Book Review: Missional Mom by Helen Lee

This week, I hope to share reviews of two books I’ve read recently which I believe contain very different ideas about the ministry of motherhood. I hope you’ll benefit from hearing about them. Here’s the first… 

Missional Mom: Living with Purpose at Home & in the World

When I first saw the cover of Missional Mom by Helen Lee, I was truly excited about having the chance to read the entire book. Based on the book’s title, subtitle, and back cover, I had the impression that Missional Mom would call attention to the vital role that motherhood plays in changing the world for Christ. What I was surprised to find, however, is that the book actually focused very little on the ministry of motherhood at all.

What Is a Missional Mom?

In the introduction, Helen Lee discusses the feelings of frustration, purposelessness, and despair that many women seem to experience once they have children. Lee set off to discover if missional living was the missing key for these moms. She spent the next year searching out women she calls “missional moms” and concluded that “Ultimately, mothers who choose a missional lifestyle have found the secret to the conundrum many mothers experience: that living missionally brings a profound sense of heavenly affirmation and peace.”

Lee goes on in the rest of the book to explain the distinctives of missional moms: they join with God in His mission to redeem lost humanity by living counterculturally, they make evangelism part of their everyday life, and they educate themselves and then seek to meet the needs of people close to home and around the world.

What I Enjoyed

Lee is incredibly passionate about encouraging women to take seriously their primary calling to love and know God by living in obedience to the Great Commission. She challenges women to resist cultural pressures that would motivate them to isolate themselves and their children in search of security, bow to materialism in search of comfort, or to idolize their children’s achievement and success in search of happiness. What Lee encourages moms to do instead is to sacrifice and push themselves outside of their comfort zones in order to advance God’s mission of redeeming the lost.

As you read Missional Mom, you simply can’t ignore Lee’s love for the Lord and those in need. Her enthusiasm and desire to honor the Great Commandment and Great Commission are obvious throughout the book, and I personally found myself challenged to evaluate my own life and seek more opportunities to help the hurting and reach the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What’s Missing

In spite of the many good things said in Missional Mom, my greatest concern about the book, as I referred to earlier, is what the book doesn’t say about motherhood. Although moms are mentioned on nearly every page, Lee says relatively little about the ministry of motherhood itself and seems to put the focus of missional living on those outside of the home.

Even in the eighth chapter “The Missional Mom Creates Missional Families,” Lee still neglects to address what the Bible has to say about motherhood or parenting. She recommends resisting materialism and showing generosity and hospitality as methods of creating a missional family. These are good things, of course, but when Lee suggested that moms discuss with their children fair trade coffee, global warming, and how wasting energy affects polar bears, I failed to see how these topics related to the Gospel and missional living.

What the Scripture Teaches

Unfortunately, the major impression I’m concerned readers will take away from Missional Mom is that a mother’s ministry to people outside her home is more important and more in line with the Great Commission than is her ministry to her husband and children. Biblically speaking, this is simply not the case. Paul had not forgotten the Great Commission when he instructed older women to teach younger women “to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands” (Titus 2:4-5). In fact, he explained that moms should live this way so that God’s Word would not be dishonored (2:5).

When a woman fears the Lord, loves her husband and children, “looks well to the ways of her household” (Prov. 31:27), partners with her husband to diligently teach their children God’s commandments (Deut. 6:7) and to train them in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4), she is living missionally. A woman’s family is her primary mission field and the work she does to make disciples in her own home is no less important than the work done by a missionary on a foreign field.

These are vital points that I believe are missing in Lee’s approach to missional motherhood. You simply cannot accurately portray Christian motherhood without first explaining what God has clearly revealed in His Word regarding the topic.

In Conclusion

I appreciate Helen Lee’s desire to inspire moms to share God’s heart for the lost and needy and take the Great Commission seriously. As moms who have children living at home, we must ensure that we don’t allow our primary mission field to become our only mission field, and Missional Mom contains some helpful advice on how to avoid that error by creatively responding to the needs of the world around us.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through a blogger review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 

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Some of the feminist beliefs that were shocking in the beauty parlors of the 1960s have gradually become accepted in our way of life. The influences may seem subtle and perhaps unimportant, but to the degree that they result in an unbiblical value system, they are deceptive and sinful. Only the Scriptures can guide us through the confusing maze of the influence of feminist thinking

As we study the Scriptures and mature in our understanding of godly thinking and beliefs, we will become more discerning about the wrong ways we have been influenced. Instead of being drawn to the ear-tickling allure of feminist philosophy, the author of Hebrews wrote that our senses will be “trained to discern good and evil” (Heb. 5:14).

God commands all Christians to:

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. (Col. 2:8)

The only way we will not be taken captive by the feminist beliefs is through the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s grace enabling us to study and believe and embrace what God has told us in His Word.

~Martha Peace in Damsels in Distress

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What traits does a godly woman have? The Bible has quite a bit to say about that.

“Ruth 3:11: ‘And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid….All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character.’ ”

Do you have a reputation for being a woman of godly character?

“She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue” (Proverbs 31:26).

Do you spend time with the Word of God so that you can speak wise words to others?

“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission” (1 Timothy 2:11).

Do you have a teachable spirit?

“It is better to dwell in the wilderness than with a contentious and an angry woman” (Proverbs 21:19).

Do you have a spirit of welcoming people or of pushing them away? Do you find yourself arguing and getting angry easily?

Why not spend some time in the Word of God and ask Him to show you what kind of woman He wants you to be?

~Nancy Leigh DeMoss in “How Does a Woman Act?

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Earlier…we talked about the cursed things at the grocery checkout lines, specifically women’s magazines. One of the troubles with these magazines that we did not discuss was the problem of the covers. We don’t even have to buy these magazines to be infected by them. Just looking at the “beautiful” women on the covers is a double whammy. First, it can destroy our peace by putting us under the same kind of pressures as all those articles on the perfect party or the perfect new decorating scheme. We may be tempted to think, “How can I look like that when God keeps blessing me with children?” Thus, we allow the stress of watching our diet, fixing our hair, purchasing and maintaining an attractive wardrobe, etc. to destroy the peace in our homes.

Secondly, perusing these magazines implants in our minds a false idea of what beauty is all about. Peter tells us in Scripture what our goals ought to be and he is far wiser than Helen Gurley Brown. In 1 Peter 3:1-6 we are given God’s definition of what beauty truly is: “Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”

Of course we know this passage, but do we really heed it? And do we teach it to our daughters? For that matter, do we teach this to our sons so that they will recognize true beauty when they see it and not pursue or accept a worldly counterfeit?

~Denise Sproul in Tending Your Garden

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We often laugh about the proverb’s assertion that it is better to live on the corner of a roof than with a nagging wife (Proverbs 21:9). This warning, however, ought to sober us. And it’s definitely not funny when you can imagine that that verse is speaking about you. And unfortunately, we probably have all thought that at times. Hopefully, with hard work and the aid of the Holy Spirit, those times become less severe…and less often.

When I have had a particularly bad day (and no, I don’t mean because particularly “bad” things have happened to me, but that I have handled whatever has happened particularly badly) it is a horrifying thought to think of hearing a tape recording of myself—or remembering that not only has my dear husband heard my dripping, but so has my heavenly Husband (only more so because He also knows my thoughts). It is humbling and reveals how much need I have for repentance and calling on the Lord for strength to do better.

In working toward peace in our homes, we need to daily remember what our husbands long for. More than fancy meals, fancy lingerie, fancy anything, they just want some peace. Has your husband ever had some happy news to come home and tell you about…and you totally burst his bubble with a sour attitude that you dumped on him as soon as he walked in the door? Would you want to be greeted by that when you came home? Avoid the shame and remorse you’ll surely feel later—just don’t do it!…

Let there be peace in our homes, and let it begin with us.

~Denise Sproul in Tending Your Garden

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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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Is there something you’ve been praying for, for a long time?

The Bible tells us that, as we pray, there’s a spiritual battle going on against the forces of wickedness. We can see this in the story of Daniel. As he began to fast and pray one time, an angel was sent to him. But for twenty-one days, the messenger was resisted by fallen angels. After a great battle, he finally arrived to give Daniel the answer.

We can’t fully understand all that goes on in the spiritual realm, but we do know that we need to persevere in prayer. Maybe you’ve been praying, not for twenty-one days, but for twenty-one years. Don’t give up! You have no idea what God is doing behind the scenes nor when He will finally send the answer.

~Nancy Leigh DeMoss in “Battle During Prayer

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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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The Proverbs tell us that only by pride comes contention. That means anywhere there’s contention—in the home, in the workplace, in the church—the root of that conflict is always, always, always pride and arrogance.

The Corinthian church is an example. They were proud of what they knew, proud of their past teachers, proud of their intellectual knowledge, proud of their spiritual knowledge.

And because of that pride, there was contention. Their business meetings were war zones. They fought with each other. They couldn’t get along with each other.

The apostle Paul said to that church, and to us, “Love is not arrogant.” If you’re experiencing conflict in a relationship, ask God to show you any areas of pride in your heart, and then ask Him to fill your heart with His love.

~Nancy Leigh DeMoss in “Pride and Contention

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Have you noticed how much rudeness has become part of our culture?

If you turn on prime time television, what will you find? Rudeness. TV writers seem to think that you can’t be funny without cutting someone else down or being crude. You especially see women on television who are crass and uncouth.

Now, men and women can both be rude, but I think it’s particularly unattractive in us as women. It shows a lack of love, too. In 1 Corinthians, Paul says, “Love is not rude.”

That means that when we learn manners, we’re showing love. When we strike up a friendly conversation, we’re showing love. When we’re being considerate or sensitive, we’re showing love.

Our world sees plenty of rudeness. I think it’s time for us women to show what true, godly love is like.

~Nancy Leigh DeMoss in “A Rude Era

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God wants me to look like His Son. That is God’s purpose in my life; that’s why I was saved. That’s why God even allowed me to live through breast cancer. God is all about shaping people into the image of His Son.

One story that helps me more than any other is a true story of when Michelangelo was asked, “How did you create the most anatomically perfect statue of David?” Michelangelo said, “I took a flawed piece of marble, and I looked in it and I saw the man David. Then I just chiseled away everything that wasn’t him.”

God sees in me His Son. God loves me enough to use any chiseling instrument—it could be cancer; it could be rejection; it could be loss of a parent; it could be my singleness and never having children—but God’s purposes are not about my personal happiness or comfort. They are about making me look like His Son, so I can reflect His glory in a lost world.

~Margaret Ashmore in “The Image of His Son

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First Corinthians 13 is known as “The Love Chapter” in the Bible. It gives us characteristics of genuine love. One of those is: “Love does not envy.” Let’s dig a little deeper into what that means.

When you truly love, you’re content with the basic necessities of life—you hold everything else loosely. When you truly love, you realize that you have an amazing gift—a right relationship with God. What more do you really need?

This kind of love helps you to be thankful when you do get something new. And this kind of love protects you from getting angry with a friend who gets a new set of living room furniture or a raise at work.

Have you put your faith in Christ to take away your sin and bring you into a right relationship with God? That’s the first step in having true love—the kind that doesn’t envy.

~Nancy Leigh DeMoss in “Love vs. Jealousy

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At one point in my life, I found myself coming home every night after work, turning on the TV, and using it as a companion.

God began to show me that the television was becoming a barrier in my relationship with Him. I’m ashamed to say that I resisted God’s conviction for months.

The real issue was whether I would obey in humility and brokenness or whether I would resist God in pride. You’re faced with the same decision every time God’s Spirit convicts you of something.

TV may not be a problem for you. There may be some other issue where God is calling you to surrender. But I’ll tell you that when I finally said, “Yes, Lord,” and made the changes I knew I needed to make, it led to incredible new freedom and fruitfulness in my life. I don’t know what you may be struggling with, but whatever it is, let me just encourage you: Don’t delay obedience.

~Nancy Leigh DeMoss in “Changing Habits

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The Word of God communicates. It communicates who God is. It communicates His heart, His way, His will. If you want to get to know God, you need to find His communication about Himself, and that’s the Scripture

The Word of God is practical. You can’t grow spiritually without it. You will live a spiritually defeated life without it. You can’t know God without it. You can’t know the gospel without the Word of God. Paul talks in 2 Timothy chapter three about the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 3:15). That’s how we know the gospel.

You can’t know the will of God without the Word of God. Don’t come and tell me stories as I’ve heard people tell about, “God told me to leave my husband.” “I know God’s leading me to borrow this money for something that is not a need.” Don’t tell me God told you that! You may have had a vision; you may have had a dream; you may have been up too late the night before and got confused; you may have had hallucinations; but if it’s not according to the Word of God, don’t tell me God told you that.

You can’t know the will of God if you don’t know the Word of God.

~Nancy Leigh DeMoss in “Direction from the Word

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