The Bible has much to say about our minds and how we are to use our minds to know and worship the God of all wisdom and insight. Here are eight truths found in Scripture that ought to inform and shape our thoughts.

There is a battle for our thought life and we must engage this battle.

2 Corinthians 10:3–6

[3] For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. [4] For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. [5] We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, [6] being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (ESV)

Romans 7:22–23

[22] For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, [23] but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. (ESV)

Our minds can be hardened and blinded.

2 Corinthians 3:14–16

[14] But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. [15] Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. [16] But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. (ESV)

2 Corinthians 4:3–4

[3] And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. [4] In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (ESV)

Our minds need reforming from the default of this world.

Romans 12:2

[2] Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (ESV)

Christians are given the mind of Christ and spiritual understanding

1 Corinthians 2:16

[16] “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (ESV)

Luke 24:45

[45] Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, (ESV)

1 John 5:20

[20] And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (ESV)

Philippians 2:5

[5] Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, (ESV)

Christians are to set their minds on the things of God.

Romans 8:5–6

[5] For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. [6] For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (ESV)

Mark 8:33

[33] But turning and seeing his disciples, [Jesus] rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (ESV)

Colossians 3:2

[2] Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (ESV)

Our worship to and love of God ought to include the use of our minds. (Worship is not merely emotional.)

1 Corinthians 14:15

[15] What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. (ESV)

Mark 12:30

[30] And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (ESV)

There is an expectation that we grow in the area of our thought life.

1 Corinthians 14:20

[20] Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. (ESV)

There is a relationship between our thought life and our experience of God’s presence.

Philippians 4:6–8

[6] do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. [7] And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. [8] Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (ESV)

Lamentations 3:21–23

[21] But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
[22] The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
[23] they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. (ESV)

Isaiah 26:3–4

[3] You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
[4] Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. (ESV)

Christmastime is the perfect opportunity to point our hearts to Christ, yet because it is so FULL of events, shopping, eating, and gathering, it can very easily become a season we simply get through. As a parent, I’ve often found this a stressful season, so keeping it simple and utilizing a few of the typical Christmas traditions to point us to Jesus has allowed us to make it through the month, while also enjoying the “reason for the season.”

UPDATED 12/5/2019

Giving (Just) Three Gifts

We’ve chosen to guide our gift-giving through the giving of three gifts. Though we don’t know exactly how many gifts the wise men gave the Christ-child, there are three mentioned in Scripture: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Each of these point symbolically to the Messiah and His purpose for coming to earth.

And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11 ESV)

  • Gold – symbolic of kingship
  • Frankincense – was used in worship and represents the presence of God
  • Myrrh – was used to prepare a body for burial

I love this song from Keith and Kristyn Getty and the way they refer to these three gifts. “Shepherd’s bow before the lamb gazing at the glory. Gifts of men from distant lands prophesied the story. Gold, a King is born today. Incense, God is with us. Myrrh, his death will make a way and by his blood he’ll win us.”

Joy Has Dawned Upon the World (Official Lyric Video)

NEW Lyric Video for "Joy Has Dawned Upon the World" Visit www.gettymusic.com/merrychristmas for free MP3 & sheet music downloadsWritten by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend, this carol was written as part of a collection teaching through the Apostle's Creed and tells the story of the Gospel throughout the verses. Consider using this in your church and pairing it with a classic carol such as "Angels We Have Heard On High." Enjoy this video? Come sing along with Keith & Kristyn at one of our concerts! Full tour schedule at www.gettymusic.com/christmas. Like and leave comments below! #TuesdayTuneUp#GettyMusic#IrishChristmas#SingChristmas

Posted by Keith and Kristyn Getty on Tuesday, December 12, 2017

So, just as the wise men brought Jesus meaningful gifts, we give gifts with meaning as well. (Isn’t this sweet picture so cute? My kids are much older now, but this is from our early days of giving three gifts.)

A Gift of Gold – to Jesus Our King

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.

This looks a bit different every year. When they were younger, each child got a set amount of money to give a present to Jesus. Specifically, a gift to give to others in His name (Matthew 25:35-40). They’ve given animals through World Vision gift catalogue, donations to our local Baptist children’s home, Gift-a-Verse through The Seed Company, and more. We’ve also had years where we they pooled their money to add to the annual gift we give for the Lottie Moon Christmas offering. As they have grown older, we encourage them to have more ownership of this, and choose for themselves how they want to give back to Jesus including ways for them to earn the money they give … but they keep fairly well-stocked in cash from generous grandparents.

As a symbol of their gift to Jesus, they each get a gold ornament. These are usually just $1 ornaments from WalMart, but I’ve added a tag to each to help us remember the year and what they gave. (I didn’t start the tags until later on, so I don’t have all the year’s gifts labeled.) When they leave the house, they will have their own set of ornaments to keep. I hope they will grow to treasure these ornaments and use them one day to carry on the tradition of giving to Jesus each Christmas.

A Gift of Frankincense – to Meet with God

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Take fragrant spices—gum resin, onycha and galbanum—and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts, and make a fragrant blend of incense, the work of a perfumer. It is to be salted and pure and sacred. Grind some of it to powder and place it in front of the ark of the covenant law in the tent of meeting, where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to the LORD.” Exodus 30:34-3

The second gift is something that will encourage them in their walk with Christ; something they will use to meet with the Lord. Some years they’ve received a new Bible, devotional book, or Bible study. One year they got a basket to hold all their “quiet time” items, including a prayer journal Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! , pens, and K-cups of hot chocolate reserved only for their time with God. My hope is that this will become the gift that they treasure more and more as they grow in their relationship with God.

A Gift of Myrrh – to Connect with One Another

Ok, so there is no great way to connect with the symbolism of myrrh! But we’ve traditionally made this third gift something that helps us connect with one another. Board games, a family gaming system, Disney passes (We can get these for really cheap as Florida residents. When we do this, this is also in lieu of birthday gifts, birthday party, Easter basket, etc. for the rest of the year!) Especially as our kids get older and we all have our different activities launching us out and about, having experiences we all share together has been amazing family time.

St. Nick Stockings

Another fun way we’ve used Christmas traditions to point to Jesus and His call on our lives to live for His glory is through our stockings. Instead of filling them with things, we fill them with small gifts and encouraging words to one another, focusing more on the latter than the former.

In the past, we’ve put the stocking up at the beginning of December, and fill each other’s stockings with gifts of encouraging words and small treats throughout the month. However, with moving and the craziness of the kid being older and our schedule fuller, we’ve been lax on this tradition. This year will be a great time to make a more concerted effort to encourage one another.

When the kids were smaller, they tended to give us little trinkets of theirs they thought mommy or daddy would want. So sweet.

One of the really fun things is that we store all the notes within the stockings the rest of the year. So each year when we hang our stockings, we have past notes to look through. (I try to jot the year on the back of the notes. Most are just small pieces of paper.)

The real “St. Nick” was a man who loved God and gave all he had, in secret, to those in need. We’ve talked to our kids about St. Nicholas, the true Santa Claus. The Veggie Tales movie Saint Nicholas-A Story of Joyful Giving Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!  was a great resource when my kids were little, as it tells the story of St. Nick and how he gave to others in the name of Christ. It might be fun to watch again as its been a few years since we’ve done so.

I’m so grateful we get this time of the year to intentionally point our hearts to the coming of Christ!

 

Whether we realize it or not, each of us is a teacher—a model of how to live out the faith we proclaim. We are guides to the generations who are currently germinating their lifestyle patterns and heart convictions. Whether we have kids and teens under our roof, around us in our neighborhoods, or grandkids on the weekends, we are portraying a picture of what Christianity is. From where we find our identity to how we spend our money, time, and energy, we are constantly teaching the children and teens in our lives what it means to follow Christ. Often without saying a word.

Children watch our walk. Absorb our attitudes. Perceive our priorities.

Unfortunately, our actions are often contrary to what we hope to project. “Do as I say, not as I do” just doesn’t cut it when it comes to our spiritual life. Droves of young adults are leaving the church because they see our inconsistencies. Generations of children who grew up in church have abandoned the faith of their fathers because it never became their own.

Of course, there are men and women who grew up in loving, authentic Christian homes and still chose to walk away, but the majority of those who walk away do so because they were taught behavior modification without a relationship with God and submission to the rules without a love for or study of who God is.

What hope is there for change? God is always bigger than our mess-ups. But we can also take a good hard look at our lives and walk forward in repentance and allow God to transform our places of inconsistencies. As we do, we model the life of humility and change that marks the life of a true believer in Christ.

Here are several inconsistencies we may be unwittingly giving the next generation of potential followers of Christ:

Inconsistency #1: The body of Christ can be helpful, but following Christ is primarily an individual pursuit.

Yes, we each have choices to make for ourselves. Yes, our faith must be our own. But the notion that “me and God are good” without a need for His people is contrary to Scripture. A vast majority of the exhortations in Scripture assume the reader is gathering with a local body of believers. The idea that you could be a true Christian and not be an integral part of the church is nowhere to be found in the Bible. Following Christ is a corporate pursuit. You and I need the body of Christ in order to fully know and follow Christ.

Inconsistency #2: A deep commitment to the local church is more of a liability and a nuisance than a lifeline and a need.

I get it. People are messy. My husband is a pastor, and I’ve seen the ugly side of church life. But the call of a Christian to love and serve the body of Christ is not negated when the body is broken. Going to church is not about “me.” Too many of us live as if we believe that loving one another is impossible. And it may be, on our own strength. But what a testimony it is to the power of God if we choose to love those who are hard to love. (Not to mention, often we are the hard-to-love-people who need the love of the church.) Our call to lay down our lives for one another is independent of the responses and neglect of others. When we serve one another, we serve Christ.

Inconsistency #3: God created everyone equal, but not everyone is safe.

If we say that God loves and cherishes all people — red and yellow, black and white — but remain fearful or disrespectful of other colors and cultures, we teach an inconsistency. We need to love and respect people of every nation, epidermis color, and economic status, even if that “threatens” our own comfort and safety. We need to shape our views and values primarily on what the Bible teaches about the dignity of every human being — over and against any other preference. Let’s be driven by biblical values more than personal, cultural, and/or political ones and teach the younger generations that upholding God’s way is more important than any other societal structure.

Inconsistency #4: My home is in heaven, but I’m going to prioritize earthly comforts over eternal pursuits.

So often we live as if our plans, dreams, and needs are more important than God’s plan for our lives. We live with a need to be needed over needing Biblical truth. We seek our security in hefty bank accounts and sturdy plans instead of the presence and provision of God. We are more concerned with our outward appearance over our eternal rewards. If we say we follow Christ, the Bible is clear that we are sojourners on this earth with a mission to carry out until we get there. We ought not to live a life of settling down. We are called to a life of reaching out to the lost and dying souls around us.

Inconsistency #5: Bible study is a nice idea but the Word of God is not an absolute necessity for the Christian.

Ultimately, each of these inconsistencies points to how we treat the Word of God. Because if we see the Word of God as a book of nice suggestions useful to decorate a coffee cup instead of filled with truth that is imprinted onto our lives, then we will live out a pseudo-Christianity that is weak, powerless, and, frankly, Pharisaic. If our everyday lives are devoid of the truth of the Bible, it is also devoid of the power of the God of the Bible.

Do we see the Bible as the very word of God?

Do we know what those words from God contain?

Do we believe that His way spelled out in those words is indeed God’s best plan for us?

Do we believe that God’s best plan is for all of God’s people?

Do we believe that God has enabled all of His people to follow His plan?

You see, if we don’t understand that the way of God is clearly spelled out in the Word of God and if we don’t believe that the word of God is authoritative and inerrant and given to us for our good, then we will never be able to live the Christian life to its fullness. And if we don’t know what the word of God says and actually follow it — if we don’t understand that following the way of God is our greatest purpose here on this earth — what hope do the generations behind us have in learning this way from us?

We must love and follow God for the sake of our own good. But we must also love and follow God for the sake of those little eyes and tender hearts who are watching how we treat God’s Word, God’s people, and the lost in need of a Savior. We must pursue a life of obedience and worship so that we can experience the fullness of God’s presence in our everyday life, but also because of the young souls who themselves are searching to experience fulfillment and security — which they will only find through Christ.

Let’s be Christians who consistently point to the glory of God and the goodness of His Word, through lives that display the character of Christ. And pray that the children and teens in our lives see Christ is such a way that it transforms their lives forever.

Lord, help us.

This post was originally published on LifeWay Voices.

It’s a downright fight for me to remember the reason for the season: celebrating Emmanuel, God with us. Amidst (what seems like) endless parties, shopping lists, and family gatherings, the season gearing up to Christmas Day is typically rushed and stressful. Beyond this busyness is a constant temptation to indulge. From grandma’s cooking to the latest and greatest gadget, the inclination of my heart and flesh to be gratified through toys and treats is given continual opportunity to think about self. My wants. My wishes. My will.

So, yes, busyness is a problem. Excessiveness and self-gratification, too. But the biggest hurdle in the way of celebrating and honoring Christ this Christmas is not primarily in the external distractions—it’s in my propensity to want what I want, how I want it, when I want it. I forget that life is not all about me. Christmas surely isn’t either. I must be intentional to remember that Christmas is, indeed, about Christ. It’s not primarily about celebrating time with family, making memories for the children in our lives, or showing love through gift-giving. Christmas is a celebration of Christ our Savior.

The actions you and I take during this Christmas season (and every other day of the year) are important. We exist to worship God. Yes, God has given us good gifts to enjoy, family to love, and a community to serve. But every party we attend, conversation we engage, and shopping trip we make ought to have an attitude of worship as the undercurrent. A desire to honor and glorify the God who sent His only Son for us should permeate our days. As we enter this Christmas season, let’s do so with a view toward worship and turn our hearts toward the glad tidings the coming of Christ bring to our souls.

p.s. If you are looking for a study to help you to just that—point your heart toward the significance of the coming of Christ, join me for this 12-day journey. Let’s set our gaze on Christ this Christmas!

Christmas Bible Study

December is buuuuuusy. This Christmas study will help you remember the reason for the season through a Christmas hymn and  two timely passages a day.

Learn more here.

 

A few months ago, I got invited to do a podcast interview for At the Table with Jacki King, a part of the ministry of the SBC Women’s Leadership Network. Super excited and honored, I agreed and we began working to schedule a time to chat. When I received the questions for the interview, I was actually quite surprised. I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but most of the questions were geared toward being a Bible teacher. I guess it surprised me, because there are so many women she could have asked to talk about this topic that are more seasoned than me.

One of the questions she asked was about the barriers I’ve faced as a woman Bible teacher, and through the process of preparing for that question, I’ve realized that my biggest barrier has been me, myself, and I. The self-doubt and limitations I’ve placed on my own calling and ministry in so many ways. Even the fact that I was surprised that Jacki would want to chat about these things with me points to this reality.

Yet the more I prepared for the interview, and the more we chatted, I realized I do have something of value to say and maybe I’m not as green and inexperienced as I think I am. Now, I certainly want to err on the side of caution and humility over thinking I have it all together. But I am excited for this episode to arrive. It is very different than most of my podcast interviews. It is geared for a specific audience: women of the Southern Baptist Convention, but will apply to any woman who has considered the calling to teach the Bible to other women.

You can catch the full episode here.

Here is an excerpt.

What are some of those first steps to really developing as a Bible teacher?

It absolutely starts with learning how to study the Bible and walking with God on your own.

If you’re thinking you want to get on a platform and teach the Word you better know how to study the Word. Teaching is a heavy responsibility. Gratefully, we have the Spirit of God within us and I fully believe He changes words that come out of my mouth when needed. None of us is perfect. But teaching the Word effectively has to start with learning how to study the Bible. If you don’t feel like you know how to go to the Bible, open to any page, and know the steps to take to study correctly, then I feel we have no business putting ourselves out there as a Bible teacher.

As far as sharpening our skills, for me it is watching my husband. I’ve been watching him preach for over 10 years and my teaching style very much matches his because I learn so much from him. Watch the people that you learn from and mimic their structure as a starting point.

One book I’ve read that was helpful early on as I was learning the skill of crafting a teaching talk, is Preaching with Bold Assurance by Hershel York Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! . You’ve got to figure out your own system, but it helps to have a starting point. There are tons of books out there that actually teach you how to teach the Word.  I think some seminaries also have classes on teaching the Bible that you can audit, so that could be an option. It would be a much bigger commitment than reading a book, but you’ll learn a lot more from a seminary class.

I’ve figured out my own system over time. The more you do it, the more you’ll figure out what works for you and what your style is.

Listen to the full episode here.

Are you interested in taking the next steps toward speaking, writing, and/or leading online communities? I will be piloting a coaching course in 2020. Head here to get on the waiting list.

Church conflict is no fun. Understatement of the year, right? Whether it is a small fire that pops up in a small group or a full-blown congregational wildfire, church conflict is inevitable and ubiquitous. The church is filled with imperfect people in progress. Therefore, we will encounter trouble, and it is in these troubling times that your pastor needs your support the most.

Here are three gifts you can give your pastor, especially in times of conflict and unrest:

YOUR PRAYERS

Let’s face it: When it comes to church, there is no shortage of strongly held opinions. Criticisms abound and receiving those critiques is a weekly (if not daily) part of the pastor’s job. Sometimes they are silly and small. Other times they are helpful and needed. It is part of his job to listen to and consider every negative comment that comes his way. However, you and I can help him tremendously by filtering our thoughts through prayer before we bring them to our pastor.

What if we made it our gut-reaction to every bit of “church news” to hit our knees and pray for our pastor?

What if we chose to take our concerns to God first and ask Him for guidance and leadership and discernment to know if our critiques even need to be vocalized?

What if we prayed for our pastor more than we complain about what he is or is not doing?

Not sure what to pray? Here are some great places to start:

  • Pray for his spiritual well-being and protection.
  • Pray for strength to walk the road God has chosen for him.
  • Pray for wisdom as he leads.
  • Pray for protection from the enemy.
  • Pray that he gets rest both physically and emotionally.

YOUR PRESENCE

Once we’ve prayed for our pastor, as our first-response to concerns and conflict, now we can bless him with our presence. Empty seats bring forth feelings of defeat. Especially over time, the collective effect of seeing church members choose other pursuits (kid’s activities, family time, sleeping in, cleaning the house, constant traveling, etc.) over the body of Christ, again and again, is incredibly discouraging.

If you really want to bless your pastor—especially in times of dissension—show up. Prioritize your relationship with God and your commitment to His church more than your career, your family time, and your self-care. Those things are certainly important (and I am not saying we need to stop pursuing those things) but let’s be sure to make the weekly gathering with God’s people and the faithful serving the church body a non-negotiable in our lives and schedule these other important pursuits around our commitment to our church family. Being a healthy church member will enhance the health of your church and in turn the health of your pastor.

Beyond the commitment to being a faithful church member, if you encounter a specific concern, meet with him (after you give him the gift of your prayers first). Give him the chance to answer your questions and clarify any misunderstandings. Avoid passive-aggressive actions such as withholding your giving or attendance. Don’t give in to talking about your concerns to everyone but your pastor. That’s exactly what the evil one wants. Plus, it hurts the body of Christ and the reflection of God’s glory more than it hurts your pastor.

YOUR PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SUPPORT

Hopefully, after you have prayed for your pastor, and have come to him with any concerns you have about the church or decisions he has made, you can walk forward in support of your pastor. As you hear concerns expressed by others, encourage them to give these gifts of their prayers and their presence. If you see dissatisfaction and dissension forming, enter the discussion and be a gentle encouragement that points them to pray for the pastor, and taking their concerns directly to him, not primarily to each other. We’ve all played the game of “telephone” and seen how truth changes they pass from person to person. Support your pastor by debunking half-truths, and imploring people to take their concerns directly to the pastor.

Beyond your support within private conversations, be sure to support your pastor publicly, too. There is a tendency for church members to neglect the opportunities to support their pastor when he needs it most, particularly in business meetings. It’s one thing to tell your pastor you are on board with an upcoming change, it’s quite another to be present and vocally supportive when that change is being initiated.

Oftentimes, at the first sign of resistance, men and women who have told the pastor they are with him, unfortunately, fail to publicly state their support of the change. Most churches have some sort of meeting where church members are able to participate in the governance of the church. Don’t miss out on those important spaces where you can bless your pastor tremendously by not only casting your vote but also showing your clear and public confidence in his leadership.

Don’t underestimate the cunning of our true enemy. Satan loves it when we turn on one another. Because if we are too busy fighting ourselves, we won’t be bringing the gospel to the nations. When we choose to refuse to do anything that will add to the fire of conflict within the church, we put a damper on the evil one’s schemes. And if enough of us choose to do the same, the damaging fire will have no fuel to thrive on.

Ultimately, these three gifts are not about the pastor. It is about our obedience to Christ. We are all called to share all good things with our teachers (Galatians 6:6), to honor them (1 Timothy 5:17), trust and follow their leadership (Hebrews 13:17), and to respect them (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). This is especially important for us to remember when we walk through difficult times as a church.

Lord, help me to love and honor my pastor better. Forgive me for the times I have been silent and have not stopped unhealthy and unhelpful conversations. Forgive me for the times I have entered willingly in spreading gossip. Give me the grace and resolve to treat my pastor with respect. Lay a great burden on my heart to pray for him regularly. Lead me to see your plan for our church, and how you are using this man to guide our church to greater growth so that we can glorify your name in our community. Show me what I need to change. Help me be a better church member. I long to be a blessing to my pastor and a benefit to the body of Christ. I thank you for my pastor.

This post was originally posted over at LifeWay Voices.

Have you heard any teaching about strongholds? About taking your thoughts captive? Paul teaches us about strongholds in the New Testament:

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.”
2 Corinthians 10:3–6 ESV

Paul was writing to a very unhealthy, immature church in the very sin-filled city of Corinth. Sin had also permeated this church family … and with what seems like very little resistance. Paul has written to correct the church numerous times, and this last section of 2 Corinthians in the most severe of all. He is desperate for them to change and experience the joy of obedient christian living, and he attempts here to clue them in to the fact that they have a great enemy who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy them through their disobedient actions AND thinking.

Here are two actions we can take when it comes to strongholds.

Recognize the reality of spiritual warfare

Spiritual warfare can seem scary and overwhelming. Yet it is a reality often mentioned in Scripture. Here in 2 Corinthians, Paul teaches us about the “weapons of warfare” we are given through Christ. Since there is a spiritual battle all around us (Ephesians 6) we must ENGAGE the battle. He tells us of these weapons, not so they can be hung on a wall as trophies. They are to be employed! Specifically, Paul tells us here in 2 Corinthians 10 to use the weapons of warfare in order to destroy strongholds. These weapons are not of the flesh and they have divine power to destroy the strongholds in our lives.

Identify the strongholds

But what are these “strongholds?” Paul gives us three actions to take to help us identify the these dangerous strongholds in order to fight in the spiritual battle.

  • Destroy anything that is raised against the knowledge of God
  • Take captive our thoughts and make them obedient to Christ
  • Be ready to punish every disobedience that pops up in our life

Strongholds in the Bible (Video)

In this video, I take a look at 2 Corinthians 10 as well as a bit of what the Old Testament has to say to help us understand the word stronghold in the Bible.

Resources mentioned in this video about strongholds in the Bible

Enter the video discussion here.

I’ve been a pastor’s wife now for over a decade. It is a beautiful privilege and heavy responsibility. It is a role that comes with many joys and sorrows, benefits and sacrifices, unexpected gifts and unstated expectations from others. That last one is often the hardest dose to swallow.

Most churchgoers don’t realize it, but they have a picture of the perfect pastor’s wife in their mind, and that projection paints every interaction they have with the wife of their pastor.

Your pastor’s wife is in a very unique position. What she does (or doesn’t do) affects her husband’s ministry. For those of you who are married (except in the rare case of some very particular jobs), your behavior, your spiritual growth, your words, your involvement in church has no bearing to your spouse’s job security. He was most likely hired without as much as a glance your way. Nor are his clients, or whomever he serves day-in and day-out, holding strong opinions on what you should or should not be doing right now. This is not true of the pastor’s wife. Just last month a pastor’s wife friend shared that her husband, an interim pastor (who had previously served the church for years in another role), was not offered the permanent pastorate job because they thought his wife wasn’t pulling her weight.

Bottom line, so many people have tightly held opinions on what the church, the pastor, and his family should be/look/act like. Some realize it. Some don’t. Because of these realities, your pastor’s wife most likely feels that she cannot be herself. Consequently, she often finds herself with a heavy armload of her own secrets. Here are a couple:

“I am not perfect, but I feel like I need to be.”

As stated already, your pastor’s wife lives with the constant pressure of living up to the expectations of the congregation. Most churchgoers expect her to be more mature and knowledgeable than they are. All of this, alongside her desire to be an encouraging role model for the women of the church, leads to her feeling a massive pressure to be perfect. However, she is far from perfect. She messes up all the time. She is likely trying to live up to the pedestal on which she’s been placed yet, at the same time, she wants to be authentic and real.

This all leads to the feeling that there is no safe place within the church for her to lay out the messiness of her own soul. If she shares too much, she fears that your opinion of her will change (or worse…you’ll use this against her when conflict arises), and thus her and her husband’s ministry effectiveness is damaged. However, if she never shares her junk you will accuse her of being unapproachable and stand-off-ish (at best) or an arrogant snob (at worst).

“My church is not perfect…but I feel like I need to pretend that it is.”

There are things about your church she dislikes and is disappointed in. There are processes she wishes she could change, traditions she wants to undo, and people she would love to quiet down. It may very well be the case that if she were a normal church-goer she would have continued on in her search after visiting your church.

Ironically, though the congregation typically expects more from the pastor’s wife, her voice for change is often smaller than the average church member. She often doesn’t have an official place in the leadership of the church. Sure, she has the pastor’s ear at home, but beyond that, she has to be careful with her comments. Much of what she suggests is misconstrued as self-serving. Her motives are often in question. She can’t simply have an opinion about how something is run because many churchgoers take it as her just trying to get her husband elevated.

The evil one loves to stir up dissension, and often his first attack is on the church member’s view of their pastor and his family. If Satan can get church members to question their pastor’s motives and character, then he can easily erode the pastor’s ability to lead. The next best thing is to have them criticize the pastor’s wife’s motives and actions.

More secret thoughts of the pastor’s wife:

Here are even more secret thoughts your pastors’ wives may be thinking:

“I’m friends with both everyone and no one.”

“I can’t help with every ministry!”

“Parenting in the pew on display for the whole church is the hardest ‘ministry’ I engage in every week.”

“I’m more than ‘the pastor’s wife’ and my kids are more than ‘the pastor’s kids.’ These titles do not encapsulate us…we are real people also.”

“I want real friends who want to do fun things, people who don’t see me as eternally ‘on the clock’ as a pastor’s wife. Let’s just hang out and eat pizza.”

“My children and my marriage do not belong to you. Please don’t feel the freedom to demand information or offer ‘advice’ that wasn’t solicited for and give me the freedom to not follow it.”

“It’s hard for us to accept help/gifts. I don’t know if it will be used against us later.”

“I may not know everything that is going on in your life. Please don’t assume that I do.”

“I thought we were friends and then you left the church without telling me. It really bothers me.”

“Just because I am the pastor’s wife doesn’t mean I am an instant volunteer for every plan you come up with.”

“I’m lonely. It may look like there’s a lot of people around us on Sundays, but during the week people don’t reach out unless they need something. This fuels the lie that ‘I’m only useful/needed based on what I can give you.’”

“Trying to use me as a voice to speak to my husband or other leaders is annoying and not useful. I am not their secretary, administrator, or adviser.”

These are actual comments from pastor’s wives I interviewed recently. Can you hear the hurt, loneliness, discouragement, and exhaustion behind these comments? Unfortunately, these secrets are held by the majority of pastors’ wives, not the minority.

Here’s the bottom line:

It is very hard for your pastor’s wife to let you know what she really thinks and feels.

How you can help your pastor’s wife

Pray, pray, pray for her to experience the freedom of being her real self, even if just to a few trusted women in the congregation.

Think about how your words affect your pastor’s wife. I’ve had ladies tell me what my job as a pastor’s wife is (personally visiting church members in their homes, with freshly baked pies in tow), make comments on what I should or should not wear because I’m a pastor’s wife (Jeans? In the service?!), ask me to convey a message or ministry idea to the pastor (why not tell his office assistant?), and ask me where I was at some church event I was unable to attend (and it wasn’t because they were concerned that I was sick). None of these comments would have been verbalized if I was not the pastor’s wife. You may not think that your small comment is a big deal, but it is most likely not the only comment she has received that day. The weight of those comments and requests begin to add up.

Allow her to be a normal church member, and don’t expect more from her just because she is the pastor’s wife. You hired her husband, not her. She has her own jobs to take care of.

Pray again for your pastor’s wife: that her significance would be rooted in her relationship with God. That her moments would be continually dependent on the power of His Spirit. That her heart would be renewed through the promises in His Word. And that all this would lead to resiliency and grace to navigate this unique role she’s been called to.

This post was originally posted over at LifeWay Voices.

As soon as I closed the door to my oldest’s kindergarten class the tears started flowing. With a pinched face, I desperately tried to control my breathing and keep the deluge of emotions down so I could make it to the car before I completely crumbled.

I was a mess of emotions.

My breakdown wasn’t primarily because I was sad to not have him by my side, or that fact that I wasn’t ready for him to grow up just yet. I was torn up because I was disappointed in myself. I had spent months and months of researching and planning toward homeschooling. I’d built it up in my mind as the best option for our family of five. It was what the super-moms did—the really strong, spiritual ones kept their kids at home and shaped their hearts and minds in the best way possible.

We had attempted a trial month that summer to test the homeschooling waters. It was a miserable failure. What I had idealized and idolized was an absolute nightmare. My five-year-old had the attention span of an excitable dog with a squirrel nearby. My three-year-old was as clingy and sassy as could be. And my one-year-old was into EVERYTHING and continually fought for the seat in my lap that the three-year-old just wouldn’t give up.

It was a nightmare.

THE LIES

As I completed the walk of shame back to my car on that first day of kindergarten, feelings of failure overwhelmed me. Even though I knew my child was supposed to be in the public school that year (because the other option = mental breakdown), a great disappointment plagued me. I wasn’t enough. I was a bad mom. My kids were going to be less-than because I couldn’t get it together enough to homeschool them.

Yikes. The destruction and falsehood of these lies are clear to me now. And whether it is about your school choices, food choices, discipline choices, or any-other-thing-related-to-parenting choices, my guess is that you’ve listened to these lies as well:

“I’m not ______ enough for my kids.”

“I’m a bad mom.”

“My kids are going to suffer because I can’t get it together enough to ___________.”

Ladies, we must kill these lies. Our thought-life is a breeding ground for either destruction or victory in every area of our lives. If we allow lies to run rampant and reign our inner life, everything else about our reality will be affected. We must fight for freedom from these lies.

DON’T FIGHT THE LIES ALONE

I’ve learned to be engaged in this fight—the long journey toward healthy thinking—and it is certainly not over. I still worry about whether or not the choices we are making are right and best. I still wonder how I am messing up my kids by doing or not doing something. I still forget that their development and growth is not all up to me.

Perhaps that last one is the kicker: It’s not all up to me.

Today, as I walk into my tenth school year as a mom, though the lies don’t hold as much power over me as they did, I still hear their siren call. I still have to grab them, throw them down, and tell them to flee. Then I have to replace these lies with truth:

I am not defined by the type or quality of mother I am.
I have choices (in food, school, etc.). That fact is evidence of great blessing.
I am not enough, and will never be enough. But I don’t need to be.

My kids need to find sufficiency in Christ, not me.
My kids need to find their security in Christ, not me.
My kids need to find their significance in Christ, not me.

God is in control…even if I get the choices all wrong.
God loves my kids infinitely more than I do.
God is working in my kids in ways I never could.

His faithfulness is not dependent on my actions.
His goodness is not something I have to earn.
His provision and protection for me and my children are steadfast. Always.

BE OPEN TO CHANGE; TRUST THE LORD

I’ve also learned to take it a kid at a time and a year at a time. Every choice I make is not immutable. We can change our path at any time. We’ve moved twice since that first day of school and have been in and out of different schooling options. I’ve been all sorts of types of a mom. Stay-at-home mom. Work-at-home mom. Work-outside-of-the-home mom. Homeschool mom. Public school mom. Car-line mom. Bus-rider-kids mom. Baseball mom. Theater mom. Band mom. This year, for the first time, I’ll be a virtual school mom for my middle child.

Along the way, each stage had its benefits and downsides, its joys and pains. But as I look back through all our changes, I can see the unchanging and faithful hand of God leading and guiding us as we make these important decisions. More importantly, I can see the faithful hand of God changing us in the process.

Lord, as we navigate aaaaall the choices we face as parents, will you remind us of who you are. Help us cling to the truth of what the Bible tells us about you, more than we hold to the social norms and what’s “best” for our kids. Don’t allow us to put our kids at the center of our lives. Instead, keep our focus centered on you.

The post was originally published over at LifeWay Voices.

A few weeks before my 30th birthday I attended a 30th birthday celebration for another woman. My family and I moved to town just a few months before the party. We knew a few people in town, but no one very well.

Instead of being thankful for the invite, all I could think of was that no one would be gathering to celebrate my milestone in just a few weeks. Instead of using the evening as a chance to make new connections, all my heart could hold was bitterness in the fact that everyone there seemed to be such amazing friends. All I could see were the circles I was not in. All I could hear were the inside jokes I didn’t understand. All I could feel was loneliness and bitterness, even though I was surrounded by warmth and happiness.

Around the same time, at a mom’s group I attended, a game was played involving a ball of yarn. About twenty ladies stood in a circle and we were instructed to, once we received the ball of yarn, to toss it back out to another woman. The tosser was supposed to tell of a fun memory or of something they loved about the person they chose to throw to. For ten minutes I watched that red ball of yarn cross the gap between each smiling, giggling young momma. The threads connected them all in a web of intimacy and history and being known, while I stood, holding back tears and the urge to run away and never come back, until the ball of yarn finally came to me with a generic platitude.

Loneliness is no joke. Moving and making new friends is not often fun. Yet, even if you’ve not moved around much, like I have, feelings of isolation can strike, even when you are surrounded by people you’ve known for decades. It all comes down to our relationship with lies.

I was giving in to lies and listening to those lies is what brought me down. Not the many moves. Not all the change. There are many lies which exist around deep connections. And a failure to manage our expectations when it comes to these connections is a great way to allow them to consume our hearts and leave us miserable.

If you give into the following you’ll find yourself in the pity party in no time:

  • Believing that deep connections happen overnight.
  • Expecting and waiting for others to initiate with you.
  • Overanalyzing what people say and how they say it.
  • Being easily offended.
  • Holding on to resentment.
  • Assuming that everyone else around you are BFFs and have no need for additional friendships.
  • Believing the lie that friendships come easy and stay easy.
  • Expecting people to read your mind.
  • Refusing to believe the best about people.
  • Depending too much on your feelings of being included.

I’m sure there is more we could add to this list. But whether the lies you’re believing are on this list or not, the longer we hold on to these lies, the longer we will walk around lonely and feeling on the outside. The reality is, most of us feel at least some sort of loneliness and feelings of being on the outside. It is one of Satan’s favorite tactics, especially within the church. Instead of spending our time reaching out to the lost, we stay huddled in the corner, obsessed with being included and being wounded by the inactions of others.

Here’s the deal: when we stand before God in heaven, the webs of yarn, the dinner parties, and the circles of friends will all be gone. It’s not that we shouldn’t seek out deep friendships. It’s that we ought not to be paralyzed if we feel we don’t have those deep friendships. Because while we wallow in self-pity and sorrow, we waste our time and emotions on ourselves. Better use of that emotional energy and time would be to befriend someone who needs Jesus.

I finally realized that no one person can meet all my friendship needs. The search for the BFF needed to stop. I don’t exist primarily to stay in safe places. Being included and known is not the end goal of my life. My heart will never be satisfied through any earthly relationship. No matter how many great friends I have, my heart will always ache for more.

A decade later, as I embraced another milestone birthday, I found myself months after another big move. Once again, I was in a new town surrounded by new people, yet not truly known by any of them. And while a piece of my heart wanted to be surrounded by friends who knew the best way to help me celebrate, I was content. I was able to see that my worth is not tied up in who is throwing me a party or how many BFFs I have in town. I was no longer all tied up in needing to be included in everything.

In those ten years, many things changed in my heart, especially my view of God. He has become more and more dear to me. He is nearer and clearer. His love now fills in the spaces that once teemed with insecurity and loneliness. His presence satisfies the places that were desperate to be seen and known and recognized by others.

I certainly don’t go without any struggle, but as I lean into the Lord, I find a friend in Him and I’m able to resist the feelings of loneliness. They no longer consume me.

What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer. 

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

– Joseph Scriven

The post was originally published over at LifeWay Voices.