Why Are We Losing Our Kids?

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One of the most frightening things about being a Christian parent is the big question mark that lies at the “official” end of our training time. The bags are packed, we say our good-byes, and we watch the car drive away while the question is ever-present in our minds, demanding attention. Will our kids follow Jesus?

And so often today the answer to that question is no. So many good Christian families are losing their kids these days. Over the past ten years, I have watched many parents grieve the choices of their teens and twenty-somethings. A few of these kids come back to the faith, but most don’t.

So why are we Christians losing our kids? While there probably isn’t just one answer to this question, I whole-heartedly believe that it does have a great deal to do with one thing, in particular.

Christians are having a love affair with the world.

We love the world. Oh, yes, we do. Ask any Christian these days what they are listening to, watching, and doing on the weekends, and you will see that many of them do the exact same things as the rest of the world.

In the old days, we would be taught that to love the world is sinful and that in order to be holy, we must love the things God loves and hates the things God hates. We were taught to separate ourselves from the world and to be different. We were to stand out among unbelievers in a noticeable way. These sermons, books, and lessons were based on the plentiful scriptures about the dangers of loving the world and the stark contrast of worldly and holy living: Romans 12:1-2; James 4:4; I John 2:15-16; John 15:19; John 17:14; 2 Corinthians 6:17; Titus 2:11-12; I Peter 1:14-16; I Peter 4:3-4; I John 2:16. And while people still struggled with loving the world, they knew it was wrong to do so.

Fast forward thirty or so years. Worldliness is not only not taught against, it is actually encouraged! We are told in many of our churches that we need to be like the world to reach the world (if you spend any time in God’s Word at all, you will recognize this for the blatant lie that it is). We are told that to have standards is equal to being legalistic. And that to not allow our kids to attend school dances or R-rated movies means that they will be too sheltered and won’t understand the world. As if somehow we will become better witnesses for Jesus by participating in the debauchery of the culture. We are told that things like bikinis and gambling and drinking alcohol and entertainment aren’t any big deal and that to have standards about these things is completely unnecessary.

And while we listen to this garbage that is surely found nowhere in scripture, Satan is stealing the hearts of our kids.

Think with me for just a moment.

If our kids are listening almost 24/7 to music that glorifies sex, drugs, and violence, should we expect them to follow hard after Jesus?

If our kids are watching horrid violence, sexual perversions of all types, and hearing abundant bad language on the screens that are before their eyes, should we expect them to have a vibrant faith?

If our children want to be like the world and we don’t discourage this (and many times even encourage them)– by how they dress, what they attend, and who they hang out with– should we really be surprised when they find holiness and reading God’s Word boring and unnecessary?

Really?

And I would add here that, as parents, we are often so tempted to want to be cool and hip to our kids. We don’t want to be that downer parent who doesn’t let our kids do what everyone else is doing, so many of us– even if we don’t really feel a peace about what is going on– will capitulate to the begging and the demands.

In fact, many of us take it a step further and in trying so hard to be the cool parents, we ourselves ignore God’s commands for purity and holiness. We wear immodest clothing, watch sinful movies and TV programs on a regular basis, and tune our radios to music that is anything but godly– all in the name of being “cool”.

And I get it. It is tempting. I have been the mother of teenagers. In fact, I still am. It is so very hard to stand your ground when all the world– and even most of the “church”– is telling you to relax and just go with the flow.

And if we Christian parents aren’t trying to be cool, we are often at the other end of the spectrum, burying our heads in denial. Look, I don’t care if your kids go to public school, Christian school, or are home-schooled, they are going to run into bad kids. They are going to be given pornography website addresses and they are going to be offered horrible, ungodly advice. They will have classmates who cut themselves, are addicts, or struggle with eating disorders. They are going to deal with threats, bullies, and unkind adults. They are going to deal with temptations and circumstances that we can’t even imagine. We need to help them! The need is urgent. Burying our heads in the sand at this moment could mean spiritual death for our kids!

Let’s teach them that we find our standards in God’s Word and this is what we base our life upon. Let’s live what we are teaching them. And then let’s be a safe place that they can go to share their worries and concerns. Don’t raise your eyebrows and and control your expressions of disgust or surprise. Many times our kids are facing really BIG problems and we need to be there for them.

I wish I could tell you that we did everything right. But, of course, we didn’t. It is truly only by God’s great and marvelous grace that our kids are living for Him. We had some rough, heart-breaking moments. We feared for their salvation and futures. We praise Him for His great kindness and mercy to us and give Him the glory!

Raising kids is a scary, daunting task. Especially for Christian parents. We so much want our kids to live for the Lord, but we can’t make the decision for them.

However, there are some things we can do to encourage them to choose Christ. The most important thing is to encourage them to love righteousness and hate evil. We need to show them that peace and joy are found in following Jesus– not in a love affair with the world. Teach them to obey Christ in all areas of their lives– not just the politically correct ones. (i.e. of course, we are told to help the poor, but this is just a small portion of what it means to be a Christian– it is certainly not the defining trait of a Christian, as we are being told these days by the mainstream church). We need to teach them by our words and by how we live that our worth and purpose is found in our relationship with God, not in the things of this world.

We won’t be perfect, but we need to show them what it means to be going the right direction and growing as a believer.

It’s not about perfection, it’s about direction.

And, finally, pray. Pray often and pray hard for the souls of your kids. Pray that they would hunger for God’s Word. And that they would love righteousness and hate evil.

Satan will try to trick you into believing that your kids are a lost cause–that it is impossible to raise godly kids in this culture and in this era, but don’t you believe him! It is not impossible– not when God is on your side. And God has provided His precious Word as a guide.

Yes, it will be extremely hard and require much courage.

And, yes, it will take sacrifice.

You will probably lose a few friends through the process.

And, yes, there will definitely be frequent moments when your kids and their friends will think you are uncool.

But keep your eyes on the goal. Don’t let them stray. You have a job to do. You can’t afford to get distracted. God will guide and direct you. You will make mistakes, but His grace and mercy will cover them. Stay humble and stay teachable.

And, finally, give up your love affair with the world. Because if you don’t, it will cost you. A lot.

 

To Everything There is a Season

Ecclesiastes 3-1

Lately, I have been really pondering this thing called life.

How fleeting it is. And how sad. And how lovely.

I think it’s pretty natural for most people to start reviewing their lives a bit when things start changing for them. As you already know, life is changing for me. With an extremely busy husband and two very busy young women living at home, I find myself alone more often than not these days. This is quite an adjustment for a mom who used to home school four kids. No children’s laughter ringing out loudly in the evening air. No passionate arguing. No calling of “Mom!” from across the yard. The house seems to almost join my sadness in its eery silence. It gives me way too much time to think.

And so how appropriate that in the past week of our Bible Challenge I read Ecclesiastes. How poignant to read these words–

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to mourn,
    And a time to dance;

A time to gain,
    And a time to lose;

These are just a couple of phrases from Solomon’s poem about life. But these especially struck me, being where I am at in life just now. I feel like I should add a verse:

A time to raise children
      And a time for them to start out on their own.

Of course, Ecclesiastes 3 is best left without my addition. But it is certainly something I have been contemplating much lately.

But it’s the first part of that poem that we really start to understand and think on as we grow older and become more familiar with death–

A time to be born,
    And a time to die;

Here in America, we seem especially inoculated to this thing called death. With modern medicine, we see less of it than any other group of people in all of history. And so it scares most of us. And we hate it. We hate to see anything die (even baby birds, if you remember my post from Monday). But, much more so, we hate to see people die. And so when something like the church shooting in Charleston happens, we struggle with it. Why were these people ruthlessly murdered? It just seems so cruel and tragic.

I heard John MacArthur’s thoughtful response to this event the other day and it really makes sense in light of Ecclesiastes. He first shared that he had been in Charleston for a conference and had met many of the African-American pastors there. He had been welcomed there with open arms. He asked us all to pray for the Christians–our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ–that are hurting there. He was heart-broken. And then he added one more thing–

He said may this remind us that death is a reality. We are all going to die. May this remind us why we need to keep sharing the gospel. Because the only thing that can take away the sting of death is salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ. Because our lives are so much more than these fleeting moments on earth.

Those aren’t his exact words but my paraphrase of them. As I thought about his words, I realized just how distracted I can become by the things that aren’t important in the light of eternity.

We can become a bit depressed as we read these words of Ecclesiastes 12:a–

For who knows what is good for man in life, all the days of his vain life which he passes like a shadow?

And the words of James 4:14–

whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

But then we realize the hope that is within us as believers! We have many promises in God’s Word on which to build our faith (Romans 8:28-39; I Peter 5:7; Isaiah 41:10; John 11:25-26; I John 3:2-3; Philippians 3:20-21 to name a few).

This hope we have in Christ us should make us different in this world where death is such a non-negotiable part of life–

1. We should have a “peace that passeth understanding”. (Philippians 4:7)

2. We should remain hopeful– even in the midst of the worst circumstances. (I Peter 1:3-5)

3. We should have the true joy that comes from standing guiltless before God through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. (2 Corinthians 8:1-2)

4. We should have a driving need to tell others about salvation and the promise of eternal life we have because of it. (Romans 10:14-15)

But instead, so many of us Christians are apathetic and distracted. We don’t really care if our neighbors and co-workers know the Lord because we have enough of our own problems.

We don’t have hope or joy or peace, because we have invested heavily into the things of this world and this is where our treasures are–worldly, precarious treasures that come and go like the wind.

No matter where we find ourselves–whether young or old, poor or wealthy, single or parent–we need to ask ourselves these questions:

What am I doing to make sure that anyone who comes in contact with me knows that I have a hope within that doesn’t compare to anything that the world offers?

What am I doing to make sure that my treasures are in heaven and not on earth?

Life is fleeting. And we are all going to die. These are two facts we cannot escape.

Am I leaving a legacy that is befitting one of God’s servants? And have I liberally planted seeds to further God’s kingdom?

The Thing Anger Never Accomplishes

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Anger is just one of those things we justify, isn’t it? We can come up with so many different reasons why we should be “allowed” to be angry. Such as–

Someone said something unkind

Our spouse didn’t meet our expectations

Someone isn’t giving us something we want

Our co-worker isn’t carrying their load

Our kids are too noisy or too defiant or too annoying

The line is soooooo long

We are cut off on the highway

Our phone quit working

We spilled coffee on our laptop

The dog chewed a hole in the carpet

There are over a million reasons that we Christians will use to rationalize our angry outbursts or our seething, simmering, cold silences.

As in —pretend they aren’t sinful. Pretend they aren’t our fault. Pretend that we aren’t to blame for our anger. We convince ourselves that it is someone else’s fault. It is certainly not ours.

When we do this, we do feel better, don’t we? At least on the surface. This requires no repentance. No work on our part to change. No guilt.

The past few weeks we have been reading in Proverbs in our Bible Challenge. There is so much wisdom in this book of the Bible that I have found myself liberally highlighting many of the verses there. But the verses on anger may have been especially appropriate for me with this read-through. Let me tell you why–

Recently, I have fallen prey to this dangerous anger game. I would be irritated or frustrated and instead of taking responsibility, found it easier just to blame it on someone else. Even as I write, I find myself a little reluctant to take full responsibility for my anger. After all, she did this…or he said that

And then my Sunday School teacher said something the other week that stopped me in my tracks. (Thank you, Morris!)–

Your anger will never accomplish anything for God’s righteous purposes.

I felt like he was speaking directly to me (and–if I’m honest– maybe to my husband, too!) We have had an interesting last few months. Interesting seems a good word, since I don’t want to complain. Most of what is happening is really good–some of what is happening is not so good, but, through it all, we are very aware that we are so blessed. But what all of these changes have led to is a whole lot of stress and intensity of feelings that is a bit outside our norm as a family.

My teacher’s words struck a chord deep within as I realized that I had been trying to use anger (it’s cold, punishing silence and the occasional unkind outbursts) to try to make things the way I want them to be. Or to fix something. Or to make someone feel guilty. Or to change someone’s mind.

There are many reasons to be angry and to act on that anger– but none of them are for God’s glory.

Anger can be a very effective tool. But there is always a way that we could do it better and more effectively. Anger is never the best way. Sure, we may be able to make our kids obey us by screaming at them, but if we train them to only respond when our voice reaches a certain pitch, then they will continue in that same pattern with their own kids. How much wiser to keep our voices low and demand obedience immediately, with consistent consequences to follow.

And let me make something very clear– I am not saying that we did this right. I am here saying we didn’t do this right. Anger has always been a struggle for us in our family. We can see the fruits of it in our kids’ lives and we are sending them off into the world to fight their own battles with this sin. We could have done such a better job in this area. Oh, we never threw plates or shouted obscenities, but we did let many angry words fly over the years and for that I have great regret.

Especially when I think of it in light of the words of my teacher.

I remember someone talking about angry words years ago and comparing them to toothpaste– once they are squeezed out of the tube, you cannot put them back in. Our kids don’t forget the mean, hateful things we say in the heat of an argument or temper tantrum. Neither do our spouses and other family members. Self-control–that fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23–is very much in need when it comes to this sin of anger. For even if we are angry, we need to think first and confess before we act on it.

If we are human, we will have to admit that anger is as natural a feeling as being happy or sad. We humans, without exception, hate our plans being thwarted. Sure, some of us get worked up much more easily than others, but we all have our limit. We all have our threshold of when enough is enough. How that looks is different for all of us. Some of us are screamers. Some of us grow icy cold and quiet. Anger is a sin in both cases, although screamers tend to have more pieces to pick up after it’s all over. Some withhold conversation or physical touch in order to punish, others may yell and curse– or even occasionally throw something –but both reactions are sinful reactions.

There are a few sins that have become extremely accepted by the church — to the point that we rarely even discuss them anymore. I believe anger is one of them.

I have no idea today if you have fought this battle, are fighting this battle, or aren’t even convicted about this. You know where I’m at. I need prayer. These next few months promise to be so happy and exciting, but also stressful and demanding and, yes, even a little sad. I want to rise to the occasion and be a good testimony– I don’t want to flounder in my own wants and desires, demanding my own way. I want to remember that anger never accomplishes God’s righteous purposes!

I hope that you feel the same way. Here are some verses to get us started on our way to battling this sin.

Proverbs 16:32
Ephesians 4:26
Ephesians 4:31
Ephesians 6:4
Colossians 3:8
I Timothy 2:8
James 1:19
Galatians 5:16-26
Matthew 5:22

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Weekend Reflections

Weddings

Today’s post is not typical and there really isn’t going to be any spiritual lesson. Instead, I am going to try to encapsulate my emotions from this past weekend just a bit. We had my son’s wedding on Saturday (which you already know) and then we had my parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary party on Sunday. S0, before we go any further, I will answer the question I know you are thinking– yes, I am a bit crazy to do that. That has already been established.

However, just so you know, my brother is from out-of-town and this just made the most sense. Plus we were able to use the wedding venue and the wedding centerpieces, so it came together pretty easily–especially when you have a sister-in-law and a daughter who should really go into party-planning as a business…

Now that we have my sanity (or lack thereof) established, we can move on to some of my impressions from the weekend.  As mentioned above already, this is certainly not my normal kind of post but I thought I would share this here because so many of us share the same emotions when it comes to our children and our parents. I’ll get back to my normal style on Thursday.

So, first, my impressions of Saturday–

I guess if you read my blog, you are already familiar with the fact that I have been on an emotional roller coaster regarding this wedding. Let me say first and very clearly, this roller coaster had nothing to do with my son’s choice of a bride. She is the perfect choice for him and we couldn’t be more thankful. The fact that her parents are some of our closest friends is a very special bonus. It’s the stuff in life you could never plan! I think, rather, that it was partly because it was my only son’s wedding and I knew he now would officially have another woman as his priority in life. Some of you will get what I’m saying and some of  you won’t. I also think it was because the reality of the empty nest is starting to set in now.

But, last Monday, I started to feel so much better. Over the course of the next few days, I had three or four dear, dear friends text or tell me in person that they were praying for me. I could feel their prayers holding me up and I had a great week last week. Prayer is an amazing thing.

And, this morning, I am okay. I am really exhausted but I’m okay. Although, I cannot lie–there is a big empty sadness that fills me when I think about my son’s room never being occupied by him again. It’s just so…strange.  No one ever tells you when your babies are little what it feels like to watch your birdies try their wings and fly off away into their own lives. I find myself wishing I didn’t feel so deeply. It makes it so much harder.

But we are so excited for our son–and for our two daughters– and their future lives. They have all grown up to be responsible adults who want to follow Jesus and have found spouses who want to do the same. What more could you ask as parents? While there may be some mourning over what was, I stand amazed (and also filled with a bit of relief if I think back to the question marks of the teen years!) when I look at my adult kids. They are not perfect kids and we are far-from-perfect parents. We take no credit. God is so good. And He is so faithful.

Which leads me to my impressions of Sunday–

As people started to file in to my parents’ party I saw many dear friends that I hadn’t seen for so many years. Memories of yesteryear filled my mind. And I had to think of how God uses certain people in our lives at certain times and then they leave the stage of our lives and we move on. It’s the nature of life. We move, we change jobs, we change churches, and we become disconnected. And it makes me thankful for two things–first, that we are graced with the presence of so many dear friends throughout our lives. People who have supported us and encouraged us just when we needed it. What an incredible blessing from God! And, second, for the really special friends that God gives us that hang around our entire lives. At the party were a few friends that my parents have remained close to through all of the changes in their lives. They have a special connection (I call it a “kindred spirit”) with my parents and have been with them through thick and thin. If we are fortunate enough to have just a few “kindred spirit” friends, we are beyond blessed. True friends are hard to come by. They are a treasure and should never be taken for granted.

And as we celebrated, the absence of several relatives was felt. But, for me it was the absence of my mother’s brother, Larry, that was felt most deeply. He has gone on to be with the Lord and life on earth–at least for this family–will never be the same. He is still so sorely missed. I know that all people are missed, but Larry was special. He was one of those uncles that you knew cared about you. That you could go to if you ever needed anything. And he made us laugh–oh, how he made us laugh. I know that life will never be the same without him.

I was also filled with such thankfulness as I thought about God’s sovereignty in putting me in this particular family as a tiny baby. Why me? Why was I so blessed to be put there? I have no answer for that. But I do have a very grateful heart.

And so this weekend was filled with emotion for me– the hope of the future and looking back to the past. It was a lot to take in. To say the least.

But I guess if there is any lesson to be had here, I would leave you with something my dad said when he shared a few words yesterday.  He said that before any children joined the family, he and mom had talked about the fact that nothing would ever be more important to them than that their children would come to know the Lord. That would always be the priority. My parents were not perfect, but that was always the priority. They held to their word.

They now have a son who is a preacher (and an amazing one at that!) and a daughter who writes about biblical principles. But their decision has also affected the lives of their grandchildren. For we, their children, have also made that the priority with our own children. And it is our prayer that our children will do the same.

If you have young children– or even if your kids are older– I encourage you to make the same priority in raising your kids. Nothing is more important. No sports trophies or academic accolades compare. No stage or glory or awards matter more than this one thing–that our kids love and serve Jesus.

Weaknesses and unkind words and unloving actions have abounded in my families. They were part of my life growing up and they are part of my life now. But if we keep the Lord our priority, he is so faithful. He is so faithful. He fills in the gaps of our weaknesses and honors our commitment to Him. It is truly hard to explain the joy and peace that fills a heart that lives for Him. Life isn’t perfect and there are hard times. But, through it all, it is well with my soul.

I know so many of you have experienced the same faithfulness. You have experienced God’s great love and grace for you. We don’t base our Christian walk on that experience (as is so common today) but, the experiences confirm what we know to be true from scripture. They confirm the promises we read in God’s Word. I leave you with just one of those promises–

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! (Psalm 34:8)

 

A Few Favorites on Parenting

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As you may already know, our family has two weddings scheduled for this summer and the first one is this Saturday. It seems like I was just updating my About Me page with the engagements of our son and our daughter a few weeks ago, but here we are already. Wow, that nine months went fast!

As you can imagine time is at a bit of a premium this week, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorite posts on parenting. One of the disappointing things about blogging is that the things you have written in the past seem forever lost, as most people are generally looking for something new and fresh when they go to a blog. But some posts are worth re-visiting. I hope you will agree with me!

Would you consider sharing one or two of these posts on social media if you enjoy them? Thank you so much!

Are We Dropping the Ball?
The importance of a godly legacy

A Letter to My Children
Remembering what is really important as we raise our children

Pushing Too Hard
Knowing when {and when not to} push our children

Parenting With Purpose
Five things I have learned about parenting

7 Steps to Raising the Perfect Teenager
Some helpful tips on raising teenagers

 

 

Getting a Glimpse

Kids (July, 1999)

Let me first share this: From the time I was a young girl I never really wanted anything more than to be a mom. While my friends looked forward to going to college and having fascinating careers, I was simply biding my time until I’d {hopefully} get to fulfill my dream of being a wife and mom. The Lord did bring a wonderful guy into my life while I was at college. It wasn’t until the summer before my senior year that he would ask me to marry him. A couple of years after we were married we found out that we were having a baby. And that was the beginning of my “mom” dream.

But no one ever tells you what you will feel like when the final curtain is getting ready to close on your dream. When all the work and tears and joys and fears that involve raising kids is just about coming to a close. And, yes, I know that I will always be a mom. But what being a mom looks like to adult kids is a very different thing. It is a new role for a new stage.

Which leads me to an incident in my past that I haven’t talked much about.

When I was pregnant with my fourth child, I felt unusually ill. This was uncharacteristic for me in pregnancy but I never suspected that this meant anything was wrong. I excitedly told everyone I was pregnant very early on. After all, I had had three healthy pregnancies. I surely wouldn’t have a miscarriage now, right?

Wrong.

Around week ten, I vividly remember going to the bathroom one Sunday afternoon and spotting a dot of blood. Of course, I had heard that it is quite normal for some women to bleed a bit in the early stages of pregnancy and so I tried to comfort myself with that thought, but somewhere deep inside, I knew that it was over. I had never bled in any of my pregnancies and I just knew that this was a bad sign.

The next morning I called my doctor and they had me come in right away. When they ran the necessary tests, the doctor came into the room and told me that I had what they called a “blighted ovum”. It was a fertilized egg that had just stopped developing and no one really knows why.

I was crushed. While it was comforting to know that we have a 5th child who is in heaven right now, since we believe that life begins at conception, I would never get to meet this child on earth. I mourned  the dreams and the plans that died that day. But, if I am honest, I was also disappointed that my life hadn’t gone according to my plans. I had planned to have no more than 2 1/2 years between any of my children. Now that was completely ruined.

To top it off, it took me awhile to get pregnant again. I grew a little more frustrated with each month that passed by. I hadn’t wanted this fourth one to be so far behind the other three.

But here’s what I didn’t know at the time–

I did not know that my three oldest children would get married in the span of thirteen months.

I did not know that my house would grow eerily quiet in the evenings.

I did not know that there would only be one or two at the dinner table most nights.

I did not realize the storm of emotions that would surround all that’s going on in my life right now.

My BabyAnd so yesterday when my youngest was sharing how hard it is to be the one left out of all of the wedding and honeymoon talk going on in our family, I had to just stop and think for a moment. I looked at her and I almost started crying. How kind of God to give me a daughter for an extra couple of years in this time of emotional upheaval in my life. Because He knew what I would be feeling. He knew that I needed her to be a few years behind the others. He knew.

And in that instant, I caught just a glimpse of how God’s ways are higher and wiser than mine. It reminded me of Isaiah 55:9–

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.

God’s ways are surely higher than mine. And, many times, we never truly understand how it all fits together. We don’t understand why He has allowed the painful events in our lives and many of our “whys” are never answered.

But–every now and again–when we review the landscape of our lives, we can catch a glimpse of the tapestry. And we stand in awe at the wisdom and mercy of our heavenly Father.

I am so thankful for my four children. I am thankful for the Christian spouses He has provided for them. I am so excited for them to begin their new lives together! But I am also thankful for my sweet baby. I am thankful that she will be around for a few more years than I planned. Most of all, I am thankful that I serve a God Whose ways are higher than my ways.

 

Praying for Our Children

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Many years ago, when I was just a young girl, I became aware of the fact that I had some grandparents praying for me. I also learned that my parents were praying faithfully for me. I know that their prayers affected the course of my life and the life of my brother (and cousins). I can see now how God worked despite some less than perfect circumstances.

And so when our children were born I realized the importance of prayer because of this godly heritage with which I had been so incredibly blessed.

When we met our oldest daughter for the very first time, we felt so overwhelmed and even a little scared. We knew the instant we held that first baby in our arms that we had been blessed with an awesome responsibility.

The heaviness of this settled in through the next few weeks, as we took our newborn home and got settled in. This wasn’t just a baby. This was a new life with the potential to do great good or great evil in this world. It was a life with the potential to bless others or to cause great pain. And this new little life was born a sinner (Romans 3:23) and in great need of a Savior (John 3:16).

Along with recognizing the seriousness of this responsibility, came the awareness that who she married also had the great potential to make or break her life.

I wondered how in the world we would be able to bear these great responsibilities, especially the ones that were outside our control– such as who she would marry.

And so, early on, I started praying for her and for her future husband. I had no idea who he was, but I was praying for him. As the other kids came along, I did the same. So I can confidently tell the young men and woman that my children are marrying that I have prayed for them for most of their lives!

Through the years, as I would pray for my children, I would find it easy to get distracted by the problems and trials that loomed in front of me at that moment and I would find myself praying directly about these situations. And there wasn’t anything wrong with that.

But somewhere along the line, I learned that I needed to be praying for their spiritual health most of all. If they weren’t right with God, then their career and who they marry wouldn’t be chosen well. This means that how they would raise the future generation would be in jeopardy.

And so I latched on to Mark 12:30 and have been praying that for my kids for a very long time.

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

I’ve asked the Lord to help my kids to do this.

I’ve prayed through this verse for them when I would fall into bed exhausted after watching four young children.

I’ve prayed through this verse for them when they were teenagers and their spiritual future looked very, very bleak.

And I continue to pray this verse as I watch them start their own lives and make choices completely independent of their parents.

A few years ago, I was talking to my brother (Pastor Dean) about this subject of praying for our children and he mentioned that he also regularly prays that his daughter will love righteousness and hate evil. As he spoke, I realized the wisdom in such a prayer. The Psalms talks about this subject over and over again. If you are reading the Bible Challenge with me, you will have just read through many of these with me. And so I started praying this for my kids, as well.

Another prayer that I try to pray on a regular basis is that my kids would love God’s Word. The keys to a healthy spiritual life are held within its pages. There is no possible way to be a godly man or woman without reading and studying the Word.

And, finally, I pray very regularly for my future grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I pray that they would be bolder and stronger Christians than me. That our family would grow deeper spiritual roots, instead of being one of those families that gradually falls away from God.

My kids are not perfect and we’ve had our struggles and continue to do so. In fact, we will sometimes talk about how we wouldn’t want to be judged for our parenting skills on how our kids behaved as teenagers. How they were in school was not always the best example and they did not always make the best choices. Adolescence can be a very difficult time. But I just kept on praying through it, sometimes with many tears.

The spiritual battles continue and I continue to pray. Satan wants the hearts of our kids. If he can distract us by the temporal and keep us focused only on the present trials in our praying, he will have won half the battle.

God is faithful. He has answered so many of my prayers for my kids. There were times that I doubted and feared that we had lost a couple of them. But God heard our prayers and saved them. I get choked up thinking about his great mercy and kindness to us through those difficult times even now.

Our prayers will never make our kids perfect and they will still struggle and make bad choices and still have so far to go. But then I guess so do you and I.

This reminds me of something I once heard John MacArthur say: It is about direction, not perfection.

If our kids are headed in the right direction, we have much for which to be thankful.

So let’s keep praying for our kids. God is faithful. He knows them better than we do. And He loves them even more than we do!

The Many Faces of Pride

PRIDE

I’ve had a really rough week. You don’t need details, but suffice it to say that I came face to face with my loathsome, prideful self yet once again.

Does that ever happen to you? Or am I the only one? You think you are doing pretty well in this Christianity thing and then something happens that you didn’t see coming or someone doesn’t meet your expectations and you react. And that’s when you realize that you still have so far to go. While it can be really painful, I am so thankful for these times, for they remind me of why I need a Savior so incredibly much and they help me to grow more like Christ.

Pride is an insidious, deadly sin. It gobbles up our peace and joy so quickly. It destroys most everything in its wake. Or, at the very least, keeps any relationship from being the best it could be.

Humility is the opposite of pride. Christ was humble, even to death on a cross, and humility is what He requires of us. First and foremost, humility is necessary for us to understand our need for a Savior. But, after our initial conversion, it is also so key in staying in a right relationship with God. It is absolutely critical for healthy family relationships. Humility helps us to be a better co-worker, a better child, a better spouse, a better parent. We are happier when we are humble. We bless others when we are humble. We experience much greater peace when we are humble.

When we think of pride, we often think of the kind that David exhibited in I Chronicles 21 (and 2 Samuel 24). David took a census. This was apparently an act of pride that cost him (and the whole nation of Israel) dearly. We can’t know for sure, but according to my Bible study notes, David’s act of taking this census could have angered God for a number of reasons. Perhaps because David was trying to gratify his pride in the great strength of his army and military power. Or he was putting more trust in his forces than in his God. Maybe this was showing that he was taking credit for the many victories of Israel. Whatever his reason, we know that God was angry, as we read in the passage.

And our pride often looks like David’s in our own day-to-day living. We take credit for something; we want the glory; we draw attention to our accomplishments and awards and accolades.

But let’s just say that we don’t really struggle with this type of thing. Maybe we hate attention and would never boast about ourselves. We would never count our successes and victories and put them out there for all the world to see. Is there still the possibility that pride could still be an issue for us, if boasting and taking censuses isn’t our style?

Of course, the answer to this is a resounding YES.

So what are some ways that pride hides out in the dark corners of our minds and hearts? I have been really thinking about this topic of humility this week. Knowing that in order for my relationships to work right, I need to be humble. In searching some of my favorite authors on this topic, I came across a $2.99 Kindle book called Sermons on Humility by Charles Spurgeon. I have not finished it, but in the first few pages he shares several different ways pride exhibits itself in even the most “humble” of us. I will follow each one with a few practical, modern-day examples —

There is the pride of the heretic, who will utter false doctrines, because he thinks his own judgment to be better than the word of God, never content to sit like a child to believe what he is told, he is a disputant but not a disciple. He will insist upon it that his own reason is to be the well-spring of his own beliefs, and he will receive nothing beyond his own reach.

This is immediately what I think of when I think of the Christians who claim that homosexuality isn’t a sin, that unity is more important than truth, or that the world evolved. They have the pride of the heretic–relying on their own intellect or on the intellect of other men instead of on the Word of God. The other person that comes to mind is the one who says there are many ways to heaven or that there is no hell. They, too, are holding their own thinking in higher merit than the Word of God.

There is next the pride of the Papist, who attaches merit to his own works, and hopes to will heaven as the reward of his own doings.

While they may not brag or boast about this, many think they are good people, quietly assuming that their good deeds outweigh their bad ones and this will be what gets them into heaven. Even many, many Christians (or shall I say people who identify with the religion of Christianity) believe they are going to heaven based on their own merit. This is pride. This is the kind that keeps our eyes blinded to our need for a Savior.

Next there is the pride of the curious. The man who is not content with simplicities, but must pry into mysteries. He would if he could climb to the Eternal Throne, and read between those folded leaves and break the seven seals of the mysterious book of destiny. You know well our apostle has many things in his writings which are hard to be understood, yet he uttered them because of the Spirit, and you never meet with any attempt in the apostle’s writing as you do in the preaching of some ministers, as you do in the conversation of some professors, to reconcile predestination with free will. He was quite content to preach to men as free agents, and exhort them to repent, quite willing to speak of God as working in us to will and do of his good pleasure, while we also work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Paul was never curious to find out where the lines of truth met, he was perfectly content to take his doctrine from his Master’s spirit, and leave the old wives fables and endless genealogies and disputings, and questionings, to those who had no better guests to entertain.

I included this whole section here because it goes so very well with my post from Monday. I agree with Spurgeon whole-heartedly– it is prideful to think we have to understand the things we can’t understand. Yes, the ungodly will call you stupid and unintellectual when you take this approach (mostly because of their own personal pride). They don’t know God the way we do if we are saved. They don’t understand that submitting to His sovereignty is an incredible blessing. That some questions can go unanswered because the ones that really matter have already been answered. They can’t get it. Their eyes can’t see.

Again, there is the pride of the persecutor; the man who is not content with his own notions, but would hunt to death another, the pride which suggests that I am infallible, and that if any man should differ from me, the stake and the rack would be the due deserts of so great a sin, against so great a person as myself.

We may not want to see someone physically harmed when they don’t agree with us, but how many broken families and split churches fall under this type of pride? Millions? Trillions? This is perhaps the most tempting one for “godly Christians”. We think we are right. We believe that our opinion is best. We believe we are infallible. But if it’s not within the pages of scripture, is it actually something worth a broken relationship?

Is any special piece of furniture or bank account worth the fracturing of a family upon a parents’ death?

Is any decision of our adult children worth the tense and strained relationship that comes when we keep insisting they are doing wrong thing or making the wrong choice?

Is any opinion of mine worth holding on to if it’s causing stress and constant argument in my marriage?

Is my hurt pride over what I heard that someone said about me worth a broken friendship?

NO, a thousand times NO. The answer to all of these questions is NO.

And so, so many of us fall prey to this deadly sin, leaving a trail of broken hearts and strained relationships. I don’t want to do this. I want my marriage more than I want to be right. I want a right relationship with my kids more than I want to be right. I want to be a good testimony more than I want to be right.

Keep in mind I am not talking about biblical truth here. Of course, we have to stand strong and fight for the truth held within the pages of scripture. I might add here that even these biblical debates can and should only be done with great gentleness and kindness. But most of us are not arguing over biblical doctrine (a few more of us should be! We seem to not find that important, while inane, silly things get us so riled up!), instead, we are debating and arguing over issues which have no biblical mandate. No right or wrong. I am talking about the silly, stupid stuff we won’t bend on. The stuff that isn’t worth it.

Life is hard. Relationships take work. And no relationship works well without at least one party practicing humility. Joy and peace elude us without humility. Unanswerable questions haunt us without it.

And so we start with us. Today. The only place we can start. And we take our desire to be right, our yearning for glory, and our prideful thoughts about how good we are and hand them all to the Lord, asking Him to humble us and to become more like Him.

Often crying and screaming inside our heads as we endure the emotional pain of the process.

 

 

Spurgeon, Charles (2014-09-28). Twelve Sermons on Humility; Titus Books. Kindle Edition.

 

The Win (and what to do until then)

the win

Isn’t it interesting how schools cycle through their glory years? One year the guys’ basketball team or girls’ soccer team is undefeated and there is enthusiastic school spirit supporting them. And then a season or two later all the glory has ended. Key players or a coach moves on and the dynamics change and suddenly they aren’t the team on top anymore.

The same dynamic plagues most professional sports teams, as well. I am a Philadelphia Phillies fan–no matter if they win or lose. But right now it is bad. Let’s just say that we aren’t watching a lot of baseball this year. It’s just not near as much fun as when they were really doing well and headed to the World Series.

And we are left with one conclusion–

Winning is glorious and losing is not.

A lot of the stories of King David are tales of victory over enemies. Just yesterday, we read of how the Ammonites asked the Syrians to fight with them and after being soundly defeated, we read that the Syrians were afraid “to save the Ammonites anymore” (2 Samuel 10:19). I guess I would have been, too. David had a reputation of being victorious. But King David doesn’t win every battle. We will soon read of his battle with lust that he loses in a big way (2 Samuel 11).  And let’s not forget that just a few years earlier he was fighting for his life as he was chased down by Saul. He eventually became King, but it certainly wasn’t without grief and struggle.

This is what makes life so hard. We win some and we lose some. But some battles are so much more important than others. And what are we to do when we feel like we are losing such critical battles? The battles for–

Our country

Our churches

Our freedom

The hearts of our kids

Our marriages

 

We are losing some of these battles pretty soundly right now. Have you read the news lately?

But we know that we win the war. That is worth repeating: We are going to win this war between good and evil.

We can’t lose sight of this. No, God does not promise us that our kids will be saved or that our spouse will stick around. He doesn’t promise that our churches will preach sound doctrine or that our country will return to its Christian roots. But what we do know– without a shadow of a doubt– is that God will reign victorious in the end. Every knee will bow to the King and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Isaiah 45:23; Philippians 2:10-11).

When we consider this very important truth, we naturally come to the conclusion that the only thing that really matters is whether or not those around us are going to confess Jesus Christ as Lord before it’s too late.

So often, we worry so much about the outward stuff that indicates serious problems– the bad grades, the drug and alcohol abuse, the debt and materialism, the false doctrines, the laws, the liberalism. And we try to fix things. We try to fix our kids and spouses. We try to fix our churches and our government.

But is anything truly fixed without a changed heart? A child can change behavior without ever changing his heart. A government can make laws that are more compatible with our beliefs, but will that really solve our country’s problem?

I don’t think so. Because the reason we are having such deep, heart-breaking issues– both in our families and beyond– is that people believe in a lie. They have chosen to reject the Word of God and they believe the lies of the world. They believe these lies of the devil–

–That their purpose and fulfillment is what matters (which leads to self-centered, self-absorbed individuals only out for themselves)

–That their kids’ happiness reigns supreme (which leads to spoiled brats who think the world revolves around them and want the world but are not willing to work for it)

–They believe unity is more important than biblical integrity and that loves trumps holiness (which leads to a shallow, fake religion pretending to be Christianity)

–They believe that the Bible is just partly true. That it has errors. They believe that God just got the ball rolling and then put the creation of the world into the hands of some kind of evolutionary process (placing doubt on The Bible removes the foundation for true Christianity)

–They believe that you get to heaven for doing good things. That they simply need the good to outweigh the bad (this is a insidious and very old lie — that your righteous works will win your salvation)

–They believe that God would never want them to be unhappy (this leads our faith to become me-centered rather than centered on the almighty God of the universe)

–They believe that man is basically good and that sins are simply diseases and disorders (the sinfulness of man is a key component of true Christianity and cannot be overlooked without forfeiting biblical salvation completely)

–They believe that their happiness will be found here on this earth (but Jesus said “blessed are you when you are persecuted, for your reward will be in heaven”. See Matthew 5:11-12)

 

I challenge you to talk to someone that calls him or herself a “Christian” but doesn’t live like it. Somewhere in their thinking is a lie (or two or three) that they are believing.

It is impossible to fight the battle for someone’s soul if they are believing lies. We have to start at the beginning. And that beginning is the Word of God. For that is where we find the truth. This means that we need to know it and study it and understand it ourselves.

And so while we wait for The Win, let’s fight the battle for the truth–God’s Truth. Let’s fight for the hearts of our kids, for our marriages and families. Let’s fight for it in our churches and in our country. Do it sweetly and kindly and gently. But let’s never, ever forget that we are in a war.

And never forget– we win!

 

It’s About Love

Modesty

I had an interesting conversation with my kids the other day.

“Your shirt’s a little low there, Mom,” said a daughter.

I self-consciously pulled it up and mumbled, “I know. This stupid shirt…”

Upon which my son said, “no worries, Mom, no one is looking at you, anyway.”

Uhhh, thanks.

But, hey, while it was a little hard on my ego, I also realized that it’s mostly true.

So why should I worry about modesty as an older woman?

Perhaps we should first answer the question of why all women–whether young or old–should worry about modesty at all?

I think there is a really good reason that God tells us to be modest (I Timothy 2:9). Let’s look at why that might be–

When most men get a glimpse of a breast or see thighs and bottom barely covered or covered by skin-tight pants, they are sexually aroused. This is how God created them.

I don’t know why He created them like this. I just know that He did.

Not only is this the way they were created, but then we read in Matthew 5:27-29 that to lust sexually is counted the same as committing adultery. We also know from the context of the passage that both of these things are considered serious sins. So this natural tendency that men have is something they must fight every day.

And over the past 50 years or so, this battle in their minds has become almost minute-by-minute combat which they can’t escape, often even in our churches!

We also know that God tells us in His Word that we are to love others (Matthew 22:39). If I would ask you what loving someone looks like, you would probably mention doing something special for them or being nice to them. And this is a part of love, for sure. But let’s leave the status quo definition of love behind for a moment.

Couldn’t we women also show love by keeping ourselves properly covered? Dressing modestly is truly an act of genuine love, encouragement, and protection for all men who see us, especially for our Christian brothers in the Lord.

For some reason I have not quite ever been able to understand, we Christian women have just seemed to completely forgotten that God calls us to modesty and that He does so for a reason– to protect us and to protect the hearts and minds of the men around us.

Our love for God and our obedience to His Word should be an even more important reason for us to obey Him in this area. And here is what I have found out– what we wear is just the first step in demonstrating modesty. The true heart of modesty is humility and grace. Think of it like this– when we dress immodestly we draw attention to ourselves. When we dress (and act) modestly, we are much more likely to draw people’s eyes towards Jesus instead of distracting them with our outward appearance.

Perhaps it is not you who dresses immodestly but you have allowed your daughter to dress in such a way. I never ceased to be amazed at what Christian parents allow their daughters to wear. Parents who I know genuinely love the Lord and have a wonderful testimony otherwise.

Inevitably, when you have this modesty question, some woman will loftily announce that she can’t be held responsible for a man’s mind and where it goes.

Yes, that is true. He has a responsibility to turn his eyes away. But how loving and kind it is to dress in such a way that men do not have to do that when they look at us!

So back to the original question– what if no one is looking at me, anyway? What does it really matter if my shirt is too low or my skirt too short?

This is a pretty relevant question, because as women head into mid-life, they sometimes grow a little panicky in all the life changes. And in a reaction to that panic can sometimes dress in ways that are slightly more immodest or not age appropriate. And, honestly, I can understand why. This time of a life is a really strange place to land as a woman, and everything feels topsy-turvy. But we still need to dress modestly.

Let’s go to Titus 2:3-5 to find out why–

the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.

It would seem pretty clear from these verses that we have an obligation to dress modestly for the sake of the younger women around us. We need to be the example they are to follow. That is our responsibility as we grow older. We never get to stop caring. We always need to be intentional about what we wear.

Now, I admit dressing modestly can be extremely difficult for all of us women–whatever our age–for a number of reasons–

1) We won’t fit in with those around us. A really good example of this is if you are a young woman on the beach. If you aren’t wearing a bikini, you almost stand out like a sore thumb. You don’t quite fit in with the crowd. Which is actually exactly what we are supposed to do — not look like the world– but it can be a bit uncomfortable and we have to be willing to part from the crowd. And that is never fun.

2) We can’t find modest clothes to buy. I have found this one to be especially challenging. It seems that fashion has dictated that cleavage is in and modesty is out. It is downright difficult to find a shirt that doesn’t slink its way down in the course of the day or give a full view if you bend over. And let’s be honest– most of us don’t want to live in polos or turtlenecks. But should we be sacrificing our modesty for that cute shirt? I am especially challenged as I write this, because I am ashamed to admit that I have made some exceptions for some “cute” shirts.

Is there ever a reason that we can in good conscience be immodest? Like is it okay on your wedding day? Or at a beach where no one knows you?

Answer this question: Are there men there?

If there are men there, then the answer is always no. There is, however, one glorious exception– we can be as immodest as we want with our own husbands! No modesty is necessary in the bedroom!

This has got to be one of the most confusing times there has ever been to live out our Christianity. We are told conflicting opinions about almost every topic. Modesty is no exception. But let’s stop listening to the placating excuses for why we can dress the way we want and let’s start turning our eyes to God’s Word, where we not only find the clear command that we need to be modest, but also find out why.

If you are in the habit of wearing low shirts, short skirts and shorts, tight yoga pants, or immodest swimwear, may I challenge you to do your own study of God’s Word in this area of modesty? Let’s stop following the crowd and drawing attention to ourselves and, instead, turn our focus towards pleasing God in this area of our lives.