Category Archives: GRACE

Will They Ever Change? A Story of Parenting with the Gospel

What do you do when your child seems to be addicted to bad behavior?  Being back at school I am reminded of the time when I was principal and there was a community of kids that wore a path out from their classroom to my office for behavior issues. My gut reaction and training was to use behavior modification on them and throw some Scripture in it to make it spiritual. The result at times was teaching them that God is pleased with them when they conform and displeased when they break school rules, which many had little correlation to the Scriptures. Though I sometimes now get involved with student issues, my approach has drastically changed. Yes, I still use the Scripture and still give consequences when it is my call, but now the strategy is to address the heart which only can be changed by the power of God.

One of my top books to recommend to parents is “Give Them Grace” by Elyse Fitzpatrick. Here is a real life where the rubber meets the road story from a parent dealing with a stubborn heart and learning how grace works with the tough ones.


I had reached the point of exhaustion that every parent of a disobedient child eventually reaches.  I was utterly exasperated from having to explain to my 5-year old son for the hundredth time why it’s not okay to smack, hit, scratch, or spit on other children.  But day after day, my wife would discover in his backpack another red-inked note from his teacher revealing the sin of the day.  And day after day, I would recite the same speech to my little boy with the same set of warnings only to be further disillusioned by another teacher’s note.

Around that time, my wife and I started reading a book titled Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick.  The truth Fitzpatrick communicates through scripture forever changed the way we parent our children.  It’s a ridiculously simple concept and should have been obvious to a dad like me who grew up in the church.  Here’s the gist of the book:

Raise your children to know and love the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

It’s that simple.  Fitzpatrick encourages parents to be strategic with their kids in generating daily encounters with the message and implications of the gospel.  As the frustrated parent of an unruly little boy, I was looking for clever techniques to get my kid to behave better.  Yet Fitzpatrick begs her readers to take the long term approach and focus their efforts on teaching children to depend on God’s grace rather than a parent’s approval.

To even the most bible-based parents, the truth of the gospel seems about as useful as a plastic hammer when trying to chisel your child from a statue of sinful rebellion to a model of loving obedience.  It wasn’t until my son uttered a few tender words one night that this gospel-centered approach began to take shape in our home.

Redrawing the Battle Lines

One evening, I was berating my boy yet again for another behavior blowup.  Unwilling to show the least bit of clemency, I furiously recited a list of consequences that he would bear as a result of that day’s transgressions.  Then through exasperated and tear-filled eyes, my little boy looked up to me and said “Dad, I can’t stop.  I want to stop but I can’t.”

My heart sunk as the sincere sadness in my boy’s voice reminded me of me.  My boy was telling his dad what I had prayed a thousand times before to God.  I want to stop sinning but I can’t.

That evening, my parenting tone forever changed.  My loud boisterous threats gave way to a restrained and determined demeanor.  I was no longer trying to convince my son to behave better, I was now determined to show him his need for Jesus.  While it takes many people a lifetime to understand their need for grace, my boy had discovered his corruption at an early age.  For this little 5-year old, Total Depravity was not just some theological topic to ponder, it was a quiet war that he had been waging in his mind.

From that point on, each time he came home with a teacher’s note I would sit with him to pray and confess sins.  Granted, I still delivered a similar set of consequences which occasionally included a spanking but it never ended with that.  We’d talk about our desperate need for Jesus to change us from the inside out and ask for His supernatural power over temptation.  The battle lines in our home were completely redrawn.  No longer was it Parent versus Child.  It was God versus Sin, and we were co-warriors in this battle.

Eventually my son’s behavior improved.  It’s likely that he would have eventually just matured out of that phase regardless of our parenting style or he would have found more socially-acceptable ways to harbor sin.  Yet without those red-inked teacher’s notes declaring my boy to be a rebel, my son might only understand the cross of Christ as an historical fact to be learned and not a soul-sustaining truth to be treasured.

I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing… Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! – Romans 7:18-19,24-25 (ESV)



I post this article as an encouragement for my wife and daughter and think there might be a few others out there who need these gospel truths to be reminded of. I watch the two closest women in my life manage a lot of things and then at times fall into the “overwhelmed” mode. My wife keeping up with our farmstead and the demands and requests of others on her.  My daughter keeping up with 6 boys who are either highly energetic or when tired tend to create as much or even more chaos. Trust this will help them and a few of you take a deep breath of truth.

For men reading this; it can serve as a source of washing your wife with the water of the Word of God.

This article is by Jen Thorn at

I had a pretty good weekend. We finally took the kids apple picking, had some good family time, baked an apple crips and a bunch of zucchini and banana bread, taught the older kids how to play the game of Life and enjoyed a wonderful time of worship and fellowship at church.

All that fun was forgotten as soon as I looked at my to-do list for the coming week and bad things started to happen. The fact that I haven’t slept well these last few days plus the fact that my list is longer than Rapunzel’s hair made me feel super overwhelmed, which in turn made me snap at my kids, and brought on the dreaded feelings of weepiness.  How in the world am I going to keep up with deadlines, clean up a home that has TOTALLY exploded over the weekend, homeschool and deal with all the other little things that will fill my day?

So here are a few things I am meditating on to help me get a right perspective and not only get my work done by have a joy filled week.

1. God has my day planned

God’s plan for my day may look so very different from what I think my day should look like. He may throw in some unexpected phones calls or visitors. There may be some extra messes. Instead of having a spiritual little temper tantrum,  I need to remember that, come what may, it is the day The Lord has made. He is all wise and perfectly good and so everything he puts in my day is wise and perfectly good!

2. God doesn’t care what my kitchen looks like

My real problem here is pride. I would be mortified if someone came over when my home looks like clothes, toys, school materials, ect have been thrown around like confetti. What would they think? Would they judge me? Would they assume the best, that I have been busy raising children, and doing what I can, or would they assume the worst–that I am lazy, undisciplined, and care little for the responsibilities God has given me?

But, you know what, I answer to God, not man. I need to say this over and over again because I forget!   God is more interested in my heart than in my dishes, floors, or closets. I can’t blow off my responsibilities, but my God does not love me less, and sigh in disgust when my sink is disgusting.

3. God can be found in the chaos

God is found everywhere.  I can pray and reflect on him and his word as I am going about my busy day. Even if my scheduled times of quiet meditation and Bible reading are taken from me, I can hide his word in my heart, and walk with him while reminding the young ones that the bathroom sink is not a garbage can, or while starting laundry load #132.

4. God will give me strength to finish well

I like to think of myself as a strong woman, but I am keenly aware of the weight of what God has called me to do and I often, rightly, see just how weak I really am. But God has not left me alone. He is with me, to strengthen me to do the very work he has prepared before hand that I should walk in them. As I do my work in faith I will find strength.

5. Christ is what I need to set my eyes on

“When my heart is overwhelmed—lead me to the Rock that is higher than I!” Psalm 61:2

Christ is the only solid thing in my life. He is my rock that never moves. Everything else is like sand, giving way at a moments notice, but not Jesus. He is steadfast and completely trustworthy. When my days are wild, when my brain feels like it is going to explode from all the things I need to remember, I need to think on this:

“Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me.” Psalm 40:17

What a beautiful and calming thought. Jesus thinks about me! If he cares for the flowers and the sparrows than he certainly cares about my crazy days and my overwhelmed heart.

This week will be busy. Crazy. But it is God’s week, and I am thankful he has planned it and is with me throughout it. I just need to remember this.


I was reading an essay by D.A. Carson on the gospel and reminded of these great truths that help gain and retain a grasp of the gospel’s meaning. First is to know what the gospel addresses in my life:

  1. Because I am guilty of sin, the gospel addresses how to clear my guilt
  2. Because I am alienated from God, the gospel addresses how I can be reconciled to God
  3. Because I stand under the judicial wrath of God, the gospel addresses how that wrath is propitiated
  4. Because I am under the curse of sin, the gospel addresses how it can be lifted and I can be transformed
  5. Because I am morally weak and helpless yet still guilty for my sin, the gospel addresses how I can be empowered and strengthened
  6. Because I am dead in my sins, the gospel addressed how I can be made alive
  7. Because My heart is an idol factory that is self-focused and de-gods God, the gospel restores my vision and life to God’s rightful glory

In other words, the gospel addresses the plight of my life and the solutions. So …

  1. The gospel not only shows me forgiveness but also the hope of resurrection
  2. The gospel of the cross not only shows me justification but also the power to transform me
  3. The gospel not only draws faith from me but commands my obedience in line with its truth
  4. The gospel not only recalls to me the unique suffering of Christ but calls for me to participate in his suffering

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.”  Romans 1:16


Paul Tripp states, “My existence has been taken over and altered by powerful and unstoppable grace. No matter how great my sin, no matter how foolish I am, and no matter how messy my track record, grace will ultimately win. God’s kingdom will come. His will will be done.” 

The following is an article by Tullian Tchividjian, Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida titled


As I’ve said before, God speaks two words to the world. People have called them many things: Law and Gospel, Judgment and Love, Critique and Grace, and so on. In essence, though, it’s pretty simple: first, God gives us bad news (about us), and then, God gives us Good News (about Jesus).

This is perhaps most clearly seen in another incredibly well-known (and incredibly misunderstood) passage of Scripture: Jesus’ interaction with the woman caught in the act of adultery.

The scribes and Pharisees catch a woman in the act of adultery, and drag her before Jesus. Can you imagine a woman who ever felt more shame than this one? Literally caught in the act of adultery? Unfathomable. They tell Jesus of her infraction, and remind him that the law of Moses says such women should be stoned. Then they issue a challenge: “What do you say?” They’re trying to trick Jesus into admitting what they suspect: that he’s “soft” on the Law.

Boy, were they wrong.Woman caught

Confronted by this test, Jesus bends down and writes in the sand with his finger. Now, we aren’t told what he writes, but I think it’s instructive to look at the only other instances in the Bible where God writes with his finger. The first is obvious: The inscription of the 10 Commandments on the stone tablets. The second, though, is less well-known.

In Daniel 5, King Belshazzar is having a huge party, at which “they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone” (v. 4). Suddenly, a hand appears and begins writing on the wall. When Daniel is called in to translate the writing, this is what it is revealed to say: “Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” There can be no doubt that these are three words of judgment—i.e. Law. “You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.” Has a more chilling word of judgment ever been uttered?

So the two other times God wrote with his finger, he wrote law. I don’t think, therefore, it’s a stretch to think that when Jesus writes in the sand with his finger, he’s writing law. I like to think that perhaps Jesus wrote, “Anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). Certainly, whatever he wrote, the function of his writing is clear: it serves to reveal the sin of those gathered.

Far from being “soft” on the Law, Jesus shows just how high the bar of the law is. How do we know? Because the scribes and Pharisees respond the same way that all of us respond when we are confronted with depth of God’s inflexible demands—they scattered. Beginning with the oldest ones, they all, like the rich young ruler, walked away defeated.

When Jesus and the woman are left alone, and she acknowledges that no one remains to condemn her, Jesus speaks his final word to her: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11). This is where the story gets misunderstood.

“Aha!” we cry. “See! Jesus tells her to shape up! He leaves her with an exhortation!” But look at the order of Jesus’ words: First, he tells the woman that he does not condemn her. Only then does he instruct her to sin no more. This is enormous. He does not make his love conditional on her behavior. He does not say, “Go, sin no more, and check back with me in six months. If you’ve been good, I won’t condemn you.”

No. Our Savior does so much better than that.

Jesus creates new life in the woman by loving her unconditionally, with no-strings-attached. By forgiving her profound shame, he impacts her profoundly. By refusing to condemn her, he sets her free to do what she has no doubt already pledged to do on her own: leave her old life behind.

Like the adulterous woman, we are all caught in the act—discovered in a shameful breach of God’s law. Though no one on earth can throw the first stone, God can. And he did. The wonder of all wonders is that the rock of condemnation that we justly deserved was hurled by the Father onto the Son. The law-maker became the law-keeper and died for us, the law-breakers. “In my place condemned He stood; and sealed my pardon with His blood. Hallelujah, what a Savior.”

So now we can sing:

“Free from the law—oh, happy condition! Jesus hath bled, and there is remission; Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall, Christ hath redeemed us once and for all. Once for all, oh, sinner receive it; once for all, oh doubter believe it; Cling to the cross, the burden will fall, Christ hath redeemed us once for all.”

There on the cross your burden bearing, Thorns on His brow your Savior is wearing; Never again your sin need appall, You have been pardoned once for all. Now we are free—there’s no condemnation; Jesus provides a perfect salvation: ‘Come unto Me,’ oh, hear His sweet call, Come, and He saves us once for all.”