The Blessing of Being a Parent

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Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” Psalm 127:3-5a.

Note: Our 3rd blessing, Ezra Counts (see picture above), was born yesterday!

As congratulations have come pouring in on the birth of our son, one word I have often enjoyed hearing is “blessing.” If one word could be used to describe God’s attitude toward children, it is “blessing.” Think of the attitude of the psalmnist in Psalm 127. Heritage. Fruit. Reward. Blessing.

Contrast this with the often heard world’s view of children: Expensive. Brats. Time-consuming. Unwanted.

We need to have our minds renewed by God’s Word in every area of life. The tricky part usually comes years later. It’s pretty normal to be joyful when a new baby is born. But Moms, don’t forget God’s blessing on you when that child is having terrible two tantrums. Dads, don’t forget God’s blessing on you when you have to talk to your teen about dating or driving privileges. It’s a blessing from our good and gracious God to be given children. They are a stewardship from Him. May we take up that stewardship joyfully for the next eighteen plus years.

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An Open Letter to Immanuel Bible Church

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

What a joy to write to you and thank you for welcoming my family and I as we moved to Bellingham just over a week ago for me to be the Pastor of Family Ministries!  It is not an overstatement to say that we are thrilled to be here and overwhelmed at your kindness and welcoming spirit that you have shown us.  The LORD declares in Isaiah 46:9b-10, “…I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all my good pleasure.'”  Our good and gracious God had us praying for our future home church for about as long as you were praying for us, without knowing who each other were.  We have slowly seen the outworking of His providence in so clearly bringing us to Immanuel and now that we are here we are rejoicing in being able to serve Him here.

The question that I have been asking consistently for over a month now and that I am asking the elders, staff, and ministry leaders in thinking through Family Ministry at Immanuel Bible Church is, “How can we better serve the families of Immanuel and the community for God’s glory and their good?”  I firmly believe in and support Immanuel’s vision for ministry to children, teens, and parents: “Ministry at IBC to children, teens, and parents exists to glorify God in all of life by faith working through love.”  How kind of the Lord that I get to work towards this great end with you!

For the sake of the Gospel,
Tim Counts

The Humbling Beauty of the Body of Christ

The link below is this weeks’ newsletter from our new church home, Immanuel Bible Church. I just wanted to take a few minutes in the midst of unpacking boxes to think of the humbling beauty of the Body of Christ. I say humbling because we know we are unworthy of any of this, and yet people have served us in so many ways as they do it as unto the Lord. We are excited to begin soon serving the Lord through serving them. From friends in Southern California through our Home Bible Study and Juniors Ministry that packed up our truck in just over 2 hours, to Bryan and Lee flying to Southern California and driving our moving truck for over 24 hours, to the warm welcome when we first stepped into our new home, we have been eyewitnesses and recipients of the beauty of the Body of Christ. Will you praise Him with us for His goodness and grace, and pray for a long, faithful, and fruitful ministry at Immanuel Bible Church?

Immanuel Bible Church Weekly Newsletter.

Why I Am Glad I Took My Son With Me to the Mechanic

I could tell you about so many times that I have not been as patient as I should as a parent, or times that I have had to ask my son forgiveness for getting angry, but today I don’t think that would be very edifying for you.  But I would like to tell you about a recent trip to the mechanic with my son that God turned into a Gospel moment.  I hope that this may encourage you to pursue more of these types of opportunities with your children.

I almost didn’t bring my son with me to the mechanic this week because I had some studying to do, but I realized that he needed to get out of the apartment and that it would be good to have some time together, so I brought him along.  We had a great time.  He got to watch a few kids’ shows while we were waiting, I got a little studying done, we bought a bag of chips from the man that pushes the little cart down the street, and we talked about the area as we walked around a bit.

After spending 3 1/2 hours together, we were sitting outside on a bench waiting for the car to pull out of the shop when for some reason he asked me to tell him the story “about your fish that you used to carry around in a bottle.”  So I told him the story of my pet goldfish that I brought back from Israel again, but I was sure to make it dramatic since we had time.  At the end of the story Tobias asked, “And then he died?”  I told him that the goldfish did die about a year after he came with me on the airplane from Israel.  I explained to him that goldfish don’t live as long as cats, knowing that he was thinking of our pet cat that recently passed away.  “I guess everything dies,” Tobias concluded.

For the next three minutes, my four and a half year old listened intently as I explained to him as simply as I could that although everything dies, Jesus died so that everything can be made new.  And that we can live after we die–live eternally.  He even listened closely as I explained briefly about sin, repentance and asking Christ to save us.  I would have missed that Gospel moment if I had not brought Tobias with me to the mechanic.  Although he does listen and probably catches more than we think when we are purposefully teaching him about the Bible, his ears were especially open that day because it was something that he was thinking and asking about as we went through our day together.  The Bible and the Gospel were connecting with his life.

I am thankful that the Lord gave me that Gospel moment with Tobias that day.  As parents we need to be actively looking for those opportunities.  Sometimes we teach and teach our kids and make sure they are in Sunday School, but we also need to be looking more for those teachable moments that God naturally gives us which is when we often get a “window into their soul.”  Another way of saying this is shepherding their hearts, all day.  This is what God commanded the Israelite parents in Deuteronomy 6:6-9, a principle that is just as much of a command for us with our children today: “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Moms, be encouraged because statistically speaking you probably get more of these everyday Gospel opportunities.  Look for them, and use them to teach your kids about God and the Gospel.  Dads, are you spending enough time with your kids so that you have these opportunities?  Take advantage of every one of them, even if it is because you took your child to the mechanic.

10 Things My Dad Taught Me That I am Trying to Teach My Kids

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Fathers inevitably pass on a legacy to their children.  As I reflected on the goodness of God in giving me my Dad who taught me about Christ from the time I was born, I came up with 10 things (not exhaustive) that I learned from him.  These are principles that by God’s grace I am trying to teach my children.  There is a biblical principle behind each one, but it strikes me how many of these were taught by lifestyle more than words.  Of course we use words in training our children, but what are YOU teaching your children by how you live and interact with them?

Thanks Dad for all you have taught me!  I’m not sure if you knew you were teaching me some of these things, but they have all profoundly impacted me and I thank God for you.

1) Know Christ & Serve Him Above All Else
One of the things I thank God for the most in my life is that by His grace and obviously no merit of my own, He placed me in a Christian family that taught me the Gospel from before I can remember.  I remember kneeling by my parent’s bed and praying with my Dad, while my Mom was in the room, to accept Christ as my Savior.  My Dad also taught us that there is nothing more important in the world than knowing and living for Christ (Philippians 3:7-11).

2) Be Involved at Church
My Dad led music at our church (and my Mom played piano), so we were there for almost every service, including morning and evening.  In a day and age where commitment to church involvement is often lacking, I am thankful that my Dad ingrained this into me from the time I was little (Hebrews 10:23-25).  It is a joy to serve the Lord, to be with His people, and to learn from God’s Word.

3)  Be Wise with Who You Marry
My Dad not only made an excellent choice in his wife, but he would often tell us so.  I also remember many conversations about how important the choice of a wife is.  He always made it very clear that she had to be a committed Christian and that this choice would influence the rest of my life (Proverbs 31:10-12).

4) Be Honest
I will never forget the time that my Dad accidentally put a pack of breath mints in his pocket at the grocery store counter.  We shopped in a small town, so the next time we went to that grocery store he was sure to go back to the same clerk, explain to her what had happened, and pay for it.  It had a huge impact on her because she always mentioned it every time she saw him after that.  It had a huge impact on my brothers and I because we were watching (Ephesians 4:25).

5) Work Hard
My Dad taught music in Prescott, Washington for over 30 years, but I remember many summers that he was a wheat truck driver or worked in pea fields to supplement income for the needs of our family.  His example influenced me greatly during seminary as I worked several different jobs in which  it was tempting to think, “I have too much education for this,” etc.  Working around the home was also part of being in the family.  He taught Proverbs 6:6-7 by example, “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.  Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.

6) Spend Time With Your Family
I have great memories of family vacations, going places like the mountains for a day trip, and fishing.  Fishing was special because it was something that we just did with Dad and even though I hated having to bait my hook with a worm, I cherish those times together (Ephesians 6:4).

7) Have Fun With Your Kids
My Dad not only made time for his family, but he also had fun with us.  My Dad loves to laugh and family dinners were often hilarious (Proverbs 17:22).  When we were little I remember knowing at times that he might be stressed out about something, but that did not mean that he wouldn’t have fun with us.

8) Be There for Your Kids
I can honestly say that my Dad hardly ever missed a sporting event or piano recital.  Other than a few games that were a far away drive, I don’t think he even missed any “away” basketball games.  There were many kids on my team for which this was not the case.  It gave us something in common, and I always knew that he saw it and was proud if I made a shot (which wasn’t that often!).  This is one of the ways that I most often felt my father’s love for me (Colossians 3:21), which is why I did everything I possibly could to get off of work early when my son was a sheep at church this last Christmas.  Thanks for being so consistent on this one, Dad.

9) Treat People With Respect
My parents taught me to treat all people with respect whether they are of a different race, disabled, different socioeconomic background, homeless, etc (Matthew 7:12).  It is amazing how many students at the little school my Dad taught at for 30 years have later come back and shared that they are born again Christians now; I know that God used his consistent lifestyle testimony in their lives as he was different in this respect than other teachers.

10) Never Give Up
I once wanted to quit a sports team halfway through the season because of issues with the coach, but my Dad would not let me.  He explained that even though I would not have to play next season, that I needed to persevere this season even though it would be tough.  I’m glad that he made me stick it out and I want to teach my kids the same lesson (Romans 5:3-4).

Let the Race Begin!

My Wife Melanie & I
My Son Tobias & I


 

 

 

 

 

 

I graduated from The Master’s Seminary on Sunday night, and it was a thrilling time for my family and I. The last 4 1/2 years have been a time I will always thank God for. Studying at TMS has changed me and will impact how I view ministry and think of God’s Word for the rest of my life. It was also a very trying time as we went through many trials (see my post, My Senior Testimony in Chapel at TMS), and especially tiring as I worked almost 40 hours a week, attended classes, studied, carved out precious family time together, and made time for ministry. This made Sunday night sweet (even though I finished classes in December), as it brought finality and joyous celebration to what God had done in bringing us to TMS and sustaining us.

Even though there was a great solemnity to the Graduation and the realization that I had been equipped and now needed to be a steward of what I had been given, I was smiling almost the whole time thinking of God’s goodness. My heart was overflowing with gratitude for this opportunity, knowing that it was all of God’s grace, and with thanksgiving for my supportive wife and family. What caught me off guard and brought tears to my eyes was when the last Diploma had been handed out and the crowd of over 2,500 was told it could now applaud. The Worship Center erupted into a standing ovation with cheers and shouts of joy. Once our friends and family had sat back down, I heard more than one man around me trying to hold back tears. I immediately thought of Hebrews 12:1-2:

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Those witnesses cheering us on Sunday night as we arrived at the finish line were not the faithful martyrs mentioned in Hebrews 11, but they had encouraged us along our “race”. I then thought of how in a very real sense, even though the race of seminary was now over, the race of ministry was just beginning. In fact, each of us, you included, have been running the race of the Christian life (including being active in ministry) since the moment we were saved. We in the Body of Christ are to be cheering each other on and encouraging each other to keep our eyes on Jesus. One of my primary jobs as a pastor will be to equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). This means that I want my life to be poured out in ministry, but a large part of that is preparing and encouraging others to fully take hold of the ministries God has given them. If only the pastor was a “minister,” hardly any ministry would happen from any given church. But if every member understands they have a ministry, then that church will have a great impact for Christ.

Is your ministry hosting a Bible Study? Helping in Children’s ministry? Hospital visitation? Leadership? Missions? Worship music? Organizing meals for those who are sick or just had a baby? Planning outreach activities or VBS? Discipling somebody by going through a book with them? Maybe focusing on ministering to your husband and children right now? It could be anything that God has gifted you in which brings glory to Him and furthers His Kingdom. What is your ministry?? I would love to hear from you if you would like to comment below. Let the race begin!

(Although I want this to be primarily a ministry and devotional-related blog, I know that many of you are family and friends and that you would love to see pictures so I am including several pictures from the Graduation.)

My Daughter Gracie & I
John MacArthur & I
We Were So Blessed by Family & Friends at an Amazing Reception

Big News!

Psalm 127, below, has quickly become a favorite Psalm for Melanie and I (Scripture in italics, my comments are in brackets):

Unless the LORD builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the LORD guards the city,
The watchman keeps awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.

[This reminds me of God’s good sovereignty and provision, and how He has taken care of our family all throughout Seminary and will continue to watch over us.]

Behold, children are a gift of the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.

[The LORD gives us children as a great blessing of His undeserved grace. Notice how the Psalmist uses the phrase “fruit of the womb” instead of just “offspring”; he is pointing out how they are a good, sweet gift from God.]

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
They will not be ashamed
When they speak with their enemies in the gate.

[What are arrows for? To eventually launch out. In this case, the target no matter where the arrow lands is God’s glory.]

I recently took a look at every verse that I could find about children in the Bible because I want to be thinking God’s thoughts on any subject, and I knew in particular that what God’s Word says about children would be in stark contrast to our culture. The era in which we live too often says or acts like they are a burden, an inconvenience, an expense that gets in the way of what I want for myself, etc. But what surprised me as I surveyed God’s Word on children were two things:

1) There is actually more of an emphasis on how parents have the imperative from God to raise their children to live for Him than on the subject of “children.”

2) The verses that do address the subject of “children” are unequivocally positive. Picture Jesus holding the children in his lap and talking with them when the disciples thought he was too busy and told them to go away, and you get the picture of God’s special love for children.

As you can see from this adorable picture below, Melanie and I are thrilled to announce with Big Brother Tobias and Big Sister Gracie that we will be having our 3rd child Lord willing about September 25th!!!

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We are blessed, very blessed, and we give praise to God, that we once again will have the opportunity to love one of His little ones that looks a lot like us, and to point him or her to Jesus.