He Will Act {The Sovereign Hand of God in the Life of Ruth}

“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act” (Psalms 37:5).

The book of Ruth has always amazed me. Within it we find deep implications for covenant love amid physical distress. Ruth is evidence that waiting upon the Lord, trusting in his sovereignty, is not a standstill; but rather, it is a place of refuge and hope. Ruth is a beautiful example of what Psalm 37:5 looks like in the flesh. This acrostic wisdom psalm details how the patient heart that hopes in God will not be disappointed. Underneath the worst circumstances, God was acting for his people…for Ruth. 

Some background information: Naomi and her husband, Elimelech of Bethlehem, go to the country of Moab due to a famine in their land. Elimelech dies and their two sons marry Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. The two sons then die as well, leaving Naomi with no immediate familial aid. 

Naomi entreats her daughters-in-law to return to their people. She basically tells them that she is hopeless for them. She couldn’t provide them with children. God’s hand was against her she perceived. Ruth’s response is extraordinary:

“But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you” (Ruth 1:16-17).

Ruth bound herself by an oath not only to Naomi but to The Lord. She made it clear that she was willing to stick around until death parted them. I cannot imagine how difficult this must have been. Constantly being around the mother of her deceased husband, reminded of him each day…yet Ruth was apparently not guided by circumstances. She was guided by covenant love, no matter how long that kept her waiting for calm in the storm. 

Naomi wasn’t just being dramatic in 1:11-13. Life with her would be chock-full of difficult times. For Ruth, it meant going to Bethlehem with Naomi and leaving her people behind. This commitment was marked with uncertainty. Couldn’t she have returned to her people and remarried? Wouldn’t it have been easier to go back to Chemosh, the main Moabite god? All the what-ifs didn’t deter Ruth, however. She was willing. 

Her mother-in-law was grief stricken and not the ideal partner through this journey. In 1:20-21, they reach their destination and Naomi’s response to the people of Bethlehem is far from comforting. Call me Mara. That translates as bitter, which ironically is the opposite of Naomi which means pleasant. Who would want to enter into a foreign land, taking up the faith of your traveling elder, all to simply hear her exclaim that her God is actually against her? Utter confusion. Distress. The need to flee and do it quick. These would seem to be legitimate responses; however, they wouldn’t be evidence of covenant love. Ruth patiently remained.

Ruth then requests to glean in the fields of Boaz, one of the redeemers within Naomi’s family. In chapter 2, we see God sovereignly acting for Ruth as she stays committed to Naomi. The Lord was with Ruth as she patiently gleaned in the field of Boaz. I would imagine this work tedious and nerve-wrecking as one was gleaning for livelihood. Yet, Boaz takes notice of Ruth. He has heard of her faithfulness to Naomi. He ensures her that she is safe in his field and he will make sure that she is without need. Ruth worked diligently through the end of the barley and wheat harvests (2:23), remaining with her mother-in-law through her labor. God arranged these circumstances, yes for the individuals involved (revealing his faithfulness to Naomi though she assumed herself forsaken), but more than anything, to bring a Redeemer for more people than just Ruth and Naomi. 

Then we have Ruth approaching Boaz for marriage at the threshing floor. Guided by her mother-in-law’s instruction, Ruth presents herself to Boaz in the night- a daring act to say the least. She finds favor with Boaz who states that he would surely redeem her if the nearest redeemer does not do so. Ruth reports to Naomi who them responds, “wait my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today” (Ruth 3:18).

Patience. Breath in faith. God is acting

As the story continues to unfold, we see Boaz redeem Ruth. They wed and Ruth gives birth to a son. “Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him” (Ruth 4:14-15).

We truly see a “restorer of life” come from this bloodline. Not just Ruth’s immediate son, but Jesus (Matt. 1:5). God was present in all of that, acting in love and for his glory in Ruth’s immediate distress but also for the distress of all humanity.  He used a foreigner, a Moabite widow, to bring about the Messiah that would call people from every tribe and tongue unto himself. 

Through Ruth’s life, we see a patient daughter, setting her gaze on promise rather than instant gratification. We see Ruth personify a characteristic that is sparing in most: long-suffering. She didn’t wallow in the loss of her husband and believe that God had led her to a stalemate. She followed Naomi’s guidance and God acted. He did not forsake her. He was there through the waiting. He was working through the days of great grief, through the gleaning, through uncertainty. 

So with that, what does this all mean for us? Well, we are on this side of the Cross. We know what has occurred on our behalf. We read in the bible how God has acted for us in Christ. Our hope is in that. Our reward is in salvation and the promise of his return. We patiently wait in this earthly tent, making the promises of God pillars in life, and we wait…pressing on in all the mundane here and now, finding hope. Ruth shows that the things that just so happen to occur in our lives are part of a divine plan. Instead of coincidence, we see providence. We gain a theology of suffering, realizing that the Christian life is not marked by smooth-sailing. So when all of our expectations fall through, we are guided by covenant love instead. Just as God acted for Naomi and Ruth, he has acted and is acting for us. And unlike any earthly covenant, the one made with Jesus and his bride is unbreakable and unending. 

The Word of God Will Forever Trump Books About God

I have been reading a great book over the past few days. So good, in fact, I’ve been staying up burning the midnight wick to delve deeper. It’s one of those that will leave you smiling and crying in the living room as you read. It’s a marriage book to be specific. So there I was pacing around reading- reminiscing over the pursuit prior to marriage for Josh and I and then after, giggling at the author’s verbiage- then the most disappointing thing occurred. The author made a pretty bold statement and I disagreed. As this is someone I look up to theologically, I was disappointed, surprised, and discouraged to keep reading. And then it hit me.

None of us have arrived.

I say that not meaning that this author is wrong and I am right, but rather, that he is a sinner and I am a sinner and neither of us know it all. That’s for God and God alone. This isn’t a post about how we just need to succumb to the reality that we are finite and incapable of grasping it all, though that’s true to an extent. Instead, i would like to hone in on the reality that we can be greatly nourished by books about God, but nothing, I mean nothing, compares to the divine Word of God.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Did you catch that word- complete? That’s not just noteworthy. It’s HUGE. The holy Scriptures, breathed out by God Himself, are enough for us to flourish in and advance the gospel. We are not just given this buffer book when we first believe so that we can move into the meatier literature and really arrive spiritually. That’s not the case at all. The very God that breathed life into Adam and spoke and planets and stars went whirling into place has given us a book for vitality in this life. And not just to get by, but abundantly live for the glory of God.

Psalm 1 describes the way of the righteous whose “delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalms 1:2). Delight! Webster’s Dictionary defines this word as “a strong feeling of happiness” or “great pleasure or satisfaction.” Aren’t we all straining for that which brings us pleasure and satisfies our longing souls in this life? I know I am. I don’t want to try to find happiness in the lesser things. I want something that will sustain me all of my days, something that will serve as an anchor when pain and suffering rage around and within me. Psalm 1 speaks of a disciplined, joyous experience with this Book. The psalmist didn’t have all of what we have now. We have the Old and New Testaments to study, both of which echo His Name. In the Bible, we find Jesus. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Jesus is the light pointed to throughout the entire
Bible. What is God’s pleasure? Mark 1:11 tells us the answer through Jesus’ baptism, “And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” So we have this truth from the Bible- Jesus, the pleasing Son of God, can transfer us from darkness to light. That is where we find delight.

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).

What God has revealed to us through the Bible is his Son. Sounds like a bit of a short answer considering 66 books that cover an array of topics, stories, and songs not mentioning the name of Jesus explicitly, right? No, it’s not a short answer by any means. The redemptive work of Jesus Christ is so beautifully detailed throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation that it will take every single one of the children of God a lifetime to find and marvel in this treasure. We have access into the faith that gives us eyes to see Christ for who he really is by believing what has been detailed for us in this Book. “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Please, please, please feed your heart and mind with books. Some of my favorite authors are John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, St. Augustine, John Piper, Gloria Furman, Charles Spurgeon, John Frame, Elisabeth Elliot, D.A. Carson, J.I. Packer, David Platt, C.S. Lewis, John MacArthur, Daniel Defoe, Susan Wise Bauer, John Bunyan, R.C. Sproul, Wayne Grudem, Paul Tripp, C.J. Mahaney, Matt Chandler, Aimee Byrd…I could go on and on with men and women that have been used by God to shape my worldview, theology, and pursuit of God through holiness. All of their forms of writing have resonated deep within me, stirring my affections for God all the more. But through all of it, we must remember where such beauty originates.

“And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).

We test what is true only compared to the Book that is without error. The Life that was without error. The redemption that is detailed for all humanity to see. The truth of the Godhead creating, allowing the Fall to occur, putting into action a rescue for His children and actively working throughout history to culminate at the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ is incomparable! It’s dangerous to hit the floor running with a line out of any book that would shape your manner of living and posture of the heart unless you have compared it to the infallible Word of God.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Mark 13:31).

Look. Find safety and truth first and foremost in the Bible. It’s Author shall never fail you.

{For an in-depth, five-part series titled “Why We Believe the Bible”, grab some coffee and take a listen here. }

Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord 

“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21b).

We found out Thursday that we lost our baby. Eyes clenched and swallowing hard, I didn’t expect this at all. A first trimester full of nausea and the beginning of the second with regained energy was normal. We even heard the heartbeat…unlike our previous miscarriage. 

Josh and I walk ourselves back through the first time this happened. The hurt and confusion and then the grace. The months it took to see the grace. The dark nights of the soul. The community from family and friends to nurture our grieving hearts (Romans 12:15) and point us back to biblical truths. The consolation that God is not against us (Romans 8:31), but near to the broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18) and that his hand is not shortened to aid us (Isaiah 59:1). 

But do I really believe it? This is the question that beats in my ear. Do I believe that even through another loss that God is to be lifted up as gloriously loving and good? 

I do

Coming back home to our two children, we found grace in pattering feet and cries for help, ensuring our great calling to love them in Christ. Yet the need to hide is still there. I just can’t muster up the boldness to bear through, but God has provided a hiding place for us. “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”  (Colossians 3:3).

This pain is real. The question of “why us…again?” is there. Amidst all the head knowledge that we have as believers, knowing that God is sovereign and all of this is part of our sanctification, it still hurts. Yesterday morning, I woke with hope and gladness. Then, while sorting the mail a few hours later, a black and white image slipped out of the pile onto the counter. I read 2.26cm and felt all my strength and gladness escape me. Lord, hide me. Before bed, Norah cuddles up beside me on the couch and touches my stomach asking about the new baby. Josh and I squeeze hands and push back the tears. Lord, hide us. 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:3-9).

There’s no fix for the grief, but there is this strange joy (not happiness, but joy..tear-stained joy), that through Christ we have such an incomparable inheritance awaiting us. Knowing that another one of our children is in the presence of The Lord  brings us comfort (2 Cor. 5:8). The joy doesn’t stop there either. Our feet are firmly planted in the unshakeable reality that God is present and he knows. Just as he knew the pain of his people while in slavery in Egypt (Exodus 2:23-25). Just as Jesus knew the pain of Mary and Martha at the death of Lazarus (John 11:17-44). Just as Christ knew the pain that awaited him at the Cross. He knows

Is God enough to satisfy us in our grieving? Indeed, he is more than enough. 

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died-more than that, who was raised-who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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 8:31-39).

The blood of Jesus still running warm over a sinner such as me, never growing cold, always sufficient. God is enough. His love is enough. It is boundless. His comfort is immeasurable and will get us through. Circumstances will change and our hearts’ affections will ebb and flow in hope, yet the gospel is unchanging. With that, I am certain that my dearest Friend, my Good Shepherd that called me into his fold, is most certainly enough and is loving us through all the pain and tears. 

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalms 73:25-26).

Moms, We Really Do Have Time After All

All mothers know getting a child to sleep is not always easy. It is a vulnerable time for both child and parent. There our sleepy heads want to be sung to, rocked, read to, and prayed over. All good and needed things for these little souls; however, the fact of the matter is, we get tired. I mean really tired. There is literally a mound of clean clothes needing to be folded on the bed before the dryer needs to be restarted again so that those clothes don’t wrinkle. The firstborn “taking a nap” has pulled out the dollhouse furniture and that mess and noise adds to the weariness. And then they utter the tempting plea, “Lay with meeeeee!”

This scenario is something that plays out often at our house. I’ve found that in our most vulnerable state, namely that we are needy ourselves for a bit of quiet time and rejuvenation, that there is no need to wish this time away like is often the case. Rather than begrudgingly trying to get the napping going so we can get our tasks accomplished (which by the way, the begrudging part really makes that quiet time kind of feel off kilter), what if we seized the moment. Swaying our baby boy really is so much sweeter when I look upon him and pray.

We do have time after all.

God hasn’t plagued us with needy children that usurp all of our time. He has given us souls to steward for his glory on this earth. He is reminding us that we are HIS needy children as well. So needy, in fact, that God called us unto himself for salvation while we were weak. So needy that God wants us to come to him and be reminded that he is always strong amidst all of our great weaknesses.

• “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)

• “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).

• “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:1-8)

• “But he said to me, “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” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

• “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10).

You see when I consider that in Jesus I find rest, in my weakness God is made glorious, that there is reward where prayer is persistent, and that the name of the Lord is my safe place – mothering becomes an honor.

God has provided mothers with so many occasions to commune with him in the presence of our children. Consider a toddler tantrum. What greater way to get through than to go to God before your child? Memorize scripture for these instances. I cling to Philippians 2:4-11, especially when car rides to the grocery store leave my toddler asking for milk and my baby crying because the sun is in his eyes. While pacing my son to sleep (yes that’s right I said pacing), God reminds me that He cares about all the “little” things that worry me. I pray for the impending task of weaning Owen. I pray for his teething or tendency to pull Norah’s hair. I ask God to help me in my impatience and unbelief that all of this is for my good. Have you considered the blissfulness of rocking your child to sleep? Keep your bible nearby. It will help with all of our excuses that we don’t have time to read. In it we will find food to nourish our hungry hearts and comfort from the One that has shown us grace upon grace that we may extend that to our babies.

I am sure all of our loads are so different and vary in strenuousness. Some husbands are gone for days or weeks at a time. Some mothers do this alone. Not to mention all of us are wired so differently. Whatever the case may be, God knows, and he is there through it all.

Moms, we are to be beggars. Embrace it.

Beggars for grace. Beggars for patience. Beggars for time. Beggars for joy on the bumpy road of mothering.
The one thing I want my children to see when they look back on my mothering is not how awesome I was at doing everything. Truthfully, that would not be reality. I would rather them see that all of my efforts, prayers, and time invested in their lives was due to the work of Another.

Charles Spurgeon says the following: “There, poor sinner, take my garment, and put it on; you shall stand before God as if you were Christ, and I will stand before God as if I had been the sinner; I will suffer in the sinner’s stead, and you shall be rewarded for works that you did not do, but which I did for you.” (The Essential Works of Charles Spurgeon, 36)

Now to let this sink in deep and live it out because there’s a rumor out there saying that this child-rearing business happens in the blink of an eye.

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Five Ways to Press On in 2015

The first week of 2015 started fresh with a freer schedule, high household goals, child-rearing/teaching ambitions, hopes of a flourishing vegetable garden, and a slew of other resolutions to make me love God more through my callings as a wife, mother, and follower of Christ.

And there I was one morning, standing at the coffee pot awaiting the full brew when something strange occurred. All too familiarly, my nose stung down to the bottom of my empty stomach. Before I knew it, I was more queasy than I’d been in a long time. Actually, since fall of 2013 to be exact. You see, when coffee tastes or smells bad to this human being, it only means one thing: pregnant!

So here I am, 11 weeks pregnant and 37 days into 2015. My resolutions have certainly had a bumpy start. This nausea keeps me pleading for grace and a transformed mind during the day. I need a few ways to keep me trusting in God.

Five Ways to Press On in 2015

1. Make Hope in God the Undergirding of Each Goal
I have found that if I want to do well at anything, it is solely hope in God that will sustain me. The evils of self-reliance fester quickly in the human heart. I need constant biblical reminding of my identity in Christ, and HIS all-sufficiency. Scripture details this best of all.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (Psalm 42:11)

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.” (Psalm 62:5)

“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faithful forever, who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.” (Psalm 146:5-7)

“Through him [Jesus] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:2-5)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)

“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)

“but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” (Hebrews 3:6)

“So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf” (Hebrews 6:17-20a)

“For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” (1 Peter 3:5-6)

2.Include a Bible Reading Plan in Your Resolutions

A Bible reading plan will provide a Christ-centered framework, and a steer when our hearts’ affections ebb and flow…because they will.

I am often reminded of the golden calf in Exodus 32, and how similar we are to the Israelites. The people lost hope in God as they sensed that Moses delayed in coming to them (verse 1), and they proceeded to implore Aaron to make them gods. When confronted by Moses on this great abomination to the Lord, Aaron replies, “So I said to them,’Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.” (verse 24)

Out came this calf.

Idolatry. It is a constant battle in the human heart. Rather than allowing self-reliance to fester in our hearts through obtaining our goals this year, hope in God. Search the Bible for solid, Christ-saving, no-work-of-our-own truths. The Bible in its entirety is the greatest text our eyes could ever see and the appetite of our hearts ever feast upon. We will be satisfied, if we look.

Proof: Our church started 2015 with reading through the Bible chronologically. As a community, we are able to encourage one another to press on as we continue reading each week. It is also beneficial to us that our sermons each Sunday are texts from our Bible reading plan. Small group discussions are based on our Bible reading, which then provide a more intimate setting to discuss difficult Old Testament passages. Chronological reading can be intimidating as one isn’t getting the New Testament intake for awhile, so I’ve incorporated a study through the book of Philippians and how encouraging it is!

For four years now, Josh has led me through Bible reading plans, and this is of no boasting in ourselves. It’s been hard! We started when I was still in my last semester at Dallas Baptist juggling a 3rd shift job forty hours a week, and I thought I was busy then. Well, life has shifted tremendously in various ways but hasn’t necessarily slowed down. It’s changed each year with God adding children to our lives and working through each phase with them. Life is hard, and there’s no getting around it. We instead have resolved to look for God’s promises in scripture to sustain us through it and provide all strength to glory in Jesus for redeeming us. What we have found most beautiful about using a Bible reading plan is that God’s word is faithful to nourish our souls and draw us back to Himself.

Even when I am chapters and chapters behind my husband, I’m reminded that simply doing something will not sustain me but actual communion with God through his word and prayer will. If that means skipping ahead to bring me current when I’ve had another child or have simply been in a rut then I do it, because there just isn’t enough space in our hearts for guilt and shame when God has freed us from that altogether. He’s after our hearts, not our behavioral modifications. With that being said, a Bible reading plan doesn’t necessarily have to be reading through the entire Bible in a year. You can spread it out over two, or whatever will work best for your family to have actual intake and reflection.

Also, audio-Bibles are wonderful! Josh and I often sit in the living room after we have the children in bed and listen while reading along. I listen to my bible while doing chores during nap times. A word of advice for mothers of young ones out there- it’s never worked well for me in the past to listen to the audio-Bible while the children were awake. Maybe that’s a no-brainer; however, the multi-tasker in me just had to keep trying…and failing.

There are many reasons to come up with for not reading the Bible frequently. I often make those excuses; however, even in our lowest states of apathy, depression, busybody-ness, etc., God desires communion with us. And oh how desperate we are for it once we begin to have it! We get that through reading the Bible. His word directs our hearts in prayer. It changes our dispositions in life altogether. It truly is living water to our thirsting souls.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)

3. Resolve to Pray

I often have the tendency to plan and act prior to being still and praying. I believe that reversing this practice would do astronomical work in our hearts, having full trust in the One that holds all affairs rather than acting out of self-reliance, fear, or anxiety.

While we were engaged, Josh got us into reading George Mueller- pastor, evangelist, and so much more. Having prayed for every penny needed for the orphanages he established, Mueller lived an unshakably, hopeful life, making prayer mingle with his work because to him, the two could not be separated.

“We should begin the thing in a right way, i.e. aim after the right state of heart; begin inwardly instead of outwardly. If otherwise, it will not last. We shall look back or even get into a worse state than we were before. But oh! how different if joy in God leads us to any little act of self denial. How gladly do we do it then!” – George Mueller

4. Be Strategic

“Unless I’m badly mistaken, one of the main reasons so many of God’s children don’t have a significant prayer life is not so much that we don’t want t, but that we don’t plan to.”…”We get up day after day and realize that significant times of prayer should be a part of our life, but nothing’s ever ready. We don’t know where to go. Nothing has been planned. No time. No place. No procedure. And we all know that the opposite of planning is not a wonderful flow of deep, spontaneous experiences in prayer. The opposite of planning is the rut. If you don’t plan a vacation you will probably stay home and watch TV. The natural, unplanned flow of spiritual life sinks to the lowest ebb of vitality. There is a race to be run and a fight to be fought. If you want renewal in your life of prayer you must plan to see it.”- John Piper

It’s illogical to think we will reach our goals without planning and structure. It would be like saying you were going to run a marathon but never really having a schedule for how you would build up to doing that. Example: Last year, I shared a 2014 booklist with a slew of books that I have been dying to dive into for ages. I wrote that at the end of December. I was pregnant with Owen at the time. Maybe it was the infamous pregnancy brain, but my highly ambitious reading list began to frustrate me when I reached July and noticed that I was halfway through and hadn’t even completed some of the books that I had started reading off the list. I should have looked at my life circumstances prior to forming that list. Thankfully, my book reading resolution for this year merely extended that booklist out over the next three years. :) I am now totally fine with the slow and steady route, especially since I get to have plenty of fun reading times throughout the day that include places like Neverland and Narnia.

Spontaneity is neat and fun, and works for certain things. But flourishing in goals, especially if they are spiritual disciplines, isn’t one of them. Make a plan. A realistic one.

Two practical ways to be strategic:

Write down your goals.

I’ve always been a journaling fan. Expressing myself through the written word is part of who I am. When it comes to yearly goals, I simply write a list in my journal and begin chronicling how those goals are working…or not working. Simple enough, huh? Well, journaling isn’t for everyone, or at least journaling at great lengths. Josh is much more to the point when it comes to writing. He writes down a list and revisits visually as a reminder. Either way, write it down. Hang it somewhere.

Make them known.

It’s such a downer to set a goal and keep it internalized. Days/weeks/months pass with struggling through obtaining it and then we simply quit. Even if we can white-knuckle it and succeed for a substantial amount of time, it’s good and healthy to be encouraged by individuals in our lives that God has given us. Tell your spouse, close friends, parents, or children about them. Maybe even give them a copy. It’s nice to have that accountability. Also, it’s simply true that we needy humans need words to keep us pressing on. People want to let us know that we are doing a great job, or maybe they’ve noticed that we’re struggling. Either way, we need to hear both.

5. Don’t quit because you’ve failed once or twice…or more.

Some are great at self-determination and others are not. Some require more encouraging than others. Some need to be down-righted dragged into commitment. All are okay because we are all wired differently by a sovereign God that knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. Differing gifts, various weaknesses. They’re all present among us. What’s not okay is to have a goal that is God glorifying and quit because you have failed.

Seek joy results rather than number the days you’ve succeeded at the task.

A great heart-question to ask ourselves as believers is if we are bearing fruit and being transformed from one degree of glory to the next. Do we love God more through maintaining these goals? If the answer is yes, then even in the midst of failure, we can continue on. That’s where we can find perseverance to press on in making life-changes.

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:12)

Flourish {where you are}


We swore that our roots would be the last place we would come back to. There’s no way we were heading back there. Soul-set on the other side of the globe and no looking back. China. Just married, passports ready, apartment awaiting our arrival. China. All the education, praying, and searching built up to this. China. Ready as ever to become whatever He needed us to for the sake of His Name (1 Cor. 9:19-23).

That didn’t happen though.

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place” (Acts 17:26)

I think there’s this huge cloud on us like a blanket, convincing us that we will arrive when this happens. We can’t seem to shake it, and we embrace the fog and wait and wait and wait for the sun to peak through and then we know we will be where we need to be. I’m so convinced of otherwise though. Right now is what we are given. Our neighborhood, our city, our families. And all of that could change quickly if God so chooses.

And we aren’t stuck.

We are divinely placed.

Jesus executes the will of God, we don’t.

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” (Proverbs 16:33)

“The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” (Psalm 16:5-6)

The Bible tells me exactly what my inheritance is:

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:11-14)

Jesus is.

Our moving plans fell through. We found out we were expecting and were certain that was why we stayed. Weeks passed and no heartbeat. Nope. That wasn’t the reason after all it seemed. With heavy hearts we stayed. Maybe in a year, right? Yeah, that’s all. We just need to get this marriage thing figured out and then we’ll go, we told ourselves.

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,
equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)

All of these momentary pains haven’t taken God by surprise. The lot didn’t just fall in his lap and he shrugged his omnipotent shoulders. What God has prepared beforehand for his children is for love to abound in him and through him and to him. The love of God is sweetened by the reality of his sovereignty through our life-changing circumstances.

Never before had I experienced such soul-comfort as I had the moment God revealed how we must lift him up through the loss and change just as we had through preparing to go to China. Also, my soul rested in joy, tear-stained joy, knowing that God’s creating power never dims or fails.

That year, Thanksgiving with family was a blast as always. Delicious meals, contagious joy, and relaxation in abundance. Josh and I were dropping off my old college roommate that joined us for my family’s meal. There we were at her apartment, and I got sick all over my university campus. Ew. I mean I get carsick but not like that.

Pregnant with Norah Grace!

There was my calling. Plain as day and in the sweetest of forms. A soul to steward and invest in. What a mission! A little girl to teach God’s global gospel to. And now, The Lord has added another. All of this culminating to this reality:

Flourish where you are.

We can be completely who we are meant to be in God’s global, redemptive work when we hope in God. I have no how-to outside of simply believing the gospel. Preach it to yourself and your family/friends daily. All the creative gifts God has endowed you with are meant for his glory now. Flourish in them with joy, knowing that in this very hour we are doing kingdom-sized work whether we are in the confides of our own home or on in third-world slums.

God showed Josh and I quickly how we could be on mission for Him globally. We may be State-bound, but the money that God gives us to steward is not. Support missionaries! Pray earnestly for God’s work through them. When I read updates from our missionaries, I often feel as though I am there with them, and guess what? The God that has saved me and keeps me IS.

Consider this:

How many people have no Scripture?
Around 98 million speak languages where there is no known Scripture, and a further 81 million speak languages which need Bible translation but where there are no current activities underway. (Per Wycliffe Bible Translators)

Josh recently preached on missions are our church, and I’m still working through his words: “How do you live missionally? Are you? It’s our calling. “God does not save us to be apathetic and lazy with the gospel.”

We so frequently dislocate our affections to other things.

Josh also asked these questions: What is the greatest problem with us and missions? What is hindering us from living missionally? He states that it is the worth of Christ. It’s a matter of how much we value Christ and his accomplishments. THAT’S where our affections should be.

We are all called to lived missionally, and it’s not a matter of location, it’s a matter of the heart. Flourish where you are now.

Leprosy of the Heart and a Bible Recommendation for Little Ones

There’s this huge narrative that believing adults spend a lifetime reading through, memorizing, and changing as a result of. It’s unlike all other literary works in that it’s Author has actually written life itself. Breathing creation, raising dead men, parting seas…using whatever He determined necessary to bring His “Secret Rescue Plan” to fruition.

The Bible.


For the glory of God.

For the redemption of His people.

It’s truth is life-giving to the dead, and it’s realities go against what the world teaches. Man and his glorification are not the chief ends in this book. God is. And in the holy scriptures, it’s regenerated audience finds soul-enjoyment. The pursuit of God for his name’s renown is beautifully entangled with a simultaneous pursuit of saving sinners and loving them with an unquenchable, unearned, never-ceasing, contagious, Son-centered love.

And with that, I introduce and recommend The Jesus Storybook Bible. We have now read it cover-to-cover several times over, and it is phenomenal. The author, Sally Lloyd Jones, expresses God’s redemptive plan as the “Secret Rescue Plan.” From the Old to the New Testament, she is pointing to Christ. The technique and style are genius, tugging at the minds of both children and parents alike.

The fall of man is about Jesus. Noah and the ark are about Jesus. David and Goliath are about Jesus. Namaan and the slave girl are about Jesus. And the list goes on. It teaches children that the bible is not actually just about them but about God Himself.

Jones desires for children to see the following through her book:

“That the Bible isn’t mainly about me, and what I should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.

That the Bible is most of all a story — the story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.

That — in spite of everything, no matter what, whatever it cost him — God won’t ever stop loving his children… with a wonderful, Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.

That the Bible, in short, is a Story — not a Rule Book — and there is only one Hero in the Story.”
(Read her article from Desiring God in its entirety here.)

Yes, God loves sinners and has set up this redemptive plan so that he could set his affection on us through the work and power of Christ crucified; however, misleading a child to assume the bible is merely a feel-good book of truth when one is down is detrimental to their souls.

This is a truth-filled work for little ones & nourishment to parents.

My heart was so moved by Jones’ rendition of Namaan and the slave girl from 2 Kings 5.

Here we see Namaan, a general with much room for boasting considering Syria’s victory (verse 1), and he is literally dying. Physically and spiritually. God chooses to move in the heart of his slave girl (Jones does well to expound upon the girl’s loss, yet she seeks Namaan’s betterment) to direct Namaan to Elisha. So what does Namaan do with this proposal? He brings with him a payment for healing. He approaches the king of Israel rather than Elisha himself. Summoned by the prophet after approaching the king proved unsuccessful, Namaan is then sent word by Elisha’s messenger to “go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean” (5:10). Wow, simple- right? No! Not at all to Namaan. He was furious! Stripped of the honor he assumed was due him, Namaan was told to bath in a dirty ole’ river many times over for his cure. Not quite the royal fix he was imagining. God then uses his servants to bring him back down to reality. Has God not provided an escape from the pain? Namaan then went and washed as advised “and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (5:14b).

There we are…leprosy covering our hearts. Increased pain as each day passes. There’s no way out. We are intrinsically sick. We hear of hope, yet we bring our rags as an attempt for payment for grace.

We are Namaans.

God has displayed grace for us through His Servant – Jesus Christ.

“But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” – Romans 5:15-17)

What the blood of Christ has purchased for us is the eternal cure from our leprosy of heart. No longer is death reigning, but righteousness in and through Christ.

Mulling over this has set my heart ablaze with the reality of what God has accomplished for us in the gospel. If we cannot grasp how sick (outright dead) we are, how ability to cure ourselves is non-existent, then the finished work of Christ is just something we can reach for/attempt to work for ourselves rather than the gift of grace that it truly is. That is no gospel at all! There’s no reaching. We are dead. God swoops in and removed a heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh. He puts His Spirit within us, and completely cleanses us from all unrighteousness through Jesus. This is gloriously God-wrought. And I am gloriously transformed by the word of God through the Jesus Storybook Bible. God has used a morning bible reading with my children to show God’s saving grace and love to our family. My prayer is that such truth would steep in the hearts of our babies and God would do what we are forever unable to do for them – save.

And a bit more solidification to read the JSB:

“I would urge not just families with young children to get this book, but every Christian–from pew warmers, to ministry leaders, seminarians and even theologians! Sally Lloyd-Jones has captured the heart of what it means to find Christ in all the scriptures, and has made clear even to little children that all God’s revelation has been about Jesus from the beginning–a truth not all that commonly recognized even among the very learned.” – Tim Keller per TGC