Parenting With Grace

A wise friend once said to me, “If you give your kids only what they deserve, you will rob them of a healthy life. Don’t give them what they deserve; give them what they need. Just like Jesus does for us!

Parenting With Grace

Jesus doesn’t respond to us based on what we deserve to get. He responds based on what we need. He provides for our needs even though we are undeserving. He died for us while we were still in rebellion against him. He allows us to grow. He doesn’t force us to clean up our act before he comes into our lives. He meets our needs and gives us the grace and the space to grow.

When I thought about how difficult it was to see my young daughter Madeline develop some troubling characteristics, even belligerence and rebellion, I suddenly saw the parallel with our Father God and all of his children. Every one of us is rebellious. We pout. We shout “No!” in our spirits. We sneak around doing what we know we ought not to do. And yet he accepts us wherever we are. He refuses to abandon us or give us what we so richly deserve; he pours great rivers of (amazing) grace into our lives. As David marveled,

He does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. (Psalm 103:10-13)

Thinking about the grace of God will help you become a grace giver to your children. Their imperfections help you to see your own. Accepting them as they are helps you to taste the wonder of how God accepts you as you are.

Excerpted from “More Jesus, Less Religion” by Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton

See Also: Raising Great Kids

Contentment

contentment.newlife 

We often find it difficult to be content with what we’ve been given don’t we? How often do you compare yourself with others, whether it’s your job, your spouse, your child’s performance, your looks, or even your talent, and find yourself falling short? Comparison produces discontentment. It results in blaming God for not providing what He presumably should, and life becomes an ongoing struggle of the discontented heart. And friends, this isn’t the sort of struggle that lessens with age.

The truth is, contentment doesn’t come from what you have. It comes from a heart change, a change of mind-set, and a willing choice. Only a transformation of mind, emotions, and will can bring about real and lasting contentment in your heart. And only a personal encounter with the living God can bring about this kind of transformation.

When God gets hold of a person, that person becomes a new creature. He or she finds refuge in the Lord of all wisdom and kindness, and recognizes God’s provision is sufficient. That person learns to trust that the Lord knows exactly what His children need and cares about their every desire. That person comes to own by faith the magnificent message of Psalm 139: the One who knows you best, loves you most. Is this the direction you’re moving, friend? I pray it is.

But these are lessons that aren’t always learned easily. What new creature comes forth without a few birth pangs? What profound lessons are mastered without frustrations and setbacks?

Consider the patriarch Jacob. His life was an exercise in deception, disappointment, and discontentment, until he wrestled with the Lord one fateful night on the bank of the Jabbok River. Daybreak found Jacob a new person; a father to the nations; a man on a mission from the Lord. Jacob’s life took on purpose that transcended discontentment. Hebrews 11:21 comments, ‘By faith Jacob, when he was dying . . . worshipped as he leaned on the top of his staff.‘ In a foreign land, weak with age, and well acquainted with heartache, Jacob died content in the Lord.

In his book The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Jeremiah Burroughs said, “Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.” You’re content when at peace with, submitted to, and happy in God. So please don’t shy away from struggling with God over the discontentment in your life. Your struggle may not look the same as Jacob’s, but each of us must walk the same path: discontentment, struggle, an encounter with God, a new identity, and contentment. Whatever shape your night on the Jabbok may take, being mastered by God is far sweeter than being ruled by worry and disappointment.

Excerpted from “Being God’s Man by Finding Contentment” by Stephen Arterburn

Necessity of Boundaries: 5 Ways to Develop Boundaries

Necessity of Boundaries: 5 Ways to Develop Boundaries

boundaries.newlife

No one has perfect boundaries. At times we all take on what’s not ours, or don’t take on what is ours. God has provided help in repairing and developing our broken boundary-setting abilities. Just as we need to exercise and work with an atrophied leg after it comes out of its cast, setting appropriate boundaries is an ability we must learn. Here are some ways to develop boundaries:

1. Ask God to help you become a truth-teller, even of hard truths. Proverbs 10:18 tells us ‘He who conceals hatred has lying lips.’ Often, people with shaky boundaries may feel resentful about the supposed power of others over them, not realizing they have surrendered that power to them. When people with shaky boundaries begin to feel like they don’t have choices, they will also feel angry and resentful. Often the first step to reclaiming their ‘brand’ is to admit the anger to themselves, God, and others.

2. Find people who celebrate your separateness. ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another’ (Proverbs 27:17). Separateness helps relationships. It isn’t possible to learn to develop boundaries in isolation with unsupportive people. When we try, we repeat our original boundary injury. That is, we find ourselves in a controlling relationship with an unsupportive person and attempt to set a limit on the relationship. The person rejects it, and we find ourselves alone. Most of us would choose being in a bad relationship rather than no relationship. We need to find maturing, caring people who will respect our boundaries just as much as they love our attachment.

3. Practice disagreement. Truth telling always involves differing opinions. You can’t find out who you really are without first knowing who you aren’t. A sign that you’re beginning to set boundaries is that you will rock some boats. There’s most likely a problem if no one ever reacts negatively to you.

Jesus said, ‘Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets’ (Luke 6:26). It’s a disconcerting thought that for us to recover spiritually, some people will probably get upset with us! Yet these are usually people who have a difficult time relating to adults with boundaries of their own.

4. Take responsibility for your mistakes. People with boundary problems sometimes see themselves as out of control of their lives. They feel helpless to change their own problems and others’ treatment of them. This can lead to a blaming or rationalizing attitude. ‘If I can’t control my life, then my problems aren’t my fault,’ might go the thinking. Taking stewardship over your life means learning to admit when your problems are the result of your irresponsibility rather than finding excuses. People who ‘own’ their problems tend to mature much faster than those who excuse or transfer blame. The excuser has nothing to fix, and consequently, no opportunity to grow.

5. Learn to respect others’ separateness. One indication of a boundary deficit is an inability to live with the ‘no’ of another.

I once worked with a couple that experienced this problem. Every time the wife disagreed with the husband, he would head toward the door exclaiming. ‘That’s it! ‘the marriage isn’t going to work out.’ Panicked, she would chase after him and apologize for the ‘sin’ of having an opinion. When we learn to accept another’s boundaries, we are saying, in effect, ‘If you don’t give me what I want, God and I will find another way to get my need met.’ It keeps the other person out of a position of indispensability, which is actually a form of idolatry. If our need to be understood, listened to, or loved can’t or won’t be met by the person we’d like, we are to find someone else to help meet that need. That’s why there is a multiplicity of believers in the Body of Christ: when one friend is busy, we are to call on another. This allows us to support the boundary-setting freedom of others in the way we’d like to. If we want others to accept our freedom, we must respect theirs.

Excerpted from “Hiding From Love” by John Townsend

Honor

God expects us to honor age:  Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom. Job 32:7

And he specifically instructs us to honor our parents:

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12

Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you. Deuteronomy 5:16

So what are some practical ways that you can show honor to the adult figures in your life?

1. Write a letter. Tell your mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, or another elderly person in your life how they have blessed and impacted you.

A letter is sometimes better than a call as the person can look back on your words and be honored again and again.

2. Make a list. One family made a list for their father and mother’s 60th birthdays, including 60 reasons why they loved and appreciated them. Mom’s list included gratitude for making their lunches, taking care of them when they were sick, and for her amazing multitasking qualities. Dad’s list includes thankfulness for his service in the war, for passing on a love for music, and for his financial faithfulness. This is a great project to include kids and grandkids (sometimes the grandkids have some of the best ideas.)

3. Teach your kids about the importance of age. Who gets served first for dinner in your house? In Asian cultures, the elderly are served first. Find little ways to teach your kids about the importance of respecting age.

4. Visit a nursing home with your kids. Far too often, elderly people are considered a burden. Ask the staff at a nearby nursing home if there is anyone in particular who could use some love and encouragement. ‘Adopt’ this person by bringing them cards, treats, by singing for them, or by simply listening to him or her.

5. Address disrespect in your home. A disrespectful tone or disrespectful actions should never be tolerated in your home. Dads especially need to communicate to their kids that mom is always to be addressed with respect and that he too must be addressed respectfully. If you notice a general lack of respect in your home, call the family together and discuss it. An un-teachable child, one who thinks he knows more than his mom or dad, is headed for a world of pain and disappointment. Encourage your kids today to show respect to all of the adults in their lives. (Note, sometimes disrespect in little ones is excused as ‘shyness.’ Make it clear to you children that when you are with them, they are safe, and you expect them to always answer an adult who says hello or asks them a question. Explain to them that you understand their tendency to be shy, but shyness is never a valid excuse for being rude).

For more on this subject please see our New Life Devotionals and Bibles. Also, if you are struggling to honor someone in your life due to some real hurt, we’d love to help. Please join us at our next New Life Weekend.

Horton's Character

From the book Being God’s Man by Standing Firm Under Pressure by Steve Arterburn, Kenny Luck, and Todd Wendorff

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king,

‘O, Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up’ (Daniel 3:16-18).

No one likes to stand out if it means being ridiculed. So what do we do? We blend in; we go with the flow; we don’t rock the boat. Majority opinion prevails most of the time, and democracy has trained us to swallow the results of elections when more than 50 percent of the vote carries. Thankfully, no one posts our photo on the six o’ clock news and announces that we voted against the majority. We aren’t branded a dissenter, either and therefore the threat of a political assassination never enters our mind. But Daniel and his three friends faced such perils in Babylon.

That empire was not a democracy; it was a monarchy. Votes were not cast; rather, edicts and decrees flowed from the king’s mouth right into the law books. And why not? The king was considered divine and could rule as he wished. For loyal subjects, life could change on a dime. Noncompliance to the king’s edicts meant being branded a dissenter, which resulted in a one-way ticket to the brick furnaces. No questions asked, no two hundred dollars for passing ‘Go,’ and certainly no appeals. Once a law was written, it was a done deal. Break the law, feel the pain.

Times may change, but God’s men and women face trials of courage in every age. Nero blamed the Christians for the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64, and the slaughter that followed would have been a media bonanza. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor in Hitler’s Nazi Germany, stood strongly for
Christianity (which didn’t blend well with a master-race theology), and he was hanged from the gallows. In China today, being a committed Christian means being branded a counter-revolutionary. Christians constantly risk persecution or imprisonment, or they might even disappear.

Most believers in the Western world may never face this kind of test of their Christian commitment. But that doesn’t diminish the temptation to blend in, to not ruffle feathers, to go with the flow–living as God’s men and women, but incognito.

We have opportunities in our culture to stand out and stand up for our faith, to go against the grain, and we have thousands of choices in our lifetime to bring praise and glory to our Savior and Redeemer.

The question is: Will we choose to stand out? Or will we just get on board with the crowd and play it safe.

Set these three goals before you and pray God will help
you with them:

  • Reject the demands of men if it means sinning against God
  • Remember that God allows trials in your life to reveal His power
  • Allow God to use your trials to reveal Himself to others.

You made him [man] a little lower than the heavenly
beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
Psalm 84:11

For more help on this subject, please see: Being God’s Man’by standing firm under pressure.

Animals or Image Bearers?

And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.’ And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’ (Genesis 1:24-28).

Most Bible scholars and theologians do not equate the image of God with any one human attribute.To be sure, the image of God is evident in that humans are intelligent, rational beings, capable of complex thought and self-awareness, and of amazing ingenuity.We are also highly emotional creatures, at our best capable of great love, compassion, altruism, sympathy, and even empathy.Moreover, we are moral agents; again, at our best we know that right and wrong are realities, and that beauty is more desirable than ugliness.We are also the world’s only ‘language animals,’ able to communicate with each other with stunning precision and depth, but more importantly, able to understand and respond to God’s address (thus humans are ‘response-able’ creatures).All these attributes should be taken into consideration when pondering what it means that humans bear the image of God.

As this text from Genesis makes clear, however, the chief byproducts of being made in God’s image are dignity and dominion. That is to say, as God’s representatives, or vice-regents on earth, we are to exhibit responsible stewardship over his creation, cultivating and consuming the garden that is the world—including the animals within it—with a dignity that befits our exalted creaturely status, that reflects our Creator’s character, and that enhances his glory.

But as the biblical account of our origin fades from the collective memory, or at least from the collective worldview of Western civilization—having been replaced either explicitly or implicitly in the minds of many by Darwinian evolutionary theory—that civilization becomes increasingly
less civilized. That is because evolutionary theory denies both the human status of being responsible subjects under God, as well as the human status of being dignified stewards over animals.For the Bible acknowledges a ‘solidarity of the sixth day’ between humans and animals, whereas  evolutionary theory effectively removes any such distinction, equating rather than relating humans and animals.Is it any wonder, then, that the history of the twentieth-century Western world betrays the two-fold phenomenon of exalting animals and degrading humans?Can you not see such a process at work by considering radical animal-rights activists such as PETA, oppressive political systems such as those under Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, and popular agendas in American culture such as the sexual revolution, abortion on demand, and euthanasia?

My friends, the biblical worldview elevates humanity by affirming human responsibility, human dignity, and most of all, human life itself!Sadly, if you’ll look seriously and honestly at the recent history and present predicament of the Western world, I think you’ll find that alternatives to the biblical worldview have served to dehumanize humanity, and render civilization less civilized.

For more help on this subject see: Being Christian

Before and After

Steve Arterburn

Therefore, if anyone is in
Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
(2
Corinthians 5:17)

When you trust in Christ you
become a new creation.  You no longer
live under the power of sin.  Now, you
have a new heart, inclined to love God and follow him.  A heart that is able to recognize and stand
against sin.  The song below I’m Not
Who I Was
is a moving picture of the change that happens when one trusts in
Christ. 

And yet, though we are changed
to our very core, we still struggle don’t we? 
We long to say I’m not who I was about many more areas in our life. 

Strange Steps Toward Healing

I don’t know of anyone who would not prefer healing or transformation to
be instant and easy.  All of us like the
quick fix and instant solution.  We live
in a fast-paced world, and we want the pace of transformation to keep up.  We would like God to pronounce us healed so
we could just get on with our lives.  We
say to God and ourselves that if this one problem would just go away, we could
change our attitude.  If that is what
you are waiting for, you are probably wasting your time.  All of us want it that way, but it seldom
happens that way.

God’s ways are not our ways.  His
ways transcend human reasoning, and we will not know why God chose certain
things to happen the way they happened until we land in heaven’if we land
there.  We’ve come to believe that God
wants us to be instantly healed, and sometimes we demand it, but that is
usually not the case.  God rarely
provides an instant fix to our problems because it does little to change our
hearts or grow our characters.

I don’t know you, but I know God has given you favor.  God loves you so much He wants the best for
you.  He also wants to know if you want
what is best for you.  Do you want the
best so much that you’re willing to give up what is comfortable and predictable
but is anything other than God’s best. 
In some strange way God stands before you or within you asking if you
want to be well (see the story of the paralytic in John chapter 5).  He asks if you are willing to give up your
old ways for His ways.  I hope your
answer is going be yes. 

 

Brandon Heath – I’m Not Who I Was Lyrics

I wish you could see me now
I wish I could show you how
I’m not who I was
I used to be mad at you
A little on the hurt side too
But I’m not who I was

I found my way around
To forgiving you
Some time ago
But I never got to tell you so

I found us in a photograph
I saw me and I had to laugh
You know, I’m not who I was
You were there, you were right above me
And I wonder if you ever loved me
Just for who I was

When the pain came back again
Like a bitter friend
It was all that I could do
To keep myself from blaming you

I reckon it’s a funny thing
I figured out I can sing
Now I’m not who I was
I write about love and such
Maybe ’cause I want it so much
I’m not who I was

I was thinking maybe I
I should let you know
I am not the same
But I never did forget your name
Hello

Well the thing I find most amazing
In amazing grace
Is the chance to give it out
Maybe that’s what love is all about

I wish you could see me now
I wish I could show you how
I’m not who I was

 

For more help please see our Healing is a Choice resources.

Also, please join us at our next New Life Weekend!

Cheerful Giving

Excperted from the book Being Christian by Steve Arterburn and John Shore


It really is better to give than to receive. That’s a fact. Not
particularly natural or easy for us to believe, but a fact it is. Giving is fantastic.
There is nothing else like it to cleanse your soul, to lighten your load, to
right you with God and all of his creation.

Giving away what could benefit you so that instead it benefits another
is just about the highest order of behavior available to anyone. And because
selfless giving is so perfectly reflective of the healthy, holy order of life,
it automatically brings to the giver the very best life has to offer: the
blessed, divine joy that comes from willfully rising above the selfish,
ego-driven, ‘me first’ nastiness that so constantly and subtly undermines the
quality of the human experience.

You were made to give.

It only feels like you were made to get, to take, to hold, to
hoard.  But that feeling is based on the
worst, most caustic lie of all: that you’re more important than God.

How much? Every
Christian is absolutely free to follow the Holy Spirit and their conscience to
give however much they want, when they want, to whomever they want. Or not.
That said, though, as a rule it’s an exceptionally good idea for every believer
to do what throughout time so many Christians have always done, which is to
discipline themselves to give 10 percent of their gross income to their church.

If that sounds like a lot, it is’and that’s the point. Many, many
Christians, in fact, consider 10 percent of their earnings the minimum they
should give. Through their actions, they prove in the realest possible terms
that they do understand the supremacy of God in their lives; that God is
always on their mind; that they do trust in the Lord to provide; that their
eyes are as much on the next life as they are on this.

Give. It really is
that easy. Because it really is that hard. And God knows that.

If there’s one thing God understands, it’s sacrificing for others.

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not
reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver
(2 Corinthians 9:7).

For more help see: Being Christian

Christmas Good

Steve Arterburn

 

And in the same region
[Nazareth] there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their
flock by night.  And an angel of the
Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they
were filled with fear.  And the angel
said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that
will be for all the people.  For unto
you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will
find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’  And suddenly there was with the angel a
multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the
highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased’
(Luke
2:8-14).

‘That,’ as the Peanuts
character Linus so memorably said, ‘is the meaning of Christmas, Charlie
Brown.’  But what is the need for Christmas?  Okay, so Jesus came.  But why? 
For what purpose did he come?  The
most ancient creed of the church confesses that Jesus came down from heaven to
be born of the Virgin Mary ‘for us men and for our salvation.’  In other words:

Jesus came because, as a result
of the Fall, all people are spiritually dead, alienated from God, and subject
to God’s judgment.
  That is to
say, the eyes of their hearts are blind to the truth (2 Cor. 4:3-4).  Their minds are unwilling to countenance or
obey the truth (Rom. 8:7-8).  They are
without a saving knowledge of God, and so without hope (Eph. 2:11-12).  And they stand without adequate defense or
plea before the righteous condemnation of the holy God against whom they have
sinned (Rom. 1:1-3:20).

Therefore, Jesus’ coming
addresses the deepest, darkest circumstances of the fallen human predicament.
  That is to say, Jesus came to witness to the
truth (Heb. 1:1-3).  To open blind eyes
and closed hearts (John 5:30-47; 6:22-51), and to renew recalcitrant wills to
the truth of the gospel (John 1:1-18). 
Most importantly, Jesus came to address the debt we owed but could not
repay by accepting the penalty for our sin in our place (Isa. 53; 1 Pet.
2:24-25).

But ultimately, Jesus came to
give us a present hope that cannot be taken from us, and a glorious future that
will never end! 
That is to say,
through faith in his all sufficient and utterly complete work of his life,
death, and resurrection, Jesus has taken away all that stood in the way of our
reconciliation to God the Father.  We
have eternal life that begins in the here and now.  And that life can never be taken from us’not because our grip
upon Christ is steadfast, but because his gracious grip upon us neither
flinches nor fails (John 10:1-30; Rom. 8:31-39).  Moreover, those who believe in Christ should be agents of
goodness in this world, following the example of Christ’s self-giving love in
the truth by the indwelling power of Christ’s Spirit.  And doing so in full assurance and great anticipation that, one
day, the Lord himself will wipe every tear from their eyes, drive every sorrow
from their hearts (Rev. 1-4), and bring them to dwell forever in a place
greater than any eye has seen, any ear has heard, or any heart has ever
imagined (1 Cor. 2:9).

My friends, I hope that this
holiday season you’ll take some time to read and meditate on the texts that
I’ve referenced here.  For
this, and nothing less, is the meaning of Christmas!  Joy to the world, the Lord is come.  Let earth receive her King!

 

For more help see our New Life Perspectives on Holidays.
Also, see our New Life Devotionals and Bibles.

Christmas Lessons from Charlie Brown

Steve Arterburn

The Peanuts
Christmas special begins with Charlie Brown feeling blue. Why? He doesn’t know
what Christmas is about but he does sense that it’s about more than
presents.  Something inside him rejects
the commercialization of Christmas. 
Something in him longs to know the truth. This classic Christmas ends
with Charlie Brown’s friend Linus reciting the gospel! And suddenly, Chuck’s
heart is transformed. He walks away from the Christmas play with a spring in
his step and joy in his heart. But he is not the only one changed by the truth
that God came as a baby to save the world. His friends follow him and together
they sing, Hark the Herald Angels Sing.

 

This Christmas, I
hope you too will celebrate the joy of Jesus coming to save a sin-sick world. I
hope you will echo the cry of another faithful believer’the young girl chosen
to be Jesus’ mother.

Mary’s
Song

 And Mary said:
   “My soul glorifies the Lord
 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has been mindful
      of the humble state of his servant.
   From now on all generations will call me blessed,
 for the Mighty One has done great things for me’
      holy is his name.
 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
      from generation to generation.
 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
      he has scattered those who are proud in
their inmost thoughts.
 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
      but has lifted up the humble.
 He has filled the hungry with good things
      but has sent the rich away empty.
 He has helped his servant Israel,
      remembering to be merciful
 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
      even as he said to our fathers.”             Luke 1:46-55

 

Thank God that he is mindful of us. I hope this Christmas
we will be mindful of him’mindful of the sacrifice he made by giving his only
son for you and I so that we could be forgiven’mindful of his good gifts in our
life’mindful of his unparalleled power and goodness’mindful of his grace.

 

For more help see our New Life Perspectives on Holidays.
Also, see our New Life Devotionals and Bibles.