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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Gleaning Profit From Still Moments

By Marleen Flood (guest blogger)

We live in a day where busyness prevails. We are constantly on the move. We always seem to have or “need” something to do. Even so, there are times in our lives where we find that we are sitting still with “nothing to do.” I can think of several situations where this time of stillness may be the case. To mention two: during times of illness and during a long sit in a waiting room. There is, however, one situation in life that comes to the forefront of my mind, as I have been in this situation many times—a baby’s feeding time.

Babies are great blessings from the Lord. They bring us so much joy and add something special to our families, churches, and communities. They also bring us, especially parents, those quiet moments. New babies may feed up to eight hours a day. That is a lot of down time. Whether bottle-fed or breastfed, the fact is that babies eat a lot. And parents, especially mothers, spend a lot of time just sitting with their babies. We sit and sit and think about all of the things that we should be doing. We may try to hold a book or phone, but this is quite a difficult task while holding an infant. We then soon give up and just sit.

Bonding is amazing, but even bonding gets old fast at three o’clock in the morning. So what should a parent do during these quiet, long, and lonely hours? I would posit prayer. Why? Well, because prayer is something that we can do without the use of our hands. We can pray quietly, anywhere and anytime. Now, as Christians we ought to be praying anyway, though I have found that in our busy world, prayer has become more and more brief and shallow. We tend to pray in church and at meals, perhaps at bedtime, and then we throw up quick prayers throughout the day for a myriad of reasons. These types of prayer are all good. But where is the deep and thoughtful prayer? I have found through personal experience that late night feeding times are wonderful occasions for this kind of prayer.

When is the last time that we have prayed for our neighbors, long lost friends, extended family, Christians in other nations, leaders of our nation and of other nations, or the worldwide church? What about thanking God for things we forget to thank him for, like health and vigor, the ability to function in ways that others cannot, for our freedom, and for people who care about us? This list can seem overwhelming, yet it is not meant to make Christians feel guilty about their prayer lives. Jesus Christ has paid the price in full for all of our sins, both those of commission and omission. We have Christ Himself interceding for us and the Holy Spirit giving us the very words to pray. Thus, let this post be an encouragement to Christians everywhere, especially to those with little babies, to use their quiet moments to pray in a way that they may not often have the time to. I promise praying in this manner will be profitable for you and for others, and most importantly, will be glorifying to our Heavenly Father.

 

Note: Marleen Flood is wife to Durell, stay-at-home-mom to their seven children, and a member of Dutton United Reformed Church, Caledonia, Michigan.

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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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15 Rules for Expectant Parents

On January 9, 2013 my dear wife Sarah gave birth to our precious daughter Anna in Butterworth Hospital, Grand Rapids, Michigan. The following day Dr. Joel Beeke and his wife came to visit us in the hospital. Dr. Beeke prayed for us and gave us a book as a gift. The title of that book is The Duties of Parents. The book was originally written in Dutch by Jacobus Koelman (1632–1695). Koelman, like his contemporaries Gisbertus Voetius (1589–1676) and Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635–1711), was a leader of the Dutch Further Reformation—a movement that was similar to the seventeenth-and-eighteenth-century English Puritanism.

In chapter one of his book, Koelman gives fifteen rules for expectant parents:

  1. Pray to the Lord fervently and continually before entering marriage so that you do not by foolish and rash marriage get yourself entangled in many snares that can no longer be removed, or can only be removed with great difficulty later.
  2. Under no circumstances enter a marriage to someone who is a stranger to true religion.
  3. Do not marry an ungodly…worldly, vain person….Such a partner will be a hindrance to the performance of all one’s duties for good, but especially to bringing up one’s children for the Lord.
  4. If, contrary to your opinion and expectation, you find that your companion is not regenerate and without grace, then do your utmost to bring about his or her conversion.
  5. Be especially careful in a second marriage if you have children from the first. Since the love of stepfathers or stepmothers is not as great as that of natural parents, the upbringing will not be as painstaking, tender, Christian, and holy, at least if grace does not amply make up for this lack of natural affection.
  6. Sanctify the marriage bed by prayer.
  7. Now when it becomes known that the mother is pregnant, pray together seriously, not only for a safe delivery but also for the sanctification of the child, thanking the Lord in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
  8. Be tenderly concerned that the mother does not harm the physical well-being of the child in her body by what she eats, by emotional agitation, or in some other way.
  9. When the child has been born, let the mother herself breastfeed [the child], if she in anyway has the strength and ability to do so. This demands love for the child and increases mutual love between the mother and the child.
  10. When you receive children, be sure to bring them early to the fellowship of God’s covenant of grace and to Christian baptism.
  11. You only have to publicly promise before God and the church that you will bring up your children in the truth and in godliness. Therefore, bring no godparents, because that is a human institution that is not blessed by God, has proceeded from the papacy, and is very superstitiously used there.
  12. Be mindful that at baptism you give your children good, Christian names with a positive meaning that can incite them to pursue the virtues indicated or recalled by the names.
  13. Do not be satisfied with the external baptism administered in the church but continue to occupy yourself with baptism through your earnest prayers and by the renewal of the solemn promises made before the Lord and his church at the time of baptism….Pray that [God] may regenerate [your children].
  14. At this point and henceforth, practice your faith by attending to God’s promises concerning help, blessing, and grace for your children.
  15. Therefore, do not believe unconditionally that all your children are beloved by God in Christ and will certainly inherit salvation or that they are truly sanctified in Christ and already born again and in a blessed state, for that is unknown and uncertain. The Lord freely loses and loves whom he will, has compassion on whom he will, and rejects whom he will. Some he sets apart from the womb; others he regenerates and converts when they are old. You must therefore regard them as children who are still in danger of being lost, as guilty and corrupt, and who must be converted. You must therefore pray for them and instruct them in the faith and in the Word. You must bring them up in all godliness so that they themselves in their own person may consent to that covenant with God and surrender themselves to it in order to be saved.
Dutch Further Reformation Dutch Reformed Piety Gisbertus Voetius Jacobus Koelman Parents Wilhelmus à Brakel