Category Archives: Parents

Practicing the Spiritual Act of Benedictions

What is a benediction? How do we give one?

The word benediction derives from two Latin words that mean, “to speak well of,” and people in every culture and generation look earnestly and intently for a final word of divine kindness from God through His ordained agents of blessings.

We long for our parent’s blessing before each of them dies. The last thing said in the Bible is a benediction. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with all. Amen” (Revelation 22: 21). It is only fitting that our last words to others in life should be a benediction.

On the occasion of each of our grandchildren’s births, I speak down a rich and full blessing from on high upon grandson and granddaughter. Here I met James for the first time to bless his head.

Before you leave off just now, dear reader, please receive this one for you:

May you be lost in wonder, love, and praise, so that through every

period of your life His goodness you pursue, Until our Lord comes

again. And now to God’s elect, Whom He has upheld since they were

conceived, Carried since they were born, Hear His good promise;

“I am He; I will sustain you, I will carry you, I will rescue even to your

old age.”

 

 

This is an excerpt taken from Robert Davis Smart’s Legacy from Christ: What’s My Message? (Kindle Locations 461, 560-564). WestBow Press. Kindle Edition.

#BacktotheBible

Isn’t this an adorable picture?

By far the practice of reading the bible through each year will do more than anything else to enhance your prayer life, activate your meditation or thought life, and . . .

motivate your worship life.

http://unsplash.com/@samanthasophia

“This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from  this book” John Bunyan (Author of Pilgrim’s Progress)

“A glory gilds the sacred page,
Majestic like the sun;
It gives a light to every age;
It gives, but borrows none.

The Spirit breathes upon the Word
And brings the truth to sight;
Precepts and promises afford
A sanctifying light.” – William Cowper

http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/g/l/glorygil.htm

God is Like a Parent Eagle in Three Ways

“Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them up on its pinions” (Deuteronomy 32:11) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+32%3A11&version=ESV

This simile is a favorite of God’s in His Word for His people, who at this time lived near mountains and watched the eagles high above raise eaglets in their nest to teach them to fly and soar.

http://www.foxnews.com/great-outdoors/2017/06/21/bald-eagle-takes-bait-swipes-salmon-from-fishing-boat.htm

Just like a parent eagle with us God does three things:

  1. He stirs up our nest.
  2. He hovers over us.
  3. He spreads out His wings to swoop down and catch us, bearing us up on His wings.

First, He stirs up our nests. Although God is tender to make us a nest, He is also strong to stirs us out of it to learn to fly. Has God been stirring up your nest? Perhaps He is sending out your children, or teaching you to fly to build your own nest.

Second, He hovers over us. As we mature and learn to go on mission, He does not leave us. He hovers over us. He wants us more dependent on Him than the nest He made for us in the first place.

When Karen and I were busy with our two sons in a stroller, their older sister was already on her back headed down the driveway’s hill on to the street. Cars and a truck were traveling in front of our house, but Emily was happily on her way. Karen said, “Bob!” I looked at Emily headed to the street, and everything went in slow motion. I ran to hover over her. She wen in between a car and a truck, hit the curb on the other side of the street, and began to soar off her bike and into a ravine! I caught her as she was flying. Do you know what she said? “Daddy, can we do that again?” God hovers over us like a parent, catching us.

Do you believe God will catch you when you are in danger? Has He not caught you before many crashes? God hovers over us like a parent eagle.

Third, He spreads out His wings to swoop down and rescue us time and time again, bearing us up on His wings. Exodus 19:4  reads: “You yourselves have seen what I did in Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.” https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+19%3A4&version=ESV

God rescued us in Jesus Christ. God stirred up heaven’s nest. Jesus swooped down from heaven, spreading out His arms on the cross, and carried our sins away to bring us to Himself.

Just like a parent eagle, God does three things:

  1. He stirs up our nest.
  2. He hovers over us.
  3. He spreads out His wings to swoop down and catch us, bearing us up on His wings.

 

Fatherhood for Father’s Day

Fatherhood involves three things; namely, vision, life on life formation, and a story of salvation. In Deuteronomy 6:1-12, 20-21 God’s people had experienced an amazing salvation, and God emphasizes the value and importance of fatherhood.

In the Old Testament family included a wider circle of at least two generations and also servants, widows, orphans, also aliens, who were all protected under the father or patriarch’s headship. Children were named by the father and were known as his children; for example in the gospels John and James sons of Zebedee or Jesus bar Joseph.

The ideal father is God and manifested in commands concerning fatherhood, not so much in the narratives. At best, we see determined fathers like Joshua, Job, and Solomon (Proverbs 1:8), who declare that their families will serve the Lord and will listen to biblical instruction.

Since the family makes a nation and a church strong, God starts with a vision in Deuteronomy: “Fear God, you your sons, and your son’s sons that you may enjoy long days in the land and that you may multiply greatly” (6:2-3). Before having children, a man should sense a calling and a vision for children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren in the context of an experiential knowledge of God (Fear of God means just that this). In our culture we think so much about the now (secular time) that we aim and fall short of the Glory of God’s vision for our lives. Suddenly, we  find ourselves holding the little hands of our grandchildren (see photo). The time has flown bye. Fatherhood begins with vision for succeeding generations.

Second, fatherhood is life on life spiritual formation. As the word of God sets on a father’s heart, he then instructs his children “diligently” (6:7). How? By a father’s life loving on his children. When?  “When you sit in your house” and “when you walk by the way” and “when you lie down” and “when you rise” (6:7-8). Fatherhood is life on life spiritual formation or discipleship, just as Jesus called His disciples to be “with Him” (Mark 3:14). Spiritual instruction is the primary domain of the father, not the mother nor the church nor a school. It is not a classroom environment; it is a home context of life on life formation.

Thirdly, fathers must tell how they were saved by God’s mighty Hand. In fact, God tells the first Israelite fathers to make their children regularly ask the question about how papa bear and mama bear were saved. When your children ask what the meaning of all this worship and instruction is, father bear should say: “We were slaves . . . and the Lord brought us out and give us (heaven)” (6:20-21). Tell your children how the Lord showed signs and wonders in saving you from slavery to sin and Satan and idols of our culture, like money, power, and so forth. “Dad, why is our family serious about Christ in a secular culture?” Father: “We were slaves to sin and Satan, even the gods of money, work, and pleasure. But God in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, delivered us out of such darkness and brought us into His marvelous light – a kingdom of light.”

Fatherhood begins with a vision, continues for eighteen years per child with life on life spiritual formation, and constantly tells the testimony of salvation to the generations to come.

The bible doesn’t give examples of human fathers that we can model off of, but only of broken fathers in need of restoration to the hearts of their children and to God. God the Father gave His only Begotten Son to redeem fatherhood and to save both the parents and their children, and children’s children.

Children are Excellent Observers, but Poor Interpreters

Children know when something is not right in a parent(s)’s relational world. They have radar. We have seen when Karen and I were in minor conflicts that our little ones used to come hug our legs in the kitchen where we were talking. Why? They were insecure and long for well-being. When parents are well, they sense they are well too.

Children are excellent observers. When it comes to interpreting the fallen aspects of life and relational pain, however, children are poor interpreters. They, like us, need a Gospel-interpretation. They, like us, may blame themselves or God wrongly. Often it just makes sense to them that if they had just been better behaved their home would be safe and their family would simply get along.

When children are vulnerable to believe a lie, Satan is more than willing to supply one – one especially believable to make sense of their story. This set up becomes early occasions to make deep commitments to foolish strategies to overcome the condemnation they sense. Thus, a child’s drive to perform to make things well becomes a religious effort to make life work without the Gospel.

It isn’t until we name our sin, Satan’s condemning thoughts, and how the righteous life and death of Christ in our place that we find our true rest. The good news is that the Holy Spirit is more than willing to spell it all out for us with the “sweetest voice I’ve ever heard.”

Christian parents are God’s Gospel interpreters for their children, who are excellent observers but often poor interpreters.

For more, see Embracing Your Identity in Christ: Renouncing Lies and Foolish Strategies (Bloomington, IN: WestbowPress a Division of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, 2017). https://www.amazon.com/Embracing-Your-Identity-Christ-Renouncing-ebook/dp/B06XT2SSLM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491238272&sr=8-1&keywords=robert+Davis+Smart

 

Sons Leave; Daughters are Given – Genesis 2:24

In identity formation, which honors two genders (male and female), a happy mother and father will delight in early expressions without being threatened. One morning our grandson wanted to go to school with his sisters, which was a cause for delight. He was ready to leave, and came out all ready for school before his time.

Although God is His own interpreter, this beautiful act prompted in me both a smile and a thought. Boys sense from early on that they must separate and differentiate from mamma bear, especially when they receive well-being from her. Ruth H. Barton has written on gender formation, and found evidence from Carol Gilligan’s studies.

Gilligan observes that mothers are the ones who, for the most part, are the primary caretakers of young children; therefore issues of identity formation are different for boys than they are for girls. Barton writes: “Female identity formation takes place in the context of an ongoing relationship in which a girl can continue to think of herself as like her mother. Boys, on the other hand, recognize from early on that they must separate or differentiate from their primary caretaker if they are to define themselves as masculine. Their father, the person with whom they could identify strongly while continuing to develop their gender identity, is usually not as accessible to them. Thus, separation and individuation are critically tied to gender identity for boys, while for girls and women, issues of feminine identity do not depend on the achievement of separation from the mother or on the process of individuation.” Barton quotes Gilligan:  “Since masculinity is defined through separation while femininity is defined through attachment, male gender identity is threatened by intimacy while female gender identity is threatened by separation.”

 

Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982), p. 17. 5Ibid., pp. 7-8. 6Ibid., p. 173.

Ruth Haley Barton. Equal to the Task: Men and Women in Partnership (Kindle Locations 1236-1242). Kindle Edition.

Keep the Bridge

When parents or friends discover a loved one or child has trouble embracing their true identity in Christ, it is important to “keep the bridge.”

Our tendency is to fight or flight – angry attacks with strong arguments or cutting off the relationship altogether. Both of these neglect the third way; namely, the way of love. Loving the child or loved one requires us to remain in the tension and seek God’s wisdom and salvation in ways that are much more difficult. img_0266

Sometimes it is a gender crisis wherein their brokenness makes it difficult for them to embrace what feels odd or goes against their strong urges for same-sex connection. Maybe they need “vitamin M or F” (male or female nurturing), but it isn’t the end of the story.

Sometimes the loved one embraces a condemning thought; i.e. “I’m a loser or worthless or unlovable.” Your Gospel presence and gentle reminders of their justification and adoption in Christ may free them from Satan’s lies.

When you stay warmly present to them, you will have much more honest conversations that often lead to redemptive results. Soon this dear person can walk over the bridge to solid ground again.

Go, Dwell on His love by Sweetest Song

Emma

We were sad to say good bye to a dear family at church many years ago. Little Emma was able to hear the Gospel through expository preaching at a young age. She was a good big sister, and a joy to her parents and the people at Christ Church.

A letter came to me yesterday from little Emma, who has grown into a young lady – a godly one. She plays the harp well, and sent me a video (above) because she knew it was my favorite hymn.

Dear Emma,

You have always been a special girl to me as a pastor, and today you made me cry with joy. Your kind words, and song of praise matters so deeply to me.

I believe the main reason, besides that we love your dear family and miss you, is that you walk with God. This is no small thing. You have a mighty Savior and Lover of your soul. He was with you through the hard times & will strengthen you through them, and not without them I’m afraid. “I have no greater joy,” wrote the apostle and the pastor John, “than to hear that you walk with God.”

I used your video to worship Christ this morning, and the harp is fitting for such beautiful music set to heartfelt words that long to keep Him always before our eyes until we see Him Face to face. Thank you so much for your email.

Soon you shall blossom into a godly woman. The Lord powerfully and richly bless you to be a blessing to many according to His faithfulness. May He be your vision.

Please send kind regards to your family,

Pastor Bob

 

Go, dwell on His love by sweetest song, and

Crown His Head with multitudes of praises.

Till all kings bow down to Him

and all nations serve Him.

(Isaac Watts’ Jesus Shall Reign & Psalm 72:11)

 

Parents are Given by God to Children

We don’t choose our parents, and therefore our names and identity are given to us. Our identity isn’t a matter of merit, and hard to accept and impossible to resist. Whatever challenges I had with embracing the identity God gave me, I found that part of that struggle was accepting the parents He gave me. Now I laugh at my struggles to embrace them and myself, and love them as my dear parents. Indeed, I miss them terribly.

I wish I could have known my mother when she was a child. IMG_0213Here is a picture of her as a little, adorable girl.

The more I understand her story, the more compassion and understanding I have for her. Her father died when she was twelve years old. Poverty threatened to take away her privileges, but she remarkably won a scholarship to Lake Forrest College near Chicago where she met my father after his WWII service in the Navy.

This is a romantic (funny, too, for my Dad was always humoring her) picture of my parents together, IMG_0216engaged to be married.

They had six children, and I was the last one (no comment :). They loved each other until their end. I was privileged to lead them to faith in Christ during their final years of life when I was only in my 30s. I preached and officiated their funerals, (my first two funerals of many as a pastor).

Have you ever gazed at your parents’ old pictures in a way that forced you to embrace who you are? Who they are? It is a process during adulthood where points in time become clarifying moments.