The Gracious Providence of Godly Parents

 Today the words of John Flavel (1628-1691) have once again brought forth a great ocean of sweet thoughts to bless my heart and elicit prayers of thanksgiving to our great God.  As you read the following excerpt from Flavel’s The Mystery of Providence, may your heart swell to greater heights of gratitude, whether by the grace of God you are in the first or the fiftieth generation of a family of faithful believers.

O, it is no common mercy to descend from pious parents. Some of us do not only owe our natural life to them, as instruments of our beings, but our spiritual and eternal life also. It was no small mercy to Timothy to be descended from such progenitors (2 Tim. 1. 5), nor to Augustine that he had such a mother as Monica, who planted in his mind the precepts of life with her words, watered them with her tears, and nourished them with her example. We will a little more particularly inspect this mercy, and in so doing we shall find manifold mercies contained in it.

What a mercy was it to us to have parents that prayed for us before they had us, as well as in our infancy, when we could not pray for ourselves? Thus did Abraham (Gen. 15. 2) and Hannah (1 Sam. 1. 10, 11), and probably some here are the fruits and returns of their parents’ prayers. This was that holy course they continued all their days for you, carrying all your concerns, especially your eternal ones, before the Lord with their own; and pouring out their souls to God so affectionately for you, when their eye-strings and heart-strings were breaking. O put a value upon such mercies, for they are precious. It is a greater mercy to descend from praying parents than from the loins of nobles. See Job’s pious practice (1. 5).

What a special mercy was it to us to have the excrescences of corruption nipped in the bud by their pious and careful discipline! We now understand what a critical and dangerous season youth is, the wonderful proclivity of that age to every thing that is evil. Why else are they called youthful lusts (2 Tim. 2. 22)? When David asks: ‘Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?’ it is plainly enough implied in the very question that the way he takes lies through the pollutions of the world in his youth (Ps. 119. 9). When you find a David praying that God would ‘not remember the sins of my youth’ (Ps. 25. 7), and a Job bitterly complaining that God ‘made me to possess the iniquities of my youth’ (13. 26), surely you cannot but reflect with a very thankful heart upon those happy means by which the corruption of your nature was happily prevented, or restrained in your youth.

And how great a mercy was it that we had parents who carefully instilled the good knowledge of God into our souls in our tender years? How diligent was Abraham in this duty (Gen. 18. 19), and David (1 Chron. 28. 9)! We have some of us had parents who might say to us, as the apostle: ‘My little children of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you’ (Gal. 4. 19). As they longed for us before they had us and rejoiced in us when they had us, so they could not endure to think that when they could have us no more, the devil should. As they thought no pains, care or cost too much for our bodies, to feed them, clothe and heal them; so did they think no prayers, counsels, or tears, too much for our souls, that they might be saved. They knew a parting time would come between them and us, and did strive to make it as easy and comfortable to them as they could, by leaving us in Christ and within the blessed bond of His covenant.

They were not glad that we had health and indifferent whether we had grace. They felt the miseries of our souls as much as of our bodies; and nothing was more desirable to them than that they might say in the great day: ‘Lord, here am I and the children which thou hast given me.’

And was it not a special favour to us to have parents that went before us as patterns of holiness, and beat the path to heaven for us by their examples? They could say to us: ‘those things ye have heard and seen in me, do’ (Phil. 4. 9); and ‘be ye followers of me, as also I am of Christ’ (1 Cor. 11. 1). The parents’ life is the child’s copy. O. it is no common mercy to have a fair copy set before us, especially in the moulding age; we saw what they did, as well as heard what they said. It was Abraham’s commendation, ‘that he commanded his children, and his household after him, to keep the way of the Lord.’ And such mercies some of us have had also....

If any shall say this was not their case, they had little help heavenward from their parents, so such I reply as follows.

If you had little furtherance, yet own it as a special providence that you had no hindrance; or, if you had opposition, yet admire the grace of God in plucking you out by a wonderful distinguishing hand of mercy from among them and keeping alive the languishing sparks of grace amidst the floods of opposition. And learn from hence, if God give you a posterity of your own, to be so much the more strict and careful of family duties, by how much you have acutely felt the want of it in yourselves....

Should you wish to read more, Flavel’s work is available online at http://www.reformedliterature.com/flavel-the-mystery-of-providence.php.

Of Love and Adoption

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.

In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved.”

Ephesians 1:3-6

Dave and Stacey (friends of ours) recently adopted a little girl from China.   For many months now, we have had the privilege of praying for them as they have sought the Lord’s will for their family, completed all the paperwork, and waited patiently for the time to come when they would make the trip to China, meet two-year-old little Anna for the first time, and bring her home as their daughter.  When the time arrived, friends and family were kept up-to-date through a blog set up to chronicle their 17-day trip.  We read of their first meeting:

"We arrived to a very crowded building and they brought Anna in.  As soon as they said her name, she started screaming and arching her back-she clearly understood part of what was happening.  I picked her up and she continued to scream louder and smack me with her sunglasses several times…   She refused to eat anything…  She’s also refused drinking anything…  So much for a 2 year old to comprehend-it’s heart breaking to see how hard it is on her and how she clings to a cheap pair of sunglasses-it’s all she has now…   Oh what love God has given us for her-she is beautiful in our eyes.  I am anticipating the day when we can calm her tears and fears, but that will take time.  For now, we comfort and hold her and try to show her we love her as much as we can.”

We read of their days of getting to know one another:

"Today we went to a local park…  She ran and ran.  The problem is that she thinks it’s funny to run away from us…  She is learning not to hit even though she means it to be funny.  Also we got a kiss on the cheek today…  Grossest moment of the day was this afternoon-we went to get her passport processed at the Police Department.  She thought it was funny to run and grab and then, gulp, eat those little white pebbles that sit on top of the cigarette discarder.  She is not a picky eater by any means.”

We read of the culmination of all their plans and prayers:

"It’s official-Anna is (our daughter)…We will receive Anna’s visa in a sealed envelope tomorrow.  Then, she will be a US citizen when the plane touches US soil.”

In many very powerful ways, Anna’s adoption is a picture of God’s adoption of us.  This became even more clear to me as I made a list of all the ways Dave and Stacey set their love on a little girl that didn’t even know them.

  • They chose her before she ever knew them
  • They pursued her (adoption papers, forms, airline tickets)
  • They prayed for her (physical needs and spiritual needs)
  • They planned for her, preparing not only for her adoption, but also her arrival in their home
  • They waited eagerly for the time of her adoption
  • They thought about her (wondering what her little toes and hands looked like, anticipating her first smile)
  • They made known their love for her
  • They wrote letters to her, even before they had met
  • They sacrificed for her: Money, Time, Personal comfort (Dave does not enjoy flying!)
  • They anticipated and lovingly bore her anger and abuse (hitting, screaming, kicking, crying)
  • They were patient with her (long-suffering)
  • They fully committed to her (entering into a forever commitment)
  • They visited the orphanage where she had stayed and the place where she was abandoned (helping them to know, understand and sympathize with her)
  • They desired for her to know them (time with her, pictures and videos from other family members)
  • They provided her with earthly comforts (a bed, shelter, food, clothing)
  • They gave her gifts (a new hat, new pajamas)
  • They helped her feel secure (carrying, rocking and holding her)
  • They provided things to give her joy…and delighted in her smiles and laughter
  • They experienced life together (Dave and Stacey never leaving her, always watching over her, as they explored the world together)
  • They desired to communicate with her (teaching her new words, listening to her sing in her own language, telling and showing her about the greatest love:  the love of God in Christ)
  • They took care of her physical health (medical appointments, caring for her when she was sick)
  • They kept her safe (pursuing her when she ran away from them, warning her of danger, keeping her from eating foul things)
  • Their heart experienced great joy when she made known her love for them (by way of kisses and smiles)
  • They acted on her behalf, giving her a future and a hope (a future which she did not have and had no way of attaining)
  • They were willing to cause her temporal and temporary pain in order to give her future happiness and security
  • They recorded her tears (hating to distress her, but willing to do so for her good)
  • They sealed the adoption (making it official, legal and binding)
  • They welcomed her into their home
  • They gave her an inheritance (which she will only slowly begin to know and appreciate)
  • They involved others in her adoption (particularly in praying for her)
  • They openly loved and appreciated each other (giving a solid foundation for the family)
  • They continually intercede for her before the throne of God

The point is this:  As astounding as it is, the love parents display in adopting a child is but a small illustration of the amazing love God displays in adopting us as His children.  Anna is not yet in a position to give thanks for the abundant love that has been shown to her.  We are.

 

"Shnow" and the Lord's Return

Elijah has been very excited for snow.  He thinks that because snow comes down out of heaven, and so will Jesus when He comes, that when it snows for the first time (that he can remember) Jesus will be coming back!

snow

It snowed for the first time the other day.  Sadly, Jesus did not come that day.  But Elijah said to me in the car yesterday, “I’m ready for Jesus to come back,” (in a very excited tone).  We talked about what “being ready” means, and I was reminded by this conversation with my 4-year-old that Jesus is ON HIS WAY!!  

My heart is desperate for the return of Christ, BUT even more desperate for more to be called to serve Christ, especially (for me) our children, some of our dear friends who are hearing the gospel and getting Bibles for the first time in their life these past few weeks, and family members who we have prayed would repent and believe the Gospel.  May our hearts be drawn to plead even more fervently for hearts to bow in submission to the God who made us and believe in His Son, Jesus Christ who came in humility to save our souls!  Jesus is returning!  Father, make us eager, make us ready!

Looking for a Church

Our family recently experienced our sixth geographic move in 11 years of marriage.  This has given us a wide range of opportunities for church hunting, 33 opportunities to be exact! We don’t think this makes us experts in the field, that’s for sure, but since it is part of our days right now, I thought it might be interesting to share what “church shopping” has evolved into for our family.  Prayer and internet research start the process; Jeremy utilizes a few sites including www.9marks.org and www.founders.org.

If possible, Jeremy also likes to listen to sermons and read about a church’s beliefs before we attend a worship service.  Next, we start making visits using two simple non-negotiables: Biblical preaching/teaching (1 Timothy 4:2 &1 Corinthians 9:16)  and love from the Church (John 34:13-14).  Of course, these two are not exhaustive, but if a church does not meet this criteria, then usually a second visit will not be warranted.  

Children’s activities fall into the “preferences” category along with music style, congregation size, location, cultural mix and other “negotiables.”  If during our visiting we find more than one church that meets our two top criteria, then we pray for further for discernment and allow ourselves to consider “preferences” in our final decision.  We ask God to lead us to the church He wants us to minister our gifts in and be ministered to in.  We believe that unless HE directs our path or “builds a house” for us, all our methods or ideas are in vain.  So I can truly say that it has been by the grace of God that we have been able to be parts of some amazing churches in our lifetime, NOT a method we have developed.  

Praising God for the blessing of the Body of Christ, and praying that we would “. . like newborn babes, long for the the pure milk of the Word, that by it (we) may grow in respect to salvation. . .” (1 Peter 2:2)

    Commencement

    Graduation ceremonies abound this time of year! You can even see them on the news right now!!

    This past Saturday I attended the graduation ceremony at my children’s school. Because my children go to a small Christian school, we know most of the high schoolers pretty well, and it is especially meaningful to watch them grow and go out in to the world.

    My own son is a junior this year, so I watched and listened this year with extra interest, knowing that it would be my family celebrating this time next year.This ceremony was different than the ones I’ve seen clips from on the evening news. Our students were not encouraged to “reach for the sky” or to “follow their dreams.” Rather, the speaker exhorted them to be submissive.

    He explained that this was not a popular concept in the world today, but if they would be submissive to the Lord, then they would be successful in their next phase of life–whether that be college, a job or military service. He gave them sound Biblical advice on being a good student, employee or soldier, and he explained that putting the Lord’s ways first would indeed make them successful.

    I thought he gave them very good advice and that it was applicable to all of us in the audience that day. I look forward to watching those young adults and hearing from them in the future.

    A Worship Lesson from Toddlers

    O LORD, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all;
    The earth is full of Your possessions.  Let the glory of the LORD endure forever;
    Let the LORD be glad in His works. 
    -Psalm 104:24, 31, 34

    As a mommy of three, I have been recently amazed at the raw joy, hearts of worship and innocent awe toddlers can have about creation.  This weekend we went to the beach and I watched as they ran down the beach with unbridled glee, splashing, looking amazed at the waves, as they collected treasures. 

    “OOOH!  Look at this Momma!”  My Elijah who’s almost four says to me repeatedly, followed quickly by, “What ‘dis?”  He has no idea what it is - he’s never encountered anything like it before, but somehow it’s awe-inspiring to him (to us it’s a wet yucky piece of driftwood or a squishy sea cucumber.)

    When did I get too old to gasp in wonder at what God does?  

    Lord, teach me to notice Your greatness, change my rituals to worship, and teach my heart to stand again in awe of all You are and all You do.