The Most Powerful Good News Ever!

The Most Powerful Good News Ever!

Good News

Date

December 20, 2023

Categories

Home

Gospel

Parenting

How good is the good news to your kids? This is a question intentional parents do well to ask.

IKEA “Heck”

When I helped my daughter move into her apartment in PA four years ago, she wanted a new bed. IKEA (2 hours away) had the perfect bed at an incredibly low price. So, I drove to IKEA, bought it, brought it to her apartment, and with the help of my son who came with me, we spent two more hours putting it together only to discover that there was a very important piece missing. I immediately called IKEA and was told, “Sorry. That was a piece you should have picked up. We can’t send it to you. You have to come back to the store.” Since the store was closing in 30 minutes, we had to spend the night (something we were not planning to do) and went the next morning. After a bad night of toss and turn on the floor, we drove to IKEA and back with the missing piece. What seemed like a great deal at the beginning ended up being not so great.

The Most Expensive Cheap Flight

Perhaps you’ve been hoodwinked by one of those cheap airlines who advertise ridiculously low airfares, like $29 from Virginia to Florida. But you soon learn that fare requires you to take a 5 am flight and pay $60 for your carry-on bag. You also have to board last (which raises the likelihood that there’s no overhead space for your bag and worse that you will be in a middle seat in the back of the plane between two people, one with bad flatulence, and the other with a raging cold. (For an extra $150 you could have an aisle seat near the front of the plane.) Once onboard the bottle of water costs $ 7 (pretzels cost $ 4). That’s a lot of inconvenience, and added cost to get that cheap $ 29 flight! What looked awesome ended up being a hassle.

We all have stories like these where we’re given what seems on the surface to be good news that ends up not being all that good after all.

God’s Good News IS Good News

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is “The good news!” But I wonder if our children see it as the truly good news it really is? “The good news” often talked about does not wash with the struggles we and our kids have trying to live the Christian life.

For years, I was in doubt over whether I was really a Christian because I knew my life did not measure up to the perfect appearance and rhetoric of church and school leaders.

Yea, I’m going to heaven when I die but God sure is disappointed with how I’m living my life right now. He’ll never bless me. Will I ever change and experience “the joy” of the Christian life? Maybe I’m really not a Christian?

More Than What We’ve Probably Heard

We and our children need the truly good news found in Romans 6 that tells us that we as Christians are indeed already different. If you have faith in Jesus, a change has definitely already occurred. Here are some phrases from Romans 6:

“How can we who died…”

“Our old self was crucified with him… ”

“So, you must consider yourselves dead to sin to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

“…you are not under law but under grace.”

“…you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness… ”

“For when you were slaves of sin… “

“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God…”

A change has occurred that means everything to how we live for Jesus each day.

Truly Good News is That We Are Already New; Fundamental (Although Not Complete) Change Has Already Happened

The good news is that there has already been a clear change in us who have faith in Jesus Christ. A break has been made from the past. We are no longer God’s enemies. We are his adopted children and he delights in us.

For sure, we are not perfect now nor will we be until we reach heaven. We still battle sinful thoughts, words, and deeds. But those powerful sinful thoughts, words, and deeds do not have the power to force us to do them. They do not define us. They are not who we really are.

Who we are in Jesus defines us and provides the power to continue changing. We are becoming in our thoughts, words and deeds, who we already are—in Christ. God deals with us on this basis. THIS is great news that does not disappoint.

Upgrade to First Class

This is like arriving at the airport and being told that you were upgraded to first class; you board first, the flight attendant places your carryon in the bin directly over your seat, the drinks are free, and a nice juicy steak (again, free) awaits you when you have reached a comfortable cruising altitude.

We must battle the flesh but we do so from a completely different position: grace. This is good news. Our failures do not result in a downgrade to the middle seat in coach. And, what’s more, his grace frees us to confess and repent and keep walking faithfully.

Is the Good News, Good News to Us Parents?

Is this the gospel we are mesmerized by as parents? Is this the gospel we are regularly presenting to our children, like when we read the Bible together as a family? God’s love, grace, and mercy for his people is replete from Genesis to Revelation. It is impossible to miss, but we often do because we are distracted with things like seeing what we should do but struggle to do or don’t do at all that have us in an identity crisis.

Every time we read the Bible with our children, we have the opportunity to remind them of the good news that really is good because it gives us joy and power NOW because of what God has already done. It doesn’t wait for us to do. It empowers us through the Holy Spirit to change our lives to be more like Jesus. Now THAT is good news that endures! Do our children know it as such?


Check out my latest podcast Truth Centered Families

Family Analytics

Family Analytics

family analytics

Date

November 13, 2023

Categories

Home

Gospel

What is the best indication that our children will walk with Jesus Christ? Is it having consistent, loving correction when they do wrong? Perhaps it is making sure that a child connects with the youth leader or the preaching on Sunday. Or maybe it is just being a parent who our child tells everything, keeping no secrets. Each of our children is unique and it is sometimes hard to know what we do that is making a difference. So, what is a parent to do? Let’s turn to sports for moment for some encouraging insight- (that’s also biblical.)

“Analytics”

I admit it! I am an NFL football fan. Even if you are not a football fan but a fan of other sports, you have probably noticed an explosion in the presence of something called, “analytics”. Analytics is the use of detailed data on an individual or team’s prior actions in a given game situation that helps an opposing team gain a competitive advantage.

For example, a football team faces 4th and 1. Should the team go for the first down, punt, or kick a field goal? By consulting the “analytics” a coach can decide on a play that is more likely to succeed. It is far more complicated than that, but you get the idea. When billion-dollar sports teams are faced with in-game decisions that affect whether they win or lose, they are increasingly turning to analytics rather than their gut instincts. But what are analytics, really? At their simplest, analytics are patterns.

This is not hard to understand. Olympic gold medalist, Michael Phelps, like most elite athletes, had a very well-defined training program (pattern) that enabled him to achieve unbelievable success. It is not a guarantee, but it normally is an accurate indicator of future success.

Patterns are Irreplaceable.

Back to our homes, so, what is the point? The point is that patterns are important. What we normally do, even if it is not always done with excitement, or even done well, matters in determining what we will do in the future.

What matters most in the training of our children are the patterns we establish in our homes for relationships and training. There is no magic fu-fu. Generally speaking, we reap what we sow. Whether we sow well or sow badly, God’s mercy is always what causes the increase. But we agree that we want to do our best to be a reason for our children following Jesus. God has not left us without instruction on these matters—or hope.

Scripture Commands Patterns

Foundational parenting passages like Deuteronomy 6:7-9; And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. And Ephesians 6:4, Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Speak of our parenting task as a pattern.

But starting and maintaining patterns is so hard to do today! (And we don’t have the money of a professional sports team to buy help!) Herein, though, is the silver lining for us as parents. Patterns do not demand perfection to work. Patterns by their nature consider struggle and failure. They provide a long view of success that keeps us from utter despair when life is going sideways.

Generally, We Can Expect Fruit

At Home in Him, the third in our four steps to bringing home the joy of the gospel is to reinforce the gospel through four simple patterns: reading the Bible together, prayer, scripture memory, and regular conversations. Establishing or re-establishing these and other good patterns is hard, but God uses them on his timetable to work in us and our children.

Put a premium on faithfulness. It is not a guarantee, but it can be an accurate indicator of future success. God reminds us in Galatians 6:9 that we will reap if we don’t give up. Keep seeking to be faithful in developing healthy patterns in your family life.


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Ordinary Parenting

Ordinary Parenting

Manners and sanctification

Date

September 19, 2023

Categories

Home

Gospel

Parenting

I was greatly encouraged by what I read in Acts 5:12-42 this morning and want to share that with you.

To refresh your memory, Peter, John and the other disciples were being used mightily by the Holy Spirit to teach about Jesus and to do great works of healing and deliverance. Apparently, people were even clamoring just to be in Peter’s shadow (v. 15). “Multitudes” were professing faith in Jesus. Tremendous growth was taking place.

Parents, Here is The Truth

The Sadducees were hot with jealousy about this and called in Peter and John for a meeting of the minds. They wanted to get them to stop teaching about this dude named Jesus of Nazareth. They weren’t getting very far. So, they dismissed Peter and John and went into Executive Session. It was in that Executive Session that Gamaliel counseled them, “…if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God. So they took his advice.”

This period in church history was truly unique and dynamic. You can’t help but say, “WOW!” reading these early chapters in Acts. The point I want to make, however, is most definitely not to look at this and construct some formula that tries to guarantee this kind of success in the church or home. Perhaps more times like this are ahead of us. There really could be! But that is not the point.

Parents, we are Nothing More Than Ordinary

There is nothing in this passage that indicates Peter, John and the disciples were extraordinary people. There is nothing noteworthy said about their skills and abilities. They were ordinary men. Just. Like. Us. We are ordinary. The Holy Spirit is extraordinary.

What happened was the result of the proclamation of the gospel IN CHRIST and the work of the Holy Spirit. We have the very same gospel and the very same Holy Spirit at work in and though us as we read about in Acts 5! Therefore, we have every hope that God will use his powerful message to change hearts as we struggle to walk faithfully.

Parents, This is the REAL Encouragement we Need

Please consider what this means in terms of our perspective as we slog along fulfilling our parenting duties.

The gospel, spoken by us, and applied by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our children is what’s powerful. Not us. Do we believe this?

What is the evidence that we really believe this?

Parents, Who Are You?

Are you struggling to lead your children because you are, well, ordinary? Maybe you are not gifted in your knowledge of the Word, or your ability to teach it. Good news! You don’t need to be. You have a pulse and you have a voice. God can do amazing things when we are content to be about what is important to him and doing it the way he wants it done depending on him.

Are we making it a priority to share this powerful message in our homes with regularity? Is it even an exciting message to us as parents? Does it melt our own hearts, bringing us to joyful gratitude for all that God has done for us—who if we’re honest, are far worse off than we want to believe?

Parents, We Have all the Reason in the World to be Faithful

IT IS an inherently exciting and inherently powerful message God has given us to proclaim to our children. We have great hope!

Are we praying and asking the Holy Spirit to dazzle our children with it, convincing them of God’s love, grace, and mercy poured out through all Jesus did—for them? If we believe this to be true of the gospel then we have all the motivation we need to be faithful in presenting it, teaching it, reminding our children of it, confessing it, making sure that they know it!

The gospel is the proclamation of God, who he is and what he has done for us in Jesus to ensure a loving relationship with him from now through eternity. The gospel is not just what makes us a Christian, it is the way we grow as Christians. It’s called grace! We and our children desperately need the daily proclamation of this good news.

Parents, Just Believe it and do it!

Can we really go without it? Why would we even want to? Which gospel are we really teaching our kids?

Journaling for Clarity

Journaling for Clarity

Manners and sanctification

Date

September 1, 2023

Categories

Home

Gospel

“Busy” is a worn-out word. It is as tired as I am. But it is my instinctive response to the familiar question, “How are you doing?” It’s like the Wheel of Fortune game show when they bring up a new phrase to solve and then give the contestants the most common consonants: R, S, T, L, N and vowel: E. “Busy” is a meaningless response. Sometimes, I say “busy” because I legit do not know where to start telling them how things are really going.

There’s so much going on at my house: start of a new school year, an out-of-town rehearsal dinner and wedding, an anniversary, a birthday, a major house project, big leadership decisions, and so many activities that Leslee and I look more like a pair of New York Center air traffic controllers on Thanksgiving Eve than we do parents. It is often very hard to sort everything out and restore order in my own heart. But I have found journaling to be a great help with that.

Since the beginning of summer, I have journaled consistently most days of the week. I have journaled very inconsistently for many years. But this summer’s experience has been a huge help to my mental and emotional health. I wanted to share a little about my experience journaling to encourage you to do the same.

Benefits

Journaling helps to clear your mind. Simply writing things down allows you to get them out of your head so that you can focus on one thing. You can more easily assign priority to matters and focus on what is most important. There is also something therapeutic about seeing a visual list.

Journaling helps you to sort out what is going on in life. Sometimes what’s going on in life seems or actually is so confounding, that we can become lost without any sense of where to begin to untangle it all. In this mode it is virtually impossible to manage life well. We drift from the place of clarity and priorities, to fog and tyranny of the urgent. We are like rudderless ships in a category 5 hurricane. Worse, we retreat to victimhood.

The discipline of having to put your fuzzy thoughts into words and then sentences forces clarity. You can only write one thought at a time. This is good. You can separate facts from feelings much more easily.

Journaling provides perspective. When so much is going on in life, it is easy to lose perspective. It is easy to lose sight of direction and purpose. Over time, writing about what is happening in your life helps you begin to see patterns that you would otherwise miss because you are too busy to recognize them. When we see patterns, it provides some helpful perspective about what is really happening below the surface in our hearts. This includes our motives and our responses.

For example, I have begun to see how I tend to focus too much on what is wrong in life rather than what is right. Also, comfort and pleasure can be an idol for me, especially when I am stressed. I’m convicted by how I fail to remember who I am in Christ and focus on those riches when I am struggling most.

Tips

Pick a journal that you will enjoy using. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a journal but get something you enjoy working with. Barnes and Noble and OfficeMax usually have attractive, affordable options.

Find a time block when you are by yourself and it is quiet. For me, that means early in the morning. I sit out on the porch (in the warm weather months) with a cup of coffee close by. I normally write before I read my Bible because it helps to clear my mind so I can focus.

Don’t force yourself to write a lot if thoughts are not flowing. Sometimes, all I do is write a few sentences, close my journal and move on after only about 30 seconds. Other days, I’ll write pages and pages for the better part of an hour. Just write what comes to your mind.

What to write. I sometimes struggle with what to write. I might just write down what I did the day before or I might write down my plans for that day. I try not to edit my thoughts choosing instead to let them flow naturally.

Sometimes, I write that the weather is cloudy and rainy and then in the next thought I write about something that happened and how I felt about it. Although I try to use good grammar, I don’t let that stop me from just letting my emotions go out through my pen.

Write for yourself. On the surface that sounds woke. What I mean is that the purpose of journaling is not to write a book, or a story about yourself for others to read. This is for you. Its purpose is to help you know yourself better so you can handle life better.

Read your journal. Reading your journal is uniquely revelatory. I find that I have re-read mine about two to three times since June. The benefits are huge and you’ll likely laugh at yourself. “Wow. I was really upset about that!” Or, “I hope no one ever reads that!” It is amazing how much easier it is to discern the patterns in your life when you do this.

It was once said, “Journaling is paying attention to the inside for the purpose of living well from the inside out.” Taking time to journal helps us evaluate what is really going on in our lives. It helps us know ourselves better and discern areas where we need to change. I recommend it.


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Four Keys to Rising Above the Chaos

Four Keys to Rising Above the Chaos

Manners and sanctification

Date

August 18, 2023

Categories

Home

Gospel

Life is chaotic. (I doubt you need to be convinced of that.)

The question is, how do we rise above the chaos? How do we as couples and parents avoid getting pummeled by the torrent of depressing news stories, sin struggles; rushed, incomplete, misunderstood conversations, gaming addictions, and costly car repairs?

  1. Accept reality.

One hot, humid morning this week (it felt like 100 degrees at 7:30 am), my wife and I were sitting on our porch, sipping coffee and talking about our marriage. We had just had a truth circle and mentioned things about each other that we did not like. We were not arguing at all. It was a very gracious and productive conversation. Leslee’s response to what I did that upsets her was so encouraging. She said, “Well, if it were not for these things, we would not be the people we are today. As it is, they are God’s prescription for us to become more like him.”

This was a well-placed reminder that all of the crud going on that had me in the fetal position was reality in a sinful, broken world. We don’t like it. We can’t change it. It is what it is. In the face of the crud, I typically want to replay the video tape and see where I messed up or where others messed me up. While some reflection is necessary, staying in that mode is not accepting but rejecting what is. It is a no-win game that keeps us locked in a downward spiral.

  1. Remember that God is bigger than our reality.

But there is another, more potent reality at work than the slings and arrows of daily life: God himself. God—the one who spoke the world into existence with nothing but his words—is a far more powerful reality. Colossians reminds us that in Jesus all things are held together. The delicate molecular balance in the air we breathe; gravity, sunrise and sunset are just a few constant reminders that God is in complete control. Every breath we take is a reminder that he lives. He cares about us.

Better, he is sovereignly working through all that we prefer was different as his prescription for getting what we each need: to be made more like Christ. Normally, that is hard to agree with and be joyful about. I think my conversation with Leslee was an outlier. But God meets us there and gives us Someone: the Holy Spirit, and something else to help us.

  1. To “see” this invisible reality, God gives us the eyes of faith.

Faith, Hebrews says, is the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews associates eyes with faith. It takes faith to choose to act—especially in the face of difficulty and suffering—that God is bigger than the circumstance and using it all for our good. Faith is a gift from God through which we see and grab hold of him.

The people to whom Hebrews was written were suffering persecution. Some were imprisoned, some were having their property taken away. To these people in this situation, the writer spends a whole chapter on faith (Hebrews 11). He does not spend time dispensing sleek incantations to bolster faith. Instead, we have the accounts of others who faced far greater difficulty than we have, but whose faith anchored them in the reality that God had something much better for them. They all persevered. In some, there was significant failure, but even their failures did not ultimately void their faith or their ultimate possession of its object.

We can be encouraged that nothing we face in this life, even momentary faith failures, is bigger than God’s power and ability to work through. Nothing stops God. This reminds us that what really matters is not the quality of our faith, but the quality of who that faith is in. Paul tells Timothy, “He remains faithful even we are unfaithful.”

  1. Choose to believe that God is always up to something good.

This is truly good news. This is the other side of the crud we face every day. We hate it but God is using it. When we know God is loving, gracious and merciful and we really do find our greatest joy in him, we can approach the crud of marriage and family life with a new perspective. Don’t misunderstand me to be saying this makes life unicorns and fairy dust. It doesn’t. When we don’t have something—or someone– solid to anchor into, all we are left with is the empty promises and cynicism of the world’s unicorns and fairy dust.

It is helpful to remind ourselves—and our children—of these things.

Special Presentation

I have developed a special presentation for men’s groups to encourage and equip fathers in having family devotions that are built on this strategy. Please click here to learn more.

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I recently read an encouraging article, Friendships for Fatherhood, check it out!

Two Things it Means to be a Faithful Parent

Two Things it Means to be a Faithful Parent

Manners and sanctification

Date

July 5, 2023

Categories

Gospel

Parenting

What does it mean to be a faithful parent? Is it making sure our kids are clothed and fed? Is it dropping them off—on-time—to everything? Maybe it is remembering to tell them we love them every day? Much could be said in answer to this question. However, I will limit my comments to two answers I think are most foundational.

Our Faithfulness as Parents is God’s Faithfulness First

God is faithful to us even when we are unfaithful to him. God does not withdraw his love, grace, and mercy when we sin. We might withdraw from him, but he does not withdraw from us. 2 Timothy 2:13 says, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.”

Another way of looking at it is this. Our eternal state and that of our children is not ultimately left up to us. We are nowhere near good enough. We cannot force our children to walk with Jesus. We need the confidence and rest that this glorious truth provides.

What does this mean for us as parents in the trenches?

Before we need to know what to do, we need to know what’s been done. We need good memories. I don’t mean the recall of our failures (which we are proficient at doing) but of God’s faithfulness. He alone is faithful when we are not. He is faithful to us and he is faithful to our children. The Bible is the story of God’s faithfulness to his children. He is faithful to complete the work he has begun in us (Phil. 1:6).

In 1 Samuel 7, Samuel raised an ebenezer (a stone of remembrance) to commemorate God’s victory over the Philistines. What are the ebenezers we share in our homes?

We remember God’s faithfulness when we talk about what he has done for us as husband and wife and as a family. The many daily, often perfunctory prayers for health, safety, and provision whether they be in the form of a good grade on a test, resolution to conflict, a replacement car, or even a needed vacation are reminders that God is faithful that we do well to remember.

When we acknowledge God’s answers to our prayers it glorifies him and provides another small opportunity to remember that he is faithful. The more we pay attention to the details of our lives, the more we will see how God has demonstrated his faithfulness in minute-by-minute meaningful ways.

Over time, these remembrances form a path of faithfulness that testifies to God’s utter kindness, grace, and mercy upon which we and our children want to walk. God’s past faithfulness paves the way for our faithful response to future challenges.

Why is God faithful even when we are unfaithful?

This is an important question to answer. Thankfully, it is not because of what we do right or wrong. Paul tells us, “for he cannot deny himself.” How blessed that is! We are new creations in Christ. We are in him. When God sees us, he sees his son first. The merits of his perfect life, lived for us who royally blew it in Adam, are now ours. We are now and always will be—his. Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:38-39). So united are we to him and he will not deny us because to do so would be deny his son.

That God is forever faithful, and that his forever faithfulness is based on the completed work of Christ for us provides priceless confidence to us struggling, flailing, weak parents that compels our pursuit of faithfulness in training our children.

To conclude, the first definition of what it means to be a faithful parent is to rest in the fact that God is faithful even when we are unfaithful.

God’s faithfulness is our message

Second, God’s faithfulness is our message. It is easy to make manners, academic excellence, character, etc. the main focus. Certainly, those are wise aspects to our overall parenting work. All of those and many more are easy to pursue because they can be easily defined; there are clear boundaries to them such as age, grades; there’s a beginning and an end, and accolades for success for the child (and let’s not forget, the parent, too. We love talking about our kids’ accomplishments because it makes us look good, too.)

Certainly, God is at work in these pursuits and we can pursue them to his glory. But they easily become “gods” to us when they are disconnected from the real goal of all education: to know God, his faithful demonstration of his character as a loving, gracious, and merciful God throughout history. God’s love for us compels us to love him in return.

If we love God, we will obey him

Jesus said, if we love him, we will keep his commands (John 14:15). Often, however, we feel the opposite: that we earn his love through our good manners and good grades. When we fail, we think that we fail God and worry that difficulty is God’s retribution for our poor performance in some other area of life. This is not a god anyone wants to know or serve. I think this is the reason some people walk away from the God. They don’t really know him to begin with.

Teaching our children God’s utter faithfulness through all he has done for us, not just saving us from our sins, but as important, ensuring our growing relationship with him through our union with Christ, is the curriculum our children must learn.

God can become their genuine love and passion for the rest of their lives. This is not a parental guarantee, but it is what God has clearly said in his word about our purpose. Jesus said in John 17:3, “this is eternal life that you know the father and the son whom he has sent.” We might teach our children a lot about God. But are we teaching them to know God?

The second definition of faithful parenting is teaching our children about God’s faithfulness beginning with his teaching them about his love and provision in Jesus Christ and then, the many ways God demonstrates his faithfulness in real life.

Let’s be faithful in the most important things… the things that will carry them through the upheaval of life in a fallen world and the things that will matter in eternity. Knowing God is utterly faithful—even in the face of our unfaithfulness—matters. And he has made it possible by virtue of his own faithfulness to us. He cannot deny himself.

A beautiful expression of this is found in the hymn Living Waters, by Keith and Kristyn Getty. “Lead our children to the shoreline of the Living Waters”. I will share the first verse here:

Are you thirsty, Are you emptyCome and drink these Living WatersTime unbroken, Peace unspokenRest beside these Living WatersChrist is calling, Find refreshingAt the cross of Living WatersLay your life down, On Thee, all comeRise up in these Living Waters
There’s a river that flowsWith mercy and loveBringing joy to the city of our GodThere our hope is secureDo not fear anymorePraise the Lord of Living Waters
Spirit movingMercy washingHealing in these living watersLead your children to the shore lineLife is in these Living Waters

Check out our recent podcast series “Reading the Bible the Way the Bible Wants to be Read”.

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