Parenting With Less Frustration

I’m sure it is just the age and stage our family is in…hopefully…but often parenting feels a little frustrating.

The other night we were trying to have family devotions. But then someone was mad that they did not have an opportunity to read the Bible passage. (Yeah you read that right. Our kids get upset when they aren’t allowed to read the Bible…good grief.) Then someone else realized that they weren’t sitting where they wanted to sit. They now wanted to sit in a spot on the couch that was already occupied. And they were going to do whatever it took to take that spot. Needless to say between one’s feelings of injustice about not having the opportunity to read and the other one’s lust for a particular seat on the couch, chaos ensued.

I recently came across a new book by Paul David Tripp entitled Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family. To be honest, at first I was skeptical of this book. It sounded a little too much like a here-are-more-things-you’re-not-doing-right-as-a-parent, so-do-these things-and-your-life-will-be-better kind of book. But I received a free copy of the book so I could provide a review and I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I am really enjoying this book.

Tripp points out that one of the reasons I—and every other parent on the planet—experience frustrations is because our kids are sinners. It’s true. And what is worse, you and I are sinners too. What?! I know it’s hard to hear. But this little bit of information, which we conveniently tend to forget, has huge implications. Specifically, Tripp argues that due to our own sin we, on our own, are incapable of changing our sinful kids, or creating a perfect (sin-free) living environment. So what’s the solution?

Tripp’s encouragement to parents is as follows:

Here is the single redemptive reality, right here, right now, that makes parenting possible: God in you! You read that right. The apostle Paul says that you don’t really understand who you are and what you’ve been given until you understand this amazing thing: that God knew that our calling would be so huge and our weakness so deep that the only thing that would help us was himself. So in an act of incredible grace, he has unbuttoned us and gotten inside of us. Now think about this as a parent. This God who has the ability to do things that are way beyond your ability to conceive, who has perfect wisdom and unlimited strength, right now lives inside of you.

In other words, God is not calling us to do more to change our kids. Rather God, by his grace, has given himself to us so that we, as parents, can rely on him and allow him to work through us to reveal himself to our children. The rest of the book explains what this looks like. I highly recommend reading it.

The chaos is still there. But the frustrations are a little less…at least a little less in those times I remember Tripp’s parental wisdom. In those times I’m reminded to focus less on what I can do to make my kids or my situation better. But instead to ask God, what do you want to do with my kids and how do you want to make this situation better?

 

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Finding Freedom In This Election

I love the Psalms.

Monday morning I opened my ESV app to read a morning Psalm. The text, Psalm 1:

1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

With the previous night’s presidential debate still in my head I couldn’t help but think about politics as I read the text. Like you, this election I’ve struggled to know how to vote. But here, it seemed God had made His vote pretty clear:

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

Easier said than done in a political season where “wicked,” “sinner,” and “scoffer” apply to both major party candidates.

Yet, verses two, three, and six stood out.

In verse two we see the “blessed man” is the one whose “delight is in the Law of the Lord.” In verse three, it is this man, who, like a tree, “yields its fruit in its season” and, “In all that he does, he prospers.” And in verse six, we’re told it is this man who is the one the “Lord knows” [literally– the one the Lord watches over with care].

The Lord was reminding me that I am free. Specifically, I (and all His people) am free from the shackles of our current political system.

Free, because the Lord’s blessings for His people are not based on our politics. His blessings are not contingent on what political party wins. Nor are his blessings dependent on what policies are made law. His blessings do not even hinge on who is appointed to the Supreme Court.

No, the Lord is sovereign over all of that. At any moment the Lord could change any policy, any appointment, and any presidency. And though he often works through people to do His will, He is certainly not calling us to “walk with the wicked” to do so. Certainly the Lord is not saying through this Psalm, “Blessed is the man who walks not [with] the wicked…unless it helps him politically.”

Therefore you and I are free. We are free to look for and vote for the “righteous” person whoever that might be… third party, write-in, or otherwise. We are also free to vote for no one if no “righteous” person can be found. Sure, it’s not what our political parties want, nor what our culture wants. But the Lord’s blessings are not dependent on what is pleasing to our political parties or our culture.

The Lord blesses the one who delights in Him.

For the Lord is the one who will prosper His people. The Lord is the one who will care for His people. And ultimately the Lord is the one who will save His people.

Therefore, blessed are the people who delight in the Lord!

 

May you and I delight in the Lord. May we be free from walking with the wicked. May we trust in the care of the Lord. And may we vote trusting that the Lord is sovereign over all, and that His blessings are not given to those who “win” but to those who delight themselves in Him.

 

Overcoming Election Anxieties

It’s very easy to say, Jesus is Lord. It’s not easy to live like Jesus is Lord.

Watching the presidential debate the other night reminded me of this. After it was over I felt anxious. And when I woke up the next morning I still felt residual anxiety.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

My feelings of anxiety were not bad in and of themselves, but they did point to something bad. Like a flashing “Check Engine” light in my car, these feelings signaled that something within me was broken and in need of repair.

That broken-something was my lost vision of Jesus. Specifically, that broken-something was my lost vision of Jesus as Lord.  I had lost sight of who Jesus really is.  And as a result, I was no longer living as if Jesus really is Lord.

The remedy was the God-breathed words of Psalm 97:

The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him
and burns up his adversaries all around.

His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.

The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
and all the peoples see his glory
.
All worshipers of images are put to shame,
who make their boast in worthless idols;
worship him, all you gods!

Zion hears and is glad,
and the daughters of Judah rejoice,
because of your judgments, O Lord.

For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods
.

O you who love the Lord, hate evil!
He preserves the lives of his saints;
    he delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
Light is sown for the righteous,
and joy for the upright in heart.
Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name!

 

These divine words filled my heart and mind with a fresh vision of Jesus as Lord. That Jesus reigns. That his reign is built on righteousness and justice. That Jesus is exalted above all. That he preserves my life and is able to deliver me from the wicked. That because of all these things, I can “rejoice in the Lord” and “give thanks to his holy name.”

With fresh vision came fresh healing. As I reflected on the psalm my attention was taken away from the frustrations of the election and instead was transfixed on the goodness of Jesus. As a result, my feelings of anxiety faded away. I was left, like the people of Zion, feeling “glad.” I was now living like Jesus really is Lord.

If this election season has you feeling anxious, maybe it’s because your “Check Engine” light is flashing. Maybe something within you is broken. Maybe you too have lost sight of Jesus as Lord. Maybe you’re not living as if Jesus really is Lord.

If so, let Jesus heal you.

Come to God’s Word. Reflect on the words of Psalm 97. Then, take a moment to rejoice and to give thanks that Jesus is still the Lord. I promise you’ll feel better… I sure did.

 

The Greatest Gift You Can Give Your Children

Fathers, what’s one of the greatest gifts you can give your children?

It’s not money, toys, or even a college education. It’s not clothes, athletic ability, or a car when they turn sixteen.

But you already knew all that. So what is it?

An Identity.

All children, especially as they enter their teen years are asking one question, “Who am I?” And they are constantly looking outside themselves to find the answer. It’s why the likes and dislikes of your tweens and teens seem to change by the minute. They’re not trying to be difficult, they’re just trying to figure out who they are…likes and dislikes included.

As a man, even Jesus needed an answer to the question, “Who am I?” Author Dan Spader points out,

“It was critical to Jesus that He understand who He belonged to. At His baptism, for the very first time, Jesus heard His Father’s voice say, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). In the Old Testament, learned rabbis would string together key verses from three major parts of the Old Testament to convey a truth. This was called stringing pearls. At Jesus’s baptism, God the Father did the same thing. He took references from three major portions of the Old Testament and strung them together to make a profound statement: “You are my son” (Psalm 2:7) “whom I love” (Genesis 22:2) “with you I am well pleased” (Isaiah 42:1). With these three brief citations, God spoke of Jesus as a king, as servant, and His son.”[1]

Did you catch that? God the Father blessed God the Son (Jesus) with an identity. With three short statements, the Father told the Son, “this is who you are—a king, a servant, and my Son.” The result, Jesus lived out his identity.

It’s the same today. Our children will always live out their identity. The only question is where will their identity come from?

Fathers, God has given you and me the great opportunity to give our children an identity…a good identity. How can we do this?

First we start with ourselves. How have we been defined? How do we see ourselves? If we struggle with our own identity we must repeatedly come to our Heavenly Father and receive his words, “You are my son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased.” Because of what Jesus did for us, we can own those words.

Then let us speak these words in different ways, at different times, again and again, over our children. Let us remind our children whenever possible that they are loved, they are objects of pride, and that they are sons and daughters of God.

How we define or don’t define our children will dramatically impact how they live. So let us not waste the opportunity God has given us. Let us give our children one of the greatest gifts of their life…the gift of an identity.

Blessings,

 


 

[1] Dann Spader. 4 Chair Discipling. 71-72

Family Idols

Last month  I was invited to speak at a friend’s church. I spoke to a Men’s group and the topic was “Using Worship to Overcome Addiction.”

The gist of the talk was, all of us are tempted to worship things other than God that can’t fully satisfy us. When we pursue those things we find ourselves frustrated, stressed, anxious, depressed and hopeless…which leads to us engaging in sinful behaviors as a way to cope. But when we pursue and worship God we find the satisfaction we long for and the sinful behaviors begin to go away…because we don’t need to the sinful behaviors to cope anymore.

Now all this got me thinking about my own parenting. How so often I only focus on my kid’s sinful behavior. And how I rarely think about what is behind that behavior. I don’t think I have ever asked myself what are the idols of my kid’s heart? What are they pursing that is leaving them frustrated, stressed, anxious, depressed or hopeless? And how are their sins connected to these pursuits?

Now my kids are young and there is no way they could articulate any of this. But they still have sinful desires. They still have idols. I know this because if I asked them the question, “what could I give you that would make you happy?”…I am sure they wouldn’t respond, “more Jesus!”

And that’s is the problem. Not just for my kids and yours, but for all of us. If there is something we want more than Jesus, we are worshiping an idol– something that is leading us (and our families) to destruction. Idols lead to sin, sin leads to destruction. It’s just that simple.  If we believe there something that can satisfy us in a way Jesus cannot…then we are setting ourselves up for frustration, sin, and destruction.

Our kids are no different.

As we come into summer, a time when most of us will see more of our kids it’s a good time to ask ourselves do I know what idols my kids worship? Do I know what idols I worship? Do I know what idols our family worships? And how are these idols effecting our family?

As I outlined in my Men Ministry talk, freedom from sin comes when we take the following three steps:  We confess our idols, acknowledge how they harm us, and then ask God to help pursue and worship him. Because only faithful worship of God through Jesus Christ can free us from sin and bring us the satisfaction we long for—parents and kids alike.

May your family and mine continue to lay our idols at the cross of Jesus that we might grow in faithful worship of God. And may God alone satisfy our hearts and keep our homes evermore free from sin.

Sharing The Gospel Can Be Easier Than You Think

How much do you have to know to share the good news of Jesus Christ?

The answer is not a whole lot.

The important thing is not knowing a lot, but knowing where to go.

Think of a gospel-conversation like walking with friends along a path and making a few stops along the way. Your job is simply to walk with them in conversation and lead them to the right stops. Then at each stop give them an opportunity to respond.

What are the key stops on the path?

Stop #1 God’s Law.

Stop #2 God’s Judgement.

Stop #3 God’s Grace.

Stop # 4 God’s Offer.

What might this look like?

Watch this video:

Did you notice how the conversation was build around six key questions?

  1. Do you think you are a good person?
  2. Have you every broken one the Ten Commandments?
  3. If God judges you by the Ten Commandments on the Day of Judgement do you think you’d be guilty or innocent?
  4. Do you think you’d go to Heaven or Hell?
  5. Do you know what God did for sinners so that you don’t have to go to Hell?
  6. Are you willing to receive God’s gift, repent and to trust Jesus?

Did you notice how the questions lead the person to consider God’s law, God’s judgment, God’s grace and God’s offer?

The conversation took a few turns but ultimately it kept coming back to the four key stops. And that is all you have to do when sharing Gospel with others–take them to the stops.

I didn’t originate this method, and I definitely don’t think it is the only way to share Jesus with others. But it is one way. And it is a way that is easy and clearly points to our need for Jesus.

So try it out and then tell me how it goes.

And if you have a favorite method of Gospel-sharing put in the comments. And let others  know.

Blessings,

 

The Secret of Strong Families

I have to hand it to Facebook. They finally figured me out.

For the longest time the ads in my feed were useless and annoying. But last month there was an ad from Crossway Publishing promoting a free five day email course on Family Worship.

I clicked on it, signed up, read the emails and watch the videos for each of the five days. And to my surprise the videos were all very helpful. So I bought the book the videos were promoting.

The book is called Family Worship: In the Bible, In History, and In Your Home by Donald S. Whitney. And it really is a great book…so great, I wrote the following review on Amazon:

Every Christian family should read this book. Clear, simple, short but very informative, and very practical. This book will be helpful for any family interested in family worship…especially for those that have never done it before. As a pastor I will be recommending this book to every family in our church.

The book is really that great. So here I am recommending it to every family in our church.

One thing that has become clear to me over the years is, families who worship together flourish together.

Worshiping families are closer. Their kids do better in school, and they make better choices with their friends. Their kids don’t leave their faith in college and they tend do better after college.

Worshiping families flourish because they make Jesus the foundation of the family…and that’s a foundation that doesn’t break.

But here’s the thing,  if you’re like me, maybe you’re not sure how to do family worship. Growing up my family was a Christian family. But we never spent time as a family reading the Bible, praying, or singing. Those were things we did “at church”…not at home.

So when I wanted to start family worship in my own home I didn’t have a clue what to do. It was awkward. It was frustrating. It often felt forced.

I needed help.

Family Worship: In the Bible, In History, and In Your Home has been that help.

My hope is that every Christian family will buy this book. Not because I want to add one more thing to your to-do list. But because it is my prayer that every Christian family will commit to worshiping as a family throughout the week. Because I want every Christian family to be a strong family…built on the strong foundation of Jesus Christ.

If your family does not worship together, consider getting a copy of Family Worship: In the Bible, In History, and In Your Home. If you want to preview things before you buy here’s the link to the five day video course. And if you just need someone to talk to (or vent to) about family worship leave a comment, I’d be happy to help in any way I can.

May God bless your family!