Parent Devotional

//Parent Devotional

Wisdom and Justice VS Lack of Wisdom and Injustice

So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong…So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this …for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart…1 Kings 3:10-12

As a parent, I will be called upon to make a myriad of decisions. Should my child take certain classes? Should he or she do this afterschool activity or the other one? When do I push them toward an activity that they don’t want to do, but I think will be good for them? In the midst of difficult situations, when do I make them persevere and when do I allow them to quit? Do I love them at this moment by listening or correcting? Truly parents need the wisdom of God!

But as an imperfect parent, I will err. There will be times that I will not make the wisest choice. As a person in authority, I will unwittingly have made a poor choice. No big deal, right? We all make mistakes, right?

Except that this verse highlights an oft-misunderstood principle by those in authority. In 1 Kings Solomon prayed for wisdom to administer justice. Why? Because when a leader is wise, his followers experience justice. But when a leader is unwise, those underneath him experience that lack of wisdom as injustice.

This principle not only applies to the leaders of countries but also to the leaders of families, the parents. When a parent is wise, his or her children experience a just and fair home. But when a parent lacks wisdom, his or her children will often experience this lack of wisdom as injustice. They feel our decisions as fundamentally unfair. Our innocent lack of wisdom can cause others pain.

So as we shepherd them through the myriad of decisions that come our way, let us cry out for the wisdom of God to lead our family. And let us sympathize with them when they feel the effects of our unwise choices. No, we will not parent them perfectly. Only the kingdom of Christ will bring in perfect wisdom and justice. But understanding this principle will help us treat them more gently, kindly, and compassionately.

Had I Been Joseph’s Mother – A Poem by Ruth Bell Graham

A Ruth Bell Graham Poem.

Had I been Joseph’s mother
I’d have prayed/ protection from his brothers
“God keep him safe./ He is so young,
so different from / the others.”
Mercifully, / she never knew
there would be slavery/ and prison, too.

Had I been Moses’ mother
I’d have wept/ To keep my little son;
praying she might forget/the babe drawn
from the water /of the Nile.
Had I not kept/ him for her/ nursing him the while,
was he not mine – and she/ but Pharoah’s daughter?

Had I been Daniel’s mother
I should have pled / “Give victory!
-this Babylonian horde / godless and cruel –
Don’t let him be a captive – better dead,
Almighty Lord!”

Had I been Mary,/Oh had I been she,
I would have cried/ As never mother cried,
Anything, O God, / Anything…- but / crucified.”
With such prayer importunate
My finite wisdom would assail
Infinite Wisdom. God, how fortunate
Infinite Wisdom / should prevail.

Ruth Graham Bell, Prodigals and Those Who Love Them (Colo Springs, FOF, 1991), 69

Helping our Children Handle Suffering

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10

As a parent, I want the best for my child. But in wanting that best, I can become confused, using only human wisdom. I hate to see my child suffer in any way. And yet, following Jesus involves suffering. So, if I am going to call my children to follow Christ, then I am going to call them to suffer.

Perhaps the corrective on suffering needs to start in my own mind. Francis Schaeffer argued over 30 years ago that the majority of adult Christians are worshipping the idols of personal peace and affluence. We, the parents, want a Christianity that brings us a sense of tranquility and a greater standard of living. Unfortunately, the Sermon on the Mount topples those idols, teaching us that we are blessed when we are suffering for the sake of righteousness.

In fact, Jesus spoke of sending his disciples out like sheep among wolves (Matt. 10:16). We are not greater than our teacher. Since they persecuted him, they will persecute us (John 15:20). Why? Jesus teaches that we will suffer because of righteousness. This righteousness might be spoken words of truth or it might be actions lived in out. Nevertheless, righteousness will provoke a negative response.

Discipling our children to expect persecution will be difficult. Persecution cuts right to the heart of the temptation of every young person, love of popularity. To please Christ, they will have to displease those around them at some time.

So we need to be prepared and teach our own children a biblical view of suffering. Paul taught that suffering for Christ was actually a privilege granted to Christians (Phil 1:29)! And in that suffering for Christ, he actually came to know Christ better. He was able to say that one of his life’s goals was to know Christ, the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering (Phil. 3:10). Peter teaches us to rejoice in suffering because we are following the example of Christ.

How then shall we best attempt this difficult task?

1. Teach them not to seek suffering but to expect it. It is a sign you are doing something right. Since Christ left us an example to suffer, the question is not if but when you will suffer. Are you prepared to suffer? One of the best ways we can prepare our children is to prepare them to suffer. I want to encourage them to expect suffering as part of the abundant life that Jesus promised me. In fact, suffering for doing right is a seal of God’s blessing. It means I am doing something right (1 Peter 3:13).

2. Teach them to be willing to pay out suffering in little bits. Often the question is not, “Will I die for Jesus?” but, “Will I live for Jesus?” There are different types of suffering. Paul describes some of his own suffering in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29. In this passage, he moves from physical suffering, “I have been in danger…” to emotional suffering. Here is how he describes the emotional struggle he has for Christ, “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” Will we teach our children that it is good to be hassled for the kingdom? Will we put them in situations where they are hassled by serving others? Do we understand that the abundant life involves inconveniences?

3. Encourage them to stand up for Christ with their friends. The early Christians lived in a culture centered on emperor worship. To unite the diverse peoples, the Romans conquered forced worship of the goddess Roma, the spirit of Rome. The people were usually willing to do pay this small price since the Romans had brought peace and order to their area. Gradually this worship shifted to the emperor. Once a year, the subject of the Roman empire had to burn a pinch of incense to Caesar and say, “Caesar is Lord.” After they performed this “patriotic” duty, they were given a certificate and then could go and worship any god they liked. But it was this very thing that the early Christian refused to do. They refused to compromise on this one small thing and so paid the price of ostracism or even death.

4. Teach them that suffering is needed for propagation. Paul says that he filled up in his flesh what was still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of Christ’s body, the church (Colossians 1:24). Christ’s sufferings are not lacking in regard to their worth in terms of propitiation. His one sacrifice has paid for our sins. However, suffering is still needed for propagation. When we engage in suffering for the truth and for righteousness, we are continuing to participate in the ongoing (nonpropitiating) sufferings of Christ. For the message to go forth and the church to be built up, there must be suffering by the people of Christ. When we are suffering, we can rest assured the gospel is going forth.

All these principles are fine and good, but other than spontaneous exhortation and coaching, how can we put them into practice? One excellent way is to….

5. Engage in contact evangelism. Practically speaking, contact evangelism is an excellent means of training our children to stand up for their faith. Contact evangelism is not spontaneous relational evangelism that occurs when we speak to people in the course of our daily lives. Contact evangelism involves taking the initiative, in the power of the Holy Spirit and intentionally going out to share the gospel with people in a public forum. It involves a form of courage and suffering. Sharing the truth about Christ is going to provoke a response. And yet there is something that produces personal growth in that being “forced” to stand for their faith publicly.

The Communists understood this principle well. In his 1966 classic, Dedication and Leadership, Douglas Hyde details the means the Communist Party used to prepare workers willing to endure hardship and suffering. He says,

Quite deliberately, and with good reason, the Party sends its new members, whenever possible, into some form of public activity before instruction begins. More specifically, it is designed to commit the recruit publicly to Communism. Quite often this will take the form of being sent out to stand at the side of the street or in some public place selling Communist papers, periodicals or pamphlets. This may appear to be a very simple, somewhat low-grade form of activity. It is in fact of profound psychological significance…. Humble as the task may appear, to engage in it requires for many people a certain degree of moral courage….It requires another act of moral courage to remain in a fight for which, he by now realizes, he is not fully equipped. And moral courage is not a bad starting-point for future action.

My three oldest children have all engaged in some form of contact evangelism. The growth and excitement in them was palpable. One went overseas. The other two were involved in evangelism training and went out on sidewalks and parks. Adults were surprisingly receptive to talk about spiritual things with a group of high school students. Where are the youth leaders or the parents who will lead the children around them in strategic outreach?

Jesus finishes his kingdom manifesto with an assumption of courage and conflict. To be blessed is to have the inner fortitude to speak an unpopular message and live an unpopular life. May this be true of us! May this be true of our children!



Painful Love and Forgiveness

Blessed are those that mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4

Our families will never be perfect. We will sin against each other and be sinned against. Relationships invariably involve pain. That is the way of love. How we choose to react to that pain will depend on our perspective.

C. S. Lewis makes clear that the choice is between loving and having a hard heart.

Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket–safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

And when your heart is wrung out, to use his words, what are you to do? Forgive. In fact, part of the reason God put you in this marriage (or family) is so that you can learn forgiveness. Forgiveness is a skill we need to teach our children (and ourselves). Jean Vanier had this to say:

Too many people come into community to find something, to belong to a dynamic group, to find a life which approaches the ideal. If we come into community without knowing that the reason we come is to discover the mystery of forgiveness, we will soon be disappointed.”  ~~ Jean Vanier, Community and Growth

Put these thoughts together and you realize that to love is to open yourself up to pain. But to refuse to love is to harden your heart. And it is only when we are wounded that we can learn the grace of forgiveness. When we learn the grace of forgiveness, we have learned a little more of the costly love of God in Christ. And we have become a little more like Christ.

Are you hurting from loving someone? Do you realize that God is helping you discover the mystery of forgiveness?



Puritan Activities to Encourage Spiritual Growth

At this time of year, it is appropriate to remember our spiritual (and perhaps physical) forefathers.  New England’s first white settlers were those who separated from the worldy Church of England (Separatists).  These “Pilgrims” landed in 1620.  Another group tried to purify the worldy Church of England (Puritans).  But a mere ten years later, the colony was infused with a great migration of Puritans who had finally given up on the Church of England.  Two thousand Puritans emigrated in 1630 alone.  Both of these groups brought with them a rich emphasis on the daily walk of the believer. We can do well to imitate them.  The following notes are from Christian History Magazine, Issue 41,

The Puritans sought a living relationship with Jesus Christ through public worship and private “devotions.”  Private devotions took place in secret exercises, private conferences, family devotions, and private meetings.

“Secret” or “closet” exercises. Alone, the Puritans meditated and prayed just before sleep at night, upon rising in the morning and on Saturday in preparation for Sunday.  At night they would review their day’s behavior, repent of sin, and give thanks for the blessings. In addition, there were special sessions of self-examination on a birthday, New Year’s day or some remarkable act of Providence.

Private conference.  Believers were specifically instructed to seek out “much conference, especially with Ministers and other experienced Christians.”  These conferences were designed to solve problems and strengthen individuals and families in grace.

Family devotions.  The Puritans rightly viewed the family as a “little church,” so family devotions were essential.  “Families are the nurseries for church and commonwealth; ruin families and ruin all.”  This third private exercise ideally occurred in the morning before work, before meals and in the evening.  The Bible was read chapter by chapter, a psalm was sung and prayers (using a devotional) were offered up.

Neighborhood prayer meeting.  Congregations formed groups for women, young men, girls, tradesmen, and ministers.  Meetings were held in homes weekly or biweekly.  “We pray, and sing, and repeat sermons, and confer together about the things of God,” explained John Eliot, a founding pastor and missionary to the Indians.

In addition to these exercises, the Puritans were known to keep track of their spiritual state and experiences through journals.  New Englanders were also highly literate and considered reading a means of grace.  Religious publications – sermons, tracts, catechisms, and devotional manuals–were best sellers.

What strikes me almost 400 years later is how little has changed.  While technology has changed our physical life, the means of nourishing our spiritual life remain the same.  What this article does so well is specify those means so clearly.  Make use of these means of building up your own soul and the soul of those around you that were used by the founders of our country.


Stability in Times of Uncertainty

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and lifted up. Isaiah 6:1

He shall be called… Everlasting Father. Isaiah 9:6

We crave stability.

In the 1940’s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to an unprecedented third and fourth term as a U.S. president. George Washington had set the unwritten precedent that a president should serve only two terms.

How was the precedent of 150 years so easily overturned?

America was traversing the uncertainty of the Great Depression and World War II.  When all around is uncertain, it was comforting to look to the stability of our leaders. The comfort of stability was greater than precedent.

We want leaders we can have confidence in.

Isaiah must have deeply felt this uncertainty when he learned that Uzziah died. The king, whose name means the Lord is my strength, had reigned for 52 years. Under him, Israel had regained some of its former prosperity, rebuilt and rearmored its military.

But now he was gone. And the future was cloudy.

It was during that time of uncertainty that God gave Isaiah a vision of Jesus (Isaiah 6:1, John 12:41) seated on the throne, majestic, powerful, and surrounded with praise.

Jesus had been on the throne all the time but now Isaiah saw it.

When we face times of uncertainty, we need to remember that though we crave stable, trustworthy human leaders – all will fail. Ultimately, Jesus is that Fatherly leader we crave. This comforting role of Jesus is what Isaiah refers to when he says the titles of the Messiah will be: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Jesus is the Everlasting Father, a much better FDR and Uzziah put together.

And just as we crave stable leadership, so do our children. As our children navigate their uncertain world, rocked by changes, we have a high calling to be the steady rock. But let us remember we are merely a shadow of the true leader. Jesus is the one who brings true stability.

Let this calling drive us to our knees. And let us also make sure we point our children to the Everlasting Father – the all wise king on the throne – Jesus.

Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus who is a personal, strong and steady ruler in these days of uncertainty. Help me to reflect this emotional and spiritual stability to my children as his undershepherd.

Seven Questions to Assess If Your Anger is Righteous


David Powlison on Seven Questions to Ask if Your Anger is Righteous

1. Do you get angry about the right things?
2. Do you express your anger in the right way?
3. How long does your anger last?
4. How controlled is your anger?
5. What motivates your anger?
6. Is your anger “primed and ready” to respond to another person’s habitual sins?
7. What is the effect of your anger?

From “Anger Part 1: Understanding Anger,” Journal of Biblical Counseling, 1995

This is really helpful for those who defend their anger as righteous. Scripture does leave a category for righteous anger. And at times, anger can be our helper. However, in the majority of cases, human anger has a sinful element to it. These seven questions help us to discern any sin.

Do You Feel the Sacrifice of the Incarnation?

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)

I dont know about you but I cannot grasp that grace.

Several years ago, I came across a story in National Geographic (June 2003) that has stayed with me. In it, I begin to feel the incarnation in a minuscule way. Perhaps it will affect you too.

It is a story about people like Dinesh Parmar. One of 10,000 Bhangis in Ahmadabad, Parmar earns money by manually cleaning latrines, sewers, and gutters and by removing dead animals from the streets. He is a Bhangi, a member of the Untouchable caste.


In India there are 5 castes- levels of grouping. The ranks in Hindu society come from a legend in which the main groups, or varnas, emerge from a primordial being. From the mouth came the Brahmans-the priests and teachers.  From the arms came the Ksahtriyas-the rulers and soldiers. From the thighs come the Vaisyas-the merchants and traders. From the feet come the Sudras–laborers. Each varna in turn contains hundreds of hereditary castes and subcastes with their own pecking order. A fifth group describes the people who areachuta. The primordial being does not claim them.

The lowest caste is called the untouchables. They do all the dirty work that no else wants to do. Deal with dead bodies. Much of the manual labor. Within each caste there are subcastes. Within the untouchable caste the lowest subcaste is called a Bhangi.

Let me describe a days work for Parmar. He removes the manhole cover. Cockroaches scurried from the darkness as the stench below filled the street. Parmar hesitated for only an instant, then dropped into the hole- with no gloves, no gas mask. His body hidden inside, he methodically lifted bucket after bucket of excrement over his head.

Off to the next job – He led the way to a nearby lane. He climbed into several more manholes to scoop out clots of filth and sludge.

My Reaction

Do you recoil at that story and that picture?  I do. Do you love this man enough to leave your country, your wealth, your rights as a US Citizen, your future opportunities,  to enter his world? To become a Bhangi, to earn money in this way, to so humble yourself and humiliate yourself? To save a few? Oh by the way, the majority aren’t going to appreciate the sacrifice you have made. They are going to reject you and kill you.

I can’t. The gap is too wide. The sacrifice is too much. But Jesus did this and more.

Jesus loved us so much that he humbled himself, and came and entered our world of filth and stench. He became the lowest of the low.

That is the grace of Jesus. This is the sacrifice of the Incarnation.


Needs and Personal Calling

Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else-to the nearby villages-so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” (Mark 1:37-38)

I believe there are two types of Christians. Some, though they have experienced God’s generosity to them in Christ, still treat others with a miserly attitude. They are stingy with their time, talents and treasure. They have no problem drawing boundary lines and keeping others out.

But there is another group that understands the generosity of God to them and desires to be channels of generosity and grace to others. And because they are generous with their time, talent and treasure, they need to be reminded of another principle of Scripture. The principle?

A need does not necessarily constitute a call of God.

As we seek to discern what the Lord is calling us to do with our lives, the principle must be kept in mind. A need may constitute a personal call. Or it may not.

For example, the apostles were made aware of the problem of overlooked Grecian widows (Acts 6).  They saw that the problem was addressed even while insisting that it would not be right for them to neglect prayer and the ministry of the word. In other words, while overseeing the food distribution of the widows was a noble task and a need, they would actually be neglecting God’s call on their life if they were to take it on.

Similarly, Jesus made a priority decision after spending time in prayer. While Peter saw the crowd and his growing popularity—“Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” (Mark 1:37-38) Prayer separated the important from the urgent, the obvious from the hidden.

Perhaps the most obvious time the Spirit overrode a need and a desire is when the Spirit would not let Paul preach in Ephesus or any of Asia Minor but sent him over to Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens and Corinth.

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. Acts 16:6-10

Though he desired to go to the largest city in the region, Ephesus, for some reason the Spirit of God sent him further away.

What is the application for us as we seek to discern the mind of the Lord for our own lives?

We will be presented with a myriad of opportunities and needs. In fact, we should not hide from those needs but seek to hear them out. For some we may only be called to pray. For others, we may be called to engage.

Those who are generous with their time and talent in advancing the kingdom must seek God for their own call in fulfilling a need. While we can pray for many needs and should never turn a cold shoulder when presented with a need, we must make sure that serving does not cause us to give up a greater calling from God.

A need does not necessarily constitute a call of God. It may or it may not.

As we seek to discern what the Lord is calling us to do with our lives, let us keep this principle in mind.

Are You Praying Together Regularly? – Repost


For some reason, church-going couples have compartmentalized their religious life and their marriage life. The two may never meet. So if we are having marriage conflicts, often the last thought is, “Have we prayed about it together?”

But praying together is in fact a balm for many of our problems and an inoculation for many others. Many of the problems we are having may be the result of neglecting prayer together. Besides the effect on God, praying together has the mystical effect of binding hearts together. Something happens when two individuals go to the throne of grace together.

How to start? Be careful lest you become overly ambitious. Five minutes of regular prayer beats 30 minutes that starts and then stops. Ideally, prayer should be initiated by the priest of the household, the man. But there is nothing wrong with a wife’s gentle prodding, “Can we take a couple of minutes and pray together?”

How to pray? Let’s be careful here. It is easy to preach while praying. “Lord, help my husband become the man he should be,” is more preaching than praying. The prayers must be a real beseeching of God and not preaching to God or the other person in the form of prayer. “O God, make my husband/wife the person he/she should be,” is not an acceptable prayer to pray together.

Instead the focus of our prayer should be thanksgiving to the Lord, personal confession (again, don’t confess sin for the both of you), personal prayer for yourself and prayer for the both of you as you face this struggle together. Let’s look at each of these.

Thanksgiving: Prayer, like Paul’s prayers, should start out with thanksgiving. When Paul mentioned his prayers in his letters, they started with thanksgiving. The recipient of the letter, who was about to be corrected by Paul, saw in writing Paul’s genuinely thankful heart. There is something heart-changing in us about lifting prayers of thanksgiving to God for a person who is causing us pain. There is always something for which you can give thanks for them.

Personal Confession: Since you are holding yourself to a standard of perfection no matter what the other person does, there is probably sin that you can confess and renounce. Genuine confession in front of the other person is powerful. Do not confess the other parties’ sins or your mutual sins unless there has been previous agreement. Prayer is sacred communion with God and should be directed on gaining ground with him not with the other party.

Personal Supplication: Confession of your own failures leads naturally into prayer for personal transformation. There is a natural flow to asking God to ease the consequences of your sin. Again, the focus of prayer is upon changing you.

Mutual Supplication: Lastly, this is a time there can be prayer for the family decisions that have to be made that are causing disagreement. There can be genuine asking wisdom that God could show you what to do.  It is always good to echo Jesus’ high priestly prayer for protection from Satan, unity and holiness by the word (See John 17). And if we pray then we need to expect God to answer. Part of the expectation of faith filled prayer is listening to the Spirit and looking for answers.

Why don’t you pray together? Too old? It is never too old to do what is right. Too busy? You’re right you are too busy. He won’t take the lead? Nothing wrong with a wife’s gentle and humble suggestion. We dont know how. Ask another couple to mentor you.

Let’s keep our families well nurtured by praying in the Spirit on all occasions, especially as husband and wife.

Pray in the Spirit on all occasions, especially as husband and wife.