Sunday, March 23, 2014


Whether it's before bed, before meals, or during family worship, listening to my three children pray is one of the best parts of each day. Often, it's heartening and joyful to hear the words they speak in prayer--the childlike articulation of their fears, their desires, and even, it seems at times, their faith. Other times, the words of their prayers bring a more humorous joy, and Justin and I find ourselves thankful for the lightness and laughter that children bring.

When their prayers are funny, we're (mostly) careful to keep our smiles hidden (which sometimes involves containing our grins by keeping our faces hidden in our hands long after the 'Amen!'), as we don't want the kids to think we're either making light of this time, or making fun of them. But during the past few weeks, when there have been joyful moment while we're praying, I've been jotting it down so that I wont forget.

What follows are simply a few sweet or funny moments of praying with our kids. Since there are a few short stories I want to remember (and share!), I'll break this blog post into parts.


Part I ~ Ella's Prayers

Several weeks back we went through a season where, par for the course of winter, one person in our family after another was sick with a cold or a flu bug of some variety. Naturally, it was on the kids' minds to pray for the health of their family members who were unwell. But Ella... well, Ella created an altogether new way of praying for the health--or should I say sickness--of her family.

When Justin is home at night, our goodnight routine typically involves all five of us up in the kids room together. First the kids and I will together sing the verse about sleep from Psalm 4, and then one or two of the children will pray before Justin closes in prayer. One night, Ella and I were sitting on Jake's bed for this nighttime ritual, and after we sang, she asked if she could pray. This was her prayer:

"Father, I pray that Mommy be fine, and that Jake be fine, and that Josh be fine. And I pray that Daddy would be SICK. Amen."

What? Why would...? I think that was an instance where all of us burst out laughing and demanded an explanation from the baby of the family. She didn't have much of a defense. But despite our best efforts to instruct her otherwise, for the next couple weeks, she'd randomly pray for sickness and disease to inflict different members of her family.

Another time, during a meal when we happened to have guests joining us, Ella asked if she could give thanks for dinner. With our friends, we joined hands around the table, and Justin asked the kids to bow their heads before we prayed. The hand-joining went without incident, but then as Ella bowed her head, she must have misjudged the distance from her forehead to the table because, SMACK! she hit that table hard. All of us looked up with first with concern but then, when Ella was clearly unhurt and not phased  by the force with which she had just bowed her head into solid wood, we couldn't help but all smile.

Then she prayed. Both the form and the content of Ella's prayers make me smile. She adopts this strangely pious, sing-songy sounding voice (neither Justin or I pray like that, so I don't know where she got it from), and, though she tries to make it look like her eyes are closed, she often looks up and peeks around through her crinkled, half-opened eyes. (Yes, I realize the implications of me knowing that Ella does this while she prays.)

So there we sit, heads bowed and hands held with our guests, and Ella prays for a variety of sweet things that concluded with these words: "And Father, I pray that you'd help my Mommy to be more gracious. Amen."

Again, what? Why me? We all need to be gracious, don't we? Why did I just get singled out--in the presence of guests, no less!--as the one who needs extra special help being gracious? It was again a time where, despite our best efforts, we couldn't help but laugh and discuss why the two year old clearly thought I was in need of a little extra grace.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Grace is a free gift given because of the character of the Giver, and not in any way because it’s deserved. Grace flows freely from a source that will never run dry. But sometimes--maybe because it’s free, maybe because it never ends--we treat grace casually. 

We’re quick to ask for grace, quick to affirm that grace covers our failure, quick to say that grace sustains. Those things are wonderfully true. Grace is expansive, and it comes quickly and freely.

But grace does more than just lift us up and assure us that we’re OK. Sometimes the power of grace brings us low, breaking us and bringing us to a place of sorrow and grief. Sometimes the grace we need most is not the pick-me-up grace that soothes, bolsters, and makes us feel good, but rather a grace that breaks us, that fills us with grief.

But who wants that kind of grace?

In Paul’s second letter to the men and women he loved in the Corinthian church, he writes: For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting (2 Corinthians 7:9).

Paul rejoices that his words brought them grief because of what that grief produced in their lives.

When we sin, it’s easy to skip grief altogether, or to recoil against it when we feel it come. We naturally gravitate toward the kind of grace that uplifts, not that breaks; we tend to pray for the grace that makes us feel peaceful, not grieved. 

It’s natural and good to desire the grace that brings peace and contentment. But is it possible that the path to true joy is different than the shortcut we often want to take? It’s a shortcut that sometimes looks like this: we consider our failure and sin and then, in the very next breath, talk about grace and completely miss the grief in between.

Maybe part of it is connected to the time in which we live; for many, much of our daily devotional reading is not found within the covers of books, but within 500-words-or-less articles. In such a short amount of time, both writer and reader find themselves almost rushed, quickly wanting to travel from the problem of sin to resting in grace with little between. In our hurry to write or read encouragement, it’s almost as though there simply isn’t time to reflect on the grace of knowing grief.

Is this overstating it? Grief over 'small' sin? Surely that was for the Puritans. Or King David. Or really wicked, depraved sinners. But me? Grief over ‘ordinary’ sin like apathy, indifference, unkindness, impatience, gluttony, anger, discontent, selfishness, materialism, pride? 

The thing is, though, we’re limiting the scope of God’s grace if we fail to ever talk about the grief that our ‘ordinary’ sin should bring. And we're cheapening grace when we forget that a heart raw with sin’s grief is just as much His grace in our lives as when our spirits have been bolstered.

It’s natural to yearn for pleasant places—for green pastures and flowing streams. But maybe one of the ways God brings us to those pleasant places is not through quick acknowledgement of His grace and forgiveness, but by leading us through a dry, weary, grief-filled land.

Because it’s grace when He takes us where it’s dark, so that afterward, redemption might then shine bright.

Because it’s grace when His word grieves us—because that’s what our sin should do in us.

Because it’s grace not only when we’re peacefully resting but also when we’re raw—wounded—with grief.

Because it’s grace when our sin brings a grief that leads to repentance.

Jesus was acquainted with grief during life and bore our grief during death. Because of Him, neither our sin nor our grief will ever crush us. But in His design, one of the ways we know freedom from sin is to first know grief over sin; a grief that leads to repentance that leads to restoration that leads to life.

In Christ, an intricate design of life after death, light after darkness, and joy after grief.  

Yes, Jesus bore our grief—a grief that should have shadowed every part of our lives. In the most ultimate sense, our grief is forever gone. It’s no longer ours. But sometimes in His grace, in His perfect and loving care, His grace brings a grief that leads to repentance.   

At long last it’s finally Spring, and with the longer light of each day we come closer to the darkness of Good Friday.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
Our Savior was pierced, crushed, and forsaken. He bore our griefs, and by blood red stripes we are healed.

All this, for us.

Should we not be grieved by our sin?

Saturday, March 8, 2014


In the preface to his book entitled The Upper Room, J.C. Ryle writes these words about the compilation of articles that will follow: “All of them, I venture humbly to think, will be found to contain some useful truths for the times, and words in season.”

Those words were written back in 1887 and yet, reading them in 2014, it is as though they were written for today—applicable truths for this time, and needed words in this season. One of the articles in this book that impacted my heart most is an article written for parents about how to raise our children in the way they should go. It’s a wonderful article full of convicting truth, but in every way seasoned with grace, intended to encourage, and full of hope.  

Ryle calls the article The Duties of Parents, but I wonder, if he were one of our contemporaries and was writing today, perhaps J.C. Ryle would contribute to a blog and would have called this article 17 Things Every Christian Parent Must Do.

The following 17 points (along with the many tweetable thoughts quoted underneath) are all Ryle’s points and words. The full article was several thousand words long, so I’ve chosen favorite quotes from each point. I’m writing them here not only to better remember them and engrain them upon my own heart, but also because I know others might benefit from these reminders, too.

1. Train them in the way they should go, and not in the way that they would.

The child knows not yet what is good for his mind and soul, any more than what is good for his body. You do not let him decide what he shall eat, and what he shall drink, and how he shall be clothed. Be consistent, and deal with his mind in like manner. Train him in the way that is scriptural and right, and not in the way that he fancies.

2. Train up your child with all tenderness, affection, and patience.

Love should be the silver thread that runs through all your conduct. Kindness, gentleness, long-suffering, forbearance, patience, sympathy, a willingness to enter into childish troubles, a readiness to take part in childish joys—these are the clues you must follow if you would find the way to his heart. …Sternness and severity of manner chill them and throw them back. It shuts up their hearts, and you will weary yourself to find the door.

3. Train your children with an abiding persuasion on your mind that much depends upon you.

God gives your children a mind that will receive impressions like moist clay. He gives them a disposition at the starting point of life to believe what you tell them, and to take for granted what you advise them, and to trust your word rather than a stranger’s. He gives you, in short, a golden opportunity for doing them good. See that the opportunity be not neglected, and thrown away. Once let slip, it is gone forever.  

4. Train with this thought continually before your eyes—that the soul of your child is the first thing to be considered.

Precious, no doubt, are these little ones in your eyes; but if you love them, think often of their souls. No interest should weigh with you so much as their eternal interest. No part of them should be so dear to you as that part which will never die. The world, with all its glory, shall pass away; the hills shall melt; the heavens shall be wrapped together as a scroll; the sun shall cease to shine. But the spirit which dwells in those little creatures, whom you love so well, shall outlive them all.

5. Train your child to a knowledge of the Bible.

See that they read it regularly. Train them to regard it as their soul’s daily food—as a thing essential to their soul’s daily health. I know well you cannot make this anything more than a form, but there is no telling the amount of sin which a mere form may indirectly restrain. …Fill their minds with Scripture. Let the Word dwell in them richly. Give them the Bible, the whole Bible, even while they are young.

6. Train them to a habit of prayer.

Prayer is the very life breath of true religion. Prayer is, of all habits, the one which we recollect the longest. Many a grey-headed man could tell you how his mother used to make him pray in the days of his childhood. Other things have passed away from his mind… passed from his memory, and left no mark behind. But you will often find it is far different with his first prayers. He will often be able to tell you where he knelt, and what he was taught to say, and even how his mother looked all the while. …Reader, if you love your children, I charge you, do not let the seed-time of a prayerful habit pass away unimproved.

7. Train them to habits of diligence and regularity about public means of grace.

Tell them the importance of hearing the Word preached, and that it is God’s ordinance for converting, sanctifying, and building up the souls of men.

8. Train them to a habit of faith.

I mean by this, you should train them up to believe what you say. You should try to make them feel confidence in your judgment, and respect your opinions as better than their own.  …Tell your children, too, that we must all be learners in our beginnings—that there is an alphabet to be mastered in every kind of knowledge—that the best horse in the world had need once to be broken—that a day will come when they will see the wisdom of all your training. But in the meantime if you say a thing is right, it must be enough for them—they must believe you and be content.

9. Train them to a habit of obedience.

This is an object which it is worth any labour to attain. No habit, I suspect, has such an influence over our lives as this.

10. Train them to a habit of always speaking the truth.

Press upon them at all times, that less than the truth is a lie; that evasion, excuse making, and exaggeration are all half-way houses towards what is false, and ought to be avoided. Encourage them in any circumstances to be straightforward, and, whatever it may cost them, to speak the truth.

11. Train them to a habit of always redeeming the time.

Teach them the value of time, and try to make them learn the habit of using it well. It pains me to see children idling over what they have in hand, whatever it may be. I love to see them active and industrious, and giving their whole heart to all they do; giving their whole heart to lessons, when they have to learn; giving their whole heart even to their amusements, when they go to play.

12. Train them with a constant fear of over-indulgence.

Parents, I beseech you, for your children’s sake, beware of over-indulgence. I call on you to remember, it is your first duty to consult their real interests, and not their fancies and likings—to train them, not to humor them, to profit, not merely to please.

13. Train them remembering continually how God trains His children.

There is no surer road to unhappiness than always having our own way. To have our wills checked and denied is a blessed thing for us; it makes us value enjoyments when they come. To be indulged perpetually is the way to be made selfish; and selfish people and spoiled children, believe me, are seldom happy. Reader, be not wiser than God; train your children as He trains His.

14. Train them remembering continually the influence of your own example.

Be an example of reverence for the Word of God, reverence in prayer, reverence for means of grace, reverence for the Lord’s day. Be an example in words, in temper, in diligence, in temperance, in faith, in charity, in kindness, in humility. Think not your children will practise what they do not see you do. You are their model picture, and they will copy what you are. Your reasoning and your lecturing, your wise commands and your good advice; all this they may not understand, but they can understand your life.

15. Train them remembering continually the power of sin.

Children require no schooling to learn to sin. But you must not be discouraged and cast down by what you see. You must not think it a strange and unusual thing, that little hearts can be so full of sin. It is the only portion which our father Adam left us; it is the fallen nature with which we come into the world; it is that inheritance which belongs to us all. Let it rather make you more diligent in using every means which seem most likely, by God’s blessing, to counteract the mischief.

16. Train them remembering continually the promises of Scripture.

Train up your child in the way he should go, and when he is old he shall not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Think, too, what the promise contains, before you refuse to take comfort from it. It speaks of a certain time when good training shall especially bear fruit—“when a child is old.” Surely there is comfort in this. You may not see with your own eyes the result of carefully training, but you know not what blessed fruits may spring from it, long after you are dead and gone.

17.  Train them, lastly, with continual prayer for a blessing on all you do.

Without the blessing of the Lord, your best endeavours will do no good. He has the hearts of all men in His hands, and except He touch the hearts of your children by His Spirit, you will weary yourself to no purpose. Water, therefore, the seed you sow on their minds with unceasing prayer. The Lord is far more willing to hear than we to pray; far more ready to give blessings than we to ask them; but He loves to be entreated for them. And I set this matter of prayer before you, as the top stone and seal of all you do.


Ryle concludes this article by writing that he will pray for all who read this paper. Isn’t that awesome? Back in the 19th century, an old, grey-haired man was praying for all the parents who would read his words—a prayer that, in God’s providence, would include fathers and mothers hundreds of years after his death.  

The concluding words of Ryle’s prayer for the readers are these: “The Lord grant this, and then I have good hope that you will indeed train up your children well—train well for this life, and train well for the life to come; train well for earth, and train well for heaven; train them for God, for Christ, and for eternity.”

Yes. Because really, ultimately, after all the other important parts of parenting are considered and discussed, it really is training our children to live for Christ and for eternity that matters most of all. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


It’s a calling he’s already been living out for several years. But a few weeks back, Justin knelt before his church, before these elders, before Jesus Himself.

A kneeling, a submitting. A humbling appointment to ministry.

Hands were laid. God’s word was read. Prayers were spoken. Charges were given. The Lord’s Supper was observed. And God’s grace was sought in it all, as a young pastor publicly committed to continue loving Christ and His bride.

Gracious words of encouragement and conviction were spoken. My Dad (Pastor Rich) gave the ordination charge to Justin, and Pastor Paul gave the ordination charge to the church family. Both charges were powerful, incisive, and in every way worth remembering.

The words below are some of the words spoken by both of those men during the service. 


The ordination charge given by Pop to Justin: 

Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the elders. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. (II Timothy 4:12-16)

Justin, here are two things Paul urges Timothy to do with the utmost seriousness: Take heed to your life and to your doctrine. Justin, you are to watch out, and you are to continually watch out, and your life and your doctrine are to be the primary target of your vigilant watching. Paul is telling Timothy that there is nothing more important than for him to carefully target his life and his teaching, to make sure that his life and his teaching is thoroughly biblical and upright. And he is to persevere in doing so, making sure nothing slips in that would deter him from God’s word and God’s message.

Justin, as you receive your ordination, it brings you to a new place in your ministry; it is a final verification, or vindication, of your status in this ministry. The word ‘ordain’ means 'to appoint.’ There is a deadly serious appointment involved in ministry, and tonight’s ordination further deepens that holy appointment that has followed your ministry these last four and a half years. My charge to you as you go out into the ministry, bearing this ordination, is that you must demonstrate evidence of two realities: first, that you are watching your life, and second, that you are doctrinally sound.

First, you must be watching your life, disciplining it in order to grow more and more holy. See your life as set apart for the masters use, for the Lord Jesus Christ. And strive, by the grace of God, to grow more and more like Jesus as you do all for God’s glory. Be determined to always continue in this direction, no matter what the pressures are that will inevitably come upon you and test you, even as you have already been tested.

Hear these words of Spurgeon: “The great enemy of souls takes care to leave no stone unturned for the preacher’s ruin.” Justin, watch your life!

Secondly, you must demonstrate that you are doctrinally sound by steadfastly adhering to biblical truth. Justin, your teaching must, as the entirety of I Timothy 4 warns, stay away from anything and everything that veers you from the pristine magnificence of the word of God, no matter how intriguingly interesting or appealing another doctrine might be, no matter how intellectually inviting another teaching might seem, no matter how supposedly freeing a 'new' orthodoxy appeals to you, no matter how many people might be embracing some new teaching they want you to consider, no matter how obstinate or out of date your teaching might appear to others to be because of your tenacity in holding on faithfully to the entire corpus of the scripture. Don’t let yourself be swayed or deceived by any of it. None of it is new or what the church needs to become vibrant and alive. Further, never let yourself work to make your message seemingly more acceptable because people might object to the hard truths of the scriptures, but rather speak the truth in love. Remember just how subtle the attacks can be.

Why not a more appealing, embracing, and acceptable message? Why not something new? Why not just a sweet, soothing message of love? The words in 1 Timothy 4:16 answer this question completely: ‘Because in doing this… you will save both yourself and your hearers.’ Justin, watch your doctrine!

My charge to you is the same as Paul’s charge to Timothy: Justin, watch your life and watch your doctrine. Justin, remember these things and live them. You have done well in these first four and a half years of ministry, but never assume you have attained the goal. Instead, as Paul says, press on toward the goal.

Speaking about preachers, John MacArthur says this: “We are the agents by which God brings the grace of salvation to lost people. That's the sum of the ministry. And holiness and commitment to truth moves us along the persevering path of true salvation and makes us a blessing to all who hear our message.”

Justin, may God bless you as you seek to live and minister for him as an ordained minister of the glorious Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.


The ordination charge given by Pastor Paul to the church family:

The older I get, the more the Bible seems to be telling me about love. God our Father acted out of love when He sent Christ to save us. In love for God and for us, Christ gave His life in our place. Love is the primary fruit or evidence of God’s Holy Spirit dwelling in a saint. And Paul and John and a host of other bible authors make the point that we are to authentically love one another.

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:9-10)

Now, you may think: I need to love my wife: check. I need to love my kids: check. I need to love my church: mostly check. But love my pastor? Isn’t it his job to love me?
Beloved, let me give you this one charge: Love your pastor!

I can think of many things to tell you. I could tell how you ought to listen to sermons or give him your money or support his decisions, because I have many strong and opinionated opinions about such things. But I choose to tell you one thing, that I think will guide all those other things. Love your pastor.

Love his preaching ~ He may not be the most remarkable preacher you ever hear. But I cannot find a single text of Scripture that suggests he should be. I see many texts that say he must be faithful, and I can tell you that nothing will encourage his deep study and prolonged faithfulness in the pulpit more than a people who love to hear God’s Word preached. If you love his preaching, you should tell him. You need not worry about puffing him up. There are far too many other things in his life to pop that bubble. But you will help him and strengthen him if you tell him how God is using his preaching ministry in your life. What’s more, if you love his preaching you will pray for his preaching. And if you get to praying for his preaching every week, then you had best hang on for what the Lord is going to do.

Love his wife. ~ Let me tell you a secret, one great way to have a happy pastor is to have a happy pastor’s wife. Few things will encourage your pastor more than when you love the one he loves most of all. Remember that she helps to carry his load, but is not paid for it; she enables him to be hospitable, which he must be in order to preach; she carries the brunt of raising faithful children, which he must have in order to preach. Oh, you honour and love this woman. You don’t deserve her, but you got her. So, don’t tell anyone about her – just love her and encourage her and thank God for her.

Love his children. ~ There is a silent pressure on every pastor. It can weigh on him like a bag of wet cement. His children. He knows he is called to prioritize them and teach them the ways of God, but like you, he has to learn all this as he goes, on the fly, while trying to have something to say to everyone else about how to do it! I have been in churches where things are not going well in a pastor’s child’s life. Some of those churches know just what to do. They come alongside their pastor with encouraging words and they actually get down on their knees and pray for that man’s kids.  If you are going to love this man, you will truly love his children. You will not judge them or hold them to some higher standard. You will expect they need to hear the Gospel as much as the other kids in the church. You will not be fooled by their Sunday School answers You will not demand they all become pastors and deacons. You will love them for who they are.

Love him with your complaints. ~ Christians have a hard time with this, but I want to call you to it. We have lost the art of disagreement. We have become numb to the Bible texts that teach us to speak the truth… in love. We are more discipled in our methodology by Jerry Springer than by the Apostle Paul. But if you love this man, you will learn to come in all humility and speak privately to him of your concerns. You will not make snide remarks or gossip or spread disunity or hold resentments that spread into gangrenous bitterness. When you truly love someone you can come to them quietly and submissively with honest questions and self-searching that allows for disagreements to lead to agreements.

Love him when you don’t understand him. ~ It is an odd thing to be a pastor. We become involved in all the intricacies of others lives and sometimes we know things about others or a situation that we simply cannot divulge. Often, it is in these times when misunderstandings grow. Why aren’t you doing this or putting a stop to that? Where were you when this happened? Why didn’t you come when we asked? How come I have to wait so long to meet with you? If you love him, you will HOPE ALL THINGS! Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:7) You will assume he is wise in the use of his time. You will expect there are things he knows, that you don’t know nor need to know. You will bless him even when he seems to go in a direction you find less than compelling. Love him when you don’t understand him!

Love him for a long time. ~ There is a curse on the pulpits of Canada. Men are afraid to stay long in any one place. Or, they stay long but stop growing in Christ. Both are a scourge. But a wise church will set her heart on loving her pastors for a long time. Not just putting up with them – but loving them .You must commit to loving him for the long term. You want a man to be here to bless your babies, baptize your believers and bury your dead. You don’t want a stranger to do that. If that is so, then you must commit to much more than tolerating this man. You must love him. Love him so much he thinks to himself on his worst days, “I’d be a fool to move on from here!”

Finally, love him because God loved you. ~ The final and great motivation to our love is never what it gets us. True love is seen in Christ.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)
Copy God. Do what He does. Be like Him. Walk in Love. Yes, by all means, with one another. But remember to love your pastor, too.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Above, the elders who ordained him. These are men who are his mentors, his friends, his family, and beloved co-laborers: Pastor Ken Davis, Pastor John Bell, Pastor Paul Martin, (Pastor Justin Galotti,) Pastor Rich Ganz, Pastor Don Whiteside, Pastor Julian Freeman

Above, Justin with Pop. 

Above, Justin with his Dad.

Above, Justin with me. :)

Above, Justin with a friend and dear brother, Ian, from seminary days.