Some Parenting Tips Pastor Dan has learned from almost 30 years of Parenting

By: Dan Seale

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What does it say that after 27 years of parenting, I attended a parenting seminar a couple of weeks ago?  It says, “I am still learning as a parent and I am not an expert nor will I ever be.”  Each parent, each child, and each family system are unique, and there is no one size fits all formula or method.  Above all else, I want my children to know and follow Jesus. I have prayed that  Psalm. 73:26 would be the cry of my children’s hearts.   Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  I offer my parenting tips with the hope that they help water and fertilize the soil of our children’s hearts so that God’s Spirit will make this prayer become a reality.

1)     Parent out of hope not fear.

Yes, the world can be a scary, dangerous place.  When we parent out of fear, we tend to try to control circumstances and our children.  This rarely works out well in the long run.  As they get older, you realize you have less and less control over them and their environment.  So usually, instead of trusting God, you only grip tighter and tighter. 

Accept you are not in control, but God is; so quit trying to control your child and his/her/their world.

Our confidence in parenting must be in the promises and presence of God.  God is at work accomplishing His purposes. (Romans 8:28-29).  He is our Creator, King and Savior (Colossians 1). He alone can change the hearts of people, including our children.   Therefore, we should not fear.  Too often our minds are consumed by what could happen and worst-case scenarios. In those moments, we must cling to the promises of God – that He is with his people, for his people (Matthew 28:18; Hebrews 13:5).  In the midst of some of our hardest challenges as parents, Debbi and I would constantly remind one another, The story isn’t over.  This isn’t the last chapter.  God is at work.  We can trust him with our lives and with our children’s lives.

 

2)     Parent out of weakness not strength.

The best thing I can do for my children is show them my sin and weakness and my need to be rescued and strengthened by Jesus.  That means I should ask their forgiveness when I sin against them or in front of them. I need to admit that what I did was wrong and not excuse my sin.   Also, parenting out of weakness means that I recognize I can’t parent my children to Jesus or to success in this life.  Therefore, I need to pray to the living God to work in the lives of my children.  It is easy to only pray when circumstances are bad, and we clearly see what is always true – we are not in control.

 

3)     Parent in community not in isolation.

We are not meant to live the Christian life alone, and we are not meant to parent alone.  We need to take advantage of God’s gift, the church, to help us in parenting.  Surround your children with other adults who love Jesus and who will love them.  I am thankful for the many adults who have befriended my daughters.  They have served and some continue to serve as confidants.  My daughters felt free to ask them questions they may have struggled to ask us and share struggles. Yes, I know many of you want the type of relationship that your child will tell you everything and ask you anything.  That may happen for a few. However, even if that does happen, you want other adults speaking the same truth into their lives.  This will ultimately strengthen their faith because it’s not just mom and dad talking about Jesus.  They will see that others believe these same life-changing truths and love Jesus.  These relationships won’t form themselves.  We intentionally invited people into our home to share meals and play games with us and our children so they had time to build connections.  Additional connections were built with their Sunday School teachers and youth group small group leaders.  Let your children be influenced by other godly followers of Jesus. Invite someone over to dinner this week.

 

4)     Parent by example not merely by words.

If you want your child to pursue Jesus, then you must pursue Jesus.

If you want your child to love and value the people of God, the church, then you must model that love and commitment. 

If you want your child to love and respect their mom or dad, then you should model loving your spouse. 

If you want your child to be a helper and servant, then model sacrifice and servanthood.

What are you modeling to your children that you love and live for?

Your actions teach your children far more than your words.  One of my great sorrows in life is when I see my sin reflected in my children. I never intentionally said to follow my sin, but they caught what I modeled, positive and negative.

 

Bottom line – the best things you can do for your children as a parent are …

  • Love Jesus and pursue spiritual growth among the people of God, the church.

  • Love your spouse and model forgiveness and sacrifice in daily life.

This is assuming you are not a single parent.  If you are divorced, then how you treat your ex can model the Gospel in powerful ways.

 

I will pray for you and I hope you will pray for me that we will increasingly parent not by fear but by faith in the power and presence of God as we actively pursue Him.

There are countless good books out there and some bad ones.  Here are two books and some audios that if you synthesize them, will give you a solid biblical foundation for parenting.

 

Parenting by Faith not by Formula by Julie Lowe

Shepherding A Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

Big Picture Parenting or Just Good enough Parenting by John Cox

Parenting Tips that Could Change Your Life…and Ideas on Helping Your Anxious Child

By: Dan Seale

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Parenting Tips that could change your life…and ideas on helping your anxious child

If that is not click bait, I am not sure what is.  However, I do think there are some potentially game-changing and potentially life-changing ideas about parenting in this article.

First, take a minute and put in writing your expectations and description of the ideal Christian home. Now, give me some examples of families like that in the Bible.

Julie Lowe posed that question recently at her parenting conference, Childproof: Parenting by Faith not Formula. Someone responded, “Well, Joseph’s family. He learned to forgive.”  Julie responded, “Would you want to be a part of that family?”  Everyone laughed because no one wanted to be part of that dysfunctional family.  Then there was a long silence.  Her point was well taken. Nowhere do we find a family that would meet today’s expectations of what an ideal Christian home should look like.  So, what happens when what you are given is less than ideal?

Does your picture of the ideal keep you from understanding and loving your actual family?

Julie did a great job of pointing us to pursue biblical wisdom, seeking to know our children individually so we can guide and shepherd them towards their Father in heaven. What I loved about her approach to parenting is its foundational reliance upon God to work in the lives of parents and children to accomplish His purposes.  I highly commend her book to you, Childproof: Parenting by Faith not Formula.

 

Here are a few helpful quotes/ideas from the seminar to consider: 

Some of these I believe could be life-changing for you and your children.

·       Our goal in parenting is not success but faithfulness to God.

·       How do we know how to love and raise our children well? We look to the One who is our Father.

·       We are not in charge of the outcome. That is God’s job.

·       Our kids are not our trophies.

·       Our children are moral responders, and I cannot control them.

·       Too often we use guilt and shame to modify our children’s external behavior.

·       Great freedom and great responsibility come with giving up an ideal and choosing to know your family.

·       We don’t do fair with our children; we do what is good and right for each one of them as individuals uniquely made by God.

·       There are places inside a child’s head and heart that we cannot go.  There are places only God can reach.

·       Require yourself to be what you desire your children to be.

·       When children learn to find identity in Christ, it does not negate the struggle of their experiences, but it creates a grid through which children can make sense of life – not only make sense, but accurately make sense out of life.

 

Bonus article: Helping Your Anxious Child by Julie Lowe

 

Next week, I’ll share my personal tips on parenting gained from almost 3 decades of parenting, 25 years of pastoring, reading lots of books and making countless mistakes along the way.  My mistakes were often the best teachers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grace for Parenting and All of Life's Callings

By: Brad Rogers

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Parenting can be a daunting task to say the least.  Every time one of our children has a birthday, Rachel and I look at each other and say, “Well, we did it, we kept her (or him) alive another year.”  If you are a follower Christ, sometimes parenting can feel like an added burden.  You can feel the pressure of the call to grow and nurture your child in the admonition of the Lord.  You want your child to follow Jesus, and yet, you don’t want to control them either (at least not in your good moments).  You know you have responsibilities to help them know Jesus, but you can feel like you can’t even help them tie their shoe, eat all their food (or eat the right food), get them to bed on time, or engage them in a decent conversation much less point them to Jesus in all of life. This is where we must remember grace.  Specifically, we need to be aware of God’s empowering and equipping grace.  Parents, I invite you to watch this to 2-minute video from Paul Tripp for some encouragement regarding the grace that enables us to fulfill our role as parents faithfully.  While this video is particularly geared toward parents, the grace spoken of in the video is the same grace God grants all Christ-followers in each and every God-given calling we have. 

Click here to watch the video

Should Christians Exercise

By: Brad Rogers

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Earlier today, I read the transcript of a recent podcast titled, “Should Christians Care about Physical Fitness?”  As a pastor with a master’s degree in exercise physiology, I was drawn to see what it had to say.  I already knew what I thought so I was glad to find out the speakers agreed that Christians should care about their physical fitness.  All too often Christians fall into a mind/body divide that is gnostic and unbiblical.  God made us as embodied wholes – spirit, mind, and body. While I thought the podcast was decent, I found Dan Doriani’s article more interesting and inciteful, and so I am pumping it instead.

You may have a job like me that largely constrains you to a desk where you sit at a computer for much of your day.  You may have read that “sitting is the new smoking” in terms of long-term health problems, and there is a good bit of truth in such articles. Taking care of the body God has given to you is not an insignificant matter. In the past year, I have found a better routine for exercise even though I am no longer able to run as much as I would like. I have found that I sleep better, think better, feel better, handle stress better, and I generally act much better when I exercise. I have found that it’s important that I take appropriate measures to build it into my schedule, especially when I am busy.  

As Dr. Doriani mentions, not everyone can exercise for various reasons (health, seasons of life, etc.).  However, for those of us who can, regular exercise may be an important part of what it means for us to steward our bodies and follow Jesus.  I invite you to further reflect on this topic by reading, “Be Strong and Courageous – Literally” here.

If God Rules Over All Things, Does that Make God the Author of Evil?

By: Brad Rogers

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In a recent sermon [1] on making wise decisions from the book of Proverbs (specifically focused on Proverbs 16:1-9) I made the comment that, however philosophically unsatisfying it may be, God rules and reigns over everything that happens in this world through our free choices.  Some of the key verses that show this are Prov. 16:1,3-4, 9:

  • 1:  The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.

  • 3:  Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

  • 4:  The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

  • 9:  The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

This leads many to the following question, “If God is rules over everything that happens in this world through our choices, does this make God the author of evil?”

The testimony of the Scriptures is that God is not the author of evil. I mentioned this in the sermon; and while I did not elaborate at the time, I did promise a blog on this subject. This post will serve as my meager attempt to address this perplexing issue in short form. 

 

The Undefiled, Unreserved Goodness of God in whom there is no evil

It is important for us to grasp God’s goodness clearly as the Bible reveals it at the outset of this discussion. In James 1:13, we find these words, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” This verse says that God does not tempt anyone to sin.  The reason given is that God himself cannot be tempted with evil. Since God cannot be tempted by evil, God cannot commit evil. In fact, James will go on to say that we are tempted by our own sinful desires.[2] 

God cannot be tempted by evil because God’s nature is thoroughly good as the Scriptures repeatedly testify. Deuteronomy 32:4 says, “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity just and upright is he.”  Using light and darkness imagery for good and evil, the apostle John writes in 1John 1:5, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”  James 1:17 states that God is the giver of all good gifts and he gives good gifts because his very nature is thoroughly good.

 

God Rules over evil by means of secondary causes

So how does the Bible say that God rules over evil without being responsible for evil? This is a really difficult question to answer and there is much mystery here.  However, the Bible does give us guardrails that keep us on track even if we do not find precise answers that address every aspect of these questions.  One way we can answer this is to say that God permits evil.  We could also say that God rules over evil by means of secondary causes.  As we saw with James 1:17, God rules over good such that he is cause (first cause) of all good in such a way that he is ultimately responsible for it.  However, God rules over evil in such a way that he is not responsible for it.  God permits evil, but God gives evil its dimensions within his own purposes.  The secondary causes for evil can be evil in the spiritual realm of Satan and his demons or evil in the human realm where we, as humans commit evil –all of us being responsible for evil committed before God. In the book of Job, we are taken “behind the curtain” to see that Satan has to ask God’s permission to bring calamity upon Job and his family.  God is ruling, and yet, God is not authoring the evil in such a way that he is morally culpable for it.  James 1:14 says that we humans are often tempted by our own sinful desires such that evil in this world can stem from within us.  The apostle John makes it most clear that God is not the author of the wrong in this world in 1John 2:16, “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.”

 

The Cross and Evil

However unsatisfying the idea of God’s permitting evil or ruling over the world through secondary causes might be, these truths are attested throughout the Bible. We see this most vividly at the crucifixion of Jesus.[3]  When the apostle Peter was released from prison, the 4th chapter of Acts records him praising God saying, “…for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”  Herod and Pontius Pilate acted according to their own choices and are rightly held responsible by God for their decisions. However, there is something much greater happening.  At the cross, we see God’s determination to bring good from evil.  For through Jesus all the sins of those who love him are paid in full no matter how heinous the evil committed.  While we don’t know the reasons why God continues to permit evil, the cross of Jesus shows that God is not merely able to use it for our good, but that He does use evil for our greatest good. God is not the author of evil, he is the author of good, and the grace of Jesus provided at the cross is the sweetest of all of his good gifts.


[1] While I have no intention of listening to this sermon Aug. 4th sermon titled, “Wise Decisions,” you can listen to it here.

[2] James 1:14.  Here is the greater context: James 1:12   Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.16   Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Notice the language of God’s unswerving goodness in verse 17.

[3] Another great place to see this is found in Genesis 50 when Joseph seeks to calm the terror of his brothers after their father Jacob had died. They are concerned for their lives before him since they had left him for dead 25 years prior and he became 2nd only to the Pharaoh in Egypt. He declares this truth, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” 

Spotting the Subtle Symptoms of Pride

By: Brad Rogers

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A few weeks ago, Dr. Matt Newkirk, President of Christ Bible Seminary in Nagoya, Japan, preached on the subjects of pride and humility from the book of Proverbs.  It reminded me of an article I read a few years back written by Fabienne Harford on subtle symptoms of pride.  While the symptoms of pride she writes about are, in fact, quite subtle, her article is sufficiently frank enough to filet my heart every time I revisit it. If this article unmasks pride you have not seen in yourself before, may I suggest that you read Philippians 2:1-11 after reading her article and remember that Jesus did indeed humble himself to take on human flesh in order that he might die for all of our sins - including our sins of pride. His response to our sinful pride is lavish grace, and it is his lavish grace that can soften the hardest of hearts allowing us to live with humbleness and grace towards others. You can find Fabienne’s article on subtle symptoms of pride here. I am pasting the words of Phil 2:1-11 below in case you need them like I do after having my pride brought to light.

 

Phil. 2:1-11 (ESV)

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Is God Really Enough In The Midst Of Our Suffering?

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Suffering comes in all forms and varying degrees and the Bible has much to say about suffering and how to respond to it.  When suffering surpasses our natural abilities to cope, we begin to ask profound theological questions about God, his character, his power and his control over and design of this world.

  • If God is good and powerful then why am I suffering?

  • What did I do to deserve this? 

  • How can God do this to me?

  • How can a good God allow this to happen to me?

  • If God is so good, why am I handicapped?

  • After all I’ve done doesn’t God owe me a pain free life?

What if in the midst of your suffering someone tells you, “The Lord is all you have, and he really is enough”?  I would have a hard time hearing that from most people.  While I intellectually believe that to be true, to be able to experience that in the midst of profound suffering is something altogether different.  Those words can seem empty and disconnected from my reality.

Many of the above questions were asked by Vaneetha Rendall Riser. Vaneetha spoke at a Redeemer women’s retreat a couple of years ago and has some family and friend connections to our church.  Vaneetha also wrote this,

Although I had a loving community, nothing in my life could really hold me up. No distractions. No hobbies. No relief. The Lord was all I had. And I found he really was enough.

I’m grateful for my suffering, because through it God has transformed me and made me love him even more.

They are not cotton candy Bible pills to be swallowed for immediate relief.  These are deep truths that became an experiential reality forged in the furnace of immense suffering.

I would encourage those of you who are in the midst of suffering to read her article below and know you are not alone in your suffering. Jesus is with you as he has been with his people since creation.  For those of you who are not suffering now, I would urge you to read this article to help lay a foundation and defense for the day when suffering comes calling on your life.

I am thankful for Vaneetha’s faithful witness to God’s loving faithfulness in the midst of suffering.

In My Desperation, Jesus Is More Than Enough by Vaneetha Rendall Risner.

Praying for Your Vacation

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I am not sure we all think that well about how to vacation well; I know I don’t. Many of us have had the experience of our vacations not turning out to be what he had hoped. Yet, we may not know how to gain what we really want and need from a vacation, and we may have never thought to pray for it either. This short article, written by scholars Andreas and Marny Köstenberger, about how to pray for your vacation gives some thoughts on what God might want us to pursue on our vacations. I am not sure what I think of every single aspect of this article, but it’s certainly worth chewing on before you get away – and helpful to reflect on after the fact.

Click here for the article

The Gospel and Humor

By: Brad Rogers

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When I was younger, my older sister was fond of letting me know that I did not have much of a personality.  When I grew older and had some opportunities to speak publicly, she told me on more than one occasion, “Brad, you are not funny.”  She didn’t leave it to me to infer how she meant for me to apply these words either as she followed with “so don’t try to be.” 

Humor is not something that we often reflect on with a whole lot of depth as too much reflection would likely ruin it – especially if we are not funny.  Pastor and author Timothy Keller has reflected on how gospel truths can affect one’s sense of humor in article you will find linked below.  I think this article is worth the read not merely for his thoughts on humor, but even more so for his thinking on how we change in all areas of life as gospel truths sink deeper into our hearts. The reading is not quite as light as the title might lead you to believe, but it’s not a difficult read either.

Click here for the article

Keys to Friendship

By: Brad Rogers

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A past professor of mine once said that friendship is what makes life worth living. He may have overstated his case, but friendship is certainly a great blessing in this life. However, many never find and make good friends in this life.  There are lots of barriers to maintaining good friendships, but the difficulty of keeping good friends in this life should not prevent us from the pursuing such friendships.   It is well known that scholar, author and atheist turned Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis, had good friends, and he reflected on the topic in some of his writing.  In the article below, Jared Kennedy shares 5 key truths on friendship he has gleaned from reading Lewis.  I think it’s worth 5-10 minutes of your time as it is a useful piece for thinking through your friendships even if you don’t agree in some places. 

 

Click here to read the article