Like Father, Like Son: How God Uses Parenting to Teach Us

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Being a father has been a big learning experience for me. Seven years ago when the Lord blessed Steph and I with twin daughters, I never dreamed all that God would teach us. Indeed, children are a wonderful blessing in many ways, but one of the surprises was that I have learned much about God and our relationship with Him just through being a parent. Here are a couple lessons.

 

One of the things I often hear around our home are the words, “Daddy play with me!” It used to just be our older son John, but now that Jeremiah has started to talk, I hear it from both of them. Obviously, I enjoy playing with my kids, but at times is can be a tad overwhelming. For example, in the mornings when I am trying to get off to work and the boys want to play, I often feel torn. I want to play with them, but I know I have responsibilities to attend to. Not long ago, I was reflecting on this and I asked myself, “why do they want to play with me so much? Can’t they just play by themselves?” As I thought about this, it occurred to me that it is only natural for sons to want to be with and play with their father. Families that are healthy naturally want to spend time together – that’s just how it works (see Malachi 4:6). Parents are going to want to spend time with their kids, and kids are going to want to spend time with their parents.

 

The lesson that I learned from this (and continue to learn) is that it is only natural for Christians to desire to spend time with their heavenly Father. It is unfortunate that even as Christians we often we get distracted with other lesser things, and frankly, don’t desire to be with our Father. These distractions can be a huge hindrance to our growing closer to God. Another thing to keep in mind are the words of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:1-2: “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” In the same way that children are master imitators, so too should we strive to imitate God and His Son Jesus Christ.

 

Let me share with you another lesson. When you look at your kids, you can’t help but see lots of similarities. When I look at all four of our kids, I see things that mirror myself and Steph in them. Of course, there are differences, but there are resemblances and similarities that I marvel at. These include physical, emotional, and personality characteristics that indicate a definite family resemblance. I remember one time when we still lived in New York state and my parents were visiting for the first time. My Dad and I were attending our monthly men’s breakfast and as all the guys saw my Dad and I come in, their faces said it all. It was kind of like, “Wow, they really look alike!” I am sure you are not at all surprised by this. It has always been true that the closer parents and children look, the more similarities they are going to see.

 

In the very first chapter in the Bible, we are told that man was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). This astounding truth is often glossed over by readers, but think about it for a minute. The Creator God, the One who is Lord of Heaven and Earth…..has made us in His own image! Now, we need to keep in mind that after the Fall of man (Genesis 3), our status as image-bearers has been marred because of sin. That’s not to say it is gone for good, but the Fall had devastating, far-reaching consequences. The good news is that for those who are in Christ, the image of God is being restored and remade in us. Let me quote from Paul once again: “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:9-10). Ask yourself, are you growing in grace? Are you growing in godliness? In other words, if you are a Christian, is there a clear family resemblance between you and your Heavenly Father? Scripture tells us that God is working to make his children “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:3-4), and conform us more and more to the image of Christ. In this we rejoice.

 

I could share with you more lessons that I have learned or had reinforced just through being a parent. No doubt the lessons will continue. Even though child rearing is tough at times, children are a huge blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3) and God uses this relationship to teach us about Himself. May we be ever more attentive.

 

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:14-17)

 

A Review of “The Shepherd’s Treasure”

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Over the past few years, Stephane and I had heard about Elf on the Shelf, mostly through Facebook. It looked like a neat idea, but we chose not to participate. Then in November 2016, Stephane became aware of The Shepherd’s Treasure, which was being branded as an alternative to Elf on the Shelf. We thought, why not give it a try? The package arrived in the mail late in November and our first task was to name our Shepherd – we went with the name David. The kids also got to enjoy the book that came with the package. One highlight for the kids was that each page had a hidden verse on it – they loved trying to spot that hidden verse.

 

Our official journey began on December 1st. We had already briefed the kids that when they woke up in the morning, they would be searching for the shepherd. Each day had a certain theme, and it was always based upon a bible verse. Here is how the website explains how it all works: “Your Shepherd travels in search of Jesus each night while your kids sleep. After bedtime, find creative and fun ways for your Shepherd to continue his journey….On Christmas morning, your Shepherd will find Baby Jesus! Place your Shepherd and Baby Jesus together somewhere extra special. Your children will find their Shepherd kneeling before the greatest Treasure of all time: Jesus!”

 

So…..25 days after it all started, the journey culminates on Christmas morning when the shepherd finds baby Jesus. One of the things we really liked about Shepherds Treasure is that you can make it your own. While the creators of Shepherds Treasure give you instructions and guidance, you put as much into it as you want. Steph and I chose to keep things fairly simple. We never felt like we had the time or energy to go all out, but even in keeping it simple, the kids really enjoyed it.

 

We only ever missed 2 days (sleeping in both times) but you won’t have that problem if you hide your shepherd the night before instead of doing in the morning, before the kids get up like we often did. The best part of Shepherd’s Treasure is that it is focused on Christ and is saturated with Scripture. We tried to use each day’s Scripture verse as an opportunity to talk about Christ. By all means, be creative and make it fun for your kids, but don’t forget the true meaning of Christmas. There is a great need for parents to explain the importance of the gospel and the incarnation of Christ. The Bible verses used in this activity are a good starting point, but they must be reinforced over and over again. Shepherds Treasure was not designed to replace daily times of family worship, but it is a fun activity that your kids will enjoy and it can serve as a supplement to your times of family worship.

 

I would recommend giving The Shepherd’s Treasure a try. If you are interested, it’s a good idea to purchase your kit sooner rather than later, as it seems to go in and out of stock pretty quickly.  

Committing to Family Worship

As a pastor, I have discovered that just the thought of “family worship” or “family devotions” can be overwhelming to Christian parents. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is because parents think they need to duplicate the Sunday morning worship service.  The reality is that family worship doesn’t have to be complicated.

Quite simply, family worship is the family coming together to worship God. The Puritans were big on this and called the family a “little church” of sorts. They believed that the worship of God should be a regular activity, not just something that happened on Sunday. Over the past few years, we have tried to make family worship part of our daily routine. Our three kids are still pretty young so it can be a challenge, but it has also been a great blessing to our family. I can almost guarantee you that if you start doing family worship, it will have a unifying effect on your family and will draw you closer to the Lord.

There are many ways of doing family worship, but there are a few key elements that I would like to highlight for you. Husbands and fathers, as head of the family (Ephesians 5:23, 1 Corinthians 11:3) take the initiative to call the family together for worship. Begin by reading a portion of Scripture. It doesn’t have to be long, but I would encourage you to work through a book of the Bible. One day you can read half a chapter or a chapter, and then next day you can pick it up where you left off. After reading a portion of Scripture, ask the kids a few questions that pertain to the reading. Help them understand what God is saying through His Word. Don’t think you need to preach a sermon every time you have family worship, but it is your responsibility to expose your children to the word of God (Ephesians 6:4). Also, there are plenty of good devotional books that can be of help to you.

Next, grab a hymnal or a church songbook or listen to a worship cd and sing a couple praise songs to the Lord. Most kids love to sing so compliance will not be an issue here. Finally, finish off your time of worship in prayer. Offer God your praises, petitions, and thanksgivings together as a family. In these two things (praise and prayer), you are responding to God’s revelation, goodness, and mercy. If you are not already practicing family worship, I would encourage you to start. Our family worship times usually only last 10-15 minutes so it doesn’t have to be long. The important thing is to get started and to allow the Lord to direct you.

If you are a couple without any kids, then it goes without saying that you can still have times of family worship. You just have more freedom to worship in a manner that suits you. I would say the same thing to grandparents. Your kids may have left many years ago, but that shouldn’t stop you and your spouse from studying God’s Word and worshipping together. When you visit the grandkids, do what you can to teach them the Bible (Deuteronomy 6:7) and to model a life of worship. Remember that you have an important role to play in this.

As my wife reminded me this morning, we as parents don’t have a problem understanding the importance of feeding our kids each and every day. We know they need nourishment in order to grow and develop and be sustained. But the same is true of our spiritual food. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). If you want your kids to truly “live” then be sure and nourish them with the life giving manna of God’s Word. One day, they will thank you (Proverbs 31:27-28) for this.

 

Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment

“Gordon and Emma met at a church function. She was an admirable young woman, and he was a fairly new pastor. Their wedding day seemed to be the launch of a godly couple in the promise of fruitful ministry in the decades ahead. But just a few days into their honeymoon, all of Emma’s dreams for her life were crushed. Gordon made it clear that he didn’t love Emma, and that he had married her simply because there were more opportunities for married pastors than single ones.

 

For forty years, through the birth of six children, and the while functioning as a pastor, Gordon made no meaningful attempt to kindle love for his wife. Freely admitting to an adulterous affair that began after the birth of their fourth child, Gordon insisted he must remain married – divorce would derail his pastoral career. Marriage for Emma became a life of secret shame. She was relegated to sharing a room with their two daughters, while her husband stayed in a separate room, and their four sons in another.

 

Gordon’s disregard for Emma permeated almost every facet of their marriage. While she continued to live under the same roof, she never experienced life under his care. Seemingly normal on the outside, Gordon’s disdain for his marriage created a home ruled by his hypocrisy and indifference to his wife’s well-being. His children grew up with a clear sense of the difference in their family and others, but little grasp on the fundamental wrong being done to their mother on a daily basis.

 

But Emma loved the Savior who was merciful to her and clung to him through the trials and years. Bereft of human love from the man she had wed, she threw herself on the mercy of God. The gospel reminded her that she needed a Savior – and that her principal need was not to be saved from a cruel twist of fate, or the evil of the man who shared her home, but from her own profound sinfulness before God. Emma understood the mercy and forgiveness of God for her sin, and accepted the Father’s call to extend mercy toward her husband. Emma never allowed bitterness to take root in her heart. Instead she learned how to stand with dignity by entrusting her welfare to Christ.

 

For four decades, mercy defined her actions, thoughts, and words toward the man whose very purpose in life seemed to be to crush her spirit. Knowing that her response to her husband would testify to her children about the God she served, Emma was resolutely determined to draw on Christ for grace and to honor Christ in her actions.

 

The marriage ended sadly and painfully after forty years – an apparent ministry call squandered, a financially destitute family shattered by the unrepentant sin of one man. In the years following their divorce, Emma sent Gordon birthday cards and periodic letters, calling the lonely and rebellious man to God. She was tasting the sweet joy of a deep relationship with the Father, and increasingly longed for Gordon to know that for himself.

 

Somewhere in that time, the mercy of God broke in on Gordon and he responded to the gospel call in saving faith. The children, now adult Christians, lovingly confronted him on his past sins, and for the first time Gordon took responsibility for the destruction of his family. Gordon wrote a letter to Emma confessing his sin against God and against her. Emma was faced with the test of forgiveness. Can it be that easy? Can mercy cover forty years of wrong? We have Emma’s choice preserved in the note she wrote back to her former husband:

 

It is with mixed emotions that I read your letter. Sad, as I was reminded of many difficult years, but also glad for the work the Spirit of God is doing in your life. Glad to hear you share your failures so frankly and ask for my forgiveness. And glad to hear you share them with your children. Gordon, I forgive you. I forgive you for not loving me as Christ loved the church and for your disregard of our marriage vows. Though I am saddened by many marriage memories, I have released them to the Lord and have guarded my heart from the ravages of bitterness. I rejoice in the mercy of God, that in spite of our failed marriage, our children all serve the Lord faithfully….God uses confession and forgiveness to bring healing. I’m trusting God that will be true for both of us.

 

Both Emma and Gordon have gone on to be with the Savior, who wove restoration into a torn family with the strong threads of mercy. All of their children love the Savior and now see the mysterious purpose of God as they look back. Though Emma and Gordon were never restored as husband and wife, Gordon was laid to rest in old age, no longer alone, surrounded not only by his family but by the friends of his church with whom he had knit his life. Emma’s body gave in over time to stroke, but her spirit and story define a work of God that transcends the failure of marriage and touched many lives.

 

For Emma, mercy had triumphed over judgment decades before Gordon repented. Mercy triumphed with every prayer cast heavenward, every sin covered in love, every refusal to grow bitter. For Gordon, mercy meant getting what he didn’t deserve – the forgiveness of his sins, the love of his family, a home with the Savior, six God-honoring children, Emma’s life-long love of Christ. Each of these remarkable outcomes point to the triumphant sweetening effect of mercy – the remarkable mercy Emma received from God and lavished on her family.”

 

Taken from Dave Harvey’s book When Sinner’s Say I Do: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage (pages 77-78, 94-96).

What is Family Worship?

As a pastor, I have discovered that just the thought of “family worship” or “family devotions” can be overwhelming to Christian parents. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is because parents think they need to duplicate the Sunday morning worship service.  The reality is that family worship doesn’t have to be complicated.

Quite simply, family worship is the family coming together to worship God. The Puritans were big on this and called the family a “little church” of sorts. They believed that the worship of God should be a regular activity, not just something that happened on Sunday. Over the past few years, we have tried to make family worship part of our daily routine. Our three kids are still pretty young so it can be a challenge, but it has also been a great blessing to our family. I can almost guarantee you that if you start doing family worship, it will have a unifying effect on your family and will draw you closer to the Lord.

There are many ways of doing family worship, but there are a few key elements that I would like to highlight for you. Husbands and fathers, as head of the family (Ephesians 5:23, 1 Corinthians 11:3) take the initiative to call the family together for worship. Begin by reading a portion of Scripture. It doesn’t have to be long, but I would encourage you to work through a book of the Bible. One day you can read half a chapter or a chapter, and then next day you can pick it up where you left off. After reading a portion of Scripture, ask the kids a few questions that pertain to the reading. Help them understand what God is saying through His Word. Don’t think you need to preach a sermon every time you have family worship, but it is your responsibility to expose your children to the word of God (Ephesians 6:4).

Next, grab a hymnal or a church songbook and sing a couple worship songs. Most kids love to sing so compliance will not be an issue here. Finally, finish off your time of worship in prayer. Offer God your praises, petitions, and thanksgivings together as a family in prayer. In these two things (praise and prayer), you are responding to God’s revelation, goodness, and mercy. If you are not already practicing family worship, I would encourage you to start. Our family worship times usually only last 10-15 minutes so it doesn’t have to be long. The important thing is to get started and to allow the Lord to direct you.

If you are a couple without any kids, then it goes without saying that you can still have times of family worship. You just have more freedom to worship in a manner that suits you. I would say the same thing to grandparents. Your kids may have left many years ago, but that shouldn’t stop you and your spouse from studying God’s Word and worshipping together. When you visit the grandkids, do what you can to teach them the Bible (Deuteronomy 6:7) and to model a life of worship. Lastly, for those of you who are single, find another person to worship together with on a regular basis through one to one meetings. I would suggest a similar format – studying God’s Word – dialogue – prayer, and even praise if you are so inclined.

I have come back to this quote from Paul Tripp again and again, “God designed our spiritual lives to be a community project.” Whether it is our immediate family, our church family, or the global family of God, God has placed us together. We grow together, we worship together, we rejoice together, and we weep together. What a brilliant plan! But it only works if we come together for the glory of God.

Is Male Leadership Simply a Result of the Fall?

Many people argue that male leadership (in the home and church) is simply a result of the fall of man and not as God originally intended things to be. John Piper disagrees and responds in this way.

Nine evidences in Genesis 1-5 that man’s leadership is an order of creation and not a result of the fall:

  1. The creation of man and woman equally in God’s image but with a representative leadership function implied for the man (Genesis 1:26-27).
  2. Man is created first, then the woman (Genesis 2:7, 18). Man goes ahead (leads) in creation and is given that same leadership function in life. Paul picks up on this in 1 Timothy 2:13.
  3. Man is given the moral teaching for governing the garden to pass on to the woman (Genesis 2:15-17). God gives these instructions to Adam with the assumption that he is to pass them on to Eve.
  4. Woman was created “from man” and presented as a helper “fit (suitable) for him” (Genesis 2:18-23). Woman is to come alongside man and partner with him in serving the Lord.
  5. Man names woman (Genesis 2:23). Naming is a significant leadership function. For example, parents name their children.
  6. The serpent undermines the roles ordained by God and draws Eve and Adam into a deadly role reversal with God and each other (Genesis 3:1-6). Satan targeted Eve in the deception. Adam was “with her” (verse 6) when she gave of the fruit of the tree but he did not stop her.
  7. God calls the man to account first, not the woman (Genesis 3:7-9). This is one of the clearest evidences. God did not go to Eve first even though she was originally deceived by Satan.
  8. The curse of “Desire” and “Rule” show the futility of role corruption (Genesis 3:16b).
  9. God named man and woman man (Genesis 5:1-3). This is why it’s good for married couples to have the husband’s last name.

Adapted from lesson four of What’s The Difference: Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible. A DVD small group study by John Piper.

10 Purposes of Marriage

1. Companionship: “Then the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?” (Amos 3:3).

 

2. Enjoyment: “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth” (Proverbs 5:18). “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4).

 

3. Completeness: “And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man He made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man (Adam) said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:22-24).

 

4. Fruitfulness: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28). “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments! His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed” (Psalm 112:1-2).

 

5. Protection:

A. The husband is to protect the wife by laying down his life for her. “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).  B. The wife is to protect the home. “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:3-5).

 

6. Typify Christ and the Church: Marriage is to be a human object lesson of the divine relationship between Christ and believers. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32).

7. Sanctification: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3) It will be readily acknowledged that living in close proximity with another person has a way of exposing our warts and bumps and bruises (in short, our sin). We see our own pride and selfishness in ways we can’t when isolated. God can and will use this to make us more like Jesus and to give us victory over indwelling sin.

8. Support and Trust: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil….a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9,12). “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain” (Proverbs 31:10-11).

9. Mutual Honor and Respect: “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7). “Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).

10. The Glory of God: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36). “in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11). This is the goal of everything, including marriage.