Parenting Through Brokenness

This post is written by Kelly Owen. It is a subject that has been years in the making for our family as we followed God into Church Planting and Foster Care. Our kids have had front-row seats to the hurt and trauma we've experienced and undertaken. They've also had an incredible view as God has provided for us, been near to us, and is redeeming all things in Jesus Christ. We've begun to understand parenting as far more than preparing our kids for the world; it is preparing them for eternity. It may seem foolish from the outside, but we wouldn't trade it for anything.

In the first chapter of Nehemiah, we looked at how Nehemiah prayerfully responded to brokenness.  As parents, we’re often tempted to shield our children from brokenness. We hide in gated neighborhoods.  We steer clear of messy people and messy places. We just want our children to be happy, and we certainly don’t want them to witness suffering!

A gardener who plants a young tree will take action to ensure its healthy survival - a fence to keep the deer from eating it, perhaps some cords to keep the wind from breaking it - but if the tree remains “sheltered” too long, it will not be safe but stunted. It will be too weak to survive the storms of life, much less bear fruit! With that in mind, what would happen if instead of sheltering our children from brokenness, we prayerfully shepherded them through brokenness?

Freedom from Fear

Parents, Christ has called us to freedom and we are no longer enslaved to fear (Romans 8:15)! We don’t have to panic when our children witness brokenness and experience pain. Rather, we can recognize suffering as part of God’s beautiful, redemptive plan for our good and the good of our children.  We need not fear all the “what if” worst-case scenarios when raising our children.  We trust in the perfect Father who loves our children “even if” the worst happens! As parents, when we trade “what if” for “even if,” we’ll stop worrying so much about our kids; we’ll live in the freedom that Christ came to give us (Galatians 5:1).

Freedom to Follow Christ

Jesus told us to take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24).  Take up our cross - the painful wooden cross on Calvary, not the decorative metal one hanging on our wall.  Following Jesus means following Him into suffering and hardship. When our goal is no longer to keep our children “happy,” we are freed up to follow Jesus where He leads, trusting that His plans for our children are far better than our plans for our children.

Fortified Faith in Christ

Ultimately, when we as Christian parents stop sheltering our children from brokenness, we’ll give them the greatest gift of all: a fortified faith in Christ!  Brokenness is in fact an opportunity to disciple our children. When suffering comes their way, it’s our chance to share promises from Scripture and pray with our children through the pain.  It’s our chance to show them that our hope is not in this fleeting world, but in the eternal world to come. It’s our chance to show them we trust Christ with not only our own lives, but with their lives as well.  

When our children are scared, can we say with confidence that God is with them always? When our children are hurting and crying, do we genuinely believe that God will one day wipe away every tear?  Does He really know our children and their needs better than we do? Will He indeed work this fiery trial for their good?  Is God really making all things new, even this broken world?

We can’t fool the people living under our own roof!  Our children have a front-row seat to our hearts. When they’re confronted with brokenness, we can press into Romans 8:18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  No suffering is worth comparing to the glory that is to come!  As Christians, we’re not parenting for things that are seen, things that are transient (2 Corinthians 4:18).  We’re parenting for things that are unseen, things that are eternal - like a fortified faith.

Marj Saint understood this well.  Her husband, Nate, was speared by the Waodani tribe in 1956. And yet, Marj didn’t shrink back in fear. She allowed their young son Steve to live among the Waodani tribe, and the very man that killed Steve’s father later baptized him and became like a father to him.  Marj trusted Christ with not only her own life, but also the life of her son. And with that, Marj gave Steve a fortified faith that would carry him through a lifetime of following Jesus!

Marj likely knew that brokenness is the very place we display true faith in Jesus.  It’s the very place that God works miracles and does things we can’t foresee - things that can only be credited to Him!  We cannot prevent our children from experiencing the pain and brokenness that comes from living in a fallen world. We can, however, show them how to trust God to heal the pain and restore the brokenness as we lean into Him! So parents, let’s stop operating out of fear as we shelter our children from brokenness. Let’s commit to prayerfully shepherd them through it, and then watch God work in unimaginable ways!

Reflection Guide - Nehemiah 2:9-18

Key points from the sermon:

  • In verse 10, we see that resistance is a reality for Nehemiah.  As we walk in obedience to God, resistance will be a reality for us too.

  • Nehemiah closely and secretly inspects the walls.  He knows that the giant work ahead will require faith and sacrifice.  In verse 17, he invites the people to take communal ownership of the vision and the work.

  • Nehemiah sees that “Jerusalem lies in ruins,” and this is NOT God’s design for His chosen people; it doesn’t rightly reflect their King.  Nehemiah is calling the Israelites to restore the walls, so that the nations might see God’s glory displayed among His people. In the same way, we are invited to “inspect the walls” of today’s Church.  Let’s look at the cracks and consider how God might be calling us to restoration, so that we would display His kingdom to a watching world in need of Jesus!

  • In verse 18, Nehemiah again credits God for all that He’s done and will do.  It is all God’s faithfulness, not Nehemiah’s gifting nor Nehemiah’s work.

  • Ultimately, the people rose up to build!  “They strengthened their hands for the good work” that God had put on their hearts.  

Scripture to meditate on this week:

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”  -1 Peter 5:10

Discussion Questions:

  1. What stands out to you when you read Nehemiah 2:9-18?  Why or how so?

  2. “Inspect the walls” of your life, your family, your city, The Church.  Where are the cracks? Where do we need restoration? Why is restoration important and do we even have hope for restoration?  Have you experienced restoration in the past? If so, describe your experience.

  3. We end this passage with the people strengthening their hands for the good work.  What does this mean and how do we strengthen our own hands? Are you prepared to “rise up and build?!”

Practice:

Let’s practice making honest assessments this week.  Don’t ignore the cracks in your heart and in your life.  Instead, remember that God will himself restore and strengthen you for the task ahead.  We have a new mantra: “Let us rise up and build!” Notice the “us.” You’re not alone in this task!  God has gathered a people together. Let’s live out our namesake: Soma. We are the Body of Christ and we will work together for restoration, here on earth as it is in Heaven.

Reflection Guide - Nehemiah 2:4-8

Key points from the sermon:

  • God provides for His work and His people!  As Hudson Taylor said, “God’s work done God’s way will never lack God’s supply.”

  • In verse 4, Nehemiah shows evidence of praying continually, living in intimacy with God.

  • In verse 5, Nehemiah has found favor in the king’s sight.  We can get hung up here, trying to earn favor and feeling unworthy.  But that’s the thing about grace - it’s God’s unmerited favor!  We have found favor with our God through Jesus Christ.  We can approach God (and others) and make our requests known with confidence, not in ourselves but in Jesus.

  • Verses 6 and 7 show that Nehemiah had been deliberately praying and planning.  He had a clear vision and he knew the costs. He courageously continues asking for big things.

  • In asking for big things, is Nehemiah relying on a false prosperity gospel?  Paul Tripp says, “When God prospers people who are no longer living for their own selfish desires but are living for His will, the result is the furtherance of His kingdom purposes on earth, which results in His glory.”  As Christians, we are relying on a  prosperity Gospel, but it’s not an earthly prosperity.  The difference is whose kingdom is prospering!

  • Finally, in verse 8, Nehemiah gives all credit to the good hand of God upon him.  With the promises of Christ, we have something more precious than that:  the gracious Spirit of God within us!

Scripture to meditate on this week:

“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”  -Matthew 21:22

Discussion Questions:

  1. What stands out to you when you read Neh. 2:4-8?  Why or how so?

  2. Pastor Josh mentioned on Sunday that the most dangerous phrase he utters to himself is, “I need to pray about that.”  Why is that a dangerous phrase? Can you relate?

  3. Nehemiah is asking for big things in this passage.  Have you ever asked God for big things? What prevents you from asking for big things?  Whose favor are you trusting in?

  4. How do we ask for big things without getting caught up in a false prosperity “gospel”?  Examine your prayer life. Are you typically asking for things that will prosper your kingdom or God’s kingdom?

Practice:

Work this week on developing a clear vision for your life and your family.  Don’t be afraid to dream big. Seek to develop a clear vision with your Missional Community.  Discuss these hopes and dreams. Are they prospering your kingdom or God’s kingdom? Consider all the costs and then boldly ask God to provide!  Pray in unity for God’s provision, trusting in our unmerited favor through Jesus Christ. Church, when God answers our prayers to further His kingdom, let’s be found hoping in the Lord and give credit to His gracious Spirit within us!

Reflection Guide - Nehemiah 2:1-3

Key points from the sermon:

  • God has providentially placed Nehemiah in the the palace as the king’s cupbearer, just as He has sovereignly placed each of us in our workplaces.  Our workplaces aren’t simply a means of financial provision; they are a means of Godly mission! As Believers, we are all called to live as everyday missionaries, whether God sends us across the street, across the town, across the nation, or across the world.

  • In verse 1, Nehemiah says he “had not been sad in (the king’s) presence.”  This implies that Nehemiah was known for joy in his workplace! As Christians, we have hope in Jesus and no one can take away our joy - not even a tyrant king/boss (John 16:22).  Our joy is a critical component that sets us apart in our workplaces; it’s a light that shines before others, so that they may see our good works and give glory to our Father (Matt. 5:16).

  • In verse 2, just before Nehemiah answers the king, he says that he “was very much afraid.”  Sometimes God calls us to do scary things and have hard conversations, even at work. As Elisabeth Elliot said, “Sometimes fear does not subside and one must choose to do it afraid.”

Scripture to meditate on this week:

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.  You are serving the Lord Christ.” -Colossians 3:23-24

Discussion Questions:

  1. What stands out to you when you read Neh. 2:1-3?  Why or how so?

  2. R.C. Sproul said, “Most Christians salute the sovereignty of God but believe in the sovereignty of man.”  Do you believe God has sovereignly placed you in your job or school or neighborhood? Do you work as if He is sovereign or as if man is sovereign?  Why does this matter?

  3. Are you known for joy in your workplace?  As Christians, where does our joy come from?  How is our joy a distinctly missional element (i.e. how are joy and missions related)?

  4. Have you ever been “very much afraid” to follow where God was leading?  Describe your experience.

Practice:

Spend time this week thinking about the specific skills God has given you.  Think about your workplace or your school. Why has God placed you there? Do you see yourself as an everyday missionary?  Think about your attitude at work or school. Read this article from The Gospel Coalition and when you’re tempted to complain, remember that you are born again to a living hope (1 Peter 1:3).  Set your minds on things above, not on things that are on earth (Col. 3:2). Ask God to give you joy in your workplace!

Lastly, think about global missions.  Pastor Josh mentioned on Sunday that we “labor locally, impact globally.”  How does your current position allow you to impact the world? Do you travel?  Can you raise up people to send? Can you financially support people who go? Did you know that “business as mission” is often how missionaries enter closed countries?  God wants to use your skills and your workplace for His glory! Let’s let Him use us as He sees fit, Church.


Reflection Guide - Nehemiah 1:5-11

Key points from the sermon:

  • Nehemiah’s prayer begins with adoration of God.  He, first and foremost, acknowledges our “great and awesome God.”

  • This leads him to confession of sins against God, not just his own sins but the sins of Israel as a whole.  He repeatedly and purposely uses the word “we.”  Romans 5:19 reminds us that we can identify with corporate confession and corporate sinfulness because we have corporate salvation and corporate redemption through Christ!  We are not called into an individualistic faith.  We are called into a family, a Body of Believers, and that truth should be reflected in our prayer life!

  • In verses 8-9, Nehemiah references Leviticus and Deuteronomy.  He uses The Word of God when speaking to God. We must know Scripture and pray in accordance to Scripture.  If we are not praying to the God of Scripture, we’ll be praying to a god of our own invention!

  • Nehemiah’s prayer ends with supplication, petitioning God for help.  Many times our prayers begin here, which can become an unhealthy or dangerous habit.  Beginning with adoration instead of supplication, will rightfully set our hearts on God and let Him inform the rest of our prayer.

Scripture to meditate on this week:

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  -James 4:8

Discussion Questions:

  1. What stands out to you when you read Nehemiah’s prayer in chapter 1, verses 5-11?

  2. Notice the order of Nehemiah’s prayer.  Why is it significant that he began with adoration and ended with supplication?  Does that resemble our own prayer life? Why or why not?

  3. Look at Nehemiah’s use of the word “we” in verses six and seven.  Why is corporate confession such an odd concept to us? How does Jesus speak into this concept of corporate confession?  Is our relationship with Him completely private and individualistic, or is it communal? How is this good news?

  4. Lastly, observe Nehemiah’s use of Scripture in verses eight and nine.  Why is it crucial that Nehemiah incorporated Scripture into his prayer?  Do our own prayers frequently incorporate Scripture? Why or why not?

Practice:

This week carve out at least 30 minutes to write a prayer to God.  Follow Nehemiah’s example and begin with adoration, then confession, and end with supplication.  Try using the word “we,” remembering that you’re a member of The Body. Incorporate Scripture; let The Word of God guide your prayer.  Share your written prayer with your DNA group this week if you’d like!

It's Fall!

While the weather might not feel like Fall, today is in fact the first day of Fall! And with Fall, comes several opportunities to get out and live on mission in our neighborhoods and in our city!

You can download the new San Marcos Activity Guide here to see what our city is up to and how you can get involved! You can also find the local football schedules here and here. Gather with your MC and go cheer on our Rattlers and Bobcats!

Other upcoming neighborhood events include National Night Out and Halloween. For ideas on how to make Halloween a missional experience, read this article by Jeff Vanderstelt. Share the article with your MC and begin planning now how you will use that day for the Kingdom of God.

Living on mission requires prayerful intentionality. It requires sacrifice, carving out space and time and money to do life with people and before people. It doesn’t just happen naturally. This season can get very busy, very fast. We can’t let busyness prevent mission. Remember the motto: we say “no” so that we can say “yes.” As Believers, our primary calling is to make disciples. Saying yes to making disciples means we’ll be saying no to countless other things that would pull us away from the task that Jesus himself gave us in Matthew 28.

Living on mission requires prayerful intentionality. It doesn’t just happen naturally.

Together, let’s pray that this Fall season doesn’t pass us by unclaimed. Let’s look for ways to redeem this season for Jesus’s namesake!

Pray With Us: Eastern Europe

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The Soma Family of Churches strive for global, Gospel saturation. To that end, church leaders and pastors from Central Texas are collaborating with church plants in Eastern Europe to cultivate healthy relationships and mutually edify the Church.

We had the privilege of meeting Pastor Ervin Mittelmann and his family in July, when they visited San Marcos all the way from Kosice, Slovakia. They shared about the unique challenges of ministering in Slovakia and we were encouraged to hear how God is using Missional Communities and DNA groups across the globe, just as He’s using them here in Texas. It was a special time of connection and refreshment at the San Marcos River.

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This week, Michael Thompson, a member of Soma San Marcos and an experienced missionary to Europe, is currently in Leipaja, Latvia, sharing with a local church about life in Missional Community. Kyle Ogle, pastor of a Soma church in Brenham, TX, is currently training and equipping church planters in Riga, Latvia. Randy Moore, pastor of Soma Austin and primary coordinator of this trip, was originally supposed to be with these men in Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, tragedy struck on the home front and he has remained where he’s very needed right now. The untimely loss of Randy’s dear friend is a surprise to us, but not to God. God has been faithful to be near to both Randy in Austin and the team in Eastern Europe, despite the tragedy. We trust that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and we are excited to watch and see our God at work. We invite you to pray with us for Ervin, Michael, Kyle, and Randy this week and next, as the trip continues. Please pray for safe travels and meaningful, lasting relationships, for the glory of God.

You can click here to learn more about Pastor Ervin’s church plant in Kosice and prayerfully consider partnering with them financially!

Reflection Guide - Nehemiah 1:4

Key points from the sermon:

  • Nehemiah “sat down” and “mourned for days.”  He created space to feel. He was not ignorant, distracted, or numbed.  He showed compassion and empathy, just as Jesus did when he wept in John 11:35.

  • As Christians, we’re typically familiar with orthodoxy (right theology) and orthopraxy (right action), but we’ve often failed to understand orthopathos (right emotion).  In our culture, we tend to either reject emotions or be ruled by emotions.  Both extremes are unhealthy.

  • Nehemiah demonstrates a healthy response to emotions: he prayed “before the God of heaven.”  In humility, Nehemiah acknowledged God’s power and sovereignty. He brought his brokenness before Almighty God.

Scripture to meditate on this week:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you."  -1 Peter 5:6-7.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What stands out to you when you read Neh. 1:4?

  2. When you feel burdened and broken, what is your immediate response?  Do you freeze in fear? Or do you get to work and try to “fix” the problem?  Nehemiah stopped and prayed before the God of heaven. How would our lives change if we responded like that?

  3. Nehemiah didn’t just pray.  He also fasted. Have you ever tried fasting?  If so, what resulted? If not, what prevents you from doing so?

Practice:

Choose at least one meal this week to replace with prayer.  Practice fasting and journal your response. In addition, practice orthopathos (right emotion).  When you encounter brokenness this week, examine yourself to see if you tend to reject the emotion or be ruled by the emotion. Then, try instead to bring the emotion before Almighty God. Talk to your DNA group about how you’re responding to emotion.

Lastly, Pastor Josh mentioned on Sunday that the Psalms help us rightly understand emotions. Read some of the Psalms and specifically look for emotional words. This article from Desiring God will assist you in doing so:  https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-the-psalms-do


Reflection Guide - Nehemiah 1:1-3

Key points from the sermon:

  • This book is not about about the wall, not about the man.  It’s about God’s redemptive, restorative work.

  • In verse 2, Nehemiah asks about the state of Jerusalem.  This reflects God’s character. He cares about His people.

  • As Christians, we care about the broken and the needy because we are the broken and needy!  We don’t save the broken and needy, but invite them into the hope and healing we are receiving in Christ.

Scripture to meditate on this week:

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”  -Psalm 34:18

Discussion Questions:

  1. What stands out to you when you read Neh. 1:1-3?

  2. Why is it significant that Nehemiah asks about the state of Jerusalem?  Do we genuinely believe that God cares about His people? Why or why not?

  3. Do you see yourself as broken and needy?  If so, in what ways has God been healing you and bringing you hope?  If not, what is preventing you from seeing your brokenness and daily need for Jesus?  What results when we forget that we are broken and needy?

Practice:

Ask God to open your eyes to the brokenness in you and around you.  What kind of news do you seek out? Do you check in with Believers around the world?  Spend a few minutes this week simply asking about another person or people group (in San Marcos or beyond).  Then search your heart and practice believing that God cares and He is big enough to meet all the needs. Read Phil. 4:19 and rejoice that we have hope in Jesus!