Source: Pajamas, Parenting and Paraclete
Author Archives: Jeremiah Kepner
Pajamas, Parenting and Paraclete
I simply wanted to have a little time of family prayer. For that to happen, it required for our kids to get their pajamas on and brush their teeth. I told them to do that, then sat down and studied my Hebrew vocabulary, since I am in seminary right now.
Our youngest came back to the living room after 10 minutes, without having brushed his teeth, since he can’t on his own yet. The older ones weren’t to be found. I was a bit frustrated, so I went to their rooms to see what was happening. When one of them was half pajama’d (but with teeth brushed) and reading a magazine, I responded with more frustration, and our family prayer time needed to start with confession instead of thanksgiving.
When we talked as a family that night about how the whole “getting ready for bed quickly” affair went down, I realized that I had done nothing to help them. I simply said, “Get ready quickly and come back to the living room.” Usually, getting ready for bed takes a good 15-20 minutes and is filled with distractions of various kinds, but it doesn’t matter a ton. We usually allow for that amount of time and it isn’t a problem. I wanted that accelerated that night, but I simply told them to go faster, but did nothing to help. That night,
God very clearly told me, “You did nothing to help them. Your job is to help them, not simply tell them.”
I think my tendency as a parent is to fail to be a paraclete. This is the Greek term for the Holy Spirit that we find in John 14-16. It can be translated “Counsellor, Helper, or Advocate.” It means one who comes along side. That night, God showed me that part of my job description as a parent is to come along side, not simply command. It is to come along side the little ones as they are putting on their clothes, brushing their teeth, making their beds. I have the expertise, the strength and the dexterity to reach up to the top bunk. Yet so often I am passive, or more often, busy. So I tell them to go do things and make them do it in their own strength, teaching them the exact wrong things about what the Christian life is all about.
God does not give us the commands of the Bible and then expect us to do them with the feeble strength and wisdom that we have in ourselves. He wants us to look to Him and lean on Him. He gives those who have received Christ the Holy Spirit to dwell inside them to give them the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. God is our paraclete.
I want my kids to see me as a paraclete. I want them to see me as paraclete in these early years and that it would continue into the years to come. I want them to ask me to help, and I want to jump up and help, no matter what I’m doing. That’s part of my job description. I want them to want me to walk along side them when they are navigating making their bed, learning to ride a bike, winning and losing at sports, making friends in the neighborhood, learning how to adventure, camping and backpacking, entering junior high, entering puberty, learning about boys and girls, the scary world of high school, driving, adolescence, applying for college, picking a major, and entering adulthood. I want to be along side them that whole time, and I think part of it lies in learning how to let the dishes lie undone for a while, and letting the studying wait. It’s both bringing them into my tasks and teaching and training them in those, but also entering into their little world as the one who can train them and come along side them, to be a paraclete, one who comes
along side them, to help them make it and succeed.
I think if I can do that, those family prayer times will go a lot better, both because they will get ready for bed faster, but also because we will be in relationship as we head into those prayer times in the first place.
#blacklivesmatter at Cru15
One of the major themes of our Cru15 conference was racial reconciliation / ethnic diversity. As Lori and I looked over the conference schedule, we noticed a breakout called #blacklivesmatter. This refers to the hashtag that has been used to speak of the disparity in treatment of black people, especially men, at the hand of law enforcement officers in the past year or so. Part of the reason we wanted to attend the event had to do with the fact that we have cared for two black foster children in the last year, and recognize that we know very little about what it is like to be a black person in our country.
The main purpose of this breakout was simply to hear the stories of what it is like to grow up black in the USA. It was heartbreaking to hear of the racism that my brothers and sisters in Christ have dealt with that I’ve never had to endure. There was one story that gripped my heart more deeply than all the others, the story of a father speaking to his son on the cusp of getting his drivers license.
Part of the driver’s training a parent must now give to a black child must include what to do if you are pulled over. There is the sad reality that many have been pulled over simply for a DWB (Driving While Black). One father shared how he told his son that if you are pulled over, pull to where there are a lot of people who can watch the situation unfold. You must keep your hands on the steering wheel, looking straight ahead at all times. Only when the police officer reaches the window do you roll it down, very slowly. Do exactly what they tell you to, or else he may pull you out of the car. Do nothing suddenly, for the policeman may assume you are going for a gun and shoot you. He told his son to swallow any pride or anger or anything but absolute submission, because his life may depend upon it. This broke my heart, because I never had that talk. Mine was simply, give respect to the police and you’ll receive it as well.
I do not write this to talk about how police act, or if anyone is responsible when pulled over or any of those things, but simply to show that there is an inherent bias against these young black men. It was a powerful time of listening to people who have suffered hurt, and some times at the hands of those who are supposed to protect and serve us.
There were also stories of people being told by their black family and peers to not come on staff with Cru, because it is a predominantly white organization that they thought would not understand what it’s like not to be in the majority culture. Their lives have been a different path than mine, and I hadn’t much—up to that point—stopped to listen to what their stories might be.
My desire is to be part of the solution that rejects the continuing inequalities of opportunity in our country. I don’t know what it will involve, but I think it begins with listening to people’s stories, making friends, and being an advocate for every person to be viewed primarily as a person of infinite worth, made in the image of God.
A Happiness Analogy
This is an analogy I’m toying with. Please let me know your thoughts, and suggest any corrections, additions and corresponding Bible verses.
Water from a Deep Well
I really started knowing God for real my freshmen year at Cal Poly, back in 1996. I had attended church before that, but had no relationship with Him. Since then, I have loved drawing near to Him, worshipping, serving, reading His Word and learning.
I have been given the opportunity to take that knowledge of God to a different level than has been possible before, through beginning a M.Div program through Western Seminary (being able to attend seminary is one of the reasons we have moved to California). This summer, I got to take introduction to Biblical Interpretation as well as a class called Learning to Love God and Others, which is an introductory class in Spiritual Formation (how we become more like Jesus). Both classes have been great, and deepened my desire to study more what it means to know God and make him known.
Reading and applying and speaking the Bible accurately is a passion of mine. We do not know God except what He has revealed to us, and that revelation is most clear and accurate as found in His Word, the Bible. I believe that it is in knowing God that all of our human desires are met at their deepest levels. I read verses like Jeremiah 2:12-13
“ Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the LORD,
 for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
and wonder, how has God made himself to be this fountain of living waters? What does it mean to hew out cisterns for ourselves. I love the imagery of the poetry found here, and it speaks to my soul, inviting me to draw near.
I hear Jesus’ offer, “ On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38). I interpret this to mean that God DOES have fullness for us found in Christ. I want that fullness, and I ask, where is it found? In Jesus Himself.
That is much of why I loved my Biblical Interpretation class. It was academic for sure, but for the purpose of hearing the promises of God in the Bible clearly and accurately.
The second class I took, Learning to Love God and Others, was FANTASTIC and what I believe I want to focus on more and more and more in life, how to move from a broken sinner, far from God in the experience of every day life, and moving towards someone who is mature in their faith, knowing what to do with your brokenness in light of the grace of God as seen in the cross.
We looked at how Christians have thought about spiritual formation and knowledge of God throughout church history. It was great and I want to study it more and more. We read 2 books that I want to HIGHLY recommend: Water from a Deep Well by Sitser and Christ Formed in You by Brian Hedges. I also recommend Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree. The Christ Formed in You will probably form much of my discipleship with believers after they have gone through initial follow-up courses. It’s absolutely great!
I’m simply writing this to say, thank you to all who support us, who know us, who pray for us. I don’t know where a seminary degree will lead us, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to use the mind and heart God has given me, to be trained up in theology and practice of ministry, and to learn more about the God who made us.
PS. I’m taking Theology I this semester, I’ll let you know how it goes.
Long Awaited Fruit
I love seeing potential in people. I love picturing how they could flourish as they internalize the Gospel more and more. Our recent trip to Puerto Rico for spring break was a perfect example of getting to see the potential rise, after months, even years of pouring into students. I wanted to share some of the life-change I’ve seen in some of the students that went, in hopes that you will praise God with Lori and I over their growth (1 Cor 3:6-7—I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.)
(Jonason, Kim, Matt, Katelyn, Me, Annie, Rich, and Star (left to right) in Puerto Rico.)
Rich has not been highly involved in Cru@NAU due to the fact that he’s never been a student here. He is actually a train conductor who is now married to Star, who has been highly involved. Rich has grown so much in the last 2 years, having set apart Christ as Lord and persevered through some difficult living situations. It was so fun to see Rich get to share the Gospel for the first time in his life with someone besides a friend. What has spectacular about it was that the person that Rich talked to made a decision to accept Christ! It was fun to see Rich having fun on his first missions trip in which evangelism was a primary focus.
Rich is married to Star (far right). Star has been involved in our ministry for the past 4 years, even having gone with us to the Dominican Republic on previous spring break trips. On those trips, however, she mainly was asking students about their spiritual backgrounds, not taking the opportunity to share Christ with them, giving them the opportunity to respond. This trip, Star really wanted to take steps of faith to share the Gospel with students and she did so faithfully, leaving the results to God…and loved it!
Annie is like one of our kids. She has wormed into our hearts and we love her deeply. When we first met Annie, she stood behind people in social settings, or would crawl under a blanket or our couch during socials. Her step of faith during this trip was to initiate conversations with people, which she did. She took steps of faith over and over again, talking to people about their spiritual journey, as well as trying fun new foods and experiences.
We’ve worked with Katelyn the last 4 years and Kim and Jonason the last 2 years. We’ve seen them grow in joy and service. For Jonason and Kim, this was one of the first times on a missions trip, and for Kim, a stretch of faith to speak to people in Spanish, and she did great!
Matt just showed up this semester, and he’s already one of my favorite people! It was so sweet to see him jump right into the social scene of the other students who have known each other for 2+ years. He’s a quality stud who is going to do great things for the Lord.
It’s fun to see a bit of return on the investment into students lives. It’s hard sometimes to see growth in the day by day in the midst of classes, work and the mundane parts of life, but occasionally God gives us a glimpse of what He’s doing in someone’s life to prepare them for a lifetime of life with Him and work for Him.
Thank you to you who have prayed for us, for these students, and who have given sacrificially for us to be able to minister the Gospel to His children in Flagstaff, San Diego, The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and wherever else He calls us.
Lunch with Jesus
This morning, a friend said that he had been asked what historical figure he would most like to have lunch with (for an employee spotlight). He said Jesus. He then said, “I’m not sure what we would talk about. What would that be like? What questions would I have?”
What immediately came to mind for me was, ‘How am I doing? Am I on track to hear, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.” That’s what I would want to know from Jesus.
It seemed to me at the time that was a good thought. I want to please Jesus with my life, and I therefore want to know how well I am doing at pleasing him, at being a good steward of my life. As I drove home, however, I began to question why this came into my mind so quickly. Why did asking about MYSELF come to mind when thinking about having lunch with Jesus. Why not want to know more about Him?
I have found that immediate reactions tell me about myself. These thoughts force me to ask myself these questions: Does having these thoughts make me self-centered? Does that show how deeply concerned I am with how other people view me, that I would ask about MYSELF if I was sitting with the creator and sustainer of the universe. Does that show how deeply insecure I am? Does that show how man-centered (actually, that would be self-centered) I am?
Why not ask about Him as my first though? Why not ask about what it felt like to add a human nature to His divine nature? Why not ask about how to know the Father better? Why not just ask Him to teach about whatever He thinks I need to hear, and simply be content to listen?
I have far to go in this life to embrace worship as a constant. I want it to be true that I hear ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ But I want it to be because I was so focused on Christ that I didn’t care about what others were going to say about me.
I want the words of John the Baptist to be true of me, ‘He must increase, I must decrease.’ – John 3:30
Thoughts on Revival
[This was simply a good time for me to think about revival, about renewal, about what God would have me do to see more of Him in my life, in my church, in my ministry, in my family, in my community. I want to have more passion in my life and the lives of the people around me. So excuse my ramblings and research and hopefully you may be blessed]
What is revival? Would we want it to come? How come it doesn’t come? What would it be like for revival to happen in my own life, in the life of my church, in the life of my community?
There have been several things recently that have led me to think again about this topic i have neglected for the past few years.
First, there have been difficult things in ministry. There have been ways in which I have seen my own laziness, my own sloth, my own lack of passion. I have been easily thrown off, distracted from pursuing God and His Kingdom passionately.
Second, I have recently listened to talk about revival by Tim Keller, who has experienced twice in his life what would be called revival—once while a student at Bucknell University, and once in ministry in Manhattan, NY. It got me thinking about my own experience as a student at Cal Poly, SLO, and how I got to experience revival in amazing ways (You can listen to the talk here). I also remember talking a lot about revival, praying for nationwide revival, seeing revival around us and wanting that to spread.
Third, I learned about a young woman involved with Cru in Chico, CA who died on Nov 1 after being struck by a car while she was on her bicycle. She was 20 years old, and apparently a devoted follower and servant of Jesus. It has made me think much about the brevity of life and the necessity for vigor and life in regards to God.
I want to spend some time thinking about this for myself, and hopefully to inspire others to pray again, pray more, or perhaps pray for the first time ever for revival in our own lives, in the lives of those around us and in the world.
What is revival?
I like Tim Keller’s description that revival is simply the acceleration of the Holy Spirit’s normal work in salvation and sanctification. I think many are afraid of revival because they are afraid of people going a bit crazy and perhaps the ‘signs’ of revival being uncomfortable in a charismatic way. Instead, I think about what the Holy Spirit does in normative times and want to see those with greater frequency and depth.
He makes people born again (John 3:3-8, Gal 4:29, 1 Cor 2:1-5, 1 Thess 1:4-5, Titus 3:4-5). He convicts us of sin (John 16:8-11). He teaches us the truth of the Gospel in our inner-most beings (John 14:17, 16:13-14, 1 Cor 1:18, 2:11-14). He helps us feel the closeness of God as a Father and access to Him (Gal 4:6, Rom 8:15-16, Eph 2:18). He helps us to pray (Rom 8:26-27, Eph 6:18, Rev 1:10). He helps us put to death the deeds of the body, to mortify our flesh, to stop sinning (Deut 30:6, Jer 31:33, Eze 11:19-20, 36:26-27, Ps 51:10, Rom 2:29, 8:13, Col 3:5). He causes us to become more like Jesus (1 Cor 3:17). He gives us power in evangelism and preaching (Acts 1:8, 4:33, Luke 24:49, 1 Thess 1:5, Luke 4:14, 12:11-12, Isa 61:1-4). He causes us to see the Bible as the Word of God and not the words of men (1 Thess 1:2:13). He causes us to prophesy, dream dreams, and see visions (Joel 2:28-29, Acts 2:17-21, 21:9, Luke 2:36). He enables our service to God (1 Pet 4:10-11). He gives us freedom in this life (1 Cor 3:17, Gal 5:1, 13). He gives us spiritual gifts (Rom 12:6-8, 1 Cor 12:1-11, Eph 4:7-13). He baptizes us into Christ, identifying us with Him (1 Cor 12:13, Rom 6:3-11). He makes us to experience all the goodness and blessing and fullness of Christ (John 7:37-39, Isa 55:1-2, 44:3, Matt 5:6, Rev 21:6). He gives us singleness and unity of heart and purpose (Jer 24:7, 32:39-40, Philip 1:27, Eph 4:1-6). He sends out missionaries to foreign fields and appoints servants in domestic fields (Acts 13:1-2, 8:29, 20:28). He does many more things than those…
I think about these things, and want them more and more in my life. I want to be more fervent in spirit (Rom 12:11), which is also translated ‘fervent in The Spirit’). I want to have zeal for the Lord, be zealous for good works (Titus 2:14). I want to have a heart that is fully alive, wanting Jesus more than anything else, and knowing that my only satisfaction in life comes from Him alone (Psalm 16). I want that to be welling up from within me, not something I have to put on like a mask. I want some of the passion that I had when I was in college (but without the constant angst of an unformed identity and unsettled soul).
Revival is to make alive again, or to make alive more fully. It’s Christians who begin to live like the Bible says is the normal and good way to live. It isn’t because we’re forced to, but because we want to. It’s truly living out 1 John 5:3 – “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” It’s to WANT to serve God, serve other people because of the great love that God is putting into our own hearts. It’s deeply understanding the Gospel and letting that have it’s full fruit (James 1:4). I want these to be true of my life.
So why doesn’t that naturally occur? Why doesn’t revival come into my own life and the lives of the people around me? Why must I live a life of a semi-awake existence, where I know and believe God, but struggle and strive? Why does it feel like so much work to live for God? I long for another time in my life of an inward passion so much so that the thought of giving more time, money, emotion and life to God sounds like the absolutely best idea I could have.
“Draw near to God, and I will draw near to you.’ A recent post by John Piper on this verse from James 4:8 gives me a bit of the answer. The verse continues to say, ‘cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded (not single minded, my addition). Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.’ It reminds me of 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, which says, ‘When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.’
The principle behind both of these verses (though one was given under the Mosaic Covenant) is that God will bless those who are penitent and humble in heart. Indeed, ‘The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.’ (Psalm 51:17). This leads me to ask myself, am I broken in spirit? or prideful? I know that ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ (James 4:6, 1 Pet 5:5).
My conclusion is that I need to humble myself. I need self-examination. I need to see my own sin for truly what it is. I need the Word of God to do it’s work in that revelation of my true nature and God’s true nature. (Heb 4:12, 2 Tim 3:16-17, Jer 23:29, Eph 6:17, Rev 1:16, 2:12, 1 Cor 14:24-25, Isa 40). I need to cleanse myself (2 Tim 2:20-21, Prov 25:4) by the Spirit (Rom 8:13) and ask God to bless me (Joel 2:12-14) and ask that God would bring the blessing of His Spirit to myself and to all those around me (Isaiah 35).
Will you join me, and seek revival in our land?
A few pictures from the San Diego Express 2013 summer project
Recruiting Trip to Santa Barbara and SLO
I am currently writing from the home of a Cru staff member in Santa Barbara. Last night I was able to share at their weekly meeting about the opportunity to intern with Cru in Flagstaff next year. It went well. Tonight I am headed up to San Luis Obispo, CA to share at a recruiting dessert they have for graduating seniors.
We have seen amazing things happen even in the last month, with 3 girls indicating decisions to follow Jesus. The harvest is plentiful in Flagstaff. The workers, however, are few. This is why I am on this recruiting trip, to see if I can get 4-6 recent college graduates to spend the 2013-2014 school year ministering to the students of Flagstaff, bringing them the Gospel, helping them grow in their faith, and sending them to reach others.
Please pray with me to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers to Flagstaff.