Saturday, December 8, 2012

Less than 10 Percent

Since finding out I was pregnant, I have been anxiously waiting for the right time to write this post, but thanks to “pregnancy brain” (yes, it is real), and the first trimester fog, I am just now able to form coherent sentences. 
Less than a 10 (%) percent chance – that is the odds that my fertility doctor gave me for being able to get pregnant.  I had to come to grips with the reality of my diagnosis and the possibility that I may not ever have children.  Just as soon as I was getting comfortable with the idea, I find out that we are pregnant.  I think it took several weeks for me to get over the shock of it.  But once the morning sickness hit, I knew it was for real.  J 
I would like to share a couple of brief thoughts about our journey in parenthood so far: 

Oh taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8a)
  • God is good.  However, I would like to make clear that His goodness did not start or depend on Him granting me this child.  He has blessed me with life and salvation and so much more than I could ever ask for or deserve.  I am so overwhelmed that God has chosen to give this child to us, but I was overwhelmed with the grace of God in the midst of our childlessness too.  So many precious gifts He has given us!

Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. (Psalm 115:3)

  • God is all-powerful.  But yes, He has always been all-powerful.  His hands were not restrained and His will was not constricted in any way prior to this pregnancy.  God is in ultimate control of this entire universe and He does what He pleases.  Whether in times of plenty or in times of barrenness, I am thankful for this sovereignty.  He is bigger than any fertility lab report or any diagnosis that my doctor can opine. 

Oh God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1)
  • Be thankful for the valleys.  As children of God, we learn some of the most profound lessons about God in times of brokenness and heartache.  Here in these places and times, our desperation for His presence is at fever pitch and so He causes us to be moldable and hungry for His touch.  My prayer for myself and for those going through challenging times such as infertility is that we would seek the Lord with all our hearts. 

 …But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Phil. 4:6)  

  • Make your petitions known.  I want to thank everyone who has prayed for Matt and me during this time.  Please continue to pray for Baby Neyman.  We are thankful for every day we have been given and will have with him/her.  Yet, please continue to pray for the people you know that continue to struggle with infertility.  The first time we saw our baby’s heartbeat was at my fertility clinic.  Sitting in that little ultrasound room, Matt and I could not contain our excitement.  But outside of that room, sat a woman whose dreams of motherhood had yet to be fulfilled.  Our hearts were full, but hers was empty.  Please continue to lift up those you know are waiting on the Lord. 

    • “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lam. 3:22)  

  • The Lord is my portion.  During my time in the valley, one question that had to be answered in my heart is whether the ultimate desire of my soul was communion with the Lord, or did I want motherhood more?  The Lord is my portion, not Baby Neyman.  What a wonderful gift and ministry parenthood will be!  I cannot wait to hold my child for the first time.  But oh, this will be nothing compared to seeing my Great Redeemer face to face one day.  God has already filled my heart with this amazing love for my child.  But Jesus is on the throne of my heart – I pray that nothing ever competes with that. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Emily's Favorite Sermon Podcasts

“Set your minds on things above."  (Col. 3:2)

Paul reminds us throughout his letters that Christians are at war.  We are at war, not only with principalities (Eph. 6:12), but with our flesh and desire to sin.   Paul tells us in this same chapter in Ephesians to put on the armor of God, but If we are honest with ourselves, on most days, we don’t even come dressed for battle.  Instead, we surrender to our flesh the moment we wake up every day.  Often we find ourselves defeated from the outset.   This should not be the case as God has given us every opportunity to defeat temptation and the power to do so has been granted to us thru the Gospel.  In Colossians, Paul tells us to put to death the desires of our flesh by setting our minds on things above.  And to the Philippians, he wrote, "Whatever is pure, holy, etc., think on these things." (Phil. 4:8). Practically, how do we carry this out in our everyday lives?  Everybody’s life is different, but here are the tools and means that I make a part of my life on a regular basis in order to “set my mind on things above:”

Read God's Word every day.
Make sure you are reading the entire Bible.  Get familiar with all of it, not just what you think are the easy parts.  Be disciplined to read all of Scripture. 
Be in an attitude of prayer all day.  Be cognizant of God’s omnipresence and of the Holy Spirit inside you.  When you know of something that you need to pray about, stop and pray right then.  If you wait, you might forget about it. 
Be active in your local church.  Get involved in their ministries.  Don’t do buffet-style church-hopping!  Get plugged in to one local body of believers and be devoted to them.
Read some stuff that other Christians, pastors and missionaries have written over the years.  They wrote all this stuff down hoping to spur you on to holiness, understanding and love for God.  Don’t just spend time reading fiction but actually challenge your heart, mind and soul with books that will benefit you, not just entertain you. 
Ok.  Finally – this is where the point of this post comes in….  The culture of our world has so many opportunities to influence us:  Internet, social media, TV, movies, music, etc.  Add up how much time you spend in all of these areas each week and compare it to how much time you spend at church, reading your bible, etc.  If you are like me, the odds are very much in favor of the flesh winning out.  Years ago when I got my first iPod, I started listening to sermons.  I listen to sermons at the gym, when I run, in the car, when I clean house, etc.  I try to find as many opportunities as I can to put myself under the teaching of the Word of God, instead of being taught how to surrender to temptation (which is what you will learn from TV, movies, etc.).  Now let me say this:  listening to sermons on podcast is not a substitute for hearing the Word of God preached on Sundays from pastor at your local church.  As much as I love the convenience of hearing sermons on podcast, I love being in the presence of my pastor at my church more.  None of the preachers listed below are my pastors.  Yes, I learn from them, but they do not replace the relationship I have with my pastor.  Everybody needs a pastor!  :)  

Now, if you get on iTunes, you will see that there are a plethora of churches, sermons, etc. for you to choose from.  How do you figure out who is legit and what is worth listening to?  Here are my recommendations and a few thoughts as to why these preachers are at the top of my playlist:   

John Piper at Desiring God Ministries and Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN I have already mentioned Piper in my last post, but let me add to it by saying that Piper is an amazing preacher and he's an expositional beast.  If you want to be taught in a manner that is true to the Scripture and deeply challenging, you will love John Piper.  He can be a bit long-winded at times, but it's so worth it. 

Matt Chandler at The Village Church in Dallas, TX Chandler is young and definitely an in-your-face kind of preacher.  As you listen to his sermons, you will see that his main focus is the "de-churched" (those who grew up in church but for whatever reason are no longer there but are trying to find their way back) and teaching the explicit Gospel.   

David Platt at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, AL. I first heard Platt speak at Student Life conferences and I have continued to listen to him over the years. He has an amazing study on the book of Ruth which is available on iTunes and also on his church's website. His passion for the Great Commission and for making our lives count for eternity is refreshing and so very needed in America today.

Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. Mark Driscoll is abrasive and aggressive. He's not afraid to call out stupidity and sin. His church is growing by leaps and bounds which is amazing considering its location. If you want to hear someone be gut-level honest about sin and who teaches the Bible in a way that anybody can understand, then you will really benefit from his preaching style.
Voddie Baucham at Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, Texas. He is dedicated to expository preaching. One thing about his style that resonates with me personally is his use of logic in helping his listeners to understand truth.

Paul Washer of HeartCry MissionsEvery time I listen to a Washer sermon, I feel like pond scum.  We need that every once in a while so that's why he is on my list. 

Mark Dever at Capital Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. Dever's style definitely fits his environment. He's much more scholarly and intellectual in his approach. I feel like I'm back in seminary when I hear him preach (this is a good thing).

Timothy Keller.  Pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.  Yes, there are churches in NYC.  Here I pay homage to my Presbyterian brothers and sisters.  If you haven't read Keller's book Prodigal God, you're missing out. Keller's approach in preaching is more philosophical but ya kinda have to be if you're gonna preach to New Yorkers. The theme of repentance is all over his work and he reminds Christians all the time that we don't do it nearly enough.

P.S. All of these sermons are FREE! What can be better than that?  It has often been said that Christians alive today have greater access to the Bible and tools for understanding it than we have ever had in our history.  YET, sadly we live in the most biblically illiterate time in the history of the world.  Why is that??? We have so many resources available to us and sermon podcasts are super easy and super awesome.  Take advantage of the resource (did I mention it's free?)  and watch the Lord begin to retrain your mind to think and desire the things above instead of what's on the earth.   

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Emily's Top Five Links

I thought I would share with our readers some of my favorite links that I like to peruse.  Apart from Facebook and Twitter, here’s where I spend most of my time on the Internet.  Later, we will post these on the right sidebar of our blog for easy access. 

1. The Gospel Coalition.

The Gospel Coalition has quickly become my favorite website.  This group is a compilation of evangelical churches that crosses denominational lines to partner for one single purpose:  the teaching and preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  They are wholly committed to the Word of God.  I do not agree with every pastor or contributor to this website, but I have found it to be an invaluable resource, not only for ministry, but also for my own personal growth and knowledge.  Here are my favorite things about their website:

  • Blogs - whatever is new and fresh or needs to be addressed in Christendom, chances are at least one person is going to write about it and I can get their perspective on the issue.
  • Book Reviews - I really enjoy the book reviews found on TGC.  They do a thorough job.  One of the best ways to decide if a book is worth the time it takes to read it is to find out what other people are saying about it and who is recommending it.  

2. Desiring God Ministries.

Desiring God Ministries is a one-stop shop of all sermons and books by John Piper.  Apart from Scripture, John Piper’s writings have influenced and impacted my life more than any other source.  Here, you can find blog entries, free sermons (in audio and written form), and all of the other books that Piper has written. 

3. National Review

National Review is a conservative political publication.  Although I no longer get wrapped up in politics like I did when I was younger, I do try to stay somewhat informed on current issues.  What I like about National Review is their wittiness.  If you enjoy reading big words and thinking critically while having a good sarcastic laugh here and there, you will like National Review.  They also have a written publication, but access to their website is free.  I normally only have time to read their blog entitled “The Corner.”  If you want a quick opinion on an issue from a conservative thinker, you can find it here. 

4. Jen Wilkin

I have just recently started reading her blog when one of her posts was picked up by The Gospel Coalition. She’s on staff at The Village Church in Dallas, Texas.  I love her Gospel-centered and Bible-centered approach to teaching – we really need more of this in women’s ministry and youth ministry.

5. IMB.org

This is the website for the International Mission Board, which is the Southern Baptist Convention’s missionary-sending agency.  The IMB facilities and coordinates the mission efforts of Southern Baptist churches.  They are an excellent resource for understanding the spiritual needs of our world.  It also explains all the ways you can be involved in missions including giving, praying and going. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Gospel and Infertility

As anyone can deduce by simple powers of observation, Matt and I do not have children.  Most of our closer friends and a few 
others have been in the loop regarding our struggles with infertility.  But until recently, we have been guarded about sharing openly on this subject.  Some might be disappointed or possibly hurt that I have not talked to them more about this.  Because of this, I want to share just a few reasons that infertility has been hard for us to talk about:
1.    The helplessness associated with infertility can be paralyzing.Therefore, sometimes silence is easier than openness. 
2.    My feelings associated with infertility are closely akin to grief.  I have lost multiple family members over the course of my life.  My feelings and thoughts on infertility are extremely similar to what I have felt in losing my mom, grandparents and stepfather.  Trying to talk about something so personal can be challenging. 
3.    Seems like everybody with kids insists on giving their advice to infertile couples.  Sometimes I just don’t want to hear from someone who’s had no problems having children tell me what I’m doing wrong. 
4.   You can’t please everyone.  Everybody has an opinion about what you should and should not do.  Regardless of what steps Matt and I end up taking or not taking in order to have children, somebody will think we did the wrong thing, or that we didn’t do enough, or that we did too much. 
5.    Infertility is almost like a terminal illness or a communicable disease.  Unless we are blessed with a massive amount of money for treatments or God does the miraculous, this is where we are.  Things can change.  It’s not by any means impossible. But this is where we are today. Therefore, what I understand today about God’s role in all of this will probably change tomorrow and it will definitely change six months from now.  So it’s hard to share with people what I myself am still trying to wrap my mind around. 

So what does the Gospel have to do with infertility? How does Christ’s work on the Cross of Calvary affect our situation? Before proceeding, I have one disclaimer:  I wanted to write this post sooner, but understanding how Christ uses the Gospel to change me and redeem me in the midst of infertility is not something that I have been able to easily grasp or accept.  Like #5 above, a year from now, I’ll probably have much more and better things to say on this subject.  So, here's where I'm at today:
1 Peter 1:3-4: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”

The Gospel does not promise us a fulfillment of our wildest dreams.  When God saves someone, she is not automatically given a BMW or promised health and wealth and easy living.  We don’t get everything we’ve ever wanted right when we want it. However, what we do understand about the Gospel is that it redeems us from sin and restores our relationship to our Creator and we are adopted into the eternal family of God.  However, redemption is a process.  Although from a judicious standpoint, I stand confirmed, restored and clean before God (imputation), yet I have not been perfected because sanctification is an ongoing process that will not be complete until this present earthly life is long gone and I stand before my God.  The point is, I currently live in a body infected by sin and I believe this includes infertility. 
What about asking God to heal my body?  Yes, we do see several examples in Scripture of women of faith who prayed earnestly for children and God (in His time) granted them children.  This could happen for us as well, but I do not have some sort of special word from God apart from Scripture (tongue in cheek) that He will do this for us.  Of course, He can grant me wonderfully healthy super-awesome eggs.  He can do anything He wants.

The Gospel is for the Glory of God.  If you spend much time reading God’s Word then you will see that there is a purpose afoot in all that God does.  Ultimately, God’s purpose is to bring glory to himself.  Jesus came to earth and accomplished salvation as a part of that purpose and his most glorious moment was when he was on the cross.  In the midst of the sorrow, pain and death, Jesus perfectly displayed love, grace, wrath (on sin), mercy and power all of the attributes of God were made manifest in the death of Christ.  The Gospel is for the glory of God!  It is not to make me happy.  It is not to make me feel significant.  I mention happiness and significance because these are two feelings that I think are closely associated with parenthood.  Moms feel significant because they are moms and that obviously brings them happiness.  These are not bad things, but God does not guarantee me these feelings in this life.

Just as Jesus was about the Father’s business and fulfilling his purpose, I too have a purpose.  My purpose is to bring God glory in my life.  Of course, I fail at this every day.  But this is what I am created and called to do.  This is where my significance should be found.  What we see in Scripture is that sometimes, God chooses hardship and suffering as the means for sanctification for us and glory for Him in our lives (Job, Paul, etc.).  My worship of God cannot be contingent upon Him giving me what I want (I Th. 5:18).  

The Gospel is the Means for our Ultimate Reward.  As Debbie Todd wrote about in the previous post, as believers, our reward is Jesus.  My greatest joy and fulfillment is found in knowing and being known Jesus Christ.  He is my inheritance and having a child will never compare to this!  As my friend Debbie has reminded me, this journey is a part of my sanctification.  God is using this struggle not only to make me more like Christ, but to make Christ my chief desire. 

The Gospel Gives the Gift of Hope.  If nothing else, we have hope because of the Gospel. Jesus is our living hope!        

So based on all that God has given me and purposed for me through the Gospel with regard to infertility, what I truly feel right now – today – is joy.  Joy that the God of the universe, holy and mighty, loving and kind, has chosen to save me and that in his sovereignty, has purposed to use my life to bring glory to Himself.

Lam. 3:24: ‘“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.  It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” 

My prayer on this journey is that God would be honored and glorified in my life, in my husband’s life and in our marriage.  May He use whatever circumstances or means necessary to achieve this goal.  Would you pray this prayer with me and would you be so bold as to prayer it for your own life as well? 

Thursday, June 28, 2012


I enjoyed your answers to the question I posted on Facebook, and was very encouraged by them. The question was:

What is the Christian's great reward?

A better form of the question would have been:

WHO is the Christian's great reward? But that would have been too obvious, and I wanted you to ponder it for a while.

Some of you quoted Genesis 15:1 which says, "After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
"Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward." (NIV)

That verse leaves no doubt that God Himself is our reward. WE GET GOD!!!
Christ Jesus left His heavenly home to suffer the weight of God's wrath on the cross so that He could come and dwell in us now, and later take us to His home so that we can enjoy HIM for eternity. The Psalmist in chapter 27:4 says, "One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in His temple". What is the Psalmist's reason for desiring to dwell in the house of the LORD? To soak up the beauty of Heaven? No. His longing for heaven was fueled by his hunger to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD! He wanted JESUS!

Do you CRAVE Jesus? If you know Him and are known by Him, you crave Him. He is who we gain from the gospel. The gift of the gospel is Christ. Not one gospel blessing will be savored by anyone unless the gospel's greatest treasure is the LORD Himself.
2Corinthians 4:3-4 describes the gospel in this way: "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the God of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see THE LIGHT OF THE GOSPEL OF THE GLORY OF CHRIST, who is the image of God." then verse 6 calls the gospel "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." So who do we gain from the gospel? Christ who radiates the glory of God! That's why the gospel is "good news".

The apostle Paul sums it up like this:
"I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ." (Phil. 3:8).

So....if Christ is the reward of the gospel, how does that effect the way we present the gospel? It's important that we don't "add to" the gospel, making it an unbiblical plea. The new heaven and new earth that God's people will enjoy for eternity is beyond our wildest dreams. It is a place of unsurpassed beauty, designed by the One who spoke the universe into being. But, as we've seen from scripture, heaven is not our great and final reward. Jesus is our reward, and heaven is where He is seated at the right hand of God. To present the gospel as a choice between heaven and hell is not the gospel. Heaven is the by-product of knowing Christ. It is the place where we will experience the enjoyment of God. Without God's glory in the face of Christ, heaven would be dimly lit.

I hope this has given you a sense of the God-centered nature of the gospel, redemption and the Christian's great and final reward.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Life of Plenty

My memory verses for last week were Philippians 4:11b-13:
… I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low and how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who gives me strength.  (ESV)
Philippians 4:13 is probably one of the most quoted verses in the New Testament.  But I am not sure that it is always applied appropriately.  This past week, I actually paid attention to the two verses preceding Verse 13.  
Paul tells us in verses 11 and 12 that he has learned to be content with life, no matter what is thrown at him. 
Verse 12 is interesting.  Paul tells us that he knows the secret of facing times of hunger and of need.  The secret is Christ!  But Paul also states that Christ is his secret to handling times of abundance and plenty.   

I am thankful for the reminder that we also need Christ when we are facing times of plenty.  Just ponder that for a moment.  I think we often fail to recognize that times of abundance and plenty can be just as challenging as times of need. What do I mean by this?  I mean, we are deceived if we don’t recognize the existing temptations and potential pitfalls of possessing a lot of stuff.   I could go on and on about this, but I told myself that my post this week would be short (here’s hoping!). 
I truly believe that the consumerist landscape of American culture is one of the most challenging environments for believers to live out an authentic Christian life –this is because in the midst of constantly consuming material possessions, our desire for Christ can easily be muted. 
While quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer, David Platt writes in his book, Radical, that “the first call every Christian experiences is “the call to abandon the attachments of this world.’”
Just to clarify - nothing wrong with having stuff.  Money and material possessions are blessings from the Lord.  But as sons and daughters of God, we must remember that our calling on this earth is not to fecklessly consume, but to use the blessings that God gives us (including money and material stuff) to the glory of God and the good of others.  The only way we can learn to temper our desire for material possessions in the midst of our lives of plenty is to set our hearts on Christ.  After all, He is the only one who can bring satisfaction to our souls.  The problem is not that we have stuff; it’s that we are trying to find contentment in our stuff.  We waste our God-given time and our God-given resources when we try to spend all of our money on ourselves.  This is not the example laid out for us in Scripture. The early church sets the standard for selfless giving (Acts 2:45; 4:34-36) We should follow their lead.  We must cultivate an awareness of the possible dangers of living a life of plenty - the secret is Christ (v. 14). 

This passage is all about knowing how to be content in whatever circumstances we may face, and that can only be done when we are content Jesus, even if He is all we have.  He should not just be our number one priority, but the all-encompassing reason for even getting up in the morning. If this begins to occur in our lives, when it comes time for us to decide what to do with our “plenty,” we will have a mindset not to consume, but to worship.