Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Family (page 1 of 6)

Are You a Good Parent?

Who Is a Good Parent?

It’s a loaded question, isn’t it? It seems to me that often the people who think they are great parents aren’t, and the parents who are doing a great job (even if imperfect) tend to feel their weakness the most acutely.

As evangelicals in the western world in the 21st century, it seems that there is more pressure than ever to do well at this parenting thing. We have Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram telling us everyday how great everyone else is doing at this parenting thing; the proof is in the nicely edited photos, right? The family lives of so many others around us seem to be smiling faces, happy hearts, and many memorable moments of family fun.

And that’s just the world. Nevermind in the church. Other Christians are doing a great job at family devotions, praying for world missions, and teaching their children to memorize the whole Bible (or so it seems). And doesn’t that make sense? I mean, if the non-Christians in the world are doing well at this family thing, should we be doing better? Isn’t family a Christian thing?

Sadly, many Christian parents end up feeling guilty, over-burdened, and stressed trying to keep up with all the family things that we feel we need to do to be good parents.
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Wise Words on Fathering

Proverbat_22_6My friend, Kevin Dibbley, wrote an excellent note a couple of weeks ago to a new father. Reflecting on his own experience raising his daughters, Kevin offers some sound advice that rebuked me, encouraged me, and moved me to tears of thankfulness.

If you’re a parent (or know one) you should read this post (or get them to read this post).

Here’s a snippet:

Don’t take yourself so seriously. That may sound like a strange thing to say, especially at a time in our culture when there is a great need for serious parenting, and in particular, diligent and faithful fathering. I am not saying that as a Dad you don’t need to give yourself fully to your calling to love and to lead. What I do mean is that you need to recognize that God is big enough for the road ahead. When Moses was in the midst of his journey leading the nation of Israel, he became overwhelmed by the task. Israel was a tough nation. Moses’ fear, however, was not the dread of seeing how messed up Israel was. He was afraid of seeing his own inadequacies and failures. In fact, at one point, he pleads with the Lord that if the Lord has favour upon him, that He should kill Moses, so that Moses wouldn’t have to look at his own “wretchedness” (Numbers 11:15). You are about to get a life long tour of your own inadequacies. Remember then that God did not put this child in your hands because He wanted you to show how competent you are. He put this child in your hands to show you how great His love and goodness are. Your goal is to point your child to Jesus. You don’t have to be the hero of your child’s story.

Read the full post here: “A Note for Josh at the Birth of Grace.”

Tough Words on Forgiveness

forgivenessIn his excellent commentary on Luke’s Gospel, David Garland spends some time thinking about forgiveness as he reflects on the Lord’s model prayer (Luke 11.1-4). He then cites C.S. Lewis on the topic of forgiveness and what Christians really believe:

We believe that God forgives us our sins; but also that He will not do so unless we forgive other people their sins against us. There is no doubt about the second part of this statement. It is in the Lord’s Prayer, it was emphatically stated by our Lord. If you don’t forgive you will not be forgiven. No exceptions to it. He doesn’t say that we are to forgive other people’s sins, provided they are not too frightful, or provided there are extenuating circumstances, or anything of that sort. We are to forgive them all, however spiteful, however mean, however often they are repeated. If we don’t we shall be forgiven none our own. 1

Garland then continues: 2

Though most people agree that forgiveness is admirable, it is not easy. Alexander Pope’s adage, “To err is human, to forgive is divine,” may explain why human so often fail to practice this divine trait. It has been said that some bury the hatchet but leave the handle sticking out of the ground so that it is ready to grasp when they want it. Others ask, “Do I have to forgive if the offender does not repent?” It may never occur to them to ask, “Can the offender repent if I do not forgive?”

 

Jesus understands that forgiveness is as important for the one who has been hurt as for the one who caused the hurt. Forgiveness keeps one from being clobbered again and again when the memories resurface. Harboring a grudge opens persons up to the danger of defining their lives by how they have been hurt. Forgiveness provides release. Smedes writes, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” 3

It’s easy to understand forgiveness in theory. It’s another thing to be defined by it and display it. Forgiveness is one of the most costly things anyone can ever do. It always has been; especially at the cross. Forgiveness hurts. But it also heals.

May God give us grace to live this. Only the power of the cross can make it so.

Notes:

  1. “On Forgiveness,” in The Weight of Glory (London: SPCK, 1949; repr. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2001), 178.
  2. From David E. Garland, Luke, ZECNT (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 472.
  3. Garland is quoting from Lewis B. Smedes, Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1984).

What Gospel-Contented Mothering Looks Like

In a couple other posts this week (The Story of the Bible Told Through Motherhood and Satan’s Desire for Mothers) I have argued for the high calling of women to be mothers, since it reflects and magnifies God himself. The immediate and appropriate reaction to that, however, is to respond by asking, ‘What about those who can’t be moms?’

There are many women who would simply love to bear children, but cannot for a variety of reasons. Also, there is the problem of women who are saved or begin maturing spiritually later in life and have many regrets about the way they mothered their children, but cannot go back and change anything now. How is a message like this at all hope-giving for them?

The Gospel Shifts Our Categories

The gospel, which is the foundation of all our contentedness, must also be the foundation of our categories. When we speak of ‘mothering’ and ‘motherhood’ we want to make sure we’re using these words in a gospel-informed way.

Simply put, the family that matters most in the New Covenant is not husband, wife, and 2.1 kids with a minivan and a white picket fence surrounding a house in the suburbs (or even a quiver-full of kids in the boonies). Rather, it is the family of God; the the motley crew that surrounds you every Sunday morning. We can’t miss this:

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10.29-30)

Foundational to the promises of the gospel and the new covenant is a new family. And we cannot miss this. The very call to follow Jesus will mean that many people will have to forsake natural family relationships.

Some will become singles and ‘eunuchs’ for the cause of Jesus’s kingdom. But that is not a call to be family-less, it is a call to join the family of God (the church).

In fact, this is how Jesus himself viewed his world. When people asked Jesus about his family, he said, ‘Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother’ (Mark 3.31-35). For those who hear the gospel-call to follow Jesus and are willing to leave all this world behind them to gain the pearl of great value, Jesus promises a family. Just not in the categories we’re used to.
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Satan’s Desire for Mothers

God has a plan and a design for women. So does Satan. God desires women to be grounded in the gospel and content in their role; as the one who created them, he knows the way he has created and the way that they are to be fulfilled. Satan wants to create the illusion of satisfaction and fulfillment in anything and everything other than God and his design.

Satan Desires Discontentment

Satan’s desire for mothers is the same as his desire for all women. He desires to create discontent in the roles that God has assigned. That is what Satan did in Eden, by approaching Eve first. And according to Paul (1 Tim 2.11-15), that is what Satan was doing in the early church in Ephesus. And you can rest assured that’s what he’s doing today.

God has designed women to be wives and mothers in order that they might reflect God himself, in whose image they are created. But Satan wants to create discontent with all of it so that the image of God is marred and belittled.

There are many ways Satan still works to create discontent in women — even Christian women — today. Here are two:

1. He says you’re too good for mothering

He tells women that the ideal is to get a degree, be a professional, and shatter the glass ceiling. The idea of being a wife and a mother is good for some or perhaps for a time, but the idea of being forever identified as a wife & mother is clearly not for you. The idea of letting a husband ‘lead you’ is so far beneath you it’s inconceivable, and having your identity be something bound up with your husband and your children is degrading.
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The Story of the Bible as Told Through Motherhood

It occurred to me the other day, in preparing for a Mother’s Day sermon, that the story of the Bible (the story of God redeeming his people) could be told almost entirely in categories of motherhood. So I thought I’d give it a shot.

In Creation & Fall

God created and ordered the world — and it was good. But one thing was not good: Man was alone. So God created the helper suitable for him who would be not only his wife, but the ‘mother of all the living’ even before she had children (Gen 3.20). Once this ‘mother’ was created and given to her husband, creation was ‘very good.’

Of course, the downfall of humanity came when the one who was created to be mother took on a different role, was deceived, and led her family into transgression.

But God was not done with this woman and was not content to leave motherhood unredeemed. Rather, in the very context of pronouncing his judgement on motherhood (Gen 3.16) he also pronounced that the role of motherhood was going to be blessed with the privilege of redeeming all of humanity and all of creation (Gen 3.15). Through this mother would come the one who brings true life to all those who will truly live.

In the Old Testament Narrative

The narrative of Genesis unfolds as a fulfilling of the blessings and curses of God as the seed of the woman is forever opposed by the seed of the serpent. The climax of the stories in Genesis surround the wives of the patriarchs and their inability to bear children. If the women can’t become mothers, the whole plan of God falls apart. But each time God intervenes and gives children to the mothers so that his plan of redeeming the world continues through them.

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This Friday is for the Ladies

Recently I’ve come across three articles that I find particularly helpful for wives & mothers. Since I often write about being a husband & father or about parenting in general, I thought it might be nice to offer the reflections of some wives & mothers as well.

Here are three posts that I think are worth your time if you’re a wife and / or a mom (or if you’re married to one).
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