Posted: February 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

Disclaimer: I realize these posts may be a little difficult to read. I am really writing these more as a journal. So, feel free to read along, but don’t expect amazing literature here!  if you do read, I pray in encourages you on your journey in raising disciples of your own!

It was one of those nights.

One of those nights when at the end of it all, I’m not sure anyone got anything out of our time.

Ever felt that way? Where you think, “Did anyone get anything out of this”?

When i stop to think about it, the honest answer is: Maybe.

that may not sound very encouraging, but let me tell you about the night, and then i will explain.

I have been trying to write things down as we go, but to be honest, I didn’t get a chance to write anything down about this particular night. Though I don’t remember the details tonight, there are a few distinct impressions I have about that night:

  1. The boys were pretty squirrelly. They were all having a lot of fun not listening…and while I want them to have fun, I also know it is important for them to learn the distinction between when to play and when to focus. If I remember correctly, at one point Sam ended up in his bed screaming (and I mean screaming)…yes, we have children who scream, and it ain’t pretty.
  2. I may have gotten a bit frustrated (by “I may have”, I mean “I did”). At one point I told them that I want our time in God’s word to be fun, but it will ultimately be what they make it. One of the ideas I tried to put into play on this night comes from Psalm 19, where it talks about God’s word being more valuable than gold and sweeter than honey. I asked them all to think of their favorite candy, and told them that as good as that candy is, God’s word is even better. Read the passage, it is a great section on how awesome God’s word is….a great point that may have been missed.
  3. It was the first night I wasn’t really excited about the material we are using. It has been very positive up to this point, but this night felt like it was put in there because it was needed, but it wasn’t very clear. We probably could have read Psalm 19, discussed that and ended there. But, I committed to doing this, so I am trying my best to follow through.

So a few thoughts in retrospect:

If you are reading this and experiencing the same, keep it up!

Remember: it is first about faithfulness to the King, second about your growth in becoming like Him, and third about God using these things for his own purposes and in His own timing.

This is the order I try and think of often. When I get these mixed around, it often creates frustration. For example: when I make it first about God using this to change and grow my kids, I’m usually trying to make that happen in my own effort…and that never ends well!

So, keep it up. Remember, even if they don’t remember what you taught, they will remember that you taught. You lead by example. If you give up, they see that. If you are faithful, they see that. And they are your disciples, your students. Like it or not, they are following in your footsteps. So lead, and lead well.

Remember that your identity is not based on how well you lead and it is not based on how well your kids follow. Your identity is meant to be wrapped up in Jesus and His finished work. Don’t make this your salvation! Don’t make this your idol! You don’t make yourself right with God by doing this well. Through Jesus you are already right with God, and that is meant to be your motivation.

And when you fail— and fail you will— kneel once again at the throne of grace, remember that it was paid in full, and that today is another step in your journey that will take the rest of your life.

Remember that the finish line is when you breathe your last breath. If you are looking for a finish line before that, you will always be frustrated and disappointed. Strive forward, but enjoy the journey.

And above all, walk with the King through it all. Jesus wants this, leading your family, to be a catalyst that causes you to draw near to Him. If you do all of the other stuff and miss this, you’ve missed it all! As you lead ask yourself consistently this question: Am I walking with the King? Am I seeking Him in prayer? Am I looking to Him for leadership as I seek to lead? Or am I just checking the box, trying to make myself feel better by doing the “right” things?

It is easy to make this just another “to-do” on the checklist, but that isn’t what God wants. God wants you. So, don’t miss the opportunity!

And that is why my answer to the question, “Did anyone get anything out of this?” is maybe.

Maybe your kids are getting something out of this…in the end, you can’t control that.  The question we need to first be asking really is: are you getting out of this what God wants you to get out of it?  Are you growing through this as God intends?

This isn’t just about your kids, it is as much about your walk with Jesus as their walk with Jesus.  To make disciples, we must first be disciples!

Stay Off the Paved Road!

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14)

And Jesus said to them, “Follow me…” (Mark 1:17)

I realize these posts may be a little difficult to read. I am really writing these more as a journal. So, feel free to read along, but don’t expect amazing literature here!

(3/18/2015)

Tonight didn’t start so well.

Eli (6) is upstairs crying. He doesn’t want to eat his dinner and so has chosen to go upstairs to his room instead. He keeps screaming, “I just want a sandwich” (instead of his veggies, of course). We also had some ribs, but he wasn’t interested.

Titus (3) doesn’t want his either. But, he has been sick all week with a fever.

Will is finished and wants to leave the table. Sam is pouting because he doesn’t want his veggies.

And I’m breaking out the bible…I wasn’t sure we were going to get much tonight. Even William said, “We shouldn’t do this, Eli isn’t here.

But I stuck with it.

My first question was: what have you learned so far.

I have been very encouraged because Will (9) has actually been very engaged. Tonight he recounted Jesus’ parents at the temple, Anna the prophetess, and Simeon at the temple. Sam remembered a little, but couldn’t recall the names.

Eli came down to the table at this point and still didn’t want to eat, but sat down. At that point I was just focusing on Will and Sam assuming Eli wasn’t going to get anything tonight.

“Those are the facts of what we read,” I said, “but what have we learned so far? How are we to live as a result of what we’ve heard.

Will and Sam both threw out answers. They talked about obedience like Jesus, listening to our parents because they want to help us obey God, listening to God like Anna, telling others about what God says like Anna.

I asked about where God speaks to us, and they answered (after some prompting): the Bible!

And last we recounted Simeon and his celebration over having finally seen the Savior as God promised— That Jesus came to save us from our sins- that is the good news!

I then began to read the story for the night. It begins by telling us that Jesus’ parents went every year to celebrate the Passover. I stopped immediately.

“What is the Passover?” I asked.

They all mumbled and stumbled and couldn’t remember.

So I explained how it is the celebration of God saving Israel out of Egypt by the blood of the lamb. Now they remember and they are intent! I remind them how God passed through the land and that the firstborn of every family would die unless there was…

“What on the door?” I asked.

Blood. They began to talk about how the blood points to Jesus, the lamb who takes away the sins of the world.

I talked about how amazing it was that the night Jesus was betrayed and crucified many years after Egypt, was the night of the Passover celebration. The celebration that clearly was pointing forward to Jesus rescuing us from the judgment of God by His blood being shed.

This was no coincidence. This was no chance. God planned this and timed this out- so we might be saved. “

How?” I asked

Will spoke up: “Because Jesus paid the price for our sins, but we need to also believe.

That is true, but there are two parts to believing. Not only do we need to understand and give ascent to the truth. The call of Jesus is to repent.

“What does it mean to repent?” I asked.

Will answered: “To know you did something wrong and say you are sorry.”

I asked Sam if he had any other thoughts. He answered: “to repent.” He laughs, “To repent means to repent.”

Always being funny 🙂

Will added: it means to follow Jesus and try to live better than you did

My response was: you could have stopped at follow Jesus.   That was what Jesus said in Mark 1.

We then played a game of follow the leader (with very boy actions that I won’t expound on here). To follow the leader means to surrender control and do whatever the leader does.

Jesus is not just savior, He is also King. He died to save us so we could live with Him as our King. Just like Israel! God’s message to Pharoah was not just, “Let me people go.” It was: “Let me people go so they might come out and worship me.”

He was saving them so they could come out and live for Him. That is true salvation.

I asked them: what would your life look life if you were completely surrendered to Jesus as King.

Everyone had an answer!

Will: I wouldn’t get so angry

Sam: I wouldn’t whine and throw fits

Eli: I would be more happy and not be afraid

Titus: I would be more happy. (I affirmed- surrendering to Jesus is the way to true happiness. People often think happiness comes by keeping control, but Jesus tells us just the opposite!)

Even Sarah and I answered. My answer was: I wouldn’t get impatient so easily.

Will chimed in and said I would never yell at them. I quickly responded with, “ I have boys who sometimes don’t listen until my voice is raised.” (We were smiling- all in good fun)

I read the rest of the story and then asked the three discussion questions.

You know what was amazing: Eli, the crying, distracted one, answered every single question!

I learned tonight:

  • Be faithful even when it isn’t easy going.
  • Don’t worry about waiting to make sure everyone is sitting still looking at you- they are often listening, even if it doesn’t look that way!

At the heart of the passage today we saw Jesus, the perfect Son of God obeying His imperfect earthly parents. Why? Will answered: Because the Bible says children are to obey their parents. He was being obedient to the law so He could die for us.

In the end, we prayed and thanked God for sending His son who was obedient where we have been disobedient and asked that we too would learn obedience as we seek to surrender to our Savior King.

It was a little rough, but what a great night!

Grumpy-Cat

Cats are evil. You may disagree, but I have my reasons (I had a bad experience with a Siamese cat who attacked me in the morning once).

And sometimes, trying to get my boys to focus for a few minutes is like herding cats.

Take that where you will :-).

Seriously, trying to lead a family bible study can be a little trying at times. But something I am trying to learn is to just go with it. Relax. Have fun. Redirect without getting upset. Remember in my last post: make sure you have the right expectations. Sadly, I think I often expect more of my kids than I should, and that isn’t good for anyone.

So last week we got started with our new study through Old Story New by Marty Machowski.

The study begins at the birth of Jesus and takes you through the New Testament. Since we just celebrated Christmas, we decided to start right after that point. So, we started with Jesus’ parents taking Him to the temple to be circumcised (Luke 2:22-24.

The whole point was that Jesus came to fulfill the law for us, so He could go to the cross and take our place, dying the death we deserved, so we might be saved.

It kicked off with a game of “The Law Says”. It is the same as Simon Says, but instead you only act if the person leading says, “The Law Says”. IN order to get the kids into it I said, “The Law says pick your nose.” That may or may not have been a good idea. They laughed as they all picked their noses (but that is nothing new). Then I said, stop picking your noses. They stuck to the game.

Of course, my boys get very competitive and it soon turned into a serious issue. Once you didn’t do what the law said, you were out. Crying ensued and we got off track a bit (herding cats).

But, we pulled it back together. I used James 2:10: “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.”

I said something like this: “The message is, even if you keep every single command but one, you lose. You’re out. There are no second chances! Except that God sent Jesus to be completely obedient in our place. This was true for Him even as an infant as God used His parents to follow the law and bring Him to the temple to be circumcised.”

Great point, right?

So we started some discussion questions. But again it was like herding cats. I lost a little perspective and became this guy:\

y u no listen

But again, we pulled it back together and had some great discussion about the obedience of Jesus’ parents.

Then came the inevitable question: What is circumcision?

Now, this is an important question. But, with little boys it may be a little difficult to hear and still listen. But, I told them anyway.

When you are born you have extra skin on your penis and the doctor cuts it off. That is circumcision.

I wish I had my camera out!

shockedkid

I said, be thankful you didn’t have to do it when you were older.

I then preceded to tell them the story from Genesis 34. Its not the prettiest story, but a good one for the boys. The story goes that Dinah the daughter of Jacob was taken and raped (I did not go into those details). After, the man who had done this asked Jacob and his sons to let him marry Dinah and to make peace with them. They promised to give whatever Jacob and his sons asked. So they said, all of your men need to be circumcised. They agreed. And on the third day while they were sore (an understatement), Jacob and his sons came in and defeated them for the sake of their sister.

The boys said that plan would totally work because who could fight with that kind of pain.

A little off track, but we closed in prayer. I asked who woud pray, and our 8 year old Sam agreed. Then he changed his mind and Will prayed instead. Just a sweet simple: thank you for using Jesus’ parents to help Jesus be obedient to the law, help us to be obedient too.

Amen.

One big take away from this night for me is this: Just relax and keep turning it back to where you are supposed to go.  Kids are kids so just enjoy the process, even if it is like herding cats.  Some day you’ll by trying to herd rhinoceroses (or is it rhinoceri? I’ve heard it both ways).  I would imagine we will miss the herding cats 🙂

Would love to hear how your own studies are going! Let me know!

Stay Off the Paved Road!

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14)

And Jesus said to them, “Follow me…” (Mark 1:17)

The Worst Thing You Can Do

Posted: March 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

Let me ask you to consider this question for a moment: When it comes to spiritually leading your family, what is the worst thing you can do?

I know that getting into the Bible with you family can seem like a daunting task.  I know there are fears of failure, making mistakes, being boring, not having the answers…. but what is the worst thing you can do?

As I said, I will be sharing about our journey as we try and get into the Bible with our kids. I know it will be interesting and filled with all sorts of chaos (there are 4 boys, so what else should we expect), but I also hope it will encourage you to know how another family is trying to faithfully not just raise good kids, but to raise disciples— followers of Jesus. I will do my best to share not just the good, but the messy as well. The victories and the failures.

We are going through the study, Old Story New by Marty Machowski. The studies aren’t long, and you don’t need to be a bible scholar to go through them. Anyone can do this, so don’t be afraid to try. If you’re interested in going through this, click the link and it should take you to Amazon.com.

Right now we are going through one section a night whenever we are all together for dinner. We have a number of nights when we are out, so we won’t be sticking to the weekly schedule.

With that in mind, let me just give you a few thoughts to consider if you haven’t started anything, or are struggling with consistency:

  1. Start where you are. You may be tempted to try and reach for the ideal. Perhaps you picture a family sitting together every night studying the bible, praying and singing songs. Whatever you think is ideal is not the place to start.

One of the big mistakes we’ve made along the way is to try and do more than we are able. We start off with trying an hour long time of study, prayer, singing etc. and never get anywhere because we aren’t even close to being ready for that. So, we end up giving up before we even really get started.

It’s kind of like going to the gym for the first time in years. I used to make the mistake of going in and trying to work out like I was back in High School on the wrestling team. Of course, I wouldn’t be back to the gym for a month because I was so sore after that.

Don’t make that mistake!

Start by taking a simple step.

Each family needs to decide how best to get into the word together. Some of you may decide it should be every night, while others decide once a week. Don’t start with something long. Include reading the bible, ask a simple question like, “What does this teach us about God?”, and include a time of prayer (remember, start small. Even a sentence prayer can be a good place to start: God thank you that you are…)

The point is, as Dr. Leo Marvin once said, “Baby Steps”.

  1. Pick a tool that you think will be most helpful for you. One thing that I believe keeps most dads from leading their family in bible study is feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to start. You may think, “I can’t write bible studies!” Good news: you don’t have to. The study I am using is preplanned and includes good discussion questions, even some game ideas for helping your kids get the main point. I read through the lesson beforehand and make sure I know what I am talking about. In the end, each session only takes about 15-20 minutes with preparation included. I’m not saying this is for everyone. Go on Amazon and type in family devotions. There are lots of great resources out there!
  1. Make sure you are prepared with the right expectations. Remember that this is not about having a church service with mature adults. If you go in assuming your kids will sit still like perfect little angels, listen intently, and always be ready to answer a question, then you have forgotten what it is like to be a kid. This is a study time with kids. That means it will be messy, chaotic, and, truth be told, sometimes downright frustrating. And remember, even when it looks like they aren’t listening, they often are.
  1. Be consistent. Starting and stopping isn’t something foreign to our family. Sarah would tell you that I have lots of good ideas, but there are plenty of times when I don’t stay consistent with follow through. This is why having a set plan and schedule helps. If you don’t set clear guidelines that you can stick with, you won’t keep up. And if you have given up, or started and then stopped, don’t let that keep you from trying again.
  1. Remember, God is in charge of the results. His expectation of you is obedience. Don’t try and do God’s job. Walk with Him faithfully, trusting He will use you in the way He sees fit (which is always best). It is amazing what God can do with something small that you do. Let me give you an example: a number of years back at my last church I received a phone call. The woman on the other end of the line shared that her husband was sick, in the hospital and dying. She ahd called her church and they said they could not come and visit (I know!!! Don’t even get me started! What kind of church says no to coming and praying for a dying member?!?!). She asked if I would come and visit and pray over him. I didn’t know them, but it was obvious what I needed to do. I went, I visited, I read scripture, and I prayed with them. Three years later and I just ran into her again. She thanked me because God had used that one visit to do more than I knew. He had been healed, they started coming to the church and had believed in Jesus as Savior and Lord. There is so much more I could share, but just stop and think about this: a whole family was changed because of one hospital visit. That wasn’t me. It was God. That is what God can do with simple obedience.

I know there are probably lots of other things I could say, but I will just leave it with those for now.  I know it can seem like a daunting task but remember this:

The worst thing you can do is nothing at all.

Stay Off the Paved Road!

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14)

And Jesus said to them, “Follow me…” (Mark 1:17)

Re:start

Posted: March 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

It has been a long time since we have published anything on this page!

There are a lot of reasons I could give.  I had a big job change, a number of health issues. Life happens. And while sharing all of that with you might make me feel a little more justified in my absence, let me give you the biggest reason I haven’t been on here: I felt like I was failing at raising disciples.

My intentionality felt like it was DOA.

This is my confession:

We had written material about being intentional in discipling our kids and I felt like I was failing. How could I tell others about discipling their kids when I wasn’t living up to it myself? My wife would tell you that I was still discipling our kids, but I still felt like I was blowing it.

I’ve felt that way for a while now.

Have you ever been there? Are you there right now?

When we first wrote Raising Disciples, we were in the midst of some big life decisions, running at a break neck pace, setting ourselves up for burnout.  We spent a year walking through this material with about 60 people between two churches.  I was invited to speak to a number of different groups. We developed small groups, teaching material, and worked to disciple parents just like us.

In the midst of that we felt God calling us to a new place in ministry and made the decision to move from where we began in ministry and had served for 16 years. It was a hard and painful process with no shortage of tears. Looking back, I am thankful for all we learned in the process and for where God has us now.  God grew us in ways we never expected.

And if one thing has been made clear throughout all of this, it is that I have been reminded that there are no easy answers to parenting.  For all of the “Parenting for Idiots” books out there, there is no simple package that solves all of our parenting struggles.

There is no silver bullet.

Parenting is a messy process filled with Highs and Lows, and when you are in the midst of it, it usually feels like there are more Lows than Highs.  And if you are like me at all, you carry around some real guilt with you.  You want to be a better parent, but often feel overwhelmed with life.  You have lots of good intentions, but lots of missed opportunities.  You regret that you haven’t done all that you should, and you want to be better, but you wonder if you will ever get there.

If that sounds like you at all, then I have good news and I have bad news.  The good news is that you will get there!  The bad news is that you will not get there in this life.

At the heart of Raising Disciples is the belief that before we can make disciples, we must be disciples.  How can I lead my children where I have not been?

But being a disciple is not about finishing a process, but engaging in it. Over and over in the material we say: being a disciple is not about perfection, but progression. This is the tension that lives in every follower of Jesus.  We are all in process. If we wait until we have it all together, we will be waiting for eternity.

In Philippians 1:6 Paul says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Here are a few thoughts from these verses:

  1. Paul is sure of this, are you? Do you have this confidence?
  2. You should if you have surrendered your life to Jesus as Savior and King. God began a good work in you! If you are a Christian this is true. It has started.
  3. It will one day be complete. But the message of this verse is that this is in the future, not the present.
  4. The hope of this being completed is not you carrying it on, but God. He began the work, He will finish.

God always finishes what He starts! That is where we find encouragement to keep moving forward. To not give up. Even when we fail, even when we blow it, God is still working in and through us, and won’t stop until it is done.

That keeps me going.

I’ll be honest with you: I often feel like a failure. I’m not the world’s greatest dad, and I am not perfect at discipling my kids. I miss opportunities and I get caught up in all sorts of things that distract me from what is most important. And I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I probably only have more questions than answers.

I think most people can relate to this because that is life, isn’t it? It isn’t clean cut, it’s messy.

If you can relate, then the danger is that we allow the messiness, the confusion and failures to push us out of focus. To cause us to throw up our hands and say, “I can’t do this.” Trust me, I know. That is why I stopped writing. In a world filled with lots of Christian specialists who seem to have it all together, I felt out of place- I don’t have it all together. I don’t have it all figured out.

But, good news: God is not looking for people who have all the answers (or who have it all together- if so, He wouldn’t have anyone to use). He is calling people like me, people like you, to make disciples. People who don’t have it all together, but who in the midst of all of the crazy hectic challenges of life turn to Him in surrendered obedience.

His invitation is very simple: follow me. In essence He says, “Let’s go make disciples of your kids. Follow me. “

He doesn’t say, “Good Luck doing this alone.” He says, “Come with me and let’s do this together.”

And it is there, in the following, that we grow finding all we need in Him. He has given us His example to follow and has given us the Holy Spirit who always equips and empowers us to fulfill His mission as we walk with Him.

So, in essence, this is a restart for me. A relaunching.

I’m back on here, and we are still (imperfectly) raising disciples. If you want to come with us, we’d love to journey with you!

For now, I will be writing and sharing about our journey in this mess. Bringing you in to our journey. We are currently taking our boys through Old Story New by Marty Machowski. It is a simple study through the New Testament. We are also reading through the Bible in a year (or years J). I will simply be sharing the process with you in hopes that it will encourage you as you are on your own journey.

If you are looking for someone with all the answers, you’ve come to the wrong place. If you are looking for an amazing writer, you’ve come to the wrong place. If you’re looking for someone who is on the journey with you, well, this is the place for you.

The mission of every Christian parent is not to just raise good kids: it is to raise disciples. This is not just something that is good to do, but it is the calling our King has placed on our lives. There are so many good things we could spend our time doing, but this is of the utmost importance. It isn’t easy, but it leads to life.

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14)

And Jesus said to them, “Follow me…” (Mark 1:17)

Stay Off the Paved Road,

Dan and Sarah Painter

One of the things people talk about every year is how we make a huge deal out of Christmas, but such a small deal out of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.  And they’re right.  Think about it: every year we spend a month getting ready for Christmas: Buying presents, going to parties, putting up decorations.  At our church we even preach on it for a month.  We have big productions and celebrations.  And even after it is over, the decorations tend to stay up for a while.

But then we come to Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, and people tend to give it a weekend at best, or a Sunday at least.  And there are a lot of reasons we could give for that (which I won’t go into now)… but this year I decided for my family, we were going to start changing that.

So this week on Thursday, without telling Sarah, I went out and did some shopping.  It wasn’t that I didn’t tell her because I didn’t want to, but because I wanted it to be a surprise.

So, I did some shopping, and finished up feeling pretty good about my surprise.

But, no kidding, I get out of the store, call Sarah and she says, “What did you just spend that money on at the store?”

Creepy.  I mean how did she know? Did she have people following me?

Turns out I used her rewards card and they sent her an email with receipt so she wouldn’t lose it.

How helpful.

Now “the man” isn’t only watching me, he’s sending my wife email updates on what I’ve been doing.

Well, that didn’t ruin my plan for the kids.  Friday night we wrapped the presents and put them out Saturday afternoon.  When the kids saw them they asked, “Can we open them?”

My answer?  “No.”

Instantly weeping and gnashing of teeth ensued.  They cried, got angry, yelled, pouted.  I was really enjoying my time.  Not because they were upset (though maybe a little), but because they were setting the lesson up perfectly.

I said, “Do you want to know why I bought these presents for you and why you can’t open them right now?”

Of course they did.

So I explained:  Friday night we celebrated Jesus dying on the cross for our sins.  After he died, he was buried.  “How do you think the disciples felt?” I asked.  Sad, frustrated, angry, depressed.  I read to them from Luke 24:13-27 about the disciples on the road to Emmaus.  Here are two disciples, walking along “feeling sad.”  They thought Jesus was the messiah, but He had died.  They still didn’t get it.

But then, the tomb was found empty.  And they still didn’t get it. So, Jesus had to show them starting with the Old Testament how everything was pointing to Him.

I said, “Easter is all about a gift: the gift of salvation bought for us by God the Father through the Death of God the Son.  Romans 6:23 says, ‘The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life.’  God bought that gift on the cross, and we know it is true, because the resurrection is like a spot light shining back on the cross saying: this is true, Jesus died for you.  So, just like Jesus was put in the tomb and the disciples had to wait for the gift to be opened, so these gifts are wrapped and you have to wait for them to be opened.”

They still weren’t happy, but they got it.

This morning we got up, and paid us back by getting up before 6 am.  But when we finally got adjusted, we read the Easter story as a family.  Then we opened presents together celebrating the greatest gift of all: the salvation God purchased for us through His Son on the cross!

you may not like this idea, but let me encourage you to be intentional with talking to your kids about the cross and the empty tomb today.

He is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed!

 

Posted: March 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

You cannot soften the heart by hammers of the law. You cannot force a man to do right by brandishing the whip that punishes doing wrong. You cannot sway the will by anything but the heart; and when you can touch the deepest spring it moves the whole mass. So the whole man is made mobile only by the touch of love; and the grace that comes to us and says, “if you love me obey my commands.” is as I believe, the sole motive which will continuously and adequately sway the rebellious, self-centered wills of men to obedience resulting in nobility of life. -Alexander MacLaren.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. (Romans 8:18-24)

  

Parenting is hard.  

Probably an obvious statement, but it is important to acknowledge it.  Don’t get me wrong: Being a parent is one of the greatest blessings that we get to experience in this world.  It is amazing how much joy God brings into our lives through our kids…and for those of you who aren’t feeling that right now…I get it.  Because at the same time that parenting is a blessing, it also comes with a curse: the curse that has come with the fall.

We live in a world that has been subjected to futility.  In our language, that word means: pointless action.  And sometimes that is what parenting feels like: pointless action.  But it isn’t pointless.  Because it was not subjected to that futility without hope.  The reason it was subjected to that futility was in hope: the hope that it would be set free.  How?  By the grace of God.  When we experience the frustration of this world, it is meant to turn us from our own effort to God; to the Gospel.

Galatians 5:1 says:

For freedom Christ has set us free. 

Our world was subjected to frustration in hope of freedom.  In Christ the Good News of freedom has come!  We have been set free from the futility of this world!  Now we have not experienced the full reality of that freedom yet.  But Paul is reminding us in the context of our trials that we have a greater hope.

When we go through trials, our tendency is to get so focused on the circumstances that we take our eyes off God and are therefore overwhelmed by them.  Are you feeling that way today?  Like Peter who took his eyes off of Jesus as they were walking on the water?  Peter saw the wind and the waves and began to sink… Are you sinking today?  Feeling overwhelmed by the storms in your house?  The cleaning, the disciplining, the bickering the bills? If you are, then I urge you like Peter to cry out to Jesus: save me!  Look to Him again and pray that He would fill your vision instead of your circumstances. 

In Hebrews 12 we are told:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus endured the cross scorning its shame because His eyes were fixed forward on something infinitely greater.  Here is what Paul is encouraging us to do.  To fix our eyes on the joy set before us.  And know this: the joy set before us is not a place, but an eternal relationship with the creator of the universe.  What makes heaven heaven is that God is there, and so we will be with Him and see Him face to face where we will know pleasures evermore!  Psalm 16:11 says:

You make known to me the path of life; 

in your presence there is fullness of joy;

at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Someone once said, “Heaven will make this world seem like one night in a bad hotel.”Have you ever stayed in a bad hotel.  I have.  I remember taking a trip and staying in a hotel we thought was going to be great.  But it was dirty, stained, and uncomfortable.  But because we were looking forward to the beach it really wasn’t that big of a deal.  That is how our future joy should outshine the trials we face today. 

Trust me, I know this is easier said than done.  It is easy to loose sight of this truth.  But when we do, that is when we need to see our mistake and call out once again: Jesus save me!

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.  (Romans 8:15-16)

 

For the dads out there, do you remember when the first time you were called “dada?”  And moms, do you remember the first time you were called “mama?”  remember the joy and the how proud you were of your child?  You couldn’t have been more happy than in that moment. 

Your child called you by name!

Sometimes when I look back at my Christian journey, I am so saddened by my poor view of God.  So often our view of God is one of an angry father watching for the first mistake you make so he can judge you.  In our minds we hear/heard God say, “What is wrong with you?  Get it together!”  We feel as though God loves us (since He is love- He must), but he does not like us very much.  He endures us as we stumble through life, sinning and failing.

But that is not the vision that Paul gives us (and consequently God since all scripture is God breathed).  Paul says that we did not receive the spirit of slavery.  This was the old life.  Read Galatians 4:7:

So you are no longer a slave.

This is what we were.  Slaves to sin.  (And though I won’t go into it now, remember that slavery to sin is slavery to serving yourself instead of loving God and loving others.  Without Christ we use God and others to build up our identity, security and happiness by our own effort.)  To be a slave is to be owned and controlled by something or someone.  This is what we were.

But when love came to town (shout out to U2), we were set free.  But not just redeemed (bought from slavery by full payment), we were adopted.  The rest of Galatians 4:7 says:

You are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Do you hear that?  You are an adopted son!  Now for the women reading this, Paul is not excluding you or being sexist.  Remember at that time women were devalued in the family and sons were highly valued.  Sons were the ones who would get the inheritance.  Paul says, regardless of your status, culture or gender, in Christ you are adopted with the full rights of sons!  In fact, in Christ we are treated as “only sons.”  We get the full inheritance of Christ, because the inheritance is not a place but a person.  The inheritance is the infinite God Himself. 

This means our relationship with God is one of a child to his or her father.  The word Abba is not a term used by older children, but of toddlers.  It is a word that young children are able to utter before their language skills are fully developed.  This is what we are to call God, but not only call Him, but how we are also to see God.  As our Abba.  This does not take away from His holiness (purity and absolute uniqueness), but is in the context of His holiness.  Holy God is you abba.

Now, remember how you looked at your child when they first called you “mama” or “dada?”  As much as you love your child and take pleasure in that moment, God does so infinitely more.  And think of it: to be able to have you call Him your abba, He did not just create you, he birthed you through the death, burial, and ressurection of His own Son.

The apostle John writes:

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are!

So today when you hear your child call “mama” or “dada” (or “mom” or “dad”), remember God’s great love for you.  But not only His love for you as His child, His love for your children as well.  Allow that to be the force behind your parenting today!

Birds and Parenting

Posted: March 19, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?  (Matthew 6:26-27)

It sounds like spring is on its way.  Of course, weather in Chicago can be a bit deceiving.  But it at least sounds like spring.  The birds have come back and I can hear them singing, which reminded me of this passage about worrying.

Ever heard that person who says, “I’m not worried, I’m just concerned?”  I am sure I’ve used it myself. I tell people that my mom was a worrier and my dad was thorough.  Put those two together and you get me: a thorough worrier.

But is there really a difference between concern and worry?  Here is what the dictionary says:

Worry: To be or make anxious

Concern: an uneasy state of blended interest, uncertainty, and apprehension (worry)

According to the dictionary, our little saying to make “worrying” more acceptable doesn’t hold much water.  Whatever you call it, it is the same thing with the same root problem: pride.

That’s right, I said pride. Surprised? Probably, like me, you’ve never thought of it that way.  How can worry be prideful? Let me tell you:

  1. Worry comes from predicting the future
  2. Worry comes from assuming I know what is best
  3. Worry comes from assuming I know what I need
  4. Worry comes from assuming God either doesn’t know what is best, or isn’t strong enough to make that happen, or doesn’t love me enough to make it happen, or just doesn’t have a clue.

Should I keep going?  I think that’s enough.  Worry is prideful because when I worry I am putting myself above God.  I am saying I know what is best and God doesn’t/or won’t give me what is best.

Do some self-examination here: how much of your day do you spend being worried?  Worrying about how to get things done, keep up with the kids, deal with specific discipline issues, go to work, etc.  We all do it, though some more than others. Do you see how that worry is an issue of pride?

But here Jesus tells us we don’t need to worry.  Why not?

First because God does know best.

Think for a moment about the prayers that God said no to that if He had answered yes, your life would have been a disaster.  Like marrying that old “sweetheart”.  Going to “that” school.  Not having to move out.  Having 20 children (did anyone actually say this prayer?).  Whatever it was, I am sure you can look back and see them.  But even if you can’t, you know God has kept you from the consequences of a lot of bad prayers because He knows best.

But not only does He know what is best, He knows what you need.  And He has promised to give you what you need when you need it.  As a parent, there are lots of times when I feel like I just can’t pull through.  There is too much to do.  I feel stressed and overwhelmed.

And though there is a lot to do, that isn’t the problem.  The problem is that in pride I have forgotten that God knows best and always provides.  I never see birds up losing sleep about anything.  I never see birds pacing back and forth outside.  Yet, they don’t even have a 401k.  How do they survive?  God provides.

Last, not only does God know what is best and what you need, you are also valuable to Him.  If the first two were true but not the third, we would not have much certainty of God providing.  But, Jesus says, He provides for birds everyday and yet how much more valuable are we to Him.  Let me tell you: so valuable that He sent His Son to die for you.  Priceless.

So, when you start to feel a bit overwhelmed, listen to the birds for a moment.  Remember that God always knows best, and will always give you what you need when you need it because you are priceless to Him.

So don’t worry.  Parent at rest.