Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Who is being transformed?

It always surprises me how the help I seek for training and guidance for my children always results in training and guidance for myself. (As someone told me once, "dog training" is actually training the owner.)

In reading one of the four books I am focusing on, and putting some of it into action, I am finding the equally large part of the "battle" is not just the correction of my children, but the correction of me. The battle with my flesh, weaknesses, idols and tendencies. This is hard work, always on, always ready. And I am NOT always on and always ready. Like the young daughter quoted in the Age of Opportunity, I cry out to God: " Daddy, I can't do it. I can't do what you are asking me. It's just impossible!" (p.67) And answer is the same for me, as it is for her..."...there is no possibility of righteousness by the doing of the law...." I need to "cry out for Christ...he was her only hope." I too must become a "seeker after grace."

I want to share some of this book with you....chapter four was so clear and profound for me, in the middle of our struggles....that I am also going to read much of it to my two sons... separately. It gives so much insight into our current relational struggles.

It starts with speaking of our children and their conflicts and moves on from there.

Pg 62:
"They are filled with a sense of self. Their thoughts are dominated by what they need and what they want. Sinners, according to Paul in Ephesians, are people who are led around by the cravings of their sinful nature (Eph 2:3). Sinners want their will to be done, and they will fight with whoever gets in their way. Consequently, sinners are much better at making war than they are at making peace (see James 4:1-10), much better at hatred than they are at love. They are much better at causing division that they are at creating unity.

"...Sadly, because of sin, conflict is the norm in our homes...We see competition going on where it shouldn't, unkind words being spoken, selfish acts being done, and anger being expressed. Conflict infects many of our family moments. The conflict exists because, as sinners, we tend to live for ourselves. Our own good becomes our highest goal and the people around us seem always in our way."

Pg. 63:

"...God's story is not just the story of his character and his work to redeem; it is also the story of his calling together a people to be the people of God. ... A successful person in God's eyes is not just a person who loves him, but someone who also really does love his neighbor as himself.

...The family will teach and model what it means to love your neighbor as yourself or it will violate that standard at every point and teach a self-centered individualism....The family is called to be the context in which what it means to love your neighbor as yourself is self-consciously taught at every the rush of our frenetic schedules it is very easy for us to rush by the opportunities, enforcing surface solutions rather than dealing with issues of the heart.

pg. 64:

"...parents will often respond to a situation caused by heart problems by enforcing some doable standard. This creates an instant situational fix, yet leaves the more important heart issues unexposed and unchanged. Proverbs 20:5 says 'The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.' This is what we must be committed to in our relationships. When selfishness, individualism and demandingness create conflict, strive and tension in our homes, we must thank God for the opportunity to deal with something that he has said is second in importance only to our relationship to him.

"...There is no better place to do this than the family. Here children are called by God to love people with whom they did not choose to live. Here they cannot escape the daily responsibilities to give, to love and to serve. ... Here their desires will conflict with another's plans. Here they will face the utter impossibility of loving your neighbor as yourself apart from the help of Christ.

"...a [child's] " {ehem....parent's} "responses to others will be shaped by the rule of love: 'Do to others what you would have them do to you' (Matt. 7:12). Or his responses will be shaped by the rule of desire: 'What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight' (James 4:1-2).

...The family is the context where the [child's] " {ehem....parent's} "true heart toward relationships is consistently exposed. It provides situation after situation where what is ruling the heart gets revealed."

{This, by the way, was my entire struggle this summer and why it was so hard and so broken, still is. Because I was ignoring the heart issues, and dumbfounded on our home full of sinners, big and small, acting like sinners and trying to paste some do and don't solutions to broken and sinful heart issues. Didn't work and I was going crazy!}

"...The fight over the last drop of milk at breakfast, the shove in response to the accidental bump in the hallway, the argument over time spent in the bathroom, the discussion over borrowed clothes that weren't returned, the debate as to who gets the [____________], {fill in the blank} "the willingness to participate in put-down humor, the demand for assistance coupled with an unwillingness to help others, the lack of willing and spontaneous participation in the work of the home, the willingness to participate in an escalating duel of cruel words, and a myriad of other situations must not be viewed at the groaning hassles of family life. These are the moments when God is calling us to something greater than our own comfort and ease. that we are willing to take the time to do the second-great-command parenting that they so desperately need. At such moments, we need to be ruled not by the rule of personal desire, but by God's rule of love, not giving in to the quick, surface solution that gives us the quiet we want, but without forming in our children" {and self} " the heart of Christ like love that God requires."

pg 66:

"...We need to face the fact that the harsh realities of the Fall are depicted in everyday family life. It is this humble admission that opens us up to one of the most wonderful functions of the Christian family. IT is when we humbly face the reality of our falseness that we begin to seek and treasure the riches of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. As we--parents and children alike--face our need as sinners, the family becomes a truly redemptive community...

"When God reveals sin, there are only two responses for the Christian. One is to generate some system of self-justification to make wrong desires and behavior acceptable to your own conscience. The other is to admit your sin, confess it to God and man, and place yourself once again under the justifying mercy of Christ. ..

Pg. 69:

"...We expend our energies trying to keep the brothers from fighting, rather than exposing the sin behind the quarrel, leading the individuals involved to Christ, to experience his forgiveness and help as they seek him in confession and respentance. We also miss these opportunities because we see our children's sins as personal affronts. We get caught up in our own hurt and anger. Instead of words of hope and grace, we lash out with angry words of regret ('I wish for once you'd get your act together!') or words of condemnation ('You never change!').

"We parent with a humble awareness of our own sin. is only through Christ that we have experienced any freedom from the things with which they now struggle. We are willing to share our sin struggles with them so that the mercy of Christ would be revealed through our story.

p. 70:

..."We will not be able to shelter them from the fallenness of their world. We cannot act as if it does not exist, because everywhere they look, they will see brokenness. Here too, we must bring the Gospel. This world is not a place of unmitigated chaos. Over all the brokenness rules the risen Christ, who reigns over all things for the sake of his people. What we face here is not comparable with the glories of eternity. There is hope! We need to find practical ways to communicate this hope to our children.

...'Each situation where sin rears its head is an opportunity to teach grace. Each situation where the Tempter is revealed is an opportunity to point to Christ, who is greater. Each circumstance of failure is an open door for the message of forgiveness and deliverance. a parent we must accept our position as God's primary teachers. It is a high and life-long calling. There is nothing more important that we will ever do. As we follow God's calling, we will pray for our children what Paul prayed for the Ephesian church: "That the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe." Eph 1:18-19

The beginning of the chapter also shares some practical ways in which to do this with your children... having them ask the higher agenda question during a conflict...are they going for their will and pleasure or the will and pleasure of pleasing God.

I know I quoted so much from this book. But this chapter alone was worth the book purchase. and I have much more to go. I am seeing, as I think about this, pray and see the conflicts in our family, that I am in as much need of transformation, grace and redemption as my children. God is not just training them, through this season in our life, but training me as well.

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