Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Easy Button

There are some things that are just tiring. Parenting is often one of those things. Intentional parenting can be even harder. Of course, it is completely worth it! And the bible says it is mandatory in Christian households. I am so thankful that God gives us the strength to endure!

  • "Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. " Psalm 127:3
  • "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6
  • "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates." Deuteronomy 6:4-9
There are many things that make parenting easier, things that lighten the load. Not all of them are beneficial. Emily and I are praying, searching the scriptures and listening to people wiser than ourselves, trying to see what decisions we can make that will be best for our family and the most honoring to Christ. We desire to seek the approval of our Heavenly Father alone, the God who alone gives us meaning and hope for life, not the approval of men. It is for Him that we live and we desire to please him above all others. We want to sow or plant righteous seeds and produce righteous fruit. How if we are practicing things that don't produce fruit, can we produce righteous fruit. If we truly long for that, we also long for that for our children and will parent with the hopes that our kids will one day love the same gospel we are not ashamed to preach and live.

  • "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." II Timothy 3:16,17
  • "Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves." Romans 14:22b
  • "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life" Galatians 6:7,8
Of course we are far from "good" parents, but by the grace of the Holy Spirit we are trying. Some things we realized recently is how far from the Biblical standard we fall short. We were using things to make parenting seem easier because we were not willing to put in the effort. It is never a good idea to give up, especially when it comes to parenting. Children are such a huge blessing from the Lord! Somethings are easier in the moment, that is 100% guaranteed. However, in the long run, it was devestation. We were teaching our kids lessons we didn't want them to learn. If we want Godly kids, we need to pray and train them according to the scripture and not slack off and let the world tell us how to parent.

  • "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. " Galatians 6:9,10
I was challenged by someone I respect recently, to put these thoughts down on paper to solidify my convictions. So let me be clear. I'm NOT writing this to convince any of you to parent they way we do. I am writing this for me (as a father) and for my family. TV is one of the ways we felt we were growing weary in doing good. We used TV as an easy button at times in our parenting. Turns out TV is a hot topic in our church as of late. Most of the things we used to justifiy TV came from worldly wisdom, not things that Scripture taught us.

  1. We entertained ourselves with comedy, drama, romance, suspense, etc. from the worlds view, but we know that if we love the world, we will become like it."Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly" II Timothy 2:15,16
  2. We used it because we were tired and thought we needed a break, but we know that God says he will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle. "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. " I Corinthians 10:13
  3. We watched it because it was fun and our kids asked us to watch it, but we know not everything fun is beneficial. "Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. " I Corinthians 10:23
  4. We looked to it to teach our kids some good morals from classic kid stories but we know that the only true standard comes from the Words of Life-the Bible. "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him" John 14:21
  5. We used it to rest and relax, but we know that God gave us one day as a Sabbath, not seven nights a week. "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. " Exodus 20:8-11
  6. We watch it because everyone else does too, but we all know that is a horrible practice in life (think of your mom telling you about your friends jumping off that bridge now) and we are accountable to our Lord and Judge alone, not in relation to others. "As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy." I Peter 1:14-16
  7. What we were watching wasn't really THAT bad, but we know that Jesus gives us the best example, and settling for less is not God's design. "The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men" Isaiah 29:13

    Nowhere in the Bible does it say that watching TV is a sin, so we don't preach that and certainly don't want to force others to follow our convictions. What we do believe are the scriptures we just talked about and for that reason, as a family, have decided to stop watching TV. I'm sure there are benefits to watching TV, and it IS something restful to do on the Sabbath. It is sometimes useful in training your children what to look out for in the world. Also there is freedom in Christ to do anything, but after prayer we have decided it is just not for our family. I have heard quotes like these many times "Show me how you spend your time and I will show you what you care about." and "Somehow we are surprised that when our kids spend so much time in Rome, they end up like Romans." We want to care about Jesus and be like Jesus, not the world.

    • "As the deer pants for streams of water,so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? "Psalm 42:1,2
    • "The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. " I John 2:17
    Some of our wiser friends have shared with us that when they take something out of their lives they intentionally replace it with something better. So we have instead decided to fill our time with Sermons. If someone invites us to a movie and dinner night, or a movie is playing while we are out, or a movie is being shown at Youth Group will we run away? No. But in our home we have replaced TV time, with Sermon time. So we are still sitting down as a family in front of a screen, but we do so with the intentional mindset of growing in the wisdom of Christ, not the wisdom of the world.

    • "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere" James 3:17

    Lastly, let's just be clear. No amount of "good" or even "intentional"parenting is going to save our kids. We realize that it is only through the work of the Holy Spirit, not by our "good" parenting that our kids will be saved. So we invite the Holy Spirit to work in and through us as individuals and as parents in hopes that we will bring more honor and glory to Christ by the example we set for our kids.

    Here is a recent family photo taken by our dear friend "Uncle Joseph" Lehman at the Daffodil farm!

      A Lament

      Blessed is the one whom You choose to set apart, O Lord.
      The closer You draw him, the further from the world he becomes.
      In his isolation from his neighbors, You are that much nearer.

      So I will rejoice in this perceived loneliness.
      So I will rejoice when they don't seem to understand.
      Because being closer to You is better for me than any of this.

      Friday, April 15, 2011


      Did you ever notice that to feel judged you have to make a judgement about some one first?  Let me say that again.  Did you ever notice that to feel judged you have to make a judgement about some one first?  I'll put it another way.  When you feel judged by some one, it isn't usually because they came up to you and said, "Hey, just so you know.  I'm judging you right now."  If anyone reading this has actually had this happen to them please do let me know.  It has got to be an excellent story!  If you are feeling judged by some one, you are making a judgement that that person is actually judging you.  Are you tracking?

      It is sort of the like when Jesus talked about the difference between the log and the speck.  In Matthew chapter 7 Jesus says:

      "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye."

      When all we see or feel is judgement we are missing an opportunity to learn and reflect on ourselves.  Our first question should always be, "How can I learn and grown from this situation."  If we ask that question first, and seek God for our answer, we won't care if others are judging us or not.  Doesn't that sound like such a freeing experience?

      Friday, April 8, 2011

      Imitation Cheese

      I'm currently doing the dairy free thing.  It is temporary.  I tell myself that time and time again.  Sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesn't.  When its all over, I will most certainly be drinking a large glass of super cold chocolate milk.  And eating cookies made with real butter.  Mmmmmm.  It's been a real challenge but I've been asking God what I can learn from it lately.  Here's a little nugget of wisdom He shared with me this afternoon.

      It's incredible.  The number of imitation dairy products out there seem limitless.  There's Silk (imitation milk made from soy), Rice Cream (imitation ice cream made from rice), all kinds of imitation cheese (made from various products).  It's astounding how good these options can SEEM.  We have a particular kind of imitation cheese in our fridge right now and toady as I set out making the boys some grilled cheese for lunch, I decided to use some of this imitation cheese to make my own grilled cheese sandwich.

      Boy, was I disappointed.  This imitation cheese didn't even come close.  The melt in your mouth, warm, ooey gooey-ness of what a real grilled cheese sandwich tastes like was on my mind but certainly not in my mouth.  That's when I realized something useful, and God himself redeemed my terrible dining experience into a life lesson that we can hopefully all apply!

      God promises that His plan for us is good.  He promises that even though it is hard to obey His commands and even though other people might not always agree with or think kindly of our obedience that the end result of our obedience will always be good.  Good because it is for His ultimate glory.  Often when we get tired of being obedient or when we feel that we are missing out on some great thing that the world has to offer, we look for a clever imitation that seems to be good but lets face it in the end, its just as bad as that awful imitation cheese.  So today I'm challenging myself and all of you to think of what imitation we are settling for.  Lets trash the imitation and hold out in obedience for what God has for us all.

      John 6:27
      Do not labor for the food that perishes,
      but for the food that endures to eternal life,
      which the Son of Man will give to you.
      For on him God the Father has set his seal.

      Wednesday, April 6, 2011

      An old favorite, revisited :)

      For years, we have known and loved the verse found in 1 Timothy 4:12 that reads: "Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity."  In fact it has been a favorite of Sean's since he was very young (a teenager).  Our kids know this verse already.  They have a little song that they sing from our Seeds CD.  They call it "the Timothy song."

      All the singing of this wonderful little song got me thinking a little deeper about this verse.  It's easy to see why young people love this verse, right?  "Don't let anyone look down on you.."  I can just hear young people everywhere reading this verse.  They are saying to themselves, "That's right!  They can't look down on us!  We won't let them look down on us!  No way!"  Do you hear them?

      I think that personally, I get so excited about that first little bit (Don't let anyone look down on you..) that I forget to really think about what the rest of the verse says.  "...set an example for the believers..." Do you realize what God is saying through this verse?  As young people, we have an awesome opportunity to lead believers by our wonderful example.  Now that really is amazing!

      So my encouragement is this: Young people, don't use the excuse that world presents you with to live carelessly now because you are young and have plenty of time to get your act together.  Instead be the example, set the standard by living Biblically now!

      Monday, April 4, 2011

      How can I not be thankful?

      Every story has two sides. At least. Recently God gave me a wonderful experience where he showed this to be so very true. For me, it all started when I prayed this crazy prayer for Silas. I was praying before bed with Silas and I asked God for Silas to bring Him the most glory possible, whether by his life, his actions, or his death. Now this truly is a crazy prayer for a parent-one society tells us is nuts-but I believe we are all here to serve a greater purpose; the kingdom of God and His glory. And I will always sing that tune.

      • "Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.His dominion is an eternal dominion;his kingdom endures from generation to generation.All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing.  He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth.  No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”"Daniel 4:34b,35

      Mid March the Carroll family and one other family went down to North Carolina to attend a family encouragement weekend. It promised to be up-lifting to our families, and a time to build on Biblical knowledge for raising our kids God's way in a culture and climate not fully devoted to God. However God had a completely different experience planned for us. At the time we were completely unaware of what God wanted to teach us, but boy, if God wanted to teach us something we sure better be thankful that God cares enough for us and desires us to grow. If you want to hear about the story of Silas' two day trip to the Hospital with seizures, helicopter rides, and tears then read my wife's post here.

      • "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
      • "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps." Proverbs 16:9

      I would like to share with you my journey through this and what God has taught our family. If you didn't follow my encouragement to read my wife's post about our trip the rest of this post might not make sense. Just sayin...

      Right after Silas had his Seizure, Emily and I were kind of in shock. We didn't really know what to do, so we called 911 and had Silas rushed to the hospital. Emily rode with Silas and I was left behind, not a place I wanted to be at the time. This enters the first two amazing families of this story. One the Martins said they would take care of Timo as long as we needed to be away in the Hospital. Timo got to spend the night and the next morning with the Martins. He was blessed to be able to spend time with their family! He even got to have a sleepover with the boys! The second amazing family was the Neelys. They call themselves "the Neely Team" and that is exactly what they are. Mr. Neely asked what our family needed several times, and was always willing to offer help when he could. Everyone else in his family was also eager to help and follow their father's lead. The Neelys lent us a car, and allowed a couple of their kids to come and watch Lily while Emily and I attended to Silas. What a blessing! I remember riding in the car asking the girls if they would be willing to sing "On Christ the Solid rock I stand" with me, and they had such blessed voices it was comforting.

      • "As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless.  He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.  For who is God besides the Lord?  And who is the Rock except our God?  It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect." II Samuel 22:31-33
      • "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock." Matthew 7:24,25

      All the time in my mind I was saying a few things. I was saying, "Ok God, I asked for this, please help me understand how I can bring you the most glory through this." I also asked God "What are you trying to teach me." And lastly I was shouting loudly at Satan, "YOU WILL NOT WIN THIS, I WILL PRAISE MY GOD ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE!" I must admit that in my times of doubt I also had fear for what was going to happen to Silas and how it would affect our family. But God is gracious and forgiving and still has our best interest in His heart.

      • "The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.  So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer." Ezra 8:22b,23
      • "But let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight." Jeremiah 9:24
      • "Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised." Job 1:21

      While in the Hospital with Silas, Emily and I knew that seizures in the Bible times were often associated with demons so we prayed to Jesus to cast out any demons in Silas. After that, the doctors never said Silas had another seizure. We knew that there were many prayers from many different people around the Country and we are so very grateful for their prayers! They were answered! Not wanting to waste such an amazing opportunity to figure out why God had us there I tried to think of how I could serve Him and bring Him glory. While in the Hospital I had the opportunity to pray with another family who had a sick child. We prayed together and shed tears. I talked about how God is our strength.  I encouraged them to keep praying as I was.

      • "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" Philippians 4:6

      Emily and I learned so much from this trip. We thought we were going down to a family encouragement conference. We missed out on the conference part but we definitely got the family encouragement part. We are so blessed to have a God who stirs our convictions and confirms them and plants them firmly in our minds. We are also blessed to understand how fragile life is and the great need to preach repentance all the time. We are blessed to serve a God who has all of our lives in His hands, and now when people ask "How is Emily?" or Silas, the Carroll family. Regardless of how they are physically, I smile and respond "They are great. They are in God's hands and that is the best place to be." and I truly mean it.

      • "But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.  Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you." Psalm 5:11

      Our family's prayer is that God will prune us and teach us what He wants, and we will continue down the path he has planned for us with grateful hearts! We will rejoice in the fact that our Savior has spent time trying to teach us to be more like Him in His holiness and less like our own selfish desires.

      • "Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:10,11
      • "He must become greater; I must become less. " John 3:30

      For everything the Lord is teaching me, I am so very thankful!

      • "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. " I Thessalonians 5:18