marriage

Generational Discipleship

On Father’s Day this year (6/18/2017), I had the privilege of preaching at my church (First Baptist Tuscaloosa). The sermon title was “Generational Discipleship” from Deuteronomy 6, Luke 9 & 14, Psalm 78, Judges 2, and Ephesians 4.

Click here for the sermon outline.

Managers of the Gospel

“A person should think of us in this way: as servants of Christ and managers of the mysteries of God. In this regard, it is required that managers be found faithful.” ~ ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭4:1-2‬ ‭CSB‬‬

How are you managing the gospel which you have received?

I must admit, I’ve heard verse 2 (above) many times before. It wasn’t until today, however, that I really read verse 1 and saw that the “thing” which we are to be faithful managers of is the gospel (the mysteries of God) mentioned in verse 1.

Now that question is burning deep in my heart: how faithful am I in managing the gospel in my life? In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul said “For I passed on to you as most important what I also received.” Am I being intentional in passing along that which I say I believe is most important?

As a husband?

As a dad?

As children’s minister?

As a Christian?

Psalm 96:2 says, “proclaim His salvation from day to day.” So what am I doing with the gospel? Am I allowing the truth of the gospel to permeate and rule every area of my life?

God has chosen the people of God, empowered by the Spirit of God and equipped with the Word of God, to be about the mission of God to make disciples (Matthew 28).

In The Gospel Project we studied Jesus’ Parable of the Sower. Ultimately Jesus alone holds the power of the gospel message. We, as His disciples, are responsible, though, to spread the seed of the gospel wherever we go. “Go and make disciples of all nations…” Jesus said, “…in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Matthew 28:19 & Acts 1:8) I must diligently and consistently apply the truth of Scripture to my life while simultaneously letting the gospel of Jesus overflow into my decisions, my speech, and my behavior as a husband, dad, and every other role I step into.

God, give me strength and wisdom to manage the gospel well by spreading the seeds of the gospel in all the “fields” of my life. 

God Is Faithful and Gracious

June 3, 2017, marks the tenth birthday of our stillborn daughter Carsyn. I have written about her impact on our family a few times over the years. The most recent post can be read here: http://jeremypcarroll.com/celebrating2livesonjune3

My wife and I have tried to make the date of June 3 as a memorial stone on our family’s calendar. In Joshua 4 God instructs Joshua to have the Israelites take stones from the Jordan river to remind of God’s faithfulness and miraculous provision as they cross on dry ground. After collecting the stones, Joshua told God’s people: In the future, when your children ask their fathers, ‘What is the meaning of these stones? ’ you should tell your children, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the water of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, just as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up before us until we had crossed over. This is so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord’s hand is mighty, and so that you may always fear the Lord your God.” (Joshua 4:21-24) We will find great benefit in life if we establish landmarks in our lives to help us remember God’s provision lest we fall into taking God’s graciousness for granted.

It is difficult for me to believe that season of our lives was only 10 years ago. So much as happened since then: lived in 3 different states, added 3 more children, welcomed into several church families, God has healed our family from that dark place in ways we could never had imagined at the time.

This year we were blessed to be able to celebrate in a special way with almost everyone from our extended family in TN. Just spending an evening of together. Enjoying each other’s company. God’s faithfulness was on display.

God’s faithfulness is most often on display during life’s trials. An interesting thing about life’s trials… they do not play favorites. Someone once said about the trials of life:

You are either in a trial, just coming out of one, or… buckle up because one is likely around the corner.

We all face them. This means we all have various opportunities throughout life to witness and be thankful for God’s faithfulness. In fact, how we deal with the trials of life reveals the depth of our own faith. In fact James said in the New Testament:

Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. ~ James 1:2-3

Now, I have NOT reached the point that I can consistently rejoice in the trials I face in life, but by God’s grace and with the support of my wife, I have been able to find the strength to submit to His leadership through them. I am inspired by Paul’s dependence on God’s grace in the midst of his “thorn in the flesh.” (2 Corinthians 12). God’s power is perfected in my weakness.

Whether you are in the midst of a trial, heading into one, or in a place of healing from the last one, may God’s grace be your abundant supply at all times!

Women Who Fear the Lord

“Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” ~ Proverbs‬ ‭31:30‬

A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  This verse is frequently used in churches on Mother’s Day. In fact it was YouVersion’s Verse of the Day today (Mother’s Day 2017). And we should celebrate our moms. They work hard, some away from home and some in the home. Regardless of where they spend their days, moms are incredible. They are selfless. They are nurturing. They give of themselves when there is nothing left to give. 

But Mother’s Day can be difficult for some ladies due to a variety of reasons.

Whether mom or not, a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Today I am thankful for the women of faith in my life, including but definitely not limited to:

  • My wife and the mother of my children, who loves me more than I deserve and who daily works diligently to pass her faith to our children. 
  • Susan, the woman I call mom who passed her faith to me by showing me what unconditional love looks like through the way she loves me and my siblings, as well as, the way she loves my dad. 
  • My Mimi, my mom’s mom who passed her faith down to her daughters.  
  • My mother-in-law, who passed her faith down to my wife. 
  • My sister, who works to pass her faith on to communities of people often overlooked. 
  • My sisters-in-law who love their families and work hard to pass their faith on to their families. 

I am forever thankful for these women who “fix their eyes in Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2) and live out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) in their homes and communities. 

Celebrating 2 lives today, June 3

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Each year, June 3rd brings 2 celebrations of life.

One life is my dad! June 3 is his birthday. He is a man who has seen struggles, some consequential and others circumstantial; but today, he is fighting hard to be the man God has called him to be. I am thankful for him and love him so much!

The other life is daughter Carsyn Marie. She was stillborn on June 3, 2007. This morning I have reflected and read through posts from 2012 and 2013. Some thoughts from previous years can be found below.

But this year, I am reminded that the fact that these 2 lives are connected to the same calendar day means a great deal to me. My ability to deal with loss and life’s struggles was, in a large part, learned from my dad. As I said, he is man who has seen many personal struggles in his lifetime, and today, he stands firm fighting against those struggles toward Christlikeness. His example, along with other’s I have seen, wrapped in the mercy and graciousness of God gives me hope. Hope to press on. Hope that God is working things our for good according to His purposes and glory (Romans 8:28). Hope “that He who started a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Finally, I would be negligent if I failed to mention the steadfast faith of my wife, Janna. Through an emotionally devastating situation, she exemplified the peace of God unlike any I have personally witnessed. Paul said, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). She lived this back in 2007. And I’ve seen it over and over again since then. She is one of my greatest heroes.

My encouragement to you is this: struggles come and go, some last a long time and some only a short time. Jesus told His disciples, “In the world you have troubles, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)

 

Original post: http://jeremypcarroll.com/today-she-would-have-been-6

HPIM2389Our daughter, Carsyn, would have been 6 years old today, had she not been stillborn. In one sense, it seems like a lifetime ago; in another, like only yesterday.

Each year, we try to set aside this day to be together as a family. We talk. We do things together, some fun – some somber. We pray. We remember. The goal is not to idolize our daughter but to simply be together and to remember and celebrate, as a family, the mercy, grace, and faithfulness of God in our life during a dark time.

May God encourage you by what we continue to learn.

Below are some excerpts from last year’s post (to read in full: http://jermpc.com/?p=505)

My dear, sweet daughter Carsyn. Today would be her 5th birthday (2012) had she not been stillborn. Her birthday serves as a reminder for our family of one of the darkest seasons we have encountered. In a moment like that, there are no words of comfort for someone who has just been told “I’m sorry; we cannot find your baby’s heartbeat. She has died.” There is grief. Even though, we never heard her laugh or saw her smile. Even though, I never comforted her when she was crying or read her a book or played with her and her dolls…there is grief. There is sadness. She is, to this day, part of our family, though. Her picture hangs on our wall with the rest of the childrens’ pictures. She come up in our conversations.

I find myself reflecting often on the circumstances of 2007 in hopes that the Lord will not allow me to become complacent and stagnant in life. Of course, I do not desire that to return to that valley, but I, also, do not want to forget the lessons that God taught me during that time.

What did I learn then that I do not want to let go of? (note: this list is certainly not comprehensive)

1. Life is in God’s hands. Pretending I have any control or hand on life and death is pure foolishness. Furthermore, I do not need to understand death any more than I need to understand birth. I should not ask “Why did Carsyn die?” any more than I should ask “Why was Carsyn’s life created?”

2. Circumstances change; God does not.

3. Contentment in the Lord must be of highest importance to my family. Paul writes, “I have learned to be content in all things.” and so must I (1 Timothy 6). Not just contentment with stuff but with His power over the ebb and flow of life.

4. One of the most often misquote…and misapplied verses in Scripture is 1 Corinthians 10:13. It says:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it. (HCSB)

I’ve heard it many times with this verse as support, “God will not allow anything to happen to you that you can’t handle.” This verse does not say this, nor does the Bible, in any other place, teach this idea. This verse is talking about the temptation to sin not the trials of life. The whole point is that we can’t handle many (perhaps argument could be made for all) of life’s circumstances. We need God. We need to Him as focus of our praise in the good times lest we think too highly of ourselves, and we need Him to sustain us during the difficult times by His peace.

5. The peace of God really does surpass all human understanding.

Why is this so important to me? Because as difficult as that season of life was for our family, God has shown us great mercy & grace over the last 5 years since. He has added 2 more amazing children our family and granted us loving relationships from our amazing church staff and church family…to name just a couple. God has shown us His kindness in more ways than I can name…and that is something I never want to forget!

14 Years of Marriage, #Blessed & #Thankful

CarrollssEach day when my soul awakes
I bow my head and, to God, I pray
For He has blessed my heart & soul
His grace abundantly bestowed
A family beyond my wildest dreams
A wife whose heart, so esteemed
For each day my heart doth know
Undeserved, unworthy of this love

Today, I celebrate 14 years of married life with my beautiful bride. She means more to me…she does more for me…she gives more for me, than I could ever understand or express. Having known each other for nearly 20 years, she has loved me when I was completely unlovable. She has supported me through selfish, childish decisions. She has sacrificed (and continues to sacrifice) much. In the name of Christ, she dies to herself each day out of love and for the betterment of her family.

To say I am blessed is a vast understatement. I am truly honored to know such love. I am truly humbled to be the recipient of and in covenant with such Christlikeness.

To my bride, I know that I have not always shown my love for you the way I should, but your love inspires me to continue to try. I love you! Happy anniversary!!

Children: A Tangible Blessing from God

Last Thursday evening, my wife and I welcomed a new child into our family. Here are a few thoughts I’ve had over the past week as I watched my daughter’s birth, bonding with her mother, and her enthusiastic reception by the other children…

Disclaimer: I realize that there is a negative side and more to this conversation than what is here, but during this week, my heart and mind have been focused primarily on the positives.

Although there are definitely some who try, I find it hard to believe that anyone who gives any amount of serious intellectual thought can truly say that the creation and birth of another life is anything short of a miracle. Certainly we can read and understand the scientific descriptions of what is going on, but there is just so much taking place in a relatively short amount of time with precise detail that, in my opinion, the reproductive design speaks for itself.

Recently a pastor friend of mine posted a blog about blessings from God. (It can be read here.) His overall point is that the blessing of God originates and is most clearly expressed in the grace of God, specifically in the gospel of Jesus. As a parent . . . as a father, I know of no more tangible expression of the grace of God in my life than the birth of my children. Yes, you read that correctly: I believe my children, each one and all of them, to be a product of the grace of God.

Now, I’m not totally naive. I’ve been a parent long enough to know that parenting comes with heartbreak. Sometimes my children simply do not do what I wish or what I think is best, but compliance and obedience are not the key to blessing. Grace is. So when the psalmist says in the 127th Psalm that children are a gift from God, there is a truth here that deserves meditation: gift from God = blessing = grace. My children bring me great joy. Not always happiness, mind you, but great joy. I have done nothing to earn this joy; it is manifestation of God’s grace in my heart. I am amazed when I sit back and observe my kids, when I hear them talk, when I think about how different they all are, yet possess so many similarities. I see 5 little ones created uniquely in the image of God, wonderfully made into His likeness (Psalm 139). I recognize the blessing of God in my life through these little ones.

On the other hand, when my children are being difficult, it is not necessarily related to an epic parental failure. (Note: It is possible, perhaps likely, that I have failed my kids in some way, but this is not always a cause/effect relationship.) A final thought: Good (well-behaved, obedient) children are no more the result of my efforts than bad (disobedient, obstinate) children are the result of my lack of parental expertise. But regardless of good behavior or not-so-good behavior or even downright disobedience, the blessing of God remains.

So I have asked the question (perhaps you have, too): why did God bless me with the children that I have? I can only respond: Grace. Since a common definition of grace is God’s unmerited or unearned favor, I believe children fall into this category. When I look at each of my kids, I am forced to come face-to-face with the fact that, for good or otherwise, I have done nothing nor could have done anything to deserve these blessings. The fact of the matter is that God is the author of life. He creates life according to His will. He designed these children to be under the care of me and my wife at this point in history.

For me and my wife, this is a weighty matter because having this view of children defines our approach to parenting. Believing/Realizing/Knowing that our children are gifts from God, given in His grace, enables us to parent under His grace, as well. We can rely on His grace to sustain our strength, provide our wisdom, and guide our instruction as we seek to train our children to love God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

One final note: I don’t want to paint a picture that I think we are perfect parents. We aren’t. Far from it. Relying on God’s grace doesn’t equal not messing up and making mistakes. It simply humbles us with a peace of mind that God can use us in spite of our failures . . . because that is grace.

13 Years of Marriage

Today, my wife and I celebrate 13 amazing years together as husband and wife and the beginning of our 14th year. 156 months, 676 weeks, 4,749 days…not that I am counting. Those 4,749 days have brought a wide variety of emotions and circumstances. We have had 6 pregnancies which brought us the births 4 of the most incredible children I know and the loss of 2 in my wife’s womb. We’ve moved our home more times than I care to admit, living in both Tennessee and Texas, purchasing our first home together a few years back. We have had the privilege of serving 4 different churches in various roles and capacities, and celebrating 5 years at First Baptist Keller las Fall. We’ve had next to nothing; we’ve had more than our fair share. We’ve walked with dear friends and family through marriages, births of children, loss of jobs, loss of family members, and so much more. We have been blessed by the communities God has placed us in over the years and are incredibly blessed where we are today.

My prayer for our family in 2013 is to take the attitude of Paul in Philippians 4.

…I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret ⌊of being content⌋ — whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.

As long as I have known my sweet wife (nearly 20 years now), she has been as close to a Proverbs 31 woman as I have ever met.

10 Who can find a capable wife?
She is far more precious than jewels.

11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will not lack anything good.
12 She rewards him with good, not evil,
all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from far away.
15 She rises while it is still night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her female servants.
16 She evaluates a field and buys it;
she plants a vineyard with her earnings.
17 She draws on her strength
and reveals that her arms are strong.
18 She sees that her profits are good,
and her lamp never goes out at night.
19 She extends her hands to the spinning staff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
20 Her hands reach out to the poor,
and she extends her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid for her household when it snows,
for all in her household are doubly clothed.
22 She makes her own bed coverings;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known at the city gates,
where he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes and sells linen garments;
she delivers belts to the merchants.
25 Strength and honor are her clothing,
and she can laugh at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom
and loving instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the activities of her household
and is never idle.
28 Her sons rise up and call her blessed.
Her husband also praises her:
29 “Many women are capable,
but you surpass them all! ”
30 Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting,
but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised.
31 Give her the reward of her labor,
and let her works praise her at the city gates.
One of my favorite verses of this passage is verse 29, “Many women are capable, but you surpass them all!” I have known many godly women throughout the years, with many around us now here in Keller, but, in my eyes, my wife “surpasses them all.”
Of course, she is not perfect, which is good because if she were she wouldn’t have married me, but she is amazing. She is thoughtful and sensitive to others. She is selfless working to put others first both in our family and community. She gives herself to take the lead in homeschooling our children, training them both academically and in the knowledge of our Lord. She serves our church in our Preschool Ministry with her matchless compassion and giftedness in caring for children. She strives to learn God’s Word and become more Christ-like every day, and deeply desires that our children do the same.
Without question, I am a blessed man to have her as my wife and the mother of our children. “A woman who fears the Lord will be praised.”
My sweet bride, I love you, and look forward to many, many years alongside of you!
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