Archive | October, 2012

Deceitful Appearances

25 Oct

A friend of mine shared a story with me that really made me laugh! A while back she was assigned a new office at her workplace, which meant she had also inherited the plant that came with it. Nervous that somehow she would cause the death of this plant, she was very careful to take good care of it by watering it regularly. This went on for a few days. That is until she made a great discovery…the plant wasn’t real!!

Shocked and surprised she immediately shared the story with the office secretary….who then broke into tears of laughter. Why? Because she too had been fooled by the appearance of the plant, and had been watering it for months!

Appearances can truly be deceiving. I know that on numerous occassions  my eyes have tricked me into thinking one thing…when the reality was quite the opposite. Food that looked delicious but actually made me sick. Individuals who appeared intimidating and uncaring, who later showed themselves to be kind and compassionate. Purchases that looked appealing and promised satisfaction, but delivered only regret.

Sin that promises life…and delivers only death.

THE ULTIMATE DECEPTION

The media often portrays the devil as an ugly man, draped in a red cape, carrying a pitchfork. But let’s be honest, if that’s the package in which sin was delivered, would we truly be so easily enticed? The devil, and similarly sin, parade as though they were appealing, beautiful, desirable, life giving. Sin promises to give us all we desire…true happiness and true life. But this is nothing more than deceptive appearances.   Sin will never deliver on its promises. The only thing that it will provide is regret, shame, separation from God, and ultimately, for those who reject Christ, spiritual death.

Throughout the Bible God describes sin as both deceiving and leading to death.

“But encourage one another day after day…so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrew 3:13

“But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” James 1:14-15

THE DECEITFULNESS OF THE FLESH

Not only is the Bible filled with verses warning us about the deceitfulness of sin, we are also reminded about the true nature of man. On the outside, we really are very attractive beings … Living in very attractive homes…living very attractive lives. Things look beautiful from the outside! The truth however is that apart from Christ our hearts are depraved…dead in our sinful state. Those are harsh words, and they are not easy to swallow…but this is exactly the diagnosis that God has made of mankind. We are told that in our sinful state, we are in actual fact spiritually dead and separated from God. All believers, before conversion, were dead in their sinful nature. It is not until God’s Spirit inhabits our hearts and turns us to Christ that we are given a new nature…one that is reborn to the things of God.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great live with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ.” Ephesians 2:4-5

BACK TO THE PLANT

So what about the plant? As bizarre as it seems to water a dead plant, in many ways we do this on a daily basis. Though Christ has put to death our sinful nature, we repeatedly invest in behaviour, thoughts, words that nurture our sinful nature, rather than the new man that was created in Christ Jesus to do good works. Think about it. Every time I give in to sins deception, I nurture my flesh and starve my spirit. I am seeking to revive the very nature Christ has crucified on my behalf. I water that which ought to be starved, and neglect that which ought to be nurtured.

In John Owens book…The Mmortification of Sin…we are reminded about the constant battle in which a Christian must be involved. This battle is with sin…and if we are not daily conscious of our struggle with sin, seeking to mortify it and cut it out of our lives…it will take over…steal, kill and destroy. John Owen reminds us that we ought to be killing sin or else sin will be killing US.

For believers, God has truly put to death the sinful nature. Though we continue to struggle with its daily temptations and numerous times fall into its deceptive appearance…God promises to keep us faithful. He will complete what he has began in us, and it is by His Spirit that we can nurture life, and not death, through obedience to Him.

So Christian…stop watering the dead plant would you?

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The Christian Life & Work: Working It Out

15 Oct

If you’ve ever tried to get in to some sort of exercise after a long season of being stagnant, then you’re probably familiar with all the aches and pains that accompany a new routine. Sore muscles, thirst and hunger after a workout as your body sweats out the fluids and needs more fuel to burn, the temptation to give up after just a few days, and all the mental warfare that goes on in one’s mind about whether or not it’s worth it to keep on going or to just quit since it’s easier to eat what you want and sit on your couch instead of hauling yourself to the gym or giving up a precious hour for a run or workout, are some of the difficulties you’ll face.

At the same time, if you are really determined to reach a goal, whether it is weight loss or just overall fitness, those challenges, although they may be hindrances at times, will not ultimately set you back. I’ve seen it at times in my own “athletic” life and in the lives of others around me who’ve wanted to get in shape and have shown incredible determination and perseverance in order to get where they want to be. Sacrifice of time and of favorite foods and meals, the prioritizing of plans in order to make sure that every day involves some form of exercise, beating the body into submission in order to make it accomplish what it needs to. It’s hard work and it takes an incredible amount of commitment. No one looses 50 pounds overnight, nor can they increase their stamina after a few 5 km runs. Sometimes it takes months, even years to get where you want to be.

Then there are others who at the first sighting of a McDonalds are off the track and back to their old ways. Getting up early and going out for a run or heading to the gym are not easy things in the dead of winter when it’s -10 degrees and your warm bed is calling you. Trust me, I know what it’s like to be there too.

Maybe we all fit into one category or maybe some of use fit into both at different times. Some of us have the ability to look at a task head on and just dive into it without looking back. For most people though, I suspect that tackling difficult challenges doesn’t come without the desire to quit and give up at any sign of difficulty or challenge. In the Christian life, work can feel the same way. Last week, I was sharing about the difficulty of Christian athleticism when it comes to carrying out the jobs we’ve been called to do, and how often we look at the responsibilities we’ve been given and rather than taking them on, we want to pass them off to someone else who’s better and more able than we are. But if we’ve reached the point where we see areas where we want to grow and we have a goal in mind, whether it be a mom who wants to learn how to better plan meals and cook good food for her family, or a dad who wants to learn how to lead his children with Scripture, or a student who’s trying to get a handle on the whole university thing, we can’t get where we’re going without a game plan.

Being real with ourselves and our weaknesses is, I think, the first place to start. If you decided that you wanted to run a marathon but hadn’t put on running shoes since Terry Fox in 8th grade, then it wouldn’t be a good idea to set out on day one expecting yourself to go much further than a kilometer. Thinking that you can accomplish a huge feat after a day or two of exercise is not only unrealistic but it sets you up for failure and disappointment. The same goes for any type of work or responsibility we’ve been given that we want to learn to do better at. Taking a gourmet-cooking magazine that calls for ingredients you’ve never heard of and requires hours of time may not be the first place to start when setting out to try to conquer the kitchen. This doesn’t by any means mean you can’t get there, it just means you have to work it out so that in time, you’ll be able to do what you set out to do, once you’ve built up the skills and abilities you need.

To use a personal example, one area I’ve struggled in is my personal devotions. It’s something that for years I’ve wanted to be more consistent with, and each time I’ve tried a new Bible reading plan or set a time to wake up every morning, I’ve gone on for a while and then some life change or new set of circumstances comes along and I find that I’m once again struggling to maintain consistency. I get discouraged and then give up for a while.

Recently, my husband and I decided to start reading just one chapter of the Bible each day together. My mom and dad had just been telling us that they’d really been enjoying their time together in the Word every morning and that it was really encouraging and helping them because it was an opportunity for them to come together and focus on a small portion of Scripture, as well as giving them enough time to pray together. They’ve been reading a chapter a day and are all the way to Ruth! Serge and I have never done devotions together. Here and there, we’ve read and prayed and we will sometimes listen to a sermon together, but it hasn’t been something that we have done consistently as a couple. When my parents shared their idea, we thought to ourselves, “Why don’t we try that?”. We’ve both struggled to find ways to read the Bible consistently, and we’ve both found it challenging to tackle plans that tell you to read even four chapters a day, finding that skipping from one part to another often left both of us forgetting the majority of what we read. So, two weeks ago on an early Monday morning, the alarm rang at 6:00 am. I’d like to say we got up then, but we didn’t. It wasn’t till around 7:00 that we hurriedly hauled ourselves out of bed and tried to quietly make our way to the kitchen so as not to wake up Emma, and then we spent about 30 minutes reading and praying. It was great. And the days that have followed have been equally encouraging. Some days we’ve gotten up on time, others have been more rushed, but one thing we both have said to one another is that this is something that is working and helping us both. It hasn’t been as hard to get up with a partner, as it was to get up alone. Rather than dose off mid-sentence while reading, I have someone else to listen to and someone else to keep me awake. And reading one chapter has been more than manageable. It sounds like nothing, but when you start making yourself feel like reading the Bible is a competition or chore, or you begin comparing yourself to others who are able to read ten chapters a day, every day, then you can easily feel like you’re a failure when it comes to being a student of the Word. But that’s not what God has called of us. He desires that we come know Him, enjoy Him, and abide in His word. One chapter mediated on and prayed over, is better than trying to check off a list of several just for the sake of saying you’ve read a lot.

My point is this. Tackling a new task, or trying to grow in any area of our Christian life and work is going to bring us face to face with reasons to feel like failures and make us want to give up. Rather than looking at the mountains we are trying to conquer, I think that wisdom would have us begin where we’re at and build our stamina, one small step at a time. We need to work things out. Concert pianists don’t get there overnight. They spend years in private practicing before ever making it out on stage. An excellent cook doesn’t learn kitchen skills by watching the Food Network. She puts her head to the plow and slowly, one meal at a time, works on building her arsenal of abilities. Christians who want to be better students of Scripture don’t need to feel inadequate because they aren’t able to understand Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. They need to ask God to help them understand His word, one verse at a time, one chapter at a time, using resources that are helpful to them in the place they are at, rather than looking at all the things they don’t know and feeling discouraged because of that.

How about leaving off with a word of encouragement right from the Lord? Proverbs 16:3 says “Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” Isn’t that a comfort today, that in committing to Him whatever work He’s given us to do, He will strengthen and enable us to do it? If our plans are His plans, meaning we are seeking to glorify Him and do all things as unto Him according to His word, then we have nothing to fear. We can begin, knowing very little or even nothing, and God will give us wisdom as we seek it, and enable us to do all the good works that He’s called us to do. That is one of the best things about our Heavenly Father; He never requires of us anything that He will not by His own strength working in us, enable us to do.

A Sanctified Imagination

12 Oct

Warning: After reading this post, you may come to the conclusion that I’m weird.

Ever since I was very young, I’ve had an extremely active imagination. My friend Michelle and I had our very own pet clothing company (tuxedos to be exact). All of my teddy bears had names, and I truly believed they also had their own unique personalities. I used to love writing creative stories…my favorite being a story called Celestial Seasonings (yes, named after the brand of tea). It was about a mother (the avid drinker of Celestial Seasonings) and her son.  She and her son were separated when he was only a little boy, but she never gave up hope that they would be reunited. At an old age she sought the help of a big shot lawyer (who happened to be her son!). When he offered her a drink and she requested Celestial Seasoning…that’s when he knew…and she knew…and they were together again. It was a real tear jerker.

Lately, my overactive imagination has definitely been my downfall.

I think I realized it sometime last week when Shady and I were driving home late at night. We were stopped at a railway track waiting for the train to pass…and somehow my mind started to be “creative”. I thought to myself “What would happen if our car was trapped on the railway tracks…and we saw the train coming…and we had to escape from the car with only moments to spare?” I looked over at Amanda and started thinking, what would be the best way to free her from the car? What if in the process of unbuckling her, the snap on her jacket caught onto the seat belt, and I couldn’t get her free? What would I do? So I decided that wouldn’t be the best plan, and that perhaps a better plan would involve unlatching the entire car seat and lifting it right out of the car…Amanda and all. But was that practical? Wouldn’t it be too heavy?

Finally, as we pulled into the driveway at home (the train we were waiting for was long gone by then) I finally blurted out my dilemma to Shady. I’m sure he was tempted to ask me how on earth my mind had gotten to this place. Not sure how it happened, but my imagination had created a scenario that I had become completely enslaved to.

That wasn’t the first time. Or the last.

Sometime around the railroad dilemma I was driving by myself on the highway.  From the corner of my eye I happened to notice that the car next to me was having some trouble. The side mirror had suddenly become loose, and the driver reached out, grabbed the mirror and tucked it into the car where it would be safe from flying off. Quite the set up for a wild run with my imagination. Rather than thank God that she was safe, and that the rest of us on the road were safe as well, my fear took over instead. What if she hadn’t caught the mirror in time, and instead it went flying into the air and landed right on my windshield? I played it all out in my mind. My car being hit, my automatic response involving swerving into the lane next to me. Somehow my mind created a whole situation where my car eventually ended up in the ditch…when in reality the lady and her rear view mirror were long gone, and I was actually driving safely towards my destination. How do I get myself into these situations?

Similar situations have played out in my mind in careful detail. Before I know it, I’m caught living out a full-fledged drama in my mind, only to realize that I’ve been captured once again by a story that’s not even happening. I think about things that could go wrong…play them out in my mind…and then walk away feeling sad, anxious, worried and stressed.

And so, today, I’m reminding myself of some really important Biblical truths. Perhaps these reminders are important for you as well. True, you may not have such a wild imagination … But my guess is I’m not completely alone and that perhaps you can relate more than you can laugh.

INSTRUMENTS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

Our lives will either be used for harm, or be used for bringing God glory and pleasure. Our intelligence, our skills and talents, our sense of humours and interests….yes, even our imaginations…all can be instruments for harm, or for righteousness. I’m sure there are hundreds of ways that our imaginations can be used for good. Instead, the mind is constantly at risk for defaulting into futility and unrighteousness. Rather than than worrying, stress, and fetering on what could go wrong, the truth of God’s providence and sovereignty should free me instead to use my mind, and my whole life, for good.

God commands us to “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” As believers, let us strive to honour God with our thoughts, to offer them as instruments of righteousness, accomplishing much for God’s Kingdom, rather than dwelling on futile thoughts.

DWELL ON WHAT IS GOOD

“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.” Philippians 4:8

God cares very much about what we think upon. He cares what thoughts enter our minds, which ones we choose to entertain and how they will inevitably affect our behaviour and our understanding of Him. Guarding my thoughts is not just for my personal comfort and peace of mind, but it is primarily about obedience. God desires that our thoughts be fixed on what is true, pure, excellent and praiseworthy. If I truly obeyed this, how different my peace would be!

I believe this is my third post now that touches on the topic of our thoughts, and similarily, our reaction to fear, anxiety and stress. It’s an important topic to me, and one which I think affects so many believers.

But God is faithful and patient. His Spirit empowers. He will renew our minds with the truth of His word. We do not have to be enslaved to fear and worry…but can trust in His perfect and good promises, anchored in His perfect and Holy character.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or IMAGINE, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20

A Piper/Keller Discussion on Sanctification

10 Oct

Have you ever listened to a conversation between two people and thought, “Wow, I wish I could come up with ideas like that so effortlessly.” That’s exactly what I thought when I watched this 15-minute video of Tim Keller and John Piper discussing the process of sanctification. The conversation began by both men addressing sanctification from two different perspectives. When they realized they were coming from different angles, they ended up using both the “push and pull factors” as motivation for working out our salvation – as Paul puts it in his letter to the Philippians. We are pushed towards sanctification by the truth of the Gospel, which is that Christ died for us, and pulled by the promise that the pure in heart shall see God. They are such familiar ideas, but so profound and true in their daily application. Okay, one more thought before I let you watch the video. When discussing the battle against sin and the flesh, Tim Keller says the best defense is a good offence. “When you’re enjoying God you don’t want to let anything come in between that enjoyment.” Again, how basic is that idea!? When we’re really enjoying something why would we allow anything disrupt that enjoyment? I guess the trouble is when we become “too familiar” with the Gospel and rush in and out of our communion with The Lord, the author of true and lasting enjoyment. This video reminded me to really take the time and enjoy fellowship with my Father throughout the day, and fight against the tendency to view my time with him as just a part of my daily routine. Simple concepts, and yet so often forgotten.

Worth the Cost

5 Oct

I don’t care how strange this sounds…I love the new Swiffer commercial!! After cleaning the house in record time (with the help of her Swiffer of course) the woman in the ad catches a glimpse of her coffee mug. With utter excitement she grabs the mug, rushes out the front door and revels in the fact that she now has the time to drink it on the porch! It’s a small pleasure, I know. She didn’t win the lottery, isn’t going on vacation to a luxurious island…she’s not even enjoying a fancy meal. Just a quiet moment with her coffee mug on the front porch. Ahhhh…what a thought.

The commercial makes me smile because I feel like I can relate to her! Oh to drink a coffee in the front porch…an uninterrupted, quiet, responsibility-less moment. Don’t get many of those moments anymore.

In fact if I’m honest I’ll admit that motherhood really has come with its abundance of  sacrifices. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. Rest. Freedom to hop in the car and go where I please. A wardrobe that contains only one size clothing. The ability to carry one purse with only my items…as opposed to a travelling kitchen/back up wardrobe. The constant heavy burden of wondering if I’m doing motherhood properly.

But you know what? It’s worth every sacrifice and much more. Like a treasure that you save up for and spend all you have to obtain, so is motherhood…completely worth the cost.

Some things in life are worth every last ounce of sacrifice.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

We can read these words, spoken by Christ, in Matthew 13. The point of the passage is not that we have to sell everything we have in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. However, what we do see in these words is that knowing God, walking and fellowshipping with Him, and ultimately living with Him in Heaven forever is an invaluable treasure, far beyond anything else we could ever obtain or dream of receiving.

But it does come with a cost. If we are honest we’ll admit that following Jesus is does require sacrifice, and does cost us something. Like what?
– It costs us our pride – Coming before a Holy God in confession and repentence
– It costs our will – Laying down our own preferences and living instead according to the ways outlined in God’s Word.
– It costs self denial – Living with Christ as Lord, rather than defending my “right” to be my own master

Yes, salvation is a free gift and is a result of faith alone. Yes and Yes again! But genuine faith, a life that seeks to follow Christ, will come with difficulties and cost. I don’t think anyone knew the cost of discipleship more than the apostle Paul. Listen to what he endured for the name of Christ in 1 Corinthians 11:

“Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.”

Why go through all this? Why pay such a high price? Because the treasure far exceeded the personal pain and sacrifice.

I need to be reminded of the ultimate worth of Christ. No sacrifice takes away from his value. No earthly pleasure can compare with the knowledge of him. I don’t claim to always apply this, nor do I say it as though I fully live it. But I know it is true…and I press on in this pursuit to know him more.

What are the difficulties you face today? What “cost” is required in your discipleship of Him? What is your obedience requiring you to sacrifice at the foot of the cross? Together, let us keep our eyes on the Pearl of great price, the treasure of greatest worth…knowing Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Back to the Routine

3 Oct

It’s been months since I’ve written and I wanted to come back with something important and insightful. To be honest, for the past few weeks I’d start writing something, but end up either unable to finish it or finishing it and deciding it’s not worth posting. So I decided that it’d be best to just come back with something that’s important to me, but likely not important to mostly everyone else (especially on Presidential Debate night).

Every year around this time, I begin my new year with the new NHL hockey season. I set my goals and my New Year’s resolutions, have a countdown, celebrate, and engage in all the typical New Year’s festivities (not really). This year, as you can all imagine, it’s been a real struggle so far. It feels much like a large portion of life is on hold and there isn’t anything I can do about it. After all of the unnecessary cries I heard from NBA fans last year over their lockout, I promised myself I would not complain about this year’s NHL lockout, but who are we kidding! This is ridiculous. With looking forward to this season beginning very soon (I hope), I’ve been watching old games and highlights and thanks to a good friend, I came across this video. It’s pretty sad, but very well done. As we all wait with anticipation, I hope we can offer support to one another during this difficult time. Hang in there friends.

Living in Tension

2 Oct

I came across a short but excellent Q and A with John MacArthur on how we are to live with some of the more difficult doctrines of the Christian faith. In particular he address our need to live with the tension caused by certain aspects of the Atonement. Have a listen, it will be well worth your time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mleum3jZ1E&feature=watch-vrec

The Christian Life & Work: Passing it off

1 Oct

Last week I was supply teaching a gym class of grade 10 girls. I love gym and I love teaching girls. After all, I was just like them only 12 years ago! Yikes. Actually, I wasn’t exactly like all of the girls in your typical gym class. I enjoyed (still enjoy) sports and looked forward to gym more than any of my other classes. But I still remember that 95% of the girls in all my gym classes didn’t feel the same way. Since gym was mandatory up till grade 11, most of the ladies were unenthusiastically forced to run, dribble, kick, and “compete” in all sorts of sports that they would by no means be drawn to naturally. I loved laughing with and at girls who thought sports were just times to braid hair and catch up on the latest high school gossip. Most of my classmates were good-natured and didn’t mind that they looked ridiculous when they would take aim at a soccer ball and send it flying about five feet in front of them, or when they’d try to play floor hockey and end up looking like they were flailing about with an out-of-control stick. It was all in good fun!

Not much has changed. Gym for girls still looks about the same. I was standing by trying to “coach” them as much as a supply teacher can, by giving them pointers like “Bend your knees when you’re standing at home plate”, or “No one is running, you need to come back and help your goalie!”, or “You’re going the wrong way, turn around and shoot in the other direction!”. The funny thing I noticed is that even without much desire or skill, there’s one thing that most of the girls still did. They’d look to the one or two players who were clearly more talented, and try to pass off the ball (or responsibility) to them. As soon as a girl who wasn’t that talented found a ball had come her way, rather than try to do something with it herself like control it and move up the field, she’d quickly look for someone else with more confidence and talent, and do her best to pass it off. It was a funny thing to watch. I couldn’t help but be amused at how natural it was to not want to take responsibility for the job that was given to them in the moment, but to look to someone else to take over for them.

Without turning this into an overly-analyzed metaphor, I was reminded of how many of us can default into the same response when it comes to our relationship to work as Christians. Paul uses the farmer, athlete, and soldier metaphors to paint a clear picture of Christians as workers. All three connote a commitment to a job, a disciplining of the body and mind, and hard work. Just taking a look at the idea of being an athlete, we can see that there’s a lot that doesn’t come naturally but needs to be worked at in order for real accomplishments to be reached. Yes, there are obviously naturally talented people who don’t have to work as hard to see results in athletics, but regardless, in order to be considered a professional in any sport, a lot of work needs to go into achieving that goal. Hours of practice, tryouts for teams, a disciplined diet and workout regimen, rejection, passing up of other lucrative opportunities, suffering and recovering through painful injuries. Athletics are not for the faint-hearted. Its no wonder that in grade 10 girls’ gym, there’s not much of a desire to have your body pummelled by balls when at the end of the day you don’t really view yourself as much of an athlete at all.

But as a Christian, we don’t have that option. We can’t “pass off” our work to someone else or just decide that we’re not really athletes. Maybe we feel like we’d rather be fans, cheering on the sidelines, or the water girl/boy that goes along with the team, but never really makes it onto the playing field. This isn’t saying that those jobs of cheering and water-girling aren’t important, but it is to say that no Christian is called to be anything less than athletic when it comes to how we run our race of faith.

We don’t all have the same jobs and responsibilities but this doesn’t change how we are to perform. Some of us are moms and wives; others are husbands, workers, pastors, children in school etc. Each one of us has jobs to do and carry out that require us to flex our muscles and develop our skills, learn more about our jobs, and do them well. We are not given the option of passing off our duties to someone who’s better, or more interested in doing them than we are.

Take for example being a mom with small children: If you didn’t grow up in a home where your mom cooked meals for you every day, or played creative games and sewed your own clothes, you might look out on your own situation and at times feel intimidated and overwhelmed by Pinterest pressure and the incessant updates of what everyone else is doing with their kids on Facebook. Someone else’s two-year old just learned the entire alphabet, and another lady has knit six sweaters and matching blankets for all her kids, for Christmas, in August! You are a failure. Or at least that’s what it may feel like when you think about whether or not you’re doing a good job at your job. In fact, maybe you feel like you weren’t cut out for this work. Maybe you just see a sea of talented people out there, doing tons of talented things and you can’t seem to make Kraft dinner without it tasting soggy and bland. Or, maybe you don’t even feel like a failure, so much as you’re not even interested in doing any of those things! You’d rather be lounging on the sofa with a good book, or hanging out with friends at the local Starbucks. Here are several possible responses, depending on how you look at your job and responsibilities. One: wallow in false guilt over an uninformed understanding of what your job is and how you are supposed to fulfill it. Two: decide that you’ll never be better at cooking, house-keeping, caring for your children, and just find ways to avoid doing those jobs by buying pre-made food and sitting your kids in front of the TV for long periods of time so that you can soothe your guilt with some online aversions. Three: Keep on doing what you like most, not bothering to ask yourself whether or not you’re being disobedient, lazy, or indifferent to the job you’ve been called to do. Four: Stop, repent from ungodly attitudes, seek God’s word for wisdom and clarity about what you are to be doing, and then learn how to do it well.

I’ve been guilty of numbers one to three many times. But I also know that number four is the only right answer, and when I do that, things change. I’m not a natural at many things. In fact, when I started out cooking for my husband when we first got married, we’d laugh after I’d made dinner, because it had taken me about four hours and I’d dirtied almost every dish in the kitchen. I’ve still got lots to learn, but things have gotten better and cleaner. I know that when I read the Bible, I’m called as Christian to work hard at all I do, and to do it well as unto the Lord. I know that I’m a wife and a mom. I’m also a member of my local church. I’m a daughter and daughter-in-law. I’m a friend. In all these categories, there are things that I need to learn more about and do better in. Even if I’ve failed or don’t have much talent, I need to learn more and do whatever it takes to become “athletic” in those areas. I forget who it was but I think Edith Schaefer (the infamous encourager of making your own furniture out of things like a used leather saddle- seriously who does that?? I love Edith) said that when you don’t know how to do something like sew, pick up some books, read a lot, take a class, and learn. Her advice is true to all of us in any station or situation in the Christian life. We are not allowed to panic and pass our ball off to the next person who’s better at doing what we’re called to do, or just pass our ball off to no one. We can’t say to ourselves, “Well, no one ever showed me how to work hard at school and develop good study habits, so I just won’t try very hard.” or “I don’t know how to lead my family with Scripture since no one did that for me growing up.” or “I just don’t like working at a job, I’d rather spend my time relaxing at home.”. Our weaknesses and struggles with sin are all opportunities for God to show His strength working in us. In 1 Corinthians Paul reminds his readers that not many of them were wise by the world’s standards when they were called to the Lord. We are those same people- not many of us have knowledge and understanding, but by God’s grace we can and will grow. He will enable us, but we also must exert ourselves and learn to flex our muscles and see areas of weakness, lack of talent, and failure, as opportunities for God to do good things through us. Thank God we’re not trying out for a team, and thank God we don’t have to win His approval. All the hard work will be worth it, for the opportunity to show others a testimony of faithfulness in this lifetime. We work because He’s already approved of us because of His Son, and we do it because we love Him and know that in running our race faithfully, we’ll one day receive a crown, a real prize that we can lay at His feet.