A Minute for Mommy

Rachel Jankovic

As you deal with your children, deal with yourself always and first. This is what it looks like to walk with God, as a mother.

God treats us with great kindness as we fail daily. He takes the long view of our sin—knowing that every time we fail and repent, we grow in our walk with Him. It is easy for us to accept this, because our sins are, well, ours.

But our children sin against us, annoy us, and mess up our stuff. we want to hold it against them, complain about them (if only to ourselves), and feel put upon by their sin. We have a much harder time accepting that every failure from them is a wonderful opportunity for repentance and growth and not an opportunity to exact penance.

(Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches, p. 14)

About A Minute for Mommy… 

Even though busy moms don’t have much time to read, we still need biblical encouragement as much anyone. That’s what A Minute for Mommy posts are all about, sharing Godly wisdom from solid teachers that you can read in right around a minute or less. 

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The biggest lie about grace that Satan wants the church to buy is the idea that it’s dangerous and therefore needs to be kept in check. By believing that lie, we not only prove we don’t understand grace, but we violate gospel advancement in our lives and in the church by perpetuating our own slavery. The truth is, disobedience happens not when we think too much of grace, but when we think too little of it.

As a pastor, one of my responsibilities is to disciple people into a deeper understanding of obedience—teaching them to say no to the things God hates and yes to the things God loves. All too often I’ve wrongly concluded that the only way to keep licentious people in line is to give them more rules—to lay down the law. The fact is, however, the only way licentious people start to obey is when they get a taste of God’s radical, unconditional acceptance of sinners. Grace alone melts hearts and changes us from the inside out. Progress in obedience happens only when our hearts realize that God’s love for us does not depend on our progress in obedience.

~Tullian Tchividjian in Jesus + Nothing=Everything

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Does God Give Us More Than We Can Bear?

“Just remember…God will never give us more than we can bear.” 

Have you ever had someone attempt to comfort you in the midst of suffering with those words? If something about that statement didn’t seem quite right to you, you may appreciate the following clarification on 1 Corinthians 10:13 from Joni Eareckson Tada…

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. —I Corinthians 10:13

“Oh Joni, isn’t it wonderful that God will never test us beyond what we can endure? That’s a promise from God!”

I knew my friend Sue was looking for an affirmation, a confirmation that God would never “bend the bruised reed.” As I nodded slowly, relief flooded her features. Sue had never faced the kind of mind-bending, soul-obliterating pain that now loomed on her horizon. But with the recent medical report and the looming prospect of a morphine-drip pump in her future, she was scared. Surely the Lord won’t give me more than I can bear, she was thinking.

First Corinthians 10:13 is certainly a promise… but it isn’t talking about trials. It’s talking about temptation. The promise is that God will always, always give you the power to say no to sin. But when it comes to heartaches, physical problems, and disappointments—things out of your control, difficult circumstances suddenly thrust upon you—you may very well be overwhelmed beyond what you can bear. There is a kind of suffering that rips your world apart and leaves you bewildered and wounded. There are trials that overwhelm.

I drew a deep breath, showing my friend the context of the promise-and her brow furrowed. “But take heart,” I told her. “It’s when we are at the end of our strength…that’s when we fall helplessly into the everlasting arms of God. That’s when God floods our hearts with sustaining grace.”

You and I may indeed find ourselves overwhelmed at times—at the end of our rope and beyond. But we will never fall farther than the palm of his hand. And where he has called us, his grace will
sustain us.

[Joni and Friends Daily DevotionalJanuary 31, 2012]

Paul himself knew what it was like to be overwhelmed by suffering, but he also understood the purpose behind the pain: “For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).

Photo: Shirley B

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Our dire need for God’s grace doesn’t get smaller after God saves us—in one sense, it actually gets bigger. Christian growth, says the Apostle Peter, is always “growth into grace,” not away from it. Many Christians think that becoming sanctified means that we become stronger and stronger, more and more competent. And although we would never say it this way, we Christians sometimes give the impression that sanctification is growth beyond our need for Jesus and his finished work for us: we needed Jesus a lot for justification; we need him less for sanctification.

The truth is, however, that Christian growth and progress involves coming to the realization of just how weak and incompetent we continue to be and how strong and competent Jesus continues to be for us. Spiritual maturity is not marked by our growing, independent fitness. Rather, it’s marked by our growing dependence on Christ’s fitness for us. Because we are daily sinners, we need God’s daily distributions of free grace that come our way as a result of Christ’s finished work.

Christian growth involves believing and embracing the fact that, even as a Christian, you’re worse than you think you are but that God’s grace toward you in Christ is much bigger than you could ever imagine.

~Tullian Tchividjian in “Are Christians Totally Depraved?

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One of my favorite phrases in the Bible are two simple little words:  “But God.”  Take a look through the letters of the apostle Paul and he often puts those two little words right after he finishes describing shipwrecks, imprisonment, beatings, rejection, you name it… Paul faced a lot of physical, emotional and spiritual challenges.  And how does he start his next sentence?  But God!  It may be a small thought, but, oh, is it a powerful one! 

As I learned in high school English class, a conjunctive phrase like that cancels everything that has gone before and overwhelms it with what follows.  The point being?  The next time you struggle with headaches and hardships, don’t forget to follow it with those preeminently supreme words, but God!  Because Jesus overwhelms the pain of those trials with His overwhelming grace and goodness.

~Joni Eareckson Tada in “But God

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Christmas Hope for the Barren (Part 2)

This post first appeared on Precious Adornment in December 2010. 
Read Part 1 HERE.

“There was a priest named Zechariah…And he had a wife
from the daughters of Aaron, and her name
was Elizabeth…But they had no child”

Luke 1:5,6,7

Gifts Are Not a Given

I wonder how many times Zechariah and Elizabeth asked the question “Why?” during their bleak years of childlessness.

Why, God? Why haven’t you given us a child?

Lord, why haven’t we found favor in your eyes?

Why have you blessed them with a son when they don’t even keep your commandments?

Oh, Father, why have you given them another child when they already have
so many?

As years stretched into decades, Zechariah and Elizabeth undoubtedly faced the temptation to grow bitter and resentful as they watched God bless friends, family, and strangers with the gift they desperately desired and perhaps even felt at times they deserved. They were blameless after all. Surely if any two people deserved the blessing of children, Zechariah and Elizabeth would be those people. 

The lesson that Zechariah and Elizabeth had to learn through their suffering is the same one that childless couples must grasp today. Children are not a given; they are a gift. Just as God causes rain to fall on both the just and the unjust, so too, does He bless both the righteous and the unrighteous with the gift of children.

Why? Oftentimes the answer to that question belongs in the category of “secret things” that belong to the Lord and not to us (Deut. 29:29). When the wisdom of God’s plan remains unclear to us, we must cling to the truths He has revealed:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
~Isaiah 55:8-9

Gabriel’s message to Zechariah contained an important command—the baby was not to be given a family name, but one God had chosen for him. “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:13).

The meaning of this name would forever remind Zechariah and Elizabeth of the undeserved gift God had given them in their son: John—“Jehovah has shown grace.” Children are not given because of our goodness, but only because of God’s grace.

The Impossible Made Possible

Psalm 113:9 had probably worn a deep groove in Elizabeth’s heart: “He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!” As a young wife awaiting her first child, that verse surely provided Elizabeth with hope that her barrenness would not last forever. That little glimmer of light grew gradually dimmer with each passing year.

Somewhere along the way for Zechariah and Elizabeth, the chances of having children moved in their minds from being improbable to impossible. Elizabeth’s biological clock had stopped ticking, and the barrenness she’d hoped was only a temporary obstacle became a permanent condition.

At least that’s how the situation appeared until Gabriel arrived with the good news that God doesn’t work according to human timetables. Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayers had been heard. They would have a son, and he would bring them joy and gladness.

The hope of Psalm 113:9 would at last become a living reality. Why? Because nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37).

If you are facing the pain of childlessness this Christmas, let the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth fill your heart with hope in the goodness of God. The entire Christmas account revolves around God’s sovereignty over the womb, His love for His children, and His power over the impossible.

As you follow the Lord in righteousness, you can rest quietly in the knowledge that your prayers are not being ignored, but are being filed away in the faithfulness of God. Like Elizabeth and Zechariah, one day you will see; one day you’ll understand the wisdom behind His plans for your life. Until that time, “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” (Psalm 27:14)

Photo: Mario Alberto Magallanes Trejo

Christmas Hope for the Barren (Part 1)

This post first appeared on Precious Adornment in December 2010.

“There was a priest named Zechariah…And he had a wife
from the daughters of Aaron, and her name
was Elizabeth…But they had no child”

Luke 1:5,6,7

They say Christmas is the happiest season of all, but for many, the joy of this special day remains tainted by a lingering sadness. The celebration of Christmas in our culture emphasizes families, tradition, and togetherness. But for those still awaiting the blessing of children, holiday celebrations often draw attention to the emptiness filling the space where little ones ought to be. While others eagerly anticipate Christmas mornings accompanied by laughter, smiles, and childlike joy, those facing the pain of childlessness often struggle to look forward to the day at all.

I imagine that Zechariah and Elizabeth knew all about the pain of spending special days as a couple instead of as a family. For decades they would have observed holy days and religious ceremonies with children all around them, none of which were their own. Zechariah and Elizabeth had no doubt cried more tears and prayed more prayers together over her barrenness than anyone around them would ever have guessed. Yet year after year, their tears and prayers went seemingly unnoticed…until one day when everything changed, and the Lord transformed years of sorrow into tears of rejoicing.

In the familiar story of Zechariah and Elizabeth in Luke 1, there is fresh hope for those in the midst of childlessness—hope, not only for Christmas, but for every day of the year.

Blameless, yet Barren

The pain of childlessness is often compounded by the pain of being misunderstood by others. Although infertility is one of the most sensitive trials a couple may ever face, complete strangers often feel no qualms about turning the topic into small talk. The absence of children is often wrongly equated with a lack of desire for them and frequently sparks thoughtless comments.

So, how many years have you been married now?

Isn’t it about time you get started on a family?

Planning to try for kids any time soon?

Although people rarely ask questions like these with ill intent, such conversations tear sharply into the already tender wounds of those who simply can’t conceive. Zechariah and Elizabeth were undoubtedly well-acquainted with this pain.

Because barrenness was considered to be a sign of divine disfavor in their culture, gossip and misconceptions regarding the couple’s sinfulness or inferior spirituality would have been commonplace. Even though others may have automatically assumed that Zechariah and Elizabeth stood guilty in God’s sight, the Scriptures actually record them as being righteous before Him. In fact, Luke says that they walked “blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). They were blameless, yet still Elizabeth remained barren.

Childless couples often agonize over the thought that infertility may be evidence of God’s judgment upon their lives. In the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, we find that childlessness was not a curse, but a vital component of God’s divine plan for their good and His glory.

No Unheard Prayer

After praying and asking God to answer the same request over and over again, many believers feel tempted to abandon both prayer and service to the Lord altogether. When prayers seem to go unanswered, a deficient understanding of God’s sovereignty and the purpose of prayer can easily allow a believer’s heart to become infected with sinful doubts about the character and nature of God. Zechariah and Elizabeth, however, continued faithfully trusting the Lord and believing His Word even though they’d never seen evidence that He was listening to their prayers for a child.

It wasn’t until the couple was “advanced in years” and Zechariah was fulfilling his duty as a priest in the temple that God sent Gabriel with the message they could only dream of receiving, “Your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son…” (Luke 1:13). Although they had long since given up hope that a child’s laughter would ever ring within the walls of their home, Zechariah and Elizabeth discovered that there are no expiration dates on God’s plans.

Their prayers had not been ignored; they had been heard and answered! As commentator Matthew Henry says, “Prayers of faith are filed in heaven, and are not forgotten, though the thing prayed for is not presently given.”

Zechariah had probably wondered time and again about the meaning of his name—“Jehovah has remembered.” Did God really remember him? After hearing Gabriel’s shocking message that day, Zechariah would better understand not only his own name, but also countless other aspects of his life which had never before seemed to make sense. 

God had never forgotten Zechariah and Elizabeth. He was only waiting—waiting to act on their behalf in a way which would clearly illustrate how marvelous and mighty He truly is. And Zechariah and Elizabeth would see, as we all do when we wait faithfully upon the Lord, that His plan was truly worth the wait. 

More to come…

Photo: Mario Alberto Magallanes Trejo

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Do you ever become discouraged and disheartened when your spiritual life and witness suffer because of personal sin or failure? We tend to think we’re worthless nobodies—and left to ourselves, that would be true! But be encouraged—worthless nobodies are just the kind of people God uses. If you think about it, that’s all He has to work with!

But have you ever stopped to consider why that’s true? Listen to this: God chooses the humble, the lowly, the meek, and the weak so that there’s never any question about the source of power when their lives change the world. It’s not the man; it’s the truth of God and the power of God in the man…

God’s favorite instruments are nobodies, so that no man can boast before God. In other words, God chooses whom He chooses so He might receive the glory. He chooses weak instruments so no one will attribute the power to the instruments but rather to the God who wields the instruments.  

~John MacArthur in “God Glorified in the Nobodies

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God’s grace is illustrated and magnified in the poverty and trials of believers. Saints bear up under every discouragement, believing that all things work together for their good, and that out of apparent evils a real blessing shall ultimately spring—that their God will either work a deliverance for them speedily, or most assuredly support them in the trouble, as long as He is pleased to keep them in it. This patience of the saints proves the power of divine grace

He who would glorify his God must set his account upon meeting with many trials. No man can be illustrious before the Lord unless his conflicts be many. If then, yours be a much-tried path, rejoice in it, because you will the better show forth the all-sufficient grace of God. As for His failing you, never dream of it—hate the thought. The God who has been sufficient until now, should be trusted to the end. 

~Charles Spurgeon in Morning and Evening

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If you’ve grown up in the church, you’ve probably heard about the grace of God all your life. But what exactly is grace?

Imagine a father who finds out his son has been killed. He tracks down the murderer and then kills him. We call that vengeance.

Imagine instead that the boy’s father calls the police and the guilty party is arrested, tried, convicted, and punished. We call that justice.

Say that the father pleads with the judge that the guilty man’s life be spared. We call that mercy.

Now imagine that the father asks for custody of his son’s murderer. He takes the man into his home, adopts him, and loves him as his own son. It seems unthinkable, but that’s exactly what God has done for us. It’s called grace.

If you haven’t thanked God for His grace lately, there’s no better time than now.

~Nancy Leigh DeMoss in “Grace for Our Enemies

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God’s grace will not seem to be precious to you, until you have come to the end of yourself and your own resources and your own abilities—until you’ve come to the place where you say, “I give up! I can’t live this life! I can’t do this! I’m such a failure!” Grace—God’s grace is for failures

I think there are few words that we can say that are more precious to the heart of our Father God than for Him to hear His children say, “Father, I need You. I need You!” You love to hear your children say that. You love to have them come and ask you to meet their needs and to have them trust you enough to say, “I can’t do this. Would you help me?”

God loves it when we trust Him enough to humble ourselves and say, “Lord, I can’t do this. I can’t love that person. I can’t handle these children. I can’t handle this circumstance. I can’t deal with this temptation. But You can. I need Your grace.”

~Nancy Leigh DeMoss in “The Dry Branch

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The gospel isn’t simply a set of truths that non-Christians must believe in order to become saved. It’s a reality that Christians must daily embrace in order to experience being saved. The gospel not only saves us from the penalty of sin (justification), but it also saves us from the power of sin (sanctification) day after day. Or, as John Piper has said, “The cross is not only a past place of objective substitution; it is a present place of subjective execution.” Our daily sin requires God’s daily grace—the grace that comes to us through the finished work of Jesus Christ

Christians need the gospel because our hearts are always prone to wander; we’re always tempted to run from God. It takes the power of the gospel to direct us back to our first love. Consciously going to the gospel ought to be a daily reality and experience for us all. It means, as Jerry Bridges reminds us, “preaching the gospel to yourself every day.” We have to allow God to remind us every day through his Word of Christ’s finished work on behalf of sinners in order to stay convinced that the gospel is relevant.

I find that I especially need a gospel refocus to help steer me away from a constant tendency to drift into a performance-driven relationship with God…

As I’ve said before, the difference between living for God and living for anything else is that when we live for anything else we do so to gain acceptance, but when we live for God we do so because we are already accepted. Real freedom (the freedom that only the gospel grants) is living for something because we already have favor instead of living for something in order to gain favor.

~Tullian Tchividjian in “A Continuing Requirement

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Some months back I had to go get some blood drawn for some tests I was having done. The nurse who was drawing my blood brought up something about spiritual matters, so I looked at her and I said, “Are you a Christian?” She said quickly, “I’m trying.” As soon as I heard her say that, I thought of this passage which I had been memorizing and meditating on [2 Peter 1:1].

You don’t “try” to have salvation. That’s not how you get it. The Scripture says you obtain this faith, you’re given this faith, by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. We’re saved not by trying, not by going to church, not by being good. Who could ever be good enough to win God’s favor?

That’s what the Scripture says in Romans 3:23-24. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

And then Titus 3:3-7, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures…But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy…through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that by being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

It’s all, all, all of God. It’s the righteousness of Christ. You have been given this faith by the righteousness that is in Christ Jesus…And if you want to stand in His presence faultless, it’s going to be because you’re dressed in His righteousness alone.

~Nancy Leigh DeMoss in “Obtained, Not Earned

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Christian, please remember that Jesus plus nothing equals everything. That,

  • Because Jesus was strong for you, you’re free to be weak;
  • Because Jesus won for you, you’re free to lose;
  • Because Jesus was Someone, you’re free to be no one;
  • Because Jesus was extraordinary, you’re free to be ordinary;
  • Because Jesus succeeded for you, you’re free to fail.

Preaching the gospel is the only thing that helps us take our eyes off ourselves and how we’re doing and fix our eyes on Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith. Jesus fulfilled all of God’s perfect conditions so that our relationship to God could be perfectly unconditional.

You’re free!

~Tullian Tchividjian in “The Pitfall of Perfectionism

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Let me read Ephesians 4:29 for you. It says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.”…Think of all the opportunities you’re asked for your opinion or when your words reflect your true attitude. And the Bible tells us that our words should not be unwholesome; that is, uncaring or unhelpful; they should be good words that build up other people with encouragement and a Christ-like perspective. Because think of it, friend…

Before this day is done, an occasion will arise in your life that Ephesians 4:29 describes as “the need of the moment.” It will probably happen this way: When you woke up this morning, you didn’t realize it, but God already had someone in mind He wanted to reach today. He has grace available for this person. At the same time, God’s got His eye on you to serve as His conduit of grace and encouragement. So what does He do next? He crosses your paths with that person.

…You can choose to side-step the moment and, thus, miss the opportunity, or you can give “such a word as is good for edification that it may – and here’s the best part — give grace to those who hear.” Friend, you could be one more stepping stone in the many its going take to bring that person to Christ. And you have a chance to extend the magnificent grace of God through what you say and do. You are a pipeline, an aqueduct, a channel, a conduit through which the Lord Jesus keeps meeting needs of the moment in the lives of others. Ephesians 4:29 says so. Your encouragement becomes divine-sent grace that strengthens, enables and empowers them. This is the ministry God will call you to today. It’s something He expects of every Christian.

~Joni Eareckson Tada in “Giving Grace

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