Monthly Archives: June 2013

Another Prayer: About Children and Childlikeness

I have had one of those weeks where prayer has been a particular comfort for me. As I think about parenting and families, sometimes turning to prayers gets to be the seemingly only comfort you find at the moment. Here is one that Pastor Scotty Smith wrote:

     People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:15-17

     Most welcoming Lord Jesus, there’s no more important or necessary gift we can give our children than to keep on bringing them to you. Whether they’re babies, teenagers or adults, themselves… it makesfamily-praying no difference. At every stage of life, our kids need you, Jesus.

For our children who’ve yet to find life in you… have mercy on them, and bring them to a saving knowledge of yourself, Jesus. They don’t just need to “grow up.” They don’t need religion. They don’t need moral reform. They need the gospel of your grace. Show them how much they need you, and show them how much you love them. Keep them restless until they rest in your complete forgiveness and perfect righteousness. More than we want Harvard for our children, we want heaven.

Jesus, some of us grieve the ways we’ve made the gospel less than beautiful and believable to our children. Forgive us, and show yourself to be the God who’s limited by nothing, including parental self-righteousness. Transcend the ways we’ve “blown it.” But also grant us humility and grace to repent… first before you and then to them. Free us to give our children the gift of our repentance

For our children who know you, but currently seem to have waning or zero interest in you… or even ambivalence or antipathy towards you… here our cry. Restore to them the joy of your salvation. Our confidence is in the our Father’s promise to bring to completion the good work he’s begun in each of us, but Jesus, we cannot afford to be either presumptuous or passive. Work powerfully. Work presently. Work persistently, Jesus, we ask for your name’s sake. Give us patience with their doubts. Give us forbearance in their struggles. Give us grace to welcome prodigals home.

Lastly, Jesus, we ask you to restore us… restore me, to the childlikeness of our early days of knowing you. Free us from childishness, indeed, but renew our hearts in childlike joy, playfulness, gratefulness and simplicity. Our bodies and minds are getting older, but cause our hearts to dance again in the utter and matchless delights of being loved by you. So very Amen, I pray, in your glorious name.

HT: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/scottysmith/

A PRAYER FOR THE MOM WHO IS WORN OUT

Exhausted-MomThe following article and prayer from Christina Fox, http://toshowthemjesus.com/ is hopefully a great encouragement to you moms. I watch my daughter with 6 boys ranging from 6 years old to 15 and feel like a fan at a football game who get exhausted watching a game while there are 22 players doing all the work. Hang in there moms and may God bless you with all the heavenly blessings in Jesus Christ.

Motherhood is both the best job and the also hardest job I’ve ever had. It has brought me great joy and revealed to me a level of love I hadn’t known before. It has also stretched me physically, mentally, and emotionally. I’ve lived on less sleep than should be humanly possible. I’ve even learned more than I care to about bugs, science, and how machines work (two boys will that do that to you). While the physical stretch marks may fade, the ones on my heart are there to stay.

Though the joys are many, there are days when motherhood wears me down to the core. Some days, I’m not even sure I’ll make it through to bedtime. When night time finally does come, my head hits the pillow hard, and I wonder what I accomplished all day. My heart sighs because I know that tomorrow will most likely be a repeat of the same. Because the job is never done, I’ll wake up the next morning to the house still in disarray and mountains of laundry to wash. And based on the sniffles I’ve heard lately, certain illness looms on the horizon.

Some seasons of motherhood feel more intense and exhausting than others. It’s easy to become discouraged by the endless cycle of cleaning up the messes—physical and emotional. Joy sometimes feels like a thing of the past and just out of reach. We can feel isolated and alone. We may question our qualifications to be a mother or think we’ve failed our children.

The truth is, motherhood is hard, and we can’t do it on our own. As John Piper wrote in A Godward Life  “I need help. Always. In everything. I am simply kidding myself if I think I can move an inch without God’s help.” Just as we cannot live without water, we cannot do anything apart from Christ, including motherhood. “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).

Rather than swim in guilt or wish life were different, we need to go to the Source of our strength, joy, and peace. We need to drink from the living water that only Christ provides. There we’ll find that the truths of the gospel are always within reach, always ready to refresh, remind, and restore.

Jesus died to free us from trying to do life on our own. He came to redeem us from slavery to sin and restore our relationship with the Father. He faced every temptation and sorrow that we face, yet lived a sinless life. The grave could not hold him, guaranteeing a future resurrection for all who trust in Christ. As these truths saturate our thirsty soul, we find the nourishment and strength we so desperately need.

And it’s because of Jesus that we can go before the throne of grace in confidence to find the help we need (Hebrews 4:16). If you are like me and feel tired and worn, this prayer is for you:

*********************

Dear Father in heaven,

I come before you weary and beat down by this long day. Being a mother can be so hard. I often feel helpless and inadequate. Part of me wants to complain, but then I remember the extent to which you were beat down, and I’m struck quiet. I remember that you are the Man of Sorrows and that you understand just how hard life can be. I also remember that you collect all my tears and care about my troubles, trials, and fears.

The Book of Hebrews tells me I can come to you in confidence and find the grace and mercy I need. And so I come to you now to lay all these burdens at your feet. I feel so overwhelmed by the details of life. It seems like I can never get ahead. Just when I clean up one mess, another one pops up somewhere else. Some days I wonder if I’m really cut out for motherhood.

I know I failed to glorify you today. I failed to love as you love me. I failed to extend the grace you’ve given me. Forgive me for striving in my own strength. Forgive me for not finding my complete satisfaction in you and seeking it elsewhere. Each of these failures reminds me of just how much I need a Savior. Today reminds me that I need Jesus more than I did yesterday and that tomorrow I will need him even more.

I’m so thankful that there is so much of you to give. You’re never tired or weary. Even while I sleep, you remain at work. Nothing happens outside your knowledge and will. You’re never stretched beyond what you can handle. And the well of your grace never runs dry.

Because of what Jesus did for me, I ask that you create in me a clean heart. Renew a refreshed spirit within me. Give me gospel strength to get through the day. Open my eyes so that I see your hand at work in the mess of my life. Be my constant in my fluctuating emotions. Keep the gospel ever before me and make it a reality in my daily life as a mother.

I pray that tomorrow you would be with me in all the muck and mire of motherhood. Help me to find my joy in you and not in my circumstances. May I remember that even when it feels otherwise, you are always with me, will never leave me, or forsake me. Tonight I’ll sleep in peace knowing that even when I lose my grip, you never let go of me. And I’ll open my eyes in the morning to find mercy, fresh and new, ready for the taking.

It’s because of Jesus and in Jesus’ name that I pray, amen.

HT: http://thegospelcoalition.org/

THE GOSPEL CURE FOR YOUR CHILD’S HEART (And Yours!)

This article is by Christina Fox, www.toshowthemjesus.com.

Newtown2Lying in his bed, with tears running down his face, my son tried to calm down after an emotional outburst. I came into the room to talk to him about it. Snuggling up next to him, we discussed what had happened.

“But Mom, you don’t understand. It’s because you and brother irritate me so much. You make me angry. If you leave me alone, I won’t be angry.”

My son has been engaged in an intense battle with anger lately. The littlest thing sets him off and I’m brought in as referee.

“Buddy, we don’t make you angry. The anger comes from within you. It comes from your own sin inside your heart.”

I recited Jesus’s words in Matthew 15:18, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.” Needless to say, he did not agree with me. And looking back on that conversation, and my attempts to convince him that people don’t make him angry, I realized that it took me many years to learn that lesson myself.

The Blame Game

For much of my life, I’ve battled my own out-of-control feelings. Depression has held me hostage many times in the dark cell of despair and sorrow. And for so long, I blamed my circumstances and other people for those feelings. “If only my parents wouldn’t fight so much, I wouldn’t be so upset.” “If only my husband didn’t work so much, I wouldn’t be so stressed out.” “If only my kids would sleep, I wouldn’t be so irritable.” “If only my life would work out the way I want, then I’d feel better.”

I can understand my son’s heart and his attempts to blame others for his sin. I do the same thing. I live my life for me and me alone. I want what I want when I want it. I expect others to respond according to my desires. The sin in my heart seeks my best interest and responds in anger, frustration, worry, stress, and despair when things don’t work out the way I want.

The Gospel is the Key

The classic allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress, describes a scene where Christian, the main character, was held captive in Doubting Castle by the Giant called Despair. Christian had the key of Promise tucked in his shirt and had forgotten about it. But once he remembered that he had it, he used it to open the doors of his prison and was freed to continue on his journey to the Celestial City.

The same is true for me. While I wait with growing impatience for someone else to free me from my emotional prison, the truth is, I already have the key to get out. The good news of Jesus crucified and raised for me is the key that frees me from every cell that could ever hold me captive. The gospel tells me that Jesus came to save me from my enslavement and imprisonment to sin. He entered into the mess of my life, becoming sin for me and taking the punishment I deserved. Through faith in his redemptive work for me, I have been set free. He’s given me his Spirit to convict me, draw me to repentance, and transform me from the inside out.

The Real Change We Need

The journey to holiness is a slow one — it’s more of a marathon than a race. God doesn’t reveal to us all our sins at once. Instead, he peels back a layer at a time. My son is only five and has a long way to go. His problem with anger is a heart issue that only the gospel and the power of the Spirit can cure.

As much as I’d like to rush the process, I know God has a story for my son that he has to live out. While I continue to correct and instruct him in obedience, I know that the real change he needs can only come from the Spirit who transforms out hearts. So I walk beside him in the journey, pointing him to the cross and the freedom from sin that Jesus purchased for him there. I share the gospel with him every chance I get. Each day, I pray in humble reliance upon God and his work in my son’s heart, asking him to show my son his sin of anger and his desperate need for a Savior.

Because as I’ve learned from my own journey, the gospel is the only cure for a sinful heart.

HELP FOR MEN TO LEAD THEIR HOME: “A NEGLECTED GRACE”

This appears to be a book to help address one of the most common questions fathers ask who want to spiritually lead their families. Here is a review by Pastor Kevin DeYoung:

I’m excited to tell you about Jason Helopoulos’ first book–A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home. It’s currently on sale at WTS Books for five dollars. For the cost of a Hot N’ Ready you can receive needed encouragement for a neglected grace.

Right near the top of the list of things I really want to do, but struggle to do well, would be family worship. I know it’s important, but seem to fail as much as I succeed. Family worship will burst on the scene for five days, only to disappear for four. The kids will enthusiastically participate one night and barely sit still the next. Family worship is something my wife and I have done with our kids for years and something we’ve struggled with just as long. It’s hard to be consistent, hard to be creative, hard to make the time, hard to make the kids pay attention, hard to push through seeming tedium to the point of supernatural triumph.

Which is why I love this book.

I love the title: A Neglected Grace. Instead of hammering us with the heavy hand of ought, Jason holds out family worship as an example of divine kindness. Yes, we need motivation for the discipline of family worship, but the best, longest-lasting motivation comes not by feeling terrible for what we could be doing better, but by believing what good God has in store for us. The message of the book isn’t “Pray with your family or else!” but “Think of how sweet this will be.”

I love the practicality of this book. Jason has reached back into the history of the church without sacrificing relevance for our own day. His reflections are timeless, and his counsel is timely. He doesn’t just tell us what to do. He shows us how to do it. Jason gives us questions to ask, elements to try, books to read, hymnals to consult, and real life stories from which to learn. I expect everyone who reads this book will walk away with two great conclusions: “I want to grow in family worship,” and “I have some great next steps to take in that direction.”

Finally, and on a subject like this, maybe most importantly: I love the good friend of mine who wrote this book. In a day where we have hundreds of “friends” on Facebook and introduce every acquaintance as “My good friend so and so,” I count it a privilege to have Jason as a real, flesh and blood, stick by you no matter what, friend. He’s a good pastor, a good husband, and a good father. He’d be the first to tell you he’s not perfect—not with family worship or anything else. But that doesn’t mean he’s not a example to follow. This is one pastor who practices what he preaches. I know firsthand that he writes as one who takes seriously all the challenges and all the opportunities fleshed out in this excellent book. The “neglected grace” of family worship is not neglected in his home.

And that’s a man I can respect, with a book I need.

HT: – Kevin DeYoung – http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung


Why God Made Toads and Deuteronomy 6

This is a wonderful example of Deuteronomy 6:5-9 from Pastor Ray Ortlund and gospel-centered parenting (or grandparenting): You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”Toad Watching 

This is my grandson.  He is lost in thought, contemplating a toad.  All else has faded away, for a toad is at hand.  And, surely, this is why God made toads.  For little boys to meditate upon.  At this moment in my grandson’s existence, he has no thought but concentration, no feeling but fascination.  This is one of the ways God cares for little boys, drawing them into the experience of curiosity and even wonder.  Like training wheels on the bicycle that one day will become the Maserati.

What is a toad?  I think of it as a frog – already an absurd creature – but with more camo and warts.  And it prefers to walk on land.  So that little boys can see one in the back yard.  And grow up to be men in Christ with hearts alerted to the out-there-ness reality of things infinitely greater than toads, worthy of endless wonder.  So thank you, Father, for the toads of this world.  For this toad.  For this boy.  For this moment.  For all that it means for the future, including the future of the whole world.

Is there, built into the total creation, an intrinsic necessity for toads?  If they were all to disappear, would the universe be diminished?  My hunch is, no.  But is there, built into the total creation, an intrinsic necessity for little boys?  If they were all to disappear, would the universe be diminished?  Yes.  Little boys can grow up to be mighty men of Christ, to rule majestically over all things under their King and Brother (Psalm 8).

It all starts so humbly, so delightfully, with a toad in the back yard.

HT: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/rayortlund/2013/06/05/why-did-god-make-toads/