Tag Archives: perfectionism

Gentle Encouragement for Parents at Christmastime

7 Dec

Christmas is a time that can really bring families together. But in reality there is often relational strife, unmet expectations, disappointments, stress, anxiety, and just a feeling of being burned out and broken at this time of the year. If you identify with any of that, I have a few simple tips for you that may help you make your way through the season with Jesus at the center and your sanity intact.

First, Christmas is a great time to start (or re-start) Family Devotions. Called by many names (Family Devotions, Bible Time, Family Worship) the practice of gathering your children at a set time each day to read Scripture and pray is an important part of the spiritual life of the family. There are many reasons not to do family devotions (schedules, busyness, etc.) but the benefits far outweigh the challenges. It doesn’t have to be complicated. For example, this year our family is listening to a short Advent devotional from desiringgod.org and praying for missions in preparation for the Lottie Moon Christmas offering. It’s nothing complicated. But it is very meaningful.

Second, bring your family to church at Christmas. There are lots of unique opportunities and special services at this time of year, from cantatas to dinners to candlelight services to the regular Sunday morning and Sunday evening services of the church. I think at Christmas you ought to get your family in church every time the doors are open. I believe this because you need a respite from the hustle and bustle of the season. I believe this because you need to re-focus at a time when so many things are clamoring for your attention. But most of all I believe this because your children are watching you. If you set aside church attendance because of the rush of the holiday season, what does that say to them about the importance you place on worship? And as a side note, if you have extended family staying with you this holiday season, don’t let them keep you from church. Show your children that you place a high priority on worshiping God and let that be your testimony to your extended family too. It is not socially inappropriate to tell family staying with you on Saturday night, “We are going to church tomorrow morning. We would love to have you join us, but if you decide to stay here there are things for breakfast for you in the fridge and we’ll be back around noon.”┬áDon’t leave it to them. Have a conviction about the importance of worship and stick to that conviction. You might think I am just saying this because as a pastor I have skin in the matter of church attendance. But my conviction is that weekly worship with a local body of Christ should be a non-negotiable in the life of a believer, unless they are providentially hindered. I am not saying this is a set-in-stone thing or that you are a bad person if you disagree with me, but I do throw it out there for your consideration.

Third, give special attention to cultivating your marriage during the Christmas season. The holidays are a strange mix of frenetic activity and empty time, of well-worn traditions which break the daily routines of life. The holidays are a time that can push couples apart unless they are especially mindful of each other. Serve one another in the frenetic times. Connect with one another in the empty times. Enjoy traditions together, even if they are not your thing. Try to make sure your spouse’s life is made easier because of your genuine sacrificial love and service. Spend some time every day talking together, but guard your heart and your words. In social settings, let your words be full of grace toward your spouse, or else let them be few. Let the wife or husband you are in private be the same as the spouse you are in public, provided that you are seeking to be a godly husband or wife. If you are just living for yourself, let Christmastime be a time that leads you to repentance as you remember that God so loved that He gave. Let Christmas be a time that binds you together rather than breaking you apart.

Finally, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Seek to enjoy this season for what it is rather than for what you hope it will be. Don’t be discouraged when things go wrong, because they always will in a fallen world. Enjoy the journey and don’t spend the whole season waiting for that one favorite thing you always do. And don’t forget those who are struggling with grief and hardship at Christmastime. Maybe the best medicine for your own soul will be to help somebody else.

I do not write these things as one who has mastered them. They are just principles I think are helpful for everyday living that I am striving to see at work in my own life. I hope you find something here that helps you enjoy this time of the year.

Behold Your God — Week Twelve, Day Five

18 Aug

Don’t expect perfection. Don’t let your zeal be misdirected. Don’t chase after feelings. Don’t give up.

These four statements summarize the final study in the Behold Your God book.

When seeking to know and live in the presence of God . . .

  1. Don’t expect perfection. You will not live a perfectly sinless life and your life’s circumstances will not be perfectly smooth. Hard days attend to the one who seeks God. Frustrating failures of heart will be common. Days of joy in God will be sidetracked by one action or comment. Expect this. Know that in this world you will have trouble. Know from the outset that while you should be growing in holiness, you will always fall short of perfection. One of the keys to healthy Christian living is perseverance. This can only happen if two things are going on in our hearts. First, we must believe the goal of our pursuit is worthwhile and second, we must not give up when we fail.
  2. Don’t let your zeal be misdirected. This can manifest itself in many ways. The book described the “Toronto Blessing” of the early ’90’s and the idea of “holy laughter,” discussing how this seemed to be out of step with revivals in the Bible. But there are other ways zeal can be misdirected too. In our excitement over knowing God, we may insist that everyone must know God in exactly the way we do. So if we came to know Jesus through the influence of great books, we will insist that everyone else must read these books. Or if it was through a small group Bible study, we become the world’s biggest cheerleader for Bible study. But there are many gifts in the body, therefore many expressions of those gifts should be expected and many different points of emphasis on many different points of need.
  3. Don’t chase after feelings. There is a way we can get so fixed on seeing revival that we begin to seek revival rather than seeking God. We may become religious consumers, looking to get a certain high from a worship experience and may fail to see the significance of knowing God is far greater than the warm feelings of a revival meeting. The two are not always synonymous.
  4. Don’t give up. When I think about the sin in my own heart, the sin of fellow church members, and the devastated world we live in, I am tempted to give up. I must remember that “though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.” I have resources for this life to see me through each day and God’s promises to sustain me. So I must never give up. “When all around my soul gives way, he then is all my hope and stay. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

I don’t want to end telling you what not to do, so let me list a few things Christians through the centuries have found helpful when it comes to knowing the Lord and walking with Him.

  • The Word is essential. Reading it, meditating over it, committing it to memory, all these things are key. I think it was said of John Bunyan that he was so immersed in Scripture that it was as if you pricked him, he would bleed the Bible.
  • Prayer is essential. Seeing God through the Word, we come into intimate fellowship with God through prayer. Prayer is not mainly about getting stuff we want, it is mainly about coming into God’s presence and knowing Him.
  • Church is essential. Church can take many forms, but gathering with other like-minded people is an essential part of your journey of faith. You need the other perspectives, the encouragement along the way, the shared ministry opportunities.
  • Service is essential. If you never put all you are knowing of God into practice in your daily life, you are missing out on knowing God more deeply than you could otherwise know Him. God is a giver. His love overflows. As people made in His image, we function best when we are giving, when we are overflowing with acts of love.
  • Ongoing learning is essential. The resources we have for spiritual growth in our day are absolutely amazing. If you don’t take advantage of the great books of the past, of conferences, of seminars, of online events and podcasts, you may be missing out on a great means of spiritual growth. To be sure, this can be an area where we overdo it. There is no salvation through reading, no sanctification by podcast. But ignoring the opportunities to grow God has given us in our day may be an indicator of pride or laziness. We must be judicious in what we take in, but the mentoring we can receive through resources by saints who have walked this path of life before us is invaluable.
  • Time is essential. This may be the most challenging thing of all. If you really want to behold God, you must devote time to Him. If you are working every hour of the day, don’t be surprised if you feel distant from Him. If you are filling free moments with games on your smart phone or social media, don’t be surprised if you have no intimacy with God. If you binge watch Netflix but don’t read your Bible, don’t be alarmed when you realize God is no longer very important to you. Love means an investment of time. Will you make the time commitment necessary to see the work of God flourish in your life? Will this study not be an end but the beginning of a life of earnestly seeking the Lord? I pray it would be so.
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