Month: May 2015

Are You Convinced?

Lately I’ve been thinking about passages of Scripture that involve the idea of being “convinced” about something. I started thinking about this theme while pondering Romans 8:31-39. In verse 38, Paul says three incredibly powerful words: “I AM SURE.” It made me wonder where I possess or lack that kind of certainty in my own beliefs. Far too often, my faith wavers. On a good day, my faith in God’s character and promises may be strong. On a bad day, it may become woefully weak. I’m not sure what had to happen to make Paul utterly sure and convinced of the love of God in Christ Jesus no matter what, but I am sure that I’d like to be as convinced as he was.

This thread of conviction is further seen in 2 Timothy 1:12 where Paul says, “for I know whom I have believed, and I am CONVINCED that He is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” Later in this letter, he alludes to Timothy’s own conviction by saying, “continue in what you have learned and have FIRMLY BELIEVED (2 Timothy 3:14). So Paul had conviction, he modeled conviction, he taught and discipled conviction. We see more evidence of conviction in his life and ministry in Philippians 1:24-25, where he says, “But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. CONVINCED of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith.”

So often, our concept of “conviction” is reduced to issues like whether or not we abstain from alcohol, what type of movies we watch, or how we spend Sundays. These are all important, to be sure. Yet it seems as though biblical conviction is so much more. Something we should all be striving for and praying that the Spirit of God would work into our hearts. I want to be someone who is CONVINCED, SURE, and FIRMLY BELIEVES what God says about Himself in Scripture so that it manifests in my daily life. I want to grow in this by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God.

What would you like to be convinced of? What is an attribute of God, or truth in His Word, or circumstance in your life where you want God to CONVINCE you of His truth?

Most wonderful of all, we see in the book of Hebrews that God Himself desires to convince His people of truth. In Hebrews 6:17-18, we read, “So when God desired to show more CONVINCINGLY to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.” So then, our desire for growing conviction is rooted in the hope that God Himself desires that we be convinced of His every truth and promise as spoken in His Word. Verse 19 goes on to speak of the surety of God’s Word as an anchor of the soul, and indeed, that’s exactly what conviction provides—a firm resolve and anchoring in the midst of trials, confusion, and discouragement.

The Apostle Paul’s life was an exceedingly difficult one, and I wonder if in many ways, the things he was convinced of gave him the fortitude, courage, and joy to press on in serving the Lord and laboring for His kingdom. And though Paul and I are different in gender, and seemingly very different in personality and temperament, his conviction is one way that I’d like to follow his call to “imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

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An Open Letter to Churches on Mother’s Day

Dear Churches,

Please allow me to share some observations with you before your church service on Mother’s Day. Holidays are a wonderful idea. It is good to celebrate what is lovely and right in the world, and it’s especially good to thank mothers. I’m glad to be able to celebrate my own mother, grandmother, and my friends who are mothers. But I fear that sometimes the way churches celebrate on Sunday morning is less than helpful, and can sometimes be downright hurtful. You see, in Christian circles, marriage and family are the “norm.” And I’m grateful for godly families! This is good! Yet there are many women who actually don’t fit into this box of married with children. Many women are infertile, many have lost children. And a good many women are still single well past the age they thought they’d get married, and wonder if they’ll ever have a family at all.

Romans 12:15 calls believers to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” We usually see these commands as involving different and distinct events, but an interesting dynamic takes place when one and the same event can cause two different reactions. This is poignantly described in Ezra 3:11-13. The Babylonian exile has ended, and the Jews have started to rebuild the temple. The younger generation, who had not seen the first temple, was wild with excitement and joy at the foundation of the temple being laid, and they shouted aloud for joy. But the older generation, who had seen and remembered the glory of Solomon’s temple, wept with loud voices when they saw how small and lackluster the new construction was in comparison with the former glory. Same event, two different reactions. And though the context is different, the same dynamic occurs on holidays in the body of Christ. As some rejoice, others mourn as they grieve what used to be and is no more, or perhaps grieve what may never be.

So how can we both rejoice with rejoicers and weep with weepers? How can churches seek to minister to ALL of their members on Mother’s Day? A few thoughts come to mind:

  1. Acknowledge mothers, but be thoughtful about how you acknowledge them. It may not be the most helpful idea to have all of the mothers stand up for a round of applause. Though we don’t want to take away from the opportunity to thank and bless these women, I fear how it will hurt and further alienate my dear friends who desperately long to be mothers and have been providentially hindered from doing so. Even worse (in my opinion), is the practice of giving a rose or flower to every mother on Sunday morning. It only cultivates an obvious visual gap between the “haves” and the “have nots.”
  1. Maintain biblical accuracy in your sermon. I have to believe that pastors are well-meaning when they say things like “a woman’s highest calling is to be a wife and mother,” but this is completely biblically inaccurate! A woman’s highest calling is to know and obey Jesus Christ, whether married, single, mother, or childless! Please, please, do not say such things.
  1. Acknowledge hurting mothers and non-mothers. Honestly, little things can go a long way. Just having your pastor acknowledge that some people do not experience Mother’s Day as a day of joy can accomplish so much. It helps the non-mothers feel like they belong in the body of Christ even on Mother’s Day. It helps the mothers remember that some of their sisters in Christ may be struggling. And the acknowledgement helps strengthen the non-mothers to rejoice with those who are rejoicing (as we are all called to do, despite our own personal pain and sorrows).

Again, I think it is good and right to acknowledge mothers with gratitude. We dare not miss the opportunity to thank and encourage mothers! But if rejoicing with those who rejoice leaves no room for weeping with those who weep, then we may need to reconsider what ministry to ALL of the flock could look like. So I hope and pray that this Mother’s Day your church will minister to each woman in a manner that is worthy of the gospel, with the tenderness and compassion of Christ. After all, the physical family is temporal, but the spiritual family of God is eternal!