This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Emily: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I am Emily, here with my sister-in-law, Laura. Before we jump into today’s topic—because we’re going to be all about resources—we wanted to share that we have some free downloadable Bible study resources on our website, risenmotherhood.com/abide. You can find all of those free downloads there.
Laura: They are tools to help equip you to study the Bible on your own. We have a pretty robust tutorial that—even if you've never studied the Bible by yourself and you don’t have any other resources around you—you can get this for free and you can study your Bible. Hopefully it walks you through how to simply study the Bible. There are all free for you, and you can thank all of our patrons who have supported us to make those resources for you. We have a clean minimalist look that some of you probably have not seen quite yet, because we did give them a quick update. We’ve also got a floral one that's really pretty and kind of romantic-looking and matches our logo a little bit. We have both of those options for you depending on if you like clean and minimalist or if you like feminine and floral—we've got that one for you too. [laughter]
Emily: Yes; definitely go check those out. Like I mentioned today, we are talking about resources, and how we spend our time as moms when we want to grow spiritually. We’re all really busy, and there are a lot of resources out there, so how do we determine what our time goes to? It can be kind of challenging.
Laura: Yes, and today we’re specifically talking about spiritual growth, because we don’t want to say that you always want to be doing this Christian application stuff and not watching Netflix, or having free time with your husband, or playing with your kids, or whatever it may be. We’re just talking about as you grow in your Christian life and as you use resources and employ different things beyond the Bible, how are you discerning and choosing those? There are so many things out there that are vying for your time—everything from book clubs to Bible studies that other people are offering, different books, social media, blogs, podcasts like ours.
Emily: There are also all kinds of conferences out there that you can go to— there are conferences online, like recently Laura and I were a part of one. There are also conferences that you can go to in your own area. It just goes on and on. Oh, and if you miss a conference, you can watch all of the things online; there are a million videos that you can catch up on. There are so many resources that it can be paralyzing to decide what to use.
Laura: Or it can be, “Oh, this person said to use this,” or, “This is a bestseller so I am going to read that.” And while sometimes there is value in having other people help you discern what resources to use, one of our heartbeats at Risen Motherhood is to teach you how to discern and look critically at resources that are available to you. Often, Emily and I—and the whole Risen Motherhood team—are asked for our thoughts about specific Christian leaders, or specific authors or conferences that are going on. That's one of those things, which, like I said, we would prefer that you guys are really digging in deep into doing your own research, because we know that we make errors. We’re not always right, and we also don’t know all the great resources out there. A lot of times we’ll say, “We don’t know, we haven’t checked that out yet.” While we wish we could offer an answer, we just don’t know everything. We’re just five people on the team that can’t do it all. [laughter]
Emily: We’re trying to learn this alongside you. Another thing that Laura and I are really passionate about is the local church. We want to continue to point you guys and ourselves to talk to the people who are tasked with our spiritual oversight and protection. Those people can really help us discern maybe a little better than somebody online, like Laura and I. But today, we just want to have a conversation about how we’re all super busy. We have precious time, and we want the little time that does go towards this to be used on things that are really wonderful and helpful—to grow in our understanding of what a very helpful resource is and not fill our time with things that are just okay when there’s something that could be much more beneficial for the time that we’re spending out there.
Laura: It’s kind of like one of those where there are really good things and even probably some better things. But what is the best thing? Because your time is so valuable.
Emily: I like this verse. Ephesians 5:15-17 says, “Look carefully then how you walk. Not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of time because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Something that we’re charged with is to be wise with the time God has given us and to take it seriously. Therefore, what is the best kind of bang for our buck in terms of time?
Laura: Before we get to exactly how to pose that out, we want to recognize that God’s word encourages us all to grow in a variety of ways. We grow through our local church corporately, hearing the Word of God preached, and meeting with other believers. But we’re also charged to seek growth on our own. We therefore want to seek first to grow in wisdom, and wisdom is knowledge applied. We learn about God and who he is, and then we apply that to our lives. We see that in James 1:5 which says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let them ask God who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Also in Colossians 3:16: “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.” We are, therefore, charged in God’s word to grow in wisdom.
Emily: Additionally, we see this kind of overlapping paired with the concept of discernment. Philippians 1:9 says, “It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more with knowledge and all discernment.” Then in Romans 12:2, and this is oft quoted although the whole quote is not always given. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. That by testing, you may discern what the will of God is. What is good and acceptable and perfect.” A lot of times we hear that, “Renew your mind,” but in this context, it’s for the sake of discerning the will of God and knowing what is good and acceptable.
Laura: First off, outside of any of these other resources, when we’re talking about how to grow spiritually, especially on our own but also corporately, are reading your Bible—being in God’s word. For both Emily and I, the question that we often ask ourselves, or we might ask each other as we’re thinking about new resources is, “Hey, am I reading my Bible first? Am I really getting in God’s word and getting a firsthand knowledge of his word and his will for my life?” That’s just one of those things why—again as we talked about at the beginning with the Abide Method—we’ve created those tools, because we want to encourage you guys to get in God’s word first. Remember that you will wither apart from being in God’s word. You can spend all of your time reading wonderful resources and going to all of the best events, and hear the best speakers. But if you’re not in scripture—and growing and applying it—then it will all be for naught.
Emily: I love this story of George Mueller, who is a famous missionary. He was said to have read his Bible cover to cover 200 times, which is amazing. He has this quote, “The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord, but how I might get my soul into a happy state and how my inner man might be nourished. For I might seek to set the truth before the unconverted, I might seek to benefit believers, I might seek to relieve the distressed, and yet not be happy in the Lord and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man, day by day.” Actually I was reading this book called The Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, by Donald Whitney, which is very applicable. He was talking about George Mueller in his book, and how George Mueller had this turning point when he didn’t just read his Bible, but he meditated on it. How that completely transformed the way he prayed, and that that was a critical aspect. These stories can remind us that God’s word is essential, and that is really what, first and foremost, causes us to grow spiritually.
Laura: I don’t think we have to worry about any of us being at risk for spending too much time in God’s word. [Laughter] That’s something that we can always learn to know, to love, and to prioritize it more in our lives. Let’s get to the gospel and look a little bit at what we’re already talking about—all about the Bible stuff. [Laughter]
Emily: Spiritual growth. The main thing that we just wanted to bring out in creation is that when Adam and Eve were in the garden with their creator, they had direct access to the one who was providing their nourishment and growth.
Laura: They were not reading books about God. Let’s just put it that way. [Laughter]
Emily: God set it up so that they could be in relationship with him directly. But we know that after the fall, that relationship was severed. Now our hearts turn towards false gods, and we can be led astray, very easily, by all kinds of other bad doctrines, untrue things, or even just flat out evil things. We worship things that are not of the Lord.
Laura: When we’re seeking out worldly solutions for a lot of our problems, the first thing that we often turn to is not the Bible but, as Em said, we’re turning to social media. Or we’re trying to say, “I am just going to go to this new conference because it’s all over social media. It’s probably good because somebody’s touting it and saying it’s good.” Or maybe we become lazy when it comes to discernment. Like we’re talking about, we are failing to live up to what God is asking us to do while we’re supposed to apply our knowledge of him and use discernment. Or sometimes we can swing the other way and be very strict what we engage in. We pridefully snub our noses at anything that we think might just be a little bit unworthy. Or we live in a lot of fear, “Ooh, that thing might really ruin my standing with Christ if I engage in that.”
Emily: But in redemption, we see that Jesus died for all of our sin and failure related to wisdom and lack of discernment, and our love for other gods. He took the punishment. Now he’s given us righteousness and the Holy Spirit so that we can utilize discernment when we look at how to spend our time growing spiritually. Also, we don’t have to be terrified that if I listen to a little portion of this thing by this speaker, who I don’t know if they’re associated with exactly the right people, my standing with God is going to be compromised—because our righteousness is in Christ. We don’t have to operate out of fear. We can have wisdom, and we can continue to correct our path as we read the Word of God and grow in our knowledge of what his will is. It’s just really great that Jesus has purchased that ability for us.
Laura: It’s a huge relief. Some day in restoration, we know that we’ll be in an even better state than Eden was. We will walk with God once again, and we won’t struggle any more with discerning how to spend our time or what opportunities we should be engaging in. Instead, we will have all we need because we’ll be in the presence of our savior. Every need of ours will be met, every question that matters will be answered, and our time will be spent rejoicing in Christ and being with him. Once again, we aren’t going to need the books! [Laughter]
Emily: It’s kind of nice to not be overwhelmed by all these decisions and all of the things that are out there. You can have that and just be at peace. Okay, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of what does it look like to make decisions? You’re a busy mom, so how do you spend your time with resources? The first thing we wanted to say is don’t hear us say, “Stress out about this. Start freaking out about all the details.” Hear our heart in this that it’s less maybe about what you actually do, and more about your heart and growing in this. All the time, Laura and I still read things and get to know different resources, and then we change our path. It can be really easy to get overwhelmed in this in a bad way.
Laura: Emily and I were talking and we were both saying five, seven years ago, I read some books that maybe I wouldn’t read today. We recognized that we have grown in our spiritual walk, but at the time we thought that it was great. That’s not to say that everything that I am reading today in five years, I am going to be like, “Oh my goodness, why did I read that?” But just recognizing that there’s growth that happens, and that you grow in discernment just like you grow in wisdom. As Emily said, we want to hit this home—it is more about your heart as you choose than it is about the choosing.
Emily: Another question that you might have as we’re jumping into this is, “Well, is it okay for me to ever spend time reading something that isn’t overtly about growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ?” Yes, if your heart is right. There’s a great quote by Dane Ortlund that says, “With the right filter, it’s not wrong.” There are a lot of bad books out there, and there are also a lot of good books. What he’s really mentioning is that we want to spend our time reading the best books.
Laura: And he said that at a table that I was sitting at. So it’s not a written quote anywhere.
Emily: Oh, this is like a firsthand quote. I like it!
Laura: I didn’t realize that I was going to say it, I’d written it down on our notes [laughs], because I’ll never forget that at the time he said that, I used to be able…
Emily: Give us the context, Laura.
Laura: He was talking about online things, and we were talking about what resources to engage in. I just appreciated him saying, “I want to spend my time with the best books.” This may, therefore, not be a verbatim quote, that’s all I am trying to say, because it’s kind of a vague memory from about a year ago. We were able to attend the same church together in Chicago, which was awesome, and he talked about that at our table.
Emily: With the right filter, we can engage in all kinds of resources.
Laura: That’s right.
Emily: Really, one of the main issues here is stewardship of our time. All of our time is a gift for him. Laura and I recently went to the same conference where Jackie Hill Perry was speaking. She did such a beautiful job of reminding us that we are not redeemed for our own purposes, but we are redeemed to give our lives to God. To remember that we are hidden in Christ and all of our lives are his. We, therefore, want to be aware of how we use that time while keeping an open hand and experiencing the freedom of Christ.
Laura: Here are some questions for you. As you guys know, Emily and I love putting together questions, figuring out what kind of time do you have, and how should you spend it? The first thing you want to ask yourself is, “What kind of time do you actually have?”
Emily: Maybe you can double up on something. For instance, do you have the ability to play an audio book, a podcast, or a sermon in the background, maybe while you’re washing dishes? Maybe you’re on a commute to work, going for a walk, or doing other chores around the house? Or maybe, how many weekends do you have in the year that you could do a conference? Or that you could go off and have a solitude retreat and pray and grow in something? Maybe you have evenings during the week when you can do an online seminar. Or you can read some really great books, or especially engage in Bible study with other women at your church. We should evaluate what those pockets are, and be thoughtful and creative about them.
Laura: Because you might have time to do a Bible study or a book club, but not both. It’s important to know, what do I have and how should I spend it? The first question is, “Have I prioritized reading my Bible and spending time with God?” And if not, that’s the first thing that should go on your schedule.
Emily: There you go. That’s an easy one to just slot right in. [Laughs]
Laura: And Em and I need that kind of medicine. We need to hear that all the time too, because we fall of off these things, and we’re like, “Hey, we’ve got to get back on reading our Bible.” We know how easy it can be to fall off of that.
Emily: In addition to that, then how much time do I have to give to these other resources? We’ve kind of gone through some examples for that, and one thing we wanted to mention is this question of, “Am I involved in my local church?” And then, “Have I asked how I can serve in the local church?” Spiritual growth also comes in our serving of other believers. Or for the things that I engage in, “Have we considered what is their purpose?” Like, “Why have I chosen this resource?”
Laura: It is important to evaluate, “Am I leaning too heavily on one resource, or one ministry or one person? Am I just trusting them blindly and saying that they’re my authority, rather than the Bible is my authority?” Again, we can’t stress enough at Risen Motherhood that Emily and I (a) just don’t have the capacity to look at every resource, and (b) we’re fallible human beings, and we never want you to blindly trust us. We also don’t want you to just trust any other human-run ministry. The reality is that we want you to be looking at the Bible and viewing things and evaluating them critically with a gospel lens. Therefore, have you really thought critically about some of your favorite resources, or maybe the book that you’re reading or the podcast that you’re listening to? We have a show that goes pretty deep into this—how to evaluate a specific resource or author. It’s episode 53 from last year and it’s called Discerning Resources. Head there for more questions. But I think what happens, or what’s really common, is that we’re kind of looking for things that are going to sooth our itchy ears or things that are just going to feel good. As humans, we’re naturally drawn to those things that don’t make us uncomfortable, or that feel really friendly and fun or whatever. That’s fine, and there’s a place for that. We don’t want to say, “You shouldn’t read anything that’s fun. It should really be hard and horrible.” What we’re trying to say is that you should challenge yourself and evaluate those things with a critical lens, and see, “Hey, is there some weird theology in here?” or, “Is the author suggesting some stuff that doesn’t sound like what I’ve read in the Bible?” And if it does, is there a better resource that you can look at than the one that you’re currently reading?
Emily: That’s a key rate right there— the questioning. What is the better thing? Another question is, “Am I willing to stop consuming resources that are not healthy for me?” Maybe you are in a book club, or in an online Bible study, or whatever the thing is, and you enjoy it and you like it. But you are starting to notice that there are better, richer, more true resources out there. What does it look like for you to shift over the course of time—knowing that this is not a one-stop journey to grow in your discernment and make different decisions?
Laura: We hope that you can take some of these questions and find one or two application points to take away from it. Remember that the goal isn’t that we get this perfect or get all weird, we have freedom in Christ who died for that. The point is for us to recognize, “Hey, you guys are super busy.” We’re all super busy moms, just trying to keep our heads above water. Let’s, therefore, do what we can to water the soil of our hearts as God gives us growth. Also, just swap out those mediocre resources, or maybe even some slightly harmful things that we’re consuming, with something that’s more challenging or more true that we can find that’s out there.
Emily: Just like you’d say to your kids, “Don’t eat a cookie. Let’s get a banana for a snack,” right? Let’s make some healthier swaps here. [Laughs]
Laura: Sometimes easier said than done. [Laughter]
Emily: What is your go-to spiritual snack?
Laura: Yes, that’s a good question.
Emily: Make it a little healthier. Okay, if you want to find resources, you can head to our website, risenmotherhood.com/resources. Don’t forget to check out those ABIDE worksheets that you can download for free. You can also find more if you follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at Risen Motherhood. Thanks, guys.