It’s the one area I was most concerned about. I knew I’d make countless mistakes as a mom, but this was something I needed to excel in! Though numerous other things my husband and I sought to teach our daughter were important, this was the only one with eternal implications.
I knew, regardless of how kind or successful she became, when her time on earth ended, her good deeds would amount to naught if she wasn’t right with God.
So, I started reading Scripture to her before she could walk or talk. We began with a picture Bible, then to one for toddlers, than for early readers, ending each night with prayer. This became our bedtime tradition, one that helped mold and train her little, impressionable heart.
I was certain I had this parenting thing down! Until the questions started coming.
“How do you know the Bible is true?”
“What makes what we believe right?”
“What about Buddhism and Islam and all the other religions?”
Though I tried to respond with a confident smile, internally I was terrified. She’d been exposed to things that had caused questions to arise and I wasn’t sure how to respond. What if I answered her incorrectly or insufficiently and she turned away from the only faith that can save?
I don’t remember what I said to her in the moment, but I do remember what I did shortly after—I turned to God in prayer. ‘Show me what to do, Lord. Help me. Help her. And please, hold her tightly.”
His response, whispered like a gentle thought that brought my anxious ones to a halt: “Don’t panic. Teach her.”
And so I did. We began to look at why Scripture was credible, the problem with man-made religions and their failure to deal with sin, and more. We didn’t shy away from tough questions, and I learned not to fear them. In fact, I began to welcome them as I realized they offered wonderful teachable opportunities that, if handled well, could strengthen our daughter’s faith, draw her closer to her Savior, and deepen our relationship with one another as well.
I wonder if Paul and Timothy offered similar prayers on behalf of the Ephesians as I had for our daughter. Knowing eternity was at stake, did they, like I had, feel a rising sense of panic? And did God say the same thing to them I sensed Him saying to me, back when our daughter was young and curious about false truths that promised a way to God but lacked the power to save?
I’m not sure, but I do know what God instructed the young preacher through Paul: Read and thus reveal truth (Scripture). Encourage believers. Teach them. Keep a close eye on your teaching. (1 Tim. 4:16). Make sure it’s sound and true.
I believe Paul is saying the same thing to us, especially if we have children or grandchildren. But even if we don’t, as Maria mentioned a couple weeks ago, we all have a sphere of influence. And we should continue teaching ourselves, so to speak, as we read Scripture daily, allowing it to encourage us, and prayerfully focus on making sure our doctrine is sound and true.
This leads me to this week’s memory verse: If you’re a parent or grandparent, what are some ways you have or can focus on teaching your children or grandchildren truths revealed in Scripture? What are some ways you are working to teach yourself the same truths?
Share your thoughts here or join the discussion in our online Bible study group which can be found HERE.
“If that was God’s miracle, I want nothing to do with you, God.”
God doesn’t always show up as we expect, nor does always play out as we desire. But does that mean He isn’t good? Does the chaos of our world in any way diminish or contradict His sovereignty?
I almost find it funny, one of my greatest fears has always been that of myself or my loved ones experiencing physical pain. When my husband donated a kidney, and I watched him struggle through those first few nights of recovery in intense pain, I thought I was going to come undone. When my daughter got shingles and cried out to both me and God, my heart literally shred. And for myself, I spent a great deal of time and energy attempting to avoid physical pain.
So what’d God do? He allowed me to develop a condition characterized by unrelenting pain. Sense of humor? Cruelty? Or grace characterized by incomprehensible mercy and grace? I’ve come to realize it’s the latter, and though I don’t have the time or space here to expand, one of the greatest gifts I’ve received from suffering are explained in Carol’s beautiful post below.
But first, I wanted to announce the winner of last week’s give away! Jennifer Hallmark, congrats! You won a copy of Jan Pierce’s book, Home Grown Readers! I’ll shoot you an email soon to chat about the best way to get that to you.
“As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes…The Lord has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all.” Ps. 103: 15 -19
Life in my twenties had been hard, and as things spiraled out of control, a Christian family, with children nearer to my age than I was to the parents, befriended me.
At that time, my daughter was three. She was bright and beautiful and pleasant. Never would she be a Mother Teresa changing the lives of the less fortunate, or an Angelina Jolie, gorgeous and altruistic. She may never be extraordinary to the world, but she is my reason for living.
When life got too difficult, I would strap Sarah into her bike seat and peddle a mile down the road to my neighbors. Once inside their home, the presence of Christ would descend. Sarah would hurry to their TV and watch Mr. Rogers. I would bask in the faith of Marge and Al. This was the only place I allowed myself to feel God.
One day, dear friends of theirs visited. With them was their grandson. He was my daughter’s age but had severe cerebral palsy. Still in a high chair, Alex couldn’t feed himself, control his arms, or any other part of his body for that matter. On this particular day, while my perfect, little girl sat mesmerized at the TV, Alex stuck out his tongue.
“That is a miracle of God,” Al said. “Alex demonstrates God’s infinite love.”
I, on the other hand, sat in shocked silence. If that was God’s miracle, I want nothing to do with you, God.
The usual warmth of their home vanished as I bristled at what I deemed to be God’s unfairness.
Yet, the comment of God’s miracle clung to me like thistle seeds. I rode home, fixed dinner for my family, prepared Sarah for bed. That night, I lay alone in my bed and brooded about Alex. From a young age, I understood the immensity of eternity. This life is a blink of the eye compared to forever. Alex suffered for a heartbeat. In heaven, he’d have perfect limbs, a fine mind and a crown of jewels greater than I could imagine.
And my daughter? Today her life excels more than mine. She’s more philanthropic than I’ve ever been. A better mother. Has a marriage that works beautifully. She’s attractive. Smart. Never will she win a Nobel Prize. But because of Alex, of those like him who suffer through his days that are like grass, a flower in the field, I’ve always relished her perfection—the sunlight-gold of her hair, the slant of her eyebrows, her good grades, her hand-holding, sitting on my lap (even today). Every little thing about her delights me.
The hard things of life show us how blessed we are. They demonstrate the miracle of God. We are His creation. Belonging to Him, He has free reign. If we suffer—it’s but for a moment, but it brings with it exceeding great joy.
Alex is a key to my salvation. And his life, like ours, reaches out across our suffering and shows the beauty of God’s sovereignty.
Carol McClain is an erstwhile English teacher, a bassoonist and a stained-glass artist with an eclectic array of other interests. She lives in the frozen reaches of northern NY and will, this summer, trade her Yankee ways for Tennessee.
Her debut novel is DWF: Divorced White Female. In this humorous women’s fiction, sassy and unsaved Cheryl Chandler knows only one thing will save her from her husband’s desertion: a man—any man so long as he’s hot. Somehow she has to find him. Eventually, he has to meet her kids. The first problem is solved by her children who sign her up on an online dating site. The second problem? She’s stuck.
DWF is available wherever ebooks are sold. The print copy can be found on Amazon.
Let’s talk about this. What events or situations have brought the truth of eternity and God’s sovereignty home for you? Have you ever struggled with this, and if so, why? How has God helped you in your struggle? What do you find most difficult to accept regarding this truth? What do you find most comforting? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.
For my local friends, make sure to mark your calendars for two upcoming events:
Saturday morning, April 18th from 10-11:30, join me at Reality Church in LaVista for some intense pampering, including free mani-pecs and (also free!) childcare! Sign up here!
Afterward, join me at Barnes and Noble from 2-5ish pm where I’ll be talking about my latest release and signing copies. Find more information here, and use the “invite a friend” link to invite your friends. Let me know if you plan on coming, and maybe we can chat over coffee after.
Oh, I almost forgot! I can now officially share the cover of my next book, releasing in winter of 2016! I’m really excited about this one, because there’s an amazing miracle-God’s-sovereign story that follows. I can’t wait to share.
Abandoned by her husband, an organ procurement coordinator fighting to keep her job and her sanity encounters an old flame facing an unthinkable tragedy.
For Tammy Kuhn, being an organ procurement coordinator is more than a job. It’s a ministry. But when her husband of sixteen years leaves her for another woman, struggles with childcare, her absentee ex-husband, and an altercation with a doctor threaten her job. Embittered and overwhelmed, she fights to maintain her sanity when a late night encounter with an old flame stirs emotions long since buried but the ICU is no place for romance.
How deep, how far reaching, is your hope? Before you give the appropriate Christian answer, pause and evaluate your life. Your words. Those thoughts that whisper to you throughout the day and keep you awake at night.
Surrender. Releasing our life to a bigger plan, whether we can see the details or not. Looking past our momentary frustrations, pain and struggles to see God’s eternal plan.
Because, “if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world” (1 Corinthians 15:19 NLT).
This was certainly the case for both Ruth and Boaz. When I read their story, being the romantic that I am, I zero in on their unfolding love. Boaz is Ruth’s provider and Ruth the sweet, loyal, nurturing wife and mother. *sigh* Such a tender example of true and holy love.
And yet, there’s an even bigger story unfolding in the pages of Ruth, a greater romance that calls out to all mankind, for Jesus is our Boaz, our kinsman redeemer, our deepest and truest love.
The real story hidden within this beautiful romance is the wooing of Creator God as He laid the groundwork for His redemptive plan, which ultimately led to the greatest sacrifice mankind has ever known.
Ruth’s life was bigger than she realized; bigger, I believe, than she could have imagined.
As is ours. But I think, often we get so caught up in the Iof our story, we lose sight of the Author. It’s His story, and we are but supporting roles. Directed by Him, for His glory, to point others not to ourselves but rather, to Him.
It’s funny, this following of God’s plan. When I first began to write full time, I became obsessed with “the dream”. My prayers were dominated by self-centeredness. Lord, help me get published. Grant me new opportunities. Grant me favor with the contest judges reading my work.
Kinda ugly. In fact, not long into it, God made it clear, my writing had become my idol, and God wanted me to let it go. To lay everything, my whole self, on the alter, and thus, my prayers changed as I began to recite the words of Romans 12:1-2, which I personalized as follows:
“Lord, in view of all You’ve done, in view of Your mercy and grace and the death You endured on the cross, for me, I offer my whole body to You as a living sacrifice. May this be my act of worship. Help me not to conform to the ways of this word but instead, transform me by renewing my mind. Help me to know and live Your good, pleasing, and perfect will.”
That is a prayer God has consistently honored.
As I uttered those words, sometimes multiple times throughout the day, asking God to give me the desire and strength to live them, a funny thing happened. Doors of opportunity began to open and publishers began to ask to see my work.
How exciting, right? What I prayed for years ago was finally beginning to happen! You’d think this would be cause for celebration, that I’d be ready to barge forward unhindered.
That wasn’t what happened. I’m not sure if I can explain the heaviness of what followed and the deep urgings that filled my heart, urgings I believe were birthed by Christ. As I turned yet again to God in prayer, I sensed so strongly and clearly that God was going to use me, and suddenly my inadequacies came into focus.
I knew I wasn’t ready. More than that, I knew I had a long way to go before I would be ready.
So once again my prayers changed. I began praying that God would humble me, remove my selfishness, grant me increased self-control, fill my mind and heart with His truth until everything else was pushed aside.
And once again, He honored that prayer… in a much different way than I’d ever anticipated.
I asked for humility. God gave me two humbling (and at times, very humiliating) chronic illnesses. I asked God to teach me truth. He granted me trial after trial that brought me to my knees in deep, sobbing prayers. I asked Him to remove my selfishness and He showed me, through the faithfulness of a terminally ill friend, what it meant to live for Christ.
In the course of three years, everything changed.
My struggles centered my heart in Christ and His eternal plan, and it’s my pain and loss that have allowed me to love others in a deeper way than I ever could have, had I not first been broken.
“What if our lives are part of something bigger than we know” ~ Lance Burch, Reality Church
Don’t be the center of your story. Surrender everything to be part of something immensely, miraculously, mercifully eternal.
Let’s talk about this. I know today’s post is insanely long, but today’s lesson is the most important, I believe. We started this study talking about surrender, and that is how we’ll end it.
If we could but catch a glimpse of eternity, how our lives would change! Everything looks different in light of the cross.
Lately, I’ve become increasingly aware of the plight of persecuted Christians throughout the world. Right now as I write this, countless Christians are being martyred for their faith. In many countries, believers are being rejected by their families, are losing jobs and their homes because they’ve given their lives to Christ. These men and women are so in love with Jesus, they’re willing to risk everything for the sake of knowing Him and making Him known.
Yet in the United States, it’s hard to find enough people to lead our Sunday school classes. I’ve often wondered the reason for the difference. Do we love Christ less here? Do we not understand the reality of eternity?
Honestly, tomorrow’s Christianity depends on God working through the youth of today, and everything we do as parents either helps or hinders kingdom expansion.
Last week I had the privilege of spending a day with Bob and Joy Caldwell, founders of Global Encounter, a ministry that trains tomorrow’s leaders through inner-city and international missions and in-depth teaching. Bob is helping to change this downward spiral we often see in the United States by building teens up then setting them loose to do God’s work.
“I feel like, if we’re not careful, what we’re going to do with teenagers is unintentionally as a church say, ‘You guys are the ones who’ll go play wiffle-ball with the kids and then we’ll do all the biblical teaching,'” Bob said. “I’m convinced that even though these students at age fourteen may not be the quality teacher that a sixty-year that is precious to the kingdom and very valuable to the kingdom and has been doing it for thirty-years, they may not be that teacher, but they never will become that teacher if we don’t give them the opportunity. It’s imperative that adults—man, be there, pour into them, absolutely, you know, advise, but not take control. We use the phrase, pick ‘em up by the seat of their pants and throw them in the farm pond. They swim every time because God’s the one that’s taking care of them.”
The results are phenomenal! Bob and his team continue to raise the bar, and these teens continue to surpass leadership expectations. The multiplication has been exponential. Adults who participated in the program as teens now lead youth groups and bring their teens to Global Encounter.
Over the next few months I’ll be writing articles on Global Encounter, their interns and teens, and what I witnessed during the 2011 Kansas City projects for Salena Storm, Nicole O’Dell from Teen Talk Radio, Steve Austin from the Attic, Laura Polk from Moms Together, Young Adult author Shellie Neumeier, and others, then I’ll link to the articles from here. Make sure to stop by these sites to get to know this phenomenal ministry and its leaders better!
Global Encounter Ministries:
Why GE is so effective? Because it’s all about relationship building–being the hands and feet of Christ to inner-city children.