Love Powered Parenting : Starting With A Strong Foundation

“The godly walk with integrity; blessed are their children who follow them.” –   Proverbs 20:7.

Parenting is more than merely training and disciplining your children for a productive life on earth. It’s more than taking them to baseball practice, dance recitals, and music lessons. It’s even more than taking them to church and memorizing a few Bible verses. Parenting, rightly understood, is part of God’s mission for the world. In bringing children into this world and in raising them to love and serve God, you are part of God’s mission. It all starts with a strong spiritual foundation. 

The foundation is the most important part of a building because everything else rests on the foundation.  A solid foundation means a strong sturdy building.  If you have a faulty foundation, the building will not stand near as strong or as long. Your child is the building, and the foundation is a faith in God. Several times Jesus is referred to as a cornerstone or a foundation stone. A cornerstone is the most important stone in the structure because all other stones are built around the first one. The cornerstone determines the final location of the finished building. Giving a strong foundation for your child means they build their life with Jesus as the cornerstone.

Love is the very foundation of everything. The two greatest commands of God is based on love.  In Matthew 22:34-40, it says, “Jesus replied: ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.  The moment we genuinely believe in our Lord Jesus, our lives start to change.  The Spirit of God begins to reveal God to us through His Word, and as we get to know the goodness of God in our lives, we start to love Him. And the more we love God, the more we begin to love others. 

The stronger foundation is the foundation of God’s unconditional love. If you think God loves you on your good days, but not so much on your bad days, you don’t know how powerfully God loves you. Romans 8:1, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Families that love, families that understand God’s love is never going to be taken away from us and will have a firm foundation. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 John 15:9 tells us that “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me.” Jesus is saying that I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved Me. Make yourselves at home in My love. You want to be a great parent? A great son or daughter? A great aunt or uncle? Realize how deeply God loves you. Develop a relationship with Christ and then live in that relationship of love, of unconditional love every single day.  

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Why is parenting through love so important? 
  2. What can we do this week to build a better foundation? 

Loving Your Kids The Way Jesus Loves You

“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” –   Proverbs 22:6.

Loving our children like the One who is love seems like a daunting task. How do we move beyond ourselves – our selfishness and our busyness – and dig deep into our hearts to access a love that is Christlike for our children. How do we love your kids the way Christ loves us?

God, in such pursuit of us, sent His son to die in our place. And Jesus, in such pursuit of us, agreed to live faithfully, teach the truth as the Word made flesh, and die so we could find freedom. Jesus came to live among us so He could know humanity and so that we could know Him. What a powerful picture of pursuit. I know in order to love my kids like Jesus, I must be in constant pursuit of their hearts. I must learn and understand them so I can give them what they truly need. A heart of pursuit seeks to learn about the unique children God has given us and pursues an understanding of what they need and how they need it.

We need to tap into the ultimate and greatest source of love, Jesus Christ. Our foundation must be built on the Rock. When our foundation rests upon God then we can derive a much deeper sense of purpose and meaning in our parenting. It goes well beyond our personal willpower and strength. And it can and will last for eternity leaving a legacy for generations.  

As John 1:16 tells us, it starts with grace: “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (ESV). The idea of grace, of receiving something we do not deserve, is embodied in the person of Jesus. Jesus is God’s grace personified. A heart of grace gently corrects our children with love as the driving force in order to help them understand the gift that is freely available to them, no matter their state.

Then it is a matter of priority. What gets your time and attention is within your control; you make a choice on where and what you spend your time on. Choose to develop love-powered parenting. Establish goals that you aspire to in your parenting. Love drives it all. Love will be the result of your efforts. Love is the priority from the underlying motivation to the ultimate goal in your parenting.

Everything we need to love our kids like Jesus comes from the truth of who He is and what He did for us. It’s that simple. Now it may not seem simple in the daily grind of parenting but if we can take a step back it will all come into focus. 

There are days we will fail to love our children as Jesus loves us. Fortunately, His mercies are new every morning. The best part of the reality of His love is that we can get up tomorrow and try again.  

Discussion Questions: 

  1. How can you love your kids like Jesus this week? In which of these areas do you need the most grace?

Where Is God?

“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. If you are insulted because you bear the name of Christ, you will be blessed, for the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name.”  – 1 Peter 4:12-16.

The school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, brings to mind some lines from the musical Hamilton. “There are moments that the words don’t reach, there is suffering too terrible to name, you hold your child as tight as you can and push away the unimaginable.” The image of ashen-faced and visibly shaken parents waiting outside the school to find out if their child was killed is truly an unimaginable horror. It always begs the question, “Where was God in all of this?” 

This is a difficult topic to address, not simply because it rattles our brains, but because it is usually discussed when our emotions are high and our hearts are rattled. Pandemics, Tsunamis, young people being shot in our schools, and then on a more personal level: why did I have to get cancer? Why did my daughter have to die? Why did I lose my job and now I can’t feed my family? 

It is easy to assume that because such evils exist that God must either be 1) not good, 2) not all-powerful, or 3) or not caring. As Christians, we try to react differently to difficulties. When troubles find us, we try to react and respond with the traditional Christian stiff upper lip. And why not, we believe God will work it out. We trust God, and why we can’t see the good that comes out of this today, we believe there is a reason even if we can’t see it. But sometimes, all those words fail us and we wonder if this trouble in our lives was really necessary.

There are many examples of people who suffered in the Bible. The most often cited example is Job. Job had suffered in ways incomprehensible to most of us. And that suffering had left him confused and searching for answers. The searching for answers is instinctual because when tragedy strikes we want to know why. And what we don’t want to hear is that “God has this so don’t worry about it.” There are many other examples such as Paul and his thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7). And Joseph. Most of the disciples suffered in life or in death. Why? There is no one answer. There is no pat explanation.

Though it is human nature to want to master all knowledge, we simply must concede that much of life is a mystery. I can accept that by trusting that God is greater and wiser and has the answers we seek. We may not know the reason for each specific instance of pain and suffering, but we have been clearly shown the bigger picture, and we can be certain that all suffering will pale in comparison to future glory. “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.” (Romans 8:18).

There are no easy answers to what is, this side of heaven, unexplainable. What we need to remember is that life is not the meaningless chaos it seems to be. God is at work in the universe. We need to weep with those who weep, mourn with those who mourn, as Jesus did at the grave of Lazarus. In short, we need to be a people of the cross, a people whose God is not distant and blank but a God who instead loved the world enough to send His Son to die for our sins.

Discussion Question:

  1. Why do we want an explanation of tragic events when they occur? Do we believe that an actual theological explanation for our suffering will bring peace and comfort, joy, or hope? Why or why not?

The Responsibility Of Stewardship

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7 (ESV). 

There comes a time in our lives where faith and logic collide; one of those is stewardship. God has created us to be logical thinkers and problem solvers, but He also created us as spiritual beings who trust in His ability to do things beyond what our logical minds can comprehend. When we are on the fence between reason and faith, the Bible is the ultimate arbiter. We are called to be obedient to His word even when logic or reason would determine otherwise. And that includes stewardship. Reason is never too far away, however. If I give a percentage of my time, talents, and treasures to the Lord, then the net result will be that I no longer have access to those that time, talents, and treasures. Whatever I give to the church, I have that less money to use as I see fit. 

Jesus described how God has given each person unique resources, and how He is looking for “the faithful and sensible steward”—people who are faithful with the resources they have been given. Through faith, we understand many things that at first appear quite illogical to us.  Love, for example, is at times most illogical. There are successful marriages where the two people seem polar opposites and there is no logic to them being happy and content together. Through faith we understand. It is also through faith we understand something of God’s plan and purpose for our lives; and by accepting what we do not understand, we rise above the gravitational pull of our old natures and lives.

So what is the secret to stewardship? Paul tells us to start with our hearts, not our heads. True stewardship is a faith thing, not a reason and logic thing. God calls us to move as our heart tells us to move and not as our logical minds might move. Second, he tells us “not to give not reluctantly or under compulsion.” We need to freely give in such a way that the left-hand doesn’t want to pull out of the offering plate what the right hand just put in. We need to give as the Lord is moving us to give.  

 In the process of making giving decisions, we really establish our alignment with God on stewardship. As we continually decide to give, we constantly confirm how much we value our relationship with God. When we truly look at ourselves as stewards, then the decisions to give are as simple as thinking and praying about how He wants us to allocate His resources.

Stewardship is a freeing experience as it connects us more closely to God relationally. The ultimate outcome is that those who give as stewards experience a sense of intimacy with God that all followers of Christ long for. Giving becomes worship. Giving becomes a way of saying thanks to God for His grace and promised provision. Giving becomes a deep part of our personal connection to God.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you deal with the question of logic versus faith when it comes to stewardship? 
  2. What role does giving play in your relationship with God?

A Little Space For Grace

“Now for a short time, O Lord our God, you have been gracious to us and have let some of us escape from slavery and live in safety in this holy place. You have let us escape from slavery and have given us new life. – Ezra 9:8 (GNT).

If you know anything about the history of Israel, it was a constant series of them sinning, God punishing them, them repenting, and then “little spaces” of grace in between. In the middle of his prayer of confession and repentance in Ezra 9, Ezra breaks out into a psalm of praise. He focuses on the grace of God and realizes that God’s abiding presence has never left them even in captivity. He points out that God is kind and that He is the giver of new life. There is so much that Ezra is thankful for as he contemplates the goodness and sovereignty of God.

Today, of course, we live in the age of grace in which God promises that “whosoever will” may come and receive His Son.  There are no little spaces followed by moments of punishment. Grace was given to us as a gift of love from God, not because we earned it, but because He loves us.   

How can we make sure there is more room for God to speak, direct, and move in our lives? The answer is to walk in the grace of God.  We do that by “making room” for God in our life by creating space in our day to talk to Him and read His Word. I make room for more of God’s presence when I honor Him in my actions and attitudes and “move over” by submitting my will to His. I create more space for God and grace when I choose to accept the love He offers above my feelings of inadequacy that seek to crowd that love out. The good news is that God’s presence is always available to me. And to you.

When we are in His presence, we can experience the joy that safety and security in Him bring. His presence helps us experience His grace and peace, regardless of the circumstances surrounding our lives. God’s presence can bring us to a place of calm, comfort, confidence, and rest.

So we just have to make room, diligently seeking Him and trusting in His love. And knowing that His presence makes a difference. Just like you make space in your house for a guest. Just like you make space for dessert. Just like you make space for something new you want in your house.

God wants us to know that during this time He is making a little space for grace for us. So, take full advantage of what God has to give to you.

God’s grace is truly indescribable. I hope that each day we see, understand, and are overwhelmed by His grace as we were when we accepted Him into our life as Savior. And I hope we not only understand God’s grace but make all the space needed for God’s grace to work in our lives.

 

Discussion Questions: 

  1. How can grace be summarized?
  2. How can God’s overcoming, or irresistible grace be part of our lives this week?

What Is Your legacy As A Parent

“The godly walk with integrity; blessed are their children who follow them.” –   Proverbs 20:7.

What spiritual legacy will you leave behind? If you examined all that you have achieved or accomplished, what would you believe is the most meaningful for you. That is a good question but we need to remember that a legacy is what is meaningful to those we leave behind, not necessarily what is most meaningful to us. Leaving behind wealth and money is certainly helpful to our heirs but if your life is devoted to earning these things at the expense of time with those we love, how great of an inheritance is that really?  

Solomon tells us that the best thing we can do for our children is to be righteous and walk in integrity.  In Proverbs 20:7 we read about the godly walk with integrity. This means that he or she does what is right in the sight of the Lord.  They live in a way that honors and glorifies God. It is similar to  Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 11 that he desired for them to walk in “sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” (vs. 3 NIV)    

Hopefully, we make regular assessments of our sincere and pure devotion to Christ and our sincere and pure devotion to our children. Ask yourself, “what are my goals as a parent? What would I like our family to be like?” “Have I been intentional?” God designed us as parents to not only protect and nurture our kids but supply their spiritual needs as well. We need to talk to them about God’s unconditional love. We need the Spirit to help guide our conversations. We need to learn how to have conversations rather than interrogations. And we need to help them apply what they learn in their daily lives.

Being a parent isn’t easy….it’s hard work. Children sure do change you and challenge everything you thought about life. All parents want what’s best for their children. They want to do right by them, and they want them to have a good life. We ensure that by focusing on our own lives first. Am I walking in integrity? Am I living an authentic life? Am I following Jesus? 

A godly legacy begins when we’re intentional parents who create a home that honors God.  Children thrive best in an atmosphere of genuine love, supported by reasonable, consistent discipline. In this day and time, with so much trying to win the hearts and minds of our children, we can’t just rely on hope or luck to raise godly children. We must be intentional and make a choice to parent according to God’s Word and make it a priority to infuse that into every choice we make.

Whether you are just beginning your parenting journey, or you have grown kids and you are entering a new phase of parenting, embrace where you are at in the journey and make the most of it. Enjoy your kids and have fun with them, because when it comes to parenting, the days seem to drag on forever, but the years go by in the blink of an eye, and your kids are worth it.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What can we do short and long-term to be intentional about our choices to make sure they line up with God’s Word and the legacy you hope to create.

Showing Your Children The Right Path

“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” –   Proverbs 22:6.

Raising children is a challenge. It is a daunting task to turn children into radically committed, risk-taking, countercultural, wise, thinking, loving, mature, God-loving Christians in today’s culture. Yet, that is what we are asked to do. God calls every generation of Christians to teach the newer generation to embrace God.

The strongest way parents can keep God’s word is by leading their children by example. It is a well-known fact that children learn through observation of others, oftentimes their parents. Your children will learn what you model for them. So, if you want your child to have a strong relationship with God, you need to also have a strong relationship with God.  “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” (James 1:22).

 If you hope your children will follow Jesus, they should be able to see you following Jesus. Ask for their forgiveness when you sin against them. Teach them that making a mistake doesn’t result in condemnation but is an opportunity for restoration and growth. Make sure that the way you discipline yourself and them, reflect the redemption we are offered in Christ. Let them see you study the scriptures and pray for guidance.  

Love them unconditionally: Just as our children learn by example, so do we. When it comes to loving our children, we should love unconditionally as God loves us unconditionally. That means there is nothing they can do to lose your love;  you do not withhold your love because of something they did or said. When your child knows you have this unconditional love for them, it forges a trust between you and them. 

And pray with them. We pretty much know how to pray for our children (and grandchildren and nieces and nephews and so on). “Keep them safe.” “Heal their hurts.” “Show them the way.” We pray for their growth in faith and grace. But do we pray with our children? Teach your children how to pray by praying with them. Sit down with them every day, and pray with them about their lives and your loved ones’ lives. Pray favor over them in their lives, and that God will show His love to your children every day. Including your children in these prayers can help them learn about God’s nature.

The prayer Jesus taught His disciples (see Luke 11) asks for bread, forgiveness, and deliverance from temptation. Daily needs. Real life. Follow His lead and pray about each day’s needs and deeds: appointments, errands, work time, playtime, etc.

And pray what’s really on your mind and in your heart. C. S. Lewis said we must learn to “lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us.” So share your feelings, desires, hopes, and dreams when you pray with your child.  

Discussion Questions: 

  1. In what ways are you living out your faith within your family today? How are you loving God in your home now? What are some ways that you could improve the way you live out your faith in your family? 

Be Content

“So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.” – 1 Timothy 6:8

Regardless of the state of our economy, we still long to have more stuff. But in our desire to acquire stuff, do we ever stop to ask ourselves when enough is enough? God’s Word tells us that when God meets all the basic necessities of life, contentment should follow. It is not hard to be content in times of plenty, but what about those times of need.

In his letter to the church in Philippi, the Apostle Paul shares the secret to being content: “ Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”  (Philippians 4:11-13)

At the time of writing the letter, Paul was living in a Roman prison. Before that, he’d been beaten within an inch of his life, betrayed, and left for dead. Through the soaring highs and devastating lows of his life, God taught Paul to keep his eyes on the prize: the salvation of Jesus Christ.  Nothing else matters.  Look at what he says next in verse 12: “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” Paul realized that contentment is an attitude we learn and not a thing we achieve. Paul got it. He could be content with little. He could be content with much. He had learned to be content regardless of his circumstances.

Contentment is not about our circumstances. Contentment is God doing something inside of us. The good news is that we all can learn how to become fully content with who we are, what we are, and what we’re doing.  We can learn how to be content by thanking God for what we do have instead of focusing on what we don’t have.

The truth is, contentment does not come naturally. Paul learned it. This means contentment is a trait we must develop, a discipline we should all be striving for. Paul’s secret is that he is always striving to do what God has called him to do. At the end of the day, he has done everything he could to be faithful to God’s call on his life…. There is no complacency in Paul’s contentment, and neither should there be in ours.

Erik Raymond—pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Nebraska – in his book, Chasing Contentment: Trusting God in a Discontented Age defines contentment as “the inward, gracious, quiet spirit that joyfully rests in God’s providence.” Real contentment is found in God. When we believe that, it will dramatically transform the way that we live.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Where’s the balance between being content and yet trying to better your situation or solve certain problems?
  2. How does your life change when you are truly content?
  3. What can you do this week to be more content? 

Are We Making Things Complicated?

“The one thing I ask of the Lord—the thing I seek most—is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple.” – Psalm 27:4

When Charles Spurgeon was on his deathbed, he told those who had gathered with him: “As time has passed on, my theology has grown more and more simple. It is simply this, “Jesus loves me!” The Christian life is not meant to be complex. There is a blessed kind of simplicity for the Christian who understands the love and grace of God. You find glimpses of this kind of simplicity expressed in Scriptures like Psalm 27:4.

It certainly sounds good to live simply in this day and age of seemingly endless complexity. To not wake up with a thousand different priorities and things to do running through your mind. To be able to sleep soundly knowing that your heavenly Father never does. Sometimes we make following Jesus far more complicated than it really needs to be. We lose sight of a certain simplicity that comes with knowing Him and being known by Him. It is relatively easy to complicate the whole following Jesus thing. I know I’m supposed to love my neighbor, but who really is my neighbor? Certainly not the guy next door…right? I know I’m supposed to treat others the way I would want them to treat me, but what about the people who treated me badly?  Basically, we justify and rationalize. We make ourselves the exceptions and define the parameters for how much or how little of what Jesus says actually applies to us. Sometimes we spend more time coming up with loopholes on not to obey Jesus than we do at simply doing what He says. As a result, we make things more complicated than they need to be. 

On a few occasions, Jesus is asked what the greatest of all the commandments is – if He could boil down the whole counsel of God into its purest and simplest form, what would it be? His consistent response is two-fold: Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:36-40).

That’s it. Love God. Love People. Our serving, our willingness to forgive, our ability to trust His promises in the difficult seasons, all of these things and more are done in direct proportion to the extent that we love God above all and love others with all. Nothing else matters if we don’t do this first.

This is not to say that the Christian life can’t sometimes get complicated and messy. It most assuredly can and will. While Jesus has been very clear and simple in what He expects and demands of us, He never once promised that our obedience in those things would always lead to easy or comfortable places – as a matter of fact, He says more often than not things will get pretty difficult (John 16:33). But the gospel remains simple: Love God above all today. Love others with all today. Then do it again tomorrow.

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What do you find most difficult about the Christian life?
  2. What can we do this week to keep it simple… love God and love others? 

The Comparison Trap

Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.  For we are each responsible for our own conduct. – Galatians 6:4-5.  

The temptation to compare is as near as your next chat with a friend, trip to the store, or check-in on social media. We also compare our children to other children. From baby names to growth charts to report cards, all parents want to know is how does my child stack up against other children? And whether you think it is a favorable comparison or not, there is simply no win in comparison. It’s a trap and not a new one. The temptation to compare our children to others is centuries old.

Consider Abraham. He and his wife Sarah were the parents of two sons, Isaac and Ishmael. Sarah favored Isaac to the point that Abraham was forced to banish Ishmael―his firstborn―from their home forever. A few years later, Isaac compared his own sons and favored Jacob. His wife, on the other hand, preferred Esau. To continue the saga of comparison, Jacob made a colorful coat for the son he preferred over all the others. In the end, his favoritism carved a pit for Joseph that resulted in separation and hardship. As Theodore Roosevelt put it, “comparison is the thief of joy.”

Why, then, are we still so tempted to match our children up to others? Part of it is that we want our children to be the smartest, biggest, brightest, and most popular. But the truth is, our children haven’t been given to us so we can enter them into a game or race, nor does it make sense to compare in the first place. God doesn’t make two people just alike. He has uniquely and precisely created each of us with specific gifts and talents to do exactly what He’s called us to do. David wrote: “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.” (Psalm 139:13-14).

David wasn’t praising God for the way He flung the stars in the night sky, set the spinning earth on its axis, or stocked the vast oceans with sea creatures of every kind. David was marveling at the magnificent masterpiece called David. Each one of us is God’s workmanship. His masterpiece — and that includes our children. 

Our children are given to us for a short time so we can guide them, nurture them, and teach them to love the Lord. They are not our creations. They are the Lord’s. Each one is a unique being, molded by the hands of a perfect Creator. It’s time we stop comparing ourselves and our children with others. God made our children. He thinks they are amazing. And so should we.

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. God doesn’t compare us to other people. How does that change you’re thinking about comparing your child to others? 
  2. What is one thing you can do this week to allow God’s opinion of you to shape who you are and the choices you make?