Yesterday, Mom encouraged us to run our race for the glory of God (Heb. 12:1-2). One key aspect of running the race is to live intentionally. And a simple, yet important way we can put this into practice is by regularly taking a personal retreat.
This is an exercise that Mom has helped me to develop, and it has served me greatly in every season of my life—from high school years, to single days, and now in my marriage. In her audio message “In Every Season” Mom speaks about living intentionally from Ephesians 5:15-17, and provides practical suggestions for taking a personal retreat.
We use this message in the discipleship course we developed for the single women in our church. In addition we provide worksheets for the women to use when taking a retreat. You can download the worksheets for your own personal use by clicking here.
I would encourage you to carve out time for a personal retreat. It may be only for a day, or you may even be able to swing an overnight. But the most important part is finding a place to have extended, uninterrupted time seeking the Lord. Ask for His grace and guidance to live intentionally for His glory.
My friend Sandra Groveman asked how she could pray for me. “You know that this is a season of transition for C.J. and me,” I began. Yes, she knew. As a member of Covenant Life Church, Sandra was present on that Sunday morning last September when my husband passed the leadership of the church—the church he had lead for twenty-seven years—to the man he had trained to replace him (our new senior pastor, Joshua Harris). It was a day full of joy and one I will never forget. It was also the beginning of another chapter in our lives.
“So in light of this new season,” I told Sandra, “please pray for wisdom to know God’s will. And most of all…grace to walk humbly before our God and finish our race well.”
“Of course I will pray for you,” Sandra replied. I’m confident she will. She always does. Then Sandra told me a story:
“When I was a little girl my father would lead me and my nine brothers and sisters in long talks over dinner—talks that left an indelible mark on my life. I still remember sitting at the table, stealing glances out the window, watching my friends play and the sun set, as my father dispensed wisdom about life-issues. These conversations could last up to three hours. It was at one of these dinners that he shared a piece of advice I’ll never forget. He was a runner. And he told us: ‘a good runner, he always saves his best stamina for the end of the race.’’”
My son-in-law Steve, who ran track in high school, explained this to me in greater detail. “As you approach the finish line, that’s when you run with everything you’ve got. The idea is to finish the race with nothing left.”
Last month I turned fifty. I am finishing many tasks. I am seeking to discern what new tasks God would have me take up. And this is my prayer…that God would help me, now, to give Him my best effort. That I wouldn’t be tempted to slow down or stop to rest, but continue to run with everything I’ve got. And that one day, when my race is over, I would truly finish with nothing left. Because of His perserving grace, I am confident God will answer my prayer.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
The phone rang early this morning. It was my daughter informing me that there had been multiple explosions in London’s transport system today. I immediately experienced fear. My husband is in England. He is speaking at a leaders’ conference in Brighton.
My first thoughts were: How close is Brighton to London? Did CJ have plans to go to London today? Maybe the reason I haven’t heard from him is because something is wrong! I tried calling him, but got no answer.
Then I remembered Psalm 37:23—one of today’s take-away verses for meditation from my morning devotions. It reads: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.” I had also read Charles Spurgeon’s commentary on this verse, which said: “All [of the Christian’s] course of life is graciously ordained, and in lovingkindness all is fixed. No fickle chance rules us; every step is the subject of divine decree.”
I may not have been able to talk to C.J, but this much I knew: God’s lovingkindness was ordering his steps. How kind of God to give me that promise this morning! It brought instant comfort to my soul.
And C.J. did call. He is safe. I am grateful to God for his loving protection.
However, he said that our friends in the United Kingdom are in need of our prayers. Please pray for safety and peace for all, and for wisdom for the local church pastors, particularly in London. And please join me in asking God to use this tragedy for His glory, the good of His people, and the spread of the gospel.
On Saturday, I had breakfast with two of my close friends. While sipping our hot drinks and eating our bagels, the conversation turned to the struggles we have at times with fear—fear about our children, fear about our blindness to sin, fear about our future….
But that is not how the conversation ended.
We went from confessing our fears to talking about our need to trust God more. Our need to exercise faith. We reminded each other of God’s great faithfulness toward us.
Because fear is not neutral. Fear is sin. And we must fight our fears with faith in God’s character and His precious promises—promises that flow from Christ’s work on the cross.
Here are Biblical promises that impart faith for my fears (along with commentary by Charles Spurgeon):
“The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you.” Psalm 102:28
“[This verse] is full of good cheer to us; we may plead for the Lord’s favor to our offspring…. God does not neglect the children of his servants…Grace is not hereditary, yet God loves to be served by the same family time out of mind…. We may, therefore, not only for our own sakes but also out of love to the church of God, daily pray that our sons and daughters may be saved, and kept by divine grace even unto the end—established before the Lord.”
Charles Spurgeon, Psalms , Series editors, Alister McGrath and J.I. Packer (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), p. 70.
My blindness to sin:
“Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” Psalm 51:6
“God is teaching [the repentant Christian] truth concerning his nature, which he had not before perceived. The love of the heart, the mystery of its fall, and the way of its purification – this hidden wisdom we must all attain; and it is a great blessing to be able to believe that the Lord will ‘make us know it.’”
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Psalm 23:6
“These twin guardian angels will always be with me. Just as when great princes go abroad and must not go unattended, so it is with the believer. Goodness and mercy follow him always – the black days as well as the bright days. Goodness supplies our needs, and mercy blots out our sins.”
Are you tempted to fear today? God has provided numerous promises in His Word. Find a specific promise from which you can derive faith and banish fear.
Here is a promise to get you started:
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4
“God makes a perfect work of it. He clears away both our fears and their causes, all of them without exception.”
Previous three quotes taken from Charles Spurgeon, Psalms , Series editors, Alister McGrath and J.I. Packer (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), p.211-212, 91, 132.
On July 4 each year, we Americans may pause (perhaps only for a moment) in between barbecues and beach balls and “bombs bursting in air” to think about the men who founded our country. But not, too often, do we think about the women’s role.
In her book, Founding Mothers, Cokie Roberts profiles the women who lived at the center of the American Revolution. “It’s safe to say,” she notes, “that most of the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, fought the Revolution, and formed the government couldn’t have done it without the women.”
Speaking specifically about Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams (one of the most influential founding fathers) she comments, “Not only did John turn to Abigail for information and counsel, she was the person who made it possible for him to do what he did” (Cokie Roberts, Founding Mothers (New York, NY: William Morrow, 2004), xvi).
None of us are married to nation founders. However, all of us—married or single—have been created by God to be “helpers.” Equal to man in worth and value, we have, nevertheless, a different role. We have been given a specific, honorable, and challenging task: to “make it possible” for kingdom work to move forward.
Whether as a wife we advise, comfort, encourage, and assist our husband, or as a single woman we help others in the church and reach out to the lost—we are making possible, not just a work of historical significance, but of eternal significance.
So, how can you glorify God by being a helper today? What great work can you carry forward, simply by doing your part?
And finally, consider: What if those dynamic feminine heroes of the revolution had been “liberated” from their “oppressed” helper role (as women supposedly are today)? I wonder if we would even be celebrating Independence Day.
This is a prayer that I adapted from The Valley of Vision which I pray regularly for my four adorable nephews and look forward to praying for my little baby as well…
“Apply Your redemption to their hearts, by justifying their persons, and sanctifying their natures. Teach them to place their happiness in Thee, the blessed God, never seeking life among the dead things of earth, or asking for that which satisfies the deluded; but may they prize the light of Thy smile, implore the joy of Thy salvation, find their heaven in Thee.”
—From prayer entitled “Fourth Day Evening: God All-Sufficient”
Arthur Bennet, ed. Valley of Vision (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1975, 2003), p. 392.
Yesterday we talked about using our God-given gifts to serve others. Who are the people in your world that you have the privilege of serving today? Remember—as you serve others, you are ultimately serving the Savior. Below are two quotes from Charles Spurgeon that I hope will encourage you in this endeavor.
“I think I know of no delight on earth that is higher than that of knowing that you really are with all your heart adoringly serving God.” Tom Carter, Spurgeon at His Best (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1991), p. 188.
“As long as there is breath in our bodies, let us serve Christ. As long as we can think, as long as we can speak, as long as we can work, let us serve him. Let us even serve him with our last gasp. And, if it be possible, let us try to set some work going that will glorify him when we are dead and gone. Let us scatter some seed that may spring up when we are sleeping beneath the hillock in the cemetery.” Tom Carter, Spurgeon at His Best (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1991), p. 189.
So let’s “serve the Lord with gladness” today! (Ps. 100:2)
On Sunday, I hosted a luncheon for twelve women in my church (Covenant Life Church, Gaithersburg, MD) who have faithfully and sacrificially served in the Titus 2 Women’s Ministry that I have been privileged to lead. The purpose of this luncheon was to say “thank you.”
There was no way that the food, the gifts, or my words could adequately convey my gratitude—or more importantly, the Lord’s pleasure—for their service. However, I made a feeble attempt to express my heart. While seated around my dining room table, I shared with each woman one phrase (which I then elaborated on) that I thought best captured her unique contribution.
For example, to Barbara I communicated: You beautify everything you touch; to Dawn: Your heart for hospitality is only matched by the delicious food you serve; to Clara: Your wit and wisdom are priceless gifts to me; to Betsy: You are my Barnabas, my faithful encourager; to Marie: You are a servant of servants, and so on.
As I was reflecting on each woman, I was struck by the diverse—yet indispensable—assortment of gifts represented in this one group. How kind of God to give gifts! How kind of these women to use their gifts for God’s glory!
I couldn’t help but think of 1 Peter 4:10-11: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace….in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”
May I present you with 3 simple challenges?
1. Remember that you have been given a gift by God.
2. Ask God how you can use your gift to serve others in your local church. (Of course there may be limitations if you are “in the middle of motherhood.”)
3. Don’t let this day end without thanking someone close to you for using their God-given gifts to serve others and glorify God.
As I wrote yesterday, there are, sadly, many women who seek attention through immodest dress. However, by the grace of God, there are also women who have chosen to glorify God by dressing modestly. The following is a letter my Dad received from one such teenager, Emily.
“I wanted to thank you for the message on modesty that you presented at my church several months ago. I have a fourteen-year-old brother who is always asking me, ‘why do the girls dress like that?’ I usually consider myself as dressing modestly. I check my clothes with my Dad and my brother before I wear them. But I had to go back, with the ‘Modesty Heart Check’ you provided for us. It has been a challenge, a means of grace for my friends and me. I have seen it hung on the mirrors of many of my friends as they exclaimed, ‘if you stick it there, there is just no way of getting around it.’ It has also been much easier to bring things to people about their clothing, or point something out to them, because they have heard the message. I have seen a lot of changes in the way some of the girls dress as a result of your message. Thank you!! Emily”
The thanks goes to you, Emily, and to every woman committed to honoring God through modest dress!
(Per request, you can download the “Modesty Heart Check,” that Emily mentioned by clicking here.)
The other night I saw a report about the trend among high school girls to request breast implant surgery as a graduation gift. It got me thinking.
Though we would not choose to walk out of our graduation ceremony and into the plastic surgeon’s office, I don’t think there is a woman alive who hasn’t wished she could change at least one perceived physical flaw. I probably think about it more than I want to admit.
When it comes right down to it, I don’t think these girls—or any of us for that matter—want a different body for it’s own sake. Rather, because of the sin in our hearts, we long to find happiness in the applause (worship) of others. We think beauty is our ticket to bliss.
But it won’t take us anywhere. Beauty doesn’t satisfy. Proverbs says that it is “fleeting” (Prov. 31:30, NIV). Charles Bridges elaborated: “Beauty—what a fading vanity it is! One fit of sickness sweeps it away. Sorrow and care wither its charms. And even while it remains, it is little connected with happiness.” (Charles Bridges, A Commentary on Proverbs (Carlisle, Pa.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1846, repr. 1998), p. 627.)
This is why the well-meaning advice to simply “learn to love your body” doesn’t cut it. Even with supposed “Christian” packaging (“Jesus loves you just the way you are, so you should love yourself”)—it’s hollow. It’s an erroneous diagnosis. It doesn’t satiate our desperate, sinful thirst for attention. Even if it seems to for a moment, it won’t last. You might as well hand an exhausted marathon runner an empty water bottle.
But there is hope—for these high school girls and for every woman consumed by the quest for physical beauty. There is hope for me. For “[Christ] died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:15).
Because of the gospel, we can be free from this fruitless and rebellious search to find satisfaction in receiving admiration for our physical beauty. We can live for Christ instead. And thus our hearts can “be fixed, where true joys are to be found” (Book of Common Prayer, 1662).
So what difference should the gospel make in how we think about beauty today?
First, instead of complaining to the mirror about our imperfect body, let’s consider how we can live for Christ by trusting Him and serving others. True joy will inevitably follow.
And secondly, if we’re tempted to envy (or self-righteously judge) the beautiful, immodestly dressed co-worker, classmate, or fellow mom, for the attention they receive, let’s pray for them instead—that they too would find true joy in Christ.
(This short post only begins to address a biblical perspective on beauty. We’ll no doubt return to this topic. But if you want to read more about it, Mom has taken a closer look in our book, Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood.)