Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Discernment

We all have those childhood and adolescent memories we will never forget.  Some good.  Some bad.  Some silly.  Some scary.  Some humiliating.  Some exhilarating. 

But what about those memories that you look back upon and wonder whether a different or better choice would have changed things, for the better or perhaps for the worse.  

I often look back and wonder about choices I did or didn't make.  I don't necessarily have regrets, but I do replay decisions I've made and ponder whether they were the right ones. Like...

If I hadn't slid down the stairs on a blanket, would I have broken my arm? 

If I had spoken up when a neighbor boy was being bullied, would the bully have stopped?

If I had agreed to be the "girlfriend" of that shy little boy in fifth grade, would he still have married me 11 years later?

But there is one particular "If I had..." look back that I replay more often than the others.   Bear with me for a few moments and let me take you back to a spring afternoon in 1990.

My little sister Ruth and I were walking home from the bus stop which was a few blocks from our house.  I was a spunky little fourth grader and she was a shy little first grader.  And we were doing what sisters do when they are on their way home from school: talking, singing, giggling together.  We were about halfway home when a big brown car pulled up beside us.  It wasn't a car I recognized.  A man rolled down his window smiling at us. 

"Hi girls," he said.  "Your mom asked me to come pick you up and bring you home."

I can remember feeling confused at first.  I looked a little closer at him trying to figure out if I knew him.  I was sure I didn't. 

"It's okay," he said.  "I'm a friend of your mom's and she asked me to come get you.  She had an emergency and needs me to bring you home."

I looked over at my sister.  I could see a spark of fear in her eyes.  And I could feel something inside me sounding an alarm. 

I quietly said, "No, thank you." 

I grabbed my sister's hand and we walked away.  And the man in his brown car drove away.

I replay this scene back in my mind quite frequently and I always ask myself the same two questions.  

What if I had said "ok" and gotten into that big brown car with that man I didn't know (with my little sister in tow)?  I can only imagine the horrors that could have been ours.

And, why did I say no?  Sure, my parents had taught me not to talk to strangers.  But I was so young and the man was pretty convincing.  I could have easily been tricked.  But I wasn't.  I somehow, even through a cloud of uncertainty, saw the evil I was facing.  But how?

Friends, for as many times as I've asked myself this question I have only been able to come up with one answer:  God gave me discernment that day to see wrong from right.

Romans 12:9 says to, "Hate what is evil; cling to what is good."

Well duh, that's obvious right?  But is it really?

How many times have you and I been in situations where our moral vision was cloudy?

Not every moral decision is crystal clear.  Sometimes we have to discern wrong from right in a blurry haze of uncertainty.

The same is true for our children.  Each one of them will face countless decisions where their moral vision is clouded by a blurry haze of uncertainty.  And like my fourth grade self, they will want to hate the evil and cling to the good.  But they will need God's discernment to do it.

So how do they get it? 

1.  They pursue a knowledge of God.

In order to hate evil and cling to good,  one must know the difference.  If our kids want God's discernment in those moments of uncertainty, then they must know God.   

2.  They pray and listen to the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 6:18 says to "pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests."

Romans 8:26 says, "the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."

John 14:16-17 says that the Spirit of Christ will be our "Counselor" and is "the Spirit of truth." 

These are things we must model and teach our kids.  They need to know that discerning between evil and good (wrong from right) can be challenging at times, but that God's discernment brings perfect clarity.  So, we must help them to know God by teaching them His Word.  We must help them know how to pray by modeling and encouraging them to pray.  We must help them to listen for and recognize the Spirit's counsel by sharing our own experiences of this.

But most of all we must pray fervently for them.  We must beseech God's throne of grace and ask Him to bestow upon each of our kids His perfect discernment.

Because, like me, when my kids look back upon their childhood and adolescent memories, I want them to stand in wonder and gratitude at how God's discernment kept them away from evil.

Will you join me in prayer?

Jesus,
Will you graciously give my kids discernment as they face those decisions in life that are clouded by a blurry haze of uncertainty.  As their little hearts seek You, please reveal Yourself to them.  May they know You and in turn, may they have discernment to hate evil and cling to good.  Give them ears to hear and eyes to recognize Your Spirit's counsel and guidance.  And Lord, may they stand in wonder at how Your gift of discernment keeps them away from evil and brings them close to Your good, pleasing, and perfect will.   

Monday, January 5, 2015

GUEST BLOG: The Armor of God

Erin, a friend I have great respect for wrote the following blog.  Her prayer is powerful!  Join us in faithfully praying for our kids!

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Becoming a parent has made me desperate ... More desperate than I've ever been before. Desperate for more sleep, for more time by myself, desperate for a date with my husband, for some peace and quiet. I'm desperate to eat dinner at a normal pace, to take a shower or use the restroom without a visitor.  But more than anything, desperate for The Lord.

My oldest started kindergarten this fall. She loves it.
But she came home this week with news of a bully. It started out that the girl called her names and accused her of doing silly things like cutting inline or wearing "ratty" clothes. Through the lens of a kindergartner it's hard to know what's really going on so I encouraged her and helped her come up with strategies. Then yesterday the bully girl stole my
sweet girl's lunch. Enough is enough.

She sobbed today when I dropped her off. She never does that. So I held it together and then cried on my way home. I sat at my kitchen table, Bible study in front of me and just cried.

"I'm desperate Lord, my baby is getting picked on."

"I'm desperate Lord, I need to trust you to go before her - that you'll fight for her."

The study I am working through reminded me today that The Lord is a warrior (Exodus 15) and also the God of peace (Romans 16).  I didn't realize how desperate I am to actually believe this truth.

I certainly want this situation to get better and I'm doing the right things to get there with her teacher but I also know this is a war.  It's been won, thank you Jesus, but the enemy is battling for me and
for my daughter.

When I read Renee's post a little while ago about how she prays for her kids at school, specifically their protection, I was pressed by her sharing and my situation to begin praying the armor of God in
Ephesians chapter 6 over my kids.  I've prayed this for myself, but realize how important it is to pray it for them as well.

Pray with me.

Gracious Heavenly Father, you have no grandchildren.  These beautiful babies you've blessed us with are Your children, just as we are.  And
just as they come to us for help, look to us for protection - so we come to You.

We pray that our children would be strong in your power, putting on Your full armor every day.  We know this is a battle that is mostly unseen.  We pray they would wear Your truth around them as a buckle,
with the breastplate of right relationship with you guarding their hearts, their feet on the solid ground of your peace.  We pray their faith in You would be a shield in front, above and behind them - to
protect them when the enemy shoots something their way.  We also pray they would guard their mind with Your salvation.  Thank you that You are Savior.



Lastly, we pray they would be so in love with Your Word that it would be their weapon - what they use to fight back with.  We pray we'd teach them Your Word now and that it would be gathered up in
their hearts.  And we pray they would love also to talk with You about everything, no matter the situation.

Jesus made it so clear that You want to give us good things, even more than we as parents can imagine (Luke 11).  We cry out to You.  We are desperate for Your wisdom in how to parent, but also desperate to
trust in You.  Thank you that Your word promises that if ask for anything, that you give it to us because you are quick to give, want to give and are also a gracious giver (James 1). 


In Psalm 139, you tell us that you hem us in, in front and behind.  Wrap Your arms around our children today.  Teach us to equip them with Your armor so they are prepared.  And don't let us veer from keeping our eyes fixed on You, praying constantly.  We know the best thing we can do is live a life that points them to You.  Help us do that.  We  are desperate.  We love you.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Lesson On Forgiveness

Sometimes I am blinded to how wonderful the forgiveness I have in Christ truly is.  I take for granted, even forget, that I serve a God who is full of grace and mercy.  And then I see an image of His grace, mercy, and forgiveness in the flesh and, like a blind man who regains his sight, I see clearly and vividly what has been right in front of me all along.

A little over a month ago on a lovely afternoon, I was driving to my neighbor Liz's house to drop off her son.  He had joined my kids and I on a fun excursion to Chuck E. Cheese that morning.  As I pulled into her driveway, two of her kids and another boy from across the street were playing out front.  It was nearly lunch time so I didn't have plans to drop in and say hello.  Instead, I thanked her son for joining us and he let himself out of my van.  Before reversing out of her driveway, I rolled down my window and asked all the kids to stand in front of my van where I could see them.  Looking in front of me I counted heads to make sure each kid was accounted for.  I even checked my rear view mirror multiple times.  All clear.  So I slowly backed out of the driveway, keeping my attention on the four waving hands in front of me.

As my back tires reached the street there was a THUMP.  I quickly counted the waving hands in front of me again.  All four were accounted for.  I must have hit the curb, I thought.  But as my front tires reached the street I saw something in front of me lying on the ground: a little dog. 

I looked up and the four waving hands stopped and pointed in horror.  "Cappy!" they cried.


I quickly parked my car on the side of the street and jumped out. 

Friends, this was a sight I will never forget.  The dog was still alive.  I heard his moans.  There was blood.  And their were tears and cries coming from the kids. 

I was scared and shocked.  For a brief moment I was completely frozen.  But the thought, "What do I do?" came rushing into my mind.

Before I had time to think of an answer I saw my other neighbor Kelly, from across the street, running out of her house.  It was her Cappy.   A dog she's had for more than a decade.  As I saw the horror and pain on her face, my heart began to ache. 

What have I done?

"Kelly I didn't see him," I said.  "I'm so sorry.  I didn't see him."

What followed is sort of a blur.  I instructed the kids to go inside to Liz's house.  Kelly came running over to Cappy and asked me, "What should I do?"  I had no answer.  She ran inside her house to call the Vet.  I ran inside Liz's house to check on the kids (my own were still in the car watching all of this).  The kids were all crying and huddled around Liz as she prayed.  I stood there unsure of where my place was.  "Go be with Kelly," Liz kindly says. 

Frankly, that was the last place I wanted to be.  I was aching for Kelly.  I had caused her deep pain.  Reluctantly, I mustered up the courage to run back out, only to watch Kelly wrap Cappy up into a towel and head to her own car.  I ran over knowing there was nothing I could really do at this point.  She laid Cappy into her car and gave me a few instructions to relay to Liz about her son (who had watched the accident) and her baby girl who was already with Liz.  Then she drove off.  I stood there motionless, sorrow and guilt washed over me. 

What have I done?

I went into Liz's house again.  She was still in a prayer huddle with the kids.  I gave her Kelly's instructions.  Liz, with kind eyes and a compassionate voice asked me to stay.

"I have to go," I said.  Tears were welling up.

I ran back out and got into my car.  As I closed the door, the tears burst out of me.  My own kids began asking me questions.  I couldn't answer them.  Guilt consumed me and I just sobbed. 

I drove home and for the next hour I was a wreck.  I ran the scenario back through my head dozens of times.  Each time I never saw the dog.  I tried to perform my motherly duties.  I sobbed through them all.

Then the phone rang.  I saw Kelly's name on the screen.  I tried to collect myself and with shaking hands I answered. 

What followed is a conversation I will remember for the rest of my life.  Full of mercy, grace, and forgiveness Kelly tenderly processed the horror of it all with me.  Cappy was gone.  Death is hard, but death is really hard when you're responsible for it.  Yet, I felt so incredibly loved by Kelly.  Her words were full of grace and forgiveness as she said to me, "I forgive you Renee."

And in that moment, I saw Christ on the cross.  I saw His unmerited grace and forgiveness for me in a way I had never seen it before.  So clear.  So vivid.  And I felt deeply loved.

In the flesh, Kelly was an image of Christ's love for me.  I didn't deserve her grace and forgiveness, yet she freely gave it.

In the week that followed, Kelly poured more and more grace on me.  Never once was she angry, bitter, or accusing.  We both grieved, but she didn't let me grieve alone.  She processed with me. She prayed for me.  She checked up on me. 
 
Friends, I was and am deeply sorry for what I did.  I ache in my heart for the hurt I caused.  Yet, I've felt so loved.  Through Kelly, God has opened my blind eyes to how perfectly He loves me and how perfectly He forgives me.  His grace and mercy have tenderly washed over me.  My heart is overflowing with thankfulness for the undeserved redemption and forgiveness I have in Christ.

Ephesians 1:6-8
"to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding."

This story doesn't end here.  A few weeks later I had an opportunity to show grace and grant forgiveness to someone who had "hurt" me.  I won't go into great detail.  It wasn't to the degree of the hurt I caused Kelly.  But while I did experience hurt, my hurt was completely overshadowed by the memory of Kelly.  I knew that if Kelly could so graciously forgive me for killing her precious dog, then I must forgive this hurt.

The words of Jesus trumpeted in my ear, "Shouldn't I have mercy on my fellow servant, just as God has had on me?" [Matthew 18:21-35]

As I think about my kids I long for them to vividly see God's grace and forgiveness in their own lives so that they can freely forgive others.

A few weeks after I killed Cappy, I saw Kelly's Kindergartner who wasn't there that day.  I had taken a loved one from this little girl.  I was anxious seeing her.  I wondered if she'd be scared of me or angry with me.

Yet the first thing she says to me is, "I'm sorry you ran over Cappy with your car Ms. Renee.  I'm sorry you're hurting."

That my friends is the gracious and forgiving heart I so desperately want my own children to have. 

Let's pray.

Jesus,
Thank you for the undeserved grace you have extended to me.  Thank you for loving me regardless of who I am or what I've done.  Thank you for granting me Your perfect forgiveness.  Today I pray and ask that You would open the eyes of my children to the redemption and forgiveness of sins that You have freely given them.  I pray it would wash over them.  May they know Your love in all its fullness of mercy.  And may that knowledge in turn give them the courage and strength to love others with gracious and forgiving hearts. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Others Centered Hearts in a Self-Obsessed Culture

Recently I had a very bad day.  So bad in fact, that by lunchtime I was literally sobbing as my children sat near and watched.  I'm talking the kind of crying where you can barely catch your breath.  You should know that this isn't something that happens frequently.  I don't think my kids have ever seen me cry so desperately. 

Yet, their response was selfish and inconsiderate.  As I'm crying my boys very frankly (and coldly) ask, "When are we going to eat lunch?"  There was no, "Mom, are you okay?"  Or, "I'm sorry your sad."  They didn't draw near to give me a hug.  There wasn't one iota of consideration for me.

In the moment, I was so angry with them.  So as to not explode on them in anger, I simply asked them to give me space and leave the room.  As time went on and I thought about their response to my sadness, I became greatly disturbed.

I began to ask myself, "Where have I failed that my children could be so cold and selfish to me in a moment of great sadness?  Have I taught them this through my own behavior?"

For me, this life event has spiraled into a deep longing for God to break through and change the selfish hearts of my kids.  I have been praying and asking for wisdom on how to raise kids with others centered hearts in our self-obsessed culture.   

The dictionary defines self-obsessed in this way:  The act of being constantly preoccupied with the thought of yourself and everything in this world that involves you or should involve you. 

I look at my children and pray that they won't live self-obsessed lives. 

I look at myself and pray that I won't live a self-obsessed life.

The saving grace is that God was and is wise to our self-obsessed nature.  Hence the reason He sent Jesus to demonstrate a perfectly others centered heart. 

Jesus taught in Luke 6:31 to "Do to others as you would have them do to you."  Ironically, our self-obsessed nature knows exactly how we want to be treated.  God knew and knows this, which is why He chose to articulate His command in this way.

Jesus also calls each of us to "love others as well as you love yourself." Mark 12:31

Teaching our children to treat others the way they want to be treated and to love others the way they want to be loved is a tough job.  Especially in our self-obsessed culture where our children are taught to "Do what's best for you" and to "Think of yourself first." 

However, as I've prayed and reflected on this I've been encouraged to start simple.  The idea being that if they learn to think of others in small ways, they will begin to think of others in more substantial ways.

I believe that God has shown me that a simple start to teaching our children Jesus' commands is to teach and train them to be considerate in small ways.  A considerate individual thinks of others and considers how his/her words and behaviors affect others.

For example, below is a short list of small ways my children are regularly inconsiderate (and ultimately, self-obsessed):

Pooping in the toilet and leaving it there for all to see.
Running sticky, filthy hands all over the wall as they walk upstairs to wash them.
Leaving blue crusted toothpaste splat all over the bathroom sink.
Dripping pee tinkles on the toilet seat and floor with no thought to cleaning it up.
Tossing clothes to and fro while changing.
Wiping their snot on anything and everything besides a Kleenex.
Shoving by people (like their sister or a sweet old woman) on their way to get to where they apparently really need to go.
Handing me (aka The Trashcan) their trash.
Talking while someone else is talking.

In the past my response to one of these inconsiderate behaviors sometimes included a sarcastic and exasperated remark like: 

"Really?"
"Again?  You've got to be kidding me."  Sigh.
"Are you seriously doing that?" or "Did you seriously just do that?"

But lately, I've sought to be wiser in how I respond.  I want them to understand how their behaviors are affecting others.  So I've started responding with one of the following questions: 

"When you do that, who are you thinking of?"
or
"When you do that, who are you loving?"

You see, I don't mean to patronize or belittle my kids.  And I understand that some of these inconsiderate behaviors are the result of immaturity.  But they are nonetheless, selfish.  So I need them to see how their self-obsessed nature is motivating inconsiderate behavior in small ways.  And I need them to see that when they behave inconsiderately in those small ways, they aren't treating and loving others as they want to be treated and loved. 

Ultimately, a shift from a self-obsessed heart to an others centered heart can only be accomplished by the Spirit's power...sifting and refining them from the inside out.  So I understand that my teaching and training is limited. 

However, I am reminded that God instructs us to train up our children under His Word:  "Teach them (God's commands) to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Deuteronomy 11:19

So, I'll start in small ways and pray that the Spirit will transform their hearts in a big way.

Let's pray friends! 

Jesus,
By Your Spirit, will you transform my children's self-obsessed hearts to hearts that are others centered.  I pray they would love others as well as they love themselves.  I pray they would treat others with the consideration, respect, and love that they want to be treated with.  When people around them are hurting or in need, may they see them and love them with Your heart and with actions that imitate Your character and will.  And Lord, give me wisdom as I teach them Your commands about being others centered, even in small ways.  Grant me patience and endurance to be faithful to teach them Your ways wherever we are and in whatever we are doing. 

 



 



Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sibling Arguing

During the first 4 years of marriage, my husband and I rented a house near a very active train track.  Our house was about 5 houses down from the junction passing where the conductor, by law, had to blare his/her horn multiple times to warn drivers on the road of the train's arrival.  I would estimate that roughly 15 trains a day would rumble across the track blaring their horns loudly and repeatedly.  

For some families who live near railroad tracks, they can grow almost fond of a train's lullaby rumbles.  This was never the case for us.  From the day we moved in to the day we moved out, we never got used to the booming and shrilling sounds of the trains.  Probably because the sounds weren't lullaby-like rumbles, rather they were heavy metal-like shrilling vocals and guitar playing.  Imagine being abruptly awakened from peaceful sleep three to five times a night to a heavy metal concert blaring in your ear.  Trust me, it wasn't ideal.    

If you're a parent of two or more children, the sounds of sibling arguments and fighting throughout the day can be like the sounds of those trains I too frequently heard those early years of marriage.  Booming, shrilling, heavy-metal type sounds that you just never get used to.

 
I have to believe that at least some of you know what I'm talking about.  Perhaps the sounds aren't as frequent as those trains my  husband and I used to hear, but they are more frequent than you and I would like.  And there is simply nothing soothing about the sound of sibling arguments. In fact, for me, that sound is one of the most grating and exasperating sounds I hear on a regular basis (other than, "Mom, someone peed all over the floor again").


While my children do have wonderful moments of fair and cooperative playing each day (Praise the Lord!), they do argue and fight often.  And so, I pray frequently to the Lord asking for His wisdom and grace as I parent through argument after argument.

Over the weekend, I spent time at a biblical counseling conference and felt the Lord speak directly to me through one of the speakers regarding this issue of sibling arguing.  The speaker encouraged us to ask ourselves (or our counselees) the following question when we are smack dab in the middle of an argument (justified or not):

Which is most evident: 
the disagreement or my godliness?

A compelling and thought provoking question, isn't it?  I love how it challenges us to look at our arguing from an outside perspective.  And I also love how it doesn't diminish the fact that sometimes arguments are necessary (as in the case of fighting for justice or truth). 

As I thought about this question in regards to my kid's arguing with each other, I saw very clearly that their disagreements are usually exceedingly more evident than their godliness (even in arguments that are necessary). 

So if I may, I'd like to share with you a few reflections God has given me this evening as I spent some time with Him regarding this question and issue of disagreements amongst my kids. 

The definition of godliness in Scripture is simply a devotion to God.  And devotion to God is defined as a wholehearted attachment and loyalty.  It is saying "Yes!" to God and "No!" to our fleshly-selves as well as the world around us.

Therefore our godliness (or devotion to God), when authentic, should therefore be very evident in disagreements with others.  For example, there should be evidences of the fruits of the Spirit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 

The following verse gives us more wisdom:  

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these [God's glory and goodness] he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.  For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith....godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love."  2 Peter 1:3-4, 5a, 6b, 7

Here's are 4 truths that I believe this Scripture can speak to our children regarding arguing and fighting with their siblings:

1. God's power in our children (who've through faith trusted in Jesus) will give them whatever they need for life and godliness. 

2.  Because of God's glory and goodness they have been given the promise of a Counselor, a Spirit of truth in them and with them always. 

3.  This Spirit of truth will teach them all things (like how to respond to and reconcile arguing), give them peace (as they live life and play with their siblings), and give them strength to escape sin in their arguments (like pride, anger, a vindictive spirit, etc).   [John 14:16-17; 26-27; Romans 8:26] 

4.  Thus, my kids should be making every effort to add to their faith godliness; and to godliness, a warm hearted affection called brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  The outgoing, selfless kind of love that leads one to sacrifice for the good of another (like a sibling).   

Before we officially pray, I'd like to compel you to examine your own arguing.  God spoke very clearly to me in my Spirit that if my children are to trust and live by what God's Word says about their arguing, then I must set an example for them in my own life when it comes to arguing.  I must ask myself:  Is my devotion to God more evident than my disagreements? 

As my children look at my disagreements, what do they see? 

Do they see my godliness when I have disagreements with my husband? 

Do they see my godliness when I have disagreements with their teachers?  

Do they see my godliness when I have disagreements with my pastor or other believers? 

Do they see my godliness when I have disagreements with other family members? 

Do they see my godliness when I have disagreements with another driver on the road?  

Do they see my godliness when I have disagreements with non-believers? 

And finally, do they see my godliness when I have disagreements with them?

I've found myself humbly seeking God's forgiveness this evening because friends, I know my godliness isn't always more evident.  And while I am not called to perfection, I am called to a progressive process of sanctification!  And I gently and lovingly say the same is true for you.  So let's hear and live out the four truths of 2 Peter 1!

It's time, let's pray for our sweet babies and their relationships with each other!

Lord Jesus,

As my children seek You, I see you revealing Yourself to them more and more.  Thank you Jesus that You are a God who longs to know Your children personally.  Thank You for giving them Your Spirit of truth to teach them all things for life and godliness.  And so Lord today I pray that Your words in 2 Peter 1 would begin to reign true in their lives regarding sibling arguing.  Would you reveal Your heart to them in their sibling relationships?  Would you give them peace and the strength to escape sin as they live and play with each other.  And will you help them Lord to add to their faith godliness, a wholehearted detachment and loyalty to You, that motivates them to act with brotherly kindness and selfless love toward one another. 
  








Monday, September 22, 2014

A Daily Morning Prayer as Our Kids Head Off to School

Like many of you, I pray with and for my kids each morning before they head off to school.  And, like many of you, I want those daily prayers to be more directed than just the common, "have a safe, fun day" kind of prayer.  I want to pray God's truth and life over my kids.  I want to, as a family, give God creative control over every aspect of the day.  I want to ask for the things that God wants for my kids.

So the big question is: What should we pray each morning before our kids head off to school out of our care and control?

As I've spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on this question, I've found the perfect answer (and words) in His Perfect Word. 

I thought I would share with you the core elements of what I've begun to pray each day.  I hope they will be encouraging and helpful to you as you daily pray with and for your kids as well.

First, I (we) ask for protection over them. 

I mirror Jesus' prayer for believers in John 17:15, "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one."

Second, I (we) commit each day to Him.

"Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans...In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps." Proverbs 16:3,9

The Message version puts it this way:  "Put God in charge of your work, then what you've planned will take place....We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it."

The word commit literally means to "roll" the burden of care upon God, to cast upon Him our desires and intentions for the day (1 Peter 5:7).  It is a clear picture of surrendering the whole day to His control.  The verse then promises that when we give the LORD our works and our day, His purposes and plans are established in and through us. 

Third, I (we) pray they would know Jesus personally with ever-deepening intimacy each day.
 
"What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith."  Philippians 3:8-9
 
I love the life-giving truth of these words.  Nothing else matters but knowing Jesus.  As parents, we cannot demand spiritual perfection from our kids. Why?  Because God never demands perfection.  "Untainted morality vanished with Eden." (Swindoll)  Our children are saved by grace, not by works.  No amount of good works or spiritual disciplines will make them holy.  Thus, their only duty as followers of Jesus is to know Him. 
 
So in the words of Charles R. Swindoll, "If they read Scripture, pray, meditate, journal, or fast, let them do it for the sole purpose of knowing His mind.  If they worship, serve, partake of communion, or spend time in the company of believers, let them learn about Him through His transforming work in others.  If they feed the poor, defend the weak, comfort the lonely, or proclaim the gospel to a broken and needy world, let their walking in His sandals give them firsthand knowledge of His character.  Let every trial or triumph bring them closer to knowing Christ's nature and to understanding His purpose."

Fourth, I ask God to daily transform them into His likeness.  A fancy theological term for this is to sanctify.  Again I pray the words of Jesus, "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth."  In laymen's terms, Jesus was praying that we would become like Him.

2 Corinthians 3:18 speaks to this, "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

As our kids come to know Jesus more personally, the Holy Spirit will do what only He can do:  make them more like their Savior.  "As the moon reflects the light of the sun, yet has no light of its own, so our kids will shine with God's radiance as they live in proximity to His Son." (Swindoll)


Protection
Surrender
Intimacy
Transformation

My daily morning prayer for my kids has become empowered by these four core elements.

So whether or not you join me daily in praying these core elements over your kids, will you join me today and pray them?

Lord Jesus,

As my kids head off to school today, will You protect them from the evil one.  Keep their bodies and minds from evil, may Your life-giving truth be their refuge and strength.  And I surrender their day to You.  Enable them through Your Spirit to put You in charge of their day.  As they roll the burden of care upon You for this day, thank You that your plans and purposes will be established in and through them.  I also pray they would know You with a deeper intimacy today.  May they learn to seek only You in all things.  And as they come to know You more intimately, may Your Holy Spirit do its sanctifying work and begin to transform them into Your likeness so they will radiate You to the world around them.    





Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The TRADE of a Lifetime

Growing up, my sister and I regularly turned our beds into a sort-of marketplace.  I would spread across my bed any possessions of mine I was willing to part with.  My sister would do the same.  Then we would spend the next 30 minutes or so trading our possessions.  She would give me 2 erasers for my purple pencil.  I would give her my key chain for her necklace.  You get the idea. 

Once in awhile she would offer me a downright bad trade, like a McDonald's straw for my favorite chapstick.  After making it clear I wouldn't make such a terrible trade, she would then try to convince me with a clever pitch.  Something that would have sounded a lot like this: "Renee, this is an AWESOME straw.  Look at the red line going through it.  It's one of the best straws in my collection."

Momentarily I might get caught up in her clever pitch and think, "Maybe this straw is awesome.  That red line is pretty nice.  And I would own her best straw." 

Don't worry.  I usually got out from underneath this nonsense and came to my senses, remembering that there is nothing awesome about a straw from McDonald's. 

Like my little sister and the McDonald's straw, the world cleverly pitches some horrible trades. 

Creams assured to erase fine lines and wrinkles in exchange for a lot of our money.

Popularity via social media in exchange for our privacy and personal rights.

Success and power in exchange for our time and talents.

Laughter and entertainment in exchange for any morals we might have left.

Love and companionship in exchange for our hearts.

The trouble is the creams can't combat the curse of aging,
the popularity is short-lived and shallow,
the success and power are unfulfilling and easily lost (not to mention our talents no longer feel like gifts),
the laughter and entertainment act only as a bandaid to our emotional wounds,
and the love and companionship is conditional, selfish, and heart-breaking.

None of these trade deals are good.  Perhaps for a time they appear to be, but in the end we see them for the empty-nothings that they are.

Several years ago I mentored a young high school girl.  She was beautiful and talented, but she had a ton of difficulty in her life (especially in her family).   As a result, she had really low self-esteem.  In the two years I spent time with her, she never saw herself as the treasure she truly was. 

I can remember sitting at a restaurant one day with her listening to her share about a recent date she had gone on. 

"He took me to the movies," she said. 

"Oh yeah.  Did you have a good time with him?"

"It was ok."

I could tell there was something she wasn't telling me.  I asked a few more questions and she finally came out with it.

"He was sweet to me.  He gave me attention.  Then halfway through the movie I knew what he wanted...so I gave it to him."

She went on to tell me how she "put out" (her words).  She told me what she did to him and what she let him do to her in the darkness of a movie theater. 

This wasn't entirely shocking to me.  I knew she struggled with healthy physical boundaries in relationships with guys.  It was something we had talked a ton about.

"Why did you put out?" I asked.   "I can tell by the way you talk about it that you really didn't want to."

"He paid for my movie.  I owed him."

While I wasn't shocked by her actions, her reason left me speechless.  It was as if she and this date of hers had played the same kind of trading game my sister and I used to play.  He gave her some "sweet" attention and a movie ($8.50), she gave him physical pleasure (i.e. her physical self and her hopeful heart).  And in the end she knew it was a crappy trade, a McDonald's straw kind of trade.  I saw it in her face and heard it in her voice.  And she knew with even more certainty when he never called to take her out again.

Here's my point:  I don't want my children to succumb to the world's clever pitches, and trade themselves for the empty-nothings the world has to offer.  I've traded parts of myself for a few of these empty-nothings and so I know how crappy they truly are. 

But I've also made the best trade of all.  I've taken the gift of love, grace, and life from Jesus Himself in exchange for my whole heart, the deepest parts of my soul, and all my mind.  Ours was a costly, and highly valuable deal for both parties.  But friends, it's been the deal of a lifetime.  And I'm not just feeding you "Sunday School Bull Crap."  I'm genuinely and sincerely saying it was a really good deal.

Jesus has breathed life into every facet of my being and none of the world's trade offers could ever compare.

I so desperately desire for my kids to go the marketplace with Jesus and say YES to His trade offer.  And I suspect if you are reading this you likely feel the same about your own kids.  So let's pray God's Word over them concerning this.

Lord Jesus,

You said that You came so that we "might have life and have it to the fullest" (John 10:10).  I pray my kids would choose life with You.  I pray they would love You as You demonstrated with a love that encompasses "all of their heart, all of their soul, and all of their mind" (Luke 10:27a).  May they see and know in their hearts that the "world and its desires pass away" (1 John 2:17).   May they say YES to Your "gift of eternal life" (Romans 6:23) and no to the empty-nothings this world has to offer.  




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