Discovering the Beauty of Mentorship among the Women

Note: This week our guest contributor is Annemarieke V. Ryskamp who has a passion for fostering mentorship among women. She herself leads a mentorship group. 

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I was born and raised in the Netherlands and was a teenager in the seventies. I attended a university in Utrecht. My family was like most families in Europe, not Christian at all. My dad was baptized as a baby, but the strictness of the elders of his church made his parents and himself reject the church with a vengeance. 

annemarieke

Annemarieke V. Ryskamp

My mom was from a completely non-Christian background, but she loved to read. When she was in her forties she read the Bible and became a believer. After her conversion to Christ, she encouraged me to join a student Bible study group. However, my problem was that I didn’t know a single Christian, apart from the Jehovah’s witnesses with whom my mother and brother and I had done Bible studies. We didn’t want to become Jehovah’s witnesses as the Holy Spirit had put in us discernment for the truth.  

So my family was not against God, yet we definitely didn’t like anything church related. Through a friend of mine, I could finally contact a “Christian” who welcomed me in their Bible study group. I kept asking though why this group was not taking the Bible as God’s Word, because isn’t that the definition of a Christian is someone who believes the Bible to be the very Word of God? They told me I was a “fundamentalist.” I asked them what that meant. I didn’t consider myself a Christian, but ironically I found myself defending the trustworthiness of the Bible every week. I had to read major parts of the Bible for my studies (in medieval literature) and every week God used my just-read knowledge to counter their Bible weakening arguments. By God’s grace at the end of that year I was saved. I came to know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  

The people in this group never invited me to come to their church, but I wanted to find a church where the gospel was preached faithfully, so I could learn more about my newfound faith. It took me two years to find a Bible believing church. Imagine my surprise when I found some members of that Bible study group in this church!

All this helps to explain my very hesitant attitude to the church as an organization. But God has been working on me ever since and the mentor group is one of his lessons for me.

Fast forward! 30 years later I found myself with my American husband and two children in West Michigan, attending a reformed church twice every Sunday. This shows the radical difference in church life in West Michigan as compared to that of the Netherlands.

After doing a counseling course with Dr. Jeff Doll in Hudsonville, I felt called to do something with what I had learned. After my desperate remark that the only thing I knew how to do was lead a Bible study (because I’m a teacher by profession), my son suggested I do just that.

God gently led me to realize that I should lead a group for women in our church, mentoring them according to the principles in Titus 2, as I had been when I was raising my children. I couldn’t believe that God was calling me to this kind of ministry, so I felt very reluctant. However, God orchestrated all the details. Two mentor groups formed and since I could only lead one, God also provided another leader.

God knew that my growing up in Europe would be useful, since I’ve been already exposed to issues that women, whom I am mentoring, are beginning to encounter. The secularization in Europe is about 30 years ahead of West Michigan.  And that secularization is coming here, too, in Michigan. My friends in the Netherlands didn’t get married, but would live together. Or, when they got married, they would have 1 or 2 children and then get divorced. The children would grow up in child care facilities, because both parents needed to work. There was only contempt for the stay-at-home mother. Already my mom got her share of that. She raised me as quite the feminist. But I really wanted to raise my kids myself. Thankfully, my being among Christian friends and mentors, who were doing the same here in Michigan, encouraged me to raise my children myself.  

Most of societal changes here are déjà vu for me. And as I look at where Europe is now, these societal changes are not good. The pressures on Christians in the US are mounting, leading to social persecution already. The pressures on women who want to stay home, take care of their children, and homeschool them, are feeling incredible pressure from society. It’s very difficult to consistently ignore the secular opinions in our environment and to keep going against the current. Therefore, we, as church women, under the leadership and protection of the men, need to stick together. This becomes more and more necessary as the bias against us is mounting.

Having been mentored myself and through leading a mentor group, I am convinced that God wants women in his church to help one another to stay true to his Word and be blessed by it.  All of us Christian women need to encourage each other and gently steer our sisters back when they stray. We need to be there in times of sadness; we need to rejoice with them in times of joy. In short, we all need to be mentors to each other. God is working among women in many churches to start mentor groups. Let us be obedient to the Titus 2 mandate to mentor each other.

I pray that women mentor groups will raise awareness of the fact that all women need to be mentors. We go alongside our sisters and build each other up in Christ.

 

“It’s time to show those coming behind us the beauty of God’s truth and its sufficiency for the challenges of our day. I assure you, each time you’re obedient to this calling, you’ll be able to watch Him paint your life with bigger and bolder gospel colors than you ever imagined possible.” (Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth)

 

 

 

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Mentorship

The Pursuit of Glory

Here’s my interview with Jeffrey D. Johnson about his book The Pursuit of Glory. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2018, 113 pp., paperback.the pursuit of glory

Thank you for your willingness to be interviewed about your well written book which I enjoyed reading. Here are some of my questions for you about your work:

1. Can you please tell us more about yourself and the occasion in which you penned your book?

I am a pastor of Grace Bible Church in Conway, Arkansas (gbcconway.com) and the academic dean of Grace Bible Institute of Pastoral Studies. I have been married for 15 years to my wife, Letha, and we have four children (three boys and one girl). I love to snowboard, play the banjo, and write.

The book is a byproduct of the many years of counseling I have done. After teaching anger management for 10 years and counseling for 15 years, I saw the need for such a book. I wanted something I could give to people who were depressed about life. Our culture is screaming that our identity and purpose is found in ourselves. So many people feel empty, so it seems, because they have such a small and trivial purpose (such as getting a few “likes” on Facebook), and because they are unable to live up to this superficial and artificial standard. That is, people cannot even reach the low and insignificant standard they have place upon themselves. Deep down, we know we were created for something greater, something more lasting, and something real. If we can’t satisfy even a superficial purpose, what makes us think we can stratify a divine and eternal purpose? I wrote this book to explain that we were made for something beyond our abilities to reach, but also I wrote this book to show how God enables us, through faith in Christ, to obtain the highest possible objective—God’s glory. I am convinced that only when we live for the glory of God that we will find our happiness, purpose, etc…

Much of my counseling brought me to explaining these truths, so I thought, why not write a book on it.

2. Your work deals with nine topics: (1) glory, (2) happiness, (3) purpose, (4) freedom, (5) companionship, (6) truth, (7) peace, (8) holiness, and (9) life. In light of this, why did you entitle your book The Pursuit of Glory which is the title of your book’s first chapter? Why not The Pursuit of Happiness, or The Pursuit of Life?

I started with “glory” and ended with “life” because these two things are essentially the same thing. Kind of like a circle that brings the readers back to where we started. I titled the book “The Pursuit of Glory” because I believe the word “glory” best incorporates all the longings that God has placed within our heart. We all desire happiness, purpose, freedom, etc…, and all these things can be summarized by our longing for glory. That is, we long for something eternal, something lasting, something real, something truly praise worthy. Ultimately, we are all longing for God—to know and enjoy God.

And I believe that the world is seeking to replace the reality of the glory of God with some cheap counterfeit that can never satisfy. Man is depressed, guilt redden, and miserable, a state which leads him or her to be utterly discontent. Man longs for the glory of God, even though he or she does not realize it. And as long as they are seeking for glory in all the wrong places they will remain disillusioned and frustrated.

I have counseled hundreds of people over the years, and it seems that much of the time their emotional problems comes from having their eyes placed on the wrong thing(s), and their values being shaped by the customs of this evil world. Living for the American dream ends with dreamers waking up to a nightmare.

3. You state in your book that every human being is looking for glory that can truly satisfy him or her. What is this glory that people are looking for?

The short answer is God. God is the only thing that is truly glorious. The longer answer is that man is looking for glory, which can only be found in loving and enjoying fellowship with God. The Bible tells the strong not to glory in their strength and for the wise not to glory in their wisdom. Rather, the only ones who have the right to glory are those who can glory in the fact that they know God. We too often, myself included, want to find our purpose and happiness in ourselves—ether in who we are or what we have accomplished. Such thinking leads us to vain-glory and pride. Moreover, such thinking leaves us feeling empty and unhappy because we know that we are not even good enough for ourselves. It is a terrible enslavement to depend on the constant affirmation and praise of others. We all need something more, something greater, and something more glorious than self-praise and popularity. We need God. It is only when we are satisfied with God that we will ever be satisfied at all. He alone is enough. Everything else put together comes up short—way short.

4. What do you think is the unique contribution of your book to the study of glory? And if there are three important lessons concerning glory that you would like your readers to learn from your book, what would they be?

Overall, I hope my book demonstrates that our own pursuit of glory is tied to the glory of God. If we want to find glory, it will be found only when we enjoy God’s glory. Once our lives are satisfied in God’s glory, will we have glory—meaning, purpose, life, and others.

Three practical lessons would be:

First, having innate desires, cravings, and passions are not (in-and-of themselves) sinful. Even the longings of the body are good when we seek to satisfy them by lawful means and do not exalt the things of the world above God.

Second, the body and the soul both have longings/desires. The five senses of the body crave the things of this world, while the craving of the soul craves after God. Though our depravity and selfishness tell us that we can only be happy when the insatiable longings of the body are being contentiously fed, that real satisfaction is only found when the longings of the soul are satisfied in Christ.

Third, that every longing of the soul (e.g., the longing for glory, happiness, purpose, freedom, etc.) is satisfied in one place—knowing God through faith in Christ.

5. What projects are you currently working on?

For the last 10 years, off and on, I have been working on a systematic theology.  I am about 1/3 done, so it will be a lifetime project. I have other smaller projects, however, that I am working on as well, such as revision and expanding a book I have written on the atonement, and a small little book on cessationism.

 

Note: To purchase a copy of The Pursuit of Glory, click here.

the pursuit of glory

Interview

Early Christian Spirituality

Before I survey the various facets of early Christian spirituality (a period which runs from around A.D. 100 to A.D. 600), let me first define the word “spirituality,” especially as this term is understood in diverse ways. Spirituality “is the outworking in the real life of a person’s religious faith—what a person does with what they believe” (McGrath, Christian Spirituality , 2). Spirituality may be distinguished from theology in that the former is about the experiential aspects of faith, while the latter is about the theoretical aspects of faith. Yet, the two are closely related and even inseparable: theology gives substance to spirituality; and spirituality gives life to theology.

“[T]he fathers never split theology off from spirituality, as though theology was academic, mental exercise best practiced in one’s study, while Christian spirituality was more appropriately focused on the heart and centered in a church sanctuary. Any split between mind and heart, theology and spirituality, study and sanctuary would have met with scant toleration from the fathers” (Hall, Learning Theology with the Church Fathers, 10). Nevertheless, in this brief post, my primary concern is to look at the spirituality of the early Christians—to see how they behaved rather than what they believed. So how did they behave? Who were they?

First, the early Christians were men and women of prayer. They conversed with God as those who were aware that God was listening and as those who were confident that God was going to answer their prayers. And their prayer was solidly Trinitarian, addressed to the Father, in the name of the Son, and with the help of the Holy Spirit. A quick glance of Augustine’s Confessions, written in the form of a prayer, will readily prove this point. The doctrine of the Trinity itself, codified during the patristic era, came to us as a gift from the fathers who proclaimed and praised the Triune God. The more I read these early Christians, the more I am convinced that behind their success in the ministry was their prayer life. I am specially thinking of Patrick’s fruitful ministry in Ireland. We know from his Confession how he earnestly prayed for the Irish. Yet, he was humbly conscious that if he was able to pray fervently, it was because the Holy Spirit enabled him.

Augustine pic

St. Augustine in His Study by Vittore Carpaccio, 1502 (courtesy of Wikipedia) 

Second, the early Christians were lovers of the Scriptures. They “turn always to the Bible as the source of their ideas. No matter how rigorous or abstruse their thinking—for example, in dealing with a complex and subtle topic like the distinctive identity of each person of the Trinity—Christian thinkers always began with specific biblical texts” (Wilken, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, 26). They read, studied, memorized, and mediated on the Scriptures. Augustine once said, “The hearer of God’s Word ought to be like those animals that chew the cud; he ought not only feed upon it, but to ruminate upon it” (Cited in Thomas, comp. Golden Treasury of Patristic Quotations, 34). Of course, some of them followed monastic rules, but for them their allegiance was first to the Bible and then to these rules. “We must surrender ourselves, said Augustine, “to the authority of Holy Scripture, for it can neither mislead nor be misled” (Golden Treasury of Patristic Quotations, 29). Their strong commitment to God’s Word resulted in the canon of the New Testament, another gift to us by the church fathers.

Third, the early Christians were pursuers of holiness. In the midst of their great struggle with their indwelling sin, they strove to live a godly life. In fact, their ultimate goal in the study of the Bible was not to produce a set of dogma, but to lead people “to holiness of life.” The “goal of life came to be understood as likeness to Christ” (The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, 22). They wanted to imitate Christ, taking holiness seriously. As a Protestant I confess that I am not comfortable with their monastic means of pursuing Christlikeness. However, I have a high respect for those who ascetically separated themselves from the world to devote their entire lives to God. For instance, I respect Macrina who chose a life of chastity and poverty, that she might devote her life fully to Jesus whom she considered her eternal husband. Her desire to maintain sexual purity and have a simple (not materialistic) life was commendable.

Fourth, the early Christians were zealously evangelistic and mission-minded. They were not quiet about their faith in Christ, nor were they afraid to share it with others. Even if they knew that proclaiming the gospel could mean suffering, or even death, they would still do it. Patrick wrote in his Confession, “In the light, therefore, of our faith in the Trinity I must make this choice, regardless of danger I must make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, without fear and frankly I must spread everywhere the name of God” (Confession 14). At one point, when faced with threats (such as “murder, fraud, or captivity”), Patrick responded by simply entrusting his life to his sovereign God: “I fear none of these things because … I have cast myself into the hands of God Almighty, who rules everywhere.” And Patrick’s passion to proclaim the gospel to others flowed out of his gratitude to God for saving him.

Finally, the early Christians were people who counted it a great honor to suffer, or die for Christ’s sake. If one were to ask them, “What’s your ambition in life?” Their answer would probably have been something like this: “to die for the sake of Christ.” And for them, it was through martyrdom that they could prove their deep devotion to Christ. No wonder then why they would even take delight in dying as martyrs. Listen, for example, to Ignatius of Antioch who longed to die as a martyr: “May I have the pleasure of the wild beasts that have been prepared for me; and I pray that they prove to be prompt with me. I will even coax them to devour me quickly, not as they have done with some, whom they were too timid to touch. And if when I am willing and ready they are not, I will force them … Fire and cross and battles with wild beasts, mutilation, mangling, wrenching of bones, the hacking of limbs, the crushing of my whole body, cruel tortures of the devil—let these come upon me, only let me reach Jesus Christ” (Ignatius, Romans 5:1-3). Elsewhere Ignatius states, “It is better for me to die for Jesus Christ than to rule over the ends of the earth. Him I seek, who died on our behalf; him I long for, who rose again for our sake” (Ignatius, Romans 6). These early Christians were not afraid to die because they knew that their death would only usher them to the very presence of Christ.

May we capture the piety of these early Christians! May we be people of prayer, lovers of the Bible, pursuers of holiness, zealously evangelistic and mission-minded, and willing to suffer or die for our Lord’s sake.

 

 

 

 

 

Church Fathers Spirituality

How Are You? 

How Are You

Note: This week our guest contributor is Marie Sweezer, a wife and mother of two living children. She and her husband Jordan lost their daughter, Katherine (Katie) Grace, shortly after she was born on June 15, 2018 at 37 weeks. I recently visited them and was so blessed by this couple’s testimony, who, even as their newborn daughter was dying could say by God’s grace, “No matter what happens, God is good.” This is their version of Job’s confession: “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).

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Marie & Jordan Sweezer with thier baby Katie

Marie and Jordan Sweezer holding their baby Katie, who went to be with her Lord, 7 1/2 hours after she was born. 

How are you? That question can be at times so hard to answer right now. When someone asks me how I am, (and I can see in their eyes how much they care) I find myself just wanting to cry because, honestly, I’m overwhelmed with so many emotions.

Encountering mothers that are pregnant, or were pregnant with me and have babies now, looking at photos of new babies, hearing announced pregnancies, seeing my c-section scar, feeling the pain of my incision when I do too much, and having milk come down and leak thru my shirt are just some of the reminders that I don’t have my daughter.

I cry and hurt because I miss my baby girl. It’s hard and so very painful at times. And I believe there will always be a certain sadness about losing my baby as long as I live. However, I am putting my trust in the Lord, knowing that He is in complete control. But grief is still a real thing. To grieve doesn’t mean you aren’t a strong person, or not a believer. Even our Lord Jesus Christ wept (John 11:35). And contrary to popular opinion, there is no time limit on grief, or even really a “cycle” that every person goes through that loses a loved one. Everyone is different; and so, everyone will grieve differently.

I have found myself having such good days when honestly I can say my daughter’s name, or hear it. Doing this just puts a smile on my face. Then I have days where the mere thought of her, or just the sight of a newborn baby brings me to my knees, crying my eyes out. Everyday is different. Psalm 42 I think describes the feelings I have so well: the feeling of sadness but also the felling of joy which can only be found in Christ alone. This passage is such a beautiful chapter. I encourage you to read it; and read it in different translations to get the full grasp of what the psalmist is describing.

Marie & Jordan Sweezer with thier baby

Marie and Jordan Sweezer holding their precious baby

These past few weeks after losing Katie, many mothers, who have lost children shortly after birth, have connected with me. I encourage you, if you are one of those mothers, to continue to look to Christ. When you feel those tears coming on, when you get those feelings of anger and frustration, PRAY, PRAY, and PRAY. Prayer is such an amazing thing. Our loving God hears our cries to Him! We are to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17) and to be constantly filling our minds with the things of God (Phil. 4:8). What I learned recently which I found to be so encouraging is that the word “comfort” actually means “strength” in Latin.

As a believer in Christ, what is your only comfort in life and in death, or what is your only strength in life and in death? The answer is: “that I am not my own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him” (Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 1).

I encourage you that no matter what you are facing in this life, look to Christ for strength. He is our strength. He loves and takes care of His people. It’s in Him only that true comfort lies.  “He heels the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds” (Ps. 147:3).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Death Family Father Mother

The Church Fathers as Our Spiritual Mentors

Here’s my interview with Dr. Michael Haykin regarding his book The Church Fathers as Spiritual Mentors. Dr. Haykin has a doctorate in patristics and is a member of North American Patristics Society. He is also the author of Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church and the series editor of the Early Church Fathers series.

“The patristic era,” says Dr. Haykin, “though not a golden age as some would depict it, is nonetheless one of the most significant eras in church history.”

Haykin

Church Fathers Interview

Three Reflections on Pastoral Ministry

Three Reflections on Pastoral Ministry

Note: Today I have Ian Macleod as my guest contributor. Born and raised in Scotland, Ian is a Th.M. graduate of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. In 2015 he was ordained to the ministry at Grand Rapids Free Reformed Church where he continues to serve as a pastor and teacher. Here are his three reflections, reflecting on almost three (quick) years of his pastoral ministry:

1. Privilege

I count it an enormous privilege to minister to God’s people as a pastor and teacher in my local congregation here in Grand Rapids. Because we serve in a seminary community, our congregation is blessed with a steady flow of students and families that come to us and go from us from all over the world. It’s really a little foretaste of heaven. And yet for all the enriching diversity we have, the basic need of each person, and the great answer to that need, is the same – the Savior who was dead and is alive forever (Rev. 1:18)! There’s not a different gospel for the American, the Egyptian, the Dutchman, the Malawian, the South Korean, the Scot, or anyone else. “There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him” (Rom. 10:12). It’s the greatest wonder and at the same time the greatest privilege to me that the Lord has called me to preach “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).

2. Personal Holiness

Alongside the great privilege of pastoring and preaching, there is also the sense of great responsibility. I must give an account for the souls of my people (Heb. 13:17), I must rightly divide the word and preach the word (2 Tim. 2:15), I must “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine,” and I must do this “in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2). It’s no wonder Paul said, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:16). And yet, behind all these things, there is the greatest and most convicting need – my own personal holiness. John Owen said, “If the word do not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us.” Along similar lines, Robert Murray M’Cheyne said, “The greatest need of my people is my own holiness.” This is very convicting.

I remember, as I contemplated a call to the ministry, telling my minister back in Scotland that one of my great concerns was this: “What do I do if I am spiritually cold?” There are so many great and glorious texts in Scripture – “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16), “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20), “Christ loved the church and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25) – but how do I enter a pulpit and preach from these texts if I am spiritually cold? My late minister knew what I was speaking about: “Often I feel that the earthenness of the vessel will take away from the excellence of the treasure, but it is often in these moments when we feel we have nothing that the Lord comes in a special way with His grace.” I’ve often found that to be true. But equally true is this: the gospel ministry does not allow for spiritual coasting. The most important way I watch out for the souls of others is to watch out for my own.

3. Priorities

In working through a series on Philippians, it has struck me again how Paul’s priorities are Christ- and gospel- and church-centered. Some have used the acronym JOY to describe these priorities: Jesus first, Others second, You last. Of course, Paul is pointing us to Christ Jesus himself, the one who prioritized the interests of others before his own, and though “being in the form of God,” humbled himself to the very death of the cross (Phil. 2:5-8). The searching question I have often been confronted with, as I have walked beside Paul in these verses, is this: Do I have the same priorities he does? I want them. “Lord, the beautiful, mutual, Christian love between Paul and the Philippians, give that love more and more to me and my congregation.” “Lord, the love and zeal Paul has for the gospel, even while maligned in a Roman prison, give that love and zeal to me.” “Lord, give me, and give the precious people I serve, the same Jesus-first, Others-second, Me-last priorities more and more and more.”

Sometimes I have felt that with our busy, hustle-bustle world, our priorities have become somewhat skewed. We all have a tendency to think that activity is good, and more activity is better, and relentless activity is best. Activity is certainly good. However, my own increasing conviction is that our activity needs some realignment (which will probably require some decluttering of our schedules). There is a beautiful simplicity to what the apostolic church prioritized. They were certainly active, but after decades of observation, Luke could sum up their activity in the following simple way. Literally, he says in Acts 2:42, “And they devoted themselves to (i.e., they gave priority to) the apostles’ doctrine and to the fellowship, and to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42). “Lord, give us these priorities too.”

John Owen

Ministry Pastor

My Father-in-law’s Advice to Me

My Father-in-law_s Advice to Me (pic)

I’m blessed to have a godly and wise father-in-law, Rev. Bartel Elshout, who is known for his translation of Wilhelmus à Brakel’s The Christian’s Reasonable Service. I so much value his wisdom in that whenever I need to make an important decision I always seek his counsel. Recently, I asked him if there’s any advice that he could give to me as a father of now four children. He said (and I’m sharing his advice with his permission),

“Make sure you spend enough time with your children! Life is a one-way street, and you get to spend each day with your children only once. Time not spent with your children can never be relived. When I was a young father, I was a very busy man. I was the principal of a Christian school and also served as elder in the church. In hindsight, I should not have had this double commitment. Even though I did my utmost to spend time with my oldest son David (now 43), he still vividly remembers that often I was too busy for him. Once he called me in the not too distant past, and at that particular moment I could not talk to him. He responded, ‘Dad, are you too busy for me again?’ What a painful moment this was for me! My son still remembered that 30 plus years ago I was too busy for him. Therefore, young fathers, do not make the mistake I made by overcommitting yourself. Each day in the lives of your children is a day that cannot be relived!”

Indeed, one of the most common things that fathers regret before they die is this: “I worked too much and did not spend enough time with my family.” God wants us to work diligently to provide for our family. But when we work at the expense of our relationship with our family, our work becomes harmful rather than helpful. In his 2011 Father’s Day message, former President Barack Obama expressed his regret for not spending enough time with his children when they were younger. Listen to what he said:

“When Malia and Sasha were younger, work kept me away from home more than it should have. At times, the burden of raising our two daughters has fallen too heavily on Michelle. During the campaign, not a day went by that I didn’t wish I could spend more time with the family I love more than anything else in the world. But through my own experiences, and my continued efforts to be a better father, I have learned something over the years about what children need most from their parents. They need our time, measured not only in the number of hours we spend with them each day, but what we do with those hours.”

The late American evangelist Billy Graham expressed a similar regret. When interviewed by Christianity Today about anything he could have done differently, Billy Graham said:

“I’d spend more time at home with my family, and I’d study more and preach less. I wouldn’t have taken so many speaking engagements, including some of the things I did over the years that I probably didn’t really need to do—weddings and funerals and building dedications, things like that. Whenever I counsel someone who feels called to be an evangelist, I always urge them to guard their time and not feel like they have to do everything.”

Fathers, before it is too late, let’s spend quality time with our children. Some fathers think that their duty is only to provide for their children’s material and physical needs. That’s only part of our duty as fathers. We are also called to provide for our children’s spiritual and emotional needs. Interestingly, when our children develop sinful habits or patterns of life, we quickly ask, “Why is my son or daughter behaving this way? What’s wrong with my child?” But perhaps, we could also ask ourselves: “Am I taking time to also provide spiritually and emotionally for my children? Do I spend time with them? Do I play with them? Do I read God’s Word and pray with them? Do I discipline them when necessary? Do I encourage them? Do I assure them of my love?”

Fathers, our children need our presence not just our pockets. I remember this touching story: “A little boy who had been begging his father for favors all day came once into his daddy’s office. ‘What do you want this time?’ asked the weary parent. ‘I don’t want anything,’ was the astonishing reply, ‘I just want to be with you.’”

Fathers, if we are honest with ourselves, we all fail to spend time with our children as we should. That’s why we need to pray earnestly to God for his grace to be able to properly balance our work and family responsibilities. We also need to pray daily that we may be able to model God’s fatherly character to our children, always pointing them to him, who, for Christ’s sake, will never leave us, nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). And when we do fail in our calling as fathers, let us not despair. There is always forgiveness in the Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 1:9).

 

Note: To read the article in Spanish, click here.

father's day quote

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