Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Madalyn

He Spoke

Last night at the dinner table, we were discussing our Fighter Verse for this week at church (Exodus 34.6-7). When God speaks about himself, the first thing he says is, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression…’. I asked the two older girls which of those things about God was their favourite.

One of our girls thought that ‘merciful’ might be her favourite, but she wasn’t sure what mercy was. So we tried helping her understand the difference between mercy and grace. DA Carson talks about the difference between mercy and grace in this way:

The two terms are frequently synonymous; but where there is a distinction between the two, it appears that grace is a loving response when love is undeserved, and mercy is a loving response prompted by the misery and helplessness of the one on whom the love is to be showered. Grace answers the undeserving; mercy answers the miserable. (Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and Confrontation with the World, 24-25)

Now, of course I didn’t cite Carson to my four year-old. But we did try to show her that grace and mercy are both expressions of God’s goodness to those (like us) who don’t deserve to know his goodness and couldn’t help ourselves. I think they got it.

So I asked them, ‘What are some ways that God has been merciful to us?’ I expected the usual Sunday School answers (‘Jesus!’) and not much more. What one of my daughters said, though, really gave me cause to pause and consider. She simply said ‘He spoke.’

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An Honest Look Into Our Family Devotions

An example of what our family devotions do NOT look like.

Okay, men. Let’s talk family devotions. Feel guilty yet?

There are few ways to make Christian men feel guilty more easily or quickly than to talk about family devotions. We all know we should be doing it. We see the importance of being the spiritual leaders in our home. We all know that as fathers we bear the primary responsibility for bringing our children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. And we know that family devotions is the most practical way most of us can regularly and deliberately do this.

We know that. But most of us fail. And those of you who don’t fail, just know that you’re despised by the rest of us, okay?

One of the reasons why we fail, I think, is because we experience the typical male disease of thinking we have to have everything planned out and that we have to carry out all the details of our plans to perfection. I know sometimes my desire to have all my “i’s” dotted and “t’s” crossed has paralyzed me from taking any action — which is pretty much the worst case scenario. What I’ve found over the past little while to be most helpful and most effective is this: Just do something! Profound, right? Do something and don’t worry if it’s not perfect.

Here’s an honest look at our family devotions from tonight (and yes, this is a verbatim transcription):

Me: (Reading Proverbs 10) A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.

Susie (my 4 year old): Daddy, I know something!

Me: (Excited! She is interacting with the Word!) What is it, Sue?

Susie: Carrots are vegetables!

Me: *Audible sigh…* (Thinking: Man, you’re good at this Bible teaching thing… are you a professional?)

So, as you can see, we are a wonderful example of not doing things perfectly. I don’t always have anything good to say. Our kids don’t always listen. Sometimes I wonder if they’re even getting anything out of it.

But here’s the thing. Whether or not they get anything out of that particular night, I hope that they are blessed by the cumulative effect. I hope that win, lose, or die trying, my kids will see that their parents love them enough to open up the word to them consistently, deliberately, intentionally, and lovingly. I hope that they see that because we treasure them so much we must take them to the truth we treasure most — and we must do it consistently. I hope that as they age the composite image of their parents that they are left with is Christians who love them and who love the word of God. I hope that they see our life is found in this book, which tells us of him who is True Life.

So, men, how about some family devotions? You don’t have to do them perfectly or even perfectly consistently. But are you at least doing something?

My Kids

** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **


I love my children. I absolutely delight in them. There are so many reasons why; I thought I’d list just a few.

1. They Reflect Me

Okay, this sounds really bad. But I see myself in my kids, and that makes me love them. That’s natural. That’s what all parents love to see. To be honest, I think that’s why parents often think their own kids are the cutest… because they look like the parents! I’ve always thought to myself, ‘How narcissistic is that!

But then I got to thinking about that. Why do parents take so much delight in having children who look like them? Because our heavenly Father delights in having children who look like him. And because we bear his image (even now in a distorted way) we have his heart-impulses. When I see myself in my kids or my wife in my kids and my heart warms toward them, now it doesn’t make me think I’m narcissistic so much as it turns my mind to my God who created me in his image and who finds delight in me resembling him (really, this is at the heart of the gospel!). And it makes me hope I can train my kids to reflect their heavenly Father… not just their earthly one.

2. They Don’t Reflect Me

Here’s the funny thing about kids. Even though they’re fallen and depraved, there is still a sense of innocence and purity about them; they are willing to receive and believe what they hear with all their hearts. They trust. They forgive. They are willing to be comforted by words of truth. They believe the best about people and love with all their unbroken hearts. That doesn’t reflect me. I’m stubborn and heart-hearted, slow to forgive, slow to believe, slow to respond to truth. I’m jaded when it comes to people; it is easier to look at other people as ‘sinners’ than it is ‘image-bearers.’ Jesus commended children as those to whom we should look to know how to receive his kingdom. It’s not hard to see why. My kids are not perfect — far from it. But they do show me how I should love and trust my God and love and trust others.

3. They Give Me An Excuse to Be a Kid

I often ‘joke’ about this, but it’s true. I love being a kid. Playing, running, climbing trees, telling crazy imaginary stories… I love it! But if I did that on my own, people would think I’m weird — even more so than they already do! So I’m glad my kids give me an excuse to still be a kid. I love playing with them.

4. They Show Me My Weaknesses

Inasmuch as God calls me to father like he is a father to me, my children provide me with ample opportunities to show the world that I am not my heavenly Father. I fall so far short. He is so patient with me; my impulse is to chastise right away. He is so loving with me; my impulse is to be harsh with them. He is so wise in the dispensations of his providence, leading me in ways that I will grow; I give so little foresight to the ways I lead my children. He sacrificed his most treasured possession for me; I ask my four year-old when she’ll get a job and start helping to pay some bills. He is endlessly kind; I get grouchy at the drop of a hat when my kids won’t eat, sleep, or jump right when I say. He is always available; I’m so often distracted. There is no doubt about it: my kids show me my need for grace every single day.

5. They Are Ever-Present Accountability

And not just because they’ll point out every single thing you do that they’re not allowed to do (‘Daddy, “stupid” is a bad word!’; ‘Daddy, how come you are having two bowls of ice cream?’ ‘Daddy, we’re not allowed to climb up there like that!’). They’re also a source of accountability because everything I do and say now is filtered through the grid of, ‘What example am I setting for them?’ and ‘Is this the kind of husband I want my girls to look for?’ That little check keeps me on the straight-and-narrow many times.

6. They Make Me Laugh Like Crazy

People have actually commented to me that being in my house is like living in a sitcom. A lot of days I can’t disagree. I laugh pretty hard in my home. It is full of joy and I have my children to thank for that.

7. They Help Me Understand Women

I had no sisters growing up. As a young man I clearly had no idea how to understand the first thing about women. So God made me live with four of them. One of the things I’ve learned about girls is that they’re definitely female from the time they’re born on up. I’ve had to grow in my understanding of how the fairer sex thinks, learns, interacts, expresses love, receives love, hears correction, processes reality, experiences the world… the list goes on and on. My girls have (I think) helped me to understand women better. I love them for that.

8. They Bring Me to My Knees

They make me pray. My heart is immediately broken before my God when I think of those three tender little souls. I am quickly moved to pray, casting all my cares on my Father, casting all my hope for their protection, for their future, for their little hearts on him. They make me desperate, which makes me pray, which makes me love them more.

9. They Make Me Love More

I could go on all day, but I’ll end here. They make me love my them: their smiles, their joys, the way they look to me for care and guidance, their little quirks. They make me love my wife: as I watch her care for them and treasure them and bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, I grow in my love for her. They make me love my God: Who am I that I should be blessed with such wonderful little blessings as them? I am a man too blessed for words. They increase my love a hundredfold.

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