Forgiveness

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

There is a lot of scary research out there that shows many young people walk away from their christian faith by the time they are 18 years old and/or enter college. You can read many interesting statistics and articles by the experts here: Barna Group

Overall, about three out of ten young people who grow up with a Christian background stay faithful to church and to faith throughout their transitions from the teen years through their twenties. (Barna Group, 2011)

Seven! Seven out of ten do not remain faithful to the church and ultimately, God.  A couple of Barna’s conclusions can be linked back to parents. Parents should be the primary influence in a young child’s spiritual life, we should not leave that important job only to the local church (for more on this thought check out the Orange philosophy here).

Not that it’s the parents fault or we have complete control over how our children “turn out” but we have a pretty major influence as to how they view our Holy God by the experiences they live in and see every day in our homes.
I can impact how my child views mercy, grace, judgment, love, righteousness, forgiveness etc. by how I respond to them, my expectations and standards I give and generally how I act in my home behind closed doors.

What is important to me? The television or the bible?
Where do I spend most of my time? On my social media? Or serving them or my neighbors?
How do I speak at church vs. in my car when someone cuts me off? Do I encourage or cut down?
Have my children been the recipient of me apologizing or asking forgiveness of them? Or is everything that goes wrong their fault and I let them know that?

After reading other authors thoughts on this my unprofessional conclusion is:
if we are not living out a healthy relationship with Jesus daily, where else will our children see that modeled on a daily basis?
Challenging? YES. Scary? YES. Possible? By anchoring to Christ, YES!

Someone just recently told me that God doesn’t give us a command without giving us the resources to carry it out. So true! God has all of the resources and strategies worked out already, we just need to follow and obey. Sounds simple right? But I know it can be difficult to accomplish in my own sinful state. Sometimes, because of sin, there can be a disconnect between what young people are hearing and being taught at church and what they are seeing daily at home. This scares me as well.

I am being challenged everyday to practice what I preach. To be responsible for what I read in my bible. I have four little sets of eyes watching and ears listening to my every move and every word. So one thing that God has encouraged me to do, as a parent living out my faith in front of my four children, is to simply ask forgiveness when I screw up and forgive quickly when I have been offended.

We have practiced this since our children were young and while we weren’t sure if it made an impact on them as little ones, we have seen, it certainly makes an impact on them as they get older.

Jesus’ simple words in Matthew 6:14-15 should cause us to obey:
For if you forgive people their wrong doing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you do not forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrong doing.” (HCSB)

You see when I was growing up, the cadence went something like this:
you got hurt by another family member,
you got mad,
you yelled,
or you stewed,
you eventually calmed down and then began speaking to the offender again as if nothing happened.
There was no reconciliation, conflict resolution or discussing whatsoever. What did happen was hurt feelings which lead to unforgiveness which lead to bitterness. 

For 18 years this played out in front of me and as I got older and bolder I began to participate as well. Unfortunately habits like this can carry into our marriages and raising of families too. We have to break the cycle.
I have to break the cycle.

So my encouragement today for parents is this:
When you screw up, ask forgiveness of your children and/or forgive them quickly, even if they don’t ask for forgiveness.
Here is what I have been taught to say:
” (name of the one you offended) I am sorry, I was wrong, will you please forgive me for (fill in the blank).”

That’s it. You may need to go into more detail about the offense, if your child is older, for clarification, but this simple sentence can show your child that you are obeying Jesus and desiring to follow Him. I cannot express to you the encouragement I feel when one of my children asks for forgiveness without being prompted. That is fruit friends!! It certainly didn’t begin all of a sudden. I had many opportunities while they were younger and to this day still continue to ask forgiveness from them. Keep working hard friends. It is worth the fight.

 

Paul’s Example

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net / David Castillo

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net / David Castillo

I desire to grow closer to God.
To be a better believer, wife, mom and friend.
I try to look for people I can meet with and be challenged by or whom I can pick their brain about spiritual or parenting questions I have.  I didn’t have to go very far today, God slammed me with the apostle Paul. I was reading in Philippians 4 and was reminded of a treasured verse I love:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” verses 8-9 NIV

Normally, probably like you, I would have been reminded to think on things that are pure, right, noble etc. But what might become another treasured verse is the one right after these encouraging verses. The verse that struck me today was a part in verse 9 (in bold). Read it again.

I think I have often read it too quickly or simply skimmed right over this small little sentence in verse 9. Paul, in verse 8, was challenging the Philippians to think about Godly: things that are true, noble, pure, right, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. One reason why was to be blessed by God’s peace. But what struck me today and what God wanted me to sit on in verse 9 was so that I can be an example to those that are around me (eh hum: my children)! Not only that but I am responsible now…I am responsible for what I know and I NEED to put it into practice.

“…out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks….” Matthew 12:34 and Luke 6:45 NIV. What am I thinking about daily? Because what I am thinking about and meditating on is going to come out of my mouth. Paul encouraged the Philippians in this way so that they would do like he did. Not that Paul was perfect, he would be the first to admit that he was an unworthy servant. But he strives to be more like Christ in all he did. In ALL areas of his life. God’s challenge to me? ALL areas of my life….when 4pm hour rolls around and the kiddos are like piranhas: hungry, tired, whiny, crazy-you know that time of day.

There is no doubt about the fact that we show who we truly are behind closed doors. We show who we are to our spouse.
We show who we are to our children.
And if you are like me sometimes we aren’t the same person at home as we are when we walk through other doors of our life. And knowing this, in his ever so gentle manner, God wanted to challenge me by looking to Paul’s example.

I asked myself:
Was I a believer, a wife, a mom, a friend that is worth looking up to?
A believer such that others can learn?
A wife that can give unconditionally to my husband and my children so they could receive?
Am I a mom that speaks so that my husband is lifted up, respected, and encouraged? Are my children hearing about the things of God?
Am I a Godly friend so that someone can know I am a believer by seeing me or watching me?
Am I being a Godly example so others can put into practice what I am teaching, giving, speaking, and doing? Paul was.

I hope you are spurred on today by Paul, a great example of a regular guy who wanted to love and follow Jesus in ALL areas of his life.

Is Your Glass Overflowing?

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.com / nixxphotography

May I share with you something I re-read in one of my favorite books recently?  In Tender Mercy for a Mother’s Soul, the author relays a story in which she, the mother of four, is frustrated and overwhelmed by her lack of time and the general chaos that defines her life. She is upset and desiring someone else to blame, so like the rest of us normal sinners, she blames her spouse. Sound familiar?  As she stews, a good friend (her husband’s mentor), calls. He senses her frustration and talks her through the illustration below. He asks her to go to the kitchen, pick up a glass, and stand by the sink (in the excerpt, his words are italicized and hers are in plain text). Let’s sit in on the conversation…

“I want you to fill a glass half full with water. You are the glass and Jesus is the water. Now talk to me theologically about the glass.

The water is in the glass.

Good, now keep going.

Jesus is in the glass. Jesus is in me.

Who?

Jesus.

Who?

Jesus! Only Jesus.

Now keep holding the glass and continue to talk to me. Does the water fill completely where it is?

Yes.

Tell me more.

The water runs to the edge, filling all the space in the bottom of the glass.

Are there any holes?

No holes, completely filled.

Did your husband have anything to do with filling the glass?

No (tears streaming down her face) only water fills the glass. Only Jesus can fill me

Yes. Only Jesus can fill you. Now hold the glass under the faucet and let water run into it. Keep talking theology.

The water is filling the glass. Jesus is filling me. Now the glass is full…the water is running over.

What is happening to the water?

It’s spilling.

Who is spilling?

Jesus is spilling over.

Why?

Because the glass is full.

Where is he spilling?

Everywhere.

Talk to me about you.

Only Jesus can fill me completely, and when I am full of Jesus, I am overflowing…spilling onto everyone around me…sloshing Jesus everywhere I go.”

I stood at my sink and let the power of this picture etch itself into my soul. I was holding a glass under the faucet, watching the water run all over my hands and arms, experiencing one of the most powerful lessons of my Christian life.

Angela, your expectations toward your husband have been misplaced.
He is a great man of God, but he can never do what only Jesus can do in your soul.
Only Jesus can fill you.
Only Jesus can love you completely.
Only Jesus can meet your every need.
Paul is your life partner.
He is your friend and your love.
He needs your grace.
He needs Jesus to spill from your life onto him.
You must run to Jesus to be filled.
And when you are full, everyone around you gets Jesus- your husband, your children, your friends.
You spill Jesus onto them from your full cup.” *

                                           ———————————————————————————————–

Only Jesus friends.
Only Jesus can fill our souls.

Not our spouses, not our children, not our friends; Not social media- Facebook, our email, this blog or any other.

Only Jesus can fill the Jesus-sized hole in our hearts and souls that we long to have fulfilled. Then, and only then, can we spill His perfect grace, mercy, love, forgiveness onto others around us. I know it’s easy to put the needs of others before your own, getting caught up in the craziness of life, and not having time to get things done; I get that completely. But there is no substitute for reading and spending time in God’s word, praying and conversing with the Creator of the universe, laying your worries, anxieties, and cares at the foot of the cross. There is nothing like worshiping the Father who created every part of your physical and spiritual self. I know you are busy, and sometimes overwhelmed, but make time for Him. In view of His mercies, make time for Him. So that you can spill Jesus onto your spouse, children, and those around you.

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God,
I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God,
this is your spiritual worship.
Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,
so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”
Romans 12:1-2 HCSB

* Taken from Tender Mercy for a Mother’s Soul, by Angela Thomas Guffey.