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Category: children

Adding To My Quiver

Psalm 127:3–5 (ESV)
     Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
     Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
     Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
       He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

 

It’s right around 7:15am as I begin to type these words, and I am sitting off in the corner of the delivery room while my wife and the delivery nurse are timing contractions. The doctor was here a few short minutes ago. Her water is broken. She’s ready to have our baby. Baby Bradley number 4. And here am I, pondering on our life over the past (almost) 9 years of marriage…

katherineandme

Our nurse put it nicely, stating that she wishes more couples stayed best friends over the years of marriage, really keeping the youthful love alive after so long. What a nice compliment to have on such a joyous day. It put a smile on my face. And it really made me think, that since November 17th, 2007, on that glorious day in Liberty, KS when my wife and I wed, we have gone through so much, grown so much, experienced so much, and continue to love each other (and our children) so much.

When we first got married, out plan had been to have Roni stay on birth control and we enjoy each other and marriage for our first few years of marriage, I think our plan was 5 years. Then, three months later, I was like “Let’s have a baby,” And we were pregnant within the month. Since then, Roni has given birth to three wonderful children, ages 7, 5, and 2. And, amidst all that, had one miscarriage. The Lord has really brought us through it all. And, later today, my third daughter will be born (2 years to the day from my last child’s birth, they get to share their day).

God had worked so many ways in our lives, and we really have had more than our fair share of children. My quiver truly is full. Shortly after our first child was born, we began the process of becoming a foster family. Truly embracing James’ definition of pure religion, of visiting orphans in their time of affliction (James 1:27), we jumped headlong into it, taking our first placement a sibling group of four children. And it kept going on from there. Several sibling groups later, we ended up moving to Florida and working as group home house parents in a residential childcare facility for troubled boys. And Roni was pregnant with child number two. While there, my first and only son was born, amongst having 10-12 boys

A year later, we moved back to the Kansas City area and had the worst six months of our lives, six of the most trying months of our marriage, working with and caring for four developmentally disabled adults. You know those times in your life that you wish you could forget? Yea, June of 2011 to January 2012 is that time. Still, God stretched us and used us and helped us in many ways.

Later that year, we moved back to Florida (yes, this was after saying many times I would never move back to Florida after living here for so long). We took a position as House Parents with the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes in Jacksonville, FL, working with young girls in the foster care system. We loved being there, working mostly with preteen and teenage girls, and having our two children being able to experience being able to love on other kids in need. One of the most rewarding regular experiences for me would be when a new girl would come into the home, my oldest daughter would welcome them with open arms as her new “sister” into our family.

Our miscarriage came while we were serving as house parents. For us, it came as a surprise, as we were completely unaware that my wife was pregnant at the time. It was difficult, hard to know we lost a child, however, it was also a blessing in how God really carried us through that time. Roni and I were kept busy with taking care of our two children and the other six or so girls we had in the home at the time. It was in December of 2013 that we discovered that Roni was pregnant again, this time leading to our departure from the children’s home because we would have too many biological children to be house parents.

In April of 2014, we moved down to Southwest Florida. For me, it was a return to the area of Florida in which I grew up. For Roni, it was a new experience. She was pregnant with this move, giving birth exactly two years ago from today. And we are still involved to this day with child welfare. While we aren’t foster parents or group home parents, I work in the field with families in crisis to help find care for their children while they get back on their feet. And this position with Safe Families is truly a dream job for me. I get to combine my love for children with my love for Jesus.

Now, here we are, back to the present. Things are moving along. I couldn’t tell you at what pace, as I am clueless to such things, except to say that my wife began this process this morning already further along than she had ever been any other time she has come to the hospital to give birth. We are hoping for a quick delivery today, however, God is sovereign, not us. God does as He pleases (Psalm 115:3), and not us. We are hear feeling blessed that He has entrusted us with the stewardship of these children, created by Him (Psalm 139:13), in His image (Genesis 1:26).

Now, I am going to get back to paying attention to my wife and the process that is occurring that I know little about. And, when Katherine does make her grand appearance, I’ll make sure to add a picture here. And I can’t wait.

Soli Deo Gloria

Teaching Our Children

The Bible tells us that we need to constantly teach our children the Word of God, and thus by extension, we are teaching theology, about God and His character. 
“Hear, O Israel: The Lordour God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4–9, ESV)
However, something we also do as parents is to teach our children how to live. Basic skills. When I child is born, we do everything for them, from feeding to changing diapers to getting them dressed. And, as they get older, they learn to do things on their own. A lot of that learning is done through mimicking what they see their parents and other adults in their lives do. They also learn a lot from being prompted what to do, from being taught. Not just observing on their own, but it being a teaching moment, taking them to teach them something. For example, we have a 15 year old staying with us, a freshman in high school (from another country), and this child has not learned a lot of basic things, like doing the dishes. She was never shown, nor did she really ever observe them being done. I don’t know why, but, that’s the way it is. While she is in our home, she is learning a lot (I hope and pray), things that will help her be more successful in life.
In the same way, we need to not only teach our children the Bible and about God (Theology), but we need to also teach them how to apply it to their lives. In his letter to Titus, Paul writes the following:
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” (Titus 2:1–8, ESV)
And, just like teaching someone to do the dishes or their laundry, the best way to do this is to model it for them. We need to model our lives as Christ-Centered on His Good News, the Gospel. Living a life focused on Christ in all aspects, showing that He is Lord of your life, your marriage, your everything will have such a major impact on your children.
Another area in which we need to teach is not just to our children, but also to new Christians. New Christians are quite possibly the most easily influence group of Christians that exist. We need to teach, we need to model, and we need to teach them to be wise, discerning, and shrewd. Why do I use those three things? Because there are so many things people teach that are in the Bible that are NOT in the Bible. For instance, no where in the Bible does it say God will never give you more than you can handle. No matter what someone might say, it’s not there. It does say, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV). There is a big difference, and someone who doesn’t know to search and check what people say against the Word of God (Acts 17:11) won’t necessarily know or figure out what is false and what is true. They will fall prey to wolves in sheep’s clothing, and we don’t want and cannot let that happen to new Christians, just as we wouldn’t let that happen to our own children or family. New Christians are our family, our brothers and sister in Christ.
And in all of this, there is one thing that I have moved away from in this wonderful age of technology: my iPad. My iPad is a wonderful thing and I still use it for Bible study quite often, however, when it comes to my personal devotions, nothing beats a physical print Bible. Why? Because when my children see me reading my iPad, they have no idea what I may be doing. When they see me holding the Word of God, they see me reading the Word of God. And all too often my oldest asks if I can read her a Bible story.
Now, this post really didn’t have much structure to it, it was really just a flow of my thoughts that I have been having today. And it’s been a long day. I haven’t slept for more than 45 minutes in a sitting since the day before yesterday. However, no matter what, I do it all, even lose sleep, for the Glory of God.
-Soli Deo Gloria

God Made All of Me…A Short Book Review

Several month ago, my wife brought to my attention a pseudo children’s book called “God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies”. We immediately pre-ordered it. And we are glad we did. While we have not gone over it with our children yet, it is something that we are planning on doing.

Before I get to the book, I want to ever so briefly answer this question: Why do we need such a book?
Well, we live in a truly perverse generation, and our most vulnerable members, our children, are entirely too often the victims of horrible, unspeakable acts of savagery. And all too often, they are victimized by those that are closest to them: teachers, coaches, family members, church leaders, etc. One of the aims of this book is to help teach children how to be aware of their bodies and that there are boundaries.

Now, onto the book. The first thing to take note of is that it is written like a story and done so in such a way that children will understand. Something that is poignant if we want children to understand and grasp the concepts we are trying to convey to them. Secondly, and of equal if not greater importance, it is Biblically based. Through use of Scripture, such as Psalm 139:14, and Catechism, it brings out to the point that we are made by God, and that God made everything. Here is a quote from the book which I think is an integral part of educating our child to protect themselves:

“Mom said, “God made every part of your body, and every part of your body is good. Some parts of your body are not for sharing; these are called your private parts.”” 

And this is the Biblical truth of the matter. Throughout the book, there are wonderful for children AND parents in how to deal with these issues and things to watch out for. There are statistics, such as “One in four women and one in six men have been or will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.” Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean rape, but molestation as well. And, we need to make sure we are aware of these things.

I highly and strongly recommend this book to parents, Christian and non-Christian alike, to get this book, read this book, and use this book as a tool to help train your children to protect themselves. In my humble and professional opinion, there is no such thing as being hyper vigilant about teaching children to know how to protect their bodies.

Don’t Do Foster Care!

A few years ago, in October 2011, Russell Moore wrote an article entitled “Don’t Adopt!” which highlighted that not everyone is called to adopt. It was a poignant piece on why there are many people out there should not adopt children. And, I agree with that article one hundred percent.

However, from reading the title of my blog post, “Don’t Do Foster Care!” you’ll probably catch the familiar sentiment. There are many people who are doing foster care that, in my professional opinion, (yes, I am a professional in this area), should NOT be doing foster care. They are ill equipped for taking care of the children with the issues that they have. They have emotional hurts that we, for the most part, could not imagine having at their young ages. Many of them want to change the world, but aren’t ready for the realities of that. And, on the flip side of things, there are also many who want to do foster care for the money.

However, the ones that I want to encourage to NOT foster are those that are overzealous and want to change the world. I have no doubt that you’ll be able to do wonderful things as a foster parents. And, for the Christians out there, you have the following verse memorized, practically tattooed on the insides of your eyelids, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27, ESV). You want to take care of those children. You may work with children and/or youth at your church. You probably even have glowing recommendations from your pastor and close friends.

However, before you take that step, before you do that, you really need to think. You really need to pay much attention in PRIDE class (if you’re that far). You need to know that the children have baggage (one of those child welfare terms) that they carry around with them where ever they go. And, that baggage is nothing good. It’s not always bad, but it can be really bad. You have to be prepared for children running away, cursing, swearing, stealing, breaking things, hurting things, hurting people, hurting themselves. You must be prepared for that awkward moment when you have to take objects away from a girl so she cannot, um, I don’t know if I can say that on this blog, but, hopefully you get the picture. And, you have to be prepared to do it in a very loving, caring way. And, when they do the things that we think are heinous, you must choose to keep them in your lives, you just choose to love them, you must choose to take them back into your home after each time they run away. Why? Because they are wanting to be loved, they are wanting a family, someone to care for them. And, as one lady that I met put it, would you give up on your own children? Then why give up on your foster children?

Each and every time a child disrupts out of a placement because the foster parents don’t want to continue to “deal” with the behaviors, it causes more trauma to the children. Giving them a little more baggage. Making them all the more desensitized and thinking that moving from place to place is normal, when it is anything but that.

So, in conclusion, if you’re not up for the task, if you’re not up for doing what it takes to love this children like Christ loves us, then you should not foster.

So, if not foster, what can I do? you might ask. Be a support. Pray, Offer to help with appointments, clean up, transportation, cooking a meal from time to time, or even get a background check and quick home study done to be a respite care provider. And, what can you do the most? Pray. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing,” (1 Thess. 5:17), and that is what we can do for those who foster care AND for those whom adopt. Prayer is a powerful thing.

So, think before you jump. Remember that, it could save you, and some hurting foster kids, a lot of trouble and heartache.

A Horrific Reality

Today, while I was at work at my job that pays the bills, I had a woman tell me something that shocked me. It really hit me hard, because while her statement was so true and so right, it was equally sad because of the reality of it. While I cannot give background information on it, her statement, slightly changed, was this:
“I’m not worried about him. He’s a liar, a thief, a cheat. I’m not worried about him because he’ll make it with those…”
As I continued to approach this woman when she said this to me today, all I could think of was “Wow!” And, in this particular situation, she’s right. The boy whom she was talking about will make it because of his “street smarts,” an acquired set of skills, however illegal and immoral they may be, will help him survive. But, my question is, does it really have to be that way?
What is wrong with society today? I don’t think I have enough time or patience to fully answer that question. However, I will go over some of what I think are heavy hitters in this area.
First, I believe is the epidemic of seeing marriage and family as something that can be discarded, thrown to the wayside, when something goes wrong. Today, beginning with my generation and after, largely in part don’t like to fix things, whether it be a car or computer, or a relationship. Everything is viewed as disposable. People write prenuptial agreements with a seeming expectation that the marriage will end in divorce. Whatever happened to “until death do us part”? And, when you have children involved, it only makes things worse.
       Children from divorced homes suffer academically. They experience high levels of behavioral problems. Their grades suffer, and they are less likely to graduate from high school.
       Kids whose parents divorce are substantially more likely to be incarcerated for committing a crime as a juvenile.
       Because the custodial parent’s income drops substantially after a divorce, children in divorced homes are almost five times more likely to live in poverty than are children with married parents.
       Teens from divorced homes are much more likely to engage in drug and alcohol use, as well as sexual intercourse than are those from intact families.
       Children from divorced homes experience illness more frequently and recover from sickness more slowly. They are also more likely to suffer child abuse.
       Children of divorced parents suffer more frequently from symptoms of psychological distress. And the emotional scars of divorce last into adulthood.
And, considering that most divorces that involve children usually end up in shared custody and/or with the mother having primary/sole custody of the child. Here are some statistics about children raised without fathers:(From Fatherhood Factor)
       –43% of US children live without their fathers.
       –90% of homeless and runaway children are form fatherless homes.
       –71% of pregnant teenagers lack a father.
       –63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes.
       –85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes.
       –71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes.
       –75% of adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes.
       –70% of juveniles in state operated institutions have no father.
       –85% of youths in prisons grew up in a fatherless home.
Fatherless boys and girls are:
       Twice as likely to drop out of high school
       –Twice as likely to end up in jail
       –Four times more likely to need help for emotional or behavioral problems.
Now doesn’t that make you sick? It should. It better make your stomach twist and turn inside you.
When something is broken, we need to fix it. It saves money and time and gives a sense of accomplishment afterwards. When a relationship is broken, we need to fix it because of the same reasons, plus it helps the children. It shows them not only do the people love each other, it shows them how to take care of problem. How to be responsible adults. How to be successful in their marriages and relationships later in their lives. They are learning from watching us, just as all kids do, and it will stay with them a long time if we don’t fix it.
Marriage is not disposable. Neither is family.
The second major thing that I think is wrong with today’s society is the “politically correct” atmosphere in which people are afraid to discipline their children in any way, whether it be corporal punishment(spanking), yelling at the kid, or taking away privileges from the kids. They’re too afraid of upsetting the children, hurting their feelings. It makes me think of some of the Ivy League schools that have been in the news lately. The schools are allowing students who feel they have been affected by the grand jury decisions of Ferguson, MO and New York, NY, to delay taking their exams. And these are law students, future lawyers who are supposed to be tough and deal with difficult trauma’s and still be able to work. In general, for many people out there, our society is raising a bunch of wimps. Yes, WIMPS. It’s like those youth sports leagues that give everyone a trophy, even the losers, because they don’t want to hurt their feelings. Well, doing that takes away from the winners and tells them that they don’t need to do their best to be rewarded. And it tells those who los that they don’t need to really try to do anything, and they’ll still get rewarded. We need to come to realize that punishment is okay. Rewarding the winners and not the losers is also okay. I survived it when I was a kid. I still had fun even though I was on the little league team that only won once each year. And, when we won, we savored that sweet taste of victory. We also knew we wouldn’t be getting a trophy because overall, our team was the worst team in the league. But, for us, that was okay. We recognized that the other teams had better players and practiced more. In the same way, we need to work harder each and every day in all aspects of our lives.
The Bible tells us to “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6). Sure, your kid’s going to screw up, but, at least he’ll have a strong work ethic. Teach your sons to be honest, work hard, treat women right, be a gentleman. Teach these things, and it will last throughout his life. Teach your daughters to be respectable women, to be picky but fair, to be respectful and polite, to work hard and be honest. Do this, and they may not be millionaires, but at least they’ll be growing up with character and integrity and decency.
In the end, we need to look at situations where we think the child is going to “survive” because of street smart skills which include being a liar, a cheat, and a thief. And we need to realize that yes, he’s probably going to survive, but, that doesn’t make his behavior okay in any way. Some people say that we need to reach these kids and share them the love of Christ. And we do need to do exactly that. However, most people forget the adults and the parents, for they will have such an impact on the kid’s lives. If we can reach the parents and other adults in their lives with the love of Christ, they kids will see it modeled out more.
We live in a sinful, fallen, depraved world. Our hearts are deceitfully wicket (Jeremiah 17:9) and we need to watch out as we lead ourselves down the wide path to destruction. We need to call out to God for wisdom and guidance to bring us and those we love and care about to repentance. We need to ask God that, Lord willing, He brings heart change that only He can bring to those that are around us who need to know Him.
Soli Deo Gloria

p.s. Sorry if some of this sounded a little rant-ish. It was. I see the affects of society on families and children day in and day out where I work, and some days are better than others, while some are just downright dreadfully dreary. That interaction with that one woman who told me what she told me was one of the most horrific but true things I have been told in a long time, and it really affected me to the core in a way few things do.

Teaching Our Children

Last Sunday, my pastor preached on Teaching Our Children out of Psalm 78:1-8, after the dedication of a baby of a young couple in our church. It was weird, being that it was a break from us usual expository preaching from the Gospel of John(52 weeks in, still in John chapter 6!).

However, I just wanted to share the text from Psalm 78:1-8, and a few thoughts of mine after hearing the sermon.

Psalm 78:1–8 (ESV)
Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
and that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,

whose spirit was not faithful to God.  

It was a good and refreshing sermon to hear, in a church where most of our congregation is 69+ years old(more than 80%, I believe). With much going on in the church focused on church growth, revitalization, and youth, my prayers is that the church can keep in step with Biblical principles, such as constantly teaching our youth about God and the older generations teaching the younger generations (Titus 2). I hope they all remember that the Bible is God breathed and useful for all sorts of teaching(2 Timothy 3:16-17).

I can tell you from personal experience that sometimes, it can be easy to forget these and just move on as fast as you can with ministry, and it ends up becoming more business like, wanting to move on with the status-quo. However, in ministry, we cannot let that happen. If that happens, the ministry won’t grow, because the focus becomes man-centered, and not God centered. When that happens, ministries fail.

So, hearing this word of God brought forth by Pastor Gavin was a breath of fresh air. It was good to hear. And, he is right. We need to get back to teaching our children, training them up in the ways of God, in the Word of God.

Soli Deo Gloria

Five Things I Strive To Teach My Children

As I grow older and my family increases both in age and in number, there are many things that I wish to teach my children. Countless things, really. It says in the book of Deuteronomy:
 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”(Deuteronomy 6:4-9, ESV).

My hope and prayer is that my children learn much about God and His Word and they fully embrace it as part of their very being, of their very essence. I was thinking about more specific things, and, while I am sure the list could go on and on, I came up with five specific things that I wish, Lord willing, to instill in my children as I perform my God-given act of being their parent, entrusted by Him the stewardship of these children. And those things are this: 1. Fear God; 2. Prayer is important; 3. Love is more than an emotion and feeling; 4. Character and Integrity Count; 5. Failure is NOT the end, nor is it really bad.
Fear God
Proverbs 1:2–7 (ESV)
   To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
   to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
   to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
   Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
   to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
   The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; 
               fools despise wisdom and instruction.
The purpose of the Book of Proverbs from the Bible is to teach the reader. In Proverbs 1:2, we are told how we are going to be taught: to know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight. Remember, this book of Proverbs is part of God’s Holy Word, the Bible, and that, All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”(2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV). 

In Verse 3, we are told that we are going to be instructed how to deal wisely, and further instruction in righteousness, justice, and equity. Dealing wisely, in other words, making smart choices. Thinking before acting. And thinking about the future and outcomes of the dealings that you make. Instruction in righteousness, being morally right and fair; living above reproach. Being just in our dealings throughout life, i.e., being fair to those around us. To those we love. To those we work for. To ourselves. And Equity, much the same, living our lives in fairness and impartiality. These are all qualities that I have seen through my own eyes that are not being taught to our children by parents, or anyone else for that matter. It’s something that needs to change.

It goes on in verse 4, telling us to give prudence to the simple, along with knowledge and discretion to the youth. Prudence to the simple; knowledge and discretion to the youth. This is something that largely isn’t happening. Today, at least in the United States, the government mostly wants families to let the schools take care of all the education. And, when it comes to the educational systems, I, personally, have sat in a school Open House meeting with some of the administrators of that school whom proceeded to tell all of us that they school district has a policy to not let anyone fail. So, no matter what…no matter how poorly they do, they will always get a passing grade and move up to the next grade. In our schools, prudence and knowledge and discretion are NOT being taught to our children. So, it is left up to us, the parents, to take up that mantle. 

And, in verses 5 and 6, it tells us that even after we are learned and wise, we still have very much to learn from this book of Proverbs. That we will never truly stop learning. We will never know everything there is to know. This is a concept that too many people seem to never fully grasp, and it holds them back. There is a line from one of my favorite books that fits this well, “Exactly. You have learned that you still have much more to learn.”(Adventurers Wanted,Vol. 2: Horn of Moran, M.L. Forman). It goes on to say that those who don’t realize that are held back from truly ever becoming great. If we can stay humble in this aspect, there will always be new discoveries and learning and wisdom to gain. And we will be all the better for it.

And, this is all brought together in Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The word “fear” here is a reverential fear, awe inspiring fear, before God. Knowing that God provides wisdom(James 1:5) and that His wisdom has existed since before the beginning of time(Proverbs 8:22-31).  There will always be people who seek after God and gain this knowledge and wisdom. And, unfortunately, there will always be those who reject God and this wisdom. “A principle that believers must teach their children is that in their pursuit of wisdom they will be surrounded by others going the opposite direction who will be encouraging them to do likewise.”[1]We need to be on guard, vigilant even, about our children and what they are learning and how they are learning and, of most importance in my opinion, WHO they are learning from. If my children were to attend a school, the vast majority of learning would still come from home, from my wife and I.
Prayer Is Important
“16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16 (ESV)
“17 pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (ESV)
Prayer is an important thing in the life of a Christian and his and/or her family. Why? Because it is how we communicate with God. We are given access to the creator of the universe because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who was our substitutionary atonement on the cross, bridging that gap between God and His people that exists because of our sinful nature. In his book “Five Things Every Christian Needs To Grow,” R.C. Sproul explains the question of why we should pray. “Of the many legitimate answers to this question, we will focus primarily on three. We should pray because prayer is a duty of every Christian; because prayer is a privilege; and because prayer is a powerful means of grace.”(Sproul, R.C., Reformation Trust Publishing, 2008). R.C. Sproul goes onto explain these three reasons of why we should pray, drawing from both the Old and New Testaments. From the Old Testament, greats like Hannah praying for a son(1 Samuel 1:8-18) and David asking for forgiveness(Psalm 51). (For information on R.C. Sproul’s book “Five Things Every Christian Needs To Grow” click here).
We need to not only teach our children what prayer is and why it is important, we need to teach them how to pray. We need to model it for them in our prayers. Another book by R.C. Sproul, a children’s book actually, entitled “The Barber Who Wanted To Pray,”(Crossway, 2011), is a great resource in teaching one how to pray. Even though it is a children’s book, it can help adults in their prayer life as well(I know from experience!). (For more on “TheBarber Who Wanted To Pray”, click here).

Now, as we all know, school’s definitely don’t teach prayer. And, unfortunately, I don’t think many churches teach prayer, either. I would think that this is true for two reasons: The first being that a person may be overly embarrassed for not knowing how to pray, and secondly, it’s kind of an expectation that one already knows how to pray. I wish, when I first started attending church and serving Christ, that I had someone to really teach me how to pray. I tried modeling it off of the prayers of others I was around. But, I truly never really knew how to pray until I was well into my adult years, coming before God in adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication(the ACTS method). And, it really has helped my prayer life a lot. This is an important subject that Christian parents need to teach their children.
Love Is Not Just A Good Feeling or Emotion
Love is a verb. Not a feeling. Not an emotion. Not what you feel when you see some cute boy or girl walk by. Love is a verb. An action. A choice. Every day, and I truly mean every single day, I make a choice to love my wife and my children. There are times when I don’t want to love them because they have done something unloving, however, being a Christian, I am called to love regardless. We have all read where Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, and this is how Jesus replied: “Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”” (Mark 12:29–31 ESV). Now, looking at what Jesus said about loving the Lord and loving your neighbor, the “love” part is a verb. An action. Something you do. Jesus stated that, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13, ESV). An action, being sacrificial, putting others before oneself. And, as each day goes by, I make sure to showmy family that I love them, not just tell them.  

Love is most definitely a verb, and, there are many ways one can show love. First, it’s not flattery, but truth. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”(Proverbs 27:6, ESV). A true friend, one who loves, is going to be the one who tells you what you need to hear. So, later in life, my children need to learn communication with their loved ones and how to be honest with them, even when it may not seem like the wisest of choices that one can make. Secondly, love can be harsh. “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”(Proverbs 13:24, ESV). When we discipline our children, we need to do it out of love, knowing that we want them to be corrected and to not repeat whatever folly may have happened. However, we need to also make sure our children(or whomever you are disciplining) know that it is being done out of love and a desire see the person grow. Now, if that means waiting a while so you can cool down, then so be it. They probably can tell you’re upset. However, approaching it when you’re upset usually ends badly. I know. I’ve done it before(more than once). Also, a need for discipline is not an endorsement of child abuse in any way. I say this because many people feel that mere spanking is abuse of a child. And, they are both right and wrong. When done out of love and the child knows why they are getting what is going on and you have good scriptural support, then it is not abuse. However, when you’re angry and you feel the need to lash out and beat that rear-end because you need to teach them a lesson, then you very well may be approaching that fine line between discipline and abuse. Live above reproach(which we will talk about later) and don’t even get yourself near a situation like that. There are countless stories out there of children being hurt and sometimes even killed because a simple punishment got too far out of control, usually because the parental figure was mad.

Now, there are many other things that love is and isn’t, however, I don’t have the space here(or the time) to go over them all. Just remember this: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, ESV). God loved the world so much, that He made a way for His people to have that relationship with Him: the sacrifice of His Son for His people.
Character and Integrity Count
It’s much easier said than done, however, it is very true….that a person’s character and integrity count. They count in a person’s personal lives, professional lives, and spiritual lives. If someone is a liar in their personal lives, they are probably untruthful in their professional lives, as well as their spiritual lives. They are all connected. A person must live above reproach in their lives, in all aspects of their lives. Let’s look at a few powerhouses of character and integrity from the Bible: Daniel, Shadrach(Hananiah), Meshach(Michael), and Abednego(Azariah)(Daniel 1:7). These four friends began together in captivity in Babylon, where they were assigned to be educated for three years then taken before the king. Part of this was being fed a portion of the king’s food. These four young men, under Daniel’s leadership, refused to defile themselves with the King’s food. They remained faithful to their God, showing great character and integrity, leaving no room for doubt or compromise. In the end, the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.”(Daniel 1:19-20, ESV).God blessed their faithfulness, and their faithfulness is a clear reflection of their character and integrity. And the displays of character and integrity continue to show throughout the book of Daniel, with Daniel and the Lion’s Den(Daniel 6), and the Fiery Furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego(Daniel 3).

However, the true test of a person’s character and integrity comes when they do something wrong, and they are faced with a fork in the road: Do I tell the truth or do I tell a lie? Proverbs tells us, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”(Proverbs 28:13, ESV). When we screw up, chances are, we will get in some sort of trouble. How we handle the aftermath can often affect what kind of trouble we get it. If we conceal it with a lie, then are found out, we’ll get in a lot of trouble. If we man up and own up to our mistake, we’ll still get in trouble, however, our integrity and character will remain intact. Let’s take a look at Jesus when He spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well:

John 4:16–30 (ESV) — 16Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” 27Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.

John 4:39–42 (ESV) — 39Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Before Jesus asked her about her husband, He already knew that she had none. He wanted to see if she would be honest about it, or if she would lie. The woman was honest, and her life was changed. This simple act of honesty, showing her integrity, lead to a wonderful example of evangelism. Jesus pointed out her sin, having four husbands, of which we don’t know what happened to each for sure, however, I doubt they all died. And the current man she was with was not her husband, so, she was living in an adulterous relationship. After Jesus pointed this out to her, she though of Him as a prophet. And later, her eyes were opened to the fact that this man is the Christ(John 4:25-26).
And, from my thoughts, when it comes to a choice between the truth and a lie, the truth is by far the easier thing to tell, factually. Why? It’s easier to remember the truth. If you lie, you have to remember the truth and the lie, and which is which. And which you tell what people. It may be more difficult to actually tell the truth, however, from personal experience, telling the truth releases a burden, literally making a physical difference in ones life.

While my children are not currently at ages where they fully understand the concept of the truth versus a lie, it is something I still talk to them about. When my wife and I were still house parents, we would always tell the girls this when confronting them: “Look, we know you have done something wrong and you are almost assuredly going to get in trouble. Now, you have to choose how much trouble you want to get it. If you lie about it, you’ll end up in getting in a lot more trouble then you will if you’re honest.” And, some of the time they were honest, however, a vast majority of the time, they still lied. And that’s a part of life. And, each time, when they were caught in that lie, they (hopefully) learned a bit. And, when my children get older, I hope and pray that they learn these lessons and more, as well.
Failure Is NOT The End, Nor Is It Really Bad
Finally, I will teach my children that failure is not just not bad, but, it’s a part of life and is actually good.  Yes, you read that correctly: Failure is good. You learn from it. Thomas Edison is quoted having said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Now, I don’t know for sure if that’s exactly what he said, or if it was even him who said it. But, it’s a true statement. Each failure led to a teaching moment and growth. And that is the same in life in general. If you fail a test, you work all the harder to make sure you don’t fail next time. If you fail at a task, you go back and see what went wrong and seek help to learn more, to strive towards success the next time. As a Christian, when we fail, we go before God and ask for forgiveness. While we try to be more like Christ, we are still a sinful people. I think one of the most glaring examples of failure and redemption and growth that one can find in the Bible is that of King David from 2 Samuel 11-12.

David was King of Israel, beloved by all. He had all he could want, and he got there by being faithful to God. His character and integrity, up to this point, were unquestionable. All that he did was from God, for God. And then, one day, temptation seized him. He was on the roof of the king’s house, he looked over and saw Bathsheba bathing over on another roof. He found out who she was, sent for her, and she came over, and they had sex. And they did it, knowing it was wrong, for she was married to one of David’s most faithful servants(2 Samuel 11:2-4). Now, when Bathsheba sent word to David that she was pregnant(v. 5), David then went to extraordinary lengths to try to cover it up(2 Samuel 11:6-13). He ordered her husband home to try to get him to lay with his wife to make it look like he, Bathsheba’s husband, got her pregnant, and not David. And, when that didn’t work, David ordered that, while in battle, his troops draw back from Uriah so that he shall die. And this is what happened. David murdered Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, to try to cover up this adulterous affair. However, “the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.”(2 Samuel 11:27b, ESV).

After all this happened, the prophet Nathan came to David and rebuked him for what he did. He repented of his sin, however, because of is treachery, he was still punished. “Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.”(2 Samuel 12:14, ESV). And surely enough, the child died(2 Samuel 12:14-23).
However, in this time of grief and repentance of David, He called out to God in Psalm 51:
Psalm 51 (ESV)
Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God
51 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
   Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
       according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
   Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
   For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
   Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
       so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
   Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
   Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
   Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
   Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
   Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10    Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11    Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12    Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13    Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14    Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15    O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16    For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17    The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18    Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19    then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
In the end, David learned from his mistakes. He learned from his punishment that he received from God. He repented of his sins, and God continued to work through him. He soon after had another son, Solomon, “And the LORD loved him,”(2 Samuel 12:24).
While failure does have an immediate sting of pain, whether physical, emotional, spiritual, or a combination, it has a more positive long-term effect if we take the time and teach our children that it has such. How do we do this? By modeling it and talking about it with our children. Our children will see our failures and screw-ups. And when they do and they ask about it, it becomes a wonderful teaching opportunity, not just for the child, but for us as well.

As for our current many public educational systems, which are moving towards a “no child can/will/should fail” set of policies, I plan on teaching my children that failure is a good thing. A teaching tool and motivator. And when my children fail, I plan on being right there to walk with them through that failure, arm-in-arm, to make sure they know for sure that it is NOT the end of the world.  
Now What?
As I tie these points together, let it be known that this is not anywhere close to being an exhaustive list of things that I wish to teach my children. The amount I wish to teach them I will never be able to teach them because there isn’t that much time. However, these things, the fear of the Lord, Prayer, Love, Character and Integrity, and learning from our failures, can, if instilled at an early enough age in our children, equip our children for the realities of the world at large in their generations. There are and will continue to be many different societal norms, those that are ever changing with the unfortunate secular-overtones of almost everything we see around us, and, unless we start early, that can wreck a child, a relationship, even a family. School systems are letting children pass and go up grades when they don’t deserve it; sports leagues declaring no one is a loser and handing out trophies, even to those who lost; and society coming to the point where being slothful and depending on others is not only acceptable, but the norm. I plan to make sure I do all that I can to keep that from happening to my children. I firmly believe that any parent who does not prepare their children for adulthood isn’t doing parenting right.
Now that we are to this point, one, or many, may agree or disagree with how I feel about them, or maybe about them being in this list of five things. This blog could become the first of a series of blogs about how I and my wife work to raise up our children in a godly manner to bring as much glory to Christ as we can.
Soli Deo Gloria



[1]Garrett, D. A. (1993). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of songs (Vol. 14, p. 68). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

A Houseparent’s Prayer

 

13 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me!
    O Lord, make haste to help me!
14 Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether
    who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
    who delight in my hurt!
15 Let those be appalled because of their shame
    who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”

            -Psalm 40:13-15

Recently, where I work as a houseparent, there was a situation that brewed over a weeks time(I cannot go into any detail, however, it is of little matter to this post) that culminated with a houseparent couple on the very of quitting on that very day.

I read Psalm 40:13-15 in part of yesterday’s morning devotion, and it really stuck in my mind, as it reminded me of the situation my friends and neighbors were going through at the time. People were threatening to try and snatch their lives away. Not their physical lives, but in ways that cause far more hurt through false accusations and such, which can ruin a man in ministry.

Every day, houseparents deal with troubled youths in a front-line battle against Satan. In John 10:10, Jesus is quoted saying, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” And most every day, there are residents seeking to do just that. They lie, deceive, cheat, steal and do whatever they can to get what they want. Why? For the fundamental reason of depravity. Like Paul wrote in Romans 3:10-18:

10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
    they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

But, we have to remember for our sake, as houseparents, the second half of John 10:10, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” I pray Psalm 40:13-15 as a prayer of protection and humility, both for the residents as well as the houseparents.

My wife and I love our “job.” I place the word “job” in quotation marks in that opening sentence of this paragraph because being a houseparent is NOT a job. It is a ministry; a lifestyle, and our lives. Roni and I love our ministry, and loving our ministry means loving our girls(Our girls are our residents that we serve) in the same way we love our own two children. As a Christian houseparent working for a Christian foster agency, one CANNOT love their ministry without loving their residents, no matter how they act. 1 Corinthians 13, commonly known as the “Love Chapter” of the Bible, opens with talk of doing things without love. “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have no love, I gain nothing.”(1 Corinthians 13:3). Paul then continues to write about what love is and is not:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,endures all things.(1 Corinthians 13:4-7, ESV).

Can you do these things while being cursed and yelled at? While being threatened and verbally abused? While someone is throwing things and refusing to listen to you or obey simple direction? If not, don’t even thing about becoming a houseparent. Remember:

21 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat,
    and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,
22 for you will heap burning coals on his head,
    and the Lord will reward you.(Proverbs 25:21-22, ESV)

And:

39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.(Matthew 22:39,ESV).

Always remember to love your ministry, your life, your “job.” If you don’t have love, you burn out and become an empty shell of your former ministry-self. I’ve seen it. I see it in others around me on an almost daily basis. It does you no good; it does your residents no good; it does your ministry no good, and worst of all, it brings no honor or glory to God. So, I am not telling anyone to do anything like not apply to be a houseparent or to quit their job as one. I just want you to follow some simple advice:

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24, ESV)

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