Cathy has written a guest post for the brilliant not-for-profit company Madlug which donates a bag to a child in care, every time a customer buys a bag themselves.
Madlug believes that every child has value, worth and dignity.
Unfortunately children in foster care too often have to transport all their possessions in a bin bag when moving from one placement to another. This is degrading for them. It’s Madlug’s mission to see every child in care with a bag – which is a simple yet effective way to demonstrate to vulnerable children that they have value, worth and dignity. We think Madlug is a brilliant business and this week, Cathy has written a guest post for their blog.
Here’s a little excerpt…
Right now we have two tiny boys in the house; a one year old and a three year old. This is an open letter to the teenage version of them.
To my sons,
It may seem strange to you for your mum to write a letter to the teenage version of you when you’re only babies. Some might say it’s even a little premature. But it will be no time at all before you’ll be towering over me, and this is what I want you to know, and this is what I want to remember to tell you when the transformation from you being tiny tots to men-in-the-making takes place….
We couldn’t be more excited to have a guest post written by Joanne Parks, the mum of one of Cathy’s high school friends. I (Cathy) was astounded at the ease and joy with which my friend Hannah would talk about sex with her parents!How is this even possible? I observed that Hannah and her sisters had a really high, healthy and Biblical view of sex and were unashamed to talk about it in appropriate ways.
This is a topic that most parents dread talking to their children about, and yet most parents are convinced of the importance of it. So we asked Joanne if she would be willing to contribute some thoughts to our blog, and she was! So here’s her wisdom…
“But Mommy, WHY would Joseph want to divorce Mary when she was pregnant with baby Jesus?”
This was the question that forced us to (very) quickly figure out what we were going to do as parents to explain God’s good gift of sexual intimacy to our children. Our oldest daughter, Hannah, was 4 at the time and was as curious as curious can be. Her question stemmed from reading the Christmas story before bed that night. (Be warned, friends… family Bible readings can bring up quite the variety of topics to discuss!)
As young parents we were caught off guard and frankly a bit nervous. We had not expected to have “the talk” with our firstborn during her preschool years. We had neither thought this through nor had time to carefully plan out our words. But here we were. And we needed to respond.
We stumbled through a simple description of conception that may have sounded something like “when two people love each other and then get married, sometimes a little part of mommy and a little part of daddy come together to make a baby” (don’t judge us). So many parts of that could lead to huge misunderstandings, but that’s what we said.
Because of her big personality we knew Hannah’s tendency would be to share this new information indiscriminately with her peers so we concluded that conversation with strict instructions that she not talk to her friends about these things, adding that “their parents would like to be the ones to get to talk to them”. But we also knew that we wanted to leave the door open for future conversations and questions, so we included the reminder that “you can ask Daddy or Mommy anything about this anytime. Any question is fine to ask, just don’t talk to your friends about this”. We kissed her goodnight and told her we loved her and left the room to go debrief what had just happened. She shared a room with her younger sister who was 2 years old. As we passed by their doorway 20 minutes later we overheard Hannah telling her sister “Now Sarah, you can ask me or Mom or Dad anything about this, ok?”. Ah well… that didn’t last long.
Well, two and a half decades and two additional daughters later we have learned a few things about talking to your children about sex. We’ve not done this perfectly by any means, but at least we’ve learned to not be so nervous. And we’ve learned to be thankful for this great privilege and responsibility that has been a part of parenting our children.
As you consider what this might look like in your parenting let me encourage you to think of this as one more piece of discipling your children. Try to remove the dreaded stigma that is so often attached to this subject. It may not be how your parents handled it with you, or how your culture typically thinks about these things. But it is important as you consider how to raise children with a healthy Biblical understanding of sexuality.
Here are some things to keep in mind as parents:
1. Tell them what God says in the Scriptures:
As Christian parents our teaching should be rooted in the truth of God’s Word.
In Genesis 1 and 2 God declared his creation of man and woman very good. It was his idea in creation that man should not be alone, so he made woman for him. He blessed their physical union. He told them to be fruitful and multiply. They were naked and not ashamed. God says physical intimacy in marriage is good!
In the Bible we see that sexual intimacy is intended to be experienced within the safety of the covenant promise of marriage. Sexual intimacy is wonderful and it is also very vulnerable. And God’s good design is for it to be known with one spouse in the security of a lifelong marriage commitment of love and trust.
God sets boundaries of protection for us with regards to sexual sin. As your kids get older include reminders that God warns us to guard our hearts from lust and to beware of the snare of sexual sin (Proverbs). But in teaching the warnings and the boundaries don’t neglect to continue to teach that it is good and is from God. It can be easy to forget to speak of it in a positive light as we help our older children guard their hearts.
You will eventually want to be sure to include that God also shows grace to those who sin. And we are all sinners. Inevitably you will have the opportunity to explain that as sinners mankind has rebelled against God’s good plan and rejected his leadership in all areas of our lives. This means that sexual relationships are frequently not handled in the way that God intended. These decisions assuredly come with earthly consequences, but this is also a great opportunity to talk about forgiveness for anyone who repents of their sins and turns to Christ. This is a Gospel opportunity in your parenting. Teach your children about the grace of God for sinners. Because really, when it comes down to it, we are all sexual sinners in need of forgiveness.
2. Look to be theprimary source of information.
You might be surprised at what it takes to stay ahead of the curve and be the first one to talk to your children about sexuality. Like in our story with Hannah these topics can come up during elementary years or even earlier. Though we aim to protect our children from unwanted outside sources like the internet, other more innocent settings might prompt questions related to sexuality. These can come up while playing with friends at the park, visiting a pregnant or postpartum neighbor, going to elementary school or co-op groups, visiting a farm or even while reading Bible stories.
But instead of waiting on your kids to bring up questions related to sexuality (the extroverted ones will likely do this), you should consider taking the initiative with them and begin conversations with them at an age appropriate level (the introverted ones will need this!). As parents you know your own children the best. You know what they are able to take in and understand. Try to answer their questions simply and honestly, with a certain degree of comfort and ease. You may have to fake that last part, but your attitude will certainly set the tone for the conversation. And for the very curious ones who keep pressing you for more information it’s also ok to say “we’ll save that question for next time”.
We were so glad to come across a helpful book series by Stan and Brenna Jones entitled God’s Design For Sex (click here for the first book in the series)*. These were read-along books that guided us through several conversations with our daughters. One of our girls still teases me about the time when I wouldn’t let us break for lunch until we finished one of the later books in the series. It seems that I may have lost sight of what was most important that day. I’m thankful that she can laugh about it now.
3. Aim to be the trusted source of accurate answers.
Build a foundation of trust that paves the way for them to know that they can come to you with any question. You will tell them the truth. They don’t have to look elsewhere for answers. They can come to you with anything and know that you won’t be upset with them.
Use proper vocabulary. This was my husband’s conviction from the beginning, and slowly I came to agree that this pattern helps to keep God’s good design held up in honor. You will have many chances to explain and define slang words that they hear over the years and those will stand in clear contrast to the good plan that God has made.
Be open to lots of questions. Your kids may come home from school and ask what a particular word or gesture means that they heard from a classmate. They will trust that no matter what they hear from others they know that you will tell them the truth.
Be prepared for some forgetfulness on their part. The following Christmas Hannah asked nearly the exact same question! All that stressing turned out to be for naught. She had already forgotten our most excellent explanation!
4. Keep talking.
Speak about these things often. Despite all the references to “THE talk”, it’s far more accurate to think of this as a lifetime of talks. Deuteronomy 6 reminds us of how parents are to be continually telling their children about the character of God and his commands for his people. As we raise our children in the ways of the Lord we talk to them about all sorts of things related to following God. We talk about these things as we go about the ordinary routines of life.
Your children may or may not welcome these conversations depending on their differing personalities but you must have them anyway. We laugh with one of our daughters as we recall together how she would sweetly but faithfully protest by saying “Do we have to talk about this again?”.
By the way, it’s always a bit awkward when they connect the dots and realize that their parents have actually done this act that is being described. Occasionally this leads to giggles (preschoolers), but more typically it shows up in facial expressions of shock, horror and disgust (school aged kids). Older siblings are often quick to become the experts and explain to their younger siblings that, duh… there are four of us so clearly Mom and Dad have done this four times.
Over time your conversations will include increasing detail about more delicate topics of desire and pleasure, sexual temptation and sin, fidelity and forgiveness. Don’t shy away from these conversations. These will all point to God and his good design. And they can turn into great opportunities to speak about the good news of the Bible, that a loving and holy God has made a way for a stubborn and rebellious people to be forgiven for their sin and be reconciled to him through Jesus’ undeserved death on the cross, where he took the punishment that we deserve and gave us his righteousness in exchange. He is good indeed.
Joanne has been married to Brian for 28 years and they have four daughters and two sons in law. She has lived on the Arabian Penninsula for the last 14 years and is excited to see what God will do as they plant Covenant Hope Church in the spring of 2017.
We hoped you enjoyed this post – we thought it was really helpful.
Our children are still slightly young for these conversations to start, but we want to be ready when they come along.
There are a number of resources that come highly recommended to help us chat to our children about issues surrounding sex. We’ve not read or used any of them ourselves yet, so can’t personally recommend them. But why not check out Joanne’s recommendation above, or the books below, which we’ve heard are really helpful:
God Made All of Me* comes recommended to help you chat to your children about their body – particularly private parts of their body and how they should be treated by others. Again, we’ve not used it so let us know in the comments if you think it’s good.
We’re so grateful for this fantastic post – if you’ve found it helpful then please do share it so others can enjoy it too.
A hot coffee? A spa trip? Well behaved kids, a tidy house and an early night?!
There are lots of things that I (Cathy) think will bring me joy on a daily basis. Usually they are dependent on my (and my children’s) performance and comfort. There’s good news however, joy can be found somewhere else…
Here’s a guest post written by close friends and fellow church planters, Michael and Lisa Hall. We’ve asked them to tell us a bit about how they structure their family devotions, and we think you’ll find it both inspiring and achievable. Here’s what they had to say…
Our greatest desire for our three boys is that they would grow up to love Jesus. To help that process we wanted to think through a family devotional plan. Don't let that sentence put you off! It doesn't have to be complicated. It doesn't have to look like something suitable for pinterest or instagram. Our aim is simple: We want to read the Bible with our children and talk about it.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
– Deuteronomy 6:4-8
This section from Deuteronomy reminds us that learning about God and growing in faith is not restricted to the hour that they spend in the kids’ club at church. It needs to be a regular part of family life, which is what these verses describe – talking about God's words when you're at home, when you're out and about, at night-time and in the morning.
Introducing children to Jesus isn't done in the one off big events, it's done in the countless everyday moments. We've tried to do this in structured and unstructured ways. From before they were able to understand it, we have read the Bible with the boys every night before bedtime (going through the Jesus Storybook Bible*, The Beginner’s Bible* and The Big Picture Story Bible* multiple times). They love routines and would not let us forget to do this! It's a small but incredibly important investment. It takes 5-10 minutes and our 5 year old twins have heard God's word for most of the 1825 days they've been here.
In a more unstructured way we have loved learning the bible through singing. We always have a Colin Buchanan CD on the go in the car and, due to the fact that the songs are incredibly catchy, we've found the boys and ourselves memorising parts of the Bible without trying!
As well as the everyday bible reading and singing in the car, we have recently started to try a more planned time to help the boys engage with what they are hearing and learning. So, once a week after we finish eating, we have the catchily-titled Hall family bible time. We choose some verses from Colin Buchanan's Baa Baa Doo Baa Baa* album (which is just Bible verses as songs) to learn and talk about. We choose verses to help us think about the big sweep of the gospel story from creation, through the fall, redemption and then looking forward to new creation.
We sing the bible verse through a couple of times and ask the boys a few simple questions (see examples below). It doesn't matter when they get it wrong, it's an opportunity to talk about what the words mean and help them think through what the verse says. We often give sweets out to encourage participation with these questions and sometimes we include a small craft activity. We spent a couple of weeks in each verse which helped them to learn and remember the questions we had been asking.
Here are the first 4 verses we used with examples of the sort of questions we asked.
In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God (He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him nothing was made that was made.)
We spent some time looking at pictures and youtube videos of the universe
What does beginning mean?
Who is the word?
Who made x/y/z?
Who made you?
Why did God make you?
We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has gone his own way, but the Lord has laid on him, the iniquity of us all
We made some sheep by sticking cotton wool on paper plates
What does it mean if a sheep goes astray?
What does it mean for us to go astray/our own way?
What does iniquity mean?
Who has it been laid on?
He saved us, not because of the righteous things we've done, by his mercy, through Jesus Christ his son
Who saved us?
What does righteous mean?
What does mercy mean?
Why has he saved us?
Do not let your hearts be troubled, trust in God trust also in me, in my Father’s house there are many rooms, if it were not so I would have told you. I'm going to prepare a place for you, and if I go to prepare a place for you I will come back to take you to be with me, so you may also be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.
What does it mean if your heart is troubled?
What does Jesus say you should do if your heart is troubled?
Where is Jesus going and what is he doing?
What is the way to the place he is going?
Don't picture in your mind that this is a perfectly executed miniature church service. Sometimes they engage with the questions, sometimes they don't. It's often chaotic and the songs and questions are regularly interrupted so we can break up fights and clear up spillages! That doesn't matter – it's the long-term cumulative effect of exposure to God's word that we're aiming for. Why not try it this year? It doesn't have to be the same as us, but take some time to think about how you will expose your children to God's word. We can't change our children's hearts, only God can do that, but we think of what we are doing as gathering kindling (to borrow a phrase from Matt Chandler) and praying for the Holy Spirit to set it alight.
Michael and Lisa are parents to three boys, twins Timothy and Ezekiel (5) and Simeon (2). They spend their time teaching Physics, clearing up Lego and helping to plant Grace Church Hartlepool. Michael blogs at justworshipgod.com and would love you to follow him on snapchat (justworshipgod) for a daily dose of the good news of Jesus.
We’re thrilled to have a guest post written by Cat Caird. Cat is a friend and former colleague (during our time on staff with UCCF:The Christian Unions). She describes herself as “Christian. Wife. Mum. Geek. Gamer. Blogger.” Cat’s blog explores popular culture through the lens of a Christian Worldview. She says that she wants to “explore how as Christians we can enjoy the culture around us, but also engage with it in a deep way that allows us to see and celebrate the good in our culture as well as engage with the things that need redemption.” Her blog is thoughtful and helpful, check out more of her stuff here: “Sunshine lenses”.
We are so excited that she’s written for Gospel-Centred Parenting! Today she’s helping us think through how we can help our children engage with stories in a thoughtful and Christ-honouring way.
Although reading statistics like this can seem rather scary and daunting, the reality is that screen time is a digital technology that is very much part of our everyday lives. As our children grow up, they will encounter even more advanced digital technology, using it at home, school and work, becoming much more proficient at it then we ever will.
I am not sure we can, nor do I think we should, hide away from it. There are of course times where we must switch the screen off or limit screen time. But in general, it’s part of the fabric of our lives, which means it’s something we need to engage with and provide tools for our children to help them engage with the stories they see on screen.
Everything we see on screen is telling us a message, from films to adverts, they are revealing to us stories and ideas that either convey elements of the Gospel or deny the Gospel. As Christians, I don’t think it’s helpful to simply soak up these messages without any thought as to what they are saying and equally we cannot ignore or dismiss those messages either.
Therefore, from an early age we can begin to help our children ask good questions about what they watch, revealing the places where Gospel truth (love, sacrifice, heroes, hope, joy, friendship etc) is celebrated and showing the places that need redemption (sin, fallen heroes, villains, darkness, despair). This will enable them to judge what is good, wholesome and true, while also identifying the places that hold up a distorted mirror of the truth.
So for example, when they encounter stories that tell them the way to have a happy life is by being rich, successful and owning a certain brand of car, they can return back to the Gospel and see how that story has distorted the truth. Or when they encounter stories that show love through sacrifice or the value of friendship, they can again come back to the Gospel and celebrate how that reflects Jesus.
So to help us with that, I have put together 5 questions we could ask while watching a film, advert or tv program with our kids:
What did you like and dislike about the story and why?
How did the story make you feel? (happy, sad, frightened, excited?)
Who were the Heroes and Villains? (the good guys and the bad guys)
How was the Hero or villain the same / different to Jesus?
What did you learn from the story?
These questions are designed to start a conversation, to get you and your child thinking about the story and the messages that are being conveyed. To start with you could pick one or two questions at an appropriate time and see where that conversation leads you. I think you may find some interesting ideas will pop up.
As we start to do this more, it will help us to think through what we watch and why we watch it. It will also give us avenues to share the gospel with our children and their friends, using stories that they love and identify with to share Gospel truths.
If you would like to read more about the subject of engaging with stories, here are some links that you may find helpful:
This week you get a bonus post! We’re excited to have a guest post written by friends Matt and Nancy Oliver. Matt and Nancy are parents and fellow church pastor and wife in the mighty North East! We hope you enjoy their thoughts on how they encourage their kids to engage with Sunday church meetings.
There’s a song that goes something like this:
“We are Kingdom kids
Kids of the Kingdom
We make Jesus Christ number 1 in our lives…”
Jesus said “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Luke 18:16)
Proverbs 22:6 says “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it”
It’s clear not just from these few snippets but from the whole bible that age doesn’t matter when it comes to the gospel. This led us to ask ourselves:
“How can we get our children to engage with church, not just attend it?”
Look round a lot of churches and you’ll see that they are covered in kids. They’re everywhere – under the organ, in the kitchen cupboards, children, wherever they are, get all over the place and this is an immense blessing from the Lord. But it does lead us to ask, what are we going to DO with them?
Most churches with a large number of children attending each week run a Sunday School programme at one of their services. This is a great thing. Children can receive gospel-centred teaching in a way that they can understand and even question! Brilliant!
However, what if your church doesn’t have a Sunday School?
What if your church has more than 1 service that you attend?
What about when your children get too old to attend Sunday School?
How do you get your children to engage with the gospel when there’s nothing ‘for them’?
Our church has 2 Sunday services. The one on Sunday morning has a Sunday School and Youth Programme that run during part of the church service. Our evening service has nothing aimed at children or young people. Our 3 children, aged 4, 3 and 1 attend both services.
There are many reasons why we have chosen to do this:
Firstly, our children (well, the older 2) ask to come to both services and we pray long may this continue, but we are also aware that this may not always be the case and so we don’t want to stop them.
Secondly, (and of no less importance) we want to worship together as a family as much as we can.
Thirdly, we want our children to know that church is for them. It’s not a ‘holding area’ until the fun stuff starts but that they need church and church needs them.
Fourthly, we want our children to be able to sit in a church service, whether familiar to them or not, and be able to join in with what’s going on.
Now, let’s pause here for a moment and talk about this a little more! Our children are currently very young, they can’t read, they can’t talk quietly and they struggle to sit still for longer than 4 seconds, so how on earth can they ‘join in’?
The answer to this is not simple, nor is it fixed. By that we mean it doesn’t always work and we will need to keep adapting it! But, here’s how we work it at the moment.
Each of our children has to join in during the different parts of the service:
If everyone is standing up to sing, we help them to stand up, sing (if they know the words) and dance.
If everyone is sitting down praying, we help them to sit down, close their eyes and listen to the prayers being said.
We help them to face the front, as everyone in our church faces that way.
We help them to listen during the sermon. For this we give them their tea (a picnic), which they eat whilst the sermon is being taught. This helps them sit still, concentrate and be quieter during the longest part of church.
We take them in their pjs! So they can go straight to bed once we get home.
We encourage our oldest child, who is a Christian, to serve in church – she helps with the flowers at the end of the service.
Our basic principle in helping them engage with church is to be able to have them join in with every aspect of the service and to be able to give them a reason why they should do so.
All of this, we hope, will enable them to take part in church as they grow up because, they have always taken part in church. There will come a time when they are too old for Sunday School and they will need to come along to the whole of the church service. They need to be able to join in with that church service fully.
We want our children to engage with church because we believe that being with God’s family and hearing His word taught, sung and prayed is essential to them hearing the gospel and seeing it lived out. It’s through this that we pray the Spirit will speak to their hearts and bring them to Jesus.
Do you have a blog post up your sleeve? If you’d like to write for Gospel-Centred Parenting then get in touch, we’d love to hear from you!
This week we’re thrilled to be sharing the wisdom of John Hindley in a guest post on the Fatherly Kindness of God. John was Scott’s pastor while he was a university student in Manchester. He is a seasoned church planter (currently leading BroadGrace Church in Norfolk), father and author (of the brilliant book ‘Serving Without Sinking: How to Serve Christ and Keep Your Joy*‘, among others). We love John – he exudes joy in the gospel and love for Jesus and has a wonderful gift of warming hearts to the Father. We know he’s got lots of wisdom to be gleaned, so we hope you enjoy this post!
Kindness: an underrated virtue?
Kindness is an underrated virtue. I think we often put it in the same category as nice. It is the sort of thing that goes well with little children – their pictures are nice, their sharing is kind. As we grow up we want stronger virtues – goodness, integrity, courage. I don’t want to overplay the point, as kindness is part of the fruit of the Spirit as outlined in Galatians 5:22 but it is a virtue I had given little thought to.
I increasingly think it is a critical part of love. It is kindness that shows us whether our love is a cold and dutiful thing, or a warm and relational thing. Kindness is not a weak virtue, although it can be understood as one. The reason for this is that we wrongly play it off against truth. We see it as unkind to speak a difficult truth to someone. To tell a friend that they look fat in that is unkind, even if it is true. More importantly to tell a friend that they are not likely to get that job they’ve just applied for is unkind, even if it is true. The problem is that we are making kindness about what we do. More often, kindness informs how we do things. I can tell a friend the truth about clothes or jobs or their sin or their life kindly.
This is the power of kindness. It goes beautifully with truth, because it makes truth easier to hear. David writes, ‘Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it’ (Psalm 141:5). We know that the wounds of a friend are faithful (Proverbs 27:6) and they are delivered kindly.
My growing appreciation of kindness over the last few years has gone hand-in-hand with a growing understanding of a verse that slightly puzzled me, Ephesians 6:4: ‘Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord’. I trusted the Lord that exasperating one’s children was a particular danger, but I couldn’t see why. Now I get it, and it is to do with a lack of kindness in me.
I now have three girls, Daisy, Eliza and Sylvia, and I see how I exasperate them. I will dish the dirt on myself, then show you how the kindness of a greater Father than me is undoing my sin and leading me through the sunlit meadows of repentance. There are two ways I exasperate my children. The first is through my inattention. This might be when my mind is occupied with something else – work, chores, plans for the evening or whatever. More often it is when my agenda is different to theirs. A fairly common example of this currently occurs most evenings around 6.30pm. My agenda is to get teeth done, milk warmed, stories read and beds filled. Daisy and Eliza’s agenda is to perform a dance show for me. Sylvia’s agenda is to play ‘running away from daddy shouting and waving my arms in glee’. My temptation is to simply force my agenda on them.
Nothing wrong with that, you might say, as they need to get to bed, and it is good for them to learn that they are not in charge. That is quite correct. The problem is that my heart is not seeking to do this for their good, but for my ease. I want it done so I can get on with chores, relaxing or work. I am not engaging with them, I am not interested in what they want. It is purely, selfishly, about me. And so I exasperate them, I do so by simply making it about obedience, not relationship. I repeat the instructions to do their teeth, louder and louder, getting crosser and crosser, even with the baby who doesn’t really get it. They respond with anger, defiance, and tantrums – exasperated little children.
Worse, though, sometimes I am glad to be at this point. Sometimes it is more deliberate than mere inattention. Sometimes I want to show that I am right, to show that I am in charge, to have a good reason for some proper discipline. Sometimes I want to turn their silliness, their tiredness, their craziness into sin and disobedience so that I am clearly in the right when I lose my temper, shout at them and make them obey me. I hate this in myself, and if you recognise it at all in yourself, you will too.
The way that the Lord is giving me repentance in this area is through his kindness. The antidote to the poison of exasperation is the kindness of God our Father. I have noticed how God treats his children with kindness, and that by the work of the Spirit in us, he makes us kind, just as his Son Jesus is kind. The kindness of God is firstly an objective reality towards us, with the coming and the cross of Christ at its heart:
‘For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.’ – Titus 3:3-7
Our salvation is kindness, shown by God. It is kindness that led him to send Christ to die our death, carry and kill our sin, and suffer our judgment on the cross. It was kindness that raised Christ from the dead to draw us into his new life of righteousness and joy. It was kindness that led our Father to pour out his Holy Spirit on us richly.
This is no surprise, because these very real and infinitely strong truths come to us so gently. The Spirit comes alongside us as a counsellor, drawing us to Christ and to growth in him. There is no forced change, no Jesus boot-camp, just the Spirit directing our gaze to Christ and in so doing, making us shine like the one we see (2 Corinthians 3:16-18).
We see the way that the Father saves us in the staggering promises, in the words spoken to a woman by a well in Samaria. We see this kindness as Christ invites Matthew and Zaccheus to himself, as he restores Peter’s life, hope, dreams and future in John 21. We see a God in Christ, the perfect radiance of the Father, who will not break a bruised reed (Matthew 12:20). We see kindness in what Christ does and says and how he does and says it.
Isn’t this our experience too? When I look back at my sin and folly, I am amazed how consistently the Lord has spared me from myself, how he has led me so gently to his Son again and again. My tantrums are frequent, my prayers of thanks are rare. But the kindness of my Father leads me to peace, not to exasperation, much as I deserve to be exasperated! So I have begun to pray for kindness for myself and for our family. I have found that the Spirit has pointed me to see the ongoing kindness of God in the bible and in my experience. I have found also, that he has worked kindness in me. It turns out that engaging with the world of my children means I really enjoy short shows some evenings, and they don’t mind so much if there isn’t time. I love being a kinder father, it is a joy and delight, it makes my children such a blessing to me, and it shows me a glimpse of the amazing kindness of my Father, which is the wellspring from which the Spirit draws what he works in me. I may even be a slightly less harsh husband as well.
There is kindness in our Father. It is deep and good, and it is directed towards us. It is also given to us. We can be like God, love like the Father and obey, wonderfully, the command not to exasperate our children. What loving kindness our God has.
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