“The fact of the matter is that we will never figure God out. He will never do all the things that we were expecting. He will never stay on our agenda page. He will never be comfortably predictable. If we rest in God’s care only when we understand just what he’s doing, there will be many times and places where we won’t rest in his care. The danger in all of this is this: we simply do not run for help to someone whom we have come to distrust. It is in the moments of hardship when what God is doing doesn’t make any sense that it is all the more important to preach to ourselves the gospel of his unshakable, unrelenting, ever-present care. He is actively caring for you and me even in those moments when we don’t understand his care and can’t figure out what he is doing.
I will not tell myself that I am alone. I will not allow myself to think that I am poor. I will not give way to ministry panic or paralysis. I will not look for help where help cannot be found. God is with me, and he cares, and that guarantees that I do have and will have everything I need to be what I am called to be and to do what I have been chosen to do in the particular place of ministry to which he has appointed me.”
Paul Tripp in Dangerous Calling (217-18).
“What you really have-what all of us have, by birth-is more than anything a heart problem. And if you’re trying to treat the ‘one thing’ in your life by (1) trying harder, (2) using others, (3) escaping, or (4) upping your religion quotient-or any combination of these-all you’re really doing is just mowing over the weeds. You’re trimming things up, making them look almost okay for a little while. But just wait-they’ll be coming back in full force before you know it, in all their scraggly, tangled variety. They may be laying low for a little while, but don’t kid yourself. They still have the run of your yard and your property. And they still have all kinds of openings and options for creeping back up on you . . . some that you don’t even know about yet.
These weeds are the kinds of wild grass that naturally grow from your inheritance of Adam’s bloodline, as well as from your willing alliance with him in rebellion against God. What you’re seeing above the ground is simply evidence of the damning and the damage that have occurred-with your full, outright permission-down in the biochemistry of your life.
It goes back to what Jesus said: ‘There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him’-in other words, we’re not made unclean by the things we do, allow, or entertain, but rather, He said, ‘the things that come out of a person are what defile him’ (Mark 7:15). We haven’t made ourselves sinners; sin is what’s already inside us. as we like to say it, ‘the heart of our problem is the problem of our hearts.’
And for this job, we need a root canal. We need to let God get down underneath what we think needs changing, so that He can bring full restoration and redemption to us where we truly need changing.”
From Matt Chandler & Michael Snetzer in Recovering Redemption: A Gospel-Saturated Perspective On How To Change (38-39).
“You need some way to look at your children and understand their needs. You need some comprehensive way to organize the things that make up their personalities. You need a grid on which to chart strengths and weaknesses, so that you can zero in on their real needs.
The Three-Pronged Tool of Diagnosis is both simple enough to be useful and comprehensive enough to be helpful. Every six months or so, make this sort of analysis and diagnosis of the needs of your children.
THE CHILD IN A RELATIONSHIP TO GOD
The first prong of analysis is your child in relationship to God. The question is not the personal evangelism question-does he have a relationship with God? The question is what you discern the nature of that relationship to be.
Is your child living in a conscious need for God, and what is the content of his relationship with God? Is he concerned to know and love God? Is God a source of strength, comfort and help? Does he make choices that reflect knowing God? Is he moved by God’s ways and truth? Is he alive to spiritual realities? Is there any evidence that he is carrying on an independent (from you as a parent) relationship with God?
Are there false gods before which your child bows? What are the things without which he cannot be happy? What things other than God seem to motivate him? How does he finish the sentence: ‘What I really want, long for, desire, and esteem is. . . .’?
Does he ever talk about God? How does he talk about God? How does he think about God? Is his God small or grand? Does he think of God as a friend, a judge, a helper, or a taskmaster? Is he living out of the fullness of seeing himself in Christ or is he trying to worship and serve himself?
These are not questions about your child’s understanding of biblical truth. They are questions about his understanding of the nature of God’s grace and salvation through faith in Christ. To shepherd his heart, to lead him to God, you must have some perception of where he is spiritually.
THE CHILD IN RELATIONSHIP TO HIMSELF
How does your child think about himself? How well does he understand himself? How aware is he of his strengths and weaknesses? Does he understand his personality? Is he self-conscious about the propensities of his personality?
My friend’s daughter, Jennifer, is a person with a tender heart toward the needs of others. Because of this, she can often tell what others are feeling. This is an excellent ability. It makes her sensitive to the feelings of others. There is a downside to this ability. It is easy for such people to allow others to manipulate them. It is easy for her not to tell others how she feels or what she thinks. She is sometimes tempted to let someone else win at a game so that they will not be disappointed.
She must understand these things about herself. If she is to discern these qualities of her personality, my friend must first understand them so that he can help her. Most of us learn these things eventually, but it is often after we are adults. Sadly, some adults never understand the personality issues that drive their responses.
We are complex combinations of strengths and weaknesses. There are things that we can do with ease. There are other things that are painful and arduous. Understanding these things can enable us to shore up our weaknesses and develop our strengths. Your children need to accept and appreciate themselves as unique combinations of strengths and weaknesses-as person who are exactly what God wanted them to be. Help them to embrace themselves as good enough to do all God has called them to do and has called them to be. In a word, you want them to be content with themselves.
There is another aspect of your child’s knowledge of himself. What attitudes toward himself does he evidence? Is he shy or confident? Is he arrogant or diffident? Is he chained by fears? Is he able to extend himself to others? Does he have a false dependence on others? Does he feel better than others or does he feel inadequate around others?
Harold, a first-grader in my acquaintance, is a relationship junkie. Everything he does is vested with relationship implications. When he sits in the reading circle he is interacting more with those around him than with the reading material. Lining up for recess is a process of jockeying for the recognition of someone. Seatwork time is made meaningful by racing with someone to see who finishes first. (It doesn’t even matter whether they know he is racing.) His thoughts about relationships with girls are sexually loaded and laden with baggage a 7-year-old should never carry.
Self-possessed qualities are still another aspect of the child’s relationship with himself. Is he able to stick to a task without external props? Is he able to work independently? Is he dependent on the approbation of others, or is he more self-possessed?
You need to understand your child’s development in these areas so you can shepherd him. You need to ask the proper questions, to draw out his ideas about himself so that you can point him to Christ in ways that address the thirst of his soul.
THE CHILD IN RELATIONSHIP TO OTHERS
What are your child’s relationships? How does he interact with others? What sorts of relationships does he have? What does he bring out in others? Are his relationships even or is he always in control or being controlled? Does he fawn for the attention of others?
Is he pleasant with other children his age? How does he deal with disappointment in people? How does he respond to being sinned against? What are areas of relational strength? What are the weaknesses?
In Christian school, Genny was the take-charge type. She was a born CEO. She told the girls whether their clothes were right. She informed everyone what they should wear to school the next day. If she planned to have braids, the other girls should have braids too. When it was time for recess, she chose the game. Then she chose the teams!
Her teacher understood the issues. She could have told Genny not to be so bossy. But she knew that while Genny might try to obey, eventually the bossiness would resurface. So she chose to help Genny in a better way. She worked with Genny’s parents to understand Genny’s overbearing manner. Together, they helped Genny to see herself, to see what she was doing to others, to see how she was trying to control people, to see that she was getting comfort for her heart from controlling others Genny learned how to pray and ask God for help when she was tempted to control others. She was rescued from a life of finding comfort and meaning in controlling others.”
From Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart (165-9).
“There is no dawdling in the face of fear. When we perceive it creeping up on us we want to keep moving. To slow down and listen to what it might be saying is counter-intuitive.
But fear is speaking, and we should listen.
One useful life skill is to know when to listen to our feelings and when to ignore them. As a general rule, the first step is to listen. There is a logic-a language-to fear and anxiety, just as there is to most emotions. Anger says, ‘You are wrong.’ Embarrassment or shames says, ‘I am wrong.’ Fear says, ‘I am in danger,’ but it also says much more.
Don’t forget, listening for fear is like listening to background noise. At first you think there is nothing to hear, but then you notice the wind in the trees, birds calling for a mate, cars passing by, a plane overhead, creaks in the floors, the water heater kicking in. At first we might deny any palpable fears and their logic, but then we listen more carefully and notice that they are everywhere, speaking loudly.”
Edward Welch in Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest.
“At the end of the movie Schindler’s List, there’s a heart wrenching scene in which Oskar Schindler-who bought from the Nazis the lives of many Jews-looks at his car and his gold pin and regrets that he didn’t give more of his money and possessions to save more lives. Schindler had used his opportunity far better than most. But in the end, he longed for a chance to go back and make better choices.
Unbelievers have no second chance to relive their lives, this time choosing Christ. But Christians also get no second chance to live life over, this time doing more to help the needy and invest in God’s kingdom. We have one brief opportunity-a lifetime on earth-to use our resources to make a difference.
John Wesley said, ‘I judge all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity.’ Missionary C. T. Studd said, ‘Only one life, ’twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.’
Five minutes after we die, we’ll know exactly how we should have lived. But God has given us His Word so we don’t have to wait to die to find out. And He’s given us His Spirit to empower us to live that way now.
Ask yourself, Five minutes after I die, what will I wish I would have given away while I still had the chance? When you come up with an answer, why not give it away now? Why not spend the rest of our lives closing the gap between what we’ll wish we would have given and what we really are giving?”
Written by Randy Alcorn in The Treasure Principle.
“Jesus uses the younger and elder brothers [in Luke 15] to portray the two basic ways people try to find happiness and fulfillment: the way of moral conformity and the way of self-discovery. Each acts as a lens coloring how you see all of life, or as a paradigm shaping your understanding of everything. Each is a way of finding personal significance and worth, of addressing the ills of the world, and of determining right from wrong.
The elder brother in the parable illustrates the way of moral conformity. The Pharisees of Jesus’s day believed that, while they were a people chosen by God, they could only maintain their place in his blessing and receive salvation through strict obedience to the Bible. There are innumerable varieties of this paradigm, but they all believe in putting the will of God and the standards of the community ahead of individual fulfillment. In this view, we only attain happiness and a world made right by achieving moral rectitude. We may fall at times, of course, but then we will be judged by how abject and intense our regret is. In this view, even in our failures we must always measure up.
The younger brother in the parable illustrates the way of self-discovery. In ancient patriarchal cultures some took this route, but there are far more who do so today. This paradigm holds that individuals must be free to pursue their own goals and self-actualization regardless of custom and convention. In this view, the world would be a far better place if tradition, prejudice, hierarchical authority, and other barriers to personal freedom were weakened or removed. . . .
. . . Our Western society is so deeply divided between these two approaches that hardly anyone can conceive of any other way to live. If you criticize or distance yourself from one, everyone assumes you have chosen the follow the other, because each of these approaches tends to divide the whole world into two basic groups. The moral conformists say: ‘The immoral people-the people who ‘do their own thing’-are the problem with the world, and moral people are the solution.’ The advocates of self-discovery say: ‘The bigoted people-the people who say, ‘We have the Truth’-are the problem with the world, and progressive people are the solution.’ Each side says: ‘Our way is the way the world will be put to rights, and if you are not with us, you are against us. . . .’
. . . The hearts of the two brothers were the same. Both sons resented their father’s authority and sought ways of getting out from under it. They each wanted to get into a position in which they could tell the father what to do. Each one, in other words, rebelled-but one did so by being very bad and the other by being extremely good. Both were alienated from the father’s heart; both were lost sons.
Do you realize, then, what Jesus is teaching? Neither son loved the father for himself. They both were using the father for their own self-centered ends rather than loving, enjoying, and serving him for his own sake. This means that you can rebel against God and be alienated from him either by breaking his rules or by keeping all of them diligently.
It’s a shocking message: Careful obedience to God’s law may serve as a strategy for rebelling against God.”
In Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God.
“As it is recorded that David, in the heat of battle, waxed faint, so may it be written of all the servants of the Lord. Fits of depression come over the most of us. Usually cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy. There may be here and there men of iron, to whom wear and tear work no perceptible detriment, but surely the rust frets even these; and as for ordinary men, the Lord knows, and makes them to know, that they are but dust…
…Before any great achievement, some measure of the same depression is very usual. Surveying the difficulties before us, our hearts sink within us. The sons of Anak stalk before us, and we are as grasshoppers in our own sight in their presence. The cities of Canaan are walled up to heaven, and who are we that we should hope to capture them? We are ready to cast down our weapons and take to our heels. Nineveh is a great city, and we would flee unto Tarshish sooner than encounter its noisy crowds. Already we look for a ship which may bear us quietly away from the terrible scene, and only a dread of tempest restrains our recreant footsteps. Such was my experience when I first became a pastor in London. My success appalled me; and the thought of the career which it seemed to open up, so far from elating me, cast me into the lowest depth, out of which I uttered my miserere and found no room for a gloria in excelsis. Who was I that I should continue to lead so great a multitude? I would betake me to my village obscurity, or emigrate to America, and find a solitary nest in the backwoods, where I might be sufficient for the things which would be demanded of me. It was just then that the curtain was rising upon my life-work, and I dreaded what it might reveal. I hope I was not faithless, but I was timoroous and filled with a sense of my own unfitness. I dreaded the work which a gracious providence had prepared for me. I felt myself a mere child, and trembled as I heard the voice of which said, ‘Arise, and thresh the mountains, and make them as chaff.’
This depression comes over me whenever the Lord is preparing a larger blessing for my ministry; the cloud is black before it breaks, and overshadows before it yields its deluge of mercy. Depression has now become to me as a prophet in rough clothing, a John the Baptist, heralding the hearer coming of my Lord’s richer benison. So have far better men found it. The scouring of the vessel has fitted it for the Master’s use. Immersion in suffering has preceded the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Fasting gives an appetite for the banquet. The Lord is revealed in the backside of the desert, while his servant keepeth the sheep and waits in solitary awe. The wilderness is the way to Canaan. The low valley leads to the towering mountain. Defeat prepares for victory. The raven is sent forth before the dove. The darkest hour of the night precedes the day-dawn. The mariners go down to the depths, but the next wave makes them mount to the heaven: their soul is melted because of the trouble before he bringeth them to their desired heaven.”
From Charles Spurgeon in Lectures to My Students
“Before this time my practice had been, at least for ten years previously, as an habitual thing, to give myself to prayer after having dressed in the morning. Now, I saw that the most important thing was to give myself to the reading of God’s Word, and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that thus, by means of the Word of God, whilst meditating on it, my heart might be brought into experimental communion with the Lord.
I began therefore to meditate on the New Testament from the beginning, early in the morning. The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words of the Lord’s blessing upon His precious Word, was to begin to meditate on the Word of God, searching as it were into every verse to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word, not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon, but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul.
The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so that, though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less to prayer. When thus I have been for a while making confession or intercession or supplication, or have given thanks, I go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or others, as the Word may lead to it, but still continually keeping before me that food for my own soul is the object of my meditation. The result of this is that there is always a good deal of confession, thanksgiving, supplication, or intercession mingled with my meditation, and that my inner man almost invariably is even sensibly nourished and strengthened, and that by breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I am in a peaceful if not happy state of heart.
The difference, then, between my former practice and my present one is this: formerly, when I rose, I began to pray as soon as possible, and generally spent all my time till breakfast in prayer, or almost all the time. At all events I almost invariably began with prayer. . . . But what was the result? I often spent a quarter of an hour, or half an hour, or even an hour on my knees before being conscious to myself of having derived comfort, encouragement, humbling of soul, etc.; and often, after having suffered much from wandering of mind for the first ten minutes, or quarter of an hour, or even half an hour, I only then really began to pray.
I scarcely ever suffer now in this way. For my heart being nourished by the truth, being brought into experimental fellowship with God, I speak to my Father and to my Friend (vile though I am, and unworthy of it) about the things that He has brought before me in His precious Word. It often now astonishes me that I did not sooner see this point. . . . And yet now, since God has taught me this point, it is as plain to me as anything that the first thing the child of God has to do morning by morning is to obtain food for his inner man.
Now what is food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God; and here again, not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that is only passes through our minds, just as water passes through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it and applying it to our hearts.
When we pray we speak to God. Now prayer, in order to be continued for any length of time in any other than a formal manner, requires, generally speaking, a measure of strength or godly desire, and the season therefore when this exercise of the soul can be most effectually performed is after the inner man has been nourished by meditation on the Word of God, where we find our Father speaking to us, to encourage us, to comfort us, to instruct us, to humble us, to reprove us. We may therefore profitably meditate with God’s blessing though we are ever so weak spiritually; nay, the weaker we are, the more we need meditation for the strengthening of our inner man. Thus there is far less to be feared from wandering of mind than if we give ourselves to prayer without having had time previously for meditation.
I dwell so particularly on this point because of the immense spiritual profit and refreshment I am conscious of having derived from it myself, and I affectionately and solemnly beseech all my fellow believers to ponder this matter. By the blessing of God, I ascribe to this mode the help and strength which I have had from God to pass in peace through deeper trials, in various ways, than I have ever had before; and having now above fourteen years tried this way, I can most fully, in the fear of God, commend it.”
George Muller in the Spiritual Secrets of George Muller.
“…One of the best things we can do for our kids is to find a way to stop being so frantic and frazzled. In the ‘Ask the Children’ survey, researcher Ellen Galinsky interviewed more than a thousand children in grades three through twelve and asked parents to guess how kids would respond. One key question asked the kids what one thing they would change about the way their parents’ work was affecting them. The results were striking. The kids rarely wished for more time with their parents, but, much to the parents’ surprise, they wished their parents were less tired and less stressed.
Similarly, Galinsky asked kids to grade their parents in a dozen areas. Overall, parents did pretty well, with both moms and dads right around a B. Most parents got an A when it came to making their children feel important and being able to attend important events in their lives. The biggest weakness, according to the kids, was anger management. More than 40 percent of kids gave their moms and dads a C, D, or F on controlling their temper. It was the worst grade on the children’s parental report card. Our children, Caplan argues, are suffering from ‘secondhand stress.’ By trying to do so much for them, we are actually making our kids less happy. It would be better for us and for our kids if we planned fewer outings, got involved in fewer activities, took more breaks from the kids, did whatever we could to get more help around the house, and made parental sanity a higher priority.
My point in unpacking Caplan’s book is not to make us all biological determinists. Our genes will never fully explain the variations in human behavior. As Christians, we know that God creates us in his image, as responsible moral agents. DNA does not determine our eternal destiny. But then again, neither does parenting. That’s the point. ‘You can have a better life and a bigger family,’ Caplan writes, ‘if you admit that your kids’ future is not in your hands.'”
Kevin DeYoung in Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About A (Really) Big Problem
“We live in a strange new world. Kids are safer than ever before, but parental anxiety is skyrocketing. Children have more options and more opportunities, but parents have more worry and hassle. We have put unheard of amounts of energy, time, and focus into our children. And yet, we assume their failures will almost certainly be our fault for not doing enough. We live in an age where the future happiness and success of our children trumps all other concerns. No labor is too demanding, no expense is too high, and no sacrifice is too great for our children. A little life hangs in the balance, and everything depends on us.
You might call this child obsessed parenting an expression of sacrificial love and devotion. And it might be. But you could also call it Kindergarchy: rule by children…
…the longer I parent the more I want to focus on doing a few things really well, and not get too worked up about everything else. I want to spend time with my kids, teach them the Bible, take them to church, laugh with them, cry with them, discipline them when they disobey, say ‘sorry’ when I mess up, and pray a ton. I want them to look back and think, ‘I’m not sure what my parents were doing or if they even knew what they were doing. But I always knew my parents loved me, and I knew they loved Jesus.
Maybe our hearts are too busy with fear and worry. Maybe we are overanxious. Maybe we are overcommitted. Maybe we are over-parenting. And maybe we are making our lives crazier than they need to be. While we can’t avoid being busy with our children-indeed it’s a biblical command (Titus 2:5)-with a good dose of prayer, a shot of biblical reflection, and a little common sense, we can avoid freaking out about them quite so much.”
Kevin DeYoung in Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About A (Really) Big Problem