Friday, July 25, 2014

Praying Friday

(Part 5 of 5)

And none shall appear before Me empty-handed. (Exodus 23:15, Deuteronomy 16:16)

It's tempting when we've got a lot of important things to pray for to get right to business, so to speak, roll up our sleeves and start working through our lists.
But...
Our Father who is in Heaven
We must never forget what an awesome privilege it is to appear before the Throne of Grace. And that's why I start every prayer time with worship. Sometimes I sing a hymn; sometimes I just praise God for some attribute of His. But I really, really try not to appear before Him empty-handed. He is the giver of all good things, including the privilege to even have this relationship with Him. He is our Father who is in Heaven. Do we even get how amazing that fact is?

Marriage. Like it or not, the relationship with have with our children's other parent will be a lasting legacy to our descendants. Let me say that again. The way I behave towards the father of my children will become part of their permanent history. That sobers me. Anyone who has been married knows that good marriages are hard work. They are also God's goodness to us. So good marriages are worth praying for. From the time our babies are born, I am praying for their life's partner because it's that important. So Friday, much of my time is devoted to praying for marriage.

For the kids.
For Brett and me, too.

First, I'm praying for godly partners from godly homes for my children. It's my hope that their spouses will come from homes that have modeled good marriage. On the other hand, that's not to say that there aren't good mates from difficult backgrounds. It's just a different kind of work creating a first-generation good marriage. But nothing is impossible for God.

I pray a few specific things regarding marriage.
May my sons, and the men my daughters marry, be men who love their wives and lay down their lives for them. May they live with their wives in an understanding way.
May they be the four P's: Priest, Prophet, Protector, Provider.
May they be the priest of their homes, praying over them, seeking God on their behalf.
May they be the prophet of their homes, talking to them on God's behalf, teaching them God's Word.
May they be the protector of their homes, gatekeeping, vigilantly watching over what/who comes into the home.
May they be the provider of their homes, doing whatever it takes to put food on the table, humble enough to work at anything, chivalrous enough to not place that burden on their wives.

May my daughters, and the women my sons marry, be women who joyfully submit to their husbands' leadership.
May they complete their husbands, meeting their needs and making their homes a refuge.
May they embrace motherhood and the raising of godly children.
May they be partners to their husbands in whatever adventures God brings them.
May they make their husband's task easier and not more difficult.

I pray the same things over Brett and myself. I also pray that we will nurture our relationship, even during seasons of intense parenting or business issues or other stresses. I pray that we will be prudent in other relationships and run, not walk, away from things that would threaten our marriage.

And it may seem like marriage for the little ones is a long way off. But we are now entering that season; and it was only a blink ago when we were counting their little toes. Pray for their mates. Pray now.

Praying Friday:
Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name.
Who will we see today? Where will we go? May we represent You well.

Your kingdom come.
..to the lost. Here's what I know about salvation. We are dead in our sins. Dead. Like a corpse. Unable to respond to any stimulus. Therefore, for us to feel any horror over our own sin and our standing with God, we must be alive. So the order of salvation must start with regeneration, coming alive, before justification. We must revive, see that we are buried under our sin, (picture the horror of coming alive and realizing you are buried in a coffin) and feel the full horror of that before we can grasp our need for God. Then, and only then, can we cry to God, "Lord, save me!" When I pray for the lost people we know, I pray that God will make them alive so that they can see their sin, see a Holy, offended God, feel the horror of that, and cry to Him for salvation. That's how I pray for the lost. And that's what it means when Jesus says, "No one comes to the Father, except those to whom He reveals Himself." Only God can raise a dead man to life; only God can begin and end the journey of salvation. If He doesn't initiate it, it doesn't happen.

Your will be done.
Our marriage.
The kids' future mates and marriages (see above).

Give us this day our daily bread.
Specific needs that arise.

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Examine myself, confess, repent. Forgive others.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
Protect us and defend us from Satan and his schemes.

And this ends my series on prayer. This is certainly not the only way to pray. This is just the way I pray. The bottom line, for me, when I pray is best summed up in John Piper's famous quote, "Don't waster your life."

That's what I hope is the end of all this praying.
Don't waste your life.
Don't waste your tribulation.
Don't waste your persecution.
Don't waste your role as child.
Don't waste your role as parent.
Don't waste your health.
Don't waste your pain.
Don't waster your poverty.
Don't waste your plenty.
Don't waste your marriage.
Don't waste your life.

Hast thou not seen how thy desires e'er have been granted in what He ordaineth?

Whatever comes our way, whether God answers prayers my way or chooses a better way, may we learn to glorify God in everything He brings our way.

For Yours is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory.
Amen.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Praying Thursday

(Part 4 of 5)

One of the best sermons I ever heard was by a pastor of a church we attended as young marrieds. Geoff preached a sermon entitled "Not Moving the Ancient Boundary Stone Your Forefathers Have Set." I've never forgotten that sermon, even though it's been well over twenty years. And it has informed what I pray over my family every Thursday.

It's actually a story of prudence...
Of finding the cliff of sin...
And drawing the line a mile back.

When God tells us to not do something, He is pointing to the line of sin and saying, If you cross this line, that is sin. And since the wages of sin is death, we would do well to see that that line is right at the cliff's edge. Cross it to your peril. The fool will go right up to the line and frequently over it; the wise man will play it safe and stay a mile back. A mile back. That's what prudence is.

We can choose prudence in a plethora of life's circumstances. But I've chosen four overarching areas, or ancient boundary stones that God has set, to focus on as I pray for prudence in my family:
1. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father, except by Me. This is the line we do not get to cross. We do not get to God by any way or any name other than Jesus. My prayer is that my family will be prudent about this, that we wouldn't toy with false gods or false gospels. May my family draw the line a mile back from these deceptions.
2. Bad company corrupts good morals.  This is when I pray for good friends for each of the kids, friends who will walk alongside them in this life, who will spur them on to love and good deeds, who would bring refreshing fellowship. Friends are an incredibly potent influence in our lives. The other side of that is that time  with unbelievers should be viewed as times to shine our light, to be the fragrance of life, not times to have fellowship. For what fellowship has light with darkness? My prayer is that each of us will know where to draw the line out there; when we are being effective at shining our light and when we are being pulled and tempted; and that we would be discerning enough to know the difference.
3. Keep the marriage bed holy. Sex is a gift of God to be handled with the utmost care. And it is polluted in all kinds of ways: ungodly relationships; books; tv and movies; music; imprudent 'friends.' God set this boundary stone at the place of the marriage covenant between one man and one woman. Key words here: 'marriage','one', 'man-and-woman.' Anything else is walking right off the cliff of sin. So I pray that my family would draw the line a mile back; that we would run from people who tempt us, that we would protect our eyes from books, tv, and movies that tempt us, that we would protect our ears from music that tempts us. Draw the line a mile back. Run, don't walk, from sexual temptation in all of its forms.
4. Remove the High Places. The high places were where the pagan peoples of ancient times worshiped their false gods. They were places of idolatry. And it was a never-ending battle among the people of God to remove those high places. That battle continues today. So I pray over the high places in my family. Idolatry can look like many things. It can be money, possessions, or fashion. It can be exercise, food, and health. It can be self-image. It can be drugs or other addictive behaviors. It can be education and intellectualism. It can be hobbies. It's pretty much anything that vies for God's place in our lives. And it's different for each one of us. So I pray for discernment for each of us, that we would each know where our battle and our temptation lies; that we would be vigilant; that we would run and draw the line a mile back from the things that lure us into idolatry.

Prudence. It takes longer to pray on Thursdays. But it's really important.

Praying Thursday:
Our Father who is in Heaven, hallowed be Your name.
Who are we with, where are we going today? May we represent You well today.

Your kingdom come...
...to our local church. I must sheepishly admit that praying for my pastors was never on my list until my husband became one. On Thursdays, I pray for the elders, because living life on this side of eldering is a whole different ballgame. I pray a number of things for the two elders. First, relationally, that they would protect their own walk with the Lord, their marriages, their jobs as fathers; I pray that they would have a good relationship with each other, iron sharpening iron, humble and confrontable, keeping short accounts with each other, no vain imaginations. Second, I pray for them as preachers, that they would preach the Truth, fearing God more than man, and protecting the integrity of the Scripture. Third, I pray for them as pastors, that they would know the condition of the flock, that they would shepherd lovingly and wisely.

Your will be done.
I pray for prudence in my family. See above.

Give us this day our daily bread.
On Thursdays, I pray for provision for our adult kids. They have worked hard to get through school. And now one is getting married. I pray for the provision the single ones' need for cars, bills, etc, for careers. I pray for provision for the new household that is forming.

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Examine myself, confess, repent. Forgive others.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Render the devil powerless in our lives today.
For Yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory.

Next, praying Friday...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Praying Wednesday

(Part 3 of 5)

It's probably a good idea, midway through this series, to pause and think about God's providence. I'm a five-point TULIP, after all [only because I think that Scripture teaches that God is ;) ]. God's sovereignty will prevail. But our prayers usually reflect the ideal. We pray for safety and sound health. We pray for salvation of loved ones. We pray for provision. We pray for ourselves, our spouses, and our children to always choose the right thing.

Yet often, God answers 'no.'
We get sick or hurt.
We see loved ones die in their sins.
We can't seem to make the paycheck stretch the length of the month.
We fail; our spouses fail; our children fail.

So why bother? God already has a Plan, and we must admit we are largely ignorant of It.I was thinking about this and all the time I spend in prayer and the times that God has said, "No." It's tempting to just throw in the towel sometimes. But then, as if on cue, I read a quote by John Calvin on this very topic two days ago.

It may appear that there is a disconnect between the requests we present to God with thanksgiving and the way He answers those requests. Calvin sheds light on this dichotomy:
If, for example, a person desire to see the Church in a calm and flourishing condition, if he wish that the children of God were delivered from afflictions, that all superstitions were removed out of the world, and that the rage of wicked men were so restrained as to do no injury. These things, being in themselves right, may properly be desired by believers, though it may please God to order a different state of matters: for He chooses that His Son should reign among enemies, that His people should be trained under the Cross, and that the triumph of faith and of the Gospel should be rendered more illustrious by the opposing machinations of Satan. 

He continues:
We see how these prayers are holy, which seem to be contrary to the will of God; for God does not desire us to be always exact or scrupulous in inquiring what He has appointed but allows us to ask what is desirable according to the capacity of our senses. (From Heaven He Came and Sought Her, Gibson, p.105) 

Why do we pray to a Sovereign God? In short, because He told us to.
And because there are many  times when He graciously says, "Yes."

Praying Wednesday:
Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name
Where are we today? Who are we with? Reminded that, in this digital age, we can interact with the world via facebook, twitter, linkedin, google plus, and the blogosphere. Anywhere we go, can they tell you value Jesus by the way we rep His name? 

Your Kingdom come
After the last election, I blogged what I pray for our government. Every Wednesday, I pray for our president, Congress, and the Supreme Court. I remember that if God can turn the hearts of kings, he can turn the hearts of politicians, too. Here is my list of Wednesday prayers for all three branches of government.

Your Will be done.
On Wednesdays, I pray for physical health for Brett, the kids, and myself. I ask the Lord for healthy bones, blood, muscles, skin, organs.
On Wednesdays, I pray for the blessing of the breast and the womb. That may sound odd, but it is the way Jacob blessed Joseph in Genesis 49. Years ago, an older lady who was teaching a Sunday school class exhorted us younger women to crave that blessing. And I have prayed it ever since, not only over my own household but also over the future households of my children. I pray that my children will be blessed with children, fertility, strong pregnancies, safe deliveries, and healthy babies.
And I pray for general safety in their comings and goings.

(I also want to pause here to give some thoughts on healing and how I've changed over the years. When I was a newer parent, we'd pray over every little bump and scratch the kids got that God would heal them. Now, I pray thanksgiving with them that fevers are attacking the sickness, that blood does clot, that scabs are God's bandaids, that bumps and bruises are the body rushing to defend the sight of a wound, that throwing up and diarrhea are the body's enemies exiting the body. I think that makes God big to our kids. I think it gives Him glory when we point out that some of the things we perceive as maladies are actually the fearful and wonderful way God made the body to heal itself. Let's pray with thanksgiving for all the ways we are fearfully and wonderfully made, in addition to praying for what's genuinely broken.)

Give us this day our daily bread:
On Wednesdays, I pray for specific needs we have. Currently, for instance, we need to replace some furniture that looks like it's been rode hard and put away wet. Know what I mean? These needs can change from week to week. But it's a reminder to me that God is our provider. And He will meet every need, even if it's not in my timeframe.

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Examine myself over the past day, confess, repent. Forgive.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
Go down the list of kids and Brett and me. Protect us out there in that big, bad world.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory.

Next up, praying Thursday...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Praying Tuesday

(Part 2 of 5)

As I write this, the Rocket War, as some have dubbed it, has commenced in Israel. Hamas is lobbing rockets, with intent to destroy, into Israel, and Israel is firing back.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Psalm 22:6
Okay. I'll walk through this minefield.

The popular stance in the evangelical church is to view Israel as God's chosen people. But chosen means...chosen. As in, destined for Heaven. True, God's original selection happened within the family of Abraham, descending from his physical seed. But--and this is a big but--the true Israel was a nation within a nation. The true Israel in the Old Testament was the group of people who walked in covenant with God. And that was a mere subset, a remnant, of the people who shared DNA with Abraham.

Chosen means chosen. ALL of the people God chooses go to Heaven. ALL of them. And going to Heaven requires us to be bought by the blood of Jesus. And most Jews reject Jesus as Lord. That means they are worshiping a false god. That means no Heaven for them. With me so far?

I grew up playing favorites. Now that I think about that, though, I think favoritism is God's privilege alone. Like jealousy or wrath, some things belong to God alone.

So who are God's favorite, the apple of His eye? Who are God's chosen people? They are the people of the covenant. They are the Church. I have a hard time saying that the Israel we know today has God's "most favored nation" status. I have a hard time saying a Jew is more favorite or more almost-Christian than an Arab. I don't think that makes much sense in light of Scripture. Unsaved is unsaved. Close only counts in horseshoes.

Back to Psalm 122. Bringing this across the hermeneutical bridge, on this side of the Cross, when God is at work gathering His people from every nation, tribe, and tongue, can we honestly say that our focus should be praying for one geopolitical nation? I seriously doubt it. The whole context of this psalm is going up to the place of worship with other people of God (people who WILL go to Heaven). But if you're not worshiping the Triune God, you're not worshiping the True God. I'll just leave that there.

To be Biblically accurate, praying this prayer means praying for the peace of...I think, maybe...the Church.

There. I said it. When I pray for the peace of Jerusalem--and I do every Tuesday--I pray that God would send workers into that harvest, that He would take the blinder off the citizens of the physical Israel...but mostly, I am praying for the Church.

So as the rockets lob back and forth, I don't assume that Israel is the hero, the victim, or the favorite. The formation of the current nation of Israel left the residents at that time in very bad condition. No wonder they're angry. Jews-as-hero and Palestinians-as-villain does not take into account the fact that there are two sides to this story. Neither does it take into account Imago Dei. The situation there is very complex with thousands of years of history.  Let's pray for everyone there. Everyone. Let's pray for the Gospel to permeate that region of the world and for a rich harvest of saved souls!

Praying Tuesday:
Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name. 
Think of the places we'll go and the people we'll see and that God will be represented well by us today. 

Your kingdom come.
I pray for the Church on Tuesday.
(I love the Church. But there's a lot of stinkin' thinkin' about the Church--like wherever there are believers, that's a church. Yeah, no. Yuk. Someone needs to lay the smack down:

Some don't get it so they hate. They say she's on a paper chase. They say she's really fake.So they go and start a ministry so they can do the work. But they don't understand how Jesus feel about His church.And, yeah, they make disciples; they got plenty of conversions.They take care of the widow and the orphan they be workin; but none of them are churchin'. No church structure; no elders and no discipline; they don't have a conductor; and so they don't submit.But quite a few of them baptize; People, how I pray that you'd look at this from God's eyes.Take responsibility inside the whole counsel, not just the area where you might have a mouthful.Who should people submit to? Who will conduct the discipline? If excommunicated, what body will be missing then?Look at Ephesians where Paul gets practical, 1 Timothy and Titus if you think I'm irrational. (The Bride, Lecrae.)

Couldn't have said it better myself.)

I pray that God will strengthen the Church, shaking out the false teachers and false gospels. I also spend time on Tuesdays praying for our ambassadors in chains, the persecuted Church. I pray for specific people we know about, like Saeed Abedini, and for the people we don't know who are being persecuted, imprisoned, tortured for their faith in Jesus Christ. I pray that God will comfort them and give them His Word to stand on. I pray that they will bless those who curse them and love those who hate them, that their light would shine in the darkness. And I pray that God would be merciful and bring them home quickly.

Your will be done.
I also pray that God's will for my family will be done in terms of parent-child relationships. I pray over every child that they will honor their father and mother, that they will listen to their father's instruction and not forget their mother's teaching, that it will go well with them. I pray that Brett and I will be honorable: that we will be wise; that we will affirm the strengths we see in each one and parent the weaknesses. I pray that with our adult children, we would all learn how to relate as adults.

Give us this day our daily bread.
On Tuesday, I pray for Brett's business, that God would prosper him along the way; that Brett would use the skills he has and acquire the ones he needs; that God would bring him new clients, both buyers and sellers; that God would strengthen his sales team, both in terms of relationship and in business.

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. 
Forgiveness, self-examination, repentance.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. 
Protection from evil and from Satan's schemes. 
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory. 

Speaking of the Church, I love my local church. When I'm done praying for my family each day, I also work through the prayer requests that come from the church. It's a way for me to love this body of believers.

Up next, praying Wednesday...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Praying Monday

(Part One of Five)

Our Father, who is in Heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.

I'm an intercessor, and I come from a long line of intercessors. I remember my dad and my mom both up early in the morning praying. And I remember spending the night with my grandparents and my grandfather kneeling at his bedside in fervent prayer. My mom remembers his dad, my great-grandfather, doing the same thing when she was a girl. All that to say, my family modeled a seriousness about prayer. Today, I have great faith that God designed prayer and hears our prayer.

S/he's a person, not a prayer request.
I've had that quoted at me on more than one occasion and by more than one person. And even though it's been spoken out of a burdened mother's heart, it always feels like a slap. I hear your heart if you are saying this to me, but allow me to make an appeal. To an intercessor, all of the people who are important to me are prayer requests. If I say that I am praying for you or yours, I am. And I view prayer as a labor of love, not obligation. So please hear my heart, too.

The flip side is that I'm very careful not to commit to praying for everything that comes across my plate. For every request out there, there is an inner, intimate circle and an outer, more distant circle. So I'll be honest; I triage requests. I don't mean that to sound flippant or crass, but I only have so much mental and spiritual space. And you have an inner circle that may be more acquainted with the person or situation than I am.

I'm also rather type-A. Combine 'Type-A' with 'intercessor' and 'wife/momtoeleven' you end up having a pretty good schedule for what to pray when. I mean, there's so much and so many to pray for that I really need a neat little slot to fit it all in.

...Which brings me to the point of this series. A while back, Brett asked me to write down all the things I pray so that the kids could have a written record of it. So, without further ado...

Praying Monday:

Our Father, who is in Heaven, hallowed be Your name. 
I used to think this was a statement of fact, much like a confession, but recently I heard someone say it was a request, as in, Let your name be hallowed by me today. So I always start with this prayer, asking that each of us can remember that the God we serve is holy and that, wherever the day takes us, we will revere His holy name.

Your kingdom come. 
On Mondays, I pray for tribulation and persecution. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 24 that very hard times would come for believers. I admit that what that meant to the original audience and what I'm supposed to do with it can be a bit confusing. But I'm not confused on this point: the Christian will experience tribulation and will experience persecution. Not a few (ostensibly) faithful people have been shipwrecked on those rocks. I don't want my family to be numbered among them.  To that end, I pray that when tribulation (hard times) and persecution (hard people) come our way, my family will be able to withstand it; that we will rest in the sovereignty and goodness of God; that we will take our eyes off the waves and focus them on God, that we will respond in the Spirit, rather than react in the flesh.

Your will be done. 
I pray that God's will would be done in us in a couple ways:
1. That the kids would be regenerated at a young age, that they would see that they are sinners in need of a Savior, that they would understand the work of the Cross.
2. That we would work out our salvation in fear and trembling, not treating God's grace like a cheap doormat to wipe our feet.
3. That we would have the Word written on our hearts, that it would be our plumb line, that when we add to or take away from God's Word, we would be quick to repent.
4. That we would bear good fruit in keeping with repentance, that we would grieve over our sin.
5. That we would love what God loves and hate what God hates.

Give us this day our daily bread.
I think thankfulness is a really important part of prayer, and I don't want to be like the nine lepers whom Jesus healed but who forgot to thank Him. So on Mondays, I spend a fair amount of time giving thanks. I give thanks chiefly for our salvation and the peace that comes from that. But I'm also thankful for Brett and each of my children, our parents, health, provision, material blessing. It's the day when I review the past week and the blessings that came our way and take time to deliberately give thanks.

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. 
How important to my spiritual health to take time every day to examine myself and to ask forgiveness for things over the last day when I thought, spoke, or acted sinfully. And as I get right with God, it also makes it that much easier to forgive people who have offended me.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
This is important. Our enemy is real. He prowls like a lion seeking to devour us. We should pray for protection over our family members like we really believe that. So I do. Every day.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory. 
It's good to end by giving God praise. And it serves to remind me that He is able to do all we ask or imagine.

Mondays is also my allotted time to pray for missions. We have two families who do missions in connection with our church, so I pray over those ministries every Monday. I pray for their own families, as well, marriages, kids, direction, and effectiveness. And I pray for the nations. When one of our local missionaries gives us a nation report once a month in church, I pray for that nation, that the Church there would be strengthened with good pastors, teachers, elders, marriages, and families, that the Church there would grow as the gospel permeates that society.

Tomorrow...praying Tuesday.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go

O love that will not let me go.
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow may fuller, richer be.*

Two years ago, Alex astutely pointed out that one thing our home lacked was grace.
A year ago, as the abortion battle raged in the Texas capitol, I mused to Brett that babies are not ever classified as a consequence of sin in the Bible, that the Church better get her grammar straight on this.
A few months after that, I wondered if, should my child ever confess to me serious sin, I would respond Biblically or just react.

Random as these events seem, God was stringing each of them together. Little did we know that we would soon be put to the test. Could each of these pearls be joined to make a garland of grace?
-------------
We're not perfect parents, but I think we've been attentive parents, deliberate parents. We certainly parent on purpose and with purpose. Still, consecration is not the same as sanctification. And no amount of sprinkled holy water will ever do the work of the Holy Spirit.

Consecration.
Setting apart.
That is the job of parents. We discipline and we disciple, train and teach.
We sprinkle them with the Gospel.
We sprinkle them with the Word.
We sprinkle them with prayer.
We sprinkle them with worldview.
We sprinkle them by homeschooling, taking them to church, talking about life.
We monitor who they're hanging out with. We try to know the condition of our little flock AND the friends of our flock.

(On the other hand, we fall, too. We fail often. We bobble between being too strict...or not strict enough. Sometimes we're authoritarian; sometimes we're permissive; sometimes we're selfish. We do a lot of repenting.)

The point is, we consecrate our kids. We set them apart from the world. We acknowledge that they are image-bearers--albeit fallen image-bearers--and we strive to be good stewards of these good gifts. But we are realizing something lately.

I am not the Christ. 

Kevin DeYoung, in his book Crazy Busy, says that his friend once reminded him of these words of John the Baptist. And you know what? Someone needs to remind us parents of that, too. We should wake up every morning and recite it to ourselves.

I am not the Christ.
I am not the Christ.
I am not the Christ.

And no matter how deliberately and attentively we parent, we cannot do the job of Christ. We cannot save our children; neither can we sanctify them.

The problem is that we got consecration mixed up with sanctification. And we sent a consecrated kid off to the big, bad world, when only a sanctified kid can survive it. Guess what? Consecrated kids can't stand out there.

This year was a tough year for our consecrated college sophomore. Let me say right here that I am not opposed to sending your kid off to college. There is some speculation that Christian kids are losing their faith in college. But that can't be, as that would be flawed soteriology in light of God's Word.  If we could lose our salvation, we would. What's really happening, I think, is that college has a way of separating the truly sanctified from the merely consecrated.

So here we are. And this is our story:
We sensed that he was having a bad year. He was not communicating with us very often. And when he was, it wasn't hopeful. We were alarmed and looking forward to getting him back home for summer. That was when the other shoe dropped. I'll keep it short and to the point.
There's a young lady. And there's a baby on the way.

O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to Thee.
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in Thy sunshine's blaze its day may brighter, fairer be.*

Grief and grace. As far as I can tell, these are the only ways to respond to a repentant believer.
Grief over sin because sin grieves the Father's heart.
And grace for the sinner.
Unmerited favor. Emphasize unmerited. And then emphasize favor.
Suddenly, I was glad Alex had confronted us two years ago about grace. That was a God thing. And we had been working since then to be a gracious household. I dare not think how I would have responded outside the context of grace. What if this had happened two years ago? But God is faithful. He had been grooming us for this moment. More precious, even, He had groomed the kids.

There have been individual conversations with the siblings.
The 23 yr old dripped grace.
The 21 yr old dripped grace.
The 18 yr old dripped grace.
The 14 yr old dripped grace.
I did not expect these responses. I expected shock, disdain, rules. I am undone by their grace. I am blown away by their understanding of sin and salvation and forgiveness and the Cross. Brett looked at me through misty eyes and said, "If we had thought we were raising pharisees...we're not." And I will treasure these things up in my heart.

O joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee.
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain that morn shall tearless be.*

We walked through the Gospel. We've done serious peacemaking. And we are confident that this son of ours who walked away is home again.
In more ways than one.

So there's a precious young lady.
And there's a precious baby on the way.
And, again, I can see that God prepared us ahead of time. For now we can see this child is not a 'consequence.' S/he is a ray of light, a redemption of something evil, a way of taking back what Satan meant for harm. And I trace this rainbow through the rain.

In August, we will add a daughter-in-law to our family.
In January, we will add a grandchild.
We hope, friends, that your response to our story is grief, grief over what grieves the Father. But we hope your concurrent response can be grace for this repentant sinner. We hope that you can find it in your heart to come alongside us and rejoice.
Rejoice in a Love that does not--will not--let us go.
Rejoice that God, rather than Satan, is writing this story.
Rejoice over new life.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

What's done is done.
Who has sinned is forgiven.
Weeping shall endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee.
I lay in dust life's glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red life that shall endless be.*

*O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go, George Matheson, 1882

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Taking the Fifth (Commandment)

Honor your father and mother.
This first commandment with a promise has potential to cause angst in children, both young and old. And I'm not entirely sure we've had complete teaching on it. While some of us are not parents, all of us are someone's child. So no one gets a free pass.

If I think honor is my right as a parent, I do not understand the commandment.

If I think I can make my children honor me, I do not understand the commandment.

If I think honor is whatever I say it is, I do not understand the commandment.

Like the rest of the Ten Commandments, the fifth commandment is part of what a covenant people looks like. We don't obey the Ten Commandments to get saved; we obey them because we are saved.

And like the other commandments, the fifth commandment is a divine transaction. Honoring parents is how covenant children honor God. I hate to say this, moms and dads, but when it comes to honor, we're just the middle men. This is an issue between children and the God they serve. Honor has nothing to do with our self-esteem as parents. Honor has nothing to do with how our children make us feel. What's more, if our children really, truly understand what honor is, then they will honor us, not because we are honorable, but because this is how they honor God.

Unfortunately, there's some pretty whacked thinking in the Church regarding this issue.

First, honor does not mean mindless submission. When one of my kids was younger, he was told by another parent, "Never correct an adult."
Um, no. Wish I had been there to intervene.
Adults are not god. Adults are not perfect. Adults are not even more perfect than children. If we think we are, there's something seriously wrong with our theology.
And 1 Timothy 5 gives provision for this. Sometimes, an older person simply must be corrected by a younger person. Don't let us be more pious than God here.

Second, we don't get to define what honor is. I've seen parents require children to obey an elderly person's every whim in the name of honor. Please. If Granny insists that your son wear the pink crocheted sweater she made for him or her feelings will be hurt....
You don't have a conversation with your son; you have a conversation with Granny. 
It may be a fact that Granny feels dishonored, but that does not mean that your son is guilty of dishonor in God's court of law.

We are not the final arbiters of whether our children honor us.
God is.
Honor is a heart issue, and only God can objectively see honor, or the lack thereof, in the heart.
Divine transaction.

Our kids don't owe us. We are SO missing the boat if we think our children owe us.
And we never teach them about honor in order to get our egos stroked. We teach them about honor because we want it to go well with them. We teach them about honor because it's good for them, not because it's good for us.

I can't say this emphatically enough: it is NOT your child's job to make you feel good about yourself or build your self-esteem or validate you or agree with you. If you have needs in those areas, it's not because your child has dishonored you; it's because you have failed to apprehend the fact that your identity is in Christ. Let's not turn every situation into a King Lear moment.

If anything, the fact that children are commanded by God to honor their parents should fill us with compassion towards our children. It should humble us as we realize our own brokenness and sinfulness. It should bring us to our knees when we understand that our children must honor us in spite of who we are, not because of who we are. If I don't understand that, then I don't understand my own depravity, and I don't understand grace.

Not only that, but honor can be especially hard as an adult child, now that we have our own walk with the Lord and a little bit of life's mileage ourselves. The downside of being older and wiser is that we are also smarter about our own parents' failings. We start to connect dots. We have 'aha!' moments. Childhood issues come into sharper focus.  So we must tread carefully. And, again, if we put ourselves in our adult children's place, this should give us great compassion towards them.

We all fall short of the glory of God.
We do.
Our children do.
Our parents do.

The flip side of the fifth commandment is that, if our children are required to honor us, we should strive to be honorable. And we all need a whole lotta grace to make that happen.