I had been in a 3 week span of much discouragement and despair. My heart was riddled with doubt and fear, and my disposition dripped of frustration. It seemed like one thing after another had gone wrong. A decision I had made at church was getting some backlash, our heater died and it took the warranty company 4 weeks to replace it only to find out the next day that our air conditioner isn’t blowing cool air. In the midst of all of this we are walking through a new diagnosis for our son that is emotionally, physically and financially taxing on our family. As all of these things piled on top of each other I found myself tired and wanting to quit everything. I just wanted to sit and cry.
This was my state when I took my son to Chick-fil-A. Now perhaps you are thinking, “Yes! That’s what I do too when I’m discouraged, I go to Chick-fil-A!” Believe me, there are many lower level discouragements that Chick-fil-A can meet the needs of. But this was a higher-level discouragement for me. This was not going to be solved by chicken, bun and a pickle, no matter how much Chick-fil-A sauce I put on it.
Asa and I ate our chicken and dipped our fries in ketchup and went into the play area. It was a zoo for children. They were like monkey’s — jumping and squealing and swinging and beating their chests and throwing their… shoes.
Then into this chaos came a cry. It was not my son’s cry, but you could tell that this cry was not a hurt cry, but a scared cry. Asa heard it, too. Asa was playing on the floor — I saw his head spin around and begin looking. His hand went into the air as if to say, “What’s happening? Where’s it coming from?” and he said, “Baby? Baby?”. That’s when Theology 101 began. My son got up from the floor and headed up into the playground. When he found the little boy who was crying, Asa gently reached out and patted him on the shoulder several times to console him. He put his arm around the boy, gave him a hug and continued to pat him until the boy’s father appeared. When the dad showed up, Asa used his sign-language to tell the father that the thinks the little boy is tired. He stopped patting him, and ran and played as if nothing had happened.
I sat on that bench looking up to my son with tears in my eyes. Emotions flooded my heart. I was so proud of him. He had just shown this little boy so much love and care. As all the other children ran around him and looked at him like he was an inconvenience, my son stopped what he was doing and cared for the scared. There is nothing my son could have done to make me more proud of him. When he came down and sat by me I bragged on him and high-fived him and celebrated with him and I told him that he was being like Jesus — caring for the scared, alone and hopeless. He cared for the one who was lost, and that is what Jesus does.
That’s when the second round of emotions flooded my heart because in that moment my son had not only been Jesus to a little boy, my son had been Jesus to me because my son showed me what my savior does. My savior sees my discouragement, he sees my fear and he sees my doubt. And he doesn’t leave me there to wallow and drown in it, rather he searches me out, he embraces me as his own. He gives his Spirit to comfort me and care for me, and then he presents me to the Father and says, “Let all who are weary and heavy laden come to me and I will give them rest.” Sitting there in the Chick-fil-A playground I was taught one of the most freeing theological lessons of my life — “Jesus sought me and Jesus loved me and Jesus will present me to the father where every tear will be wiped away and there will be no more sorrow and no more pain.”
So today I would like to challenge you in two ways:
First, rest in the caring embrace of our Jesus, whatever your discouragement or fear. Rest in his embrace and find comfort, knowing that he will present you to the father.
Second, sign up for a theology class with your children. You may be astounded at what you will learn about our God and faith by watching your children.
Have you ever had to confess to your child? I’m not talking about airing all of your dirty laundry of past sins, grave mistakes, and idolatrous living before you had your child. That likely has an appropriate place and time for discussion with your children, but that’s not what I’m referring to.
I’m referring to confessing to your child that you have sinned recently, and specifically I’m referring to telling your child that you have sinned against them.
Perhaps I’m simply more sinful than you are, but I’ve had to do this many times. Allow me to give yesterday as an example; around 7:30 p.m. my two-year-old son was laying on the couch and our 45 pound puppy came flying into the house, leapt into the air, and landed with his feet and tongue right on my sons face. Obviously this is a time to intervene — to correct the puppy, to comfort your child. But my intervening sounded like angry yelling at the dog. It is no secret that I am not a fan of pets, and in this moment stress of the day, discouragement in my heart, and irritation with myself met my dislike of pets and I did not control my anger with our puppy. I didn’t abuse him (relax animal activists) and I did need to correct him, but in that moment I didn’t have self-control. In that moment, I taught my son how to release his frustration and anger and I taught him wrongly. I even scared him. So I had to sit down with my son and tell him that daddy was wrong. I had to confess to him that daddy didn’t control his anger, and I asked for his forgiveness. There we sat, trading stories of my anger and Bob’s (our puppy) landing on Asa’s face. You should ask Asa about it sometime. He tells the story with much enthusiasm.
You would think that this would be the end of my story, but it isn’t (remember, I’m simply more sinful than you are). An hour later, my daughter came into the living room to play with Bob and he went out of control again. My frustration with him came flooding back but instead of simply correcting Bob, I scolded my daughter. She had not corrected him for his misbehavior, and instead of using the opportunity to teach her how to correct him, I scolded her for not correcting him. It crushed her, and rightly so. I found myself having to confess again, to another child, of my sinful lack of self-control.
Parents, you will sin. You will speak or act out of sinful pride in front of your children. You can never remove the effect of those actions, but you can teach your children what it looks like to realize your sin, to confess your sin, and to reconcile relationships.
My prayer for each of us today is that we would ever-increasingly grow in godliness so that sin would spill out less each day. Secondly, my prayer is that we would be humble enough to confess our sins before our children so that we (and they) may be healed. (James 5:16)
The Laws in Leviticus we looked at this Sunday can even speak to parenting. Paul Tripp helps us navigate punishment and grace for our children. Follow the link below to watch the short video.
As a parent, I am always looking for ways to engage my children with the gospel. In a recent sermon we explained to parents that Deuteronomy purposes parents to be teaching our children the ways of God as we sit, as we go, as we lie down and as we rise. In other words, as you do what you already do, look for ways to teach your children about God and the gospel.
As spring rolls around in Kansas City, parents are always looking for new outings for their families. I want to encourage you that as you go out, lie down, get up, explore new places – look for opportunities to have gospel conversations with your children.
- Kansas City Zoo – if your children love the zoo, then I’d encourage you to spring for the season pass. We think it’s completely worth it because then a 1 hour trip to the zoo is worthwhile. Last year we took Asa to the zoo dozens of times. While at the zoo, have intentional conversations with your child. You could discuss which animal is their favorite and why, bringing the focus back to their worship of God for his creation of that animal. You could discuss about God creating man different than animals in that as majectic as the elephant is, man is who was created in God’s image and therefore we hold a special value and we can know God in a different way through Jesus.
- Urban Air – this trampoline park is superior to others in my opinion because they also have the largest indoor playground I have ever seen. Our son costs $5 for endless play on the playground and my wife and I get to play for free with him! Take your children there, let them jump, play, run, and laugh and then talk about the joy that God gives us in enjoying life. It is a common grace that we get to enjoy life in this way. Discuss this and remind them that when they really enjoy something in life, it is because God has given them that gift and teach them to worship God for that joy.
- Red Barn Farm in Weston – Red Barn is famous for it’s October Pumpkin Patch and fall festivals, but you can also go there in the spring and pick peaches and berries! It’s a fun activity to get your kids out of the city, take in some fresh air and see a different way of life. As you pick berries and peaches, talk about how every bite of food we put into our mouths is provided by God; he grew the plant, he gave us the resources to get the food and he gave us taste buds to enjoy it! Talk about the fruit in the garden and how Adam and Eve could have any fruit they wanted but one tree. Teach your children about sin and how it always makes us crave what we are told we shouldn’t have, despite God giving us so much more. Teach them about God’s promise to send Jesus to destroy the deceiver and free us of our sin.
This spring, I hope you have great opportunities to teach your children about the gospel in everyday life.
I recently went for a walk on some property that my sister and her husband purchased outside of Branson. If you know that terrain, you know it’s hilly, rocky and very full of trees. As our family walked through the land and dreamed of a few years from now when they would build a home, I found myself awestruck at my son’s enjoyment of the woods. You know you live in a city when your son sees a pile of leaves and loses his mind in joy!
He ran and jumped and dove and dug. He was messy and covered in dirt, just like little boys should be. We captured a lot of good photos from that day and made a lot of memories. But one photo that my father captured stole my heart and sealed a lesson into my soul. The picture below is one of my son, following in my footsteps. If you look at the photo closely, you’ll see that he is looking where I’m looking and he is stepping with the same foot I am stepping with, walking the same way that I am walking. The words saturated my soul, “Walk carefully, little feet follow”. It was true on that mountain side as we walked over leaves, rocks and sticks. But it is even more true in life as my son looks to me to see how to walk through life.
Parents, today watch how you walk. Take careful steps. Make wise decisions. Walk closely with Jesus. Step humbly and run with perseverance; little feet follow.
Pastor Ronni recently preached a sermon at Emmaus where he talked about God’s common grace in creation. Each of us experience God’s common grace every day; we eat delicious food that we don’t deserve to enjoy, we feel warm sun that we don’t deserve to feel, we see beautiful colors that we don’t deserve to see, we have relationships that we don’t deserve to have.
Ronni pointed out that if all we as parents tell our children about God is that God will see us if we are bad, that our actions would disappoint God, that we are being disobedient to God, then we are missing the gracious, generous, gift-giving God who saves us.
God generously gifted us with so much pleasure in creation, and despite our rebellion towards him, he graciously continues to gift us with pleasure every day. All of these gracious and generous gifts point to the most gracious and most generous gift he’s ever given, his son, Jesus.
So parents, our challenge for you this week is twofold:
Be gracious and generous gift givers to your children and tell them why: Jesus
“But Joshua, we don’t have much money, I can’t give much”. I understand that. Notice that I didn’t say you had to give extravagant, but gracious and generous. Also notice that this does not merely imply giving things. You can (and should) graciously and generously give your time to your children, give memories to your children, give laughter to your children, give energy to your children, give your listening ear to your children, give you securing hugs to your children. As you give, remind your children that we give graciously and generously because God gives graciously and generously to us and that the greatest gift he’s given us is Jesus.
Know what your children value, celebrate, and enjoy so you can remind them that it is a gift from God.
If they can’t wait to wake up and eat cereal, remind them that it’s a gift from God. If they love to play with a certain toy, it is a gift from God. If they revel in their mother and fathers attention, it is a gift from God and so on. If you know your children, you know what they love and when you see them loving it, remind them that God is gracious and generous to give them such a wonderful gift to enjoy.