Parenting: The Gospel Matters

As David Powlison says in his Forward to Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding Your Child’s Heart, “most books on parenting give you advice either on how to shape and constrain your children’s behavior or on how to make them feel good about themselves.” Of course, neither of those objectives is completely wrongheaded… they just shouldn’t be a parent’s primary objective. Tripp puts well what should be our primary objective with these words…

God is concerned with the heart – the well-spring of life (Proverbs 4:23). Parents tend to focus on the externals of behavior rather than the internal overflow of the heart. We tend to worry more about the “what” of behavior than the “why”. Accordingly, most of us spend an enormous amount of energy in controlling and constraining behavior.

When we miss the heart, we miss the subtle idols of the heart.

When we miss the heart, we miss the gospel. If the goal of parenting is no more profound than securing appropriate behavior, we will never help our children understand the internal things, the heart issues, that push and pull behavior. Those internal issues: self-love, rebellion, anger, bitterness, envy, and pride of the heart show our children how profoundly they need grace. If the problem with children is deeper than inappropriate behavior, if the problem is the overflow of the heart, then the need for grace is established. Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life and died as an infinite sacrifice so that children (and their parents) can be forgiven, transformed, liberated and empowered to love God and love others.

from Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

A Prayer for Fathers and Their Children

Unto The Next Generation

Deuteronomy 4:9 – Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

Lord, a family friend planted fruit trees, although years would pass before anyone benefited from his action. I realize that it takes a special individual to plan for the next generation. Develop an obligation in me to pass on what I have received and add to it. Let me plant seeds in my children’s hearts. May I nourish them so they grow into honest and upright citizens who reflect their Creator. Amen.

Children of Power

1 John 5:14-15 – This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.

Heavenly Father, I pray my children will understand that they can make a difference through prayer. May they recognize your power and what they can accomplish when they pray in your will. May they pray daily so that they will grow in faith and become the Christian leaders this country needs. I ask you to anoint them with wisdom and give them strength and protection. My desire is that they choose to walk in your will all their days. Amen.

Taken from Prayers with Purpose for Men, Barbour Publishing, Inc. 2010

A Christian Home

O give us homes built firm upon the Savior,
Where Christ is Head and Counselor and Guide;
Where every child is taught his love and favor
And gives his heart to Christ, the Crucified;
How sweet to know that, tho’ his footsteps waver,
His faithful Lord is walking by his side!

O give us homes with godly fathers, mothers,
Who always place their hope and trust in him;
Whose tender patience turmoil never bothers,
Whose calm and courage trouble cannot dim;
A home where each finds joy in serving others,
And love still shines, tho’ days be dark and grim.

O give us homes where Christ is Lord and Master,
The Bible read, the precious hymns still sung;
Where prayer comes first in peace or in disaster;
And praise is natural speech to every tongue;
Where mountains move before a faith that’s vaster,
And Christ sufficient is for old and young.

O Lord, our God, our homes are Thine forever!
We trust to Thee their problems, toil, and care;
Their bonds of love no enemy can sever
If Thou art always Lord and Master there:
Be Thou the center of our least endeavor –
Be Thou our guest, our hearts and homes to share.

words by Barbara B. Hart, 1965

40 Ways for Fathers to Make a Difference

by Michael Farris at Crosswalk.com

Michael Farris’s lists are always helpful, fun (and convicting) to read. With Father’s Day around the corner, I thought I would share this one again. It’s a great one for dads.

Here’s a snippet…

During the holidays, dads often have a little more time to do things with their children. This is a time of year when moms definitely can use an extra hand. Few things will mean more to your wife, or help her as much, as spending extra time in beneficial activities with your children.
 
I often am asked to give practical suggestions to fathers. Usually, I have approached these requests in an organized fashioned that presents principles, ideas, and methods. However, a lot of really important things that all dads–including home-schooling dads–can and should do with and for their children are not subject to this kind of systematic thinking. Here are my “Top 40 Practical Ideas for Fathers” for your consideration:
 
  1. Read your little children a story.
  2. Do flash card drills to hone your children’s memorization of math facts.
  3. Do a science experiment with your children using Jane Hoffman’s Backyard Science materials if other resources are not available.
  4. Give your children their spelling tests.
  5. Read your bigger children the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

Click here to read the rest of the list.

A Prayer for Your Family

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families: We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vainglory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one. Turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers; and so kindle charity among us all, that we may ever have for each other kindly affection and brotherly love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Taken from The Methodist Book of Worship for Church and Home, 1965

Choose This Day

Choose This Day

Joshua 24:14-15

Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. [15] But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

James 4:4

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

The road of life is filled with many choices:

  • Whom will I marry?
  • Where will I live?
  • What will I do for a living?
  • How will I raise my children?
  • Who will educate my children?
  • Will I believe in God? And if I do, is there more to it than simply believing he exists?
  • What will be the standard of my moral conduct?

Today’s Scripture highlights the most important choices we must make. And, as the rock group, “Rush,” observed, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

In the preceding verses of Joshua 24, Joshua took the children on an historical reconnaissance in order to remind them of who God is and what God had done for them in the past. Implicit in this was the covenant that God had made with Israel and how they could, therefore, also look to the future fulfillments of God’s promises…IF.

When God made covenant with Israel, it included blessings and curses. Obedience, faithfulness, and loyalty would be rewarded with divine blessing beyond their wildest imaginations. Disobedience, unfaithfulness, and treason, on the other hand, would result in God’s curses. It seems so obvious as to which should be preferred.

And so, after laying out the history of God’s love for his people, Joshua presented the people with a choice. He told them to serve God only and to throw away the idols of their past. Whom would they serve – the gods of their ancestors or the living God? Joshua answered as the covenant head of his home by declaring publicly, “…as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

It is interesting, and quite telling, to see how this theme of choosing between the Living God and the god of the age – between covenant-faithfulness and spiritual adultery – is repeated over and over again in God’s Word. The fact is, we will all bow before something or someone, simply by the living of our lives. Who will be the object of our worship is the choice ever before us.

James lays out the choice before us with crystal clarity. He says that friendship with the world is hatred toward God. What exactly dos he mean here? Well, he’s not talking about loving people and desiring to minister to them. Instead, he has in mind what Paul had in mind in Romans 12:2 – love for and conformity to the sinful, fallen, disobedient patterns of this world, this present age of man and its ruler, this kingdom of darkness (as Paul puts in Colossians 1).

James follows by saying that “anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world [in the way described in the previous paragraph] becomes an enemy of God.” James is essentially putting before God’s covenant people in the New Testament the same choice that Joshua put before God’s covenant people in the Old Testament: Who will they bow their knees to: the gods beyond the River, the gods of the Amorites, the state, secular worldviews, modern American materialism, Hugh Hefner’s Playboy hedonism, the falsehood of neutrality in education propagated by secular humanists, the superficial entertainment mentality of much worship in today’s churches, selling out the gospel (compromise?? Embarrassment??) by watering down the message, and on and on and on?

James calls people who do this “adulterous.” They have left their first love to cozy up to the gods of the Amorites and the gods of Egypt.

People cry out for their free will, their rights, and their autonomy. God gives them that option, but not with impunity. There are consequences to foolish choices. This seems to be so patently obvious, that it needs no examples. People may choose Baal or Molech or Ra or the god of this age if they so choose. They can exercise their moral choice to their heart’s delight. They can revel in their “free will.” But the wrath of God will be leveled against all such unrighteousness and ungodliness as a manifestation of the curse.

This curse can come in countless ways. After all, its dispenser is an infinite Being. A corrupt culture, pagan children, radical illiteracy, increased levels of crime, escalating godlessness in the public square, countless babies born to unwed mothers and into extreme poverty, babies who never make it outside the womb, drugs, violence, sexual and monetary hedonism, the worship of self (even in…or especially in the church), etc. Don’t misunderstand me: God is not going to curse us for these things. These things are the curse.

Had God’s covenant people not spent the last 100 years committing spiritual adultery with the temptress of the age, we might not be experiencing all that we are.

By God’s grace, however, we learn that God’s people are always being called back to covenant faithfulness – to throw away all the other gods of our past and love, obey, worship, and serve the one true God… and him only. Each and every day that we are granted another day to live, we are given another opportunity for repentance and covenant-faithfulness. And like all covenants, it starts with an individual and his family.

So choose this day whom you and your household will serve. There’s only one right answer.

Grace and Truth,
Dale