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Archive | Women’s issues

God’s Design for Spiritual Heritage

Want your children to love God and follow Him? God does too. His plan for our children’s faith begins with us. God’s plan includes a design for spiritual heritage, where each generation passes our faith to the next.

God’s Spiritual Heritage Design in Scripture

We see God’s design scattered all throughout Scripture. The most familiar passage is probably Deuteronomy 6:4-9. (For more on this passage see this post.) God tells His people to teach His Words diligently to our children. To talk about them when we sit at home, when we go out, when we rise, and when we lie down. His Word should be woven into the fabric of our family.

Timothy’s spiritual heritage is my favorite New Testament example. In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he highlighted the younger man’s “sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice” (2 Timothy 1:5). Timothy’s mother and grandmother faithfully taught him God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:14-15) and modeled godly lives.

Even in the Psalms we find God’s design for His people to pass faith to the next generation. Not long ago, I “discovered” a prescription for spiritual heritage in Psalm 78:1-8:

My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old—
things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us.
We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lordhis power, and the wonders he has done.
He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.
They would not be like their ancestors— a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him.

“Do this… So that…”

I noticed a “do this… so that…” format in the psalm. If we as parents follow God’s design for passing down our faith, then our children will be impacted in these ways. Here’s what I found in the passage:

“Do this…”

  • Teach our children God’s law
  • Tell our children about the hope we have in the Lord
  • Tell our children about God’s mighty works
  • Encourage our children to obey God

“So that…”

  • Our children will know God’s commands
  • Our children will obey God’s commands
  • Our children will be steadfast and faithful to God
  • Our children will have hope in God

We don’t have to merely hope that our children will claim God as their own. We can take purposeful action to encourage them to find their eternal hope in Him.

What are some ways you’ve seen in Scripture that we can instill a spiritual heritage in our children?

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4 Actions to Beat Anxiety

“Just don’t worry about it.”

How many times has someone said that to you when your circumstances truly warranted a little bit of anxiety? If you’re anything like me, you probably thought, “Yeah, right. Easier said than done.”

By the way, it was probably a man who said it. My engineer husband seems to be able to simply tell himself not to feel a certain way and then follow his own advice. Good for him, but unfortunately he expects me to possess the same testosterone-based super power.

anxiety worry

4 Actions to Reduce Anxiety

If you’re more like me and not able to turn off the worry quite so easily, hang in there. God’s Word gives us practical hope. Paul’s letter to the Christians in Philippi is heavy with talk of joy. It’s not because the Philippians were trouble-free; they were persecuted by enemies of the Gospel (Philippians 1:28-30). But Paul knew even in the midst of trouble, they could experience peace in Christ. One section of his letter in particular shows how they – and we – can overcome the worry in our lives.

4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.  Philippians 4:4-9

This passage highlights 4 specific actions we can take to reduce the worry and anxiety in our lives. Here they are:

  1. Choose Joy – We often face physical circumstances that would steal our joy. Thankfully, Christians can always find joy in our unchanging and eternal spiritual circumstances we have in Christ. (1 Peter 1:3-9)
  2. Practice Gratitude – The Bible repeatedly connects joy with a thankful attitude (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). God has always known what numerous contemporary studies have shown – gratitude increases feelings of wellbeing and happiness. So count your blessings!
  3. Talk to  God – Our heavenly Father invites us to bring all our troubles and concerns to Him. He cares about each one, no matter how small. He has the desire and the power to meet our needs. Tell Him and trust Him to provide (Matthew 6:25-34).
  4. Discipline Your Mind – What we think about will impact how we feel and how we act (Romans 12:2). We can choose what to think about. And what not to think about.

This may take some practice. You may have to apply and then re-apply. But God has promised results. When we…

choose joy, practice gratitude, talk to God, and discipline our thoughts…

His peace will overpower our anxiety. His peace will guard our hearts and minds. We may not understand how it works, but we can benefit from His miraculous provision!

Have you found these actions to be effective in your own life?

 

 

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3 Consequences of Inside-Out Faith

FaithIs your faith inside-out? If it is, you may not even be aware of it.

“Inside-out faith” happens when the doing of our faith eclipses the being connected to Jesus. It’s religion over relationship. It’s faith the way the world would do it. Packed full with stuff – works, activities, committees, and to-do lists.

The New Testament sisters Martha and Mary are perfect examples of inside-out and right-side-out faith (Luke 10:38-42). When Jesus came to the sisters’ home for a visit, Mary sat at His feet soaking up His teaching. But Martha, who frantically ran around hostessing, complained to Jesus that her sister wasn’t helping.

I can just imagine the kindness in Jesus’ response. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).

Martha was “distracted” (Luke 10:40). She was “too busy, over-occupied, drawn away.” Martha wasn’t doing anything “bad.” She had simply allowed too many good things to crowd out the best. She missed sitting in the presence of God Himself.

Sadly, many of us fall victim to inside-out faith. We fill our lives too many good things, leaving no room, for the better thing, the best thing. We put the religious motions of our faith over the relationship with the Object of our faith. And the consequences can be profound.

3 Consequences of Inside-Out Faith

  1. Legalism – When the activities and work of faith overshadow the point of our faith we lose our joy! And when “serving” drives our behavior and attitude we also become critical of others. That’s exactly what happened to Martha.
  2. Busyness – Our culture perpetuates the false idea that a full calendar somehow defines our value, who we are. But when our calendars rule our lives, our families, our health, and all our relationships pay the price. The worst result is that often we are too busy for God’s purposes and plans for us.
  3. Burn out – A serious commitment to church can hinder your faith! When religious activities become the driving force of our faith, our relationship with Jesus gets pushed to the back burner. We close our ears and our hearts to the strength, guidance, and encouragement of Jesus. We end up taking on too much under our own power.

None of us purposefully choose this kind of faith. Sometimes it’s all we’ve known. Sometimes, we slowly slip into it. However it happened, it doesn’t have to be this way! Come back Thursday for some suggestions for turning your faith right-side out!

 

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Are You Too Busy? A Brief Checklist

Our culture has lied to us. It tells us that “busy” is good and margin is bad. In fact, surely an overflowing calendar means we are wanted. Needed. Talented. A person of worth.

Is that what Jesus meant about giving us a “full” life? Or is “busy” one of those “thieves and robbers” He warned us about?

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

Full or Busy?

In John 10:10, “life” refers to “life in the absolute sense as God has it” and that He extends to us through Jesus. It is eternal life, found in part now and consummated in eternity. “Full” means abundant, overflowing, to abound.

God desires our lives to be “full,” not busy. “Busy” is packed with activity – some purposed by God, but a lot purposed strictly by us. “Full,” on the other hand, describes a life filled up with the plans, purposes, and peace of God. A “full” life will be characterized by relationships, service, good works, and time. Time to focus on things that matter for eternity. (See this post for a little more on the danger of “busy.”)

Busy Checklist

Now, let’s get personal. Are you too busy? Though not a scientific test, the following checklist will give you a good idea. You may be to busy if:

  1. You apply any makeup in the car – other than lipstick –more than once a month
  2. You grab fast food for dinner more than 1-2 times a week
  3. You regularly turn down invites to get together w/ friends
  4. You’ve felt led by God to participate in an area of service or ministry but said “no” because of your schedule
  5. You feel like you and your husband are just “two ships passing in the night”
  6. You have dinner with the family around your table less than 4-5 times a week
  7. You and hubby have a detailed flow chart to get the kids back and forth to their activities
  8. You flop into bed every night exhausted
  9. You skip church to just “stay home and rest” more than twice a year
  10. You have good intentions for a regular time with God but it rarely happens
  11. You rarely enjoy long conversations with current friends
  12. Weeks go by without seeing your local friends face-to-face

Our lives may even be packed with “good” stuff, but without any margin, we have no room to respond to God’s best for us.

If God has shown you that your life is too busy, that you’re missing out on the full life He offers, consider doing a serious evaluation of your calendar. Here’s a guide to help. Give up busy. Embrace full!

Is your life full or just busy? What are you going to do today to change it?

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5 Things to Do When You Feel Discouraged

When was the last time you felt discouraged? Maybe it’s today. Perhaps you face difficult circumstances or everything just seems to be going wrong. You don’t have to give in to discouragement.

The Apostle Paul had plenty of reason to be discouraged. Daily, he endured hardship, danger, pain, suffering, and uncertainty. More than once he looked death in the face. Yet he claimed to not only be content and at peace in any and every circumstance, Paul even rejoiced!

No matter the concern or difficult situation, Paul was at peace. Whether fed or hungry, he was content. Whether in need or in plenty, he was satisfied. In every event and every season, Paul chose to rejoice. Seems impossible, doesn’t it? What was Paul’s secret?

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. 

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:4-13

Paul purposefully developed an active trust and confident dependence on Christ’s provision and power. Paul took every small need, big need, and in-between need to God in prayer. Peace filled Paul because he chose to trust that God would provide. He did not allow his mind to dwell on the “what ifs.”

Paul experienced contentment in every difficult circumstance or physical need by relying on the strengthening power of Christ working within him. He found total sufficiency in trusting Jesus. And Paul could rejoice because he depended on God’s gracious provision.

We can also experience peace, contentment, and joy when we follow Paul’s example. Here are a few practical tips to get us started:

  1. Take every concern and need to God in prayer.
  2. Choose to trust Him with the answer.
  3. Discipline our thoughts. Focus on God’s provision and not the “what ifs.”
  4. Ask Jesus to strengthen us in times of discontentment. Then rely on His strength.
  5. Choose joy over discouragement.

Bury these marvelous truths in your heart, then share them with others. Jesus is far greater than our need. His power mightily overshadows our discouragement.

What one thing discourages you the most today? What truth from God’s Word today speaks encouragement to you?

 

 

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11 Biblical Principles for Meaningful Friendships

friendshipGod created friendship. And He works through true, meaningful relationships to help us be all He intends. As we learned in Monday’s post, we need to first clear the hindrances to friendship. But what’s next?

The following principles for making and keeping real friends come straight from Scripture. Use them as a guideline as you purposefully work to make good friends and be a good friend.

11 Biblical Principles for Making and Keeping Friendships

  1. Take the initiative (Acts 18:1-4) – One of my closest, life-long friends picked me to be her friend before I was really even aware of her. Janet and her family were new to our city, so when they joined our church she wanted to make friends. She introduced herself to me and immediately began to pursue a friendship. Janet taught me to take the initiative. Yes, it can be risky, but the rewards can be great!
  2. Practice forgiveness (Colossians 3:13) – True friends don’t hold grudges or remember offenses. Instead they are flexible and quick to forgive. Contemplating God’s forgiveness can help us when we struggle to forgive others.
  3. Guard your tongue (Proverbs 16:28, Ephesians 4:29) – Loose lips ruin many friendships. Careless words hurt feelings. Gossip fosters division. Confidences broken destroy trust. Before we speak, let’s pause to consider whether our words will tear down or build up.
  4. Be a “good” friend (Ephesians 4:2-3) – Christ-like character fosters deep, long-lasting friendships. Qualities like humility, gentleness, patience, and endurance create a solid foundation on which to build life-long friendships.
  5. Extend hospitality (1 Peter 4:9, Proverbs 25:17) – Sometimes we are quick to accept hospitality, but a little slower to give it. Let’s make time to not only invite our friends to our homes, but to also make them feel welcome. On the flip side, Proverbs 25:17 warns us against taking advantage of our friend’s hospitality.
  6. Stay close in hard times (Proverbs 17:17, Proverbs 27:10, Romans 12:10) – A true friend remains loyal when trouble comes. Even if other “friends” fall away they stay devoted and help in any way possible.
  7. Nurture them (Ephesians 5:21, Philippians 2:3-4, Romans 12:10) – Friendships will wither without a continual outpouring of time, attention, and resources. Let’s show our friends we care about their needs and their interests with purposeful acts of kindness and generosity. Our friendships will flourish.
  8. Listen to them (James 1:19) – It takes lots of practice to keep our mouths closed and really hear what others are saying. But this habit is well worth developing. When others feel “heard” they feel valued.
  9. Sharpen them (Proverbs 27:6, Proverbs 27:17, Colossians 3:16, Hebrews 10:24) – The best kind of friend is not merely a “yes man.” Godly friends nudge others closer to Jesus.
  10. Pray for them (Job 16:20-21) – Our friends need our purposeful prayer support. Not just casual, occasional prayers, but fervent intercession with God on their behalf.
  11. Love them (John 13:34, John 15:3, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 1 John 4:7) – This is actually harder than we might think. God calls us to love our friends like Jesus loves us – not in mere words, but with intentional actions of love that may often cost us something.

Have you seen any principles in Scripture to add to this list? Feel free to comment! 

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3 Hindrances to Meaningful Friendships

friendshipsWe moved in June and I am in the process of building new friendships. I’ve had lots of practice making friends over the years. Over the last 33 years, our family has moved seven times for my husband’s job. Each time I left friends behind. Each time we settled into a new neighborhood with new neighbors. Each time we joined a new church with a new church family.

It didn’t take long to learn that if I wanted to enjoy meaningful, solid friendships I could not waste any time. I had to be intentional about making make friends and I had to be a friend worth having.

Sadly, today’s fast-paced, shallow culture hinders the kind of friendships God desires us to have. In Thursday’s post, we will look at biblical principles for building and keeping friendships, but today, let’s touch on a few things we’ll want to avoid.

Three Hindrances to Meaningful Friendships:

  1. Busyness – Does it seem you never have time to enjoy long conversations with the friends you have now? Do weeks go by without seeing your local friends face-to-face? Honestly, most of us make time to do what we really want to do. If you think you are just too busy to foster deep friendships, try keeping a time log for a week to see just where your time goes. Perhaps you’re serving in some areas where God has not called you. Or maybe you’re allowing too many activities for your children to dictate your life. Purposefully build some margin into your life. Your friendships are vital to your emotional and spiritual well-being.
  2. Fear of transparency – Although we cannot “go deep” with all our friends, we do need a few with whom we can share anything. We need people who can hear our hearts and understand. And we need friends who will hold us accountable when we are out of line. Yet, too often we are afraid to allow other people to know our flaws. We want them to think we have it all together. But we desperately need friends who will challenge us to be all God wants us to be. Yes, it can be scary, but test the waters. Choose one personal thing to share with a select friend and see how it goes!
  3. Breadth of acquaintances – In our social media world it’s easy to confuse quantity with depth. Thousands of shallow “friends” mask the lack of real, deep friendships. Let’s limit our time with our online friends and get out in the real world.

God created women to need other women. Meaningful friendships help us be all God intends for us to be. Let’s make friendship a priority! Come back Thursday to discover 11 biblical principles for solid friendships.

Do you feel you have enough true friends? If not, what do you feel is getting in the way?

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Where is God when Marriage is Hard?

Marriage is hardMy guest today is Laura Taggart, author of the newly released book “Making Love Last.”

Marriage is hard. Think about it. You and your mate come from different family histories. Different genders mean you think, process, and operate differently. Different personalities create challenges as you try to merge two lives with different ways of thinking and reacting.

Sound like a recipe for disaster? Amazingly God designed it that way. What was He thinking?

Year thirteen of my marriage was excruciatingly painful. My husband was doubting his love for me and not inclined to stay the course. I was disappointed with God for what I perceived as His lack of faithfulness. After all, I had tried the best I knew how to be faithful to Him, to love my husband and raise our children to know Him.

In the midst of my frustration and self-pity, I had a reckoning. What if, in the turmoil, God was doing something in me! What if God was being His good self in the middle of this mess? In that moment, I realized I didn’t want to miss what God had for me. Even in struggle.

I determined to hold onto God no matter what. I began to let go of my own perceptions. My hurt and disappointment began to dissipate. In time, I realized my expectations of my husband stifled his ability to be himself. I wanted my husband to love me my way and he wasn’t cooperating. I had relied on him for the unconditional love that only God can provide.

I began to lean into God more for my needs and trust His love to be enough. As I began to experience the security of God’s love, the fears that fostered high expectations from my husband began to lessen. I relied on God’s strength. My trust in Him grew. I gained confidence in his presence and provision.

“My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield . . . my stronghold.” Psalm 18:12

As my anxiety diminished, I began to live with an open heart, enjoying the present. Rather than concentrating on my needs and my husband’s failures, I began to see the difficulties of our life together as an opportunity for my growth. This was life-altering. Paying more attention to my own unloving ways brought new life into our relationship.

Feeling totally accepted by God – just the way I am – helped me show my husband the same acceptance. When he began to realize my love for him was secure, that my previous high level of expectations were gone, his self-defenses dropped. Then amazing things began to happen. He began to change.

Intimate relationship is powerful. Marriage, our most exposing of all relationships, provides the most transformational opportunity of our lives. I can choose to be my mate’s harshest critic or biggest fan. If I can accept him in his humanness and trust God for what I need, I am more able to be thankful for the gift of my husband and less disappointed by what he isn’t. And I can begin to see God’s goodness in the mess.

Marriage is hard. Back in year thirteen, I couldn’t even imagine the sweet relationship my husband and I enjoy today. If your marriage is hard today, don’t give up! God is working through the hardness to carve out something beautiful!

Laura TaggartLaura Taggart is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and author of “Making Love Last: Divorce-Proofing Your Young Marriage” (released July 4, 2017). She has been an Adjunct Professor of Counseling for Fuller Theological Seminary, Northern California Campus. Laura is an international speaker on topics of marriage, parenting, and Christian spirituality.

With one-third of all married couples divorce before their ten-year Making Love Lastanniversary, in “Making Love Last” Taggart offers the wisdom she would share as a counselor with a couple in the early years of marriage. She helps couples examine their true expectations for marriage, provides six action steps for improving the way they relate, and gives them a new picture of what it means to enjoy marriage for a lifetime. Each chapter includes discussion questions for couples or small groups as well as additional questions for personal reflection.

 

 

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Friends Don’t Divide, They Multiply!

We are moving this week. In fact, the movers are scheduled to arrive this morning. If things go according to plan, there will be two days of packing and loading here in Houston, then we will unload at our new home just north of the Dallas/Ft Worth area on Wednesday.

If you’ve ever moved, you know that carries a lot of implications. New utilities. New doctors. New church. And even some new friends.

What’s wonderful about the friendship thing is that even while you get new local friends, you can keep the ones you move away from. Physical distance does not have to divide friends. Instead a new place means additional friends. Friends don’t divide, they multiply!

 

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We have moved seven times during 34 years of marriage. We have made new friends each time. Although we don’t regularly stay in touch with all of them, we still count them as friends. We can easily reconnect. In fact, this has happened multiple times. We may go years without speaking to an old friend, then life brings us together again and we discover the bonds of friendship remain.

friends

And then there are others. Friends we have “carried” with us from one place to the next. Both of us have made the effort needed to stay in regular communication. To work out face-to-face visits. These relationships have actually grown, deepened, over time.

The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. Proverbs 27:9, NLT

friends

All these friendships reveal God’s great grace and sweet love to us. He knows we need connections to others. He knows we need others in our lives to encourage, strengthen, exhort, and comfort us. And He knows they in turn need us. He designed us that way. As relational beings. And He created friendship to meet those needs.

friends

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friendProverbs 27:17, NLT

Although it is bittersweet to move away from local friends, I can anticipate the new relationships God has in store for us in our new town. And I pray I may be the friend they need.

How you experienced friendship that survives time and distance? In what ways do you foster these relationships?

 

 

 

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In the Midst of Change, the Best Remains the Same

I feel as though my life is all boxed up, but change is coming…

Literally, our life is in boxes. My husband’s retirement in December started it all. He had planned to work another two years, but when his company offered an early retirement opportunity, we knew it was time. We decided to move our plan forward – to sell our home in Houston and move to the Dallas area where our daughters and their families live.

After the holidays we began working to get the house in top shape. Power wash the driveway. Weed the flower beds. Paint some walls. Then came all the staging work – pack away the family photos, take the animal heads off the walls, and pack up the “extra” decor.

The house officially hit the market April 20th. We really expected it to take a few weeks at least. But we received three offers in the first three days. The biggest problem was we had no where to go. So, we took a quick trip north to find a new home.

We closed on the new place last Wednesday and minor renovations began the next day! The movers come to help us make the actual move next week! All our stuff should be inside the new place by mid-June!

In the meantime, I’m packing. And packing. Selling a few extra things and donating some others. Everything else has been put on the back burner. That includes blogging! But I wanted to work this one in to give you all an update.

Oh, and in the middle of it all, I received a contract from my publisher for a new book! That project is at the top of my list – right under “unpack boxes!” (Watch for more about this later!)

I’m in the midst of a lot of change right now – husband’s retirement, moving away from a church family that I love, selling one home and buying another, changing cities, and moving my elderly parents from Louisiana to Tennessee to be near my brother (that’s a whole other story!) But the best of it all remains the same. My husband has been consistently at my side for almost 34 years. Our family still loves and supports one another.

And, most importantly, my God is the same faithful, all-powerful, gracious Father I’ve always known. He is the same God in Dallas that He is in Houston. Or New York. Or Mozambique. We will find a place among His people in our new home. And He will have work for us to do there. I can’t wait!

 

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