This morning, C.J. called to inform us that our dear friend John Piper is battling prostate cancer. C.J. is currently spending time with John and several other Christian leaders, in order to deepen their friendship and learn from one another. He reported that John’s faith in God and desire to see Christ exalted in this trial is truly remarkable.
A letter that John sent to his church, informing them of this trial, can be read at Justin Taylor’s website. We want to ask each of you to pray for John, and also for Noel—for sustaining grace in the coming weeks and months.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” (Ps. 46:1-2, 7)
Week 33 has arrived and all is well. At my last doctor’s appointment they told me that I was measuring a little on the small side. This was actually a relief as my dear mother-in-law gave birth to three boys weighing in at 10, 9, and 8 pounds respectively. The fact that my husband was the 9-pounder has always left me a little afraid that I might have a really big baby. In my mind “big baby” has always equaled “more pain”. While we are on the subject of pain, my time for giving birth to this girly is fast approaching. I have had many people ask me if I’m going to “go natural”. Hmmm…if you remember, one of my recent posts described how I have only just recently been able to have my blood taken without panicking. I have also reached the place where I can sit in the waiting room at the doctor’s office without feeling faint. Now, I ask you, does this sound like a woman with enough bravery to “go natural”? No, I will be heading to the hospital at the first hint of labor with a sign around my neck labeled “epidural” in large letters. I figure this should keep anyone from being confused. (Please, no e-mails trying to convince me otherwise. It ain’t gonna happen.) I have nothing but the deepest respect for my mom and those of my friends who have gone through labor without anything for the pain, but I’m content to admire them from afar.
One comforting thing my mom’s always told me is that all of the pain becomes worth it the moment that little baby is placed in your arms. My “moment” moves closer to me with each passing day and I can’t wait! Until next week, 7 more weeks to go…
Not only do I have a tendency toward legalism (see yesterday’s post), I can often submit to the sin of self-sufficiency—living independently of God. I will go about my day making decisions, performing actions, and interacting with others, all the while neglecting to consult the Lord for His guidance and direction.
What absurdity such behavior displays! How foolish to think that I can successfully pull off anything apart from God’s help, guidance and direction. It is for this reason that I need to be continually reminded of the source of my ability. This is the second all-important truth we need to keep before us when considering the topic of time management and organization.
We can fill our shelves with every time management and organizational book available today. And we can devote all our energies to applying their tips and following their suggestions. Yet, we are utterly incapable of managing our time or organizing our life in a way that brings glory to God without God’s help! Jesus put it quite bluntly when He said, “Without me, you can do nothing.”
Back in December, Kristin quoted Charles Bridges’ commentary on Proverbs 3:6—“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.” Let’s allow Mr. Bridges to counsel us further on this verse. You will need to give this quote your full attention, but I am sure it will be to your great benefit:
“If in true poverty of spirit we go every morning to our Lord, as knowing not how to guide ourselves for this day; our eye constantly looking upward for direction, the light will come down. He shall direct thy paths…. Let the will be kept in a quiet, subdued, cheerful, readiness, to move, stay, retreat, turn to the right hand or to the left, at the Lord’s bidding; always remembering that is best which is least our own doing, and that a pliable spirit ever secures the needful guidance…. No step well prayed over will bring ultimate regret.”
In all our attempts to get more organized, let’s not to forget the humbling truth of which Dr. Bridges reminds us: “that is best which is least our own doing!” May this thought provoke a constant and genuine dependence on God.
We’ve received several questions recently related to devotions for younger children. This time of year, many parents not only set goals for their own quiet times, but consider how to direct their children to Scripture as well.
This week I’ll share a little about what Brian and I are currently doing with our 5 year old, Andrew, and Mom will offer some suggestions next week regarding quiet times for school age/middle school children.
In 2 Timothy 3:15 we learn that Timothy was, from childhood, “acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.” So our primary goal with Andrew at this stage is to saturate him with Scripture, and the message of the gospel it contains. Here are several strategies we’ve used:
1. Scripture Memory: Since Andrew does not yet read, Brian has devotions with him every morning at breakfast. These times are centered on Scripture memory. Currently Andrew has memorized several Psalms including Psalm 1, 23, 100; and he’s now working through Psalm 103. Of course Ephesians 6:1 was a Scripture we taught him early on (“Children, obey your parents…”), along with Colossians 3:23 (“Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord…”).
2. Scripture Reading: Brian also reads to Andrew from the Bible over breakfast time. He is currently working his way through the Old Testament, reading many of the stories and answering Andrew’s questions about them (and my boy has lots of questions!). They also read in the gospels as well, especially from Luke as our church is currently going through this book.
3. Other Resources:
- ESV Children’s Bible—even though Andrew can’t read yet, he enjoys looking at the pictures in this Bible (view samples here and here).
- ESV Bible on CD/MP3 —when my sisters and I were little, my mom used to put on “Scripture tapes” at bedtime.
- “Hide the Word” Series by Mark Altrogge—has over 120 Scriptures set to music for easy memorization.
- “Hide Em In Your Heart” by Steve Green—I just purchased two of these cd’s with more great Scripture songs.
- Children’s Ministry—our church publishes a Grown-up Sheet which assists parents in reviewing the lesson from Sunday Morning.
It is the Lord who ultimately must awaken a love for His Word in Andrew’s heart and yet as parents we want to be faithful to provide fertile ground for the Holy Spirit by exposing Andrew to as much Scripture as possible.
In yesterday’s post, we informed you that we will be talking about time management and organization this month. We also referenced 3 all-important truths we must keep before us whenever we consider practical topics. So today we want to discuss the first of these 3 truths: The source of our justification.
No doubt, many of you who read about my disorderly office yesterday were thinking: this woman could use some help organizing her home. I agree! I need to manage my time more efficiently and develop better organizational practices.
However, I also know about me that whenever I become aware of areas where I need to grow and change—stewardship of time being one of them—I’m susceptible to legalism. (If you’re not familiar with this word, here is a definition my husband uses: Legalism is seeking to achieve forgiveness from God and acceptance by God through obedience to God.)
Here’s how legalism can progress in my life using stewardship of time as an illustration: If I become a better time manager, I think God approves of me. I tend to approach the throne of grace with confidence. However, when I fritter away my time or give in to laziness, I can feel God disapproves. He’s not happy with me. And I often want to avoid approaching God’s throne until I get my act together. It happens subtly and can even go undetected in my life for awhile. But relating to God in this way is an egregious error.
We must remember that our justification is never based on our performance! We are justified through grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone. Therefore our acceptance before God does not depend on our performance. Or more specifically, we do not earn or forfeit our justification before God based on how we manage our time or how we organize our lives and homes.
So let’s preach the gospel to ourselves and experience the effect of the gospel by considering this quote by B. B. Warfield:
“There is nothing in us or done by us, at any stage of our earthly development, because of which we are acceptable to God. We must always be accepted for Christ’s sake, or we cannot be accepted at all. This is not true of only when we believe. It is just as true after we have believed. It will continue to be true as long as we live…. It is always on His ‘blood and righteousness’ alone that we can rest.”
Therefore how we manage our time has no bearings on the basis of our justification. Being organized does not contribute to our acceptance before God; it does not earn for us forgiveness from God. As believing sinners we are declared to be just—only and always because of Christ and his finished work.
All our pursuit of growth and change must be anchored in the justifying grace of God.
There is one room in my house that I really don’t like. I avoid the room. I keep its door shut. And it is certainly not a room I want any guests to see. (Thus no picture of it on this blog.) This room happens to be my office.
Now my disdain for this room is not because of the room color – the morning moon yellow paint on the walls and the periwinkle blue chaise lounge with throw pillows that tie the two colors together are certainly warm and cheery enough. And though I desire to replace my dark wood desk and corresponding bookshelves with white furniture someday (a better match with yellow and periwinkle blue, in my opinion), I am fully content with this furniture for now. What is it then that I so dislike about my office?
This room has become the “dump all” room of the house. That means whenever I receive mail, miscellaneous papers, or any other item that I can’t give immediate attention to, I take them to my office rather than allowing them to clutter any other part of the house. Now it is always my intent to return to the office when time allows and attend to whatever it is I have dumped there. However, time often doesn’t allow, and consequently my office has become “the grand central cluttered room” of the Mahaney house. And since I don’t like clutter, I really don’t like this room.
Well, guess what I did between Christmas and the New Year? I tackled the job of de-cluttering my office. And now at long last, I like my office again. In fact, I’m enjoying it so much, I’m writing this post sitting on my periwinkle blue chaise lounge.
It’s that time of year when many of us attempt to get more organized. We seek to establish better strategies for determining our priorities and managing our time. We head off to Franklin Covey to purchase our new “Seasons” calendar in hopes of effectively planning out our year. And it is for that reason we thought it would be a good month to talk about time management and organizational practices.
However, before we consider any practical topic, there are 3 all-important truths we must keep before us. And I’m pretty sure you won’t find these in any time-management course or organizational book. They are…
1. The source of our justification
2. The source of our ability
3. The source of our motivation
These are biblical truths that must support, inform, and direct all our planning and organizing. I’ll share more on these three truths in the coming days direct from my blue chaise lounge in my newly organized morning moon yellow room.
Do you do this too? Each year I make my New Year’s resolutions, but without planning to, I set New Year’s hopes too. I picture myself at the following new year, happily contented, having received my heart’s greatest desires.
When I was single, it was the desire for a husband. Maybe this year, he will come. I couldn’t see “him” anywhere and yet I would imagine myself married by the following new-year, or at least with a potential young man in sight by then. Maybe “This Year” was holding him in the wings.
But marriage didn’t cure this hope-setting habit. This year I desire to have another child. So, predictably, I picture myself excitedly telling my husband we’re pregnant, or pushing a stroller into church. Maybe this year.
In a meditation by this title from her book, Keep A Quiet Heart, Elisabeth Elliot encourages a radically different New Year’s hope:
“Will the young woman find a mate? Will the couple have a child? Maybe this year will be the year of desire fulfilled. Perhaps, on the other hand, it will be the year of desire radically transformed, the year of finding, as we have perhaps not yet truly found, Christ to be the All-Sufficient One, Christ the ‘deep sweet well of Love’” (page 49, emphasis mine).
This year I’m setting a new hope along with my resolutions, that 2006 might be a year of desires radically transformed. “Lord, this year, would you please dissolve all my desires into a single one: to know You. Please tear down all the idols of my heart that I set up in a row at the new year. Please give me an all-consuming passion to know you, a consistent joy in the forgiveness of my sins, and a constant delight in the glory of Christ. May this be a year of finding you to be the All-Sufficient One.”
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:7-8a).
As you are contemplating the year past and forming new resolutions, these “Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of the New Year” by Donald Whitney are an invaluable resource. On a personal note, we want to solicit your prayers on behalf of Dr. Whitney, a friend of ours. He recently underwent surgery for colon cancer. The operation was successful and the details are available at his website. However, please pray for a swift and complete recovery.