Time to Take Out the Trash! (guest post)

This girl! I just love her honest perspective and practical attitude. 
I met Jenifer at a writers conference last May, and I immediately wanted her
to share here on Intentional Parenting. It took almost a year but here she
is! I'm sure you'll be blessed by her words...and maybe you'll think about
your own stinky trash can a little differently in the future. You can read
more about Jenifer at the bottom.

A few months ago I walked into the house and the smell hit me. It was overwhelming. The trash HAD to go!

I had been in the house all day and I didn’t smell it, but when I left and came back it was overwhelming. I didn’t realize how bad it had become.

I also saw this with our daughter’s attitude. Continue reading “Time to Take Out the Trash! (guest post)”

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Memorable Mealtimes (guest post)

I’m proud to welcome Meredith Mills to Intentional Parenting today! She has 
some great ideas to help us maintain and/or improve our family mealtime. 
You can read more about Meredith and get in touch with her at the bottom of 
this post.

“I’m glad we eat together as a family,” said my pre-teen daughter as she served up a second helping. Her comment warmed my heart. I, too, love our shared moments around the table.

Sometimes they’re rushed as we squeeze in a meal before Wednesday night AWANA or some other obligation. But most often, our dinners are times of sweet fellowship as we experience life together.

Mealtimes provide a regular opportunity for us to touch base and talk about what’s going on in our everyday lives. Relationships blossom as we listen to each other’s hearts and respond with acceptance and love.

As parents, we equip ourselves to provide protection for our kids when we discuss interactions with friends, observe attitudes, and listen to what’s important to them.

Here are some practical tips for creating memorable mealtimes:

  • Unplug

We are less distracted and more people-focused when our devices are turned off or stowed away from the table. Our family has a designated “phone basket” for use during meals.

  • Keep it relaxed

Cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance around the dinner table. This is a fabulous time to discuss issues important to our family and model respect as each person explains his or her opinion. When God’s Word and His grace are central, these discussions can build up the faith of those gathered there.

  • Facilitate conversation

The internet abounds with “conversation starters” – questions we can ask to get the proverbial ball rolling. (We recently bought a pack of napkins which had discussion questions printed on each napkin!) The best questions require more than yes or no answers. They probe deeply into hearts, souls and imaginations; they strengthen the friendships we share.

  • Make room for fun

Our kids love to tell their newest jokes and riddles during dinner. Sometimes we also craft impromptu stories around the table. One person starts out the story and sets the scene, then “passes the baton” to the next person, who adds his or her own ideas to the plot. It’s our family’s version of a choose-your-own adventure story.

  • Model healthy habits

From portion control and eating our veggies, to providing an example of good listening skills, mealtimes enable us to model habits our kids need to lead healthy lives.

  • Find your own rhythm

For many families, busy evening schedules prevent daily dinners at home. However, this doesn’t make meals together impossible. Through prayer and some creativity, each of us can find a routine that works for our family. Here are some ideas to think through:

  1. Is it possible to shift dinner to later in the evening, allowing everyone time to get home?
  2. Could you pick one night of the week as “family dinner night” and protect it like any other appointment on your calendar?
  3. What about Saturday morning breakfast or Sunday lunch together?

Prioritizing mealtime togetherness is a priceless gift we can give to our families. It takes intentionality, wisdom, and creativity, as well as some boundary-setting with our schedules, but the benefits certainly outweigh the effort.

How do you make room for family meals? What’s your favorite activity around the table? Please share some “best practices” in the comments below. We’d all love to hear from you.

Prioritizing family #mealtimes may take a little work, but it’s worth it! Some #IntentionalParenting tips via @DazzledByTheSon and @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

IP - Meredith Mills headshot

Meredith Mills is a wife and mother to three inquisitive, adventurous, fun-loving kids. She loves finding Jesus in the everyday and is passionate about helping others experience Him, too. She blogs at www.DazzledByTheSon.wordpress.com. Connect with her on FacebookInstagram, and/or Twitter.

 

 

 

3 Approaches to Allowance

I have some really practical Intentional Parenting thoughts for you today about our children’s allowances. There are a few different approaches we’ll look at, and I’ll let you know why we chose the one we did.

There are three broad approaches to allowances. (I’m making up these categories.)

  1. The Beneficent Ruler approach
  2. The Employer/Employee approach
  3. The Citizenship approach

The Beneficent Ruler Approach

In this approach, there are no allowances. The parent buys the child what he wants. While it feels generous, this approach is subject to the mood of the parent, who might choose not to buy a new toy because she is angry with the child or in a hurry. The parent may also be tempted to bribe the child in order to influence the child’s behavior in the store. Furthermore, as the child grows, his expectations will become more and more expensive, creating problems for the parent who will inevitably have to start saying “no.”

I don’t recommend this approach after the child learns to count money. In addition to the issues above, the child will not learn the value of money or how to save it. He also won’t understand why some shopping trips result in toys and others don’t.

No matter which of the next two approaches you take, an allowance is a good idea. It helps your children learn how to manage money and how to save for things they really want. I am so thankful my mother taught me how to spend and save money. I’m fairly sure it’s that experience which has helped my own family stay out of credit card debt!

The Employer/Employee Approach

In this method, parents pay children for the completion of chores. Although we don’t use this approach, I have friends who do, and there are some benefits to it. Children learn the value of their work—that effort has rewards. Parents sometimes quantify purchases, saying things like, “That book costs five dishwashings.” This can be helpful for children who don’t grasp the concept of paper money and coins yet. Children will also have incentive to do their chores because of the reward, and the punishment for incomplete chores is built into the system.

The Biblical basis for this approach comes from verses like 2 Thessalonians 3:10.

For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

The Citizenship Approach

In this method, all members of the family possess certain rights and responsibilities inherent to their positions as family members. Members have the right to an allowance, that is, to a small amount of money that can be used at one’s discretion. They also have a right to be heard and to provide input into big decisions (financial and otherwise). At the same time, family members have certain responsibilities simply because they are part of the family. Parents go to work or work from home, children go to school, parents drive places, parents buy groceries, children obey parents as governing authorities, etc. Everyone does household and yard chores appropriate for their ages and strengths.

Even if you don’t do your chores all week, even if you get disciplined every day, you still get your allowance (unless part of your discipline is the loss of that allowance, which we’ve never done).

I prefer this approach because it’s not really about the money. It’s about the family and each person’s permanent place in it. Through it, we teach our children about our (and therefore God’s) everlasting love and generosity but also our response of obedience. We fulfill our duties because we’re part of the family, not because we get something for it. We receive an allowance because we’re part of the same family and not because we did something to deserve it. Sure, it makes chore completion more of a hassle, but I think it’s worth it.

The Citizenship approach refers to our citizenship in the Kingdom of God. The Biblical foundation for this approach comes from verses such as this:

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. -Romans 8:17

Details

Just a couple of details, if you’re interested.

  • Each person’s allowance (including parents) is half their age. So the 10-year-old gets $5/week. (We might have to change this in the later teenage years, but it’s working for now.) This helps us modify amounts as the kids get older. Because we parents get an allowance, too, the children watch us go through the same waiting times and decisions as they experience. They don’t think we can just buy anything we want because we have the ATM cards.
  • We give occasional advances if there’s a good purchase that probably won’t be available later. We are faithful, however, to ensure that it’s repaid. Learning about debt is part of the experience.
  • The children tithe on their allowance, as practice and as an act of worship.

3 Approaches to Allowance for Intentional Parenting. (click to tweet)

What about your experience as a child or as a parent? Please share some good allowance strategies or ideas in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!

How to Study the Bible with Your Grade-School Children (in app. 500 words)

If the thought of opening the real Bible (not the children’s storybook Bible) with your children intimidates you, here’s the help you need! It’s a simple Bible study method to engage you and your children in studying His Word. It requires no weekly preparation and it should be fun.

But first, it’s okay…

…to laugh with the Bible. Have fun; be creative; stretch your imagination. For example, what kind of face do you think Zacchaeus made when Jesus looked up in the tree?

…that you don’t have a degree in Bible. The Word of God is accessible to all. Plus, your kids don’t need a lecture on transubstantiation. They need to know what it means to take the Lord’s Supper/Communion.

…if you or your kids can’t answer all the questions. Everyone can try. You will all get better at it after some experience.

…to use the “grown-up” Bible with your children. Just find an easy-to-read translation such as English Standard Version (ESV) or New International Readers Version (NIrV) and start reading!

Before your first study time, choose a book of the Bible. Start with a gospel such as Mark or Luke—lots of stories. Read the introductory material in your study Bible. That will help you answer questions about the author and situation.

The “How To”

Pray together.

Ask for understanding, patience, listening ears, no distractions, etc.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. -John 14:26

Use stories.

Read one story, along with any preceding transitions or introductions. Then have someone else retell it or act it out. Try letting a child read the story, then you retell it.

(Next time, review previous weeks, then read the next story. Make it like a series so everyone catches the bigger picture.)

Ask interactive questions.

Use interrogatives to discuss the story. Answer the questions together.

  • Where are they?
  • When does this happen?
  • Who is there?
  • What actually happens?
  • How did people respond?

Now take it deeper.

  • What did it mean to the people who were there?
  • Why did the author include this story?
  • What connections do you see to other stories/Scripture?

Finally, application.

  • What have we learned?
  • What do we need to do about what we’ve learned?
  • What action do we need to take (as a family or individually) in response?

These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. -John 20:31

Create a ‘take-away’.

Find an object to remind you of this story, have someone draw a picture of the story, or (if everyone can read) display an application phrase in a prominent place for the week.

Extend the discussion.

Talk about the story and application as you have opportunities throughout the week.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. -Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Family devotions without a devotional book: How to Study the Bible with Your Kids (in <500 words)  <-click to tweet

Try this out, then leave me some feedback. I’d really like to know what you think!

Four Intentional Decisions in Parenting (guest post)

Isn't it great when God plants a similar call in separate people's lives? When I 
started this blog a few years ago, I had never heard the phrase, Intentional 
Parenting. But just recently, I found someone else with the same heart...and the
same tag line! So of course, I had to ask him to guest post for us. Please welcome 
Phil Conrad and take some time to really hear what he shares today. You can read
more about Phil and how to connect with him at the bottom of this post.

Over the course of our years as parents, my wife, Heather and I have made several decisions that we found to be extremely beneficial to our family. I believe that part of being an intentional parent is making decisions that glorify God.

Decision 1. Cutting Cable out of our Home

Eleven years ago, we decided to shut off our cable. While we do watch some shows via the internet or DVD, we can be more selective about what we choose to watch. This decision came as a result of attending family camp (see Decision 2) to allow more time for us to serve the Kingdom more than ourselves. I enjoy watching TV, maybe too much. I would waste away hours every night flipping through different programs, watching sports, movies or whatever would grab my attention. The only thing this did was make me a dud dad.

I did not want to waste the precious time I had with my kids on mindless entertainment. Add to this the fact that commercials were becoming more sleazy, television programming was becoming more risqué, we did not want to expose our kids to this on a consistent basis. We didn’t want to expose ourselves to that garbage either. So we cut it off. Admittedly, it was difficult for the first couple of weeks and we missed watching some of the shows we enjoyed. But we soon got used to it and found more valuable ways to spend our time.

Decision 2. Vacationing to Family Camp

We love Gull Lake Ministries (GLM) family resort. (You can hear about it on one of my podcast episodes.) GLM is great for all ages, provides sound Bible teaching, a safe environment and includes a planned-out agenda. We enjoy the opportunity to unplug from the world for a week as we listen to God’s word preached in the morning and relax on the beach in the afternoon. Other activities to enjoy with your kids include a zip line, tennis, a water pad, pickle ball, bowling, paddle boards, swimming, and many others.

We have been going there for over ten years to either the week long family camp or weekend retreats. It’s difficult to explain how great the time of spiritual refreshing is; you just have to experience it. You will draw closer to God and to each other.

Decision 3. Serving in Ministry

We have been blessed with opportunities to serve in ministry including some leadership positions in our church. We enjoy this because it gives us the ability to involve our kids in ministry and serves as a growing impact on them. Through these opportunities, we have learned to trust God by saying ‘yes’ to some of the opportunities that have come along.

One example is when I was asked to be the youth leader. I led our youth ministry for over eight years. When our kids were too young to be in it, we involved them whenever we could. One of the events they enjoyed was “Chill with Phil.” About once a month, we’d invite the teens over for an evening of fun and games. It was an encouragement to both the teens and our kids to interact together over Farkle or Catch Phrase. It was a fantastic way to build relationships in our youth group as well.

Decision 4. Homeschooling our Children

In 2010, we made the decision to homeschool our kids. Heather is a stay-at-home-mom and early in our marriage we told ourselves that we would never homeschool our children. However, as time went on, it became something we would evaluate each year and spend time praying about.

As we continued seek the Lord and Godly counsel, we became convinced that God was leading us to homeschool. We started our oldest with homeschool in 6th grade and our younger two in 3rd grade. So for a couple years, we had only our youngest going to public school until he reached 3rd grade. Though difficult, we have found so many benefits to having made this decision. I could probably go on for another blog post about this alone!

An Intentional Decision

Especially if your kids are young, I encourage you to consider what intentional decision you can make for the benefit of your children and your family. Through each decision our focus is always on drawing our family closer to Christ. I love my kids. I love spending time with them. I would venture to say that they love spending time with me and Heather too. It is thanks, in part, to these (and other) decisions we have made along the way that have made a huge impact.

Ask: What intentional decision can I make for the benefit of my family? (click to tweet)

IP-phil-conrad [3103732]

Phil Conrad is the founder of Intentional Parenting at IntentionalParenting.net. He is a speaker, podcaster and blogger  focused on equipping and encouraging moms and dads in their role of  parenting. Phil and his wife, Heather, have three children and reside  in northwest Indiana.

You can connect with Phil in any of these ways:
Twitter – https://twitter.com/phillip_conrad
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/IntentionalParent/
Google Plus – https://plus.google.com/101670583680738916999/posts
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/phillip.conrad/

Carole here. I think Phil and Heather made some great decisions for their family,
but it's not about their specific decisions as much as it's about making real,
purposeful decisions for the good of the Kingdom and your family. What difficult,
sometimes counter-cultural decisions has God led you to make in parenting? How did
your obedience affect your family life? Please share in the comments. I'm sure 
Phil would love to hear from you just as much as I would.

Find a Parenting Role Model

As a first-time expectant mother, my biggest concerns weren’t with sleeping or diapers or language development…although all those things intimidated me. For some reason (read: the Holy Spirit), I started thinking about that fateful future time when this as-yet-unborn baby would be a teenager. Yes, I worry in advance, obviously—way in advance. My big question was this: How can I raise a child that doesn’t turn into the typical teenager? At the time, I didn’t know of any books to address this topic. (Here’s a list of really great parenting books I’ve discovered since then, by the way.)

My husband and I decided the best thing we could do is ask someone. We didn’t want opinions or observations. We wanted proven results. So we began to look around our community and church family for some atypical (in a good way) teenagers. There was a set in our church: a respectful, friendly, thoughtful, Jesus-loving brother and sister who seemed very genuine and even liked each other. We watched them for a while as we very intentionally got to know their parents. Finally, we felt comfortable enough with them to “pop the question” although, by that time, the answer was fairly obvious.

Okay, that was fourteen years ago, so I don’t remember their exact answer. We asked how they came to have such amazing teenagers (which any parent would love to hear—flattery gets you everywhere!). Their answer boiled down to this: They always talked, and always had. They said they talked to their children about everything, from the time they were very little. It was clear, also, that they showed love easily and they respected their children as real people, uniquely created by God. Because they were authentic Christ-followers themselves, I’m sure their talks included issues of faith and God’s will in their lives.

The world has changed in the last fourteen years—more than I thought possible in such a short amount of time. But their advice continues to prove true in our family. By consistently investing in our children’s lives through conversation, we seem to be raising thoughtful, Jesus-loving teenagers who are becoming agents of the Kingdom even before they reach adulthood.

I honestly don’t believe we could have received any better advice, but that’s not really the point of my post today. If you are a new(ish) parent, or if you think you’re missing something in parenting, find some kids or teenagers that act like you want your kids to act. Then track down the parents of those children and sit at their feet for a while. Prayerfully model your parenting on theirs and see what happens.

I’ll be praying for you. So will they.

 

To find a parenting role model, first look for children who act like you want yours to act. (click to tweet)

What’s the best teen parenting advice you ever received? How has it affected your parenting? I’d love to hear about it. Please share in the comments!

For more on talking with your children—including some actionable guidelines—check out my previous post, Wait, Wait, Don’t TELL Me. And if you would like to read further on my overall approach to parenting, especially continuing the conversations through the middle grades, click over to Where My Kids At? You might also appreciate this recent guest post, Parenting Advice from the Other Side by Kim Wilbanks and/or Wisdom for Parenting Teenagers, my review of Paul Tripp’s book, Age of Opportunity.

 

 

Encouraging Words for the Anxious Mom (guest post)

I'm so happy to introduce you all to Lisa Brown today. She maintains a blog for
moms, but it often ventures into other related areas (such as writing). I know
you'll appreciate this encouraging story of God's faithfulness in her family life.
Then, read more about Lisa and connect with her at the end of the post.

Sunday afternoon I received a phone call from my husband while washing dishes and making meat loaf with my five-year-old daughter. He called to let me know that he was heading home with my son from Boy Scout camp. I was so thankful that everything went well.

Before they left Friday evening for camping, I was worried that something bad was going to happen to them. This was the first time they had gone on a campout without my daughter and me.  Anxiety tried to swallow me up and it took everything in me to stay focused. Anxiety paralyzes me and floods my mind with unwanted thoughts.

I feared they would get in a car crash…or a bear would attack them…or they would get separated.  My imagination got carried away. I had a choice to make, and that was to either spiral down into a pit of darkness or keep my eyes on God.

I gave God my dreadful thoughts and as a result I had a wonderful time with my daughter.  

After I hung up the phone on Sunday, I took a moment to reflect on my weekend. Just thinking about it filled me with an unexplainable joy. We had so many sweet moments, and we connected so well.   Anxiety had no control over me.

Before they left on Friday evening I took Kaylee shopping and we bought red roses for our table, soap that smells wonderful, and a chocolate candy bar. We delighted ourselves in laughter, and the anticipation of an enjoyable weekend without the boys brought us closer together. This warmed my heart and gave me strength to push through the scary thoughts I was struggling with.

On Friday night—our first night alone—we decorated a jewelry box and made jewelry.  Together our hearts danced!

 I allowed myself to enjoy being in the moment. Together we giggled as we chased each other through the house playing tag and hide-and-go seek. We had a sleep over and breakfast in my bed. Life couldn’t get any better than this.

I felt God calm my anxious heart and fill me with His joy: a joy that comes from love and laughter. I’m so glad I didn’t let worry get the best of me. It was so nice not to be weighed down and depressed.

I have accepted that there are things in my life that I cannot control. I have decided to trust God. He knows everything and He is in control.

Lisa-ballerina 2
photo credit: pixabay

The word of God tells us in Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV),

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Dear Mom, give your concerns to God. He wants to give you peace and joy. Ask Him to come into your mind when worrisome thoughts threaten you. Be still and know that He is with you.

CLICK TO TWEET: Moms, ask God to come into your mind when worrisome thoughts threaten you.

Lisa BrownLisa Brown lives in Colorado with her husband and two kids. She writes on both of her blogs about Christian Living, Parenting, and Homeschooling.  Connect with Lisa through Me Too Moments For Moms or Gathering Place For Sisters In Christ.

 

4 Surprising Things That Do NOT Promote Humility in Your Children (part 2)

When I was in middle school, we went to a lot of the school basketball games. Sometimes we won; sometimes we lost. Invariably, on those sad drives home after a loss, my mother would say, “Losing builds character.” Honestly, it didn’t feel like it in the moment. How, exactly, does losing build character? I never thought to ask Mom, but now I think I know…at least a little. Losing and other failures give us fantastic chances to gently help our children grow in faith and humility.

Pointing our children toward humility begins with an acknowledgement of God and who He is, then of who we are in relation to Him. There are times for that exact conversation, but there are also times to bring our children along the humility path in everyday situations. Last week, we considered two ways NOT to praise our children. This week, let’s look at:

2 Ways NOT to Talk About Failure with Our Children

You might think these attitudes will help balance their self-esteem, but you’ll actually find them detrimental. (I know from experience!) So DON’T…

  1. Remind them of their failures.

This is just belittling. It doesn’t foster humility; it fosters inadequacy and uncertainty. Plus, they most certainly remember that failure even more clearly than you! Just as we’ve been forgiven, just as God separates us from our sin as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), our children need us to put away last year’s failures…and last week’s.

There may be times when we’re working on consistency in a particular area that we must review previous failures, but these should be done gently and specifically, without adding unrelated issues to it. Look for patterns. One lie last year doesn’t mean your child is a chronic liar. One “epic fail” at a spelling bee doesn’t mean your child should never enter another spelling contest. Even if you feel you must stir up old wounds, focus on growth and improvement, not on chronic faults.

  1. Make excuses for their failures or blame others.

“Owning” one’s mistakes and deficiencies is a difficult lesson—one that many adults struggle to learn. We can’t model shifting blame or making excuses for our children if we want them to have a healthy view of themselves.

Before you speak, consider what is true. Is someone else responsible for this failure such that the child had no opportunity to succeed? Is it appropriate to point that out to the child? Most of the time, the child (and probably the parent—that’s you and me) bears some portion of the responsibility.

Instead of “Well, your teacher didn’t explain it properly,” try “What could you have done on your own when you realized you didn’t understand?”

Instead of “Your sitter shouldn’t have let you watch six hours of TV,” try “How much TV do you typically watch? Did you have the power to turn off the TV?”

Instead of “That referee was biased,” try “Well, the referee is human, too. He sometimes makes mistakes. Can you forgive him and move on?” or “Now that you know how he calls fouls, what will you do next time?”

We can turn failures into learning experiences with a little forward thinking on our parts.

As you talk with your children about success and failure, try sprinkling a couple of these Bible verses into the conversation:

He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed. –Proverbs 3:34 (quoted in James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5.)

God is the only one who never fails.

Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed. –Joshua 23:14

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. –Lamentations 3:22

For no word from God will ever fail. –Luke 1:36-37

Our earthly failures are not as important as our faith in God.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. –Psalm 73:26

Sometimes what looks like a failure to us is a success in God’s eyes.

Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. –2 Corinthians 13:7

 

To review, we have 4 Surprising Things That Do NOT Promote Humility in Your Children:

  1. Praise them only when they win.
  2. Praise them for doing what they are supposed to do anyway.
  3. Remind them of their failures.
  4. Make excuses for their failures or blame others.

Each child’s path to humility passes through praise and failure. Tread lightly! (click to tweet)

What about you? When have you talked about success or failure effectively with your children? I’d love to hear some others’ thoughts on this! And for more on helping your kids learn through failure, check out this education blog post.

Content and Context (part 10) – General Letters and Revelation

This is it! The end of the series. For me, it has been a labor of love. Just the other day, I realized that I was applying something from this series in a conversation with my husband. What is more, I read and/or skimmed the entire Bible in the last five months! That’s invaluable.

Sometimes I think about Athanasius, when he compiled that list of God-inspired books which eventually became our New Testament. It seems like he got through Paul’s letters, and he knew Revelation should be last, but he had some leftover letters that didn’t fit into any other category. So we have this ‘Miscellaneous’ group of books—all epistles (a.k.a. letters)—by various authors to various groups before we conclude with the Revelation of John, which is also a letter, by the way (Revelation 1:4).

GENERAL LETTERS

Hebrews

  • About: supremacy of Christ, encouraging Christians
  • Everything that God established before Jesus points to Jesus as the Final Answer.
  • Big stories: Jesus as High Priest, Hall of Fame of Faith, cloud of witnesses
  • Author: unknown (a man, not Paul and not anyone who knew Jesus directly)
  • Time: before the destruction of the Temple in 70AD
  • “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Hebrews 1:3

James

  • About: practical applications of faith in Christ
  • God designed our faith to be lived out in community and in the world.
  • Big stories: perseverance in trials, taming the tongue, faith v/s deeds
  • Author: James (probably the brother of Jesus)
  • Time: before 50AD or in the early 60s
  • “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” James 2:24

1 Peter

  • About: perseverance under persecution from outside the church
  • God calls us to continue in holy living regardless of our circumstances.
  • Big stories: royal priesthood, Jesus as cornerstone, women’s beauty, suffering for faith, devil is a lion
  • Author: Peter, the Apostle
  • Time: 60-64AD
  • “And the God of all grace, who called you to this eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 5:10-11

2 Peter

  • About: standing up to false teachers and other problems within the church
  • God purifies his church, making it ready for Jesus’ return.
  • Big stories: destruction of false teachers, God’s patience with humanity
  • Author: Peter, the Apostle
  • Time: 65-68AD, toward the end of Peter’s life
  • “Dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:17-18a

1 John

  • About: identifying false teachers, assuring salvation, God’s love
  • God’s love is active and distinguishes believers from the world.
  • Big stories: light & dark, sinfulness in the believer’s life, God is love
  • Author: John, the Apostle
  • Time: 85-95AD
  • “If anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:5-6

2 John

  • About: loving others, rejecting false teachers
  • God shows us how to love and how to discern truth from deception.
  • Big stories: “walk in love,” don’t assist false teachers
  • Author: John, the Apostle
  • Time: 85-95AD
  • “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” 2 John 6

3 John

  • About: hospitality for God’s messengers
  • God’s children must take care of each other.
  • Big stories: John’s condemnation of a harsh church leader and commendation of another leader
  • Author: John, the Apostle
  • Time: 85-95AD
  • “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.” 3 John 11

Jude

  • About: counteracting false teachers
  • God always knows the true believers from the false.
  • Big stories: ungodly people punished (lots of nice imagery)
  • Author: Jude/Judas (probably the brother of Jesus)
  • Time: 65-80AD
  • “But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” Jude 20-21

Revelation

  • About: faithfulness through persecution, Christ’s ultimate victory
  • God’s victory is sure, and all believers will join Him in it.
  • Big stories: letters to 7 churches, visions of Heaven, fall of Babylon & rise of New Jerusalem, final judgment
  • Author: John, the Apostle
  • Time: 95AD
  • “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” Revelation 1:5b-6

The Highest Calling of a Parent is the Shaping of Hearts (Guest Post)

So pleased to introduce you to a like-minded parent today: Kelly Smith. I 
first read her thoughts on The Glorious Table, and I immediately started 
following her. She speaks from the heart here, along the lines of Tedd 
Tripp's Shepherding a Child's Heart (one of the best parenting books 
around!); I know you'll be blessed and challenged. Read more about Kelly
(and connect with her yourself) at the end of the post.

The same scene keeps playing over and over again at my house. The child breaks a rule. The parent punishes. The child complies. The parent relaxes. The child breaks the rule again.

I live in perpetual frustration over this madness. My kid can’t be the only one repeatedly falling down. I am not the only parent on the verge of a hissy fit. I know you feel it, too.

Why is it we work so hard to make our kids do right only for them to turn around and commit the same offense all over again? It comes down to the heart. Parenting is about heart change, not behavior modification. We press down with consequences but there will be no real, lasting change in their outward behavior until there is an inward change.

Moses learned this important lesson when he faced Pharaoh. God sent him to Egypt to free the Children of Israel. Moses went before Pharaoh eleven times with the same request: “Let my people go.”

Initially, Pharaoh resisted. God sent plagues to show Pharaoh who was in charge. He turned the Nile to blood—no change of heart. Then, He brought frogs out of the water. This one made Pharaoh uncomfortable enough to relent. “Plead with the Lord to take away the frogs from me and from my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to the Lord” (Ex 8:8 ESV).

Once the dastardly frogs were gone, Pharaoh hardened his heart again. He went right back to his stubborn ways. Through gnats, flies, dead livestock, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness, Pharaoh waffled between obeying God and standing his prideful ground.

Pharaoh never experienced an inward change. He wanted a way out of the discomfort of the consequences of sin while holding tight to that very same sin.

Matthew Henry says:

When Pharaoh saw there was respite, he hardened his heart. Till the heart is renewed by the grace of God, the thoughts made by affliction do not abide; the convictions wear off, and the promises that were given are forgotten. Till the state of the air is changed, what thaws in the sun will freeze again in the shade.

I see the same pattern in my children. My kids change their behavior when met with consequences but, without that inward change, they return to their foolish ways. The same is true for me. For example, I do not like the morning misery after a late night, but I find myself staying up too late over and over again.

The highest calling of parenting is the shaping of hearts.

This does not eliminate the need for consequences. It is through consequences our children see and experience the effects of their misbehavior. Shaping a child’s heart requires a connection of correction with instruction. Ephesians 6:4 tells us to, “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (ESV). John MacArthur points out:

[Instruction] refers to the type of instruction found in the book of Proverbs, where, as we’ve seen, a primary focus is on the training and teaching of children. Such training and teaching doesn’t have as much to do with factual information as with right attitudes and principles of behavior.

This type of instruction takes time, effort, and persistence.

A heart-shaping parent explains how the child’s behavior contradicts God’s word, instead of simply removing privileges

A heart-shaping parent uses the ordinary moments of the day to point their child to God and His plan for their lives.

A heart-shaping parent pushes through the Pharaoh-like stubbornness to free their child from slavery to sin.

A heart-shaping parent points out the need for God’s grace and mercy found through Jesus’ death on the cross.

A heart-shaping parent becomes an agent of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to their children.

Will you stand with me as a heart-shaping parent? Will you declare freedom over your children? Say it with me, “Let my people go!”

 

Kelly Smith profilepicKelly Smith is a small town girl who married a small town man 17 years ago. She has three energetic blessings, ages 1 to 11. Her favorite indulgences are coffee, reading, writing, and running. Kelly believes we are created for community and loves to find ways to connect with other women who are walking in the shadow of the cross. She blogs at mrsdisciple.com.Mrs Disciple