Moms, Love God With All Your Mind

Much recognition has been given lately to frontline workers, and rightly so. Medical personnel, retail employees, truck drivers, postal workers, and countless others have kept our country functioning in the midst of the current crisis, even as others have been asked to stay home. Moms have never been strangers to the frontline. They may not be in the public eye, but they are the original frontline workers in their children’s lives. As mothers bandage one boo boo after another, prepare countless meals, and dry rivers of tears, they are attuned to their children like no one else on the planet. Motherhood is physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding. In my experience and observation, moms often give more attention to maintaining their own physical and emotional health than to nurturing the life of the mind, despite the fact that it is equally important to our spiritual health.

When asked by a scribe to identify the greatest commandment, Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30) As women, we are typically very good at the heart, soul, and even strength sections of that verse. Often we are so worn out from performing the roles of short order cook, janitor, activities director, dispute mediator, and taxi driver, that we brush past the mind portion of the greatest commandment. But our children are fighting a new kind of battle in the world today that can only be defeated through sound reasoning. This requires that we strengthen and engage our minds with God’s Word, learn to apply critical reasoning skills, and teach our children to do the same.

While playground bullies still exist, a larger threat is posed by a culture that engages in linguistic gymnastics by redefining words and invading our children’s minds with unbiblical ideas. Our children are no longer just fighting against enemies on the playground who want to pummel them with their fists. They are up against an invisible foe who wants to capture their thoughts. One particularly insidious inroad is the cyber-bully capable of throwing virtual punches to their psyches from the other side of a device screen. Just as we would teach them to defend against physical threats, we must also train them to take every thought captive for Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” Our kids may not even recognize the danger at first glance, but it is our responsibility to teach them to recognize the hazards inherent in a culture trying to remake God in its own image. How can we equip ourselves so that we are prepared to equip our children? As moms, we need to put on our helmets, work out our salvation, and hold on to truth.

Put On Your Helmet

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit — which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17

The first line of defense in the life of the mind is to put on the helmet of salvation for ourselves before we ever try to come to our child’s aid. This may seem counterintuitive at first, because as moms our first instinct is to protect our kids without thought for our own safety. But think of it as being similar to the way flight attendants instruct parents to respond in emergency situations. They tell parents to place the oxygen mask on themselves first before attending to their children. Salvation works the same way. Until we accept the life sustaining gift of salvation by grace and through faith, it is difficult for our children to realize its importance. We cannot pass on what we haven’t received ourselves. As they observe the peace, assurance, and security we find in our salvation, our children will be drawn to the hope we have in Christ.

Work Out Your Salvation

Therefore, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Philippians 2:12

After we have protected our minds with the helmet of salvation, we are responsible to daily work out our understanding of what it means to be saved. The sanctification process requires that we soberly and reverently seek to mature in our comprehension of the finished work of Christ on our behalf. We grow in our understanding that not only did Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection save us from something, but it saved us for something. We were rescued from sin and death for the purpose of walking daily in the abundant life God promises His children. Not only that, but we look forward to eternity in heaven with our Lord. If we only view salvation as a kind of “fire insurance,” we and our children miss out on realizing the full benefit of all that Christ accomplished for us. We miss out on the joy of cooperating with Him in His plans for us on this earth until He calls us to our eternal home.

Hold On To Truth

But test all things. Hold on to what is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21

Finally, we should seek to practice discernment by letting go of those things that are not healthy for our minds. We are bombarded with information and entertainment choices coming at us from news sources and social media accounts from the moment our feet hit the floor in the morning until the time we lay our heads down on our pillows at night. It is incredibly easy to become absorbed in our own virtual worlds without carefully holding up the things we hear and see against the truth of God’s Word. Our microwave culture insists on instant gratification, and tells us that everything ought to be quick and easy. But sometimes the discernment process requires that we let our thoughts slowly simmer on the back burner for a while. By so doing, we allow truth to permeate our minds without reflexively accepting things that may not line up with God’s Word. As our children watch us wrestle well, test all things, and hold on to what is good, they learn to do the same.

This Mother’s Day as your children shower you with gifts, consider reciprocating with the gift of a mom who loves God with all her mind. Let’s weep and laugh with our children. Take time to run and play with them. But let’s not neglect to think critically and deeply about spiritual things, and to teach them to do the same. Our children will reap long-lasting benefits from such an investment. It will be a gift that keeps on giving as they pass it along to their children, and there is no greater joy in the life of a mom than watching a Godly legacy bloom and flourish.

Easter: A Bittersweet Season

Bittersweet. An odd combination of sorrow and celebration. That is the best word I have found to describe this Easter season. Those of us who are in Christ are simultaneously experiencing the tragic effects of living in a fallen world, while rejoicing in our future hope. We understand that this world is not our home, yet it’s where we find ourselves during this brief moment in time. In a time of year typically celebrated together with family by hunting beautifully decorated eggs, eating lovingly prepared meals, and joyously celebrating our risen Savior, many now find themselves isolated, alone, and longing for the warm embrace of loved ones. The fallen nature of even the natural world necessitates physical separation from family and friends this Easter.

The world as a whole desperately longs for healing. Scientists all over the planet are racing to find a cure for a virus that has left sickness and death in its wake. But long before COVID-19, the world was already ill. Jesus came to earth as the first and only frontline response to the pandemic of sin that has separated us from our creator since the very first transgression. He is still our only rescue from that horrible ailment. As such, He understands our pain, and provides the antidote that gives us hope. Isaiah 53:5 tells us “But he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on him, and we are healed by his wounds.”

I read recently that even unpleasant, bitter tastes serve a purpose in helping to identify poison in the things we might attempt to ingest. The same article indicated that sweet tastes help us identify energy-rich, beneficial nutrients. If we apply this physical principle to our spiritual lives, we need both bitterness and sweetness in our lives. The bitter times remind us that we live in a fallen, sinful world and cause us to long for the hope of eternity. The sweet times compel us to express gratitude for all our Heavenly Father has bestowed upon us. I believe we are living in the tension between these two necessary flavors of life right now.

As I read over the events of the very first Holy Week described in scripture, the words leave a bittersweet taste behind. Jesus knew full well what events lay ahead of Him as He prepared to drink the bitter, poisonous cup of death. He was completely aware that it was only by consuming this cup prepared for Him by the Father that we could reap the sweet, life-giving benefits of forgiveness. In my mind’s eye, I juxtapose the ugliness of the cross, arguably the most brutal execution known to man, against the beauty of redemption accomplished once and for all by our Savior and Lord.

As we consider our current most unusual Easter season, may we be encouraged by the accomplished work of Christ on the cross. The words of scripture in 1 Peter 5:10 assure us that “The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while.” My prayer is that God would use the bittersweet flavor of these days to cause us to hunger all the more for fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and ultimately with God Himself by drawing near to Him to answer the deepest needs of our hearts.

Book Review: Talking With Your Kids About Jesus

Natasha Crain’s newest book, Talking With Your Kids About Jesus, is an essential resource for anyone seeking to provide spiritual guidance to children in today’s cultural climate. It could not have come at a better time as children ask parents big questions in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The author makes these critical conversations manageable even for busy parents or grandparents as she provides content broken down into short sections that can be easily digested in just a few minutes a day.

The book is divided into five sections which cover the identity of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus, the death of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, and the difference Jesus makes. Each chapter within the section consists of several pages of content followed by a summary of the key points. The author also includes a conversation guide for parents to use as they talk with their children and train them to boldly defend their faith.

While I believe every conversation in the book is essential, I am particularly impressed by the way the author covers several topics. The first is in the section about the identity of Jesus. Crain highlights the importance of ensuring that our kids have a thorough grasp on knowing that Jesus is God, even though He never says those exact words. She provides a solid foundation of Biblical evidences to equip kids to face challenges from others with different worldviews.

In her section on the teachings of Jesus, Crain addresses another crucial topic by examining what Jesus taught about religion. She explains that many today inaccurately portray Jesus as pitting religion against relationship. The author astutely points out that this is a false dichotomy, and describes the profound impact embracing this belief can have on kids in terms of a lowered view of the nature of truth, the authority of the Bible, and the importance of the church.

Crain addresses the relationship between Old Testament animal sacrifices and Jesus’s death in the section on the death of Jesus. She emphasizes the importance of not only teaching kids the fun and memorable stories of the Bible, but explaining the enormity of sin to them through learning about the sacrificial system, and describing how it took the death of an innocent sacrifice to make atonement for it.

The final section of the book describes the difference Jesus makes in the life of the Christian. The chapter on what it means to trust in Jesus is especially timely in the midst of uncertainty and fear related to the ongoing pandemic. She provides helpful answers to the questions of evil and suffering by describing the biblical concept of trust as well as common misunderstandings of what it means to trust in Jesus. Natasha brings clarity to this difficult topic and provides guidance for parents as they discuss current events and personal disappointments with their children.

While I was familiar with Natasha Crain’s work in equipping parents to engage in apologetics conversations with their kids, this was the first of her books that I had the pleasure to read. Natasha has the ability to write about difficult topics in an easy to understand style even for those with no prior apologetics training. She communicates in a winsome manner, and makes parents feel as if they are hearing from a trusted friend. This book is a great resource for parents, grandparents, teachers, or Bible study leaders who desire to give children a clear understanding of Jesus in a world that often paints a confusing picture of the Founder and Perfecter of the Christian faith.