful new OB see there on the ultrasound screen? Several tiny black amniotic sacs. "Um, it may just be the way I'm looking at this..." he began nervously "or you might be pregnant with twins." I sat up on my elbows, and squinted my eyes trying to look even more closely at the grey grainy image. Then I saw not two...but three. "What's that third thing?" I asked. We'd know a few months later...that was Grace:)

The first few years of having triplets was a blur. I never went back on the pill (yuck. I don't want something messing up my cycles like that ever again!) but I had read the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, and I knew when to "avoid relations" so to speak to prevent pregnancy naturally. But around the time the triplets were two years old, God started putting people, blogs, and books on my path that all pointed me in a different direction. In His direction. It was radical (well, only in the sense that it was totally different than everything everyone else was doing!). But it made sense. It made so much sense and suddenly it felt like scales had fallen off my eyes and I could see things in a whole new (beautiful) way. God says children are a blessing. God blessed so many people throughout the Bible by giving them children or by promising them innumerable descendants. But even deeper than that: What about trusting God? Why do we feel this need to (try to) control our fertility? Didn't the creator of the universe create our bodies? We trust Him (or should trust Him) with our finances, our health, our safety, our children (already born), so why would we deviate suddenly and withhold our trust in the area of our fertility? Did God make a mistake? Did He not design our bodies "properly" and needs our help??? I think the biggest myth out there is that if we trust God with our fertility, we'll all end up with 20 children. That just isn't true. First of all, a women's fertility is limited. It begins around 12 years old (give or take) and ends around 50 (again, give or take). That's, on average, 38 years that a woman can conceive - it's not like she'll keep having babies forever. Take into account exclusive breastfeeding (I breastfed Abigail exclusively and did not resume a monthly cycle until she was 18 months old!) and a woman would, on average, have a child every 2-3 years (that seems like pretty gracious "spacing" to me, especially since I started with three at once!). Yes, some women like Michelle Duggar who got married very young and has had several sets of twins, do have almost 20 children. But I know women who have given this area to God who ended up with only 9. Or 7. Or who currently have four and would give anything for another sweet baby but year after year no baby comes. I know women who have miscarried child after child. I know women who have looked to God with open arms but a first baby never comes. Trusting God with your fertility does NOT guarantee 20 children. In fact it doesn't guarantee ANY children. It means you trust Him whether he gives you 20, 5, 1, or 0. But you let HIM decide. You stop trying to control it. You stop thinking you know better than God. 

As Christians, God has commanded that we "be fruitful and multiply", that we "fill the earth and subdue it." The best way to do this is by having children and raising them for Christ. The church exerts so much effort and money trying to gain followers or "grow the church" by adding newcomers, but have we missed the most obvious growth tool? Have children! If believers took God at his word and were fruitful and actually "multiplied" the church would be growing exponentially from the inside out! Our nation is in a state of serious moral decline and has strayed so far from what our Christian forefathers intended for this "One nation, under God" and yet, have we done it to ourselves? When we stopped obeying God and started cutting off his blessings (preventing children or reducing family size), Christians became a minority. You know how we can change this nation and stir up a revival that leads people back to Christ? We can have children. We can see them as the true blessings that they are and we can welcome them into our homes and our churches! 

Did you know that if a couple has 2 children and each of their children continues to have 2 children for the next 10 generations, that produces 1024 descendants. But if that same couple had 4 children, and each of their children had 4 children, in that same amount of time (10 generations), that number would be 1,048,576. Yes, you read that right...over a MILLION. The number doesn't grow linearly, it grows EXPONENTIALLY. If Christians heeded God's word and were fruitful, and multiplied, we could make a HUGE difference in our culture in just a few generations' time. Imagine what a couple having 6 children would produce...or 8...or 10! And if we truly believe God's word, those children would not only bless our world, they would bless US. The sacrifices and the hard work of raising them would be completely and totally worth it. And who knows, we might just find ourselves actually enjoying having all those little people running about, making us laugh, bringing joy to our families, our churches, our communities. In fact, most of the women I know or whose testimonies I have read after they have given this area of life back to Christ actually seem to start desiring the birth of a new child more and more after each blessing is born! And I don't think I know anyone who at the end of their life wishes they would have had LESS children! It's something to at least think about, anyway. Pray about it. Don't just do what everyone else is doing because it's "common" or "easy" or "less work". God is never about those things. He has bigger plans. His word says so. 

If this concept seems totally new, radical, or mind-blowing to you (like it was to me just a couple of years ago!), there are a few books that go way more into depth on this issue. Most of these books even have a question and answer section devoted to the common questions and concerns that arise when people are first starting to think about this topic. My two favorites that I've read several times are:

Be Fruitful and Multiply by Nancy Campbell

A Full Quiver  by Rick and Jan Hess

Any of the Duggar's books are really good resources as well. They are a very Godly family and are very intentional and loving parents with some great tips for families of any size! And of course, the Bible. Both of the books listed above do a great job of walking you through God's plan for families and fertility through the Old and New Testaments with tons of scripture references that you can later look up on your own. 

"Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the childrena of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!"
Psalm 127: 3-5

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Don't Buy What the World is Selling

I loved school. I loved college, and grad school, and everything literary and academic. In fact, I thrived in that environment and whether I knew it or not, I let in more of the world's philosophies than I ever intended. And even though I went to a Christian school from kindergarten through 12th grade, went to church, had Christian friends, and thankfully was deeply rooted in the truth when I headed off to college, the world still crept in. In fact a lot of it was so "accepted" by even the Christians I knew or the church in general, that I didn't even THINK to question whether what I was doing, or accepting as right, really was! I blindly bought into what was "approved" by Christian culture hook, line, and sinker. Get a secular degree? Of course! Get a secular Master's Degree? Sure, you're so smart, rack them degrees UP girlfriend!!! Get a full-time teaching job at a secular college? Yes, how successful you are! Take birth control pills to prevent babies from "interrupting" those first fun years of marriage? Yes! Everybody's doing it!!!

I'm sure some of you are already ready with defenses of why none of those things are wrong. Because culture has SO engrained in us - even in Christians - that these things are GOOD. Education above all else! (Even if that education is coming from people who proclaim to be liberal, pro-choice, atheists, or openly oppose a biblical definition of marriage). Women can and should work work work! (Even if it means waiting to have babies, or aborting babies who come at the wrong time, or dropping your precious children off at daycare so you can earn a paycheck). But WHY do we do it? Does God want us (especially us Christian women) to work? To earn degrees? To face-off with all the other women and men out their in academia and the work force...just because we can??? There is SO. Much. Pressure on women today to "do it" just because we "can". But at what cost? Even if education and having a career are completely neutral things - why have we given them a place in our lives of such high esteem that we are willing to disobey God's commands for them or place them above our children??? Who are we ultimately trying to impress? Our parents? Our friends? Ourselves? Do we base our worth in our academic achievements? Our job title? Our paycheck? I know I did from about 15 - 25. Straight A's. Valedictorian status. Graduated from college in 3 years. Masters Degree at the age of 22. I was a Christian, but I let my accomplishments and achievements define me. It felt good. And I honestly saw nothing wrong with it. I figured, hey, I'm a pretty darn good college Spanish instructor - why wouldn't I want to share that gift with the world?!

And then I had kids. Triplets, actually. And for the first two years of their life I stayed home with them. Mainly because it was TRIPLETS and even if I had wanted to work, daycare would have cost more than what I would have made teaching Spanish! And when they turned two I actually did go back, very part-time, just to "get out" and have some "grown up time" two nights a week and "get back in the saddle" so to speak. And although it was fun and enjoyable and I made some extra money, even now just the thought of it kind of makes me sick. Not because teaching college Spanish is bad, but because I bought the lie that it's what I "needed" to be doing. That somehow teaching OTHER people's kids was somehow more important, or more worthy, than being home nurturing and "teaching" my own. That getting "paid" for my time was worth more than sitting at home nursing babies or changing diapers.

What a lie! It was about that same time that (and honestly, I can't even really remember the first thing that happened) God started putting specific people, books, blogs, and magazines in my life that RADICALLY changed my opinion on these things. Actually, it wasn't so much that my opinions "changed" as much as I had never even really thought them through! I had just accepted the status quo without ever really consulting God's word! Just because a million people (and I hate to say it - Christians) use birth control...does that make it okay? Can I really say "God, I trust you in every area of my life, BUT....I think I'll take the reigns on this one, thank you very much! I know better than you do the perfect number of children and the perfect spacing between them!" Just because many, many, many Christian women choose to work full-time, does that make it right? Is that pleasing to God even though we justify our disobedience with worldly-accepted answers like "we can't afford for me not to work" or "I'm a better mom when I'm fulfilled in my career." Our God-given job as parents isn't to buy our kids fancy clothes, or make sure they get into the best preschool, or even to have a fancy house for them to live in. Our job is to teach those children about the ways of God. All day. Every day. "You shall teach them diligently to your sons 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 up." (Deuteronomy 6:7). The world may tell you you need to work, or get another degree, but God calls Christian women to teach their children about Him. Not teachers. Not Sunday school teachers or your pastor. You. You blessed, lucky, mama who has the precious gift of a child. 

Just this week a woman I now follow on Instagram lost her young son. In the blink of an eye her life is forever changed. Her precious red-headed little boy ran into the street after a frisbee and was hit by a truck. Do you think that mama cares at all about her education or career right now? I'm sure that boy meant everything to her and that she'd give it all up in a heartbeat to hold him again. As horrible and painful as his death is, let it remind us of the precious gift that a child is. The world doesn't love children. They see them as nuisances. Interruptions. Marriage-ruiners. Career-destroyers. Just look at the billions of dollars spent on birth control and abortions if you don't believe me. All in the name of preventing children. 

As Christians, we are called to a different way. The way we live SHOULD look different than the world. If it doesn't, there is probably something seriously wrong! I am not trying to condemn anyone. Honestly, up until two years ago...that was ME. I hadn't even CONSIDERED these things! The world had done such a good job of blinding me to the truth (and that truth felt RIGHT), that I was totally and completely unaware of these things! I am so thankful to God that he slowly started opening my eyes to His better plan. So, on this Mother's Day, I encourage you to seek Christ's plan for your life as a Christian wife and mother. Stop listening to the world. Stop listening to your Christian friends (who may be listening to the world). Stop even letting what "feels right" dictate where you find your worth and success. Christ's plan is so much bigger. So much fuller than anything the world can ever give. His plan for women is so much more beautiful than the lies and false promises this world offers. Being a mother is the greatest blessing of my life. Nothing the world has to offer can even compete with my new "job". But I want to give it my all. I want to give it my best. And the only education I need for that, is the word of God. 

*            *           *

Some of the resources that "coincidentally" started falling in my lap when God began opening my heart to His word and its plan for Motherhood are:

Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. One of my favorite Christian authors. I also absolutely love her radio show "Revive Our Hearts" and try to listen to it every morning!

Above Rubies (sign up for their free magazine - it is full of such great stories and photos of Godly families. I literally squeal with delight each time it arrives in the mail!)

A Love That Multiplies  by the Duggars. I had never seen the show, and of course thought they were crazy. And then I read a few of their books. 2 kids or 20, the Duggars are doing it right and are some of the godliest parents I "know". 

Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions? by Randy Alcorn. I had no idea. And you can get the kindle version for just $1.99. By the way, he's one of my favorite Christian authors.

A Full Quiver by Rick and Jan Hess. Such a great book! I've read this one cover to cover several times. Full of Bible verses, history, science, and humor!

The Way Home by Mary Pride. See just how much "feminism" has influenced the church and how wrong we've gone. 

Family UNplanning