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.

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How Should We View Our Children?

How-Should-We-View-Our title

I cannot recall how many times I met people who honestly told me that they did not want to have children because children would just interfere with their lives. They viewed children as a burden, rather than a blessing. In fact, a certain woman frankly told me that she was too selfish to have a child. She did not want to have a child, because she knew it would mean an inconvenient life.

Do you know how many babies are aborted per day in the U. S.? The answer is heart breaking—approximately 3,700 babies per day. And 93 % of all abortions happen generally because of inconvenience.  Listen to the following statistics:

1% of all abortions occur because of rape or incest; 6% of abortions occur because of potential health problems regarding either the mother or child, and 93% of all abortions occur for social reasons (i.e. the child is unwanted or inconvenient).

In other words, if you were to ask 100 mothers who aborted their children, “Why did you abort your child?” A large number of them would probably say something like this: “Well, because that baby in my womb would just interfere with my education or career.” Or, “I don’t want to have an inconvenient life.”

What?! You aborted your unborn baby simply because you didn’t want to have an inconvenient life?! Of course, it can be inconvenient to have a baby. You will experience sleepless nights as you nurse your baby in the middle of the night or rock your sick baby to sleep. You will have additional expenses, messes to clean up; and, your days will not always go according to your schedule. Children can indeed “interfere” with some of our plans.

Of course, it is difficult to raise a child. Being a parent comes with great responsibilities (you provide for your children, take care of them, train them in the way they should go, correct and discipline them, and the list goes on and on). Such responsibilities are not always easy to do, especially if a child has a physical or mental disability.

And, of course, it can be stressful to have children. Kids can sometimes be annoying. They can test your patience. Having children requires sacrifice. You need to sacrifice your time, your comfort, and sometimes your dreams. Oh, but the joy of parenting surpasses its stress and sacrifice. The blessing of parenthood outweighs its discomfort.

My wife and I have four little children. Yes, I don’t deny the difficulty of parenting. But, with God’s help, I can say that the delight of parenting exceeds its difficulty. Money cannot buy the joy of hearing your child’s heartbeat for the first time, the joy of hearing your child say “Mama” or “Dada” for the first time, the joy of feeling your child’s arms wrap around your neck, the joy of watching your children grow and learn, and, the Lord willing, the joy of hearing them confess with their mouths that Jesus is their Lord and Savior (Rom. 10:9).

Some of you may say, “That’s wonderful, but what if I will have a child who will never be able to do any of those things due to a physical or mental disability?” I cannot begin to imagine the heartache of parents whose child is physically or mentally disabled. However, one thing I do know is that there can be comfort and joy in knowing that our children are created for God’s glory and for our good (Rom. 8:28).

Let me share this story that I once heard from my mother-in-law.

There was a God-fearing woman in the Netherlands who had a child born to her that was totally disabled. The child could not walk, could not talk, and could not respond. The child lay this way for 18 years. One day, as the mother stood, looking at her child, she felt rebellion and despair in her heart, and said out loud, “Why were you ever created? Why were you ever born?” All of a sudden, this child who never spoke, said, “To glorify God forever.” And then, the child died.

So, if you are one of those who don’t want to have children because of fear that your children might just interfere with your life, I encourage you to rethink your view of children. Children are not a burden but a blessing, created for God’s glory. As the Bible says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD” (Ps. 127:3). In Hebrew the word heritage (also translated as inheritance) indicates that ultimately our children are not a result of our work. When you receive an inheritance from your parents (a sum of money), you receive it as a gift from them. You did not work for it; they did! They simply gave it to you out of their own good pleasure. Likewise, ultimately it is our God who makes children. And he gives them to us as a gift out of his own good pleasure. Children are one of the ways that God chooses to bless us and to glorify himself.

Therefore, to those of you who do not want to have children because you think they will just be a burden and inconvenience, may you repent of your unbiblical view of children and may you begin to see God’s grand and glorious design in blessing parents with children.

Now, to those of us who already have children, may I lovingly ask you: How do view your children? A burden or a blessing? When Esau asked his brother Jacob, “Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant” (Gen. 33:5). Here, Jacob viewed his children as a gracious gift from God. Truly, our children are an undeserved gift from God. God could have chosen others to become parents of your children. Instead, God chose you to be a parent of your children. Let us then thank and praise God for our children. May we never regard them as a burden but as a blessing from God—from whom all blessings flow. And may God grant us grace, as we train up our children in the way they should go, so that when they are old they will not depart from it (Prov. 22:6).

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10 Tips on Handling Our Children’s Anger

In his book How to Really Love Your Teenager, Ross Campbell says that “one of the most important areas in which a teenager needs training is in how to handle anger….Anger is normal and occurs in every human being. The problem is not the anger itself but in managing it. This is where most people have a problem” (60). In this post we will learn from God’s Word to see how we can effectively handle our children’s anger and how we can better help them manage their anger.

Before we continue, let us define first the word anger and clarify some misunderstanding about it. According to one dictionary, anger is “a strong feeling of displeasure…aroused by a wrong.” Hence, to be angry or to have a strong feeling of displeasure about something which is morally wrong is not necessarily sinful. In fact, Jesus himself got angry and yet he did not sin (Mark 3:5; John 2:14-16). We can be angry and commit no sin. Also, we have to remember that the Bible never tells us not to be angry. In fact, Scripture commands us to be angry. “Be angry,” says Paul in Ephesians 4:26. However, we must be angry without sinning: “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” In short, we can be angry but we should not allow our anger to turn into sin. Therefore, when we deal with our children’s anger, it is important to remember the following four points:

 

  1. Anger is not always a sin. And so, we should not be quick to judge our children whenever we see them angry. It could be that their anger is a result of their holy hatred toward sin. For example, your child may be angry because his classmate has taken the name of the Lord in vain. Aristotle once said, “It’s not a sin to get angry when you get angry at sin.”
  1. Righteous anger is permissible. Thus, we should not forbid our children to be angry for righteousness’ sake. The authors of Parenting Today’s Adolescent explain that “God created anger to be an asset, but it gets misused and twisted in a fallen world. In basic terms, anger is an emotional alarm that sounds a warning when something is wrong…. The problem is that most of us don’t know what to do with appropriate anger when we feel it” (163-64). However, let us guide our children so that their anger will not turn into danger. Remember that anger, as someone has said, “is just one letter short of danger.”
  1. Righteous anger is not only permitted but even commanded, as previously noted. And so, we should encourage our children to have a righteous anger—to have a strong feeling of displeasure toward all forms of evil.
  1. Anger is normal. Let us tell our children that everyone experiences anger including parents. They should know that they are not alone in their feelings. But this does not mean that we are going to tolerate their unrighteous anger. By letting them know that we also get angry, we are showing them that we understand them. It is important that children feel understood.

 

Now, here are ten pieces of advice as we handle our children’s anger:

 

  1. Watch yourself when dealing with your children’s anger. Oftentimes when our children are angry we also get angry unnecessarily.
  1. When dealing with your children’s anger, apply the principle of James 1:19: “let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Three principles can be drawn from this verse: (1) Before judging your child, listen first to his full explanation. (2) Talk to your child softly or gently. As Proverb 15:1 says: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (3) As you correct your child, control your temper, lest you mention or do something that will fuel your child’s anger. Henry Ward Beecher remarks, “Speak when you are angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.” The apostle Paul, addressing the fathers, writes: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4). It is better to be silent when we cannot control our temper.
  1. Since your children look up to you as a role model, teach them to manage anger in a God-honoring way by your good example. Ultimately, let’s point our children to Christ—our perfect example—who got angry but did not commit sin.
  1. Help your children understand the main cause of their anger. Then, help them deal with that which has caused their anger. Note that sometimes our children do not know what they are angry about. Sometimes they are not really angry but only frustrated with themselves.
  1. Help your children differentiate righteous anger from unrighteous anger. Ask your child, “At what or with whom are you angry and why are you angry?”
  1. Since anger is normal, help your children express their anger in a right or Christlike way. Children often don’t know how to express their anger in a positive way. Campbell explains it this way: “Children will tend to express anger immaturely, until trained to do otherwise. A teenager cannot be expected to automatically express his anger in the best, most mature way. But this is what parents are expecting, when they simply tell their teen not to get mad. Parents must train teenagers to take one step at a time in learning to deal with anger (How to Really Love Your Teenager, 65).”
  1. Pray for your children regularly, not just when they are struggling with issues of anger. It is a good practice to begin and close with prayer whenever you counsel them. Pray also that the Lord will grant you grace and wisdom as you address your children’s problem.
  1. Help your children develop temperance in their lives. Our children need self-control in dealing with anger. Self-control, a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22), is a good remedy for anger.
  1. Since self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, show your children their need of the Spirit of God. Doing so will also give you an opportunity to talk about the gospel with them.
  1. Deal with your children’s anger with love. Show love to your children even if you might not like their behavior. Be patient and understanding to them. Once our children feel loved, they will not hesitate to share with us the real cause of their anger. It is sad that some children would rather share their burden with their friends than with their own parents. May it not happen to us!
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12 Reasons Why I love Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

I recently posted this quote by James Dobson on my Facebook page: “There is no more important job in the universe than to raise a child to love God, live productively, and serve humanity. How ridiculous that a woman should have to apologize for wanting to fulfill that historic role.” One of the mothers who read this quote was Sue Poll, a mother of four children. She e-mailed me, telling me how much she appreciated Dobson’s thoughts on motherhood. She said (and I am posting it here with her permission):

I love your post about not having to apologize for wanting to be a mom. That is all I have ever wanted growing up. That is what I would tell people when they asked what I wanted to be. It was always to be “a wife and a mom.” I received a few criticisms, but it didn’t bother me. It was a beautiful blessing to find Tim, my husband, who wanted a woman who would be a stay-at-home mom. When we were first married, Tim introduced me to a college friend of his and his wife (he hadn’t seen them in years). The wife asked what was my career and I said to be a mother. She later told Tim that she was sorry she could never be friends with me because all I wanted to do was waste my life as a mom. Tim was terribly upset and offended on my behalf even though I told him I didn’t care. I was wonderfully happy with my choice and I actually felt sorry for that woman who thought a working career was the only way to be happy. Needless to say, my husband and I haven’t seen them since. I’ll never forget that encounter. It makes me feel more encouraged to keep being the best mother I can be.

Later I asked Sue to explain why she loves being a stay-at-home mom. She gave me 12 reasons:

 

1. I love having the freedom to make my own schedule and plan things for when they work out best. The unpredictability in everyday life with kids makes for non-stop action and entertainment.

2. I love that I get to act like a kid again any time of the day, without worrying that I’m too old to be acting like a kid. I can sit beside them and let my creative juices flow while getting messy with play-doh.  I have more fun now than I ever did!

3. I have the privilege of being able to homeschool my children. It is pure joy for me to see their faces light up in awe as they learn something, or accomplish a new task. As a bonus, I have learned more now than I ever did in school.

4. I love being there for their milestones and growth as each year passes by. I don’t want to miss a thing!

5. I love that my children run to me for help. I get to wipe away tears, give big bear hugs when they are sad, and yes, even wipe the runny noses. It all means I am there for them when they need me.

6. Children will keep you humble like nothing else. I know I need the daily reminders and what better way than your own dear children! There is nothing like coming home from half a day’s worth of errands to find out you had a clothespin in the back of your hair the whole time.

7. There is an exciting joy in experiencing the world for the first time again. To be reminded to see things from a different point of view–through the honest eyes of a child–is something I think we all need to have. What wonderful discoveries I have made!

8. I love that my children don’t care if I am in style or not. In fact, I love seeing their styles and personality grow and develop!

9. I am able to be a nurse, chauffeur, teacher, seamstress, chef, hair stylist, artist, lifeguard, negotiator, builder, activity director, librarian, and counselor all in one day.

10. There is no better mood lifter than hearing the bubbling giggles and laughter of your children!

11. There is nothing to compare to the spontaneous hugs, kisses and “I love you’s” from them when I am sick or feeling quiet. Oh, the unconditional love of my children! It is amazing how perceptive children can be to our adult emotions and moods.

12. I love being able to teach them diligently about the Bible and becoming soldiers for Jesus Christ. I enjoy making every moment a learning one and applying the Bible to those moments. I cannot imagine a higher calling for me!

 

Note: This post also appears on christianity21st.com.

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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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Parenting with Humility

Do you raise your children with humility? When was the last time you said “I am sorry” to your son or daughter when you sinned against them? Do you discipline them with anger, or with love? Let’s learn from the wise counsel of Ted Tripp regarding humble parenting.

 

Humility in Your Task

Understanding that you function as God’s agents can keep you sharply focused and humble as parents. It is sobering to realize that you correct your child by God’s command. You stand before him as God’s agent to show him his sin. Just as an ambassador is conscious of functioning in behalf of the country that has sent him, so the parent must be aware of the fact that he is God’s representative to the child. I know of no realization that will sober and humble the parent like this one.

On many occasions, I have had to seek the forgiveness of my children for my anger or sinful response. I have had to say, “Son, I sinned against you. I spoke in unholy anger. I said things I should not have said. I was wrong. God has given me a sacred task, and I have brought my unholy anger into this sacred mission. Please forgive me.”

Your focus can be sharpened by the realization that discipline is not you working on your agenda, venting your wrath toward your children; it is you coming as God’s representative, bringing the reproofs of life to your son or your daughter. You only muddy the waters when the bottom line in discipline is your displeasure over their behaviour, rather than God’s displeasure with rebellion against his ordained authority.

 

No Place for Anger

I have spoken to countless parents who genuinely thought their unholy anger had a legitimate place in correction and discipline. They reasoned that they could bring their children to a sober fear of disobeying if they showed anger. So discipline became the time when Mom or Dad manipulated their children through raw displays of anger. What the child learns is the fear of man, not the fear of God.

James 1 demonstrates the falsehood of the idea that parents should underscore correction with personal rage: My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. (James 1:19-20)

The Apostle James could not be more clear. The righteous life that God desires is never the product of uncontrolled anger. Unholy human anger may teach your children to fear you. They may even behave better, but it will not bring about biblical righteousness.

Any change in behaviour that is produced by such anger is not going to move your children toward God. It moves them away from God. It moves them in the direction of the idolatry of fearing man. No wonder James adds emphasis by saying, “Dear brothers, take note of this…”

If you correct and discipline your children because God mandates it, then you need not clutter up the task with your anger. Correction is not displaying your anger at their offenses; it is rather reminding them that their sinful behaviour offends God. It is bringing his censure of sin to these subjects of his realm. He is the King. They must obey.

 

Note: This is an excerpt from Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart (Wapwallopen, Pa.: Shepherd Press, 2005), 33-34.

 

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