Friday, October 9, 2015

Pestering God (and a 1/2 B-day)

About an hour ago Jon called to tell me he is boarding a plane on the other side of the world and heading home. He won't actually be home till tomorrow afternoon, but still, he is on his way. And we are happy about it.

It is Jon's usual fall routine to travel and teach people the Word of God. They come each year because they are not supposed to be taught these things. Not in that country. And so it is a privilege for him to go, and for the children and I to pray for him while he is away.

This time I have with the kids each fall is also a special routine for me. The schedule remains packed and life does not slow down, but I try to interject special times with my kids. I try to create moments for conversation, to take opportunities for learning something new, and to foster closeness within relationship. In essence, I try to be more mom to my kids and seize opportunity to further some parenting goals. (And yet, happy as that may be, the difficulty of parenting alone always becomes evident!)

The first night Jon was away, we celebrated Olivia's half birthday. As usual, I had decorated the chalk board with good wishes and given her a small gift, and in the afternoon I made the requested chocolate cream puffs. Half birthday celebrations are so simple, and my kids still love them as much as they did when they were small. They don't expect much, so it's always fun to come up with an idea to make the day stand out from the rest. In years past, I remember times when I'd "pack" up a little lunch or snack and we'd eat it in a "fort," which was the dining table all covered with blankets. Or I would pull out a few things into the grass outside the condo we rented and we'd have a little tea party. This year, I got the boys in on my plan and they helped me set up in secret. Michael invited Olivia to join him on a bike ride; while they were gone Andrew pulled out the ladder, Jacob gathered some flowers, and we quickly set up our surprise. After dinner, we all went up to the roof for our dessert.


(Oh, Jacob, your camera face makes me laugh!)








Michael and Andrew were a bit more interested in the fire than they were in being social, and I confess that this irritated me! But what should I expect? They are boys, after all, and fire is pretty enticing.


This flatter section of our roof has been used more than once. We've watched fireworks from here, the recent lunar eclipse, sunsets, and more. The view is not too shabby, either, with the ocean in the horizon.


>>:<<


I have learned that if I am burdened about something, it is likely that I am not alone. So tonight, it is my prayer that God's Word would be an encouragement to you as it has been for me.

What is the burden? It is the salvation of my kids. I cannot tell you how many people I know tell me they thought their child repented and believed, was "on fire" for God, had plans for ministry, was bold at school, etc., etc. Then they grew up and rejected it all, never having been saved in the first place. This ought to be a warning for us who still have children growing up in our homes. Just because your compliant child (or mine) seems to understand, has all the right words, all the right behavior... it doesn't mean they are saved. Parents can so easily be comforted in what we see.

And what about the child that has no pretense? With them it is clear where they stand, and clear that there is no spiritual growth in the heart of the dead. At least there is no deceit (including self-deceit, which is the most dangerous). As heart wrenching as it is to clearly know their condition, at least you know exactly how to pray.

There is no greater desire for the Christian parent than to know our children are walking with the Lord. It's the end goal. Nothing else matters in comparison. I'd rather nothing more for my children than their salvation.

But I cannot do a single thing to ensure this for them. Nor can I neglect to do a single thing that would result in their damnation. God will save whom He chooses to save. It is comforting to know that I can't screw up so badly as to cause anyone to reject God, but it is unsettling to think that I am completely powerless to bring repentance.

Have you ever tried to be the Holy Spirit to your kids? I have. I've tried to be that convicting voice. It doesn't work. It only leads to my frustration and anger, and shows my lack of faith in God who does the work of salvation alone. And it builds walls of resentment within my child. 

As children grow, our relationship with them begins to shift. When they are little, we are in charge, in authority. As they grow and mature, it is our influence which will instruct them more than our authority. True influence is not bossy; it cannot boss a heart around. Influence is loving and leading (and, yes, that includes correcting), and it demonstrates faith in the Almighty. Influence leads by example, not by force. So there is a huge element of faith here, faith that God will remain in control even as our control is diminishing.

So where is my faith? And what is the quality of my faith?

Consider this passage from Mark 9:14-29, when Jesus descended from the mountain after being transfigured:

"14 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out[a] and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

~ Here we have a father, a desperate parent like me. Granted, I am thankful none of my children are possessed by demons, but let us be reminded that sin equals eternal and tormenting death! The temporal situation is not as severe, but the eternal torment which comes as a result of unforgiven sin is greater. 

~ This man was determined to seek help from Jesus, even though the leaders/ scribes had the attention of Jesus. I want to be bold and determined. I want faith that is bold and determined.

~ Jesus said, "Bring him to me." I, too, take my children to God. He wants me to! I am reminded once again that He is a compassionate God. Compassion is personal care; a deep feeling that compels to action.

~ In verse 23, Jesus' repetition of the man's words, "'If you can'!" was not anger or surprise ; it was excitement of anticipation at what He was about to do. 

~ I must be honest and bare, without pretense, and cry out to Him to have compassion and help me. If my faith is lacking, I can tell Him! He already knows it, and rejoices when I treat my relationship with Him with honesty.

~ Jesus healed the boy completely.

~ At the end of this passage, Jesus explained that God's work comes through prayer. And I know that God is inviting me into a relationship of communication with Him - of prayer - and I can come boldly and in faith. We honor God in this way because it displays our belief in His power. Conversely, we dishonor Him when we request small things and ask with little faith. Salvation is the biggest thing we could pray for, since it is a miraculous deliverance from death to life.


There is another passage about a parent coming to Jesus in faith found in Matthew 15:21 (see parallel account in Mark 7: 24-30).

"21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.”28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly."

~ This woman was a Syrophoenician woman, a gentile hated by the Jews. She called Jesus "Lord" and recognized Him as the sovereign one. Mark says she fell down at His feet.

~She was persistent. Even though Jesus seemed to ignore her at first, and the disciples were irritated and told Jesus to send her away, she did not stop crying out after Him. She pestered Jesus relentlessly.

~ When Jesus finally addressed her, she still didn't relent. (v.27: "right" doesn't mean a moral right, but rather a customary right; "dog" was the word used to describe small dogs that are not dangerous, but hung around the home for scraps of food. Jesus was saying that the gospel was to be given to the Jews first. She understood His implications, and was willing to settle for the "crumbs." She wasn't easily offended, she knew she was worthless- this is a broken and contrite spirit.)

~ Her unwavering persistence led Jesus to say, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And He healed her daughter.

~ This is what I desire-- great faith, and the spiritual healing of my children.


So let me encourage you to press on in your faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord, the one who came to seek and save the lost, the one who holds all things in His hands, the one who is compassionate. He cares about your burdened and fearful heart regarding the soul of your children, and He is mighty to save.

Be bold to pester Him in faith!


"If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" Matt. 7:11


Katherine

4 comments:

  1. Amen! Thank you for so much for such tremendous encouragement! I also lovingly remind my children, when they get caught, it represents God's mercy in their life. It is such a blessing to walk through this life with precious friends who understand the daily struggle.
    It reminds me of 1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

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    1. Brooke~
      Yes, so true! I believe that we should strive to see all the hard stuff of parenting as opportunities. Sin shows us we need God. We are just like our children in that we are so needy for God's grace.

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  2. This hits so close to home. To have a wayward child is the most painful experience. It leaves you searching for answers and clues as to what could have been done differently. It has been such a comfort to learn that while yes, we as parents have the responsibility to spiritually feed our children, it is God who calls them. Above all else the salvation of our children is THE most important thing! I pray that the Lord will not only save my children, but in His tenderness allow me to see the fruit of the residing Holy Spirit. 3 John 4!

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    1. I never knew how vulnerable my heart would be to such pain prior to having children.The reality of that pain only increases as my children get older and as I walk with other faithful Christians who are hurting (and earnestly praying) for their adult children. But be encouraged that God's timetable is unlike ours and that he is not finished calling his own. His story of redemption may not look like the one I would write, but he is sovereign and always good. He hears you and I pray, and he is loving and compassionate.

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