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.

My first mean street preacher encounter was as a college student at Auburn University. These “preachers” were actually other students who angrily proclaimed messages of damnation to their peers passing by. They left me livid. I hated the lopsided image they portrayed of the God I loved and followed. In my own fervor (and naivety), I heatedly engaged them in their declarations and attempted to address their mode of operation, in the hopes that I could get them to see how poorly they were representing Christ. I always walked away even angrier. They made Christ look bad. They made me look bad. And I felt that they would harm the witness I was attempting to have with my unbelieving classmates.

The frustration with the methods and motives of others in ministry did not remain in my college days. There is a constant temptation to criticize the methods of other church’s efforts to get people in the door. I am bombarded with aggravation when people take to Twitter to stir up trouble or fan the Facebook flames of controversy just to get more reads. Of course, I can never know for sure the motives of others, but often times there is little room for doubt. It leaves me feeling like my 20-year-old self, angry and frustrated with the portrait it paints of the people of Christ.

“It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice. For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance.” (Philippians 1:15-19)

The apostle Paul found himself in a much more frustrating and personal situation. He was in prison and had been receiving reports of polarizing firestorms amidst God’s people. There are two important actions Paul takes during that stressful time.

Paul Rejoices

The first time I deeply studied Philippians, these verses put me to shame in the best possible way. I’d spent so many years wasting so much frustrated energy on others with whom I did not agree on their methods or motives. It angered me that they “won.” The very people we had been trying to reach got all caught up in the song and dance they had to offer. Those people we’d invested in and loved on and pursued eventually chose entertainment and comfort over truth and depth. Then there’s also the public sphere where Christians post and share that which is less than ideal for the image of God’s bride. These instances and more prove to be difficult for me to navigate.

Yet, here we see a man who rejoices amidst the controversy and bad motives—even when that involved a deliberate stirring up of trouble for him. These were personal and deliberate attacks and Paul rejoices in them. He doesn’t agree with the method or the motives, but He recognizes that Christ is being preached. And so, he rejoices.

Paul Remembers

Beyond the choice to adopt a perspective of joy, Paul is also intentional to cling to the character of God:

  • He remembers that God is more powerful than the impure motives of the jealous proclaimers.
  • He remembers that the Good News of Christ can outperform the manipulations of man.
  • He remembers that his Deliverer is not dependent on or deterred by the troublemakers.
  • He remembers that prayers of God’s people and the power of the Holy Spirit—not the silencing of the troublemakers—is where to put his hope.

So, when others prevail, though their motives and methods are not what they should be, let’s choose to rejoice and remember. When the choices of others lead to damage and discord, let’s choose to rejoice and remember.

Let us share a prayer for the situation: God, lead us to a deeper hold on your sovereignty and power. Help us remember that you are full of mercy and grace…even for the ones who are missing the mark in their ministry motives. Grant us humility to examine our own ways. Help us walk in the example of Christ to do nothing from selfish ambition, but instead in humility count others more significant than ourselves. You are not threatened by attempts to thwart your plans. You are always in control. Help us, Holy Spirit, to remember and depend on your goodness and grace, your power and provision.

The post was originally published over at LifeWay Voices.

For many moms, it can often feel as if everything is defined by their “pre-kid” life and their “mom” life. Our wardrobe and furniture choices are different; hairstyles and hormones have changed. The dinner on our plate, the money in our wallet…even the time needed to use the restroom is no longer our own. There is a very clear delineation of what was “normal” life before and after having kids.

This has certainly been true for me as I look on the timeline of my own life, and while much had indeed changed forever, one of the most difficult transitions for me has been my time with God. Pre-kids, I could enjoy a slow, QUIET, and relatively uninterrupted time in the Bible. Once my first bundle of joy arrived, all of that neatness went out the window. It led to some dark days as I had to rearrange my expectations of what a “successful” time in the Word looked like, but the roadblocks I encountered through sleepless nights, constant chaos, and incessant interruptions have been the best thing that has happened to my spiritual life.

As we approach Mother’s Day—as much as we moms LOVE our kids—it is a temptation to look back and long for the simpler, quieter days before kids changed everything. Weariness will do that to the best of us. Instead of wondering if life will ever return to normal, what if we shifted our focus to the goodness and beauty of this new-normal?Instead of lamenting all that’s been lost—especially when it comes to our spiritual life—let’s focus on and celebrate how God has and will continue to use the formidable moments of motherhood to move us closer to His presence.

Here are five ways motherhood has shaped my walk with Jesus forever—for the better.

1. My devotional prayer life is better

As a woman without kids, I had a tendency to silo my relationship with God into the one-hour time slot I had scheduled. That hour was awesome, but I treated it as if that was the only appropriate time to spend with God. I did not invite Him into the rest of my day. I didn’t pray much outside of that “quiet time.” The disruption of my “perfect” little God-appointment showed me that I lacked meeting with Him continually through each moment of my day. This caused me to see that I need not be so dependent on an hour slot in my schedule to experience God. He is always near. I can talk to Him any time, anywhere.

2. The paralysis of perfectionism doesn’t paralyze me as easily.

“If I can’t do it right, then I shouldn’t do it at all” was my mantra. I had unknowingly been living this way and it was suffocating my spiritual life. Suddenly, in the motherhood stage of life, there wasn’t much that I could do “just right” anymore. Pre-kid Katie could control her environment, plan perfect days, and color-code her prayer journal and study notes. Post-kid Katie was drowning in failure until she learned to kick perfectionism to the curb; the “all-or-nothing” era has ended. (This has also made me much more patient with others and their less-than-perfect attempts at life!)

3. I’ve learned how to go deeper into the Bible quicker.

Before kids, I used all the Bible study tools I could find. All of them. Becoming a mom forced me to be more selective in how I spent my “quiet time.” I had to learn to utilize the tools that give me the most “bang for my buck” in helping me understand the Word. I still try to enjoy a more leisurely time with God when I can, but most days I take what I can get once I open my Bible—which may only be 15 minutes. This time-crunch has made me think more critically about the tools I’d gathered and whether or not they actually helped me understand the Bible better. Just because so-and-so does it doesn’t mean I have to as well.

4. I’ve learned my desperate need for more and more (and more) of Jesus.

Oh, how I need Jesus! There is nothing like the stress of three kids bickering in the car over something completely insignificant or the frustration of trying to create a perfect family moment through reading the Bible together…only to have kids fight over who gets to sit in my lap while I get kicked in the face in the process. My lack of sacrificial love, enduring patience, and unconditional kindness is on full display through my feeble motherhood efforts. Motherhood has been a mirror which continues to shed light on the ugliest parts of me. These are the places that need the redemption and transformation that only the power and grace of Jesus can handle.

5. Scripture memory has become an essential delight.

Perhaps as a culminating effect of all of the above, motherhood has driven me to hide God’s Word in my heart. Through the ingestion of my Bible through slow and steady memory work, the essential truths contained in Scripture—who God is, who I am because of Jesus, and how I am to respond in worship to Him in my everyday moments—are being infused forever into my soul. The words of God are becoming a part of who I am and the Bible is available to me even when my hands are busy with all things motherhood.

There are more ways that motherhood has changed me forever, but I am most thankful for these five transformations—changes that are certainly not complete!

So if you are a mom struggling to get in the Word because you just can’t seem to do things the way you used to, or you feel like the mom-life just isn’t the season for a closer walk with Jesus, lay down these lies! You can enjoy the Word, even with littles wandering around you. You don’t have to sacrifice depth for time. Quit focusing on what you feel you can’t do, and focus on what you deep-down want to do—because even the “want to want to” is something.

Let go of the Instagram ideals and Pinterest perfection, fix your eyes on Jesus, and ask Him to stir up an even greater desire to become more like Him. He has begun a good work in you and He promises to complete it (Phil. 1:6). Motherhood might very well be the vehicle He is using to do just that.

This post was originally posted over at LifeWay Voices.

The Bible is not an easy read. Yet so many Christians approach the Bible as if they ought to be experts at what it contains. They believe that just by nature of being a Christian, Bible study should come naturally to them. I believed this lie for the longest time. I’m not sure I would have ever vocalized it as such, but my experience proved it. Instead of being a source of joy and delight, opening God’s Word was an activity filled with guilt and failure. It paralyzed me and left me feeling less-than for not having the amazing “quiet times” everyone else around me seemed to be having.

If you find yourself scratching your head when it comes time for Bible study, know that you are NOT alone. In fact, you are probably in the majority. But just because you’re in that boat doesn’t mean you have to stay there. The Bible is the primary way we can know God and the purpose He has for our lives. It is God’s revelation to us, His very words which tell us who He is and who we are because of Christ. It is a gift of grace, a treat to be enjoyed and savored. The Bible is filled with the spiritual nourishment our souls crave.

Here are 8 actions to take when you have no idea what you are reading:

1. PRAY.

2. ZOOM OUT AND GET THE BIG PICTURE.

3. BE SURE YOU ARE ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS.

4. PHONE A FRIEND.

5. READ A COMMENTARY AND LISTEN TO A SERMON ON THE PASSAGE.

6. INVEST IN RESOURCES.

7. KEEP GOING.

8. REMIND YOURSELF OF THE END GOAL

Read more about each in my blog post over at LifeWay Voices.

Women’s history month is upon us, and we all have cause to celebrate the female voices of the past who have paved the way for women to enjoy a fuller, educated life with which to serve our God. Yet many of us who have grown up in the church have received mixed messages when it comes to what the Bible has to say about women. Even those who have little-to-no church experience have likely heard some sort of (so-called) biblical perspective on the role and value of women. However, many of these “facts” have been distorted, misunderstood, and even misused by men and women alike. 

Here are three common misinterpretations, misconceptions, and misteachings when it comes to the Bible and women:

  1. The Bible teaches that men are more valuable than women.
  2. The Bible teaches that women should not seek to have a voice.
  3. The Bible teaches that women should not teach or lead. 

Before we dive into what the Bible does not say about women, I think we need to start this conversation with a few important foundations about God and His Word.

There is no “Old Testament God” and “New Testament God.” Both accounts (as well as all teachings of Jesus) are of the same God. There are no contradictions. God is the all-knowing, all-merciful, all-righteous, all-gracious, all-holy, all-mighty, all-loving God. He is immutable—He does not change. Everything we know to be true of God in the Old Testament is still true of Him in the New, and vice versa. Our knowledge of the New Testament shapes the way we read the Old, and so it goes the other way around.

Most of the issues people have with the Bible’s “teachings” on women can be understood and explained through greater knowledge of the history, context, and purpose of the writing. God worked (and still does work) through the culture, geography, and customs of the time. Some of the “oddball,” troubling traditions we see in the Bible are primarily of cultural, not spiritual, influence. Additionally, a lack of the reader’s familiarity with the original languages (Greek and Hebrew) as well as many interpretive nuances of each lead to difficulties in capturing the true meaning of the original text(ex: Deuteronomy 22:28-29). Alongside all of these issues is the fact that many of the “problems” people have with the treatment of women are treatments which are also applied to men (ie. Leviticus 15, see point #2 here).

This post assumes that you believe that the Bible is the inerrant, inspired Word of God. It is His revelation to us. It is primarily a theological book, intended to reveal who God is and what His plan is for mankind. It is not a history, science, economics, or morality book. It has those elements within it, but its purpose is not to provide a detailed dissertation on those topics. We must start from the foundational viewpoint that the Bible is sufficient and authoritative, and when we do not understand all the pieces of the biblical puzzle, we need to remember the goodness of God and perfection of His Word and keep seeking to understand.

All this to say, we don’t get to read the Bible with a Sharpie, blacking out the passages we don’t like. When we encounter difficult passages, we need to change our default position. Instead of letting hard verses cast doubt on God’s character, we need to first question our own knowledge and understanding of His Word. With this posture as our common ground, let’s move on to the three earlier stated misconceptions about what the Bible says about women.

I invited you to read the rest over at LifeWay Voices, where I tackle these misconceptions:

  1. The Bible teaches that men are more valuable than women.
  2. The Bible teaches that women should not seek to have a voice.
  3. The Bible teaches that women should not teach or lead. 

Hope to see you there!

In a world moving full-steam ahead and no idea of knowing what is looming around the bend, it is easy to give into the feeling of uncertainty. Worry and anxiety often rule our thoughts, leaving us feeling out of control. These are the times we must remember God’s Word and the promises it holds.

God is bigger than any barrier we run into.

God is stronger than any mountain we might face.

God is always nearer than we realize, and loves us more than we can ever imagine.

When we give into worry, the last thing we need is a quick-fix or more information. What we need is a reminder of who God is, and how much He cares for us. We need to get our eyes off of ourselves, and on to Him.

Psalm 46:1–3

  • God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah (ESV)

Luke 12:22–24

  • And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! (ESV)

Psalm 147:8–11

  • He covers the heavens with clouds; he prepares rain for the earth; he makes grass grow on the hills. He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry. His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. (ESV)

Matthew 10:29–31

  • Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (ESV)

Psalm 50:1–2

  • The Mighty One, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth. (ESV)

Luke 12:25–28

  • And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! (ESV)

James 1:5–6

  • If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. (ESV)

Luke 12:29–31

  • And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. (ESV)

Want to dive deeper into additional verses on how to deal with worry?

Are you a worrier? Does not knowing what other people are thinking, what curve balls are around the corner … or simply what’s for dinner send you into a panic? This 8-day reading plan is for you. Through 5-10 minutes a day, this reading plan—Bible verses for the Control Freak—will lead you to set your mind on who God is and the actions you need to take to trust in Him and find rest for your weary soul. NOW FREE THROUGH 3/18/2019 using the coupon link above.

This reading plan is designed to to be used either as a stand-alone Bible reading plan, or an accompanying plan for the book Unhitching from the Crazy Train: Finding Rest in a World You Can’t Control by Julie Sparkman and Jennifer Phillips.

Affiliate links present – at no additional cost to you, I receive a small portion of your purchase. Thanks for your support!