Pray for your kids – kindness

pray-for-your-kids-kindness

Kindness could be viewed as a bit of a lame affection – it lacks the sense of commitment and drive of love, the selflessness of mercy, or the staunchness of justice. Kindness effectively means to be benevolent, to be friendly.

Yet kindness is like a buffer and a glue in relationships. People are able to stick together when kindness is present between them and if tensions or difficulties arise, kindness softens the blows to reduce harm done.

When a child is kind it is beautiful. For an adult to be kind is essential. Consider any interaction between people: now imagine it with no kindness – it turns nasty and evil, doesn’t it?

Kind adults arise from kind children. So for the sake of society pray for your children to be kind.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:32 ESV)


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Image of boy holding a lamb: iStockphoto

Pray for your kids – purity


Purity is an attribute which humans strive for but can never achieve on our own. Only God is absolutely pure, we are born sinners and so it is only through the sacrifice of Christ and subsequent work of the Holy Spirit in us that we can be purified.

I start with this to emphasize that in praying for my kids to be pure, to have pure hearts and clean hands, they must be in Christ. Purity is impossible apart from the work of Christ and even for those of us who are born again, purity only comes through the work of God in us, not merely by our own efforts.

When I consider my son, who is currently two and a half, I can see an innocence and purity of motive within him. Yet there is also deviousness, selfishness and sin in there too.  Small children are about as pure-hearted as humans get so we want to keep them that way as long as possible. However, sin is relentless in our hearts and will have its way when left unchecked.

So I am praying for faith to be given to my children, that they may know Christ and His purity from a young age. I want them to be transformed by the washing of God’s words, by the whisper of His Holy Spirit to their conscience and by the growing fruit of righteousness in their lives.

He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the LORD
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
(Psalm 24:4-5 ESV)


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Image of lotus flower: iStockphoto
Note: I know the lotus flower is a traditional Buddhist religious symbol, however, my reason for using a picture of a lotus flower in this post is because the lotus also symbolises purity. In part this is due to unique biological ‘self-cleaning’ properties of the leaves of the lotus plant. See here for further information.

Simplicity

Eventually the only thing remaining that is good for my soul is what God has done.

Fortunately my wife realizes this before I and arranges for us all to get away for a weekend.

Forty-five minutes up the road to a simple little cottage, the legacy of a lady who lived a hundred years. Now we sit in the sun room of her little cottage by the sea, soaking up sunlight and beauty.

Why do we need to escape to a little cottage by the sea when that is where we already live?

We go to a cottage that is even smaller than our own, even closer to the sea. It has less stuff in it, no computer, and does not come with our schedule or agendas attached. We need a break from the life we have made for ourselves.

So in our earthly tents we stay in a borrowed house. Just a little family together with the little we need for a few days and the book God wrote, enjoying the world He made.

Then we come back ‘home’, to our house (borrowed from the bank!), to live in the world and trying to remember we are not of the world. To this we are called, and then when He is ready He will call us each home.

Better is a little with the fear of the LORD
than great treasure and trouble with it.
(Proverbs 15:16 ESV)


Gifts I have noticed this week:

576) Birdsong at dawn.
577) At home sick with youngest daughter watching Sleeping Beauty together.
578) Blue skies after two weeks of gray.
579) A weekend break away.
580) Rainbow in the sink!
581) Getting away from our usual routine.
582) Getting away from my usual time-wasting computer habits.
583) Excited, hyped-up children.
584) All being together as a family.
585) Holiday cottage reminding me of my grandparents.
586) Realizing how poor some of my ancestors were.
587) Waking up to birdsong and beauty.
588) Pottery coffee mug.
589) Sunshine.
590) Peaceful walk on Moeraki beach.
591) Enormous ocean calmness.
592) Making sand mountains with my son.
593) Him stomping the mountain down!
594) Persistent dog with a stick.
595) A warm wind for drying washing.
596) Reminders of the need for, and power of, praying.

Fan the flame

man_lighting_fire

It’s cold, there is snow on the ground and more is forecast. I am coughing and achy.

In this state I am paying close attention to keeping the fire that heats our house going. When it is cold you are acutely aware that without an ongoing supply of fuel and air a fire will quickly go out. Then it requires gentle persuasion to coax the flames back into life.

Gently fanning flames from small sparks is what Paul encouraged Timothy to do:

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
(2 Timothy 1:5–7 ESV)

Paul is not taking Timothy’s faith for granted. A sincere faith, passed on from his mother and a gift of God. If left untended faith would burn low, flicker, then fail.

Much of my growth in faith is by grace, the Holy Spirit causing faith to grow in ways I don’t understand (Mark 4:26–29). But knowing it is only by grace that I’m able to grow does not mean I will grow by doing nothing. If I do not fan the flame and keep adding fuel to the fire it could go out.

When faith is left untended it burns low and loses energy. I may still trust in Christ but beyond that am ineffective, lacking any fervour or motivation to be a positive force for God in my community. This is a familiar state for me, glowing embers but lacking the blazing fire needed to warm others.

I think the fuel for faith is to see the works of faith – God working through the lives of His people. Opening my eyes to see grace in the real world, realizing that God is active and has not abandoned us to unbelief.

When my fire has burned low and I am cold to the idea of shining the light of Christ, what am I to do about it?

My tentative approach is:

  • Open my eyes to see grace at work (John 4:35).
  • Ask God to use me and make me burn to do His will (Luke 10:2).
  • Love my neighbour (Luke 10:36-37).

Gifts I have noticed this week:

561) An evening out at a movie with my wife.
562) Realizing the blessings showered upon me when I see shattered relationships.
563) Folks romping in snow in our church carpark.
564) Abundance of cuddles from my kids.
565) A warm ride to work through the snowstorm.
566) Chocolate cake lovingly created.
567) Roasting marshmallows.
568) Workmate picking up some cough medicine for me.
569) God already knows the ways in which I would fracture if put under pressure.
570) Birdsong this morning.
571) Knowing the ‘flu will pass!
572) Someday all will be made new.
573) Looking forward to a warm bed.
574) Home-made popcorn.
575) Paracetamol.

Image of Samburu man lighting a fire: iStockphoto

Stumbling is better than not trying


There are some who consider making a regular ‘quiet time’ habit to be tantamount to legalism.

I am far from being legalistic – I am too lazy! But I would argue that not making a regular habit of prayer and Bible reading is effectively spiritual suicide. Going even a couple of days without spending some time reading from the Bible and honestly praying results in me becoming noticeably more worldly and less Christ-focussed.

As I spend a longer period of time not praying as Jesus taught us, my desire to do so decreases, along with my motivation to read the Bible. My thoughts are less taken up with God and more with my own anxious concerns.

I’m not a good example:

Don’t get the impression that I spend hours on my knees praying, read ten chapters of the Bible a day and memorize entire gospels. Often my time with God is a couple of chapters read distractedly while feeding breakfast to myself and one or more children. My prayers look strangely like I am ‘resting my eyes’ (sleeping!) and are fragmented by random stray thoughts.

To remind myself to pray I have photos of people I want to pray for on my bookmarks in my Bible – simple, but it really helps ensure I pray.

And what I have found is that even an interrupted, somewhat sleepy time dedicated to seeking God and His will really does make a difference. A difference which is very noticeable if those times are not happening.

Do you have any strategies for ensuring you get time with God?

Wrestling with an Angel


I want to thank God for an amazing little book I am currently reading. The book is Wrestling with an Angel: A Story of Love, Disablity and the Lessons of Grace by Greg Lucas, about insights gained as he raised a severely disabled son by the grace of God. It is very well written, humorous and heart-rending.

A commonly used phrase within Christian circles is ‘in the trenches’, meant to refer to people who are serving God in the midst of tough circumstances of daily life. Greg and Kim Lucas have certainly been doing that and what has been distilled from their years of difficulty and love into this 100-page book is like gold. True wisdom that is never easily gained.

I have spent days meditating on the depth of humility displayed in the chapter ‘Opposition|Humility’, and the excerpt below is from the very first chapter, challenging my perception of how big a load God could place upon me:

Break|Equip

I hear religious-minded people say all the time with good intentions, “God will never place a burden on you so heavy that you cannot carry it.”
Really?
My experience is that God will place a burden on you so heavy that you cannot possibly carry it alone. He will break your back and your will. He will buckle your legs until you fall flat beneath the weight of your load. All the while He will walk beside you waiting for you to come to the point where you must depend on Him. (p14)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
(2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV)

Thank you Lord that You still write wisdom in books by Your servants (Ecclesiastes 12:11).


Greg Lucas blogs at Wrestling with an Angel

Gifts I have noticed this week:

549) Firewood delivered and stacked before the latest storm.
550) God kept the snow away so I could preach my sermon.
551) Kids enjoying collecting pine cones on a freezing cold afternoon.
552) Two-year-old son thinks my pathetic drawing of a tractor is wonderful.
553) The faith and perseverance of others lifting me up.
554) Ability.
555) Cooking dinner for a change, letting my wife rest.
556) Politicians I didn’t vote for.
557) A friend searching for ways to help.
558) Getting to bed at a reasonable hour.
559) Being pursued to deal with my weaknesses.
560) Those who love me making sure I am helped.

Image of book cover: Cruciform Press

What message is this medium giving you?

Does the tool I write with determine the message I write?

The medium is the message” according to Marshall McLuhan. I haven’t read any of his publications myself, but recently listened to an audiobook of The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion by Tim Challies in which he discusses this concept.

In a nutshell, the idea is that every medium of communication carries with it inherent constraints which determine how the content carried by that medium will be created, transmitted and received. So the way in which we receive a message is partly determined by the medium through which we receive it (i.e., text versus TV, or blog versus Bible).

My musing over this stems from a concern over whether I might be unwisely using my time writing a blog? I tend to justify it to myself with two reasons:

  1. Writing these posts gets me thinking more deeply about ‘God-stuff’ than I would do otherwise.
  2. It serves the Body of Christ to have God-glorifying content on the internet.

However, I cannot say with absolute certainty that God has ‘called’ me to blog. I could write in my own notebook in order to think deeply about God without inflicting my musings upon the world. I am not even certain that what I write is of any benefit to the Body of Christ.

So I have two questions:

  1. Is it possible to truly honour God with the medium of a blog?
  2. What is the best way to use a blog to glorify God?

Question 1 is basically a yes/no question. Question 2 may require some explanation: the format of a blog determines how the message is received. Some of the ways in which the format affects the message is that readers of web pages tend to skim rather than ponder; many blogs are entertainment so this colours how people read all blogs; there are technical constraints on how a web page can be displayed, limiting how it can look; a blog must always be viewed through a gadget (computer, ipad, phone); and so on.

Pray for your kids – courage

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”(Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV)

I’m not sure I really want to pray courage for my kids – I want them to be kept safe and secure, why should I desire that they need courage?

Yet I also know that we all need to face fears and a sheltered life of ease is not best for any child. It requires courage to trust God, to follow Christ when everyone else is calling it foolishness.

Courage is necessary if my children are ever going to say, “I am not ashamed of the gospel” (Romans 1:16).

A necessary part of wisdom is courage, knowing the wise path will cost or hurt but choosing to walk in it anyway. This is what makes a person honourable.

Then there unfortunately are those bad things which happen and we cannot fully protect our children from. Already two of my kids have spent time in hospital and one has endured prolonged, severe ezcema. She was courageous, facing unrelenting pain and trusting both God and her parents.

As a father I don’t know what lies ahead for my kids, but they will need courage to face it honourably and with wisdom.


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Image of girl holding tarantula: iStockphoto