By / Sep 1

“Anything is possible if you work hard…” this is a message that we hear, over and over again, a credo embedded in the ethos of many Americans. I say “many” because the realities of those of us who have grown up in safe, relatively affluent suburbs is vastly different from my brothers and sisters who’ve grown up in more hope-starved, crime-ridden, opportunity-free precincts of American life.

But is the above credo true? Is it biblical? And is it something we should whisper to our kids as we tuck them in at night? I get the sentiment behind it, I really do. I think it’s important, vital even, for parents to encourage, support and believe in their kids. However, we are lying to our kids if we tell them that if they work hard they can achieve anything they want. Let me use an example in my own life.

I was a marginal athlete, at best. By marginal I mean marginal in a small Christian school with a limited talent pool. So, to be frank, I’m not an athlete. And yet I managed to play basketball in junior high and high school. I had to work harder than most of my teammates because I wasn’t especially tall, I wasn’t especially fluid, and I battled weight problems. I worked hard, though, at basketball, especially between my sophomore and junior years. In that summer I lost 40 lbs and ran two miles a day and got into the best shape of my life. I entered training camp ready to seize the fifth and final starting spot. That hard work paid off as I was a key player on my team which won the majority of its games and got second in the state (Relax: it was a Christian school league).

I worked hard. I wanted to be good at basketball. And I made the team. But even as hard as I worked–pushing myself beyond my self, subverting my body to my will–I still was only, at best, the 5th or 6th best player on my tiny Christian school high-school basketball team. The truth is that, yes, since I worked hard toward a goal, I was able to meet it. But if my dream was to play Division 1 college basketball or play in the NBA, no matter how hard I worked, I wouldn’t have made it. That’s a fantasy, not reality. So the maxim above is false. You can’t work hard and be whatever you want to be. I can work hard toward being an NBA all-star, a concert violinist, or an Oscar-winning actor and still never achieve that. It’s not where I’m gifted. It’s not in my skill sets. Most importantly, this is not God’s plan for my life.

This sounds a bit like hopeless fatalism, but seen through the eyes of a Creator who loves us and has redeemed us for his pleasure, this is the best possible news. Rather than being a hostage to my own, fallen dreams for myself I can be surrendered to God’s much better plan for me. My dreams are pedestrian, paltry, and lame. God’s Kingdom is better. It’s better not only because surrender to Christ allows me to be who I was created to be, but because God’s Kingdom is God himself. The end of faith isn’t becoming the best me. The end of faith is Christ himself, in whom I will find more infinitely more delight than I would pursuing my own dreams.

What’s more, following Christ doesn’t make me choose between gospel-shaped desires, Spirit-bestowed gifts, and God-ordained opportunities. Surrendering my soul to him allows me, frees me to be what I was created to be. What’s more, a Christian view of the future shapes my expectations, knowing that in this fallen life I will not find ultimate satisfaction, but that everything I do is just an internship for eternity. If we believe we were made for forever, made for life with Christ, then we’ll entrust our dreams to the one who is restoring this fallen cosmos and is renewing my heart. We’ll not lament lost years, rue getting older, or get frustrated in suffering because we’re not looking forward to the next ten years, but to the next million years in that city “whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10).

So what should we be whispering in the ears of our children? We should be telling them something better than the worldly maxim of “Work hard and you can be whatever you want.” Instead, we should tell them: “Work hard, love Jesus, and Christ will empower you to be whatever he created you to be, both now and in eternity.” We should prepare them for both short-term disappointment that involves both suffering and injustice in a fallen world and remind them that God’s redeemed who are last in this world, the marginalized, the poor, those who are not afforded the opportunity many of us–these will be first in the Kingdom of Heaven.

This was originally posted here

By / Jan 30

I hesitate to write a parenting post, only because I’m not an expert, just a father trying his best to parent the way God wants me to. Our kids are still young, so there is no “finished product” to evaluate to see if what I’m saying even makes sense.

But I do know this: Parenting involves hard truths. It is a way that God searches your heart, humbles you and softens you for his service. Along the way, I’ve learned five hard truths about being parent that I’d like to share with you:

1. There is no guarantee that your kid will be great. When I say greatness, I mainly mean biblical greatness, which involves knowing, loving and serving God. It means living above the world, living an extraordinary life on mission. I’m referring to kids who become adults who have an impact for Christ on their generation.

It’s hard to accept the fact that God doesn’t really give us a guarantee that our kids will achieve this. We need to disabuse ourselves of the bad theology that says Proverbs 22:6 is an ironclad guarantee that if we “follow the formula,” inserting our kids in one end of the evangelical assembly line, then they will come out at the other end as perfectly formed Christians.

This is not a note of despair, but a breath of fresh air. It means that our job is to simply be faithful with our children, to provide the kind of loving, nurturing, spiritual environment where faith can best grow. We’re to sacrifice for them, discipline, teach, and motivate them to fulfill God’s call on their lives.

But we cannot change our children. We cannot alter their hearts.

Only God, through the regenerating work of his Holy Spirit, can produce the kind of righteousness we would like to see. This is important for lazy parents who are tempted to be less than faithful and overly analytical parents who bludgeon themselves daily with the false notion that they are constantly failing.This reality is why we must pray fervently for our kids.

2. Your child, upon entering life, is a sinner in need of regeneration. Nobody likes to think of their child as the bad kid, right? I’m amazed at how blind we parents can be to the faults of our own kids and supersonically sensitive to the faults of the kids of other parents. Our generation seems more likely to be defensive about this than our parent’s generation—or maybe it’s just my experience. We tend to be more likely to defend our child at all costs against any accusation of misbehavior and, instead, point the finger at someone else.

However, if we believe what Scripture says about humanity, the Fall, and every person’s desperate need for redemptive grace, then we’ll stop hurting our children by defending their sin. The truth is that it may be the other kid that commits the outrageous acts in the church nursery one day and my child who commits them the next week. I must constantly remind myself that my child needs a work of the Spirit as much as the other kids.

Parents, we need to be less sensitive when it comes to criticism and/or correction of our kids by other parents, and we need to acknowledge that our kids are not the perfect angels we like to think they are.

3. There is no method, no strategy, no system that can do the work of the Holy Spirit. We evangelicals love our parenting formulas, and every year the strategies seem to change. I’m grateful for the many tools provided by ministries like Family Life Today, Focus on the Family and other organizations. They have helped my wife and I immensely. I’m grateful for books, seminars and conferences.

Yet, I have come to realize that I must first pray for my child’s salvation—it is my hope and prayer that each of one of our children come to faith in Christ as their Lord and Savior. Why? Not only do I care deeply about their eternal destiny and their intimacy with God now, but the Holy Spirit is the only agent who can actively change my child’s heart.

Parenting is much more of a joy when the Holy Spirit is doing his work in the lives of my children. The Spirit can take my faithfulness, teaching and the environment I create and use that to work in the heart and lives of my children. There is a great temptation to essentially “forget” or “eliminate” the role of the Spirit in parenting. We can too easily become enamored with our system of character formation (which is important) and mostly convince ourselves that parenting is all up to us. Yep, our kids will be good because we did it right! That’s humanism. You don’t have to be a Christian to parent in this way. It leaves no room for the miracle of the gospel.

4. You will make a lot of really big mistakes. You are not going to get it all right in your parenting. You will have glaring blind spots that your kids will one day lament as they consider their own parenting. But guess what? This is where God’s grace bleeds through. Be faithful, humble, apologetic and present—and God will use you to mold the lives of your kids. It’s better to realize this up front than to fool yourself into thinking that you’ll be perfect and whatever mistakes your parents made you will now iron out.

It’s better not to convince yourself that you’ve finally mastered the balance between grace and law in your home. It’s better to go through your parenting years with the humility to realize you don’t have all the answers, the grace to apologize when you mess up, and the confidence that God can somehow take your flawed efforts and shape the hearts of your children.

What encourages me about my children is to know that God loves them infinitely more than I love them, and God wants their spiritual success, their wholeness, their character more than I do. It encourages me to think that the huge, glaring gaps in my parenting will be filled by the Heavenly Father.

5. You need to unselfishly prepare them for their mission. I think the biggest temptation we parents face is to consider our kids as our kids rather than God’s children. Don’t misunderstand me, when I look at my children, I think often think, Wow, these are my kids. How awesome. And yet I have to remind myself that they are God’s children more than they are my children. This matters because it affects the way we parent. If we have children for our own pleasure and enjoyment, they will ultimately disappoint us. We will ruin them by trying to mold and shape them, either into our own image or into the person who completes what we feel we lack.

Instead, like Abraham and like Hannah, we must relinquish control of our children to the Lord for his mission. This means, rather than overprotecting them in a germ-less Christian bubble, we teach, train and equip them for life. We don’t assume the gospel and the great doctrines of the Christian faith. We drill these truths deep into their hearts and souls so that they can carry this deposit of faith in their generation. It means we start teaching them essential life skills so they can go into the world and make a difference. It means we work hard at identifying their gifts and talents and point out how to use them so they can discover their God-given vocation.

Preparing our children for life means we slowly prepare our own hearts for the moment they will leave the nest. We don’t want to hang on and destroy their adulthood, hover over their relationships and hurt their mission. We want to launch them from our nests and watch what God does for his glory in and through their lives.

*This is by no means an exhaustive list of principles and truths, just some that I’ve been reflecting on lately.

By / Nov 18

Kelly Rosati explains why parents with adopted children sometimes feel like they're outsiders.

Rosati is the vice president of Community Outreach at Focus on the Family where she oversees the Adoption & Orphan Care Initiative and the Sanctity of Human Life department. She also directs the Option Ultrasound Program, The Truth Project and Focus' Community Care efforts.

Twitter: @KellyMRosati

By / Nov 17

If you want your “dream baby,” do not adopt or foster a child: buy a cat and make-believe. Adopting an orphan isn’t ordering a consumer item or buying a pet. Such a mindset hurts the child, and countless other children and families. Adoption is about taking on risk as cross-bearing love.

For years, I’ve called Christian churches and families to our James 1:27 mandate to care for widows and orphans in their distress, to live out the adoption we’ve received in the gospel by adopting and fostering children. At the same time, I’ve maintained that, while every Christian is called to care for orphans and widows, not every Christian is called to adopt or foster. As a matter of fact, there are many who, and I say this emphatically, should not.

Love of any kind brings risk, and, in a fallen world, brings hurt. Simeon tells our Lord’s mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, that a sword would pierce her heart. That’s true, in some sense, for every mother, every father. Even beyond that, every adoption, every orphan, represents a tragedy. Someone was killed, someone left, someone was impoverished, or someone was diseased. Wrapped up in each situation is some kind of hurt, and all that accompanies that. That’s the reason there really is no adoption that is not a “special needs” adoption; you just might not know on the front end what those special needs are.

We live in a time in which our commitments have become the opportunity often for simply a narcissistic self-realization. Weddings have become events for planners and photographers putting on what seems to be a state dinner honoring the “love of the couple.” Children often become props in a life of parents who are seeking to grasp whatever they believe the world owes them. It’s easier to pull off that kind of an illusion of self-centrality with your engagement photos and wedding party than it is with children, though. Children are alive. Children are persons, with individuality that can’t ultimately be suppressed. Children, of all sorts, are, by definition, unpredictable. Children shatter your life-plan. Adoption certainly does.

It’s worth it.

But Jesus tells us we ought to know that a king going into battle must measure his troops, a tower-builder must count the expenses of the project (Lk. 14:28-31). Those who see adoption as a warm, sentimental way of having a baby are mistaken and dangerous. There are far too many who plunge in without counsel, without a commitment to fidelity no matter what. They search around for a baby who fits their specifications. And babies never fit your specifications…at least not when they grow up.

If what’s behind all of this isn’t crucified, war-fighting, eyes-open commitment, you are going to wind up with a child who is twice orphaned. He or she will be abandoned the first time by fatherlessness and the second time by the rejection of failing to live up to the expectations of parents who had no business imposing such expectations in the first place.

We need a battalion of Christians ready to adopt, foster, and minister to orphans. But that means we need Christians ready to care for real orphans, with all the brokenness and risk that comes with it. We need Christians who can reflect the adopting power of the gospel, which didn’t seek out a boutique nursery but a household of ex-orphans who were found wallowing in our own blood, with Satan’s genes in our bloodstreams.

If what you like is the idea of a baby who fulfills your needs and meets your expectations, just buy a cat. Decorate the nursery, if you’d like. Dress it up in pink or blue, and take pictures. And be sure to have it declawed.

This was originally published here.

By / May 9

Several of my friends have suffered miscarriages. They endure the anguish of feeling their bodies begin to change to make room for a growing baby only to lose the child. I, too, have experienced it—four times. At first we thought perhaps I had a problem with fertility. It took us a year to get pregnant and then seven weeks to lose the baby. I got pregnant quickly again and miscarried at ten weeks. Eventually I had a sweet baby boy. After him I miscarried two more times and then had my girl.

This Mother's Day may come as yet another reminder to women everywhere that they don't have something they desire. Another year of miscarriages, infertility or waiting for a child through the adoption process. Whatever the unfulfilled desire, it tugs at your heart and plagues your mind.

When I thought about writing this article, I recalled a friend who asked me for advice. So instead of an article, I wrote a note to my friends and anyone else God may want to read in on the conversation. So I pray you would be blessed by this note as well.

Dear Friend,

I am so sorry for your wait. It is hard. I'm not going to pretend it isn't. I'm not going to tell you that everything will be better if you take these five steps. The only thing I know for sure is that Christ loves you. He really does sympathize with you. You can read God's words to you in Hebrews: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15-16).

I know you've probably seen this verse many times, but I think God has a lot to say to you in these verses. He is reminding you that he isn't far-off. He has entered into the ugly and hard places that you see your heart going as you struggle with worry or anxiety or fear or anger. He knows it. He knows your temptation. Jesus reminds you that he walked this earth perfectly for you. And in your weakness he invites you to draw near to him. He wants to comfort you and uphold you with his righteous right hand. Come to him, weary friend, and receive grace and peace and rest. This is your time of need. Mother's Day is your time of need, and he does not turn away from you during your time of need; he wants you to find grace to help.

Friend, I pray that you would receive his good grace today. As you look to Mother's Day know that he has you in mind and intercedes even now on your behalf.  “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18).

Read the original article here.