To venable (verb): To randomly muse upon this and that.

Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

She Had Tears In Her Eyes

Yes she did, she really did have tears in her eyes. But why those tears?

She was talking to my wife and myself about her life, her situation and her children. And then her heart just poured out as she exclaimed her longing that her three children would be in heaven. It was humbling, challenging, beautiful and breathtaking.

I was taken aback. Led to ponder about my desires for my own boys. And also thoughtful about how rare this is. In our Western world so many legitimate things crowd in upon as regards to our parenting and our working out what is the best way for our children. Yet we so often forget that their eternal welfare must be paramount. And to say it should have paramountcy just underplays what it should be.

And so I go back to her tears and I am encouraged. Encouraged to think that she would have so much care and interest in her children. Encouraged that her mind and heart are set on things above. Encouraged by the love she has for her Lord who saved her some nine years again.;

Do your children have a mother like that? Do my children have a father like that? And what of my other connections? Am I so concerned for them that there might be tears of longing desire swelling upon my eyes? Not crocodile tears of course, but tears from a God-centred, Christ devoted heart.

That makes me think that this all comes from a heart set on God. Soi I sut be knowing my God right now. i must be freshly engaged in sweet fellowship with Him. And when my heart starts ticking like His heart i will know the compassion that led Him to weep over Jerusalem and say:

41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes (Luke 19:41-42

I Have Been A Parent For……………

………….twenty-two (nearly twenty-three) years and I am still learning and I am still feeling out-of-my-depth. These children have been gifted to us as four precious gifts from the Lord and May Lin and myself received them from Him. His call is to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4b).

The wisdom required for this task is beyond me. I am left crying with the apostle Paul, as he faced up to his ministry call from God, And who is equal to such a task? (2 Cor. 2:16). Our sufficiency is all of God in Christ. The ministry of parenting drives us to seek all our wisdom and enabling from the Lord

I therefore must be a man of prayer. Praying for my children longing for their best welfare is key to my calling. And with my prayers emanating from love in my heart, as they should be, I will want to be praying for wisdom to be the parent who will help them to go forward to be what God has called them to be. I should not be set on forming my image in them, but  seeing them develop under God’s hand to be what He wants them to be.

So I do not believe I have cracked this parenting thing. Everyday brings up fresh challenges. Everyday there is need for fresh wisdom. So praise God for the promise of James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But therein is a challenge i need to keep coming to ask of God. I am always just a moment away from a self-energised mishap whether that be in word or action.

Further, the challenge remains of life balance. I have responsibility for my children’s welfare so I must give time to them. I cannot let other responsibilities squeeze away the essential time to be devoted to the children.

Time changes the nature of parenting, but does not alter the necessity of it. The children that you rightly had their lifestyle determined by you as their parent now are of an age to determine their own lifestyle. From being one who demanded you become one who advises. Implicit in this is the whole issue of being aware of a changing relationship. To treat a sixteen year old as a five year old is a recipe for a fracturing of relationship at the very least.

So I have been a parent for twenty-two years and the call still seems so very big. And yet, amidst all my failures and struggles, God has been so very gracious. I thank Him for all the good things He has formed in the boys’ lives. Thereby I conclude that this is all in spite of, rather than because of my input.

But the call to parent still stands. So I seek Him again and go forward into this glorious precious ministry. Lord, by my helper.

Moved By The Heart

2 Corinthians 8 and 9 provides us with a remarkable piece of literature. In this passage Paul is seeking to bring forward the Corinthian Christians in their giving. They had been excited at first to contribute to relieving the needy saints at Jerusalem. However, over time their fervour had sagged and the coffers for the offering remained sparsely filled.

Into such a situation Paul writes to get the Corinthians giving again. It is such a wonderful piece of literature because Paul dose not merely command obedience by forcing their wills. Rather, he is using all of his writing artistry to get the hearts of the Corinthians moving so that their hearts are the prime-movers in their beings.

Accordingly, the key statement in this passage is so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction (2 Cor. 9:5b). And the key theme in this passage is grace. He wants grace to so impact them that they will naturally respond with giving to the Lord.

In such a context we have the marvellous incarnation revelation of our Lord Jesus in 2 Corinthians 8:9. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. This presents the Corinthians, and us, with the ultimate display of grace. As we see that grace we should be propelled to be grace-filled people ourselves.

It is so important that we take heed to Paul’s approach. Parents in particular need to make sure that their children have hearts which are won to the Lord. Wills which are forced to bring lifestyle conformity will ultimately lead to a child being resentful and there being no glory to the Lord. Hearts that are drawn into the Lord’s purpose in our children will lead to children who move for God and that will be for the glory of God.

Preachers and church leaders need similarly to take heed. Above all we need to be relentlessly representing the glories of God and the grace of our God so that hearts are given appropriate juices to respond delightedly and lives are thereby propelled into into the Lord’s way. Such leads to the Lord being pleased. Whipped Christians are generally legalistic and miserable Christians. Grace-filled Christians are generally willing and happy Christians.

Parenting Gone Bad

This post is based partially upon a surmise, but my surmising does not take away from the main point.

I was out on the disused athletics track at the back of our home recently at around 4.45 pm which was just about twilight. As I was finishing off my exercise routine, a man and a boy, who I surmise to be his son, appeared.

The man started to berate the boy regarding how bad he had been at football the previous weekend. He accused him of being a failure in attacking, defending etc. As a punishment he was going to have to run round the track. The boy whimpered, but the father did not let up. After a while the boy duly obliged and started to trot around the track with the overbearing father cycling alongside.

The disturbing scene was made more so because the boy looked no more than about eight and appeared very weak. This all left me somewhat stunned and with some thoughts:

  • Should I have intervened and at least made the man think about the unreasonableness of his approach. In the West, we so easily don’t get involved deeming it not to be our business. I felt sobered because in my failure to take action had been a party to allowing this boy’s misery to continue
  • I was sad for the boy who is been brought up in an atmosphere of fear. He must dread going to play football, if that is the response of his Dad.
  • The Word of the Lord says in Ephesians 6:4: Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Provoking our children to anger by our unreasonableness is not healthy parenting.
  • I am left wondering about what motivates such a Father. Is he wanting to live out his own dreams through his child? If that is so it is a selfish imposition and thereby reprehensible. We parent our children so as they flourish to be themselves not who we want to make them. I wrestle with my attitudes to make sure that I am driven for my children to fulfil everything God has called them to be and not what i want them to be.

Oh Lord make me to be a reasonable Father who works your best for the children you have given me to Father. Amen

Advice

Here is a fascinating article about the seeking of advice by parents. Tim Challies makes two recommendation for parents:

  1. Find a couple who have parented children and their children are now into their twenties. Such children you perceive to be wholesome, well developed individuals. Seek out such a couple and speak to them about parenting. Seek their advice.
  2. Get that couple to observe your family and to give their view of your parenting. You give  them a free invitation into your family and welcome their counsel.

This seems to be such sound counsel and well worth heeding for the parents of any younger children.

However, the principle also applies in all sorts of areas of life. It can apply at work and in engaging in different kinds of service.

If you are a preacher seeking to taking your first steps in preaching then follow the two stages Tim Challies mentions and you will be well.

Similarly for those who are married seek out a godly couple who have progressed healthily in their marriage over many years.

We need to be deliberate about these things. We need to be open to being corrected.

I fear that there is so much wisdom and good counsel that goes untapped because we are all so self-contained. Dare I say that at the heart of this issue is a sense of  pride that I will be able to do it myself.

The article also refers to the problem of millennials just looking online for advice and the constant tendency to only reference your peers for advice. When seeking advice it is best as a general principle to go to those who are older: those who have passed through the seasons of life.

Our churches, families and communities will be prospered and helped when we are seeking and giving advice with freedom and receptivity.

Personal Appearances

Generally in church, and particularly as an elder, there is need to be great wisdom exercised about how we speak about each other’s personal appearance. Great damage can be done by needless throw away comments which can cause frustration and distress to people.

Humour, in particular, can be particularly destructive. By way of example it is best to steer clear of joking about someone’s summery clothing. You may think that their appearance provokes a response, but is it called for for you to joke about it? The person may have issues of health or personal comfort. If you think their clothing is immodest then you need to speak to the person about it seriously.

Men making comments on the clothing of women, particularly those who are younger to them, should be a completely embargoed. If such is done it can arouse all kinds of feelings in the woman about the man being interested in her.

However, when the clothing of a woman is unseemly and not fulfilling the call of 1 Timothy 2:9-10 to be discrete. The Word there says: likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. In such a situation an elder or older sister should approach the lady involved.

In all this husbands should encourage their wives as regards to appreciating them and treasuring them. They should tell them of how they appreciate their appearance.

I just feel it is area where great care be exercised. In everything we say we need to think about whether this is contributing to building someone up.

Knowing Their Character

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it (2 Tim. 3:14). In this scripture Paul is supporting his insistence that Timothy keep with the Word of God by reminding him about who he had learned that Word from, This instructs us that the character of those who teach us the Word gives extra reason for us to believe that Word.

This is not to say that if the Word is brought to us by someone who we know to be an infidel, or afterwards proves to be an infidel, that we reject the Word. Our Lord said in Matthew 23:2-3 that The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. The Word must be obeyed because it is the Word of the Lord.

Nevertheless we should be doing what we teach. The Word that we teach should be modelled in our lives. This is a big issue for parents and all who teach the Word to others. But it is also a critical issue in our witness generally. It is the power of a godly life which lives out the gospel, that gives credibility to that same gospel when it is shared with others. And thereby there is effective ministry which attracts people to our Lord. It may even be that someone’s sweet testimony for Christ led to you seeking the Lord.

The implication of this is that we must be aware of our proneness to hypocrisy and be vicious in rooting it out in our lives.

This also has implications for the manner in which we conduct our affairs before God. We live in an age of the all-pervasive internet and social media. It has became easy in this digital age, to meet in cyber churches or to get our spiritual food from our favourite Bible teacher online. In such a situation we very likely have no knowledge of the charachter of those who are teaching us. It should not be this way. Knowing the charachter of our teachers is a God-ordained way in which he verifies His message.

This, therefore, gives strong impetus to the need for us to be based in local churches. And in those churches we need to have leaders who do not “ivory tower” themselves. We need those who move among the people so that their lives can be seen. Paul speaks in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 about Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. The leaders were among the church in Thessalonika and that is the way it should be. If you are a church elder you need to be among the people so people can see your character.

This also cautions us against churches becoming to big. If church members are not interacting with those who teach them because the church is simply too big, then means should be put in place to resolve this situation. That may mean refining the organisation of the church,or planting another church.

Definitive Statements

.I want to write here about how people make definitive statements This theme is closely related to that which I wrote about on Tuesday here. I am thinking about how we, without fully considering an issue, hastily rush to make definitive statements on a matter. Accordingly, people’s tendency to impose a narrative, can cause hurt and dismay by the definitive way people speak about situations without having fully considered those situations. Without fully considering a situation people make statements which categorically affirm a certain understanding of the situation or proposed course of action.

What we need to do is fully consider a situation by speaking with either the person or people involved. When we have fully considered a matter we can then make a response. Very often the most generous and tender thing to do is to make suggestions about what you consider the best way forward in the pertaining situation.

I, must emphasize though, that I am not advocating that there should be never definitive statements about anything. A parent who does not clearly establish what has happened when a child has carelessly used a knife and cut themselves. for example is being neglectful. And not to make definite statements about what the child must do is similarly neglectful.

Moreover, when someone has clearly done something wrong, as measured by the Word of God, we should be unhesitating to declare it to be such.

However, we need to be careful about making unconsidered definitive statements. This is, I would observe, very much against the spirit of our social media age where all sorts of things are slung out with unconsidered definiteness. Let us not fall into the trap of following that spirit in our dealing with others.

 

Imposing A Narrative

What I am thinking of here is the issue of how we respond to peoples’ situations. This can be an issue for parents with their children, friends with one another, employers with their employees. In fact it applies in many situations. I want to think about how we interact we the situations of others.

General. In all situations we must impose the narrative of the gospel to understand the situation we are dealing with. The malaise of this world, as manifest in peoples’ lives, is caused by the entrance of sin into this world. The remedy for the issue of sin is the blood of our Lord Jesus. His salvific work to redeem lives, will work ultimately to retrieve this world form disorder and chaos.

There must be great wisdom and sensitivity in applying the gospel narrative into the situation with which we are interacting. Simplistic cause and effect reasoning are very much cautioned against in Luke 13:1-5. That passage reads:

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

However, that passage also indicates that in a destabilized world, it is sin in the world that is the root cause and as sinners we need to repent. In all this our Lord is imposing a gospel narrative on the situation.

Specific. On the other hand when we come to deal with specific situations we need to be wary of imposing any pre-conceived narrative. I have been very much aware of this through my being afflicted with depression. People may or may not have been right about the narrative they were bringing to my situation. However, what took me aback, at times, was the unwillingness to actually establish with me what had happened to me. People either would not ask or, if they did ask, would not listen to what was said.

I am arguing that always before we jump to conclusions we should stop and consider what has happened. This means we actually listen to the person and find out what there experience is and what they have been through to get there.  For parents, I feel we will fulfill the requirement to not exasperate our children (see Eph. 6:4) if we follow this approach.

Always remember, as well, that even though two people are experiencing something identical that does not mean that the causes of that experience are the same. So don’t assume when you come across someone displaying certain things that you have seen in someone before that the cause is the same in both cases.

It is very frustrating to be on the end of certain counsel or certain views about your situation from people you believe have not taken time to find out about your situation.

So my conclusion is when interacting with any situation always impose a gospel narrative, but never impose a personal narrative.

Saturday Nights Are Alright For……………………………….

Well what are Saturday nights alright for?  How you answer that probably all depends on what your thoughts are about Sunday. If you have got no thoughts about Sunday then Saturday night is probably OK for just about anything that takes your fancy. In fact the Saturday night will flow into the Sunday, so it is all just one Saturday night until you emerge from your slumbers mid afternoon on the Sunday.

But if Sunday means something to you then your Saturday night will be affected. This is particularly so for Christians. So fellow Christian what do you think about your Saturday evenings?

The first thing to have in mind on a Saturday evening is that you have got church tomorrow, and therefore you need to remember that you are committed to being with the Lord’s people in the church of which you are a member, in order to worship the Lord with them. Everything you do and think on Saturday evening is permeated by this awareness.

The second thing to do which builds on the first is to prepare for Sunday. If you have filled your mind with junk on a Saturday evening don’t be surprised if church is an empty experience on the Sunday morning.  Perhaps set aside sometime to meditate on Scripture and seek the LORD confessing your sins and getting your soul in good order. And pray over the services of the Lord’s Day ahead; pray for the preacher and all those taking part. Pray that you would be in the right place at the right time to say the right thing and act the right way.  So that you will be a blessing to others.

The third thing to be aware of on a Saturday evening is the impact that you have upon others. This particularly applies if you have got children and even more so when the children are younger. And I cannot emphasize too much the importance of Christian fathers taking the lead here. Christian parents you should be expecting and anticipating that the whole family is going to be in church. So you will arrange everything around this. You will make sure that the kids are in bed in decent time. You will make sure they know what time they need to get up on Sunday. Your whole schedule operates on Saturday night around knowing that you will be in church by the time the service is arranged to start.

And when we see God’s people getting their Saturday nights sorted out, then we will see the whole experience of the Lord’s Day transformed.  What do you think?

(This is an adaptation of a post Originally published at Venabling on 1st June 2015)

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