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).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

Family Father Marriage Parenting Parents

Steps for Personal and Family Revival

  1. Pray the prayer of the psalmist: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24).
  1. Be totally honest as you answer each question.
  1. Agree with God about each need He reveals in your life. Confess each sin, with the willingness to make it right and forsake it.
  1. Praise God for His cleansing and forgiveness.
  1. Renew your mind and rebuild your life through meditation and practical application of the Word of God.
  1. Review these questions periodically to remain sensitive to your need for ongoing revival.

 

A. Genuine Salvation (2 Cor. 5:17)

  1. Was there ever a time in my life that I genuinely repented of my sin? Yes or No
  1. Was there ever a time in my life that I placed all my trust in Jesus Christ alone to save me? Yes or No
  1. Was there ever a time in my life that I completely surrendered to Jesus Christ as the Master and Lord of my life? Yes or No
  1. Is Christ lived out in my home and have I physically confessed Him Lord at home. Yes or No

 

B. God’s Word (Ps. 119:97 &140)

  1. Do I love to read and meditate on the Word of God? Yes or No
  1. Are my personal devotions consistent and meaningful? Yes or No
  1. Do I practically apply God’s Word to my everyday life? Yes or No
  1. Do we as a family discuss God’s Word often? Yes or No

 

C. Humility (Isa. 57:15)

  1. Am I quick to recognize and agree with God in confession when I have sinned? Yes or No
  1. Am I quick to admit to others when I am wrong? Yes or No
  1. Do I rejoice when others are praised and recognized and my accomplishments go unnoticed by men? Yes or No
  1. Do I esteem all others as better than myself? Yes or No
  2. Do I rejoice when others in my family succeed? Yes or No

 

D. Obedience (1 Sam. 15:22; Heb. 13:17)

  1. Do I consistently obey what I know God wants me to do? Yes or No
  1. Do I consistently obey the human authorities God has placed over my life? Yes or No
  1. Do I consistently obey and honor my parents? Yes or No

 

E. Pure Heart (1 John 1:9)

  1. Do I confess my sin by name? Yes or No
  1. Do I keep “short sin accounts” with God (confess and forsake as He convicts)? Yes or No
  1. Am I willing to give up all sin for God? Yes or No
  1. Do I repent and confess my sins to others in my family? Yes or No

 

F. Clear Conscience (Acts 24:16)

  1. Do I consistently seek forgiveness from those I wrong or offend? Yes or No
  1. Is my conscience clear with every man? (Can I honestly say, “There is no one I have ever wronged or offended in any way and not gone back to them and sought their forgiveness and made it right”?) Yes or No
  1. Is my relationship right with each family member? Yes or No
  1. Do I go to bed at night with unresolved conflict with others in the family? Yes or No

 

G. Priorities (Matt. 6:33)

  1. Does my schedule reveal that God is first in my life? Yes or No
  1. Does my checkbook reveal that God is first in my life? Yes or No
  1. Next to my relationship with God, is my relationship with my family my highest priority? Yes or No

 

H. Values (Col. 3:12)

  1. Do I love what God loves and hate what God hates? Yes or No
  1. Do I value highly the things that please God (e.g., giving, witnessing to lost souls, studying His Word, prayer)? Yes or No
  1. Are my affections and goals fixed on eternal values? Yes or No
  1. Are Biblical values reflected in my selection of music and T.V./movies? Yes or No

 

I. Sacrifice (Phil. 3:7-8)

  1. Am I willing to sacrifice whatever is necessary to see God move in my life and church (time, convenience, comfort, reputation, pleasure, etc.)? Yes or No
  1. Is my life characterized by genuine sacrifice for the cause of Christ? Yes or No
  1. Do I have a servant’s heart at home? Yes or No

 

J. Spirit-Control (Gal. 5:22-25; Eph. 5:18-21)

  1. Am I allowing Jesus to be Lord of every area of my life? Yes or No
  1. Am I allowing the Holy Spirit to “fill” (control) my life each day? Yes or No
  1. Is there consistent evidence of the “fruit of the Spirit” being produced in my life? Yes or No

 

K. “First Love” (Phi. 1:21-23)

  1. Am I as much in love with Jesus as I have ever been? Yes or No
  1. Am I thrilled with Jesus; filled with His joy and peace, and making Him the continual object of my love? Yes or No
  1. How would others in my family view my love toward God on a scale of 1-10?

 

L. Motives (Matt. 10:28; Acts 5:29)

  1. Am I more concerned about what God thinks about my life than about what others think? Yes or No
  1. Would I pray, read my Bible, give and serve as much if nobody but God ever noticed? Yes or No
  1. Am I more concerned about pleasing God than I am about being accepted and appreciated by men? Yes or No

 

 M. Moral Purity (Eph. 5:3-4)

  1. Do I keep my mind free from books, magazines, or entertainment that could stimulate fantasizing thoughts that are not morally pure? Yes or No
  1. Are my conversation and behavior pure and above reproach? Yes or No
  1. Do mom and dad approve of my friendships? Yes or No

 

N. Forgiveness (Col. 3:12-13)

  1. Do I seek to resolve conflicts in relationships as soon as possible? Yes or No
  1. Am I quick to forgive those who hurt or wrong me? Yes or No

 

O. Sensitivity (Matt. 5:23-24)

  1. Am I sensitive to the conviction and promptings of God’s Spirit? Yes or No
  1. Am I quick to respond in humility and obedience to the conviction and promptings of God’s Spirit? Yes or No
  1. Am I sensitive to my parent’s desires? Yes or No

 

P. Evangelism (Luke 24:46-48; Rom. 9:3)

  1. Do I have a burden for lost souls? Yes or No
  1. Do I consistently witness for Christ? Yes or No

 

Q. Prayer (1 Tim. 2:1)

  1. Am I faithful in praying for the needs of others? Yes or No
  1. Do I pray specifically, fervently and faithfully for revival in my life, my church and our nation? Yes or No
  1. How much time do we spend as a family in prayer?

 

 

From George W. Noble’s Book of 750 Bible and Gospel Studies (1909)

Family Revival Uncategorized

A Father’s Regret

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, President Barack Obama expressed his regret for not spending enough time with his children when they were younger:hqdefault

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 American evangelist Billy Graham expressed a similar regret. When interviewed by Christianity Today about anything he could have done differently, Graham (who is now 96) 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. Let’s provide not only for their physical needs but also for their spiritual and emotional needs. Let me end this post with this powerful story that I’ve read:

The story is told of a young man who stood at the bar of justice to be sentenced for forgery. The judge had known him from a child and had also known the family intimately. The boy’s father was a famous legal light, having written some of the best material on the subject of “Trusts.” “Do you remember your father?” asked the judge in a stern fashion, “that father whom you have disgraced?” “Yes,” said the boy. “I remember him perfectly. “When I went to him for advice and companionship, he often said to me, ‘Run away boy. I am too busy.’ My father gave all his time to his work, and had little time for me. So here I am.” The great lawyer had written much about trusts, but had missed the greatest trust of all—his own son.

God has laid definite responsibilities on parents. What a tragedy to make the mistake that the great lawyer made.

 

Family Father

Adam: His Wedding, Work, & Woe (Part 2 of 3)

Adam’s Work

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and kepictureep it” (Gen. 2:15). Adam’s work is two-fold as far as his role as a husband is concerned.

First, God has placed Adam in the garden in order for Adam to provide for his wife.

The word “work” in this verse is better to be translated as “cultivate.” Adam is to tend the garden. He needs to work for the provision of his wife and for God’s praise. Work was not a result of sin but a God-ordained instrument through which man can glorify his Creator by providing for his family. Husbands, as long as the Lord enables us, it is our obligation to provide for our family. Are you fulfilling your duty?

 

Second, God has also put Adam in the garden in order for Adam to protect his wife.

The Hebrew term translated “keep” in verse 15 also means “watch” or “guard.” God has appointed Adam to watch the Garden of Eden which is Adam’s home. Adam is to look after everything that is in this garden. And since Eve is in the garden, it is also his responsibility to look after Eve—to keep her away from the forbidden tree and to protect her from Satan, the great tempter.

Husbands, it is our holy occupation to protect our family from the Devil and to keep our home from temptations. Fathers, we are to guard our children from “the [sinful] desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life” (1 John 2:16). Doing such an important responsibility requires time. It may be likened to gardening. If you want to have a good garden, then you must invest time in your garden. Fertilize, water, and weed it.

Some fathers think that their duty is only to provide for their family’s material and physical needs. That’s only part of our duty as fathers. We are also called to protect our family from spiritual dangers. You may work 80 hours a week, but yet you hardly see your children. You don’t have time to talk to them, read God’s Word with them, pray with them, play with them, and counsel them. Then, when your children don’t act according to God’s Word, you ask, “Why is my son or daughter acting this way? What’s wrong with my child?” Perhaps, we need to ask ourselves: “What’s wrong with me? Am I taking time to also provide spiritually and emotionally for my family?”

Husbands, we must also work on our marriage. A husband who desires to have a healthy relationship with his wife must work hard at his relationship with her. He should not expect to have a good relationship with his wife, if he does not cultivate his love for her. Husbands, do you still date your wife? When was the last time you took her out to spend quality time with each other? Remember, the condition of your marriage can affect your children. Someone has rightly observed, “A father’s first responsibility to his child is to love his wife. The most favored children in the world are those whose parents love each other.”

 

In the next post we will look at Adam’s woe.

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An Interview with Brian Croft about his book The Pastor’s Family: Shepherding Your Family Through the Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013, 171 pp., paperback.

It was a joy to meet you at the 2013 Puritan Reformed Conference. I enjoyed reading your practical and gospel-centered book. I especially appreciated its humble and honest tone.

Here are some of my questions for you about your book:9780310495093_30

1. How would you respond to a pastor who says that his ministry is his priority over his family? You may also want to comment on William Carey’s conviction that ministry work must come first before family responsibility.

I would tell him that he is disobeying the Word of God and the biblical calling of a pastor.  A pastor’s calling in 1 Timothy 3 is to first manage his household before the church.  I would also say that a pastor will give an account for souls (Heb. 13:17) not just in the church, but those in his family.  I would argue the account will be given first to those in his household.  A pastor’s first ministry is to his family, then the church.  Lose your family, you will lose your ministry.  

2. On page 41 you state, “Being a pastor and the wife of a pastor can indeed be a very lonely position.” Can you please elaborate your thoughts on this statement?

Most think the pastor and his wife would be the ones with the most friends in the church.  The opposite is usually the case.  Because of the position of the pastor in a church, it is hard to be transparent and open with certain folks not knowing what might later be used against him.  Many relationships are based upon those wanting to get close to the pastor for personal gain, not simply friendship.  This makes it hard for the pastor and his wife to find meaningful friendships and most pastors do not make the effort to find them outside their church.

3. What do you think is a pastor’s main problem as far as balancing his family and ministry responsibility is concerned?

The pastor’s main problem is not what he thinks it is.  It is not the demands and pressures put upon him.  The pastor’s main problem that causes an imbalance is his own sinful heart.  It is his heart that makes him desire things that would cause the ministry to become an idol to him, thus neglecting his family.  The pastor has to apply the power of the gospel to his heart struggles in the ministry to prevent family neglect.

4. What is the biblical solution to the problem mentioned in question # 3?

The power of the gospel not only saves us from our sins, but it also empowers us to overcome the sins of our hearts that affect our daily lives.  The pastor must identify the sinful struggles in his heart that pull him away from his family, and repent.  Then, he must turn to the Scriptures as the guide to how a pastor must conduct his life.  Scripture gives us the blueprint to the calling of a pastor (1 Timothy 3:4-5), what the pastor should be doing with his time (Heb. 13:17; 1 Peter 5:1-4), and how essential it is for a pastor to care for his wife (Eph. 5:22-33; 1 Peter 3:1-7) and shepherd his children (Eph. 6:1-4) in the midst of his life and ministry.  As the pastor ministers God’s Word, he must himself walk in it to counter the sinful temptations that lead to neglect of the family.

5. This question is for your wife Cara: In what way can a pastor’s wife best help her husband in the ministry?  

Each ministry is different, therefore what each husband needs will be different.  I can not give you a specific answer except this, ask them.  If you really want to know what your husband needs for you to do, ask him, and then be willing to hear whatever his answer may be.  I know it sounds simple, but we as women tend to think we know what our husbands need and how they need us to serve.  The truth is there may be a way that they are desiring for us to serve and we have never taken the time to ask them.

The second answer I would give is to pray for husbands.  Our husbands need our prayers.  And we need to not only pray for them but we need to tell them we are praying for them and ask in what specific ways we can pray for them better.  This does two things.  First it encourages our husbands by letting them know that we are thinking and interceding on their behalf.  Second, it allows us to see into our husbands’ hearts a bit deeper and to know more of the burdens they are carrying.  We need to be lifting them before God daily and seeking ways to encourage them as they labor both for the church and for our families.  Notice I said “we”.  That is because this is a lesson I am still learning.

6. What projects are you currently working on?

I have several books I am working on.  There is a companion with the Pastor’s Family that will be about, “The Pastor’s Ministry” which will be focused on the top 10 biblical priorities of every pastor’s ministry.  Then I am writing, co-writing, and editing 6 more books for our Practical Shepherding series, all to be published in the next two years.  Practical books on administration, caring for widows, planning and leading worship, praying for the flock, and how to comfort the grieving are some of the topics of these books.  We are very excited about all the Lord is doing with Practical Shepherding and the books that will be the foundation for our ministry for year to come, Lord willing.

Note: You can buy the book here.

Family Interview Ministry Pastor

Five Lessons from Our Daughter Anna

 

Our child Anna has already taught me and my wife many lessons. A few of them are:

  1. To marvel more at God’s creative power. Watching Anna grow in the womb, and even now as she develops by leaps and bounds each month, makes us stand in awe of the miracle of life.
  2. To be more dependent on God. Realizing the great responsibility that God has entrusted to us as well as recognizing our weakness has made us more prayerful.
  3. To love each other more.  My wife and I fall more in love with each other as we care for Anna together.
  4. To be less selfish. We’ll never forget holding Anna in our arms the very first time. An overwhelming love swept over us, and this little girl’s needs became the priority over our own, her comfort more important than ours.
  5. To see beauty in and to appreciate the “little” things in life. Anna finds such joy in a simple game of peek-a-boo, or in taking a walk to look at Daddy’s garden. Anna teaches us not to lose amazement of things that we see daily such as trees, birds, clouds, and other things that point us to our wonderful God.

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