Parenting With No Guilt-Strings Attached

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We know that Christian parents must raise their children in a gospel centered way. And we also know that any gospel-center thing must carry the gospel message within and that is this:  We are sinful by nature and need to repent and believe in Christ the Savior. Only Jesus can break the bondage of sin and deliver us from its curse so that we may have abundant life.

But when it comes to raising our children in a gospel-centered way the temptation parents will many times face is do it with guilt-strings attached.

Let me explain. We do want to proclaim the gospel to our children, we want them to know what sin is, why repentance is important and what forgiveness looks like. But the temptation that many Christian parents face -especially when they want to see quick results- is to parent installing guilt in their children.

“If you really love Jesus, you would have not been disrespectful to your dad.”

“If you really, really, repented from that lie yesterday, you would not have lied to me again.”

“If when you said, “forgive me, mom” you really meant it, you would not have disobeyed me again.”

Sin is brought up in each of the examples above, yes, but the cure given will prove to be poisonous.

Many times I am surprised at how much Christian parents are afraid of God’s Grace. We are afraid that our children could abuse it (as if that was even possible!), so we try to build dams to “protect” our children from tasting it. What if they taste God’s amazing grace and then underestimate sin? What if they taste true forgiveness…maybe they will not see their future sins as grievous anymore? What if our home tastes likes grace… maybe they will not taste the horrors of sin anymore?

What is happening here? The truth is that when we act like this we act in unbelief.  We do not believe that when read the Word of God to our children, that when we speak about it as we go on our daily lives, the Holy Spirit can convict them of their own sin. In our unbelief we try to help God by bringing up the sins of our children over and over again -so that they will “have the opportunity” to search themselves to see if there has been true repentance. When we do this we imitate the Devil in what the does best, and so we become the accusers of our own children from the rising of the sun to the end of the day.

Our accusations become the seed, the soil, and the water that bring forth the rotten fruit of insecurity in our children.  How will our children grow to be assured of the Father’s love and forgiveness if we are the ones who are always doubting their motives, their tears, their repentance, their words?  How will our children taste the assurance of God’s forgiveness if we always tell them that “maybe their repentance was not from their heart”?  How will they drink from God’s fountain of grace if we keep them away from it -fearing that they will not see their sin if they come?

May God help us to bring with much joy and much confidence our children to Christ! That we will be instruments in His hand to assure them of the Father’s love! That when we teach them to pray the Lord’s Prayer, they will never doubt that their Father in Heaven hears them when they cry out to Him! God forbid that we, their own parents, become a stumbling block to them!

But you might rightly ask, but what do we do then when our children keep sinning? What we should do is exactly what the Father has taught us to do: We repent, we believe, and from the fullness of Jesus we drink grace upon grace.  We need to open the Scriptures before our children and show them what the Word says about that particular sin they are struggling with, and we tell them that in Christ there is always (always!) forgiveness for those who repent and believe. And then we assure them, from the same Holy Scriptures, of the Father’s love.

And lastly we do something that we almost always forget to do: we equip our children with the Word of God to help them fight sin in their lives. We teach them how Jesus’ way is more precious and joyful and satisfying than any sin. Because like us, they will continue to battle, and like us, they need all the counsel of God to fight and win.

Many parents are prone to point their children’s sins to them -every day and on their face, literally pointing a finger to them, to “remind” them of their shortcomings, to “encourage” them to repent quickly, and then they leave them in tears, but disarmed to fight, to win, to be assured of God’s love for them.

We must stop parenting our children with guilt-strings attached and start parenting them with grace-strings attached. How we need to teach our children the promises that we have in Christ to overcome sin. We must teach them, with our Bibles open, what are the weapons God has given us to battle our flesh, the world, and the Devil. How much our children need to hear of the power of the Word, the power of a prayer life, and the blessedness of the means of grace! How we must teach them to take the sword, which is the Word, and fight to win instead of always sending them to their rooms to do a morbid introspection of their hearts. And, oh, how much, like Paul, we need to pray with them and for them until Christ is formed in them!

Friends, unless we bring our children to Christ so that He can touch them with His grace, unless they see how precious all of Christ is to us, they will not want to come and taste and see the goodness of the Lord. Unless we stop being afraid of giving them grace in the same measure that we have received it, our generations will keep swimming in lukewarm water, never assured of the Father’s love for them.

May our children hear us say with much assurance and joy when they ask for forgiveness, “I too received mercy when I acted in my unbelief. And just like the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Jesus Christ, it now flows for you. Look not to your own heart, my child, but look up to Jesus! He is the author and perfecter of our faith. Come,come with me, let us run and bathe in the ocean of God’s amazing grace!”

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

 

Pray Expecting Answers

IMG_0923We have the Psalms, the prayers of the apostles, the prayers of many saints in Church history recorded for us; we know that Jesus himself taught us how to pray and we still feel that we don’t know how to pray.  We still feel inadequate and that our words are never the right ones. We don’t know what to ask for or how to ask for some things. We are Reformed Christians, we believe in God’s sovereignty and so we try our best not to sound like those who name and claim promises and demand answers from God as if they had the power to do so.

But I am afraid that because of this idea of wanting to pray aright -according to each of the points on which our theology stands – the prayer life of many has lost all fervency. The words that come out from our mouths are as dry as our hearts. Our eyes never cry because we don’t let them do so. We are more worried about controlling our emotions than the Psalmist. We know the motions and so we pray the Lord’s prayer not daring to be specific in our prayers. Our favorite prayer is “Let your will be done, Lord” and often pray it holding back, like in a strong dam, all that we really want to say.

Friends, it will do us good to read more of  what the Puritans, Spurgeon, Ryle, Pink, Owens, have written and learn from them how to be good theologians on our knees. The secret I have found in the writings of these men is that the main thing that ruled their prayer life was this: they all knew God and knew that God hears our prayers and answers His children. They prayed with fervency and much confidence. They knew that no Christian prays in vain, that no Christian waits in vain, that no Christian claims to God in vain. They all prayed expecting answers from God.

We should take our Bibles and pray the Scriptures back to God, and do it fervently, trusting that our prayers do reach the ear the Lord. But along with the Scriptures, we must also bring our anxieties, our own individual petitions -big and small-, our fears, our longings before God. We can earnestly plead to Him and ask for His divine intervention and trust that He will come and meet us in our needs. This is not arrogance, this is what coming boldly before the throne of grace in Jesus’ name looks like (Heb. 4:16).

O, how we need to pray more from the heart. How we need to expect more answers from the Lord. Why do we come to prayer more often than not, thinking that God will not answer us? Or why when we pray we think that He will always say no to our petitions? Haven’t we forgotten that God is our good Father who LOVES (yes, all caps!) to give good gifts to His children (Mt.11)? Haven’t we forgotten that He will never withhold from His people good gifts (Ps.84:11)? How we need to be reminded in our prayer closet of the words of the apostle Paul, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom. 8:32)!

Let us be praying people, but let us pray knowing that our God hears us and rewards those who seek Him: “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Heb.11:6)

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

Recommended book: The Power of Prayer in a Believer’s Life, a collection of sermons by C.H. Spurgeon edited by Robert Hall.

What Are You Reading in the Bible?

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When I am far gone and people who knew me talk about me, I want them to remember me as a woman who always encouraged others to read all the Word of God, to love it, to pray it, to believe it all, to live by it every day.

And I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities that God has provided for me to do what I have always done , but with a much bigger microphone this past year. God is good!

This week about a thousand women all over the world concluded the first Bible Reading Challenge put together by Christ Church: We read the whole Bible in 8 months following a plan that I put together trying to make it easy to follow because of its structure. Starting with the fact that the New Testament is the inspired commentary of the Old Testament and understanding that the Bible has one main story line: A Redemption Story, then I tried to pair the readings in a way that people would read the selections of the day and then say, “Aha! I now see this super clear connection that I never saw before!” So we read, for example, the book of Hebrews at the same time that we read the book of Leviticus. I tried to place most Psalms where they belonged in the timeline. We read specific Psalms at the same time that we read in the book of Samuel  the circumstances David was going through when he composed that specific Psalm.  The plan was also unique because we started and finished with Psalm 119 and the very last day we closed with Romans 8. So powerful!

Now many more women (over 2,000 as I am typing this and hundreds of men) are ready to start the Summer Bible Reading Challenge this coming Monday, June 4. These next three months we will be reading the New Testament, and if you choose to do the extended version, you will read the NT once plus many epistles three times all together. I planned it in such a way that we would read some epistles back to back and some other books by author to get the most of them, to be immersed in them. For example, we will start with John, his letters, and the book of Revelation, and those doing the extended plan will also read in a week two times the epistle of Paul to the Galatians. I really encourage you to join us, Friend. Find all the information for men and women (and in 6 other languages too!) here.

So, Friend, what have you  been reading in your Bible lately? What will you read next? Would you consider joining us?

Read the Word, read it all, believe it all, pray it all, live by it.

Under His Sun and by His grace,

Becky Pliego

 

 

To Lent or Not to Lent

pexels-photo-792953.jpegIn our family we don’t observe Lent for the same reasons our Pastor explains in this interview. However, because we still want to keep the Christian calendar, what we have done for years is that after dinner we stop reading the book or devotional we have chosen for  the year and start reading about the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ. Just like in Christmas we gather all the books that tell of the Incarnation of our Lord, in this season we too look for good the books that talk about the Cross and the Resurrection of our Lord and mediate on their significance in our lives.

Super simple and yet it has proven a great blessing to us.

A few books I would like to  suggest you are these:

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross editor Nancy Guthrie

“This collection of readings, drawn from the writings and sermons of 25 classic and contemporary theologians and Bible teachers, focuses on the wonder of Christ’s sacrifice.”

Love to the Uttermost, by John Piper

Love to the Uttermost: Devotional Readings for Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday, ends on Easter Sunday, and aims to focus our attention on Jesus as he displays his love to the uttermost (John 13:1). These meditations on the self-giving love of Christ are all excerpted from the preaching and writing ministry of John Piper.”

Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper.

“The most important questions anyone can ask are: Why was Jesus Christ crucified? Why did he suffer so much? What has this to do with me? Finally, who sent him to his death? The answer to the last question is that God did. Jesus was God’s Son. The suffering was unsurpassed, but the whole message of the Bible leads to this answer.”

Spurgeon’s Sermons on the Cross of Christ

You can also read books about the work of Christ, about how Sanctification works, about the mortification of sin, etc.

May the Lord open our eyes to see what a great Salvation we have in Christ!

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

Three (Four) Goals as I Pursue the Intentional Life

This is my first reply to a series of letters that my friends Trisha, Melissa, and I will be sharing as we reflect on the beauty, as well as on the challenges of pursuing the intentional life in this season of our lives. To read the introduction and the first letter go here.

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Dear Trisha and Melissa,

What a gift to the women of faith Jean Fleming has given in her book Pursuing the Intentional Life. The message she shares and the way she does it is encouraging and beautifully done. Thanks for the recommendation, Trisha.

In your first letter you asked us these two good questions: What are three of your goals as you pursue the intentional life? How has Fleming’s book encouraged you in these areas? So here is my answer…

You may continue reading here.

Becky

>The Rest by James Smith

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 “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.”
Hebrews 4:9
These was a rest for Adam in Paradise — which he lost by sin.
There was a rest for Israel in Canaan — which many forfeited by unbelief.
There is a rest for the Christian in Christ — which can only be enjoyed by faith.
And there is a rest for all the saints in Heaven — to which we can only be admitted at death.
To one of the two last, the Apostle refers; some think to the former, and some to the latter. We shall consider the words as referring to Heaven:
our Father’s house,
our Savior’s home, and
our eternal dwelling-place!
To the weary and way-worn — there is something delightful in the thought of REST, and they love to think of Heaven as the place where they shall “rest from their labors.”
REST gives us the idea of . . .
repose — the calm, quiet repose of the soul;
refreshment — the refreshment of the exhausted spirit after conflict, sickness, or toil;
restoration to vigor — after debility, lassitude, and fainting.
Heaven will be a rest . . .
from sin — which will no more grieve us;
from sorrow — which will no more trouble and distress us;
from fears — which will no more harass and perplex us; and
from conflicts — which will no more agitate and suppress us.
It will be a rest . . .
with God in his glory,
with Jesus in his immediate presence,
with saints and holy angels in full perfection and blessedness.
This rest is FUTURE — it remains for the people of God.
This rest is the object of our hope and DESIRE. We look forward to it, with holy longing and cheering anticipations.
This rest is PERFECT — free from all mixture of anything that will agitate, give pain, or cause grief.
This rest is UNINTERRUPTED — nothing will ever occur to disturb, distress, or agitate us more.
This rest is GLORIOUS — as bright as the meridian sun, as balmy as the most pleasant morning, as glowing with holiness, splendor, and majesty.
This rest is ETERNAL — and this is best of all. The possibility of a change, of a return to former scenes — would spoil all. But that rest will be enduring — as changeless as the Divine nature, and as glorious as the Divine perfections.
Blessed be God for such a rest for the weary, suffering, and downcast believer in Jesus! Oh, to keep the eye fixed upon it, and the heart expecting it — amidst all the troubles and trials of time!
This rest is FOR the redeemed people of God. Not for the Jews as such, nor for the Gentiles as such — but for the Lord’s people. The people He has chosen for himself, as says the Apostle, “God has chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” The people He claims as his own, being set apart for himself in his eternal purpose, redeemed to God by the blood of his Son, out of every nation, country, people, and tongue. He claims them by his Holy Spirit in the day of his power. The people whom He himself teaches, as Jesus said, “It is written in the prophets — they shall be all taught of God, everyone therefore that has heard and learned of the Father, comes unto Me.” Divine teaching is educating for eternity, and God thus educates all his own people. The people He prepares — for Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. Jesus is gone to prepare the place for the people — and the Holy Spirit comes to prepare the people for the place. To this end, He creates them anew in Christ Jesus, and makes them fit to he partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.
They are now a poor, tried, tempted, and restless people; strangers and pilgrims upon the earth, as all their fathers were.
Satan tempts them,
sinners try them,
fears harass them,
Providence perplexes them,
and they often cry out, “O that I had wings like a dove, then would I fly away and be at rest!”
Believer, let the prospect of this eternal glorious rest, cheer you in toil and trouble! Your work will soon be finished, your trouble will soon come to an end, and then the rest — the glorious rest, remains for you! Let it encourage you to labor and suffer: labor for Jesus, who is preparing the rest for you; suffer in the cause of Jesus, acquiescing in his will who once suffered for you, and now rests as you will soon.
Think of the Hebrew believers — what they suffered, and how they suffered; they “joyfully accepted the confiscation of their property, because they knew that they had better and lasting possessions.”
Let your Heavenly rest, quicken your pace homewards! You are going to a rest — a perfect, uninterrupted, and eternal rest; a rest in Heaven, a rest with Jesus, a rest in the presence of your God forever; therefore gird up the loins of your mind, and press on towards the mark, cheered by the prospect at the end of the race.
Remember, Christian, this rest is SECURE, for Jesus has taken possession of it for you. “I am going,” said He, “to prepare a place for you.” “Where,” said the Apostle, alluding to Heaven, “Where the forerunner has for us entered, even Jesus.” Yes, Jesus is gone there for you, He has taken possession in your name, He is preparing your place, and will soon come and receive you to himself!
Remember too, that it is NEAR — very near. Perhaps much nearer than you may think.
You may be sighing, sorrowing, striving, wrestling, doubting, fearing, and cast down today — and tomorrow you may be in your Heavenly rest!
Today, you may be lying like Lazarus, at the rich man’s gate, full of sores; tomorrow, you may be in Heaven!
Today, you may be dwelling in Mesech, or in the tents of Kedar; tomorrow, you may be basking in the beams of Immanuel’s glory!
Today, you may be on the bed of sickness, suffering, and pain; tomorrow, you may be in the presence of Jesus, where there is no more pain, neither sorrow nor crying!
Who can tell how near we all are to our Heavenly and everlasting rest?
Remember also, that your very trials, toils, and sufferings here on earth, may SWEETEN your rest to you! And that soon, very soon — you may be rejoicing over your present sorrows, and praising God for what now fills you with grief and sadness. Things will look very different there — from what they do here. Never, never forget, then, in your darkest nights, in your most trying days, in the midst of every storm and tempest, when passing over burning sands and under a scorching sky — that there remains a rest for the people of God, and a rest for you!
“Arise and depart; for this is not your resting place, because it is defiled, it is ruined, beyond all remedy!”
“There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary are at rest!”
But, “there is NO REST, says my God, to the WICKED!” His soul is restless now, and, dying as he is — he will be restless forever. “And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever. There is no rest day or night!” O think of an eternity of unrest! Think of an eternity of toil, agony, and woe! Think, and so think as to accept and act upon the invitation of Jesus, who is now at this moment saying unto you, “Come unto me, and I will give you rest; take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you shall find rest unto your souls!”
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May we find today, dear friends, rest in His presence.
Have a most blessed Lord’s Day!
Becky