“Congratulations! But, I gotta tell you, marriage is really hard.” This was the response my friend gave me when I told her I was getting married. My brother responded to the news with a grim, “Wow, are you sure you want to get married?” In an attempt to make sure I was taking my wedding seriously, my well-meaning friends and family overly prepared me for the trials of marriage. Meanwhile, on the other side of my wedding day, the joy I’ve experienced in my relationship has caught me almost off guard.
In the last year you’ve probably read or seen something in the news about marriage: a new study showing a decrease in the marriage rate, a movie glorifying an affair, a splashy celebrity divorce. Maybe it’s my pessimism talking, but most of the stuff I’ve seen on marriage hasn’t been positive. By the time I was approaching my own wedding, all of the talk and images surrounding marriage left me terrified and depressed. How could anyone get married and stay married, and why would they want to? Going into premarital counseling, I had this idea that marriage was going to be hard, horrible at times, and the biggest trial of my life, and I know I didn’t come up with those thoughts (more…)
Before coming to Olive Tree, I was an event planner. As such, I picked out flowers, spent far too long debating over menus, and had to deal with peoples’ lack of ability to RSVP. But I also acted as hostess, standing in front of large groups of people to welcome them to the event and make announcements. I spoke in front of people around 15 times a week. Occasionally people attending the event would introduce themselves to me and we’d exchange pleasantries, but for the most part I existed outside the event. However, there was one interaction with a guest that left a mark on me.
At a dinner I was hosting, I had just finished making my announcements and returned to my secluded table in the corner when a gentleman approached me. He had a serious expression on his face (more…)
Happy Father’s Day to all you men who have been blessed with children! Fatherhood is an amazing gift: “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Ps. 127:3).
I have two little redheaded boys, Gabriel (4) and Asher (6 mo.), that I have the wonderful blessing and responsibility of raising. They continually bring me joy and happiness!
For those who are fathers, Father’s Day is a day where you are celebrated. And while I wish you blessings, I also want to encourage and exhort you, spurring you on to love and good deeds as a father. Fatherhood is a weighty calling. You aren’t just raising a pet or a plant. You are raising a child who bears the image of God and has a soul that will never die. No pressure!
As fathers we are called to do for our families what Christ did for the church (Eph. 5-6). We are called to love sacrificially so that they may flourish. We are to be a sanctifying presence in their lives, which means helping them combat sin and grow in righteousness. We are to be consistently washing them with the Word of God (which means we need to know it well), and bringing them up “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”.
The only way we can do this is through Christ. Fathers should point to Christ, who is the only way to the one, true Father. When we are faithful fathers, by God’s grace, our children will be “like arrows in the hand of a warrior,” and we “shall not be put to shame” (Ps. 127:4-5).
Happy Father’s Day! May God richly bless you with his grace as you lead your family by faith!
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I found myself feeling a little giddy this past week, excited about my three-day weekend: catching up on sleep, going to the beach, firing up the barbeque. I’m ashamed to admit that never once did the reason for my extended weekend come to mind. So today, as many of us in America have an extra day to sleep in and relax, I hope that you will take a moment to reflect on Memorial Day. I know many people will visit gravesides of loved ones lost, and my heart goes out to you and to all of the brave men and women who serve and protect our country. I am truly thankful for you. I leave you with this thought from John Piper:
“This is a weekend for all Americans to give thanks for what God has given us through the sacrifice of all the men and women who have died for our country. However great the faults of our government and whatever our dissatisfactions, we have much to be grateful for. ” -From Memorial Day 2008
To know the stories behind the authors of devotionals like Anne Graham Lotz’ Just Give Me Jesus gives new depth of meaning to the written work. Today, we take a peek into the life of one of the daughters of the world’s most famous evangelist, Billy Graham.
Anne Graham Lotz, Billy Graham’s second daughter, is a powerful force for God’s Kingdom in her own right and was even called “the best preacher in the family” by her father. But Anne’s road to ministry was an uphill battle. She married early and had her first child at age 20. Several years later, Anne was struggling with depression as she cared for three small children and wrestled with her role as a stay-at-home mother. She wanted an opportunity to serve the Lord outside the home.
In 1975, God revealed an opportunity for Anne to lead a Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) group at her church in Raleigh, North Carolina. Though some disapproved of her choice, it quickly became clear, when the audience numbered 300 and counting, that Anne had found her niche.
After 12 years of ministry with BSF, Anne began to receive speaking requests both nationally and internationally and was shaped by other women in ministry, including Audrey Wetherell Johnson, the founder of BSF. Since then, Anne has started a non-profit called AnGeL Ministries, formed from her initials AGL, whose mission is to “give out messages of biblical exposition so that God’s Word is personal and relevant to ordinary people.” Anne’s ministry includes numerous speaking engagements and writing devotional books. Olive Tree has four of Anne’s books, including The Vision of His Glory, Just Give Me Jesus, Heaven: My Father’s House, and God’s Story, which will be on sale at OliveTree.com later this week in honor of Mother’s Day.
In Just Give Me Jesus, Anne longs for her readers to know God and reflects on her own life-long journey to know Christ:
“I am growing in my knowledge of God, and I say without hesitation or qualification that knowing God is my joy and reason for living. He is…
the Wind beneath my wings,
the Treasure that I seek,
the Foundation on which I build,
the Song in my heart,
the Object of my desire,
the Breath of my life—
He is my All in all!”
Encouraged by Anne’s example, may Jesus also be our all in all!
Lent is the time of year when we clean out the cobwebs of our spiritual lives, a spiritual “spring cleaning,” if you will. And just as we likely don’t enjoy this season of self-denial and discipline (as I certainly don’t enjoy spring cleaning), it’s a necessary task in the Christian life. It’s similar with Good Friday. If we mean good in the sense of pleasant or cheerful, Good Friday is anything but good. Rather, Good Friday is a day of grief, of sorrow, of darkness. Before joy comes sorrow. Before light comes darkness. Before new life comes death. Before resurrection comes crucifixion.
Coupled with the Good News of the Gospel is bad news about the human condition. As Paul writes in Romans, “There is no one righteous, not even one…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Humanity has gone astray and the only way to redeem this incredible wrong is for God himself, in human flesh, to take on humanity’s brokenness in suffering and death.
To sit in the Good Friday service or to read through the Passion accounts in the Gospels is not particularly enjoyable either. We are left to sit in darkness when Christ dies on the cross, pondering our part in Jesus’ death by our own sinfulness. It is with this realization that the cleaning of our spiritual lives begins, with an acknowledgement that the cleaning is necessary. It is Christ who cleans; Christ sweeps away our pride and washes away our sin. “’Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’” Though the full spring cleaning, top to bottom, will come with Easter when Christ settles sin and death for good, we begin with the crucifixion.
And in doing so, we get our first glimpse of Easter.