12 Step Program to Raising a Pharisee

Believe it or not, my husband and I recently attended a conference session at a local church with this message title “How to Raise a Pharisee.” Despite the somewhat sarcastic title, it was actually quite an insightful seminar by Pastor, preacher and teacher Carey Hardy. I would highly recommend listening to the entirety of the hour-long message here (especially if the title in any way intrigues you); but, I thought I would summarize his proposed 12 steps here for those who, like me, find it difficult to squeeze in an hour of ANYTHING with little ones running around:

12 Step Program:

1)  Major on the external instead of internal issues – equate adherents of external behaviors with true saving faith.

2)  Seek to excessively control your child – find an imbalance between instruction and discipline; enforce an excessive amount of rules and micromanage your child’s life.

3)  Overact to failure – do not seek to use each point of failure as an opportunity to share the gospel with your child, rather focus on your child’s inability to attain to an external standard.

4)  Be unforgiving and impatient – crate an oppressive, negative atmosphere by depriving your child of unconditional love and forgiveness.

5) Elevate your personal preferences over the Scripture – elevate necessary household rules and preferences to the standard of “thus saith the Lord.”

6) Encourage unnecessary separatism – shelter and isolate your child from other outside influences to the point where he becomes exasperated and deprived of the opportunity to grow in his own discernment.

7) Judge others … especially in front of your child – your child will learn to follow your example and elevate himself by putting others down.

8) Be a fighter – take a stand on issues (especially minor issues) to the point where everything becomes a fighting issue.

9) Show favoritism – express even the most discrete forms of favoritism for one child over another; use this as a manipulative ploy to get your child to conform.

10)Do not allow humor or fun in the home – take life very seriously and expect your children to do the same.

11)Encourage your child’s self-esteem – train your child to think more about himself than others; encourage “fear of man,” “pride,” and “self love” in the heart of your child.

12)Use your children to impress others – put your child in situations where they are encouraged to perform so they can make you look good (i.e. “the ideal parent”).

Of course, Hardy is using this list to encourage Christian parents AVOID doing these things at all cost while raising the next generation. However, it has served as an effective tool in the Kirkland household to check our motives and practices in parenting our little ones.

In closing, Hardy summarized everything by quoting from Pastor John MacArthur. When all is said and done, parents should simply focus on 2 things: “discipline your child when he disobeys and show him a lot of love.”

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Relationships: Why Can They Be So Scary?

This is a great article by Paul Tripp … so true!

“Why are relationship struggles so disappointing? Why do the problems we have with other people affect us so powerfully? Why is relational disappointment one of the hardest disappointments for all of us to face? Let me suggest some reasons.

1. You were created to be a social being. You and I were never designed to live in isolation. We were not wired to be distant from and unaffected by the people around us. In fact, since we were created in God’s likeness, desire for and participation in community is a fundamental part of our humanity. The God who made us in his likeness not only does community, he is a community! To deny this aspect of your daily life would literally be to deny your humanity. There would be something dramatically wrong with you if you removed yourself completely from other people. What this means is that the hurts of relationships cut deep. In a real way they touch the essence of who God made you to be, and because of this they are not to be taken lightly.

2. We all tend to enter our relationships with unrealistic expectations. Somehow, someway, we are able to swindle ourselves into thinking that we will be able to avoid the difficulties that attend any relationship in this broken world. In the early days of a relationship we work to convince ourselves that we are more righteous, and the other person more perfect, than we and they actually are. This causes us to be shocked when an unexpected but inevitable difficulty gets in the way of the bliss that we had convinced ourselves that we had finally found. Here is where the Bible is so helpful. It is very honest about the messiness and disappointment that everyone deals with in every relationship they have.

3. We all tend to seek to get identity from our relationships. What does this mean? It means that we tend to look for fundamental personal meaning, purpose and sense of well-being from other people. In doing this, we turn people into our own personal messiahs, seeking to get from them what no other human being is ever able to deliver. That other person is not supposed to be the thing that gets you up in the morning. They are not to be what makes life worth living for you. When they are in this place, you have given them too much power and you are asking of them something that no flawed human being can ever pull off. On the other hand, when you are getting your foundational sense of well-being from the Lord, you are then able to step into the inevitable messiness of relationships this side of heaven, and be neither anxious nor self-protective.

4. We tend to be disappointed in our relationships because they were more about the purposes of our little kingdoms of self than they were about the kingdom of God. Without being aware of it, our relationships are often about what we want out of our lives rather than what God wants for our lives. So we have an “I love you and have a wonderful plan for your life,” approach to relationships with other people. Often we are disappointed with a relationship at the exact moment when God is producing through this relationship exactly what he wanted to produce. Our problem is that our agenda doesn’t agree with God’s!

So, there are reasons for our disappointments but there is grace for them as well. The God who will take us where we did not plan to go in order to produce in us what we could not achieve on our own, will also give us the grace to hang in there as he uses the messy disappointment of relationships to change and grow us and others.”

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In Need of Help

This is such wise parenting insights from a biblical counselor and speaker, Paul Tripp.

It’s hard to admit your need of help. It’s hard to admit that there are things you do not know and do not understand. It’s hard to admit that there are things that you cannot do. It’s hard to reach out and cry out for help. It’s hard to confess to weakness and ignorance. It’s hard to have to depend on another for what you think you should be able to supply for yourself. It’s hard to talk about what you do not know and what you cannot do. It’s difficult to admit to poor judgment and wrong responses. It’s hard to receive correction and to confess to sin.

Why are these things so hard? Because we all like to buy into two very seductive lies. These lies argue against any need to be dependent and they bolster the independence that tends to attract us all. The first lie is the lie of AUTONOMY. Autonomy tells me that I am an independent being, with the right to do what I want to do, when, where, and how I want to do it. Now you may say, “Paul, I know well enough not to believe that!” Yet, every time you defend yourself against the correction of another or tell someone not to tell you what to do, you buy into this lie. The second lie is the lie of SELF-SUFFICIENCY. This lie tells me I have everything within myself to be what I am supposed to be and to do what I am supposed to do. Perhaps you’re thinking, “Okay, I do occasionally buy into my autonomy, but I definitely don’t think I’m self-sufficient!” Yet, each time you resist reaching out for help or each time you act like you’re okay when, in fact, you’re not, you have bought into this lie.

Why are these two lies so wrong and so dangerous? Because the Bible clearly tells us that we are people who have been made for COMMUNITY. We were designed to live in worshipful community with God and humble community with people. We were never constructed to live all by ourselves. Even Adam and Eve needed God and one another. Think about this. They were perfect people, living in a perfect world, yet they were still needy because they were not created to live life on their own.

Remember, there are few people more influential in your life than you are because no one talks to you more than you do. You spend each day in constant comversation with you! And the things that you tell yourself shape what you do and say each day. Do you constantly remind yourself of your need of God and others.? Do you tell yourself that it is good to admit weakness and to reach out for help? If you do, it is not a sign that something is wrong. No, by God’s definition, that kind of self-talk is a sign that something is very right.

How about beginning to pray these three prayers every morning:

1. “Lord, I am a person in desperate need of help today.”

2. “Lord, won’t you, in your grace, send your helpers my way.”

3. “And please give me the humility to receive the help when it come.”

Are you intimidated by your weaknesses? Are you afraid to bare your needs to God and others? Don’t forget that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He came so that we would be able to experience both peace with God and with others. He came so that we would no longer have to seduce ourselves with the delusions of autonomy and self-sufficiency. He came so that we could be the kind of people we were created to be, living in humble worship of him and humble dependency on others, right here, right now.

If we shouldn’t be thinking of ourselves as autonomous, self-sufficient, and independent, then why do we raise our kids to think that they are? Should we really be encouraging these traits in them as youngsters only to have to try and root it out of them later as teenagers? Under the banner of “self-esteem,” our western culture has made these character traits seem glorious. However, as usual, the Bible paints a different picture. Oh, that we would be willing (as parents) to not only view ourselves as humble, dependent creatures in need of God and others, but that we would show our children their need to rightly view themselves as such also.

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Happy Easter!

This prayer was said during our family Easter dinner last night. Sorry it is a bit late, but I thought it so rich that it was worth posting anyway:


We marvel that You should become incarnate,
be crucified, dead and buried.
The sepulcher calls forth our adoring wonder,
for it is empty and You are risen;
the Gospel attests it,
the living witnesses prove it,
our hearts’ experience know it.
Give us the grace to die with You that we may rise to new life,
for we wish to be as dead and buried
to sin, to selfishness, to the world;
that we might not hear the voice of the deceiver
and might be delivered from his lusts.
O LORD, there is much sin about us – crucify it,
much flesh within us – mortify it.
Purge us from selfishness, the fear of man, the love of man’s approval,
the shame of being thought old-fashioned,
the desire to be cultured or modern.
Let us reckon our old life dead because of crucifixion,
and never feed it as a living thing.
Grant us to stand with our dying Savior,
to be content to be rejected,
to be willing to take up unpopular truths,
and to hold fast despised teachings until death.
Help us to be resolute and Christ-contained,
Never let us wander from the path of obedience to Your will.
Strengthen us for the battles ahead.
Give us courage for all the trials, and grace for all the joys.
Help us to be a holy, happy people,
free from every wrong desire,
from everything contrary to Your mind.
Grant us more and more of the resurrection life:
may it rule us,
may we walk in its power, and be strengthened through its influence.”

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one of many reasons NOT to spoil your children

Parents! if your children do not meet with a spirit of piety in your houses, if, on the contrary, your pride consists in surrounding them with external gifts, introducing them into worldly society, indulging all their whims, letting them follow their own course, you will see them grow vain, proud, idle, disobedient, impudent, and extravagant! They will treat you with contempt; and the more your hearts are wrapped up in them, the less they will think of you. This is seen but too often to be the case; but ask yourselves if you are not responsible for their bad habits and practices; and your conscience will reply that you are; that you are now eating the bread of bitterness which you have prepared for yourself. May you learn thereby how great has been your sin against God in neglecting the means which were in your power for influencing their hearts; and may others take warning from your misfortune, and bring up their children in the Lord! Nothing is more effectual in doing this than an example of domestic piety.” – J.H. Merle D’Aubigne

As parents, let us keep “the main thing the main thing” (i.e. the salvation of the souls of those whom the Lord has entrusted to us for this brief season) and NOT get caught up in lavishing our children with every earthly pleasure, except it be for those which might draw their hearts toward the great glories of our God (i.e. the demonstration of His very character: love, patience, kindness, self control, justice, etc).

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Children in Church

I came across this blog post recently and thought it very provocative. While I might not line-up exactly with the author on some of the minor points in his argument, I still think that the main point is well worth consideration so I commend it to you here

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A great principle for missions support

Paul sums it up well in 2 Corinthians …

12 For if the readiness [to give] is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. 15 As it is written, Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.’ …The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” – 2 Corinthians 8.12-15, 9.6-8

Are we really living “fairly” alongside our brothers & sisters in Christ who are laboring to spread the gospel abroad? I know that there is much more that I could go without for the sake of financially supporting those who have gone out for the cause of Christ.

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Birthday Prayer

Taken on the morning of my birthday, this is the latest family photo of the Kirkland family.

I was blessed to be able to celebrate another birthday with my wonderful family recently. In reflecting on the year that lies ahead (Lord willing), I thought this a fitting prayer:

“Length of days does not profit me
Except the days are passed in Thy presence, in Thy service to Thy glory.
Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides, sustains
Sanctifies, aids every hour,
That I might not be one moment apart from Thee,
But may rely on thy Spirit
To supply every thought,
Speak every word,
Direct every step,
Prosper every work,
Build up every mote of faith,
And give me a desire
To show forth Thy praise,
Testify Thy love,
Advance Thy kingdom.

I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,

With Thee, O Father, as my harbour,
   Thee O Son, at my helm,
   Thee O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.
Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,
My lamp burning,
My ear open to thy calls,
My heart full of love, my soul free.
Give me Thy grace to sanctify me,
Thy comforts to cheer me,
They wisdom to teach,
Thy right hand to guide,
Thy counsel to instruct,
Thy law to judge,
Thy presence to stabilize.
May Thy fear be my awe,
Thy triumphs my joy.”
From: Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions
Referenced by: Randall Kirkland
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Great Prayer Points for Parents (revised)

I apologize to my readers, who inquired about the previous post entitled, “Great Prayer Points for Parents.” I had some ‘technical difficulties’ with the link that was intended to lead the reader to another blog post, but instead lead them to a static photo. The problem has been fixed (Lord willing 😉 ) so I am re-posting this so that the original content might now be made available. 

Please click here for the list of prayer points for praying parents.

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Practical Household Rules for the Christian Family

This is an excellent post by a trusted source, Gregg Harris. Aimed toward the Christian parent seeking to lead and guide his family in the things of the Lord, I think you will find this a refreshingly simple yet spiritually profound list of “rules” for your family to live by.

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