My ten-year-old daughter told me she feels like she has heard about God all her life but he feels far away from her. I am trying not to panic as a mom. I know I have felt that way too before. But I am not sure how to guide her without lecturing her. Would you require her to do a quiet time or just let her do if she wants to?
The feelings of panic (and I know them well!) often arise in these moments when we feel helpless to change our child’s heart. We feel that way because it is true! Salvation belongs to the Lord (Ps. 3:8). We cannot open the eyes of our children’s hearts or give them a heart of flesh for a heart of stone, but we must turn our panic into prayer that God would do what only he can do.
But there is a lot that we can—and should—do to parent our children in the ways of the Lord, and the God who gave us this mothering job in the first place has also given us wisdom in his Word for how to do it.
First of all, as I often remind my girls, we must parent in faith. We must parent with confidence in the steadfast love and faithfulness of the Lord, his power and desire to save (he saved us, after all!), the wisdom of His Word to guide us, and the ever-present help of the Holy Spirit.
You may already be doing this, but I would encourage you to keep talking to your daughter about how she feels. Tell her you have felt this way too. Encourage her that God often makes us aware of a lack of his presence so that we might seek his presence. God is at work! You can pray with her and ask that God would grant her salvation and assurance. Stories from you or your husband or grandparents, friends, etc. can be a real comfort so she does not feel strange or alone.
Then I would encourage you to help her develop a habit of reading the Bible and praying every day. There is an unhealthy skittishness parents often feel about making their children do what they don’t want to do. We worry: if we push the Bible on them, will we push them away? Maybe we had a bad experience growing up, or this just smells like legalism to us. Isn’t it better to pray, encourage, and wait for God to do his work?
I would counter that leading a child to God’s Word is doing God’s work. It is what he commands us to do (Deut. 6:4-9) and it is the means He most often uses to bring a child to Himself. I am no exception. In many ways, it is the habits of my childhood, set in place by my parents, that most profoundly shape my life to this day. Growing up, my parents required us to go to church three times a week. Sunday morning. Sunday evening. Wednesday night. No exceptions. These were not, as my husband always refers to Sundays “my favorite days of the week.” I was bored silly at church. I couldn’t wait to get back to school on Monday morning and be with my friends. But my parents didn’t consult my feelings on the matter. I was going to church whether I wanted to be there or not. And it was in one of these church services that God first opened my eyes to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
One other example comes to mind. As a young girl I had to memorize 200 Bible verses to get into a summer camp I really wanted to attend. I didn’t care about the verses, but I cared about camp and so I completed the assignment. My motives may have been totally wrong, but these Scriptures embedded in my mind and heart have encouraged and comforted me throughout my Christian life.
All that to say, I would encourage you to help your daughter develop a habit of having quiet times. Even if she doesn’t want to. Even if she’s bored silly. By placing God’s Word in front of her every day, you are laying the kindling under which our gracious God may light the spark of his presence. Tell her you are doing this because you love her. We make our children brush their teeth and eat their peas, not because they like it, but because we know it is best for them. How much more the reading of God’s Word?
And do whatever you can to make it easy and exciting. Buy her a new journal where she can write down her questions and thoughts; use a solid Bible study book or program (several of my grandkids use these Bible reading notes from the Good Book Company and the ESV Seek and Find Bible is a great option for children); have a time each day at breakfast or dinner where the kids can ask Mom and Dad questions from their daily Bible reading (stump the parent!); give them a challenge to memorize or read for a reward.
Finally, don’t underestimate the effect of your genuine passion for the Lord on your daughter. As she sees you read your Bible every day, talk about Scripture, live out your faith (not flawlessly but faithfully), she will be indelibly impressed by the work of the Spirit that she sees in you.
I’ll leave you with these bracing words from JC Ryle. As you lead your daughter in faith toward God, may you see much fruit in her life.
“I know that you cannot convert your child. I know well that they who are born again are born, not of the will of man, but of God. But I know also that God says expressly, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go’ and that he never laid a command on man which he would not give man grace to perform. And I know, too, that our duty is not to stand still and dispute, but to go forward and obey. It is just in the going forward that God will meet us. The path of obedience is the way in which He gives the blessing. We only have to do as the servants were commanded at the marriage feast in Cana, to fill the water-pots with water, that we may safely leave it to the Lord to turn that water into wine.” ~Ryle
After church on Sunday I was chatting with a friend about friendships. Friends are a big issue for us as women. Our friends and family are often the center of our world. They consume a majority of our time and attention. And that’s a good thing. God made us to be relational creatures.
But often, we are more passive than purposeful in our relationships. People drift in and out of our lives. We don’t usually pause to consider why we pursue one friendship and neglect another. Our feelings (such as having an emotional connection) often guide our friendships more than God’s Word.
As we make new plans for the New Year, it’s a great time to consider our relationships in light of Scripture, to develop, as my dad likes to say, “a theologically informed” approach to friendship.
Do our relationships—the friends we choose and the time we spend with them—bring glory to God?
“The righteous should choose his friends carefully” (Prov. 12:26, NKJV). Here are a few kinds of friends Scripture tells us we should choose:
Friends Who Sharpen
How would you describe your ideal friend? Is she lots of fun? Easy to be with? Loyal? Does she buy the same blouse or laugh at the same movie lines or cook the same food? All plus points to be sure.
But Scripture says the best kind of friend is someone who sharpens us as “iron sharpens iron,” (Prov. 27:17, NKJV), who “[stirs us] up…to love and good works” (Heb. 10:24).
We need at least one and preferably many friends who inspire us to serve, provoke us to love, help us to grow in godliness, correct us, encourage us, strengthen our faith, and spur us on to passion for the Savior.
Do you have friends who sharpen and stir you up?
Maybe you need to take a current friendship in a new direction, inviting a Christian friend to encourage you in the gospel or hold you accountable in your walk with the Lord.
Or maybe you need to make some godly friends. This may require a step or two outside the old comfort zone. But even if it’s a little awkward at first, we all need friends who sharpen us.
Friends Who Mentor
Biblical friendship should be educational. According to Titus 2, the older women are to teach the younger women “what is good”—that is, a lifestyle of love and commitment to home and family and to godly upright character, all in accord with sound doctrine.
Those of us who are younger should be studying and learning. We ought to doggedly pursue other women to teach us how to grow in godliness. And if we possess the teaching credentials of an older woman—proven character and a fruitful life—we should be teaching “what is good” to our younger friends.
So ask yourself: In my friendships am I learning and teaching “what is good”?
Friends Who Need Friends
It’s so easy to get comfortable with our close friends. But choosing our friends carefully means we must guard against selfishness and laziness. While life-long friends are a blessing from the Lord, we are also called to reach out to the new person, the lonely, the foreigner. “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers” (Heb 13:1-2).
Have you ever been “the new girl”? Remembering that uncomfortable feeling can motivate you to reach out to the new woman in your church. How can you show sisterly love to a woman who needs a friend? It can be as simple as introducing yourself to a visitor at church, inviting a quiet woman out for coffee, or inviting someone to come along with you and your friends. Let’s help new girls not feel new for very long.
Friends Who Need the Gospel
“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders,” Paul tells us, “making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:5-6).
Often we get so comfortable with our Christian relationships that we neglect the priority of evangelism. But Scripture expects us to be having gospel-sowing conversations with non-Christians. We need to walk around campus, through our office cubicles, or to the mailbox on the lookout for friends who need the gospel. They are not that hard to find.
Biblical friendship isn’t all duty and no fun. The pleasures of friendship, among them companionship, comfort, and laughter, are all good gifts from God and flow from his character (Acts 14:17, 1 Tim. 6:17, James 1:17). God wants us to enjoy our friends! And when we choose friends carefully we will receive these blessings and many more.
Last week, the girltalkers met at Janelle’s house. We brought Chick-fil-a, sent the kids to play with Christmas toys, and set our laptops, notepads, and colored pens on the kitchen table. It was time to plan.
Mom started planning with us when we were teenagers. Twice a year she would help us evaluate our life and priorities and consider ways we could grow. After we got married, we asked her to come back and help us, and so the tradition has continued to this day.
I got to thinking about what I find most helpful about Mom’s approach to planning for the New Year and here are my top three. Even though you can’t join us for Chick-fil-a, I hope these ideas inspire your planning, too.
1.Principle leads to practice. In a recent sermon (which you really should listen to, by the way), my Dad shared a line from JI Packer about the Puritans:
“Their knowledge was no mere theoretical orthodoxy. They sought to ‘reduce to practice’ (their own phrase) all that God had taught them.”
When we plan, Mom helps us to “reduce to practice” all that God has taught us. Here is where our theology gets worked out in methodology. It is where our goals for godliness get translated into detailed steps. Here is where we come up with specific, concrete, plans for living out biblical truth in every day life.
For this reason our relationship with God is always the first thing we talk about. Then we consider how we can be better wives and mothers. We discuss ways we can be more skilled homemakers. We ask: How are we to be serving in our local church? Who has God called us to share the gospel with?
What an awesome privilege we as Christians have, to be taught by God. By his grace, we must seek to put into practice all we have learned from his Holy Word.
2. Change is in the really small details.
What really keeps me coming back to these planning times is the immediate and dramatic difference they make in my life. Mom helps us make our big picture goals a reality by targeting small areas for change.
This year, it came down to a new oatmeal recipe.
Lately my mornings have been very hectic, cutting short my writing time. Breakfast was the culprit. It was a big production with four kinds of toast and five versions of cereal or oatmeal (with lots of toppings). Mom googled “slow cooker oatmeal recipes” and suggested I prepare the toppings ahead of time. These small changes have transformed my morning routine. I am not running around my small kitchen like a crazy woman, and I’m able to finish writing before the kids need my full attention.
A new oatmeal recipe might not seem like a big New Year’s plan, but it is the little things that make the big goals possible.
3. Planning helps me focus.
Janelle has been wanting to learn to crochet for a while now. It’s a good skill to have, and she has good reasons for wanting to learn. But as we talked through her priorities, starting with the most important, she realized that she doesn’t have time to take a crocheting class right now. It would mean giving up other, more important goals.
In an age of unlimited opportunities and countless distractions, planning helps me to focus. Otherwise I would run here and there doing a lot of good things but neglecting the best things. Realistically, we can only give ourselves to a few things this year. Let’s make sure those few things are the most important ones.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” ~Ephesians 5:15-16
Whether 2015 holds suffering or celebration, we don’t yet know. It probably has some of both in store. But this New Year’s resolution from James 5:13 is of the greatest importance no matter what awaits us in the New Year. Listen to yesterday’s sermon from Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville to learn about a resolution every Christian should make this year.
It’s the “Out with the Old, In with the New” holiday, my favorite time of year. Before the Christmas cookies had cooled, I was already dreaming about all the purging and planning I was going to do this week. I could hardly wait to make a new schedule, find new recipes, and buy new packs of multi-colored gel pens.
But I’ve come to believe that the best New Year’s resolutions are to keep the old ones. The most important resolve is to maintain the most important habit. “One thing is necessary”Jesus told the frenetic, distracted, Martha: “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42). Mary had resolved to sit at Jesus’ feet.
For most of us, sitting at Jesus’ feet only happens if we wake up early enough to make time to sit. Which is why, every New Year, I come back to this same, old, resolution: rise early so I might sit at Jesus’ feet.
Rising early is an ancient habit, indeed, explains Charles Spurgeon:
Early rising has the example of Old Testament saints to recommend it, and many modern saints having conscientiously practiced it, have been loud in its praise. It is an economy of time, and an assistance to health, and thus it doubly lengthens life. Late rising is too often the token of indolence, and the cause of disorder throughout the whole day.
Too many “disorderly days” have driven me back to this old resolution for the New Year. Last January, some of you may remember, I set an alarm clock outside of my children’s bedroom—a drastic measure by a tired mom. But when my cunning, lazy, self figured out a way to beat that system, I had to ask Mom to call me each morning and stay on the phone until I had coffee in hand. This new plan is working, I’m happy to report.
We started The 5 O’Clock Club for this reason: because we all need accountability and encouragement to keep this most important habit. What new, dramatic measures do you need to take in order to faithfully seek the Savior through his Word and prayer this year?
If it would help to join our 5 O’Clock Club on Facebook, or our Twitter feed (re-tweet when you wake up), we’d love to have you. I suggest roping in a friend for more personal accountability. If necessary, ask them to call.
“The old proverb declares that they who would be rich must rise early” Spurgeon also said, “surely those who would be rich towards God must do so.” Let’s bring in the New Year with a prayer for new mercies to keep this old habit. May we all grow rich toward God in 2015!
2014 at 2:19 pm | by Janelle Bradshaw
2015 is fast approaching so we are having a little year end sale on our new year calendars! Between now and midnight on the 31st take 20% off our 2015 52home calendars. Just use the code “2015” at check-out. Happy New Year!
Christmas is about expectations. “Come thou long expected Jesus” was the prayer of God’s chosen people as they waited for the Messiah. In celebrating Advent, we enter into those expectations and rejoice in their fulfillment.
This side of the incarnation, we often load Christmas down with other expectations. I could give examples, but it is probably whatever you are thinking about right now. And when people or presents don’t meet our holiday expectations it leads to all kinds of emotional turmoil.
Unrealistic Expectations = Unruly Emotions
What should we expect this Christmas?
First, we should expect nothing. If we go into the holidays with zero expectations of how our husband will shop for us or how our children will behave or how our sister will treat us, our emotions will be unruffled by other people.
In other words, the best way to prepare our emotions for Christmas is to repent from idolatry. Remember, as John Calvin warned us, the evil of our desires is not so much in what we desire, but that we desire it too much. We often call these desires “expectations.” And where you have “disappointed expectations,” more often than not, you’ll find an idol lurking nearby.
When we do away with selfish expectations–or as the Bible likes to call them, “worthless idols”–we can expect peaceful emotions this Christmas.
Secondly, we should expect trouble. For the Christian, trouble around the holidays should not be unexpected. Our Lord has promised that, “in this world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33); and, to paraphrase my dad, “Sin doesn’t take a holiday.”
Expect that your children will be ungrateful or that your uncle will be rude. Expect trouble this Christmas and you will be better prepared to handle it emotionally.
Our secular culture tries to ignore the reality of trouble around the holidays, covering their eyes with sentimentality:
“Have yourself a Merry little Christmas,
May your heart be light
From now on our troubles will be out of sight…
From now on our troubles will be miles away…”
For the Christian, our troubles will be miles away and out of sight—one day. But that is the promise of heaven, not Christmas. Unless the Lord returns or calls us home, trouble is an ever-present reality, sometimes especially so at Christmas.
Christmas is about celebrating the fulfilled expectation of Christ come to earth, even as we wait in expectation of his glorious return. As we celebrate the “already” we must expect the “not yet.”
Not only must we expect trouble, but because of Christmas, we can also expect grace. Christ has come! God is with us! Hebrews 2 highlights the grace we can expect, because of the incarnation:
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
In our Christmas troubles and temptations, we can expect the help of God-incarnate. God is with us and God is with us to help. He has made propitiation for every sin, and he is able to help us resist every emotional temptation.
When we set our Christmas expectations on Christ, we will not be disappointed.