Shepherding a Child’s Heart Study: Chapter 3

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Chapter 3 in the Shepherding a Child’s Heart book study talks about how each child or person worships something. Either we worship God the creator or we worship the creation/idols (anything that takes the place of God – praise, knowledge, worship of self, etc.). Our job as parents is to point our children toward the One who deserves worship.

We cannot always control the shaping influences in our children’s lives (things like death, job loss, our spouse’s habits, etc.), as some are simply out of our control. But that is not a reason to lose heart. God is bigger than those circumstances. The book reminds readers of the story of Joseph, whose mother died at a young age, whose father favored him, whose brothers were jealous of him and ultimately sold him into slavery away from worshipers of Jehovah, and on and on, and yet he kept his faith in God throughout. This gives me hope. I remember that even though I may (and do) fail as a mother time and time again, that God is still working and I can trust Him to do a work in my children’s hearts if they will surrender to Him.

At the end of the chapter, Tripp says “In all of this you must pray that God will work in and around your efforts and the responses of your children to make them people who know and honor God” (p. 26). Let that be our prayer today.

Father God, when I am tempted to give up or get discouraged because things get difficult, help me to persevere. Remind me that you are the one who is in control and that you will work around my own mess, only you have called me to be faithful to the task you’ve given me. Please soften my children’s hearts that they may see that you are the only one worthy of worship. Amen.

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Shepherding a Child’s Heart Study: Chapter 2

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Ok, so we are now into Chapter 2 in the Shepherding a Child’s Heart book study. This chapter focuses on the life experiences that are shaping influences in our children’s lives. They include things like:

  • Structure of family life (birth order, number of generations living in the home, ages and number of children, etc.)
  • Family values (what the family sees as most important, secrets that are kept within the family, family boundaries, etc.)
  • Family roles (the role each member of the family plays, who pays the bills, how involved each one is in the family, etc.)
  • Family conflict resolution (how parents and family members tend to resolve conflicts – talking it out, walking away, buying things, etc.)
  • Family response to failure (how failures are treated within the family, whether they are mocked, put down, encouraged, glossed over, etc.)
  • Family history (the general events of childhood – births, deaths, health/sickness, moving, marriages, divorces, stability, job loss, etc.)

What stood out to me most in this chapter was that how Tripp explains that while these shaping influences certainly affect our children, they are not “helpless victim[s] of of the circumstances in which [they were] raised.” We must do our best, as we follow the Holy Spirit’s leading, to provide good influences for our children, but, “Your children are [ultimately] responsible for the way they respond to your parenting.” God is the one who changes hearts, not us. He is the one who saves, not us. That is both scary (because I desperately want them to come to faith, and it would be so much easier if there was just a magic formula to follow that would guarantee that!), and freeing at the same time (as a parent who will frequently mess up and fail over and over again, it is such a blessing that this responsibility does not rest on me but on an all powerful God!).

Shepherding a Child’s Heart Study: Chapter 1

shepherding a childs heart study

Last week I mentioned that I am doing a book study on Shepherding a Child’s Heart with the ABC Jesus Loves Me/Our Out-of-Sync Life group. Today we are reading chapter 1 and I wanted to share some thoughts with you from the book.

As I read chapter 1, the thought that stood out to me the most was this:

You must learn to work from the behavior you see, back to the heart, exposing heart issues for your children. In short, you must learn to engage them, not just reprove them. Help them see the ways that they are trying to slake their souls’ thirst with that which cannot satisfy.

Wow, that hits home doesn’t it?

Read that last sentence again: “help them see the ways that they are trying to slake their souls’ thirst with that which cannot satisfy.” Ouch. I’m pretty sure I’m guilty of doing this as well. How do I help my children see this if I don’t start with examining my own heart? How many of my own actions and choices are because I am trying to satisfy my soul with things or people or actions when I should be going to God alone to satisfy those needs? When I put others down or criticize them, am I not doing so because I want to make myself feel better or perhaps because I am jealous or envious, instead of being content and thankful for what God has given me? When I get angry with my kids, isn’t it often because of my own self-centered attitude that wants things done my way and doesn’t want to be inconvenienced, rather than being patient and seeing these times as teachable moments?

I guess my take-away from Chapter 1, even though it is not expressly mentioned in the chapter, is that I need to start examining my own heart first before I can help my children examine theirs.

Shepherding a Child’s Heart Book Study

shepherding a childs heart study

Over a year ago, on the recommendation of more than one person, I purchased the Kindle version of the book Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp (on sale right now for $1.99!). I read a few chapters, but then became side-tracked with other things and have yet to finish the book. So when I heard about the Shepherding a Child’s Heart Book Study at Our Out-of-Sync Life, I was very excited to dig in and finally finish the book!

The main idea behind the book is reaching a child’s heart, not just correcting his or her actions. Correcting the behavior (hitting, arguing, throwing tantrums) without addressing the root issue (selfishness, pride, anger, etc.) will never result in effective, long-term change. From a Christian perspective, the root problem is sin, and the cure is the Gospel.

The book study starts tomorrow, May 1, and the assigned reading for tomorrow is the preface and introduction (who reads that, right? Oh wait, as an English teacher I’m not supposed to say that! Winking smile)

So, to keep myself accountable to completing the readings, I will be posting my thoughts and reactions here over the next few weeks.

Let me start by sharing a few insights from the Introduction. At one point Tripp says:

People frequently ask if I expected my children to become believers. I usually reply that the gospel is powerful and attractive. It uniquely meets the needs of fallen humanity. Therefore, I expected that God’s Word would be the power of God to salvation for my children. But that expectation was based on the power of the gospel and its suitability to human need, not on a correct formula for producing children who believe.

This assertion rang true for me. Just this past weekend I had been discussing with some other ladies how we wished there was some way to ensure that our children come to salvation. We want this for them because of the tremendous difference the gospel has made in our own lives and because we know that our hearts need cleansing from sin in order to be reconciled to a Holy God. But of course, as Tripp points out, there is no magic formula. We can do everything “right” and still have children who don’t believe. After all, God’s children, Adam and Eve, had the perfect Parent, and yet they still chose to rebel. Sometimes this leaves us feeling a bit hopeless.

However, I really liked the way Tripp turned the tables from putting our hope in what we as parents can do, and instead trusting in God and His Word because it is “powerful and attractive” and is “uniquely meets the needs of fallen humanity.” While I have a responsibility to make sure my parenting is in line with Scripture and that I am pointing my children toward the Gospel, ultimately their salvation does not rest on my doing everything “right.” I must trust that God and his Grace are sufficient and that the good news will draw my children’s hearts to Him.

If you are interested in joining the study yourself, you can find all the details at Our Out-of-Sync Life. And please share your thoughts here as well! We’d love to hear from you!

Leaving a Spiritual Legacy

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This past Sunday, as we celebrated Easter, I couldn’t help thinking about my grandmother. She died last year on Easter morning. We were driving home from church, getting ready to host Easter dinner that year, when we got the call that she had passed. She had been in hospice care so we knew it was only a matter of time, but we were all still saddened by the loss.

However, as sad as I was to no longer have my grandmother with me, my first thought was “wow, she gets to spend Easter Sunday in the arms of her Savior.”

You see my grandmother knew Jesus intimately. She didn’t just attend church services out of habit or a sense of religious duty, she had a personal relationship with God. At her funeral, we were able to see her Bible, and it was touching to see how well worn it was from regular use. They say a Bible that’s falling apart is usually owned by a person who isn’t. This was certainly the case for my grandma.

I still miss my grandmother, but I am thankful for the example she left for her family. My grandmother prayed for her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren regularly. It was always such a blessing to hear my grandma tell me she had been praying for me and my boys (and I know she would have been thrilled to hear about our baby girl!).

She didn’t have an easy life by any means, but the joy of the Lord truly was her strength. As we stood at her funeral, looking at all the pictures of her from over the years, I was struck by the fact that Grandma always had a smile on her face. As a single mother, she went through some very tough times, and like all of us she was not perfect, but she kept faith in God throughout her life. Her smile and her deep love for her family and her God are the things I remember best about her. She cried with me during the sad times and she cried tears of joy during the happy times. I am so thankful for her faithful example.

My grandmother left a spiritual legacy that has been passed to our family, and now I strive to pass on to my own children. That is three generations directly impacted by her life and example as she followed Christ.

As I have spent these last few weeks preparing my heart for Easter, it has been my prayer that I, too, may leave a spiritual legacy to my children and grandchildren and everyone I meet. May my life shine for Christ, even during difficult circumstances, and at the end of my life may people say of me that they saw Christ in me.

Daniel Fast Part 3: A Right View of God

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So this week is the last week of my Daniel Fast. After today, I have just 3 days to go, and I am excited to share with you some of the things I’ve been learning along the way!

In yesterday’s Bible reading (I am currently going through the Good Morning Girl’s study called “Why Easter Matters”), I was meditating on 1 Corinthians 15:57-58 which says:

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (ESV)

And as I read that passage, I was struck by the first line “but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I don’t know about you, but I sometimes have a wrong view of God. When we think of Jesus, we think of a gentle savior, the one who took the children upon his knee saying “let the little children come to me.” This is the one we see on the cover of the children’s Bibles, with long hair and a soft smile, who preached love and turning the other cheek. On the other hand, when we think of the Father, we think of a stern judge who is holy, just, and unapproachable. He is the voice from the clouds in The Ten Commandments (you know the scene where Charlton Heston is on the mountain talking to God – I know I’ll be watching it again this weekend!).

But both of these views are missing the bigger picture and often give us a very wrong view of God. God is not at war with himself. There is not part of God that wants to crush us like bugs the next time we sin and part that wants to skip with us through fields of wildflowers for all eternity. Jesus isn’t having to stand in front of us to shield us from a beating, like a son standing up to an abusive father. Not at all!

Notice in this passage it is God the Father who gives us the victory over sin and death, and that victory is through our Lord Jesus Christ. The Father and the Son are working together in perfect unity and love to save us. The Father isn’t waiting in the wings to strike us down; he loved us so much that he was willing to sacrifice his own son for our deliverance. Way back in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve chose to disobey and rebel against God, he didn’t abandon them or strike them down and start over with people who had no free will, even though he could have done so. In his great love, he didn’t leave us in this sin-cursed, death-filled world without hope. Even knowing we would rebel and reject him, God still desired to save us from our own sin.

In Genesis 3 God says to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Here God is pointing forward to the virgin’s offspring, Jesus, the God-man, who would crush the power of sin and death and take the penalty upon himself, in accordance with the Father’s will. Jesus loved people, yes, but he hated sin. He calls the hypocritical religious leaders a “brood of vipers” and he overturns the tables of the money changers, saying they have turned his Father’s house into a den of robbers. All you need to do is read Revelation 1 and you will see that Jesus does not fit the images we have of him from children’s Bibles. 

As we meditate on the significance of Easter, let us see God for who he is – both loving and just, strong and kind, holy and merciful.

Thank you Father for loving us so much that you would send your only Son to pay the penalty for our sins and reconcile us to yourself. Thank you Lord Jesus for taking on our sin, though you committed no sin yourself, that by confessing and believing we might be called sons and daughters of God.

Daniel Fast Part 2: Confession is Good for the Soul

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Last week I shared that I am doing a partial fast, or “Daniel Fast,” in preparation for Easter.
This week I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve been learning. It has now been 10 days since I started this 21 day journey, and God has been showing me a lot throughout this time. As I mentioned before, doing a fast is about taking away food (either partially or fully) in order to seek the Lord during prayer and Bible study. I started this fast 21 days before Easter so that I could take this time to meditate on the true meaning of Easter and prepare my heart for worship during this time.

But ladies, God has been showing me so much more than I expected during this time! One of the studies I have been doing during this time is the “Why Easter Matters” study from Good Morning Girls. Week 1 was about “Why the Last Supper Matters.” Week 2 is “Why the Crucifixion Matters.”

As I’ve read and studied these passages, I’ve been seeing more clearly my own sin as well as the significance of Christ’s sacrifice for me.

When I started this study I wasn’t thinking much about my own sin. I mean I knew I sinned from time to time (um, can you say sin of pride right there? Yikes!), but I wasn’t expecting the kind of conviction I came under as I began to examine my own heart, especially in light of what Christ did on the cross for me. I began to see the angry, critical spirit I have sometimes used when dealing with my children and husband, my desire for personal recognition when all the glory is due to God, and my anxious attitude, which revealed a lack of trust in God.

It has been too long since I have taken a good hard look at my own sin, confessed it for what it is, and asked God to create a new heart within me. In her book, The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast, Kristen Feola talks about the need for confession at the beginning of a fast. She relates how the children of Israel, in the book of Isaiah, fasted and prayed, but did so without confession, and thus received nothing.

So as I read through the passages in the Good Morning Girls study, I started to become more aware of my own sin and the price that was paid to take away my guilt and give me eternal life. In studying the last supper, I was reminded of the command in 1 Corinthians 11 to examine oneself before partaking. I realized that I needed to take this command more seriously and to examine my heart regularly, not just once in a while. When I fail to do this, I am dismissing God’s holiness and hatred of sin. I take his sacrifice too lightly and fail to use the proper reverence due him.

During Week 2’s readings, I was reminded of the heavy burden Christ endured for that sin. Isaiah 53:5-6 says:

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

It was my sin that caused him such piercing, crushing, wounding pain. He took the punishment that I deserved, even though he had done nothing wrong.

Never should I forget that I am completely in Christ’s debt and that I can never (and need never) repay it. There is nothing I can do that would be good enough to earn that salvation. Nothing I can do that would make me worthy of such a sacrifice. But I am thankful that I do not have to earn it. I am thankful that in Romans 5 it says Christ died for us while we were still sinners. We don’t have to clean ourselves up or get our acts together to accept Christ’s sacrifice. He died for us just as we are, full of sin, and He is the one who takes our lives and makes us clean. What a humbling thought!

Daniel Fast Part 1

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At the beginning of the year I was introduced to the idea of a “Daniel Fast.” I had always thought of fasting as being abstaining totally from food, such as when Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness. But I didn’t realize that partial fasting is also in the Bible.

For those unfamiliar with fasting, it is basically a time set aside in which a person or group of people stop eating in order to use that time for prayer, repentance, and/or preparation. There are many examples of fasting in the Bible. Here are just a few:

Moses fasted while waiting to receive the 10 commandments (Exodus 34), David fasted while praying for his dying child (2 Samuel 12), Esther and the Jewish people in the city fasted before she went in to talk to the king (Esther 4), and as mentioned earlier, Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness where he was also tempted by Satan (Matthew 4).

These fasts lasted various amounts of time, from 3 days of fasting in the book of Esther, to a full 40 days of fasting for Moses and Jesus, in which they neither ate not drank, but were supernaturally sustained.

The prophet Daniel also fasted, saying, “Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes” (Dan 9:3). In Daniel 10 we find that Daniel fasted by eating “no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks” (Dan. 10:3). So in this case Daniel’s fast was a partial fast, wherein he ate plain food and water, no meat, delicacies or wine, for 21 days.

So during a “Daniel fast” a person does a partial fast, abstaining from things like meat, sugar and sweeteners, bread made with yeast, dairy products, refined or processed foods, etc., and instead eats fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and so on, using the time of fasting to focus not on physical food but spiritual food. Taking time to really seek the Lord in Bible study and prayer, in order to deepen that relationship with Him.

I have decided to participate in a Daniel fast in preparation for Easter, based on the guidelines in The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast by Kristen Feola. Like the Advent season at Christmas time, I want to spend the weeks leading into Easter focusing on Christ’s sacrifice for me. This is just one way to prepare for Easter, and I will share my experiences with it soon, as well as why I chose this particular kind of fast, but there are lots of other ways to prepare our hearts for Easter too.

What are some things you are doing to get ready for Easter?

Update

Ok, so I started this blog last year with grand ideas of typing up new entries three times a week because the kids were a little older (ok, not that old; they were only 5 and not-quite-two, but they were in a really good routine), I wasn’t teaching for the summer, and I felt I had some extra time that I could finally begin something I had been thinking and praying about for quite a while.

However, life sometimes has a way of surprising us just when we think we have things figured out, and the week after I posted my first set of articles, I found out I was pregnant with baby #3. And life pretty much came crashing to a halt.

I had some complications during the first trimester and things were pretty touch and go for a while, so I decided I needed to reduce outside stress as much as possible. To do that I basically cut out anything in life that wasn’t absolutely necessary, including having to put this dream of writing a blog on hold for a while, so I could focus fully on this new life and all the changes that came with it.

Fast forward almost a year and we now have a beautiful baby girl!

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She is just over two months old and life is beginning to take on a sense of normalcy, and I have been bitten by the writing bug again, so I am jumping back into blogging!

Unfortunately, considering I’m still somewhat sleep deprived from getting up at 3 am every night to nurse a newborn, I probably won’t be able to keep up with the three-posts-a-week schedule for a while. But I decided I needed to start somewhere, so I will post as often as I can. I’m not sure exactly how that will look right now, and it may mean that my posts aren’t as “pretty” with the lovely pictures and fonts and all that. But I have had some things on my heart that I wanted to share and I hope you’ll join me as we start (again)!

Finding Joy in Life’s Everyday Moments

Midweek Inspiration: Finding Joy in Life's Everday Moments | Taketimetobestill.com

Last week we talked about taking time to be still. This week, I wanted to share some ideas for putting this into practice, and helping us to find joy in life’s everyday moments.

For those of us who are parents, especially moms, it may feel like our talents are being wasted at this stage in our lives. Changing diapers, wiping noses, and making lunches is not always very challenging and can leave us feeling paradoxically overwhelmed and downright bored. We have a lot of things to juggle, but none of them feels particularly fulfilling or challenging. If, on top of all that, we work from home or outside the home, we feel the pressure both in the workplace and with our families, and it can be enough to make us want to just throw in the towel some days. However, God’s word offers us hope. It is there that we find it is possible to find contentment, joy, and peace in these everyday moments.

In Philippians 4, Paul says “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” This must ring true wherever we are in our lives. Whether we are facing hardships, living in plenty, or as we’ll see below, just living in those ordinary, everyday moments.

When we study Paul we see that he faced a lot of the same difficulties we face today (and more!). While we often focus on Paul’s physical hardships (shipwrecks, beatings, stoning, exposure, hunger, imprisonment, and more; see 2 Cor. 11:23-28), which are things that we probably don’t face on a regular basis (and which deserve a post of their own), Paul faced a number of everyday difficulties too.

Did you know Paul had a day job? In Acts 18:1-3 we find that Paul was a tentmaker by trade, and that he worked with Aquila and Priscilla while in Corinth. When we think of Paul, we often think of him as a “super apostle” – someone who spent all of him time just praying and preaching and teaching. We don’t think of him as someone who worked with his hands, trying to balance his service to God with a regular mundane job. Sounds a little more like us, now doesn’t it?

Though he had no physical children, Paul was concerned for his spiritual children, especially Timothy, who is often referred to as his son and “true child in the faith.” He urges Timothy to fight the good fight, “holding faith and a good conscience.” As I read some of Paul’s letters to Timothy, I find that much of the advice he gave are words I would speak to my own sons.

So when Paul tells us that he has learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, knowing that he has faced both extreme hardships, as well as normal, everyday situations, we should sit up and take notice. He says “In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Phil. 4:12).

So what is Paul’s secret?

I think we find the answer right there in Philippians 4:

  • “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” (v. 4)
  • “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything” (v. 5b-6a)
  • “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (v. 6b)
  • “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (v. 8)
  • “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things” (v. 9)
  • “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (v. 13)

Notice the heart attitudes here: rejoicing, thanksgiving, faith in God’s power and timing, focusing on truth, putting these things into practice. It’s a full reliance on God. It’s an everyday occurrence (vv. 4, 6, 13). It’s not “rejoice in the Lord when you feel challenged and everything is going right.” It’s not “do not be anxious about your future, but it’s ok to worry about your to-do list today.” It’s not “I can do great things tomorrow through him, but not the ordinary everyday today.” No. It’s “always…about anything…in everything” That’s for today. That’s for right now. That’s for the big, scary, future decisions and the little, seemingly insignificant decisions of today.

And what does Paul say will happen when we put these things into practice? “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” and “the God of peace will be with you” (vv. 7, 9). This, he says, is his secret to being content during the good times and the bad. I don’t know about you, but having the peace of God guarding my heart and mind sounds pretty good to me!

When we begin to think about “whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy,” when we begin to rejoice and find joy always, in all things, even changing diapers and wiping noses, when we realize that it is Christ who is our strength and that He is always at hand, even during midnight feedings and parent-teacher conferences, when we show thankfulness for the daily gifts we so often take for granted and become content with what we have rather than always wanting something else, then our whole attitude starts to change.

We begin to see everyday tasks not as things to check off our lists or time we have to simply muddle through before we get to the “good stuff,” whatever that may be in our minds, but instead we begin to see these everyday tasks as opportunities:

  • They are opportunities to serve. We serve our families, our friends, our neighbors, our community and ultimately our God. Before the last supper, Jesus took on the menial role of a servant and washed the disciple’s feet, telling them “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13).
  • They are opportunities to grow. God is continually molding us to be more like Him. Remember, Jesus spent the first 30 years of his life with his family, in the synagogue, and learning to be a carpenter. The Bible says during that time He “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Lk 2:52). Just because you’re not doing “big things” for God right now, doesn’t mean this time is wasted.
  • They are opportunities to reflect God’s love to the world. We have the opportunity to “shine as lights in the world,” especially when we “do all things without grumbling or disputing” (Phil. 2:14-15). This kind of thankful, joyful attitude reflects a love and dependence on God to the world around us, as well as to our own families and children.

Changing diapers and cleaning the floor may not seem very important some times, but when we complete these tasks with an attitude of gratefulness, joy, contentment, service, and faith, we don’t worry about how important they may seem in other’s eyes, but how important they are in God’s eyes because he calls us to be faithful in all our responsibilities, and He will take care of the details.

Next week we will talk about comparison as the enemy of joy. If you’re on Twitter, use the Hashtag #taketimetobestill or comment below or on the Facebook page to let us know what you’re learning this week as we continue our commitment to take time to be still and know God and find joy in life’s everyday moments!