Food for Thought
By Guest Blogger: Bill Farley
The gospel is the most important tool for parenting. For many parents this statement is surprising. When most Christians hear the word “gospel” they think of soul-winning. The gospel saves unbelievers. While this is true, the gospel is much more than a message for the lost. To the apostles the gospel was the message that saved people, but it was also a comprehensive moral and spiritual map for all of life. That includes marriage, vocation, and parenting.
By the gospel I mean the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The gospel is the good news about everything that God has done to save us from eternity past to eternity future. It starts with the Father’s electing love, and ends with a new heavens and a new earth.
The goal of Christian parents is to parent our children as God has parented us. More than anywhere else in the Bible the gospel unpacks how God loves, serves, and disciplines his sons and daughters. The gospel also shows us ourselves. Everything we need to know about our value to God as well as the depths of our sinfulness, God reveals to us through the gospel.
Therefore, when it comes to our children, nothing could be more important than how to apply the gospel to our parenting. The Bible contains little teaching about parenting (only 2 verses in the New Testament). That is because the gospel is the paradigm for parenting. We can derive many parenting principles from the gospel. Here are some examples.
Should we focus on protecting our children from the world or on bringing them into new birth? The Bible stresses the positive. “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world” (1 John 5:4). Do we really believe this? If this is true, a good offense, combined with a proper understanding of new birth, is more important than protecting them from the world.
What parental virtue is most apt to attract God’s blessing? Surprisingly, it is not love, discipline or Bible study. Scripture testifies overwhelmingly that God blesses the parent that learns to fear him, and we get that fear from the gospel.
What are the characteristics of all effective disciplinarians? First, they have a clear understanding of indwelling sin. Second they are comfortable with the authority that God has given them. Third, they love their children with God’s affection. The gospel instructs us on all three.
Last, most parents experience times of crushing failure and discouragement. The gospel encourages parents with the grace that they need when they feel discouraged, defeated, or inadequate.
In summary, go deep with the gospel, and God will amplify your children’s faith through. God will bless your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. They will marry believers, enjoy a vibrant faith, stay married, rejoice in the privilege of children, joyfully serve local churches, and honor their parents. What could be better than that?
Bill is the senior pastor of Grace Christian Fellowship, a non-denominational Evangelical church, which he planted with several other families in Spokane, Washington. Check out his book Gospel-Powered Parenting which is on sale this week.
There are many true things about you. You may be a student. You may be a mom. You may love someone of the opposite sex or the same sex. You may make music or lattes. Life may be incredibly difficult, or you may feel like you’re living the dream.
These things may be true—but are they the truest?
Fried chicken is food, true, and so is a kale salad. But Jesus declared that He is the truest food. See, other things may have the appearance of being able to satisfy the deep needs of our bodies and even our souls, but Jesus declares that He is even truer food and truer drink.
So even among truths, there are true things and there are truer things.
Jesus wants to get to the truer things, the things so deeply true about you that they have the power to change everything else, including the merely true things.
What if the truest thing about you can cause you to reimagine your entire life? What if the truest thing about you can drown out all the noise and speak the words that you’ve waited for your whole life?
What the Gospel demands we ask is this: what does God say is the truest thing about us?
We aren’t always comfortable asking that question, and sometimes we only pretend to ask it. We give an answer we think we ought to give, an answer that identifies us as one of the good kids or a good Christian or a good citizen. Those answers are too easy. They’re cheap. All our lives we’ve been trained to answer that question in particular ways for particular people.
We define ourselves differently to different people. I’m a good worker, a good parent, I’m a failure, I’m beautiful, I’m hideous, I’m loved, I’m not.
And maybe you answer it differently when you’re by yourself, when you ask it of yourself. Dancing alone, driving alone, sit- ting at a cafe alone, tapping snooze on your alarm for the seventh time, the tenth time, because there isn’t one single reason you can come up with for getting out of bed on a sunny Saturday.
You answer it differently every time because you feel different every time you’re asked. A different person with every shifting truth.
Here’s the problem: you’re clinging to true things about your- self that simply aren’t that true. You’re elevating things that are merely true—or half-true, or true some days but not others—to the level of “truest.” I know you’re doing this—because I do it too. We all do. It’s the human condition.
Be clear: many destructive things we believe are very much true! We do fail, we did lose the money, we aren’t as beautiful, we were abused.
The problem is that we have pushed many of these merely true things down to the most fundamental layer of who we are and in so doing have built our whole lives and identities on them.
These things can be true, but we need to discover that they are not, and never will be, the truest thing.
David Lomas is the Lead Pastor at Reality/SF and the author of the book The Truest Thing About You (David C. Cook) which launches today! You can follow him on Twitter @davidlomas
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
- The Apostle Paul in Philippians 1:6 (ESV)
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. “
-Jesus in John 16:33 (ESV)
Since Adam and Eve were cast from the garden, every generation has been on a desperate search for hope. Hope that there is a cure, that there is a way out, that something ‘I’ can do will make all things right again. For those of us who have placed our faith in Jesus we know that He alone is our hope. It’s only through his saving grace that our desperate search for hope finds an answer.
But, here’s the thing, it’s not yet fully complete. The day of Jesus Christ that the Apostle Paul references in Philippians 1:6 (see above) is yet to come. Our hope begins when we accept the gift of God’s grace and say ‘yes’ to Jesus – and it’s fully and wholly completed on Christ’s return. So what do we do in the meantime? What do we do when health fails, depression overwhelms, and the circumstances of life overwhelm us?
We still cling to hope! We still believe the promises of Jesus (see above verse) and at that moment – as the writer of Hebrews says – hope becomes our anchor. If Jesus isn’t that hope that anchors us down – then just like a ship in a storm – we become lost, aimless, and desperate. Have you ever felt like that? I certainly have and it’s in those seasons of desperation that everything the world has to offer is no more solid than sinking sand. Jesus says, we ‘will have tribulation’ but despite the hardships of life we choose hope. Hope in him and his promises – knowing he is faithful.
This is the good news the world needs to hear and we need build our lives on!
Watch the video below to hear how the reality of Jesus brought hope despite the circumstances of life. If you find yourself in a season that has tried to steal your hope check out the book 365 Days of Hope or check out other great books on hope here.
The other day my two boys – age seven and four – were playing at a playground when they both came up to me with sad and frustrated looks on their faces. They informed me that another boy had called my four year old a ‘chicken’. I could tell that my seven year old wasn’t going to let someone call his little brother a name again. I’ve always taught them that they are to use their strength only to protect and never harm someone – and this wasn’t a situation where I wanted him to clobber a kid over his little brother being called a chicken.
So I looked at my four year old and I said, “If he calls you a chicken again then flap your arms and start making some crazy chicken noises.” With amused smiles they both headed off to play again.
A short time later they returned with big smiles and told me that it had worked. The same boy called my four year old a chicken again and so my son promptly began to sound and act like a deranged playground chicken. Apparently this took any warped joy right out of the name calling and according to my boys he ran off (probably a bit weirded out) to find another kid to pick on.
So let me ask you this question.
Who’s the playground bully calling you a chicken?
It might not actually be a person. Maybe it’s a circumstance or habit. The affect is often the same though. Our reaction to tough situations is often fight or flight but what we really need to do is react in the opposite spirit.
Do you remember when Jesus was taken into the desert to be tempted? Here was Satan – a created being – trying to take down the savior of the world. What did Jesus do? He didn’t fight, he didn’t run, instead he responded in a way that baffled Satan. He used the truth of God’s word and eventually it was Satan who had to leave.
How about when Jesus says, “Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” Matthew 5:39-40
Talk about acting in the opposite spirit!
So as 2014 starts out what does acting in the opposite spirit look like for you? What’s staring you in the face that would normally cause you to give up or to fight? Maybe it needs a crazy chicken response instead.
Do you have a tough co-worker? Buy them a cup of coffee.
Are you lazy? Get up and go.
Has someone spoken a lie to or about you? Go to God’s word and let His truth work in your life.
Are you spiritually apathetic? Serve at your church or read through the Bible this year.
May the year 2014 be full of opportunities to act in unexpected ways and be amazed at the goodness of God!
It’s hard to let the reality of something that you’re so familiar with wash over you anew.
If, like me, you’ve grown up hearing the story of Christmas, seeing it’s imagery year after year, and hearing it’s story told and retold, the birth of Jesus can easily lose it’s earth shaking impact. But there has never been a more significant event in the history of the world. It’s a story that demands being told, sung, and shouted to all the world at all times. If you’re sick of hearing it then you may not fully understand it.
It’s a story of the all powerful God coming near to his creation in the form of a baby. Centuries of prophecies being fulfilled through the birth pains of a woman. The worldwide curse would soon see it’s undoing as this baby would grow into a boy, a man, and then become an all atoning and perfect sacrifice. The course of not just history but eternity would never be the same
So how do we recapture the awe and mystery of the glorious event of Christ’s birth that we remember every December?
Tell it again in January.
But don’t stop there.
Keep telling it in February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, and November.
Then scream it out even louder over the commercial and cultural noise of December.
That wonderful, mysterious night over 2000 years ago caused shepherds to leave their sheep. start a years long journey for wise men from foreign countries, and it should evoke a similar response in our hearts today.
What does the birth of Jesus cause you to leave behind?
What journey has it caused you to set out on?
As we remember anew the significance of that night I pray that the wonder, mystery, and majesty would stir our hearts as it has done in those of who have responded to it for generations.
Seven years and three kids into being a parent I’ve still got a lot of things to figure out. Some parenting lessons are fun to learn and some – if I’m honest – are a bit scary. Early on in our marriage my wife and I talked about the various traditions of our upbringing – and what elements we’d like to combine or new ones we’d like to create as our family grew. Inevitably most of the traditions that we reflected on had to do with holiday celebrations.
In American culture the Christmas season is the longest holiday season and as a result also the most packed with various traditions. So as our firstborn arrived we began to talk about things like Advent, how we should approach Santa Claus, and what to do on Christmas Eve. As we talked, we found ourselves sifting through three significant areas as it relates to celebrating Christmas.
- How our culture celebrates it
- How our families celebrate it
- How our faith celebrates it
As you can imagine there are quite a few points of intersection in all three of these areas but there are also some pretty significant disconnects.
As a whole our culture (the United States) continues to move father and farther away from remembering Jesus birth and deeper and deeper into the consumer and commercialization of the Christmas season. Many Christians families struggle with being overwhelmed by the culture while still trying to maintain some semblance of faith.
I can remember one of the first years of celebrating Christmas with our firstborn. Literally dozens of relatives had given our son presents for Christmas. Before we had begun to open the stack of presents under the tree he pulled out a small car from his stocking – and we could have stopped right there. The intense joy and satisfaction on his face from receiving that new car and his immediate energy in driving it around the house said it all. After a few minutes though we actually interrupted his play to get him busy opening his mountain of presents. This ended up becoming a key event in how we would approach future Christmas celebrations.
My wife and I had some questions to ask.
- In a culture that is doing everything it can to ignore Jesus, how do we make him the center of Christmas?
- How can we use the very prominent aspect of gift giving as a selfless part of Christmas – not a selfish one?
- Is it OK to allow fun, silly, and maybe even allow non-religious aspects of the Christmas season be a part of our celebration?
As our family continues to grow and our kids get older, my wife and I have realized that it’s up to us to be intentional in how we aim the focus of this season. We have the immense privilege and responsibility to put the focus where it should be. And so as a family we have intentional conversations, we read stories, we promote generosity, we correct selfishness, and above all we remember Jesus.
Do we fail in our focus? You bet. Just because we’re adults doesn’t mean we’re not influenced by the culture. Our hope though is that someday when our children are starting families of their own, that their memories of the Christmas season will be packed full of Jesus, relationships, and generosity.
How about you? In what ways do you strive to make the reality of Christ’s incarnation a focus of the Christmas season?
Please share in the comments section below.