Living Out Fear And Anxiety

I really enjoy sharing my wife’s work over at Our Bit of Chaos. She has written a really helpful and hopeful article on living with fear and anxiety and not to operate out of the place.

Fear is a mighty force.  It can dictate so many of our thoughts, words and actions.  We are so  for self preservation that we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable or reveal our real selves to others.  It whispers in our ear, convincing us that our deepest, darkest nightmares will come true and that we are alone in our wanderings on this earth.  That is exactly the opposite of how God desires us to operate.  He desires us to have vulnerable, open communication with Him and with those He’s put in our lives to walk this road with us.

You can check out her whole post below and also read a lot of the other stuff she has written. She is really great!

LIVING OUT FEAR AND ANXIETY @ OUR BIT OF CHAOS

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Important Updates! (Don’t Restart Your Computer)

Updates

It’s been awhile since I have updated personally on what’s been going on.  I started this blog as a semi-personal update blog and a place to slap all my writings, but it has grown a bit more beyond that and I wanted to share some really cool updates.

First of all, as I mentioned in an earlier post from January, I have been spending the better part of the past 10-ish months as the church planting intern at Appleton Gospel in Appleton, WI.  It has been an incredible experience with some great chances to preach, counsel, lead, and learn.  David, our lead pastor, is an exceptional leader and friend that I have enjoyed spending time with and learning from.  As of last week Friday, we had our follow-up meeting on the assessment process and now approved to church plant with the EFCA!  +4 Church Planting Powers!  Tina and I are both very excited to continue on this journey towards planting a church, and you can now expect some regular updates on us, where we will be planting, and what’s next and how you can pray and help!  We would love to hear from you and , Lord willing, join us in planting the gospel in a community of the Fox Valley!

Second, since I last did a personal update on here, Tina’s cake decorating and cupcake business has exploded!  I have always reaped the insane benefits of her baking mastery, but things have gone crazy around here.  She now has a cupcake club for the local Appleton and Fox Valley area and is delivering cupcakes to a bunch of people twice a month.  She is designing and decorating the cake for my brother Nick’s wedding in October, and I couldn’t be more excited for the future.  The dream is to one day have a brick and mortar location, but one step at a time to that goal!

Also, she has been writing as of late, as well.  I shared one of her posts here last week, and I wanted to highlight going to her blog to read all her posts.  She typically writes once a week on topics that personally relate to her life as a wife and mother, but is honest and true to the struggles of life as well as the joys.  She writes at OUR BIT OF CHAOS.  I love her and I love her writing, and I am positive you will love her writing, as well.

Lastly, after some conversations I had over the past week and culminating on Tuesday night with Mikey Fissel of Reel World Theology, I have officially joined Reel World Theology as a content creator for weekly posts on the site as well as sometimes co-host for the Reel World Theology Podcast.  Fizz contacted me shortly after I started Movie Church, which I posted about last week, and it made total sense for the two of us to combine our like-minded goals and merge what I was starting with Movie Church into what Fizz has already been doing with Reel World Theology.  Movie Church is no more but it is new beginnings with new friends at Reel World Theology.

What Fizz has done with Reel World Theology is fantastic and I am super excited to join him in helping people to redeem entertainment and see the reflection of God’s character in the movies and TV shows we watch.  You can read that daily content starting September 16th and I will link to where to find that content below.  Thanks for supporting me and Movie Church!  The journey is not over, it now has a different name.

Thanks for all who care and now that some pieces are being put in place, I will be writing on ministry, culture, movies, etc. on here a bit more often than I did over our busy summer.

 

Links to Stuff I Talked About:

Appleton Gospel

Forest Lakes District of the EFCA

CrabbCakes (Tina’s Bakery on Facebook)

Our Bit of Chaos

Reel World Theology (website)

Reel World Theology on Facebook

Reel World Theology on Twitter

Sounding Board: Remembering God in the Deep

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Some amazing wisdom I have received from David, pastor at Appleton Gospel and cool guy extraordinaire, on preaching is that some weeks you feel like you botch a sermon and wish it could be locked in a vault in the Nevada desert.  The worse feeling in the world is while you are preaching a sermon you can simultaneously be saying the words, wishing you could say them over, analyzing your second point and that it is not good enough, praying the Spirit speaks to one person, and wondering why some person towards the back is giving you this horrified look like they are watching an autopsy.

However, like the giant, female MUTO from the new Godzilla movie (spoiler alert!), your sermon hatches and breaks out of said vault in Nevada desert and instead of leaving a levelled Las Vegas, it leaves a swath of happy feels when you finally listen to it and get feedback from people who remember your points, think you did a great job, and will remember and pray over what you peached on.  It is those weeks that it is readily apparent this preaching thing is the Holy Spirit’s work and not mine.  Thank God He is sovereign whether I preach with a silver tongue or like a bumbling fool!

All that being said, here is my sermon from Sunday on Jonah 2; Remembering God in the Deep.  Click on the Appleton Gospel logo to download the MP3 or listen to the Podcast at AppletonGospel.com by clicking on the sermon title.  Thanks everyone and your feedback, comments, questions, death threats, snide remarks, and corporate endorsements are very much appreciated.

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Three Charges to Overcome Your Fatal Attractions

courtesy of http://ilahem.blogspot.com/
courtesy of http://ilahem.blogspot.com/

Previously I had written on Tim Keller’s sermon, How Sin Makes Us Addicts, and Keller’s two questions on how to uncover your lover gods. When we replace the love of God with love of other things, it can become an addiction that enslaves us. These replacement gods become what Keller calls “lover gods” and we spiritually sleep around with them.

The last post left little hope beyond being able to identify those lover gods, but Keller also dives deeper into Jeremiah 2 to give us good news and hope. Once we have uncovered these false gods that woos us and grab our affections, Keller offers three charges to overcoming your fatal attractions and gaining freedom from them.

Personalize Your View of Sin

So often we want to view our sin as merely a transgression of God’s law. We act in a way that we know is wrong, compare it to what God says in His word, and we scold ourselves to try and not do that again. The problem with this is that we do not recognize that sin is a power that when we scold it, it merely wants to do it more. We echo the words of Paul in Romans 7:18b-19:

“For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”

What we fail to realize is that sin is not merely a transgression of the law and of God, but it breaks the heart of God. Keller says the language God uses in Jeremiah 2 is one of a jealous lover who has been abandoned by his bride. Verses 2 and 3 say:

“I remember the devotion of your youth,
your love as a bride,
how you followed me in the wilderness,
in a land not sown.
Israel was holy to the LORD,
the firstfruits of his harvest.
All who ate of it incurred guilt;
disaster came upon them,
declares the LORD.”

The people of Israel had faithfully followed God through the wilderness after being rescued from slavery and had been God’s holy, set apart people. They were the LORD’s lovely bride who he had given His heart to and they turned from Him and stabbed him in the heart.

In order to see sin for what it really is, we need to personalize it and see that our sin is not merely to run afoul in our morality or our behavior, but it is to divorce ourselves from our true love, God himself. Only then will our heart truly melt and the allure of sin and our sinful lusts can start to be overcome.

Remember Grace

In Jeremiah 2:6, God says to His people Israel:

“They did not say, ‘Where is the LORD
who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
who led us in the wilderness,
in a land of deserts and pits,
in a land of drought and deep darkness,
in a land that none passes through,
where no man dwells?”

Israel, God’s people, goes after false gods because they were not remembering the grace that He had for his people when we brought them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. When we fail to remember God’s grace through us through Jesus Christ, our natural inclination is to turn to those things that we think will rescue, aka our lover gods.

We remember our salvation not by just calling God’s salvation to mind, but we remember through intentional times that are a picture of grace. We can remember His grace every time we take the Lord’s Supper and  remember Jesus’ body and blood shed for us. Also, when we gather together on Sunday mornings we can take that time to sing and preach about the grace of God. Opening our Bibles and reading about God’s grace is another way that we can remember His grace every day. We need to have those times where we are actively remembering God’s grace collectively and individually in order to overcome the wiles of our lover gods.

Look in the Mirror

God constantly compares his people to his bride and Keller embraces that comparison to drive home that we are to combat and overcome our lover gods by looking in the mirror. In verse 32, Jeremiah prophesies, “Can a virgin forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number.” Again, God compares Israel, his people, to a bride and compares Israel forgetting God to a bride forgetting her wedding attire?

Why would he do that? Think about it. Does a bride forget what she was wearing on her wedding day? Or as Tim Keller asks, does she suddenly get up to the altar and remember she forgot to put makeup on? Of course not! A bride is looking in the mirror all day on her wedding day. She is constantly adjusting and adorning herself as she prepares to walk down the aisle. Our flight to lover gods is tantamount to a bride forgetting to take a look in the mirror before her wedding day.

But is that not what we are constantly trying to do? Keller astutely points out that our hearts are always trying to ornament ourselves to look spiritually acceptable to God. But the point Keller is making is not to be looking in the mirror in order to make sure our own ornaments and makeup look good, but to look in the mirror and see who we are in Christ.

Ephesians 5 says that Christ came to perfect us in order to make us spotless and presentable before God. When we look in the mirror we can see that we have been adorned with the perfect and righteous life of Christ. We can join Paul, after his rant in Romans 7 about sin and our flesh, by saying, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” It is through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we are able to remember his stunning grace and to look in the mirror and see how beautiful we are in Christ.

The poisonous charms of our lover gods will be harmlessly neutralized when we can see the beauty of Christ before us and clothing us, and we run down the aisle into His amazing grace.

Make sure to follow 13Past1 on Facebook or follow Josh on Twitter to get updates on all the posts!  Gracias!

Two Questions To Uncover Your Lover Gods

imageIn the sermon, “How Sin Makes Us Addicts,” Tim Keller preaches on Jeremiah 2 and the language of sexual desire and idolatry addressed by God, through the prophet Jeremiah, to Israel.  Keller expounds that idolatry, when we find our own life, meaning, security, and joy apart from God, is our soul getting in to bed with something else spiritually.

Jeremiah expounds that the people of Israel, like we do today, have replaced God with other gods that become like an addiction.  As Jeremiah 2:25 says, “But you say, “It’s hopeless; I love strangers, and I will continue to follow them.”  When we follow after these replacement gods, what Keller calls “lover gods”, we become addicted to them as our source of security, joy, and pleasure and we continue to throw ourselves back into their arms.

All humans, regardless of whether we follow Christ or not, are susceptible to the trappings of false, lover gods that entice us to be in bed with them.  John Calvin famously said, “Man’s nature…is a perpetual factory of idols.”  Jeremiah sees this in man’s nature and quips, “[They] say to a tree, “You are my father,” and to a stone, “You gave birth to me,” (Jeremiah 2:27).  Our hearts take objects, like we would stone or wood, and we carve them into a image of worship and attest to their value and worth by assigning them worship (“you are my father”) and identity (“you gave birth to me”).  We not only do that, but God’s language in verse 20 literally says that when we go to worship these false idols we spread our legs before them.  We enter into spiritual, sexual intercourse with the false idols.  Shocking but true imagery of how the relationship with false, lover gods entices us and makes us addicts.

However, we cannot always see and identify the lover gods, since the spiritual attractions or our hearts are not clearly visible to us, but they are just as strong as physical attractions and can be just as or even more deadly.  Keller proffers two ways for us to be able to pull the sheets back on our lover gods and find out where we have been turning for love, joy, security, and happiness other than Him.

1) What is it that I feel I have got to have or I am dead?

Keller points to the connection between the Bible’s use of animal biology and our idolatry.  In verse 23-24, the idolatry of Israel is compared to a camel or a wild donkey in heat.  We restlessly pursue those idols as a female animal will seek out a male to mate with.  They do this not out of some complicated need to have their emotional needs fulfilled, but it is literally to survive and perpetuate their species.  They need to mate in order to live.

This is the first thing we can look to when we are seeking to find what idols we are getting in bed with.  What is in our lives that we have to have or we feel we will die?  What is so important to us that if we do not have it, it will cause our very being to feel like it has wasted away and perished?  It may the approval of other people, or one specific person.  It could be more money because it makes us feel secure and safe from the instability of day to day expenses.  We are challenged to find what will cause spiritual death if we cannot have it.

2) What is functioning more as the savior of my life than Jesus Christ?

The second question is to root out what we look to when everything goes bad.  What do we go to when the wheels have fallen off and what is standing in place of Jesus Christ as our functional savior?  These may be good things, such as wine, food, friends, spouses, etc., but we turn them into God things that rescue us from our times of trouble and deliver us into the Promised Land of whatever we need to feel alive (Jeremiah 2:27-28).

When addressing those behaviors or attitudes in your life that seem to be like the old boyfriend you just couldn’t live without or it feels like an addiction you just can’t shake, ask yourself these two questions to pull back the sheets on your lover gods and expose who you are spiritually sleeping with.  The language may be shocking for those who didn’t think your Bible could say things like this, but God wants you to see our sin for what it really is, spiritual sexual promiscuity.

*Postscript*

I would feel amiss if I did not leave you with more hope.  I will have the follow up three points on how we avoid being enticed by these lover gods and find freedom in Christ.  I’ll make sure to link it here after it is posted.

Make sure to follow 13Past1 on Facebook or follow Josh on Twitter to get updates on all the posts!  +4 Blog Potion!

The Slight Irony of The Gospel Coalition and Celebrity Pastors

Dear TGC, I took your picture.  I hope you don't mind.
Dear TGC, I took your picture. I hope you don’t mind.  You don’t?  That’s cool.  High five?

The Gospel Coalition is one of my favorite websites on the big, wide interwebs.  I have never had the privilege of attending one of their conferences, but the countless helpful articles by great writers, pastors, theologians, missionaries, and smart people have been a huge help to me, my wife and countless others.

I really enjoyed Richard Clark’s article from Monday’s posts talking about celebrities as not being commodities.  Richard Clark continued that conversation on Wednesday’s podcast at Christ and Pop Culture where he is the editor-in-chief and discussed a little more about our culture’s obsession with celebrities and particularly the Christian culture obsession with pastors, theologians, professors, writers, etc.  I would suggest checking out that podcast for the whole thing and enjoy Nick Rynerson’s story about being rebuked at the Gospel Coalition Conference.

Where the slight irony comes in is that two days later The Gospel Coalition posts a baker’s dozen of pictures from Day 1 of their TGC Council Meeting which includes a good spread of photos of who many of us would consider to be the celebrity pastors of our day.  Right out of the gate, “Hey!  There is Tim Keller with a red pen!”  “Look, there is John Piper typing something on his computer!  Mark Dever talking! D.A. Carson praying!  I bet a mountain just moved!  Al Mohler with a bow tie!”  (BTW, well done, sir)

I see this juxtaposition as a microcosm of our own hearts.  One day we can be very aware that our hearts are sinfully lusting to make a connection with the people that we look up to and admire and then two days later we indulge in that by drinking in pictures of the famous people we admire doing very ordinary things.  AND it is worthy of its very own blog post to share with everyone!

“We look to the celebrity pastors as our example to emulate and that turns from a healthy admiration into an obsession that borders on weird and ends with us having them sign our Bibles.”

That is the amazing and terrifying power of our internet age.  Celebrity is not something new, heck, Jesus was a celebrity in his day and had to steal away in the early morning to pray without being interrupted.  However, the internet allows us to look at those pictures, listen to a sermon, read a blog post, listen to music, or read a tabloid and soak in a one-sided, nonreciprocal relationship with that person we are holding up.  What we fail to realize, and what Clark points out in his article, is that we merely capture moments of these people’s lives that we can live over and over again and dehumanize them by either putting them on a pedestal for their exemplary or fascinating lives, or we do the opposite and we demonize them for their non-exemplary lives or views we don’t agree with.

In Christian circles this can be particularly dubious.  We look to the celebrity pastors (i.e. Tim Keller, John Piper, Mark Dever, etc.) as our example to emulate and that turns from a healthy admiration into an obsession that borders on weird and ends with us having them sign our Bibles.  It is even worse when we turn our sights on them for doing something or writing something that we disagree with and our obsession turns to revulsion.  I can’t help but think of the slow about-face many have done to Mark Driscoll as a result of some recent “journalism” in the past calendar year.

The bottom line is that these pastors, and celebrities as a whole, are not a good or service that we ship out to consume and rate on Amazon.  They are people, with real feelings, real families, real ministries, real needs, real fears, and real lives.  I think the toughest part for celebrities has to be that they face a battle that comes from within and without.  Just think about pastors who are famous and well-known.  These guys have a church in their own city with people who criticize them, idolize them, and listen to them and they need to address those needs within their own church context.  Add on top of that they have people outside who criticize them, idolize them, and listen to them, as well.  That adds up to a lot of pressure that I don’t think we, as normal, not famous people, don’t really understand.  In the same situation that you and I put those famous people in, would we react like they did?  Or would it be a lot worse?  Makes you think, doesn’t it?  I think we could all benefit from a little more thought experiment when it comes to our celebrity obsessions and take a few moments to humanize those who seem very inhuman (both in a good and bad sense) when we listen the to them, watch them, or obsess over them.

One final word on this.  I come out of this knowing and sensing the irony in this very article.  I don’t mean this as a way to say, “I have it figured it out and I don’t obsess over famous people ever.”  I do, and when I stop and think it makes me cringe and get on my knees and pray.  I get that writing about observed irony can itself be ironic and hypocritical.  I get that it is slightly ironic I write this and one of my first posts ever on this blog was an oozing ode to John Piper as he stepped out of the pulpit at Bethlehem Baptist.  I get that the fact I know when John Piper was retiring from preaching at Bethlehem Baptist can be considered obsessive.  I get it and I want my heart to avoid falling into the trap of having an unhealthy view of people who are completely normal but are in a position of power and influence because of their talents.

My point can probably be best summed up by what Richard Clark said to close his article:

“We’re entirely too comfortable with the morally meticulous games we play with celebrities and other renowned personalities. Celebrities aren’t commodities who give us a break from loving our neighbor. Despite what we’ve been telling ourselves, Brangelina, Bieber, Obama, Piper, and Keller are as worthy of being treated with dignity as our neighbors or friends.”

Thanks friends.  Listen to those podcasts, songs, and sermons and watch TV, movies, and YouTube videos with discernment and remember that, “The heart [that means my heart and yours] is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable–who can understand it,” (Jeremiah 17:9), but, “since we have a great high priest [Jesus Christ]over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.  Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful,” (Hebrews 10:21-23).  

Make sure to follow 13Past1 on Facebook or follow Josh on Twitter to get updates on all the posts!

 

Along the Way: Some More Thoughts on Everyday Evangelism

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Last time I tackled the “Along the Way” series, I shared some of the guiding principles I use with my kids as I disciple them in everyday life with the gospel. I promise I have a lot more to say, however I felt like what I shared needed some additional clarification and more thoughts that add on to what I said.

A lot of times articles and books and conferences on raising kids seems like a bunch of rosy principles and is lacking on the whole real life, in the trenches, backstage kind of stuff. We return/finish the book freshly pressed with a load of new knowledge and fresh vigor to engage our children and raise them into the super-children they were destined to be. All of it quickly goes nuclear when your daughter is screaming at you to stop talking to her as little flecks of animal cracker spatter your face. Tragically, we are left with the warm, molten lump of our good intentions and we delete their application for Mensa.

I don’t necessarily have a problem with a lot of the material available to parents (although there are some that are extremely unhelpful and should be avoided).  There are a lot of fantastic books that offer a lot of solid wisdom and principles when it comes to parenting your children.  What I am a lot more concerned about is how our hearts as parents interact with that material and how we apply it to our children.  Oftentimes, and I am guilty of this just like you probably are, of taking those things as inerrant rules and trying to take the square peg material and hopelessly jamming it into the circular hole that is your child’s mind and heart.  What we fail and  have failed to do is consider that everyone’s children, as well as each individual child of yours, has different hopes, fears, personalities, reactions, and behaviors.  If we are shooting for just a cookie cutter response to modify our children’s behavior, we are potentially missing out at getting to their heart and allowing the gospel to change their behavior from the inside out.

However, there is so much more to sharing the gospel with your kids than telling it to them whenever and however you feel like it. In the midst of the everyday struggles of being a parent, there are spiritual realities that motivate and shape how you share the gospel with them. Discipling your kids with the good news of Jesus Christ takes work on your part to understand and navigate your child’s heart, as well as yours, and to pray against the schemes of Satan and sin that will seek to side-track and derail repentance and gospel growth.

As I struggled through the questions of discipling my kids and raising them to follow Christ, the very first thing I found that I needed to do was to not leap into it right away, but be praying for the Holy Spirit to reveal the hearts of my children to me.  Just like we spend time asking the Spirit to reveal our idols and expose where there is a need for growth, so to we need to ask the Spirit to help us understand our children’s personalities, their hopes and fears (potential idols), their hearts and minds (how the process information), and their reactions to our discipline and to our gentle rebukes.  Just as Paul prayed for the Ephesians to receive a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ (Ephesians 1:17), we can pray that the Spirit is able to uniquely speak the truth of the gospel through us in a way that our kids will understand.

“I consider myself to be the Apostle Paul and I am observing the Athens landscape of my kids’ hearts in order to find connecting points for the gospel message”

For example, it is a normal routine for my wife and I to ask the kids questions that can delve deeper into these things.  I will ask about their days at school, who they played with, what happened during the day, what their friends say and do, what their teachers say and do, and what others think about one another.  These are all ways to find out more about what they think about what goes on in their lives.  Children will readily make their opinions known and it can be easy to draw out what they think about how someone else acted or why they did something to someone else.  Also, I will observe how they interact when I pick them up from school, how they interact at church gathering, with friends, with family, and with strangers.  I consider myself to be the Apostle Paul and I am observing the Athens landscape of my kids’ hearts in order to find connecting points for the gospel message (Acts 17).  When we asks questions, observe, and process them in prayer, we can find plots to plant gospel seeds that can blossom in their hearts as they hear the good news and begin to follow Jesus for themselves.

As the good news sinks in and you share it with your little ones, I cannot stress enough that this is never a simple path and that it must be saturated in prayer.  Not only does prayer help us to hear from the Spirit and help us open our kids hearts and minds, but it is a very real weapon in the battle against our Enemy, Satan.  Evangelism and discipleship are not just a head and heart issue, but it is also a battle being waged on the spiritual plane.  Paul reminds the Ephesian believers that those who are disobeying God are actively serving the spirit of this world, which is ruled by the “prince of the power of the air”, who is Satan (Ephesians 2:2-3).  Satan is called the Deceiver (Revelation 12:9) and the “father of lies” (John 8:44).  Your kids will be just as vulnerable as anyone else to the devious schemes of Satan to deceive our hearts and enslave us to the spirit of the age.

When we started sharing the gospel with our kids regularly in our discipline and our times as a family, we started off pretty well.  However, a couple of weeks in, Micah, our oldest son, started bucking against everything we did and said and was just terrible night in and night out.  It was really exhausting and wore me down to frustration and started to effect how Tina and I dealt with the kids.  It was only after confessing our need to others to pray for us and praying ourselves that we have seen the hostility subside and I can truthfully say Micah has been a lot better as of late.  It was then I started to see how Satan really is prowling around like a lion to devour those who are susceptible (1 Peter 5:8).  It was only when we picked up the Sword of the Spirit (God’s word) and prayed in the Spirit that we saw the battle turn in our favor.  Parents, please do not neglect this important aspect of evangelism with your kids (and others) that we are waging a spiritual battle and to depend on the Spirit in prayer.

“We can plant the seeds of the gospel and water them as we disciple our kids, but it is God who will give the growth.”

Satan is also able to play to our hearts because by nature we are fallen creatures who have rebelled against God and chosen our own way.  Since the fall in the garden, our sinful hearts are of a fleshly nature and we long to fulfill are own desires and our hearts are stubbornly for ourselves (Psalm 81:12).  If your kids are not-yet-believers and still hearing the truths of the gospel for the first time, their hearts will not always be inclined to hear what you are telling them.  We must be prepared to meet opposition from our children directly and realize that the gospel seeds can and will take a long time to germinate in their hearts and make the long journey from their heard to their heart.  Our efforts at times might seem fruitless and frustrating, but I want to encourage you that it is not up to us, but if we can plant the seeds of the gospel and water them as we disciple our kids, but it is God who will give the growth (1 Corinthians 3:7).  Take heart, depend on God, and avoid the temptation to allow your frustration to overtake you and lead you to depend on your efforts for gospel growth.

It is way too easy to start depending on our own efforts and the words we use to “convert” our kids instead of trusting the Spirit to do that work.  When we take the gospel truth and we turn those words into a rod we use to beat our kids with that truth (I am guilty of this), the gospel loses its power and become merely a hollow law for our kids to obey in order to appease us.  That is not gospel but is the very religion Jesus sought to rebuke.  How dubious and terrifying it is that not just our kids’ hearts can stubbornly follow their own way, but we as parents can take the liberating truths of Christ and turn them into rules and laws for our kids to obey to get our approval and modify their behavior.

God have mercy on me for the times I have done this!  The gospel is not a list of rules, but is a story and a message that is liberating and transformative message that takes our hard and stubborn hearts and softens them to give us new desires to follow God and have relationship with Him through the person and work of His son, Jesus Christ! (Romans 1:16-17)  Speak that truth to them and allow the Spirit to work in their hearts, just as he did in yours!

Parents, fight the good fight, pray for your kids and proclaim the gospel in both thought, word, and deed and you will begin to see fruit and set a foundation in speaking and acting out of love for what God has done for them through the person and work of Jesus Christ.  I am praying for you and for the legacy you can set!