Three Encouragements for Women on Mother’s Day

Three Encouragements for Women on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is two days away, and I wonder how many women are dreading it. On a day set aside to honor the invaluable work only women are able to fulfill, many are left feeling tender and disappointed, wishing we could skip the day altogether and get on with Monday. For women with and without children, Mother’s Day evokes a host of emotions as it exposes dreams, longings, fears, and hurts in an especially poignant way.   

Is the pain of this day redeemable?

The truth is, the role of “mother” is important and worth honoring. The mothers who bore us, raised us, and sacrificed for us should be acknowledged, thanked, and loved. But it is all too easy for us as women to slip into a blinding self-focus on Mother’s Day. For those in the trenches of mothering, the desire to be acknowledged (or just to be given a break, for goodness sake!) can grow too big, leading to anger and frustration when expectations are not met. For those longing for marriage and family, struggling with infertility, grieving the loss of a child or mother, or praying for the return of a wayward child, the hurt may feel insurmountable. Sometimes, this leads to feelings of self-pity or despair.

Is the pain of this day redeemable? For women who are in Christ the Redeemer, we answer with a resounding “Yes!” Here are three truths to help us lift our gaze and live with gospel-shaped hope on Mother’s Day.

Joy and Pain are Realities for All.

On Mother’s Day especially, it’s easy for women to feel alone in their pain and struggles. All of us can easily fall prey to the lie that no one is hurting as deeply as we are, and this makes our own pain feel magnified. But, in a fallen world, pain is a reality that goes hand-in-hand with joy. Every woman, regardless of her circumstances, experiences some mixture of the two, and it isn’t necessary or wise to try to compare levels.

The woman longing to conceive a child sees pictures on social media of smiling mothers with their arms full of (what appear to be) smiling, well-behaved children, and she believes that woman’s life is all joy. But pictures never tell the whole story. The exhausted mother of four, struggling through what feels like monotonous work in the home, sees the childless woman with (what appears to be) a fulfilling career, and she covets the freedom and professional success that woman has. But she too isn’t privy to the the whole story.

Pain is real for all, but for those in Christ, we know it isn’t the end of our story. “Weeping may tarry for the night but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5). The gospel gives us hope on Mother’s Day by reminding us that. . .

Motherhood is Bigger Than Us.

Whether a woman has biological children or not, she must remember that God’s purposes for motherhood are bigger than her. While children certainly bring joy (and pain), they are blessings to steward for a purpose greater than a mother’s personal happiness. God created mothers and motherhood so that his image and glory might be multiplied across the face of the earth (Genesis 1:28). And when his image was marred by sin, God allowed motherhood to continue so that he might send a Redeemer, both human and divine, to bring salvation to the world: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).

“Mother” is a role, not an identity. As Christian women, we are made in the image of God and created anew in Christ Jesus for the purpose of good works. Christ is our defining identity (Ephesians 2:10). For some, the good works prepared for us by God include raising up physical children in our homes. For all of us, these good works include raising up spiritual children (disciples) within the local church. When we remember that motherhood is bigger than us, we can rejoice on Mother’s Day in spite of our circumstances. We can shift our gaze upward, giving thanks to God for using a mother to bring the Savior of mankind into this world.

Christ Redeems All Things.

Around this time last year, I drove past a church sign that said, “Join us Sunday as we celebrate mothers!” I cringed inwardly as I imagined  this might cause hurting women to shy away. While the Church may honor mothers, we celebrate so much more!  We celebrate a risen Christ, who is redeeming every ounce of pain his children experience both for his glory and our good. We celebrate a Savior who is making all things new. No woman should avoid this celebration on Mother’s Day Sunday. 

One way Christ has already redeemed the pain of motherhood is by expanding its definition and purpose. In her book (A)Typical Woman, Abigail Dodds says, “You may have been denied biological children, but there is no childlessness in the new covenant. You have been given children beyond counting in Christ to love, nurture, and disciple, as Paul and Jesus did.” In Christ, motherhood goes far beyond bearing and raising biological children.

Although this truth doesn’t negate all the pain women feel regarding issues of motherhood, we have the blessed promise that God is working our pain for good as he uses it to make us like Christ (Romans 8:28-29). And we have the sure hope that this pain is not forever. A day is coming when tears, death, mourning, crying, and pain will be no more (Revelation 21:4).

So, on Sunday let’s take time to honor our own mothers, both those who raised us and those who have discipled us in the faith. Let’s lift our gaze from ourselves to Christ, worshiping him and trusting him to carry us through our pain and redeem all our unmet expectations and longings. And let’s bless the Lord for the gift of motherhood and his good purposes in it. He alone is worthy!

 

Raising Men of War

Raising Men of War

Whether it’s a nerf gun, a slingshot, or a plastic sword and shield, my three boys love a good pretend weapon. My youngest, in particular, has a proclivity for turning everything from tree limbs to decorative crosses into the battle arms he wields on his mission to slay the bad guys. For him, a battle is always on the horizon.

These weapon-loving, warrior-like tendencies so common in little boys have the potential to worry parents, making us wonder if our little boys are prone toward violence. While the realities of sin make this a legitimate concern, I believe these tendencies are given by God to be cultivated for his purposes and glory. This begins by teaching our little men not to use their nerf guns to shoot people in the face or their swords to bang up the walls of the house. It continues as we explain to them why fighting and wars are even a part of our lives in the first place.

War–of both a physical and spiritual nature–is far less than ideal, but it is a reality of life in a fallen world. While our boys might not serve in one of the five branches of the American military, they will certainly not escape battle. Either they will “fight” in cowardice for the kingdom of darkness, or they will fight with courage for the Kingdom of God.

If we are seeking to raise up Christ-like men of God, then, by extension, we are seeking to raise up men prepared to war against the enemies of God–namely sin and Satan. As Christian parents, it’s our job to help our boys channel their warrior inclinations, training them to fight the right battles with the right weapons for the right reasons.

The God of War

Our boys need to understand that the God we serve is a God of righteous war (Exodus 15:3). He is committed to justly defending his holiness and mercifully rescuing a remnant of his undeserving children from enemy captivity, transforming them into a holy people for his own possession who proclaim his glory (1 Peter 2:9).

In the beginning, the world God created was good and free of conflict. Peace reigned in the Garden of Eden where a Holy God lived with his children–a King with his royal vice regents. But things changed when evil embodied a serpent who slithered into the garden to deceive God’s children, tempting them to distrust and disobey his word. In this act, Satan foolishly declared war on the Almighty Creator. Adam and Eve succumbed to the serpent’s wicked plot, and, in their rebellion against God, Satan drew them into his camp to do his bidding.

Surely saddened but not surprised by this rebellion, God went to war. Adam and Eve were expelled from his holy presence (a place where sinful people cannot dwell), and an angel with a flaming sword was placed at the entrance of the garden. But before their expulsion, God gave his rebel children a promise of hope. God foretold a lifelong battle between the children of the woman and the children of the serpent, and he promised that a child of the woman would one day crush the head of the evil snake (Genesis 3:15). God would win the war against sin and evil through a victorious warrior.

The Victorious Warrior

The most important thing we can teach our boys about war is that they are not God’s promised victorious warrior of Genesis 3:15.  In fact, they come into this world as cowardly cohorts of the enemy, powerless and lacking any real desire to free themselves from his grip. They need to trust a warrior to fight and be victorious on their behalf, just as David, the (then future) Israelite King fought and conquered Israel’s greatest enemy Goliath for them. 

There are whispers of the God’s victorious warrior on every page of Scripture, hints of his coming and his ultimate victory. But he first comes on the scene and does battle against God’s enemy in the most unexpected and unlikely way. Jesus Christ is born into obscurity and poverty. When he grows up, he wields no sword for battle against the enemies of God’s people but willingly lays down his life unto death, crucified by the ones he came to defeat. For two days it looks as though evil has won, but Christ’s final victory against sin and Satan is inaugurated on the third day as the Spirit of God powerfully raises him from the dead.  

Through Christ’s atonement, sin has lost its ultimate power. Satan and his forces have been disarmed (Colossians 2:15). The victory is secure, and Christ will soon return as a conquering warrior on a white horse. He will consummate the victory against the enemies of God with his sharp sword (Revelation 19:11-15) and put an end to fighting and war forever! We must repeatedly share the good news of this victorious warrior with our boys, pleading with them to put their hope for salvation in him alone rather than in their own perceived strength.  

The Ongoing Battle

Though the ultimate victory for all who are in Christ is secure, the battle still rages until he returns. Bible teacher Nancy Guthrie says, “Satan is like a snake whose head has been crushed but whose tail is still whipping around creating havoc.” We need to prepare our boys for a lifelong battle against sin and Satan in the strength that Christ their victorious warrior provides (Ephesians 6:10). They must not sit back passively, letting the enemy’s tail “go to town” in their lives and the lives of those God puts in their path. No, they must be ready to pick up their weapons and fight for truth, holiness, purity, humility, and justice. They must be prepared to stand and fight even when they stand alone. 

Their weapons are will no longer be nerf guns and plastic swords, but the arsenal available to them in Christ will be better than their little minds can now imagine. Truth will be their core support. The righteousness of Christ will be credited to their hearts. The message of good news about the victorious warrior will lead their feet to tell others how to find peace with God. Faith in the sinless Christ will extinguish the fiery accusations of the enemy that still plague them. Salvation secured forever will guard their minds from fear of condemnation. And the living and active sword of God’s word (Hebrews 4:12), coupled with prayer in the Spirit, will give them offensive power as they labor for God’s Kingdom until he comes (Ephesians 6:14-18).

I’m raising my boys to be men of war. They may never march in the infantry, ride in the calvary, or shoot the artillery. They may never fly o’er the enemy, but–by God’s grace–I pray they will fight the good fight in the Lord’s army.

Making the Most of the Time

Making the Most of the Time

My mom recently made the observation that about one-third of the time we have with our oldest son Luke living in our home is gone. Over. Poof. Well, how did that happen? Cue the tears because that was a fast six years that we will never get back. Luke has moved from babyhood to boyhood and will soon move to adolescence and adulthood before our eyes.

Reminders of the rapid passing of time and the rate at which our children are growing and changing often awaken a mix of excitement, sadness and maybe even a little panic in our hearts. While in some seasons the days feel endlessly long, our children are moving steadily toward independence from us. And despite how we may feel about it on any given day, isn’t that the point of parenting?

The Scriptures teach that human beings should consider the passing of time and remember our frail and transient state on this earth. Our mortal lives are compared to a vapor that appears for a while and then vanishes at a time unknown to us (James 4:14). We are to number our days in order to gain a heart of wisdom–a heart that is governed by eternal priorities (Psalm 90:12). As we walk in wisdom, we are to make the most of the time we have been given (Ephesians 5:15), which includes the *roughly* eighteen years that we have been given with our children in the home. So, how do we do this? How do we wisely make the most of the time? 

Instruct with Intentionality  

God has given parents the gloriously weighty task of teaching our children to think about and truthfully answer all of life’s big questions: Who is God? Who are we? What is our greatest problem? What has God done to solve our greatest problem? In other words, it is our responsibility as parents to bring our children up in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), and our window of time to do so is relatively short.

As with all weighty and worthy goals, planning and intentionality are essential for the spiritual training of our children, and it is foolish for parents to live as if this is not the case. Our families lead busy, full-to-the-brim lives–days consumed with work, school, appointments, activities, chores, and entertainment. Making the most of the time we’ve been given on earth with our kids to train them spirituallly can easily be neglected or forgotten. But this is insanity! We will soon be gone and fly away (Psalm 90:10), and only our eternal investments will remain. Our kids will not learn the truths of God through osmosis, especially in a world that preaches a gospel contrary to that which we have received. 

The intentional spiritual instruction of our children is an investment that will always require some level of sacrifice. It may mean less time for TV, social media, or hobbies on our part. It may mean saying no to certain activities for our kids so the family can have dinner and time at home together. It may even mean saying no to a certain career path for ourselves so that we are more available to invest in our kids. Intentional instruction will mean thinking through the practical aspects of how to best communicate God’s truth as comprehensively as possible to our kids in the time we have been given. It will mean guarding our own time in the Word and in the presence of Christ so that His truth naturally overflows into our conversations as we walk and play and eat and ride to ball practice.

*At the end of this post, I have shared some resources we are using to help with the spiritual instruction of our kids

Parent by Grace

Intentional instruction is necessary, but if it isn’t rooted in grace it’s downright dangerous. Here’s the thing. We can teach our kids the truths of God all day long, but we can’t save their souls anymore than we can save our own. Our kids can memorize catechisms, recite Scripture, and know all the right answers to all the right questions, but they can’t remove their own heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). We can teach them to modify their behavior on the outside to some degree, but we can never eradicate the pride and selfishness and fear inside their hearts. Intentional instruction can never breath spiritual life into the hearts of our children, but instruction that is rooted in grace can greatly prepare and fertilize the soil for the Holy Spirit to do so when he wills.

Parenting by grace means recognizing and acknowledging our own inadequacies. Our instruction will never be as intentional and consistent as it could be, and our lives will never perfectly reflect what we teach. We won’t perfectly make the most of the time we have with our kids, and often when we do try to use our time for God’s purposes things won’t go as planned. But praise be to God! He doesn’t save us or our children based on our own (utterly unattainable) perfection but rather on the perfection of His spotless Son. Parenting by grace means teaching our kids the gospel but also living like that gospel is true as we entrust Him with our times and the hearts of our precious little ones. As the days with our children pass before us, grace enables us not to panic or fear but to rest in His faithfulness. 

Rejoice in the Gospel

In Psalm chapter 90, Moses notes the brevity of human life on earth. He prays not only that the Lord would teach us to number our days but also that He would satisfy us with His steadfast love each morning. If we are fulfilled by God’s love for us, we can  have joy and gladness all of the days of our brief life on earth (Psalm 90:14). Making wise use of our time as parents is important, but it will never ultimately satisfy us because our time with our kids here on earth will eventually run out. Training our children is necessary, but even if they grow to love and serve Him, our days on this earth will still be full of toil and trouble and will end in death (Psalm 90:10). We  should not look to our children for our happiness when things are going well with them, and we should not despair when things are not. The Bible is clear that absolutely nothing but the faithful love of God Himself can truly satisfy our souls during our short lives in this world and forevermore. And how can we be assured of this steadfast love of God? By looking at Jesus Christ. God did not spare his only Son, but gave Him to take away our sins, heal our brokenness and raise us to new life–a life where our days won’t be numbered.

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**Intentional instruction is not easy, but make it your goal to just start somewhere! It may be fifteen minutes, three or four times a week, but make a plan for your family. We talk about the things of the Lord with our kids throughout the day, as we drive in the car, etc., but we try to have intentional time as a family around the dinner table several nights a week to instruct our kids in the truths of Scripture. This time is usually CRAZY, as their attention spans are short and they have LOTS of energy.  The (almost) two year old is usually banging on his highchair tray and “scream talking”. But we have a goal throughout the years they are in our home (we are not doing all of this right now) to teach them…

-The overarching story of the Bible as well as individual Bible stories: (Resource: The Jesus Storybook Bible)

-Basic Theology: (Resource: The New City Catechism, )

Books of the Bible: (Resource: We use a song I learned as a child in AWANA, but there are several helpful songs available on Youtube)

-Overview of books of the Bible: ( Resource: Planning to use this in the future- Bible Survey for Kids)

The Gospel: ( Resource: Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers Series)

-Advent: (Resource: Truth in the Tinsel)

Easter: (Resource: Resurrection Eggs and Benjamin’s Box)

Scripture memory through song: (Resource: Slugs & Bugs)

 

 

Your Kids Need Your Patience, Not Your Power

Your Kids Need Your Patience, Not Your Power

 

There are times when I’m reading God’s Word and a verse seems to literally jump off the page at me. Maybe a light bulb of understanding flashes on in my mind or a connection is made for the first time. Most often, the lamp of God’s Word shines deep within, and His Spirit pricks me with conviction as the true condition of my heart is revealed.

This happened recently as I came to the following verse in my reading through the book of Proverbs: 

Patience is better than power, and controlling one’s emotions than capturing a city. (Prov 16:32)

Ouch.

As the long days of summer have worn on, I’ve found myself quick to lose patience and grasp for power, particularly in my relationships with my boys. Here’s the thing: Summer is really fun. I love having all three boys home all the time. I love getting to sleep later and have lazy mornings with nowhere to be. I love having time to swim, play with friends, travel, read and take the boys to lots of new places. I love having more opportunities to teach them all sorts of things as I seek to fill their minds with truth. I consider it a privilege and joy to be home with them each day.

But summer has its challenges too. While there are more opportunities to spend time together enjoying and loving each other, there are also more opportunities to rub each other wrong…to irritate each other…to sin against each other. Constant family togetherness means the shortcomings of four sinful human beings are highlighted and on display. Selfishness, pride, anger, fear, manipulation, sibling rivalry. In the summertime, more than in other seasons, I see my kids’ individual weaknesses and the sinfulness of their hearts.

And my natural tendency is to want to fix my kids by my own power. In other words, I want to say and do all the right things as a parent to produce the desired effect in their hearts and behavior. I find myself trying to smooth out their rough edges with solid biblical parenting–trying to somehow mend their flaws and melt away their fears and insecurities so that I can feel really good about my kind, obedient, well-adjusted and happy kids. And if none of this “good” power parenting works, it’s likely I’ll completely lose patience. I’ll let my own irritation, anxiety, and fear take the wheel, and in a final ditch effort yell, “WHY CAN YOU NOT DO____?!?!  WHAT IS SO HARD ABOUT____?!?! JUST STOP IT! NOW!!!!!!” 

Patience is better than Power.

When I read these words, I felt the Lord whisper to my heart, “They are not your projects, Sarah. They are gifts from my hand. They are blessings to steward, not burdens to shoulder. You will not give account for how you changed or healed or fixed them. That is not a job you can even do. It’s mine alone. You will give account for how you loved them. And my love is patient. It is not irritable. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things. My love never ends. You can be faithful and rest in grace as you trust Me with the hearts of your boys.”

Loving my kids with a Christ-like love, doesn’t mean glossing over their sins and struggles with an “anything goes” mentality. The proverbs also repeatedly command parents to discipline their children in love: Discipline your son while there is hope; don’t set your heart on being the cause of his death (Prov 19:18). No, loving my kids with a Christ-like love means being faithful to raise them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4),  being patient with the process rather than trying to force visible results that, in reality, I have no power to produce. 

When the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers to bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, he was telling them to raise their children in the Gospel. Paul’s Gentile audience (Greek believers) would have raised their children in the instruction of the philosophers. The Jews would have raised their children in the instruction of the Law. But Paul is calling followers of Christ to something new: Gospel-centered parenting. And the good news of the gospel is that “we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope” (Tim Keller). Loving my kids patiently and raising them in the instruction and discipline of the Lord means giving them the good news of grace as I rest in that grace myself.

Jesus Christ came to this world and lived the perfect, pure, and righteous life that my boys and I could never live. He died a horrific, unimaginable death in our place. He triumphed over death when he rose from the grave, and He lives to offer us forgiveness, His own righteousness and transformation through His Spirit. When I am resting in the gospel, I can stop grasping for power and love my boys with a patience that endures the process–rough sinful edges and all–because that is how Christ has loved me. I can discipline and teach in love rather than irritation and fear, extending the good news of grace that has been extended to me. I can parent in a way that hopes all things because my hope is grounded in the finished work of good, merciful and mighty Savior, not the way my kids behave on any particular day. My life can exhibit the truth that patience is better than power because God’s patient grace has changed me. . . and his patient grace will change them too.

The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and His mercy is over all that he has made. Psalm 145:8

 

 

The Home as the Hub of Life on Mission

The Home as the Hub of Life on Mission

Our family is in the process of moving from one house to another, and I’m kind of feeling all the feels about it. There’s the nostalgia and twinge of sadness as we say goodbye to a house where we’ve made sweet memories and grown as a family, but there’s also the excitement about a new place for a new season. All these feelings brought about by our upcoming change of address have gotten me thinking about the fact that a home is much more than just brick and mortar.

When we think of a house, we may think of shelter or a space to decorate according to our various styles. When we think of a home, we might envision a refuge or place of belonging. But in the Kingdom of God, does a home have a deeper purpose than even these good things? Does the Bible have anything to say about God’s purpose for the home?

Women who are familiar with the Bible may remember that in Titus chapter two, the work of the home is mentioned. Here, the apostle Paul exhorts Titus to teach what accords with sound doctrine (the gospel): Older women are to train younger women to “love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home . . . that the word of God will not be reviled” (2:4-5). Paul is not here saying that women should only work in the home. The point Paul makes is that the home is significant in God’s gospel mission; therefore, the work of the home is extremely valuable to Him. The Bible is clear that the mission of believers is to spread God’s glory to all the world by making disciples through the power of the gospel (Matt 28:19-20, Rom 1:16). This mission is not disconnected from Paul’s exhortations to women concerning work in the home. When Titus chapter two is interpreted in light of Christ’s great commission mandate, women will begin to see that their homes can serve as a “hub” or effective center for living a life on mission for Christ .

The mission begins within the walls.

I love Mother Teresa’s thought provoking words: “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” Al Mohler recently made a similar statement: “If we can’t reach our children, we can’t reach the world.” Our mission to reach the world with the gospel starts at home. The people who live within our walls {spouses, children, roommates} are our closest neighbors and usually the people with whom God has given us the greatest influence. Hearts and minds are shaped early and, as parents, we have the hearts of our children first. As we are faithful to love and care for our kids in the day-to-day, we have thousands of opportunities to make intentional deposits of gospel truth into their hearts and lives while praying for God to bring transformation and growth.

When we view the home as the hub of our mission efforts, even the most mundane and exhausting work required in keeping a house and caring for those we love is important and meaningful; yet, at the same time, it doesn’t rule us. Christ rules us. We can work faithfully by His strength and for His glory while recognizing that our joy is not dependent on whether or not we have a beautifully decorated and tidy home, a thankful spouse, or well-behaved children.

To use our homes as the hub of our mission efforts does not mean we are domestic goddesses who keep picture-perfect homes and never make mistakes in front of those who live in our home. In fact, it’s really just the opposite. Being on mission within the walls of our homes means that we really get the gospel ourselves. We understand that apart from Christ we are broken and flawed and weak. We recognize that every failure–every bad attitude, impatient word or careless act–is an opportunity to point to the Perfect One whose righteousness has been credited to us through faith and who is slowly transforming our hearts as we turn from our sin and look to Him alone. The ugly things in our hearts that are exposed in front of those we love give us the chance to demonstrate humility and true repentance as we shout the good news that the gospel of Jesus is our greatest hope in our weakest moments. To be on mission in our homes, we must model our deep need and highlight God’s great grace.

The mission moves beyond the walls when the door is open.

God has provided us earthly homes as temporary places of refuge, not that we may sequester ourselves behind closed doors and only minister to those within our walls, but that we may open our doors and bid others to come in and  see that the it is The Lord is good. These physical structures we live in are just temporary dwellings, but they can be a powerful  tool to point others forward to our eternal dwelling in Christ if we will simply open our doors.

A missional home is an open home, not a perfect home. Are we willing to welcome others into our imperfect (and in my case, messy) homes to share of our time, our food, and ourselves? In the book of Acts, Luke records that the early Church did life together. Followers of Christ gathered daily to learn, worship, break bread, and remember the gospel together. They also applied the gospel together as they generously gave of what they had to meet the needs of others. In short, they lived life with a “what’s mine is yours” mentality. “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were beings saved” (Acts 2:47b). As they lived life together with open homes and hands, the gospel spread.

We live in an individualistic culture of locked doors, drawn curtains and privacy fences. The American mentality is “you can only count on what you earn”. But if our homes are going to function as little gospel outposts for taking the good news to the world, we must work by Christ’s strength to keep our doors open regardless of how uncomfortable or costly it may feel.

We each need to ask ourselves questions such as these: Is my home open to those in the Body of Christ? Do I regularly welcome believers in to share a meal or coffee and speak about the things of the Lord together? Is my home a refuge for others in need of a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, godly counsel or just a free place to spend the night? As I welcome the Body of Christ, am I intentionally seeking to build relationships with the lost in my circle of influence while petitioning the Lord to add to [our] number those who are being saved? Do I speak to neighbors and try to get to know them through time? Do I develop friendships with lost coworkers who do not know the Lord and invite them into my home? Do I pray for them and ask the Lord for opportunities? There are countless creative ways to use our homes for God’s Kingdom mission if we will open our eyes and ask daily for his strength and help.

Lest we become easily discouraged, let us remember that we will not be perfect in managing our homes for effective gospel mission. We will struggle and always have room to grow, but weakness itself is a gift. It reminds us that our hope is in something greater than our home and our own efforts at faithful obedience. In the hard moments, let us shift our perspective to the truth that Gloria Furman communicates so well:

The remnant Israelites learned that their home was not their refuge. In our modern time, we need to know this too. We need to know that our home is not a projection of our image but a space in which we work to display the image of Christ. Home points to a peace that is beyond color schemes and adornments. It points to the fact that the Lord is our refuge. Jesus Christ is the greatest missional home manager the world has ever seen. He builds his house, and he sets his house in order. He is head over his church, and he loves her perfectly. He nourishes her with his word. Christ reigns in sovereign superiority; he is the basis of all our joy. We must live our lives focused on his sovereign lordship over the cosmos.“

Yes. And amen.

 

What I want for you Most

To my boys…my little arrows…my warriors in training:

I often think about what I want for you most.  Hopes deep within my soul turn into prayers poured  from my heart and oftentimes whispered from my lips throughout my days. Do I want you to have good health and talent and success and a life of happiness? Well, certainly those things would be wonderful blessings. Do I desire for you a well-adjusted childhood? Academic and athletic achievement? Loyal friends? A solid career? Financial stability and ease? What parent wouldn’t want these good gifts for their children. I hope God sees fit to bless each of you in some or all of these ways during your life on earth, but the truth is that I rarely pray any of these things for you. They are not the most important things. They are not what I want for you most, and they are not what I want for you at all if they come at the expense of what I want most.

What I desire for each of you more than anything is that God would grow you into mighty warriors for the Kingdom of Christ–the Kingdom of Light. In Psalm 127, God tells us that you boys are a heritage to your dad and me. You are a reward to us from God Himself. As children born into a household built by the Lord, God’s Word describes you as “arrows in the hand of a mighty warrior.” The passage goes on to say that warriors who fill their quiver with these arrows are  abundantly blessed. While your dad and I are not warriors in a physical sense, we are very much warriors in a spiritual sense. Ephesians 6 tells us that, as followers of Jesus, we are warriors in a battle that we cannot see with our eyes but a battle that is very real and very intense, nonetheless. This battle is not against flesh and blood, but it is a battle against a very present darkness in our world–a battle against spiritual forces of evil.

You will not have to live long in our world to see this darkness. It is pervasive. It has left our world broken and seemingly beyond repair. Broken hearts. Broken bodies. Hatred. Violence. Abuse. Dysfunction. Destruction. Despair. Death. Things are not as they should be and it hurts so deeply. No one is unaffected. Suffering comes to all, and the burdens of this present darkness are too many and too heavy for us to bear. The worst part of it all is that the darkness starts in you and me—in the deepest crevices of our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9), and God’s Word says that we love this darkness (John 3:19). My precious boys, you will never become warriors against this great darkness in our world until you first recognize and mourn the great darkness in your own hearts. You will never fight for the light until a supernatural and transformative Light shines in your own hearts. This Light is my greatest hope and prayer for you.

. . .the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord . . . For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Only Jesus has borne the full burden of our brokenness through His death in our place on the cross of Calvary. Jesus alone is the Light that will shine in our hearts and vanquish the darkness. Look to Him, little Arrows, look to Him. And one day, I pray you will fly from our quiver and into the world as strong Warriors–full of integrity and kindness– ready to do battle for The Light as you love others deeply and make an eternal difference here on Earth to the glory of God. May every part of my parenting be shaped by this deep desire of my heart—what I want for you most.

I Love you deeply.

7 Truths for Parenting

7 Truths for Parenting

I recently walked out of an OB appointment before seeing the doctor. With tears in my eyes, I tried to avoid the nurse’s gaze and keep my voice from shaking as I gathered our things and told her I would have to reschedule. Because of a change in my husband’s typical schedule, I had both boys with me at the appointment that day (something I don’t normally attempt), and it was a complete and total disaster. I came armed with snacks, books, and the ipad full of movies. Regardless of all my gear, the boys were their usual active (read: wild) selves! They loudly ran about the waiting room and then got into a screaming, yanking fight over a bag of veggie straws right as the nurse was calling us back. That fight carried over to another one over the only extra chair in the exam room while the nurse stared awkwardly as I tried to get my children under control. The iPad refused to work properly, so I couldn’t get a movie started to help settle them down. My stress levels were elevating, and I was slowly coming unglued. Completely embarrassed, I dragged both boys out to the car and pretty much had a come-apart the entire thirty minute drive home. It was a low point in parenting. A real low point.

In spite of the story above, parenting my boys is probably the most significant, joy producing, glorious task I’ve ever been given. It is also, without a doubt, the most challenging task I’ve ever been given. The task of bearing and raising life is such a gift–a miracle, honor and privilege. But it’s also ridiculously hard. Harder than I ever really imagined. I find myself growing tired, impatient, and worried more than I care to admit. Parenting, like nothing else in my life thus far, has driven me to mine God’s Word for truth, wisdom, and hope. Below are seven significant truths from God’s Word that I am continuously turning to and meditating on through both the good and hard days of parenting (but especially the hard days):

1. Children are blessed gifts from God’s hand: On the days when our children are acting impossible, we must dwell on the truth that they are undeserved gifts from God’s hand, and they are great blessings to our lives regardless of their actions at the moment. No new life is an accident or a mistake. Every child, regardless of the circumstances through which he or she is conceived and born, is a purposeful gift from our good God’s hand. “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3).

2. God is sovereign over His creation–each child is created exactly as God intended him or her to be: Individual personalities, full of their various strengths and weaknesses, are more than just random genetic combinations. They are the careful handiwork of an all-wise and sovereign God who does not make mistakes. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:13-14).

3. God possesses all the wisdom and strength we need to faithfully parent our children. This wisdom and strength are made available to believers through faith in the shed blood and finished work of Christ. Through Jesus, we must draw from this strength and wisdom daily. Because Christ’s strength is perfect and is magnified in our weaknesses, we can rejoice even in the greatest parenting struggles that we face. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6).

4. Our children (and spouse) are our closest neighbors. Jesus calls His followers to love our neighbor(s) as we love ourselves. Contrary to common belief, no one has to be taught self-love. All people naturally seek their own happiness and well-being and naturally look out for their own interests, although this takes different forms in different people and varying circumstances. Jesus radically calls His followers to pursue the happiness, well-being and interests of others with the same intensity that we pursue those things for ourselves. Upon close examination of the heart, all of us will find that self-love often tries to dominate and overpower a love for others, even in the case of our own children. But, by God’s grace and power, we must see to it that our parenting is not tainted with selfishness or driven by our own idolatrous desires for security, peace of mind, a good reputation, convenience. etc. The way we parent must flow from a self-sacrificial love for both God and our closest little neighbors–a love that seeks to point our children to Christ through and in the midst of challenges. “And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first great commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39).

5. Anxiety and worry are sin. When it comes to our children (and our parenting), anxiety and worry can so easily creep into our hearts and minds. Am I doing this right? How is this child going to turn out? How will we make it through this tough season? Is something wrong with my child?!?!? God calls believers to stop fretting and turn to Him for everything, resting in His peace and trusting Him to help and supply us in every need. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. . . And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7, 19).

6. Parenting failures are inevitable. If we confess our sin and repent, God is faithful to forgive and cleanse us.  Believers in Christ will not be made perfect until we meet Him one day and, therefore, we will not be perfect parents during our time on this earth. All of us will fall short. We will all lose patience. We will sin against God and our children more than we care to admit. But if we come face-to-face with our sin through confession and repentance, God through Christ is faithful to forgive us and make us clean. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).

7 .Our job is not to produce godly children. Our job is to be a faithful parents. God has not called us to produce godly children because we have no power to do so. As parents, we do not have the power ultimately necessary to turn our children’s hearts away from sin and toward Christ. Only the Holy Spirit can draw people to repentance and light the fire of true faith in the heart. Parents, however, are called to put as much “kindling” around our children’s hearts as possible. We are called to teach our children the truth about God, themselves, and our world. Through our everyday interactions and conversations, we must help our kids see their brokenness and rebellion against God and point them toward the good news of the gospel of Jesus–the only one who has the power to transform their hearts and lives. We are responsible to hold up the glory and goodness of God before our children and teach them that a life apart from God our Father is really no life at all. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). “‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise’”. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).  


May our parenting be guarded and guided according to the blessed truths of God’s Word, and may we seek to steward well the good news of the gospel by holding it out to our closest little neighbors. It is our greatest hope…and theirs.

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