Tara’s Blog

God is the party wronged, and yet he sues for peace with us …

“Ah! How does the God of peace, by his Spirit and messengers, pursue after peace with poor creatures! God first makes offer of peace to us: ‘Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be you reconciled to God’ (2 Corinthians 5:20).

God’s grace first kneels to us, and who can turn their backs upon such blessed and bleeding embracements—but souls in whom Satan the god of this world reigns? God is the party wronged, and yet he sues for peace with us at first: ‘I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name.’ It is doubled to show God’s exceeding forwardness to show favor and mercy to them (Isaiah 65:1).

Ah! How does the sweetness, the freeness, and the riches of his grace break forth and shine upon poor souls.”


“Christians, it is not a matter of liberty whether you will or you will not pursue after peace—but it is a matter of duty that lies upon you; you are bound by express precept to follow after peace; and though it may seem to fly from you, yet you must pursue after it: ‘Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man can see the Lord.’

The Greek signifies to follow after peace, as the persecutor does him whom he persecutes. Peace and holiness are to be pursued after with the greatest eagerness that can be imagined. So the psalmist: ‘Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace and pursue it’ (Psalm 34:14).

The Hebrew word that is here rendered seek, signifies to seek earnestly, vehemently, affectionately, studiously, industriously. ‘And pursue it.’ That Hebrew word signifies earnestly to pursue, being a metaphor taken from the eagerness of wild beasts or ravenous fowls, which will run or fly both fast and far rather than be disappointed of their prey.

So the apostle presses the same duty upon the Romans: ‘Let us follow after the things that make for peace, and the things wherein one may edify another’ (Romans 14:19). Ah! You forward, sour, dogged Christians, can you look upon these commands of God without tears and blushing?”


(Excerpts from Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices)

Robin G. is our Winner!

Robin! You’ve won all of the books! Please contact me so that I can send them to you.

Thanks, friends, for letting people know about the video series and for participating in our little giveaway.

Happy First Day of School! :)

Tara B.

LAST DAY to Enter to Win the ESV Women’s Devotional Bible + 15 Other (Fabulous!) Books


I know a lot of us are trying to figure out our fall and spring women’s studies and I hope it’s not too “self-promotey” to mention my own video series, but honestly? I don’t receive any advertising from the PCA Bookstore or Westminster Books or Peacemakers or, well, anyone … so I’m hoping to generate a teeny tiny little e-social-media-buzz by asking you if you might pretty please TELL SOMEONE that this video series exists:

The Peacemaking Church Women’s Study: Living the Gospel in Relationships

… and please let them know that it is being used widely in both Reformed churches and “broadly evangelical” Christian churches because the creators of the series wisely forced me to not be lazy and use a bunch o’ Reformed lingo, but instead, explain the biblical teachings behind the doctrines of grace.

That means that if your church and women’s ministry likes to self-identify as “Reformed,” I have every hope and confidence that you will approve and enjoy this series! OR … if your church does not like the “Reformed” moniker, but prefers to use words like “biblical” and “doctrines of grace,” I am similarly hopeful and confident that you will like it too!

(That being said … if you’re interested neither in the Word of God nor the glory of God as revealed in Christ, this series is really, really not for you.)

A number of people that we respect and trust have endorsed it, including:

  • Ed Welch: “Here is a one-stop guide for relationships. It is filled with Scripture. It will point you to Jesus at every opportunity. It is very practical … “
  • Elyse Fitzpatrick: “It’s with overwhelming joy that I can highly recommend Living the Gospel in Relationships by Tara Barthel. I am recommending these teaching sessions not only because they beautifully avoid the moralistic strategies so common in our me-centered churches but because she connects our struggle for peace to the only source of peace, the one who is called the Prince of Peace.”
  • Thabiti Anyabwile: “I love women’s material that doesn’t shy away from sound theological categories … I’m thankful for material I can recommend to women, material that does not shy away from good biblical truth.”
  • Colin Smith: “Tara Barthel speaks lovingly and candidly to women about what it means to live out the gospel day by day in their relationships. Looking at Scripture, she points out how many women look to the law without fully grasping what Christ has done for them in the cross, and is doing in them by the Spirit …”

And I regularly hear from women around the world, young and old, married/single/widowed who are grateful for the way the series has helped them to believe the Word of God and live out what they believe, especially in their relationships.

So would you PRETTY PLEASE consider letting someone, ANYONE, know about this series? And then please leave a comment on this post by 11:59pm, September 1, 2014 letting me you know you have told someone (anyone!), and I will totally take you at your word and enter you in our family’s drawing for over $100 in (biblical! Christ-centered!) resources that I truly hope will be of help and encouragement to you, especially as you plan your women’s ministry year:

  1. The ESV Women’s Devotional Bible (I reviewed this brand-new resource here and I strongly recommend it!)
  2. Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness & Rejection (Ed Welch)
  3. Jesus on Every Page: Ten Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament (David Murray)
  4. The Path of Loneliness: Finding Your Way through the Wilderness to God  (Elisabeth Elliot)
  5. Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future (Tim Elmore)
  6. Joshua: All God’s Good Promises (Kathleen Buswell Nielson—if your church has not yet discovered her studies, you really really should! Get her study way, way before anything I’ve written. Phenomenal!)
  7. Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus (Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson)
  8. Recovering Eden: The Gospel According to Ecclesiastes (Zack Eswine)
  9. Picture Perfect: When Life Doesn’t Line Up (Amy Baker)
  10. Redeeming Church Conflicts (Barthel & Edling—because we never have conflicts in our women’s groups and studies, right? ;) ! )
  11. Housewife Theologian: How the Gospel Interrupts the Ordinary (Amy Byrd)
  12. Leadership for Women in the Church (this is the only book that is used/a library version—by Susan Hunt and Peggy Hutcheson)
  13. The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs (Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert)
  14. United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity (Trillia Newbell)
  15. Gospel-Centered Teaching: Showing Christ in All the Scripture (Trevin Wax)
  16.  Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image (Hannah Anderson)

Thanks so much for your help! I look forward to hearing about how you mentioned this vidoe series. (Maybe a quick call or text to a church leader? A tweet or Facebook post or blog entry? Or maybe even wrote a quick note to the PCA Bookstore or Westminster Books or Peacemakers letting them know how the series has blessed your women and how you would love to see them promote it more?)

Please know how much I appreciate your help to get the word out. Oh, how I pray that God will be glorified and His people built up in Christ! And yes, honestly, our family could use the financial help too, especially with some scary big medical bills screaming in my face right now. (I need to get some specific medical things taken care of, but I am postponing it simply because of finances.)

Thanks, all.

Your friend,
Tara B.

**FREE SHIPPING when you order the complete series from our family!**

I am re-posting this one last time because today is the final day to enter to win. Thanks so much for letting people know about the video series. It’s been a great month for sales and, Lord willing, the resources will be a blessing to women, their workplaces, families, churches, and communities. Thanks again! — tkb

If you enter this drawing, please be sure to check by after September 1 to see if you’ve won and if so, please make sure I have your contact information. Once I post the winner, you will have one week to claim the prize or else I will have RandomNumberGenerator select a new winner.

Submission Has a Voice

I have been thinking seriously about why it was so important when my dear, twelve-year-old friend confronted me earlier this summer re: not shutting down my five-year-old daughter when she (honestly) speaks her mind. And I have come to this conclusion:

It is important that I listen to my daughter and honor her contributions (words, feelings, actions) because this is an important part of training children to submit and obey. 

That may seem a little counter-intuitive, so please let me flesh it out a bit …

If you have read this blog for any length of time, then you know that I am a strong proponent of training children about the blessings and safety that come from obeying authority. (The example of Ma Ingalls telling her girls to “Lie Down!” when their covered wagon lost contact with the bottom of the riverbed for a moment comes readily to mind. If Laura—who clearly was encouraged by her parents to think and value education and dialogue had, instead of obeying, sat up and asked, “Why, Ma? What is your thinking behind that command?”, their entire family could have been lost. But instead, the children immediately obeyed and they were kept safe. Yay!)

That being said, I am also a strong proponent for training children that there are limits on authority. For example, even as I train our children to know the names of our church leaders and to pray for them, I also remind them that:

  • All authority is also under God’s authority.
  • That means that while we are definitely called to honor and obey the appropriate exercise of authority in all four spheres of life that the Bible explains (family, workplace, civil society, and church), we are only called to obey God absolutely.
  • All other authority is derived from God’s authority and thus, it is limited. 

What does that mean? Ask any one of the 4 year-olds or 5 year-olds that I teach each week at my church! They know:

  • If our swim teacher commanded us to sit on the side of the pool during a lesson, that is an appropriate use of authority. We should obey, without delay, without complaint. But if that same swim teacher showed up at Target and commanded us to get into his car and go with him, we must not obey. That is beyond the sphere of his authority.
  • If our pastor commanded us to sin, we must not obey. If our daddy’s or mommy’s boss at work commanded them to lie or cheat or steal, they must not obey. If our Sunday School teacher commanded us to deny Christ, we must not obey.
  • So what would we do in those situations? If we are safe to do so, as we get older, we may speak directly into the situation. People in weaker positions speak truth to authority and make respectful appeals all the time. (Do the children you lead and serve know the components of a respectful appeal?) Submission does not always mean silence or even often mean silence; submission often requires us to have courage and love well and speak.
  • But what if we try our best and the person in authority still requires us to sin or hurts us with his or her sin? Then, we get help. From whom? From people in authority over these authorities—swim teachers are under authority; pastors are under authority; daddies and mommies and their bosses are under authority. Thus, we have places of appeal. Of rescue. Of protection when we are the ones in the weaker position.

I teach these concepts to young children at Christmas parties because I never want my well-meaning efforts to encourage submission and obedience to be warped into creepy, unwise, unbiblical, subservience that facilitates voicelessness and abuse.

(For example, one of my dearest friends in the world was molested for years by her church leaders and her father—all of whom told her to “submit.” Can you imagine! This makes me SO angry. Beyond angry. And also so concerned—concerned that well-intentioned parents and church leaders may be inadvertently encouraging in our children an atmosphere of voicelessness and a warped view of headship and submission. Especially in our girls.)

So far, everything I have said in this post applies equally to both men and women. Men are called to submit just as much as women are called to submit. But I would like to shift gears now and point to something that is deeply concerning that I see on a fairly regular basis as a Christian mediator and also at my women’s retreats and conferences. This is especially true when I have the privilege of serving in a more conservative, complementarian, contexts.

Sometimes—not always, but sometimes—intelligent, Spirit-filled daughters of the covenant, will, in their pain and confusion and suffering, ask me questions that indicate to me that somewhere along the way in their journey to love God and obey His Word, something has gotten really, really messed up in their thinking re: submission:

  • “Tara? I know I need to submit to my husband. So when he spends too much time on the computer all night and all weekend and doesn’t spend time with me and the children, I just need to be quiet and submit. But I think he may be involved in some fairly destructive things. I’m seeing charges on our credit cards that we cannot afford and that seem to be for websites that a Christian man should not be visiting. But I know he is in charge so I just need to submit, right?”
  • “Yeah. My husband has a bad temper. But he doesn’t mean to yell so much. And he has only hit me once. Or maybe twice. A few times. But not many. And he feels terrible afterwards. And I’m probably just ‘provoking’ him, right? If I were a more submissive and obedient wife, then all of the problems in our marriage would disappear. So I’m the problem, right?”

(** Oh, friends. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard similar words to those last ones re: “If only I were a more submissive and obedient wife / I’m the problem …” Especially in marriage mediations. Especially in marriage mediations that are bearing the weight of heretical teachings like Federal Vision and abusive patriarchy. Men warping headship and submission AND women warping headship and submission. It is truly a terrible thing to behold. **)

And so. While I am (hopefully) training my children and the other children I serve to have a beautiful, biblical view of the rightness and goodness of authority and submission, I am also (hopefully) not training them to be foolish. Blind. Naïve re: the truth that when we are in authority, we all can be tempted to wield that authority in unloving and selfish ways AND tempted to abdicate our authority. When we are in submission, we can be tempted to rebel AND sometimes be tempted to be a doormat. Yes, Lord willing most of the time, sometimes people in authority wield their authority with humility, wisdom, and a selfless, servant’s heart. But sometimes, people in authority do wicked things and try to get us to do wicked things. Sometimes, the people who thought we could trust, are actually unfaithful. Unwise. Dangerous. And in those situations, love and wisdom and faith constrain us to stand up and say, “NO!” To remember that the appropriate exercise of submission in that context means not submitting but instead getting help. This may mean getting to safety and then getting help from an authority that is bigger and stronger than the person who is trying to hurt us.

So now we have arrived at the nut of the question:

Do your children know (truly know with confidence!) that you will listen to them and value what they say and believe them—especially if they come to you for help because someone they trusted is trying to hurt them?

Oh, friends. This is so important. We must get this right—especially for those of us who are trying to train children with some semblance of this idea of authority / submission / respectful appeals / etc. Our children need to know that submission is not voicelessness; that what they say matters. Especially when it comes to abuse.

  • Do your children know to whom they should turn for help if you and your spouse ever go off the rails and begin to encourage sin in your home or to abusively hurt them in any way?
  • Do the children you serve and lead know that you will listen to them when they speak?

If not, I urge you to prayerfully consider (and seek counsel from people who know you well) whether you might be unintentionally warping headship and submission / the exercise of and following of authority into foolish, blind, and even sinful tendencies. (Even all the way to misogyny in some cases.) This will help you as you lead and as you follow; and as you help others (especially children!) to do the same.

This is why it was so important when my twelve-year-old friend confronted me this summer about being sure my five-year-old daughter knew she had a voice. I wanted her to know that I was listening to her because I cared about her; she mattered to me; and she was worth listening to. And I wanted to her to understand that submission does not always mean silence; submission has a voice.

Blessings on your Sabbath!

Your friend,
Tara B.

I know that I have taken a strong tone in this post and I want to be sure to mention that I fully recognize that most of us are not facing acute and endangering abuse on a daily basis. It’s terrible, horrific, for those who are and I hope that I am a consistent voice for speaking out against such abuse. But for most of us, on a regular basis, we instead face conflicts over wisdom issues. Discretionary issues. Issues that the people in authority over us should be wanting to seek out our counsel and listen to us on, because we have shown ourselves to be faithful, prayerful, trustworthy, mature, and competent friends to our leaders. Good followers and good friends. I unpack all of these issues much more fully in my teaching “But How Can I Submit When I Know He’s Wrong?!” which you can listen for free to on the free audio downloads page of my website.

2014 Peacemaker Conference LiveBlogs



In just three weeks, I will have the joy of serving at the 2014 Peacemaker Conference. If there is any possibility you can join us September 25-27 in Colorado Springs (or earlier for some of the pre-conference advanced training events), it truly would be wonderful to spend time with you there.

But if you can’t make it to Colorado, please do plan to pop into the LiveBlogs and say hello.

(If you have no idea what a LiveBlog is, you can learn more about them here.)

Thanks, all! And hope to see you in Colorado or on the LiveBlogs—

Tara B.

Peacemaker Conference Plenary #1 LiveBlog – Dr. Jason Meyer: No Greater Love

Live Blog 2014 Peacemaker Conference Plenary 1 – Dr. Jason Meyer: No Greater Love

(To access all of the 2014 Peacemaker Conference LiveBlogs, click here.)

Peacemaker Conference Plenary #2 LiveBlog – Dr. Gary Hoag: Peacemaking – A New Testament Perspective

Live Blog Peacemaker Conf Plenary #2 – Dr. Gary Hoag: Peacemaking – A New Testament Perspective


(To access all of the 2014 Peacemaker Conference LiveBlogs, click here.)

Peacemaker Conference Plenary #3 LiveBlog – Pastor Brady Boyd: Lessons Learned

Live Blog Peacemaker Conference Plenary #3 LiveBlog – Pastor Brady Boyd: Lessons Learned

(To access all of the 2014 Peacemaker Conference LiveBlogs, click here.)

Two MORE (Free!) Books to Encourage You as You Minister: Made for More (Hannah Anderson) & Gospel-Centered Teaching (Trevin Wax)

more and gospel

It’s almost September 1 and the biggest WIN FREE STUFF GIVEAWAY of (biblical & practical) resources our family has ever done is coming to a close. THANK YOU for all of the sweet comments and for letting others know about Living the Gospel in Relationships video series. Fred and the girls and I are so grateful.

To round out our gifts of the just-released ESV Women’s Devotional Bible (which I was so blessed to receive an advanced copy of), we are adding two books that I am confident you will truly enjoy:

Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image by Hannah Anderson

Gospel-Centered Teaching: Showing Christ in All the Scripture by Trevin Wax

So that puts the count of books for this giveaway at 15 + a gorgeous, cloth-covered edition of the ESV Women’s Devotional Bible.

As always, NO RISK OF SPAM! So I hope you will join in the fun. And please let a friend know too!

Click Here to Enter to Win the ESV Women’s Devotional Bible + 15 Other (Great!) Books

Thanks so much and I hope you enjoy the books!

Tara B.

Begging Jesus for Sleep


Last week I endured one of my (relatively common) stretches of insomnia. It was, as always, incredibly hard to bear.

If you have never struggled with acute, lasting sleeplessness (the kind that goes for hour after hour, night after night), please know that I am thrilled for you. I rejoice as I leave the room with my sleeping-soundly husband and walk past the room with my sleeping-soundly children, accompanied by my formerly-sleeping-soundly Golden Retriever (who always tries to keep me company during my marathon stretches of being up all night—but even she, ultimately, collapses in sleep at my feet after a certain amount of hours).

One of my dearest friends in the world who has a young child who struggles with sleeplessness and I pray for both of them often. Having spent hour after hour in the lonely dark as a child (as well as a teenager and young adult and now as an old adult), I am particularly sensitive to the suffering that these little girl is experiencing. And I don’t take it lightly.

Sleeplessness is really, truly, terrible suffering.

And that’s why I’m putting up this post today. My hope is that by telling you a little bit about my experience, I might encourage those of you who struggle as I do that you are not alone. (You are definitely not alone!) And also that I might help those of you who (happily!) do not experience sleeplessness on a regular basis to be even just a tiny bit more compassionate and gentle towards your family members and friends who struggle in this way. And also? I hope that you might be moved to pray for us because sleeplessness is really, truly, terrible suffering.

With that in mind, here are a few thoughts about insomnia that I have often wondered if people who aren’t insomniatic know:

  1. I can usually tell before I try to go to sleep that it is going to be a “bad night.” And thus, during our (usually sweet and relaxed) family cuddle / Bible reading / prayer / singing time, even if I don’t give any clue on the outside, deep inside, a dark, thick, swath of dread begins to grow in my heart when I know that sleeplessness is coming and there is really nothing I can do about it. I know that when my family members happily climb into their beds and roll over and take a few deep breaths and are OUT, I will be lying there. Wide awake. Often with my mind racing and my heart pounding. Alone. Trying to discern what wisdom looks like (just lie there and do relaxation exercises and deep breaths? pray? read a paper book? read on screens? exercise?). Trying to commune with God, even as the exhaustion and temptation to despair grows worse and worse with each hour.
  2. That initial “Oh no! It’s going to be a bad night!” experience often feels like a WAR to me. Rather than our comfortable bed and my happy home and the night in front of me being something I am looking forward to as a rejuvenating, refreshing, safe place—I lie down in my bed and feel like I am girding myself for a battle. A terrible battle in which I am literally begging Jesus for sleep.
  3. It’s not just the psychological struggles (although the constant replaying of certain music or conversations in my mind over and over again is often present), did you know that insomnia often has really uncomfortable physical experiences as well? Heart pounding out of your chest wall. Terrible temperature control (can’t get comfortable). Back and joint pain (because I don’t think we’re usually supposed to be awake when we lie there, unmoving, for eight hours). True physical hunger (because we’re not usually awake for 24, 36, 48 consecutive hours without some sort of hydration and nutrition).
  4. You may already know this, but just in case … Are you aware of just how warped a person’s thinking can become in the wee hours of the late night/early morning, especially on day two or three of a streak of insomnia? Oh man. it is really something else how our minds can play those ol’ tricks on us that seem so real re: theology / life experience / the future / the past. By God’s grace, I have had some growth in grace regarding this specific area of my insomnia so that, usually, I identify the issue and turn away from it relatively quickly. For example, if I start to obsess about some sort of morbid future fear at 4:00AM, I usually “take myself by the hand” (to use D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones phrase) and speak truth to myself: “Tara. You are sleepless. Your thinking gets terrible warped when you are sleepless. This is not real. Don’t dwell here. Let it go and move on.”
  5. When someone is struggling with sleeplessness, the daytime hours can be particularly difficult too, because we can start to shake and feel cold and just find that our thoughts are muddled and we are more prone to drop things and spill things, etc. (When things are really bad, I—of course!—don’t even let myself drive because being exhausted can be as dangerous as being drunk or texting while driving. Terribly dangerous!) So this is another opportunity to be particularly gentle and kind towards a friend or family member who is suffering in this way.

Hmmmmm … I’m tempted to just delete this post because a) it seems a little whiny and I surely don’t want that!; and b) I don’t think I am communicating just how awful insomnia is. But maybe I’m communicating a little bit and so I will let it stand with the hope that it might prove helpful to even just one of you. That is my hope!

Oh. And before you start leaving every comment (or emailing every piece of advice) under the sun re: how to fix my sleep problems though (fill in the blanks) medicine / not medicine / exercise / not exercising close to bed / light /  not light / music / no sound / homeopathic fixes / certain vitamins / memorizing Scripture, etc. etc. Please know that I am grateful for your concern and happy to read your comments or emails. But also that I really can’t imagine there is something “out there” that I haven’t already studied and/or tried. I really have been insomniatic my entire life.

In some ways, I wonder if this is just going to be one of those things in my life that I experience some growth in grace and some relief in, but that true relief will not come into Glory. That very well may be the case. And if so? I am so grateful that even in my dark, long nights, I know that God is with me. Truly. And when a family member or friend is compassionate and doesn’t just legalistically (if well meaning-ly) Psalm 4:8* down my throat? Oh oh oh. I am then comforted, even if I am really really tired.

God bless you and help you if you are sometimes or often sleepless!

God bless you and help you if you love and serve someone who is sometimes or often sleepless!

Your friend,
Tara B.

* Psalm 4:8: “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” So pretty! So sweet! But not a guaranteed cure-all for insomnia. Please oh please be careful when considering sharing this with someone who is suffering with sleeplessness. You may be very well meaning, but it may come across as very condemning (i.e., “Why don’t you OBEY this Bible verse and SLEEP?!”). The answer? I really don’t know. Is it physical? Spiritual? A result of conviction of sin? Hormones? A combination? Maybe. But whatever it is, it’s not easy to bear and it’s not easy to fix. Sleeplessness is really, truly, terrible suffering.

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