Give Jesus to Your Children

I don’t know about you, but I sort of feel like the summer is already flying by far too quickly. It seems like only a few days ago we were getting ready for the last day of school and the celebrations that followed, now we’re nearing the middle of July! Time certainly does fly right by!

I know that in the days leading up to the break, Jennifer and the kids put together a list of the extra things they wanted to try to do this summer, such as visits to the park, picnics, swimming, and a host of other things. The heat has been somewhat of an obstacle for several of the activities. My own personal list involved doing a whole lot less than normal—in fact, a whole lot of nothing—and yet I’ve found myself in the middle of finishing a basement renovation before Joshua’s graduation party this Saturday. It wasn’t necessarily how I was planning to spend my midsummer evenings, but looking at it long term, it will be worth the effort when it’s done. I suppose there are a lot of things we can view from this same perspective.

Considering my son Joshua and looking back over the years, I’m sure that just like me, you can think on times when raising your own children was a difficult task. In fact, you might say it was one of the most challenging endeavors that the Lord ever allowed. It’s not uncommon for Jennifer and me to turn at look at one another in any particular circumstance involving our children and say, “Would you have ever thought you’d be here right now?” The answer is almost always, “No.” And it’s an honest no, because when either of us was younger—still kids, in a sense—who’d have thought we’d ever really be on the other end of the strange situations that we were imposing on our own parents. Forget the diaper changes. Over the course of years, that seems easy to me now. I’m talking about the late night in the Emergency Room because the child made a poor choice on the jungle gym, or terrifying diagnosis, or a conversation of comfort and encouragement in the face of a friend’s harsh words, or the seemingly never-ending sanitizing when the Rota virus is sweeping through the house, or sorting through a situation when the child did something wrong and found himself in trouble, or the countless hours of cleaning only to see everything wrecked again in less than ten minutes, or the arguments about this or that issue. I could go on and on, and I’m sure that most anything I’d share would resonate with many of you. But the point is that a lot goes into seeing a child through to adulthood, and while many of the events are not what we may have wanted or expected, I stand here at the edge of our first child’s graduation from high school and I say that the work was worth it.

But having said this, there’s a more important point that needs to be shared, and it’s that without the Lord and His Gospel being at the heart of the effort, there’d have been no chance of true success. And by success, I don’t mean that the child manages to stay out of prison and instead gets a great job, has a great marriage, and is a productive member of society. What I mean is that the child has been raised in a way to know the savior, Jesus Christ, and the forgiveness of sins He has won by His life, death, and resurrection. This is most important.

I’m pretty sure I once shared in a sermon that while I’ve had many goals as a dad, the most important thing to me is that when I’m well situated in the midst of heaven’s eternity, at some point along the way, my wife and children will be within arm’s reach, and I’ll be able to turn to them and say, “I’m so glad you’re here.” That’s what I want most. And so all of the effort now, no matter how challenging it may be, has as its main strategy the effort to keep Jesus in the middle of it all.

Always be willing to give Jesus to your children. And I encourage you to do this as much as you can while you can. Of course this means being faithful in worship, but it also means keeping Christ at the center of life’s occurrences—both good and bad. Again, things may or may not turn out for success in this life. Our children may stray. They may get into some serious, life-altering trouble. But in the end, their hearts will have been regularly cultivated to know that, ultimately, Christians are not inheritors of this world. We are inheritors of the world to come, and so we continue to introduce Christ to our families knowing that the Word of the Gospel is powerful, and in the hour of deepest need, there is the promise of forgiveness no matter how long and hard the road has been.

It will be a moment when the effort seemed so challenging—and sometimes even hopeless—but in the end, it will have been worth it.

I pray the Lord’s blessings by this Gospel to you and your family. I am most certainly confident that it is the only true message of power that can actually change human history and establish the best future for our kids.

I Pray For You – December 12, 2017

As always, I pray all is well with you and your family, namely that you know the peace of Christ and His great love for you.

Literally. I pray this. I go into the nave, kneel at the altar rail (or sit in the first pew on the pulpit side), and I pray for you—by name.

I do a lot with social media these days. It’s one of the main forms of communication that I use for the various groups that I interact with on a regular basis—synodical, legislative, and the like. I posted on Facebook a few weeks back, not long after a foreign tragedy, that I think it’s rather telling in our society when the commonplace shaping of our condolences in the face of calamity is to say that “our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the tragedy.” Thoughts maybe, but unless you actually take action and share your thoughts of condolence with those who would be served well by hearing them (through a greeting card, an email, or some form of personal communication), even that commonplace sentiment sounds empty, and maybe even a little weird, as though our thoughts are going to somehow rise into some ethereal space and descend in a graspable way to those who need to know we’re thinking about them or that we’re concerned for their well being.

But there’s something else we should consider in this regard.

We don’t send our prayers out to people. They go to God. And again, when someone in the midst of struggle tells another person his or her story, and that listener responds by saying, “I’ll keep you in prayer,” personally, I hope the person means it. I hope it hasn’t devolved into a substance-less response that we give to folks when we just don’t know what to say. I really hope that at the next opportunity available, he or she will actually petition our faithful God for the care of the person in need.

Yes, God already knows all things. And yet, He commands for us to pray.

I’ve thought a lot about this over the course of my life, asking myself, “If God knows all things—that is, He knows all things before I even ask—why does He want me to pray?”

By the Word of God, I’ve come to two conclusions. The first I’ll explain this way.

When my son Joshua was little, unprompted, he would tell me all the time how much he loved me. He’s seventeen now. As he’s gotten older, he still tells me that he loves me, but it’s not as often as before. Do I know that he loves me? Yes. But oh how I love to hear it. What father wouldn’t? In a sense, God loves to hear his children speak their love to Him. It isn’t a narcissistic thing, but rather it is something spoken in the midst of a relationship built on love—real, genuine, long-lasting familial love.

The second is that God knows our sinful hearts, and with that, He knows we won’t pray unless he tells us to. But again, this isn’t a hard command, but rather it is an encouraging opportunity He establishes for our good. He wants us to know the joy and importance of having complete and total access to Him, by the power of the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus, through prayer. And why? Well, it comes back around to where the thought started. Because He loves us, plain and simple.

Having said all of this, I want you to know that when I tell you that I’ll keep you in prayer, I really do. I appreciate talking with God. And again, even though He already knows everything I’m going to say, that doesn’t stop me from telling Him your name and explaining to Him what’s happening and why I really want Him to act on your behalf. Most importantly, just as Jacob wrestled with God in Genesis 32, being unwilling to let his divine opponent go until He blessed him, I hold God to His promise to bless you—to accomplish His holy will in your lives by virtue of the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, His Son, our Lord. In all of this, I know He hears me. I know He responds. I know He will act—and is, even now, already acting—to bring to completion the good work He intends, which in its core is your eternal salvation!