Friday, October 31, 2008
I was a junior in high school and attending our church youth group. A senior was sharing with us a devotional that was intended to lead the youth group toward greater acceptance and tolerance of each other. However, in the height of irony, during her devotional, she consistently stressed the wrong syllable of the word “ridicule” and said, instead, the word “re-DIC-ule.” The word sounded just like the word “re-pickle” along with its various forms of “re-pickled” and “re-pickling.”
To give you a flavor, a sample sentence went something like this: “We all have to stop re-DIC-uling each other and admit that we don’t like it when we’re re-DIC-uled, either.”
The first 3 or 4 times, the crowd of about 100 teens went from confused to gracious. At first, we didn’t know what she was saying. Then, we figured she was nervous and was just misreading. However, somewhere around the 15th mention of “re-DIC-ule,” youthful silliness got the best of us. Giggling turned to crying and several pulled stomach muscles from holding in the hilarity.
The content of this poor girl’s devotional was excellent, I’m sure. However, in the oft repeated singular mistake of her presentation, the content was lost and a memory created.
I do wonder, how much of our good content in parenting is missed because we stress the wrong syl-LAB-le. We can be prone to stress obedience, cooperation, service, even humility. Yet, all the while, missing grace.
Without grace, obedience can become legalism, cooperation can become coercion, service becomes servitude and humility can become subservience. Without grace, all of our intentions of good and godliness can be misinterpreted or missed altogether.
When we stress the wrong syl-LAB-le by missing grace, we present our children with a skewed perspective on who God is. They may fail to see their acceptance as solely based on the grace of God and rather see it as based on their responses to God.
Grace is love and acceptance that happens when justice is deserved. Grace is the choice of love in the face of wrong doing. Grace is the expression of a compassionate heart. Grace is the great distinguisher of our faith and the great characteristic of our God. It ought to find its way into our homes through our parenting and it ought to be the one trait that our children see when they look back on their experience in our homes.
So, if you are tempted to stress dis-cip-LINE, or o-be-DI-ance, or even RE-spect, consider changing your stressed syl-LAB-le to grace. Not only will it lead to a better, happier home, but it only has one syllable, so it’s very tough to mispronounce.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
My dear father walked with me the first six miles of the way. His counsels and tears and heavenly conversation on that parting journey are fresh in my heart as if it had been but yesterday; and tears are on my cheeks as freely now as then, whenever memory steals me away to the scene. For the last half mile or so we walked on together in almost unbroken silence - my father, as was often his custom, carrying hat in hand, while his long flowing yellow hair (then yellow, but in later years white as snow) streamed like a girl's down his shoulders. His lips kept moving in silent prayers for me; and his tears fell fast when our eyes met each other in looks for which all speech was vain! We halted on reaching the appointed parting place; he grasped my hand firmly for a minute in silence, and then solemnly and affectionately said: "God bless you, my son! Your father's God prosper you, and keep you from all evil!"
Unable to say more, his lips kept moving in silent prayer; in tears we embraced, and parted. I ran off as fast as I could; and, when about to turn a corner in the road where he would lose sight of me, I looked back and saw him still standing with head uncovered where I had left him - gazing after me. Waving my hat in adieu, I rounded the corner and out of sight in instant. But my heart was too full and sore to carry me further, so I darted into the side of the road and wept for time. Then, rising up cautiously, I climbed the dike to see if he yet stood where I had left him; and just at that moment I caught a glimpse of him climbing the dike and looking out for me! He did not see me, and after he gazed eagerly in my direction for a while he got down, set his face toward home, and began to return - his head still uncovered, and his heart, I felt sure, still rising in prayers for me. I watched through blinding tears, till his form faded from my gaze; and then, hastening on my way, vowed deeply and oft, by the help of God, to live and act so as never to grieve or dishonor such a father and mother as he had given me.
This excerpt is taken from Paton’s autobiography, John G. Paton, D.D., Missionary to the New Hebrides. An Autobiography.
Thanks to Tim Challies for this post
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
On behalf of the Family Life team of pastors, thank you for coming back as often as you do to continue to learn and grow. Thank you to those who have contributed posts and to those who have submitted comments.
We hope you’ve found this to be a helpful resource throughout our first year and we are committed to walking alongside you as we all grow in the knowledge and grace of Christ.
To God be the glory!
We’ve all made this promise to our spouse when we were married, and some of us have been tested with pretty bad times. Yet, there is something encouraging to our own marriages when we see another couple making hard choices in their stance for faithfulness and their reliance upon God. Floyd and Diana Green qualify.
They were married for 24 years and on a romantic trip together, riding bikes in the California sun. Their marriage was characterized by closeness and passion, a real harmonic relationship. Suddenly, as they shared memories and gratitude to God for their marriage, a car veered out of control, glanced Diana’s bike and plowed right into Floyd.
Once Diana realized what had happened, she ran up to Floyd only to find him gravely injured. Once the paramedics were called, Diana prayed a prayer of remarkable faith:
“God, I don’t have any right to demand anything of you. WE have had the happiest and the most blessed life and marriage of anyone I know. You don’t owe us anything. If it is our turn to be called to suffer, give me the grace to be able to do it in ways that exalt you. Whatever you have for us, I will receive.”
She went on to pray for Floyd to be healed. Several hours later, Diana found out that Floyd would live, but had certainly suffered brain damage. He was unconscious as he lay in his hospital bed when Diana did what only faith could make a person do. Before God and beside her wounded husband, Diana renewed her vows and concluded with this:
“Whatever man wakes up from this, he will be my husband, and I will love him all the days of my life.”
Well, Floyd woke up remarkably well, but remarkably different. In the accident, he lost his sense of smell and taste, which the Green’s found humorous. However, he also lost his drive and confidence. He lost his emotional strength and his desire to communicate on a deep and intimate level. Floyd woke up from his trauma, but he woke up a different man. And Diana was married to a different person.
It is 13 years later now, and Floyd and Diana are still married. They teach marriage and parenting seminars and they share the story of God’s grace before the accident, and His grace after the accident. As author Dave Boehi states, “Their first marriage was founded on their trust in the Lord, and no matter how different their relationship was now, their faith had not wavered.”
God is powerful to exalt His name through His power on His behalf. It is His joy to do this in marriage. It is His joy to do this in your marriage…just like He did in the Green’s marriage. God delights to see His children rely upon Him in faith…through good times and bad.
All quotes are taken from I Still Do: Stories of Lifelong Love and Marriage by David Boehi, pages 61-69.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
The battle I’m talking about is one we’re all familiar with—the battle for a daily solid devotional time where we commune with God Himself. That’s not to be confused with propping yourself up in bed, attempting to focus your one opened eye on a random page of Scripture, while a fog of sleepy confusion settles heavily upon you.
The Bible warns us that when we want to do good, evil is right there with us. I am never more certain of that than when beginning my devotional times early in the morning. Whether “evil” is sleepiness, condemnation, or distraction, it doesn’t take too many days of the Christian life to realize we need weapons.
And in this we are fortunate because God has provided us with a whole arsenal of weapons for this battle including strong coffee, worship music, walks outside, Bible reading plans, accountability phone calls, and all kinds of great stuff.
The weapon I want to recommend today is praying through the Psalms or a great prayer book like The Valley of Vision (available in the Book Shoppe.) When I am in my early zombie-like state, feeling as flat and uninspired as ever, I can struggle to focus my mind on the truths of God and end up wasting a lot of time. That’s when praying through the Psalms is so helpful. I believe I got the idea from Donald Whitney, but the premise is simple. Use the inspired words of Scripture to fuel your own prayers. Basically, you read a line, then begin to personalize it. Here’s an example from the very familiar Psalm 23:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
Yes Lord, you’ve been such a kind shepherd, leading me so faithfully. And you’ve provided exactly what I’ve needed. Please lead me today as I’ve got such a full schedule. Help me see what’s important to you.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
Thank you for permanently restoring my soul at the cross and for allowing me to enter your presence! But help my distracted soul to be close to you today …
You get the idea. And the injection of deep intelligent thought into my wandering mind seems to push me quickly into a deeper fellowship with God. The Puritan prayers in The Valley of Vision work much the same way, and have fought bravely against my morning time sloth.
So arm yourself with weapons, and if you’re foggy like me in the mornings, allow these priceless prayers to pull you into the light.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
Short in my tenure here at Covenant Fellowship Church, I see so many things going for the families in our church…so many wonderful and desirable characteristics. And we are thankful to be a part of it. I wonder, though, if you are at all like me. At times, the calling and duties of parenting can rob me of a great truth of parenting…joy in the gift of my children.
What a glorious reminder we’re given in Psalm 127:3:
Behold, children are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.
At times, I can fall victim to the misconception that children are projects. There always seems to be sin present in some form and it seems it’s my job to rid them of it…all the while failing to actually enjoy them. I can find myself not enjoying their childishness… their silliness…their harmless fun.
At times like this, people like me need to be reminded that the Psalm does NOT read, “Children are a project from the Lord.” Nor does it read: “Children are an assignment from the Lord.” No, when the Psalmist had a chance to characterize the place of children in the life of a parent, he chose the words “gift” and “reward.”
Of special temptation in my life is the last hour or so of the day. With the bedtime business that must occur, and the adult duties that await once the children are in bed, I slip so easily into the “get ‘er done” mentality. Yet, this is a time that God has designed for the childishness of my children to abound. In those moments, I can go beyond seeing my children as projects or assignments and view them as outright obstacles. (Boy, that stings!)
Our children are gifts, wonderful expressions of a loving God who has characterized His kingdom as being filled with people such as these. He Himself bids them to come to Him. When we are seeing with spiritual eyes, we will do the same.
Here are a few helpful questions we could ask ourselves:
- Do they hear us laugh with them?
- Do we stop what we’re doing to take interest in what interests them?
- Do we stop to listen when they want to talk?
- Are there sins that we see in them that we’re willing to overlook and deal with later?
These questions are not a list of do’s and don’ts. They simply provide a healthy glimpse into the day to day with our children.
I encourage you to take these questions and let your spouse answer them. Hand them to your older children and ask them. Pray that God would give you eyes to see with keen accuracy how you’re doing. Then pray…not primarily that your activity would change, but that your perspective would change. That you would see your children as gifts…as rewards…and thoroughly enjoy them.
The duties and responsibilities of parenting are many. But without the God-ordained perspective captured in Psalm 127, those duties quickly morph into burdens. And there is no joy in burden. We have much going for us in our families at Covenant Fellowship Church. Yet, I wonder…is there one thing you lack?
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Longwood Gardens. Longwood is world renowned for spectacular indoor and outdoor gardens, water fountains and stunning horticultural displays. Fireworks in the summer, Christmas lights in the winter and flowers year round. Admission is a bit pricey but well worth it – consider an annual pass. Important note! Don’t pick the flowers. Plucking a Phalaenopsis is a definite no-no.
Concord Town Center: Have you checked out the new Concord Town Center just a stone’s throw from the church? There are a bunch of good places to shop. There’s a new Cosi’s there, a great place to hang out. I also recommend the Home Depot Garden Center. Not only can you get flowers, shrubs and bulbs but they also guarantee many plants. If they die in a year return them for a refund. Wouldn’t it be great for all those workers to get to know us as faithful customers?
Newlin Grist Mill: A quaint and cozy park and historic grist mill 5 minutes from church. Great place for a picnic after church with scenic ponds, small waterfall and trout fishing during the summer months (fee charged for fishing).
Baldwin’s Book Barn: If you love books but are tired of the chain book store approach, stop by Baldwin’s Book Barn. Over 300,000 books nestled in a historic barn on four floors with nooks and crannies to explore. They don’t have a café but there is a picnic table outside by the parking lot.
Speaking of book stores. Looking for Christian books and music? Look no further than the Covenant Fellowship Book Shoppe. Open before and after Sunday services with great customer service.
Have small children? Looking for a great playground? Be sure to stop by Castle Park, right next to the Rachel Kohl Community Library in Glen Mills. The playground has a massive wooden castle structure that children are attracted to like coffee drinkers to Starbucks. A word of caution however. When your 4-year-old yells out, “Daddy, come get me!” bring your GPS. The castle has twists, turns, little steps, and passages some only a few feet wide. Be prepared to duck, squat and slither your way through mazes and catwalks. Have fun!
Speaking of coffee. If you can’t start your day without a cup of ground beans you have choices in the area. If you like comparing the price of coffee to a gallon of gas then stop by Starbucks, they are all over the region. For less frills and cost, there is Wawa . . . yes “Wawa.” If you are not from the area don’t let the name scare you off. Wawa is a convenience store chain throughout the tri-state area. They sell over 165 million cups of coffee a year. A Wawa trip tip: In the morning, Wawa looks like Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport but instead of planes there are cars coming in and out of the parking lot from every direction. Proceed with caution, the coffee is hot!
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Posture matters in marriage, too. Some postures are worth pursuing while others are worth avoiding. So, let’s just take a look at a few that could help direct conversation between you and your spouse.
Face to Face: When we’re face to face, we’re focused on each other. In this posture, we communicate, we experience intimacy, and we work on our marriage. In this posture, we declare our marriage to be the singular most important human relationship we have and we engage.
When we’re face to face, the world around us fades. Regardless of our schedule or preference, if we do not experience this posture often, trouble is not far off. With the world warring against the very fabric of marriage, in addition to our own busyness chipping away at it from the inside, face to face is a must.
Shoulder to Shoulder: As we stand shoulder to shoulder, we labor for the gospel. We work to reach the lost, care for our neighbors and raise our children. We engage the world around us as we stand side by side and walk never forgetting that we walk together.
When we’re shoulder to shoulder, there is a strength about us. When we serve together we experience the same trials of faith and the same experiences of God’s providence. We experience the same obstacles, the same victories, the same needs for prayer. In all of this, we grow together in our experience of God.
The Challenge – Balance: If we are exclusively postured face to face, a marriage becomes self-focused. It becomes blinded to the world around it. The place of family and marriage becomes inordinately elevated to the exclusion of all else. However, if a marriage is exclusively shoulder to shoulder, much work will be done outside the home with growing atrophy within the home. The marriage relationship becomes centered on task rather than being. The love that is necessary for fruitful labor dies on the vine.
The couple that is tempted to remain face to face must frequently turn shoulder to shoulder, joining together in serving others and reaching out to others. The couple that is tempted to remain shoulder to shoulder must frequently turn face to face for constructive and intentional conversation and personal times of intimacy.
The Danger: If either of the above postures are neglected, we can ultimately grow to a back to back posture. In this posture, we are either indifferently living separate lives or intentionally choosing separation rather than restoration.
By the time we end up back to back, much of our motivation for restoration is lost and we arrive at a place of cold hopelessness.
- Which posture is your marriage most tempted toward? Do you tend to linger face to face? …shoulder to shoulder? …back to back?
- What other couple can be brought into your lives to help stretch you to other postures?
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
I know however, as wives, most of us really do want our husbands to lead. We may even get discouraged when they're not leading. We like it when they plan our date nights, lead family devotions, plan vacations, and initiate home projects. I have loved the times that Jeff surprised me by taking me away for an anniversary or initiated times to review our family schedule. Yet, as much as we want them to lead, how often do we find ourselves fighting against how they are leading. We may even wonder why they're not leading more; unaware that we are part of the reason it is it difficult for them.
So how do we fight against this tendency?
One way is to get behind them in the areas where they are leading. Here are a few recent examples. Jeff desires to lead our family in devotions after dinner. I can support his leadership by creating meals that bring the family together, by being the most enthusiastic participant, and by encouraging him that what he is doing is valuable as he fights against the pressing demands of the evening.
Another area where Jeff desires to lead us as a couple is in praying together at night before we go to sleep. Even though it is his desire for this to happen, there are times where he inadvertently forgets. He has asked me to remind him when this happens. So instead of "forgetting" with him, I can encourage him by reminding him. And instead of giving into the temptation of complaining about how tired I am, I can smile and say, "Good idea!"
Jeff also leads us in how much media we allow into our home. Knowing that he wants to limit the amount of TV and videos that our kids watch, I can support him when he's not home by not giving into the pressure from my kids to turn on the TV.
So where is your husband leading you and your family? Encourage his initiatives, even when you would like them to be expressed in different ways. Tune in to how you respond to his ideas. And be your husband's biggest cheerleader. May we be wives who are a joy to lead!
Monday, October 20, 2008
This is one of the all time classic C. S. Lewis quotes which can give you vision if you feel you are in the demolition zone of life.
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right, and stopping the leaks in the roof, and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably, and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage; but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 172.
This was posted at firstimportance.com
Friday, October 17, 2008
Personally, when I lose sight of God in some of my lesser fatherly moments, I quickly fall into fear for my children. Will they turn out okay? Am I ruining them? Will they despise me when they’re older? By God’s grace, these moments are not daily, but they occur. And every time they do, it’s because I’ve lost sight of God.
It is God who calls us. It is God who equips and empowers us. It is God who will save our children, not us. It is God…it is God. He compassionately calls out to every parent, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)
And yet, comfort in the Savior’s invitation shouldn’t be the end of our vision. At least for me, I find that when I’m discouraged at the lack of fruit in my children (or more accurately, in my parenting) I have to go back to Christ day after day to trade in my heavy yoke for His light one. Is there a greater truth, a deeper comfort, available for the weary and heavy laden parent? Yes. Consider Psalm 89:11-13:
The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it, you have founded them. The north and the south, you have created them; Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name. You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand, high your right hand.
God owns and possesses all things. He founded them and created them. It is His arm that is mighty and His hand that is strong. The Psalms are a wonderful place for us to read of the character of God and apply it to our lives…where we’re living right now. So, if you’ll allow me just a little latitude for application, let’s look at this verse applied to parenting?
Our sons are yours; our daughters also are yours; our homes and all that is in them, you have founded them…You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand, high your right hand.
When my children’s success depends upon my parenting, then my parenting has lost sight of God’s sovereign control. When I am discouraged and tired, I’ve lost sight of God’s might and God’s strength.
So, let me ask you a few questions that I also ask myself:
- Where is God’s strength and might when I consider my weariness in parenting?
- If God loves and possesses my children, why is it that I worry and am fearful?
- What heavy yoke must I lay down to take up the light yoke of God’s sovereignty?
So, what is the hope for the weary? It is God. It is God. It is God. His power. His might. His compassion. His long-suffering. His love. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills…that includes your home…and your children.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
One of the things that struck me in the interview was how he works to try to stay connected to his local church during the season.
TC: How do you stay connected to your local church during the baseball season? What role does your home church play in your life during the season?
BZ: We listen to our home church pastor Byron Yawn’s sermons through podcast. I am part of a men’s Theology class at church as well, and one of the men sends me an mp3 of the study that week. We keep up with prayer requests and activities through massive church emails. Pastor Byron calls every so often to check on us to see how we are doing. We also try to do a mass update to everyone every so often to let everyone know how we are doing and how to pray. Prayer is the main role the local church plays in our lives during the season. Prayer is powerful and much needed as it seems there are few ballplayers that have a strong connection to a local church back home that is praying for them.
The Point: Few men have more challenging schedules than baseball players in season. Let’s follow Ben’s example of creative effort to stay connected to his church regardless of his schedule.
Zobrist is also committed to study, including Richard Baxter’s "The Saint’s Everlasting Rest" and A. W. Pink’s "The Attributes of God", among the books he has read.
If you want to read the whole article, go here
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
The Culley’s are celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary this month!
Andy and Jen Culley – Our Story
Andy and I met here at church when we were young singles. Andy was just trying to get started in his business and Jen had just graduated from high school the year before. We were a Youth Camp Romance of sorts. We both decided independently to be volunteer counselors at Youth Camp ‘96. We happened upon each other at a counselors training meeting that Marty had at his house the week before camp. Even though we had both been in the church for several years, for some reason we had never even seen each other before!
So, after that brief interaction at Marty’s, we then headed to Youth Camp. At Youth Camp we were playing water Polo in the spring-fed lake, when Jen’s team was doing so well that they remained in the water for longer than expected. Jen wound up getting hypothermia and needed some assistance out of the pool and to a car. Andy gallantly came over with concern and gave her his sweatshirt (I, Jen, was smitten at that point). The nurses and moms then got Jen to a car and drove her to the showers where they attempted to warm her up. After a few hours Jen was feeling normal and was able to find Andy and thank him for his chivalrous deed.
After camp we started to hang out together in groups and got to know each other better in the coming months. Then, in early February 1997, Andy asked Jen to court him. We courted for over a year and have many wonderful memories of that season of our lives. We got engaged on April 11, 1998. Andy had taken Jen to a beautiful meadow on the Brandywine River, where they had a picnic together, and where he popped the Question. After he proposed, Andy took Jen back to the car and gave her a cell phone (he had borrowed it, that was back in the day when cell phones were a novelty) so I could call my family.
Andy had made sure Jen had a nice outfit because he had arranged a nice dinner to celebrate our engagement that evening. One creative idea Jen remembers is that Andy had bridal magazines spread out in the car so as soon as we got engaged Jen could start planning and dreaming. We had a five month engagement, and were married on October 3, 1998. So, this year we will be married for 10 years and parents of three great little children. It could not be better!!!
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
So, gleaning from Gina, I began to place a few books around my house—one on my desk in the kitchen, one in each powder room, one on my nightstand next to my bed, and two near my big easy chair where I do my morning devotions. It’s been great! I may only get 5 to 10 minutes at a time when I eat lunch or before I go to bed, but I’m actually getting through these books. Sometimes I can get a longer time in if I can’t sleep at night, or if I can choose to not watch that TV show that’s so tempting. Those times help catapult me further. At present, most of my books are related to biblical doctrine (I always try to keep one going about the Gospel), but not always. My husband’s favorite genre is historical non-fiction, specifically World War II era books. So I’ve tried a few, and that’s given us a new topic for communication—one I’ve really enjoyed.
I know 5 books at one time may seem overwhelming, but I haven’t found that to be the case. They often complement each other. I recently looked back over the last 6 months and was so encouraged by the list of books I had read. More importantly, I’ve been blessed by the sound doctrine that I’ve received from these books.
In closing, I’ll make a plug for one book that I’m currently reading that is really helping me as a mom - "Charity and It's Fruits" by Jonathan Edwards. I tried to read it years ago, but the old English seemed too difficult for me. Now, however, I’m getting through it slowly but surely. It’s a wonderful book to consider reading if you found encouragement from Christina Roth’s recent blog entitled Ten Ways to Enjoy Your Little Ones". The practical ideas she gave are simply examples of real fruit that comes from God’s divine love that He pours into us by His Spirit. His love is foundational to all we do –especially as mothers showing love to our children. I’ve felt spurred on in a new way! It’s encouraging to know that God is the One who enables us to do any good work for His glory – even read! I hope this tip is helpful to you!
Monday, October 13, 2008
At the recent Worship God 08 Conference, Ryan Ferguson shared a dramatic rendition of Psalm 145 that captivated the ears and hearts of nearly two thousand people. To get a fresh sense of what the Psalms are meant to do, view this recitation included in Bob Kauflin’s Worship God blog. It will stir your heart to worship!
Friday, October 10, 2008
When reflecting upon parenting in light of 1 Corinthians 13:1-2, author Don Gilchrist said the following:
We may speak wonderful words of truth; but if our voice constantly shows annoyance, impatience, or anger, note how the children perceive our teaching! [a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal] We may dig deeply into the mysteries of God and acquire a detailed knowledge of His Word. We may even appear as spiritual giants. But if we don’t love our children, note what we amount to! [nothing]
When we speak to our children, we ought to constantly monitor our tone of voice, our expression of face and our motive of heart. When we bring discipline, even the rod, the condition of their heart when we conclude will largely be dependent upon the condition of our heart when addressing them. When we encourage them, if we do it to manipulate them or even lacking sincerity, the right words will fall to the ground…not settle in their hearts.
In fact, the ears of our children listen past our words most of the time…they listen to our tone, to our intentions. Even in their limited perspective, children can detect when we are for them and when we are against them. They are the receptors of the title of this post…the “how” matters, too.
One passage of Scripture I have found very helpful in guiding my heart and my tongue, not to mention my face, when communicating with my children is found in Ephesians 4:29.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
If we can faithfully remember that our words are for building up our children, we will avoid tearing them down. If we can faithfully remember that there is a time that is fitting for our words and a time that is NOT fitting for our words, we will avoid ill-timed correction, reprove or even simply observations. And if we can faithfully remember that the effect of our words to our children ought to be grace, it will keep in check our other, lesser motives.
If the how matters, them we all need to examine how we speak to our children. And then me need to acknowledge that how we talk to them is no accident, it is an overflow. (Matthew 12:34)
We build or we destroy with what overflows out of our hearts and off of our tongues. How we build and what we build matter. If we are willing to call our motives and tone to account, our children will experience the grace of God through us. What a kind God to use parents like us to raise up the next generation. Only by grace.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Dave, your influence on our family has been an undertow of grace. Like a current beneath the surface, it has exerted its pull on the direction of our church, our personal ministry, and our marriage. We know that it flows from Him who loves us; because the net result is that He seems closer and more real. I want to give you three ways you’ve affected us. Like any true fan, I have to mimic you, so all my points begin with the same letter.
Disarming. Dave, you are one of the most disarming people I've ever encountered. You've coaxed us out of hiding since the first sermon we heard you preach over eight years ago. As the proverb so well says, our hearts were like deep waters, but you helped to draw them out (Proverbs 20:5). When we arrived, our arms were folded, our guard was up. We were tight-lipped and rarely admitted our sins. Now, more than eight years later, we're more comfortable, like you, to be ourselves in the presence of God, and before one another. We're even trying to follow your example of laughing at ourselves. You do that better than anyone, period. We've learned from just watching you. Now it’s becoming something of a sport in our family. There's just so much material!
Delegating. Even from the cheap seats, the undertow of your leadership pulls us further into the waters of grace. You have the humility to realize that you can't and don't have to be Andy, Jim or Marty, but you've cultivated them and unleashed their gifts on us. As a result, we're so much more able to listen as we look at our hearts, to share the gospel, and to biblically raise our children. By making yourself less, we have gained so much more. Jared is the most obvious current example. Who is more excited than you that he will carry forward the torch of reformed exposition? Like John the Baptist, you may decrease, while he increases, but the net result is really that Christ increases, and we all gain from that. This reveals true greatness in you, as Jesus himself said of John. Thank you!!
Delighting. We're commanded to delight in God, but we're still sinners, and have to confront that reality. When we do, it’s easy to fall into despair, anxiety, or striving - but not when we follow you as you follow Christ. You seem to rest confidently on Christ's finished work. You rejoice easily. You are a strong proponent of celebration – and not just the conference we used to have. In your joy you live out a key part of our mission statement. You Treasure Christ and His cross, you greatly enjoy your church, you delight in your wife. Yet you've looked squarely at the Enemy Within, you've studied Sin and Temptation, you've even had to deal seriously with the sins of others while at the helm of the sanctuary over the years. All the while your joy seems to increase.
My dear brother and esteemed pastor: We thank God for you and delight in you! And as we turn the page on over twenty years of faithful ministry at Covenant Fellowship, we are eager to see what God has prepared for this next exciting chapter in your life and ministry.
How can we possibly thank God enough for all the happiness you have brought us?" (I Thessalonians 3:9, my own translation)
Tim for all the Ashford’s
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Genesis 1:27 makes an amazing and potentially confusing statement:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
We can all admit that there is something about the union of a man and a woman that uniquely reflects God’s image. Ever wonder what that is? Below are four ways that God’s image is uniquely reflected in marriage.
Men and Women are Created Equal – People are equal in value and in dignity, regardless of gender. One gender is not a better or higher creation than another. The union of co-equal people reflects something unique about the Trinity.
Each member of the Trinity, God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, are equal in value. One is not “more God” than the others. And all three are joined together into one. This is the core of the saying, “the two shall become one.” When people get married, God joins a separate man and a separate woman essentially into one being that functions as one…a reflection of God’s image.
Men and Women Have Different Roles – Yes, they are equal, but that does not mean they are the same. They are valued the same, but not given the same responsibilities. Gender is a poor basis for judging one’s value. Yet, in marriage, gender is one of the main distinctions for different roles. His wisdom in creating man first, then woman, and assigning them roles accordingly reveals an intentionality to God’s purposes.
God the Father has a different function in the Trinity than God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. As equal persons function in unity, but function differently, they reflect the image of God.
A Man’s Role Reflects the Love and Leadership of Christ – Ephesians 5:25-32 plainly lays out before men their job description in marriage: “Love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” A man who truly fulfills his calling as a husband is directly reflecting the image of God in the love, care and protection of Christ over the church.
Throughout the Bible, the love and care of God for his people is a key theme. From the pillar of fire leading them through the desert to the tender promise of Christ, declaring that He’ll never leave nor forsake his church, faithful love and guidance are characteristic of God. This type of care from God to His people speaks volumes of God’s character. And a man has the distinct duty and privilege of reflecting that part of God to the world.
A Woman’s Role Reflects the Serving and Submission of God – There is a term attached to the creation of woman in Genesis 2…it is the term “helper” or “helpmate.” This is how God designates her role in the life of her husband. The wife is to be the helper of the husband.
We may think that this term is secondary or demeaning. Quite the opposite. This term, “helper” is used many times to refer to God Himself. In as much as the man’s role reflects Christ’s relationship to the church, the woman’s role reflects God’s care for His people. By using the same title given to God Himself, the woman as she fulfills her call to be a helper, reflects the image of God.
Additionally, several places in the Bible reveal that Christ, who was fully God, submitted to the will of the Father. Perhaps most notably, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ’s prayer, “Not my will but yours be done” reveals this amazing truth. (Luke 22:42)
Marvel along with me at the wonder of God. Marvel that we get to be a part of what He does through marriage. And then turn and treat your marriage in accordance with this amazing fact.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Isn’t this what the grace of encouragement does to all of us? It gives us that little spark of strength and determination to pedal away strong and fast. I wish I could say I am always encouraging my children. But at times it seems easier to give them lists of things they are doing wrong on top of lists of things they need to do better. “Don’t be so loud”, “Stop running”, “Be patient,” and my all-time favorite, “SIT STILL!!!”
I am so glad that God has gently convicted me when I fall into these habits. By his grace I am able to stop and think, “Boy I have really been negative towards the kids. I’m not sure I can remember the last encouragement I gave to them.” My eyes are opened and I see they aren’t pedaling quite as strong and fast as I know they can. What’s missing may have more to do with my words than their efforts.
Last year Bill came up with a great idea. Before the kids go to bed at night we take time to think of at least one area where they did well during the day and exhibited godly character. The kids LOVE this time of encouragement and I believe it honors God. Let’s make sure we are giving many words of encouragement for each word of correction and let gracious words be “like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” (Proverbs 16:24)
Monday, October 6, 2008
Psalm 78:4-7 4 We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. 5 He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, 6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, 7 so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments;
As we look forward to this important moment in our church, let us all see the significance of this transition – not just of one Senior Pastor to another, but of establishing a commitment that ‘children not yet born’ might inherit a Gospel loving church from the fruits of our labor. As Jared quoted my attempt to capture the significance of this event,
Do you know what this transition is about? It’s about a church that is growing up. My generation started this church, laid its foundations, established its culture, and developed its vision. And we have the potential to turn all that into a monument to the past. The test of a good church is its ability to retain its core biblical values as it passes from one generation to the next. The test of good church leadership is to entrust what we love to younger men – and let them lead it. That doesn’t mean that my generation, and those of you who are older than me, take a back seat to the youngsters. It means we have a grown up church – each member, regardless of our age, doing what is best to make sure this church stands the test of time and transition. We’re at the moment of decision on that right now. We all feel it. Do we look back and hold onto what had so much meaning for us in the heady days of our youth? Or do we prepare for the future, and turn the thing over to leaders who see it with clearer vision than we possess?
Please pray for Dave and Jared this week, that it would be a sweet time of anticipation and memories, that they would be aware of God’s ‘well done’ over what is taking place.
Friday, October 3, 2008
At a recent Cross Culture meeting, Andy Farmer reviewed some important ways that parents can cooperate with God rather than interfere with Him. He indicated that God often uses others in the lives of our children, especially our teens, in bringing them to faith. When it comes to evangelizing our own children, he coined the term, “Indirect Evangelism.”
This, of course, does not release us from the need to share the gospel with our children, but it does reinforce our calling to a broader evangelism approach when it comes to our children. Here are the six suggestions he offered.
1. Pray – If we truly desire our children to walk with the Lord, we must be prayers. We need to pray, believing God’s word about his desire to capture hearts in spite of what you see at any moment. And we need to pray specifically for a saving encounter with Christ.
2. Protect – With eyes toward the culture at large and the world immediately surrounding our children, we need to guide our children through the enticements and distractions of the world with conviction and confidence. We should avoid fearing the culture, but acknowledge the dangers that lie within it.
3. Observe/Discern – Take an honest look at your child’s inclinations and behaviors. Are they moving toward truth or away from it? What evidence do you discover concerning their spiritual state? We cannot effectively lead them if we do not know their areas of weakness and strength.
4. Listen – Our children must know that their words and input are valued and desired. And when we listen, we should try to discover themes and questions that might give opportunities for connecting the gospel with their lives. So much ground can be covered during these type of informal interactions if we listen intentionally.
5. Display – Does your life, marriage, and family lifestyle draw attention to Christ, or create competition with Christ? As children get older, the hypocrisy of our lives becomes more focused. The bottom line is that their finally old enough to see it. Our lives should be a display of what we’re calling them to, not an obstacle standing in the way of it.
6. Testify – Share how Christ is making himself known to you through things such as conviction, provision, etc. Let your children know how the reality of God affects your life, how you see it and how you interact with it. Talk about Jesus as if He is part of your life.
There is a lot in this list of suggestions. Don’t be overwhelmed by it and don’t make the mistake of trying all of it at once. Is there one area that pricks your hearts with godly conviction as you read it? Just start there. God will provide the increase.
Note: Andy Farmer’s notes from the Extra Point portion of our September Cross Culture meeting provided the majority of the content for this post.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Why am I playing? Because I’ve loved the game ever since I was a kid and, at 49, I’m running out of time to play it. It’s also good exercise, in a wind-sucking, knees grabbing, hamstring twisting sort of way. But as a pastor with very little connection to folks beyond the confines of the church, I want to be able to connect to men in their world, to try to make some friends with unbelievers, and ultimately to share the Gospel. Soccer players, especially over 35’rs, are an odd mix of guys of all kinds of nationalities who are zealous (or perhaps desperate) to play a kids’ game until they drop. It’s a world where you’re either one of us, or not, and if you’re one of us, its friends for life. I’m looking to break in to that world.
The good news is that we play on Sunday nights, which is really only time I could do this. And we don’t have practice, which saves both time and wear and tear on the body. And we’re playing on a new state of the art artificial turf field right near my house. So given all these reasons, it would be sin not to play, at least according to my logic.
We’ve played three games so far. Our team is called ‘White’, which is not a racial thing, its just that we haven’t come up with a better name and that’s the color (or non color) of our jerseys. Soccer players are notoriously averse to leadership – they’re a lot like artists, or democrats. So our team is kind of a cooperative arrangement. Hence, we don’t really have a name, we have a functional description.
So what am I learning? I’m learning about fear mostly. Fear of pain, fear of injury, did I mention pain? The list of pain possibilities at my age is endless - a snapped Achilles tendon, torn ACL, concussion, contusions (whatever they are). I’m learning that when you’re 49, you should probably start stretching before you play. I’ve learned a really interesting thing about recovery after a game. There is the day-after stiffness and joint pain, and then there’s the day-after the day-after pain, which comes from the way you favored your painful parts and now other things are out of whack.
I’m also rediscovering the fear of man – high school variety. I want to be accepted by these guys, which means I feel like I need to impress them, even though I’m one of the slowest and oldest guys out there. I wonder, ‘How can I be an effective witness if I’m a terrible player, writhing in agony with an Addidas logo imprinted on the side of my face?’ Perhaps there’s a ‘fool for Christ’ angle I can work here.
So far I’m holding my own. We’re 0 and 3, but getting better every week. And I’m having a great time. Updates will come as the season progresses.
By the Way, if you want to check out some of our team in training, check it out here. I wasn’t there for this shoot, but I coached some of these guys.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
On September 21st, Dave Harvey preached from Philippians chapter 1. When he did, he highlighted how Paul had God’s eyes for the Philippian church. It was not that they were without fault. In fact, Paul addresses some of those issues in the letter that followed. It was that Paul remembered the Philippians for their successes rather than their failures. He saw them for their best moments.
Seeing through the eyes of God is not an ability limited to the first century. It can be lived out in the homes of Christian couples all around the world. A husband can choose to acknowledge the failures of his wife while still remembering her according to her successes. A wife can choose to speak about her husband according to his strengths rather than his weaknesses.
The grace and freedom that such an atmosphere creates is incredible. There is no striving for acceptance through performance and function. Applying the gospel resolves the issue of acceptance. It allows failures to be learning opportunities and weaknesses to be windows of humility. It allows successes to be achieved humbly and strengths to be leveraged for others rather than for yourself.
Sounds great, right? Who would not want this to be true of their marriage? No one. Any one in his right mind would want such an environment of grace. So, what keeps us from it?
You’ll have to answer that question. For some people, bitterness sits as the watchman of their minds. It doesn’t let them forget each and every time they’ve been wronged. For others, self-righteousness is the culprit. They use accusation to drown out their own shortcomings. For some others, it is just a lack of knowledge. These people are just doing the best they can and don’t know of any other way.
Whatever the cause, the solution is the same. It is God’s delight to give you his vision of your spouse. As a holy God, He looks at your spouse and sees Christ, even in the face of the massive amount of sin we all commit daily. As forgiven sinners enjoying the eyes of God being directed at us, we can look at our spouse with grace.
When we do so, we see our spouse for his or her successes and strengths. We don’t ignore their failures or weaknesses. We just don’t characterize them by their worst moments. We allow the grace of God shape our vision of them so that we remember them for their best moments.