You Can’t Call Your Kids “Further Up and Further In” from Behind

This photo has nothing to do with this post.  But only proves that summer exists.  Won't that be nice?

This photo has nothing to do with this post.  But is does prove that summer has existed once, and if once, perhaps it will visit us again sometime.

I have a tricky relationship with sugar.  Or really it’s not tricky, I would just prefer to eat like a 6-year-old who gets paid in Sweet-tarts for working in the Snickers factory.   We swim in the white stuff in this time and place; the only natural shorelines are body image and health. Vanity is no godly motivator, though looking your best is not sin. And we live in a culture obsessed with health and safety, which of course reacting to by reckless living would be foolish.   I rebel against an asceticism that will not change the heart, and yet I take that too far to rationalize my own indulgence.  So maybe it is a bit tricky or more biblically put, requires wisdom.

All that to say, I committed this week to 6 days without desserts or snacks.  Self-denial is not my strength. Give me an action or inflict pain and I’ll take it like a woman, but ask me to wait without… NO!!  Anything but that!

So why torture myself in this way?  First, to gain the perspective that this hardly qualifies for torture. I have much to be thankful for.  Second, because self-control is a fruit of the Spirit that overflows to all of my life and produces more worship to its rightful Owner.  And third, because I have little people following me whose spiritual senses have barely tasted the sweet fruit of righteous living, but who increasingly face the bitter enticements of the world.

I think one of the most legitimate frustrations kids can feel is knowing that the parents who are to lead them can not say “follow,” but instead insist on “you go first.”  It’s pretty sick when you think about it- burdening a child with a weight you won’t carry.  Or I’m often guilty of the reverse- we’ll all just stay down here and wallow together.

In order to lead our kids, we have to go first.  This week, I’m tasting what I haven’t for too long, the hard fight of self-discipline.  And the result so far has surprised me.  I am calling my kids to higher standards with more mercy because I know the climb is grueling, but I can also assure them the view is worth it.  You can’t call someone further up and further in from behind.

And Be Thankful

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We had a lovely dinner with good friends tonight.  The kind where the food was great and the company even better.   We talked the gamut of topics and for a while landed on thankfulness, that familiar platitude we teach our kids to say and sign our messages with.  But though the phrase is frequent, the virtue can be hard to come by.

I read somewhere recently of a pastor visiting the US from a developing country, and when pressed to give one constructive criticism of Americans he said, “I think, because you have so much, you complain so much.”  Ouch.  Our sin is always more obvious to those around us, and we’ve just been called out for entitlement.  What are we to do?

Be thankful.  I didn’t come up with that solution.  You can’t get through many pages of the Bible without running into some variation of the command to be thankful.  As my friend pointed out, in just 3 verses in Colossians we are called to be thankful 3 times!  God is never redundant; he is kind to make sure we get what we need for life and godliness.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Col 3:15-17

What are we to be thankful for? Well, everything.  Have you ever thanked God that your orange comes in a protective peel until it’s ready to be eaten and then it’s already pre-divided into bite size slices?  It’s amazing!  Do you thank God for your shoes or for your bed that you spend most of your time in either one or the other? Are you thankful for medicine and science?  For grocery stores and pre-butchered chickens?

How about for the freedom to worship with hundreds of fellow believers on Sunday morning?  Are you thankful for singing?  For the word of Christ to flow out of you so gently that even your admonishments can be sung?  It’s hard to be harsh with a thankful heart.

Are you thankful for the Bible?  I love the book of Ezekiel.  I’m thankful for the poetry and the imagery, and for the intense picture of God’s wrath.  (I’ve not always been able to say that.)   I’m thankful for the affection for Christ that swells into my heart when after my stomach starts to turn and my jaw clenches and my knees shake because I don’t deserve to escape,  I remember that Jesus sweat blood and drank the cup of God’s wrath for me.  He was forsaken, he suffered, he died, the righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God (1 Peter 3).

Therein lies the basis of all thankfulness.  As Pastor Jason reminded us Sunday, grace then obedience, grace then obedience.  When we draw from the filled well of His grace, we will find ourselves pulling up buckets of thankfulness.

Little Van Tils

pile-upWho has time to blog with all these cuties to raise?  I sure haven’t lately.  But, I bet the laundry can wait another day (it has heartily survived several already) to send out a little encouragement today.

Born out of my own waning motivation to think hard lately, I fought back by picking up Van Til’s pamphlet, “Why I Believe in God.”  It got the blood flowing again.  I highly recommend the read. It’s potent enough to stimulate brain activity and short enough for a busy mom.   The pamphlet is a response to Bertrand Russell’s “Why I Am Not a Christian,” in which Van Til does not set out to show that Christianity is merely reasonable or more probable, but boldly asserts, “unless you believe in God you can logically believe in nothing else.”   It’s important stuff to think about- worship and obedience provoking stuff.

And an application I found along the way was a reminder not to waste my time with my kids.  As parents we’re having to constantly go between our wide angle lens and our zoom, aren’t we? And sometimes we get caught up in the details. Especially with school, I have settled into a rut of, “finish your math problems, read your science book, check, check, check, check,” missing opportunities  to preach the grandeur of our Creator.  As we fly through our checklists week by week, I’m reminded that time is short and a little dull. But when I look up to behold our God, I’m reminded that our time is but a vapor, I have no time for twaddle, and that we are privileged to have a lasting mission in a grand adventure.  I want more than top ACT scores and college acceptance letters. I want little Van Tils.

“In it [his Christian school]  I learned that my being saved from sin and my belonging to God made a difference for all that I knew or did. I saw the power of God in nature and His providence in the course of history. That gave the proper setting for my salvation, which I had in Christ. In short, the whole wide world that gradually opened up for me through my schooling was regarded as operating in its every aspect under the direction of the all-powerful and all-wise God whose child I was through Christ. I was to learn to think God’s thoughts after him in every field of endeavor.”
-Van Til from Why I Believe in God

Don’t Forget to Pray

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School is starting (Alice is ready). Schedules, and systems, and plans, oh my! Whether you do school at home or farm some of that out, most moms are busy setting up a new year on a clean slate. And who doesn’t love a clean slate? These days you don’t even wash the chalk dust, just give the iPad a wiggle and -voilà! – a clean screen.

Problematically, there is no such app for ourselves or our children. No wiping, wiggling, voice command, or button will erase the sin that thwarts all those well intended schedules, and systems, and plans.

I’m only a couple days in to implementing section 1 of plan A in our homeschool and already I’ve been frustrated in my progress, blaming 6 year-olds for my lack of a cheery disposition and for otherwise disturbing the peace and comfort of all who want to learn in this “loving” environment.

Unfortunately, I’ve been lost in this familiar territory too often until I make it to James 1:20, “for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
Ouch. Put off wrath. Check. But now I’m naked.

Looking around for something put on, I see the rationalization hamper full of dirty laundry. I could choose cowardice (give up and listen to Doc McStuffins all day), hypocrisy (make some more rules and demand outward compliance), or old, well-worn comparison (take a carefully selected sampling of “other” kids I’ve heard about and decide at least we’re doing better than that).

Of course none of these will do. Only Christ’s righteousness can cover our sin and produce the righteousness of God. How is this put on? By repenting and believing. How do we help ours and our children’s unbelief? “This kind only comes out by prayer.” Mark 9

Prayer, the most powerful, always at hand, inexhaustible resource given to help me, that I pridefully forget until a last resort. Let me be your 2014-2015 cautionary tale. Pray first, pray next, pray last, pray again. He will wipe away the tears and the sin behind them. He says:

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4

And again:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11

Part 5, Some Principles

What are some Principles to keep in mind while we study the Bible:

1. The centrality of preaching. How will they hear if no one preaches? (Rom 10)  The Apostles did not go around establishing churches and then leave people only with a stack of letters to read as individuals, they established preachers and overseers to teach and protect sound doctrine that was often distorted.

After attending URC for a while, I noticed a change in my reading, I could hear Kevin ask, “Why is this here?” or “A basic hermeneutical principle Continue reading

Part 4, Principles: Keeping the End and the Means in their Proper Place

As we approach any undertaking we should always pause to consider what the principles or end we’re after verses the methods or means we’re using  to get us there.  When we get these mixed around we can become slaves to our methods and free to stop short of our goal.

Let’s say for example that you want to have a healthy heart.  One principle component of a healthy heart might be exercise.  You could choose from dozens of methods to achieve this principle, jogging, Continue reading

Part 3, Posture: We Need to Come Rightly

And now a bit about how to come rightly to the Scriptures:

We need to come not doubting but with belief and repentance.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.  James 1:5-8

What is the difference between a doubt and a question?

Continue reading

Part 2, Posture: We Come Hungry.

After my testimony about God’s word in my life, I came up with 3 P’s.  Posture, Principles, and Practicalities.  Our posture meaning the way we come to the Bible.  We need to come hungry and rightly.  Today, I’ll post the hungry part:

Posture:

We come hungry. The Bible refers to itself as food many times: sweet dripping of the honeycomb (Ps 19),  we “feed” on Christ whom all the Scriptures bear witness to (John 5:57, Luke 24), we should desire to grow on spiritual milk (1 Peter 2:2) and then onto solid food (Heb 5, 1 Cor 3), so we’ll use that metaphor as well.

Continue reading

Part 1, The Double-Edged Sword

I was honored to be asked to speak at a women’s Bible study tonight at my church.  In case you missed that I said, s-p-e-a-k.  I write.  I don’t speak, um, well.   One of my well-spoken  friends told me to use the nervous adrenaline to clear my head and push me through it.  I think adrenaline must have a reverse effect on me.  One time I had a  kid in the ER, and all that adrenaline did for me was make  me forget my own child’s middle name.  I never recalled it the whole time we were there.

But God was kind, to his name be the glory, to calm my nerves and help me faithfully give testimony to some riches of reading his word.  Since I Continue reading

Bursting for Heaven

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We had a little get-away, just my Lovey and I.  It could not have been more perfect. Beach, bikes, a clear sunset over Lake MI, delicious food at quaint outdoor cafes, a fancy hotel… seriously, perfect. I’m sure we looked like we were on our honeymoon. Parents tried to keep their kids from “bothering” us, little did they know…

It was so wonderful that it made us long for heaven.  We often long for heaven when things aren’t going well, when the curse is nipping at our heels.  But when we felt like this life could not be more perfect, there was an obvious feeling that it still wasn’t enough. Somehow we knew we were still playing with comparative mud-pies.

Does that sound ungrateful?  To take Lewis’s advice to not be “too easily pleased?”   I think it’s like this: several times we mentioned to each other how thankful we were to our parents, but it wasn’t complete until we could get back to say it to them in person.  There was  a kind of relief or satisfaction in it.  It is the same with Jesus.  Our hearts are fat with thanksgiving and doxology and until we can worship face to face, we’re uncomfortably full.  The only remedy will be to fall down at his feet, cast all our prizes, and sing thankful praise with the elders,

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they existed and were created.”  (Rev 4:11)