Category Archives: Marriage

Pastor Appreciation Month

Did you know that October is Pastor Appreciation Month? It’s one of those things that I tend to lump with all of the other Hallmark-invented “holidays.” Which, translated, means that I don’t really pay too much attention to them….and usually end up forgetting all about them.

But, still…

“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.” –1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 (ESV)

So, before this month is over, I wanted to take a minute to share my appreciation for my pastor….

He has not written a book or headlined a conference. And, our church is quite small. In fact, both are very much in the shadows of more recognizable names and buildings.

But, as his wife, I have a front row seat to the hours of study and sermon preparation…the countless meetings and counseling sessions…the urgent, middle-of-the-night texts, emails, and phone calls…the interrupted vacations, days off, family dinners, birthday parties…the hospital visits…the prayers…the tears…the discouragement…the joys…the heartbreak…the love…

jason samuel

And, while he may not be known outside of our small circles of friends, family, and church…if you are – or ever have been – a part of those circles, I can say with confidence that you have been faithfully prayed for, and fervently loved.

He has not sacrificed his family on the altar of the church…nor the church on the altar of family. He is faithful in his calling to love and lead both with integrity, kindness, and humility…from a heart that that loves the Lord, above all else.

No, he isn’t perfect, but he is real. What you see (in the pulpit on Sunday), is what you get (in our home throughout the week). It is a privilege and a blessing to learn from him, to live life with him, and to minister to and alongside him.

j and v

 

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Filed under Biblical Womanhood, Life in Ministry, Marriage, Pastor's Wife

Book Review: Passions of the Heart

Passions of the HeartIt can be easy to assume that the struggle with purity, lust, and sexual sin is primarily a man’s problem. I can assure you, it’s not. The struggle with sin (any kind of sin), and the temptation to follow our heart is common to all mankind – men and women.

In his newest book, Passions of the Heart: Biblical Counsel for Stubborn Sexual Sins, Dr. John Street, biblically addresses the motivations at the heart of sexual sin and temptation.

“He is a fool who believes in the goodness of his own heart. He is a fool who believes that the heart is a reliable guide for life. The biblical doctrine of total depravity means that every intention, plan, and purpose of the heart, no matter how good it may seem, is tainted by sin.” pg. 16

In the very first chapter, Dr. Street clearly lays out the true, deceitful nature of our hearts, and the catastrophic results of foolishly trusting our own hearts too much. He then goes on to contrast the differences between the genuine believer and the professing believer, and the distinctions between worldly sorrow and true repentance. This chapter should be required reading for every professing believer who struggles with sin (of any kind).

But, even if you do not believe that sexual sin is an area of struggle or temptation for you, personally, I would encourage you to keep reading.

“Your thought life reveals what you worship, what controls your passions, thereby revealing what you love the most (Matt. 22:37-40).” pg. 32

Each subsequent chapter offers insight into identifying the desires and longings that make the heart susceptible to the temptations of lust, and the bondage and enslavement that results when these desires are sinfully fueled. But, it doesn’t stop there. 

“This may come as a surprise to you, but your goal is not improvement – it is holiness.” pg. 223

In every chapter, this book is filled with biblical commands, exhortations, and admonitions to point the reader toward holiness and purity. But far from the cynical despair, resignation, and hopelessness that often characterizes this struggle for purity, Dr. Street consistently points the reader back to Scripture as the source of grace, hope, and sanctification.

Although this book focuses specifically on the struggle with sexual sin, the biblical principles, thought provoking questions, and recommendations for further reading are extremely helpful in identifying temptations, addressing areas of idolatry, and repenting of sins in every area of life.

I would highly recommend Passions of the Heart to anyone who desires to pursue purity and holiness. I believe it will be an invaluable resource for individuals, couples, families, pastoral counseling, one-on-one discipleship, or men’s or women’s small groups, as a means of biblical accountability in the battle against sexual sin.

Pastors/Churches contact P&R Publishing to order in bulk…at a discount.
Or, y
ou can order a copy here: Amazon Affiliate Link

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Filed under Book Reviews, Currently Reading, Life in Ministry, Marriage, Pastor's Wife, Thinking Biblically

Summer Challenge: The Details

backlit-beach-boy-694587sumer-challengeSo…How does this work? Well, that’s a good question. There really aren’t any hard and fast rules.

Well, okay. I guess there are 2. Only 2!

First, pick just one thing. If you’re like me, you probably thought of about 10 different areas that you would like to work on. That’s great. Keep a list. Challenge yourself again in the future! But, for now, one thing. Don’t get overly ambitious. Don’t try to multi-task. Take this time to focus on just one thing, one area.

And, second, it has to be something related to an area of spiritual growth. I realize that leaves a lot of leeway. Wouldn’t it be better if we all did the same thing? Maybe. But, not necessarily. While every Christian should be growing, we all grow at different rates, and are all at different points in our spiritual life. I cannot lift the same amount of weight that my husband does. He is much stronger than I am. If I tried to match him pound for pound, I would give up before I even got started (and hurt myself trying!). But, he doesn’t even break a sweat lifting my tiny little dumbbells. He wouldn’t get any stronger doing my “workout.”  So it is with this. You have to start where you are. Push yourself…to the point of growth, but not to the point of discouragement or burnout.

The challenge will run for 3 months: from June 1st through August 31st, 2018. Technically, that is 92 days, and, actually works out to a little over 13 weeks…not 12 like I said in my original post.

And, that’s really it…

But, while I wouldn’t consider these “rules,” I would like to encourage you to do a few more things throughout the challenge:

  1. Share what you have chosen to focus on this summer, and how you plan to accomplish it! Share it here in the comments…share it in a post on your own blog (be sure to link back so we can follow along!)…share it on Facebook. This isn’t about pride, spiritual bragging rights, or “one upsmanship.” It is simply about accountability. Let people in. Let them know what you are doing, and let them hold you accountable. (Who knows, you might even inspire someone else to join you!)
  2. Update! Tell people how it is going! As the summer goes on, share what you’re learning, how you have been encouraged, and yes….even where you are struggling. Let’s encourage one another, and learn from one another!
  3. At the end, take some time to evaluate how the challenge went. Did you accomplish what you set out to do?
    If so, what changes did you see in your spiritual life as a result? Were they what you expected…or were they different?
    If not, why? What happened?
    Either way, what did you learn? How did you grow? And, how will you continue to apply what you learned beyond the summer.

I am so excited to begin my own challenge…which I will be sharing in an upcoming post. And, I hope you are prayerfully considering, and looking forward to yours as well.

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Filed under Biblical Womanhood, Life in Ministry, Marriage, Mommyhood, Pastor's Wife, Summer Challenge, Thinking Biblically

Summer Challenge Facebook Group

Several years ago, a friend and I decided that, as young moms, with busy husbands, and ministry commitments, we wanted to make sure that our time with the Lord wasn’t getting overlooked in the chaos that was our everyday lives. We both realized that, for us, this was going to mean getting up early. Neither of us were really what you might call “morning people,” so, we decided we were going to need help. So we took turns calling each other, each morning to make sure the other was out of bed. While the desire to ensure that I had some time in the Word and in prayer before my daughter was up and ready to go for the day was certainly there…there were definitely mornings when the promise (threat?) of her phone call would propel me out of bed, when I might have otherwise decided to slack off, sleep in, and put it off until I got around to it…”later.” Sometimes I was the one making the wake up call. And, not wanting to let my friend down was also a strong catalyst to get myself going when my alarm went off. Neither of us wanted to be the one who was still sleeping when that accountability call came in! Now, we were young moms, and even though we each only had one child at the time, there were some mornings that truly did call for a little extra sleep (illness, teething, bad dreams…sometimes that’s just how it is). But, we still made sure to ask about what the other had read, or learned later on in the day. And, we prayed for one another. Consistently.

It’s easy to start out strong, and enthusiastic. But, eventually, the newness wears off, and having someone else to encourage you (or push you) along, when you feel like sleeping in…when “life” begins to get in the way of your new commitment…when other activities look easier, or at least more enjoyable.

That is the purpose of this Facebook group. Consider this group your virtual wake-up call. We will check in regularly. Expect to be asked where you are, or how you are doing in your challenge. We can encourage one another to keep going when we would rather give up. We can pray for one another when we are discouraged, or behind, or not seeing any real progress. And, we can rejoice with each other as we see these ventures to completion, and see the fruit of challenging and stretching ourselves to grow spiritually!

While each of these challenges are personal, and are being undertaken for a variety of reasons, we are not designed to live our spiritual lives independently of one another.

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” ~Philippians 2: 1-4 (ESV)

As promised, I have created a Facebook Group for this challenge. Join us here:

Summer Challenge Facebook Group

backlit-beach-boy-694587sumer-challenge

If you would like, share the challenge, and invite others to join as well!

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Filed under Biblical Womanhood, Life in Ministry, Marriage, Mommyhood, Pastor's Wife, Summer Challenge, Thinking Biblically

Listen.

Over the past several years, I have noticed a trend of choosing a “word of the year.” This seems to be the new New Year’s Resolution. A mantra, of sorts, to inspire change, growth, or simplicity (all common words-of-the-year, by the way) in the upcoming year.

I have shied away from this particular blogging/social media trend, because it has always seemed to be just a little too close to “name it and claim it” territory for my comfort.

Until this year.

It was quite unintentional, I assure you. And, as I have actively, and quite intentionally avoided this particular blogging/social media trend, I figure it is only appropriate that I am also bucking the common practice of declaring my word at the beginning of the year…

Last Christmas, my husband gave me The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women. And, as the Lord often does, it was exactly what I needed to read…starting in the very first chapter!

The chapter was on Anger. And, while I do not typically think of myself as an angry person (oh, I have my moments!), maybe it would be better to say that I do not like to think of myself as an angry person. But, it wasn’t the specific topic of anger that resonated with me. It was the idea of listening.

John and Janie Street explained it this way:

“Listening is hard to do when you’re angry, because true listening involves submission. This requires a silent, inward confession that your demands and anger are not right and that you need the correction and help of another. This is not listening for some audible voice from God, because He has already communicated to you everything you need in His Word. When you try to hear an audible voice, you betray your lack of trust in the sufficiency of His Word (2 Peter 1:3, 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Instead, listen to God through the truth of His Word – the Bible. … But, you must not stop with just listening. To listen carefully, you must not continue to speak.” (The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women, pgs. 31-32, bold mine)

My family talks…a lot. I think it was a bit unnerving for my husband when we started dating. Family dinners were loud. Words flew at a furious pace. Good-natured arguments and friendly debates were common. We interrupted, and talked over one another. Sentences often overlapped. Thoughts were often left incomplete. None of it was done maliciously, or with the intention of being rude or inconsiderate. That’s just how we communicated.

It was the polar opposite of his family’s way of doing things. His family was quiet. Conversations were slow and deliberate. They waited for someone to finish a thought (maybe a sentence, maybe an entire paragraph) before chiming in. And, the general pace of conversation was much slower.

So, early on in our marriage, my husband frequently pointed out my propensity to interrupt him. Honestly, I dismissed his observation, and his rebukes. I wasn’t doing it to be rude. I was doing it out of habit.

But, it bothered him.

And, the truth is, it was inconsiderate. It was rude. It was disrespectful.

And, if “true listening involves submission,” this was an obvious lack of submission on my part.

Instead of listening to him, to his perspective, and his opinions…I would cut him off, or talk over him, in order to share my opinions, and defend myself and my perspective…again. And, I am not only talking in the context of disagreements, although those types of conversations would definitely fall into this category. Sadly, I am mostly talking about normal, everyday communication.

“Speaking when you should be listening only interrupts the valuable insight that you are lacking.” (The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women, pg. 32)

To say I have been a slow learner in this area would be a gross understatement. I am embarrassed to say that we had been married almost 15 years…and I was only just beginning to recognize the enormity of my problem in this area. And, as I began to realize the years of wisdom and valuable insights I had missed out on (both from him, and from others), by insisting on speaking, when I should have been listening…I finally wanted to take his concern seriously.

Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” (ESV)

And, James 1:19-20 says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (ESV)

There is no sugar-coating it. Scripture calls an over-abundance of words, and the speed with which we rush to verbalize them, sin.

So, I took those verses as my starting point for this past year. Even though I had read them numerous times, I began to meditate on them, daily. And, I made it my goal to prayerfully apply them in every single conversation and interaction that I had…with my husband, with my children, with the people in my church, and online.

To listen carefully, you must not continue to speak. This became my motto (not mantra!) for this last year.

Did I do it perfectly? No. I think, this side of Heaven, it will always be a struggle.

“For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” James 3:3 (ESV)

In his sermon on Taming the Tongue, John MacArthur says,

“if I want to focus my Christian life on one thing, if I want to get my act together, if I want to bring my whole spiritual life into control, I ought to work on my what?  My tongue.  Well, now we realize that it’s not fully possible to totally have a holy tongue, but to the extent that one controls his tongue, he will control his body.  Why?  Because whatever spiritual dynamics work to control your tongue will therefore work to control the rest of you. But it makes it so simple and so dynamic if we can just concentrate on the tongue.  Isn’t that practical?  I mean, just get it down to that. Focus on your mouth. And if the Holy Spirit gets control of the most volatile and the most potent member, the rest will be subdued.” (Taming the Tongue, part 1)

And, over the course of the year, I found that I could sum up my goal in one simple word:

Listen.

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” James 1:26 (ESV)

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