Archives For children

childrenDear Parents,

I want to plant a thought in your mind, especially as we are in the midst of the Christmas season.  Given the chance, my children would probably eat cookies and ice cream for every meal.  But as their parent, I know better.  They need to trust me and obey me.

As a pastor, I may know better about an issue that I’ve observed in families.  You might not be a parent, or perhaps your kids are grown, but I invite you to consider what I have to say, anyway.  And I don’t mean to be too radical or offensive, but just a little—enough to shake things up in your life.

Here’s what I want to challenge you with: we must not spoil our children materially, while neglecting them spiritually.[1]  Are you guilty?  I can feel the stab of it, too.

Are you working your tail off to get your kids the latest material possessions, such as the right phone, clothes, comforts, and so forth?  Do your kids constantly press you for more and more?  What if they pressed you for junk food at every meal?  Would you allow it?  For whatever reasons, we think it’s “okay” to spoil our kids materially, while neglecting them spiritually.

But it’s not okay!  Our children have a body and a soul, and we must not neglect either.  To satisfy just their material desires leads to three problems.  First, it keeps us from truly helping them.  Humans have needs that no material thing can quench.  If we only take care of our bodies, then a significant part of us remains empty and neglected.  Just imagine the dad who thinks that he can merely “buy off” his kid with gifts and toys, neglecting to give her love?  The same dad might even leave the family for another spouse, thinking that so long as he mails a support check, that everything is fine.  Children don’t work like that; all humans are deeper than our surface needs, requiring love, affection, and commitment.

Second, when we neglect to care for our children spiritually, we expose them to the enemy without any protection.  A captain would never deploy his soldiers without sufficient gear, protection, and weapons.  To do so would be like homicide.  However, how often do we send our kids out into battle, unprepared and unarmed, spiritually speaking?  There are so many deadly lies that our kids breathe in every day.  To deploy them unprepared is like homicide.  How are they going to discern truth from lie?  The world whispers to them “You’re no good unless you fit a certain size or look a certain way!”  Who is going to help our young women fight against these sick lies?  The world tells our young men, “You will be happy only when you have these possessions, drive this car, and can impress these people!”  Who is going to tell our young men that these are lies?  In the meantime, our kids are believing the lies, and inching nearer to their deathbeds, because they can’t live up to the whacked standards.

Third, to neglect our children spiritually, while spoiling them materially, we’re shrinking their capacity for joy, purpose, love, and fulfillment.  We’re perpetuating a society of spiritual slugs.  We’re diminishing their character, creating a generation of kids who are obese with dissatisfaction and totally unable to handle any amount of suffering.  I’ve heard several times now that today’s kids are called the “enabled generation.”  They get everything they want and are not used to the word “no.”  As a result, they can’t handle trials, much less benefit from them.  Yes, I said, “benefit” from trials.

You might be saying to yourself, “Okay, I know that I need to care for my kids spiritually, but I don’t know how.  No one has taught me!”  That’s no excuse.  Figure it out.  You’re a smart person.  We figure out how to do the things that are important to us.  If we think that caring for our kids spiritually is important, then we will find a way to do it.  Talk with your pastor, find a church, read the Bible, pray, talk about spiritual issues, share your wisdom—these are just a few ways to care for the most precious part of your kids.

© Sam Kee, 2013

[1] I got this idea from J. I. Packer’s book A Quest for Godliness.

Comfort in Tragedy?

Hope Stands —  December 15, 2012 — 6 Comments

heavenI am trying to imagine what it would be like to be one of those grieving parents from Newtown.  If I just lost my child in these horrific circumstances, how could I best be comforted?  I realize that nothing I say here, so detached from the events, holds any water.  I’m sure I might have a different answer if I were actually living through the hell that they are.  So I apologize in advance for anything that I say that might not be helpful.

However, as I place myself in their shoes, here’s what brings me the most comfort.  As the vivid scenes of my child’s last minutes race through my mind, I would want to know that they are comforted now.  The best thing that you could say to me would be to remind me that my child is experiencing more joy, peace, and comfort than they have ever known.  The best balm would be to tell me about Heaven.

I know that “telling me about Heaven” is not acknowledging my grief—and it could sound like you’re trivializing my pain.  But in the deepest sense of what it means to be a parent, you’re actually providing what I need the most.  The deepest desire of every parent is to care for and protect their children.  Way before I get counseling or understanding for my grief, I would want to make sure that my children are okay.  In fact, as all parents know, you regularly put your own needs aside in order to make sure that your kids are cared for.

That’s why I think I would just want to know about Heaven.  Tell me my kids are safe now.  Tell me that their heavenly Father is now embracing them, wiping away their tears, and healing their wounds.  Tell me that one day, we will be together again in Heaven, where we’ll always be together, where nothing will be able to tear us apart again.  In these moments, I don’t need cheap comfort; I need strong doctrine.

Don’t tell me that God needed another angel; don’t tell me that God will give me enough grace to get through this; don’t tell me that God had a reason.  Just tell me that my children are safe in Heaven, beyond the reaches of evil.  Then just be quiet.

We all long for our dads to come home to be with us.

When I was a kid, there was always a magical moment in my day.  It was the moment my dad came home from work.  Day after day, year after year, the effect was always the same: excitement.  It never wore off.  I can still hear the sound of his pick-up truck’s tires, grumbling up the limestone driveway, driving a rut in to the rock just as surely as that moment did into my heart.  I loved it when dad came home after work; and he always did.

Contrast my experience with a story I heard from a teenager recently.  This boy’s parents were separated when he was very young, and he would only be able to see his dad once per week, on Fridays.  He was like any boy and every boy, having a deep desire to be with his dad.  One week, just like all the other weeks, his dad was supposed to come home so that they could play board games.  The boy’s mom told her son all week long, “If you’re good this week, then you can play games with daddy when he comes home on Friday.”  Though it was difficult for this young boy to “be good” all week, he did his best.  Yet when Friday came, his dad did not come home.  In fact, he never came home; this boy never saw his dad again.

Yesterday I sat in a courthouse in Chicago, observing the criminal trials.  As case after case was heard, criminals in DOC jumpsuits were escorted before the judge by armed guards.  Most were men; many were fathers.  These were daddies who would not be coming home.

I’ve often wondered why God needed to rest on the seventh day of creation.  Genesis 1-2 describes how God worked for six days, but then rested on the seventh day.  It doesn’t make any sense to me, because God does not get tired.  There must be another way of understanding “rest.”  And there is.

In Psalm 132, God’s rest is tied to his dwelling, so that the place of his rest is linked with the place of his dwelling.

Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool!  Arise, O Lord, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. (verses 7-8)

Quite literally, God’s resting place is his temple.  The temple is the place where God “goes home” to dwell.  Just as after “building” the world, God rested in the Garden of Eden, after building the temple, God rested in it.  The temple was the place of God’s dwelling, where he “rested” with his children.  A few verses later, Psalm 132 says:

For the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place: “This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.” (13-14)

God dwells where he desires and he dwells with whom he desires.  God desires to dwell with his people after he comes home from work.  The temple was the place where God could rest with his people.

In other words, God rested on the seventh day of creation not because he needed a break, but because we needed a Daddy.  He rests in order to dwell with us forever, the desire of his heart.

The purpose of the temple, as Greg Beale observed, was to be a divine resting place.[1]  It’s the place where our heavenly Father comes home after work to be with his children and the place where his children get to be with their Father.  It’s a place of joy, anticipation, and love—a place that mends our broken relationships and heals our loneliness, by giving us a Father to be with forever.

As Hebrews 4:11 says, “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest.”

Today, we do not have a temple, but we still have a heavenly Father and he still offers rest.  He has created us (Genesis 1-2) and he desires to rest with us (Psalm 132).

© Samuel Kee, 2011

[1] G.K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission (Downers Grove,IL: IVP, 2004).

Because He Loves You

Hope Stands —  September 28, 2011 — Leave a comment

He will not relent until you are in His arms.

I have a policy with my kids that we will not play hide-and-go-seek in the public park.  The first and only time I’ve played this game in the park was when one of my sons was about two-years-old.  He hid so well, that I could not find him.  I remember going into a state of panic because I thought that someone must have kidnapped him.  After not being able to find him for some time, this was the terrifying conclusion that I came to.  (As it turns out, he was just a really good hider and I eventually found him.)

As I searched for him, I tried to remember what color of shirt he was wearing.  With that color fixed in my head, I darted all over the park, looking for that color.  My eyes were trained to look for a small boy with short hair who was wearing blue.  Having this information seemed to make my “search and rescue” most efficient.

In fact, if I were to ask others to help me find him, they would also want to know what he looked like, what he was wearing, how old, etc.  Though it is possible to find missing things/people when you don’t know what they look like, it helps a great deal when you know what you’re searching for, what it looks like, and so forth.

The first verse of Psalm 139 joins two strong Hebrew words together to capture this sense.  “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!”  “Searched” carries the idea of digging for precious jewels in the earth; the one who is searching is careful, thorough, and persevering.  The one who is searching is on a mission, trying to track down that which is lost, like a father searching for his son.  He won’t give up until his boy is back in his arms.

But the son has to be “known” by his father.  Dad has to know what he is looking for.  In the same way, to be known by God is to have your features at the forefront of His mind.  God knows what you’re wearing today.  God knows your height, your hair color, and your shoe size.  God knows if you’re smiling, crying, or in pain.  God knows your words, your prayers, and your problems.  He knows your thoughts, emotions, longings, and intentions.  He knows you inside and out, from soul to skin.

God knows what he is searching for; even more, that which he is digging after is at the forefront of his mind.

Let’s escape into the passionate moment of this verse, where the Psalmist wants us to enter into God’s world.  We’re to see our Maker searching after us, as if we were the only one in existence.  When I search for my child, I don’t think of every possible child; I only think of my child.  Only one child matters to me in that desperate moment.  When God searches after you, only you matter to Him in that moment.  He’s digging, groaning, and longing for you; you alone are on His mind.

He will not relent until you are in His arms.

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me!”  God’s journey to find you led him off His throne, away from His palace, and out of His Kingdom.  He tore off His royal robes and clothed Himself with the garments of mortality.  He searched and he searched, fighting our kidnappers along the way.  His journey led Him to the cross, where He saw our Notice of Charges in Roman writ.  Your name was on the top of this parchment and your sins flooded its content.  He knew that this is where you were headed, if He did not get there first.  Then He allowed Himself to be nailed to the cross, beneath your Notice, in order to pay the penalty for you.

Having died on the cross in your place, the saying came true for you, “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:24).

The cross will change your life if you let its implications into the moments of your day.  The cross is proof that Someone knows you and is searching for you.  Why?  Because He loves you.

© Samuel Kee, 2011