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)

 

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.

 

Understanding the Origins of the Universe

How can we understand the origins of the universe? This is an important question that great minds have probed into for centuries. The problem is, of course, no one was there to witness it all….except for God. “In the beginning, God….” We are not left with the impression that anyone else was there. Later on in the chapter this is confirmed with the creation of man. By the time Adam and Eve come on the scene, the created order was all in place. What that tells us is that God was the only person who witnessed the creation of the universe. Therefore, if we are going to understand the origins of the universe, we must trust God’s self-revelation.

The Scriptures have much to say on this, but perhaps a good place to start is Hebrews 11:3. “By faith, we understand that the universe was created by the word of God.” The world was literally created by the word of God. In Genesis 1 we see how God spoke, and everything came into being. God said, “let there be light, and there was light.” This same pattern is followed throughout the rest of Genesis 1. The Psalmist picks up on this in Psalm 33:6 and writes, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breathe of his mouth all their host.”

So how did God created the universe? BY HIS WORD! By the breathe of His mouth. All He had to do was speak and the created world came into being. But it gets even more amazing – God didn’t have any pre-existing materials to create with. If you were to tell your neighbor that you could make something out of nothing, they would think you were nuts, and, they’d be right.  If you want to make a chair, you don’t go “abra cadabra” and poof – there it is. No, you need certain materials, certain tools, and then you have to form and fashion them in a particular way. You can’t make that chair out of nothing.  There’s only one person who has ever performed such a work and that’s the Creator God and person of Jesus Christ.  The bible says that it is God “who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.” (Romans 4:17) And Psalm 90:2 tells us, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”  So before the creation of the heavens and the earth, God existed. And then at a particular point in time, God made something out of nothing. This is sometimes referred to as “Creation Ex-Nihilo.”

Going back to Hebrews 11:3, the only way we can understand creation is “by faith.” I know that answer does not satisfy everyone out there, but it is biblical truth. There is a sense of mystery in terms of how God “spoke” (Genesis 1) the cosmos into existence. But we must believe that God created all things, and now sustains all things. Like we read in Revelation 4:11, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

If we go back to the beginning of Hebrews 11 and verse 1, we see that “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Now compare that with verse 3. “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”  You can’t miss the parallel here, or should we say the contrast? Verse 1 – the conviction of things not seen. Verse 3 – so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. So we have…. seen and not seen – visible and invisible. If you are a doubting Thomas type of person, then ask yourself this very simple question. Where did that material world come from? How did it originate? A typical modern answer is – the big bang theory or evolution, which I’m sure you are familiar with. But that theory still doesn’t answer a very basic, fundamental question – where did all that star-stuff (in the words of Carl Sagan) come from that was involved in the big bang? How was it created? How did it come into being? Going back to Hebrews 11, if you want to understand the origins of the cosmos, then it starts with faith. There is no other way to explain the created world. There is no other way to explain the seen, but by the unseen. There has to be a first cause to everything, and the Bible tells us that first cause was God.

At the beginning of time God set the world in motion. He spoke the universe into existence. And the way He did it is totally unique. What is seen (that being everything around us) was not made out of things that are visible. God didn’t create from pre-existing materials. No, He created everything, out of nothing. And as Christians, we understand this by faith.

Many have said this before, but I will just echo their thoughts. It takes a lot more faith to be an atheist (someone who doesn’t believe in God) than it does to be a theist (someone who believes in God). And while we must believe, by faith, in the Triune God and in His Word, there is evidence all around us. The apostle Paul writes, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-20)

What about you, friend? Have you accepted God’s self-revelation? Let me encourage you to start with what the Bible tells us about the origins of the universe (or any subject for that matter) and then allow God to confirm His testimony through the created world and “the things that have been made.”

The Apologetic of a Transformed Life

I once read the story of a pastor who was invited to debate an atheist. The pastor agreed to debate on one condition – that the atheist would bring 50 people who had been transformed by being atheists. The pastor in turn would bring 50 people who had been transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. As you may have guessed, the atheist admitted he would not be able to find that many people impacted by rejecting Christian theism.

 

As you seek to give an answer for the hope that is within you (1 Peter 3:15), please don’t forget about the power of testimony. Please don’t forget about what Christ has done in your own life, but also in the lives of millions upon millions of people the world over. Like the blind man healed by Jesus, we can confidently say as Christians, “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25). It is only Jesus Christ who has the power to transform and heal our sin-sick lives. By all means, we must seek to present a rational defense of the Christian faith, just don’t forget that there is a place for testimony in our apologetics.

 

No one has ever been transformed by rejecting the existence of God. But millions upon millions of people have been transformed by the rescuing power of Jesus Christ. As the Scriptures remind us, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18). So lets get to work, telling the world what Christ has done for us.

Give Me Five! – Rules for Teachers

  1. Eyes on the Speaker.
  2. Mouth Quiet.
  3. Be Still.
  4. Hands Free – put things down or away.
  5. Listen.

One of our elders, Jim Wells, passed these simple yet powerful rules on to me. When students follow these rules, you will have an environment that is very conducive to learning. When they don’t, the classroom will be chaos and learning will be difficult. Of course these rules are more applicable to those who teach children, but any teacher can benefit from them. Whether you are a Sunday School teacher, a Bible Study teacher, a Small Group leader, or something else, work hard to ensure that you create a good environment for learning.

These principles also got me thinking about our relationship with the Lord. If we, as Christians, are not able to be quiet, to be still, and to rid ourselves of distractions, we will have a hard time listening to God. Let me encourage you in the direction of finding space in the midst of your busy schedule for “quiet time” with the Lord. A time where you can feast on His Word, mediate, pray, and listen to what God has to say to you. Obviously, this is a discipline that should be constant, and not just once a day, but I think it starts with having a scheduled time set aside each day to meet with the Lord.

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he (Jesus) departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” Mark 1:35

Blogging….Some Thoughts

Hard to believe, but I’ve been blogging for about 4 and a half years. Way back in March of 2009 I started up and it’s been an interesting journey. There have been a few times where I was ready to quit but I kept at it and looking back I am glad I did. To my surprise the readership of this blog continues to grow and I now have a database of over 400 articles that I often find myself referencing for ministry purposes.  Anyway, here are a few thoughts on my journey in blogging.

  1. It’s fun.  I enjoy organizing and recording my thoughts with the hope of stimulating good, Christian thought.  Douglas Wilson said that the reason he blogs is to make the thoughts in his head go away and I can relate to that. 
  2. It’s challenging.  There are millions of blogs and websites and we only have so much time to spend surfing the net.  We also live in a sound bite culture where our attention spans have shortened and if you are a writer, you only have so much time to grab the reader and convince them this is something worth spending a few minutes on.  It’s also a challenge to be clear and concise.  I don’t want to waste your time but I also have to make my case.  There is also the knowledge that as soon as I hit “publish,” what I have written is suddenly “out there” on the world-wide-web and I want to be sure that I really meant what I said.   
  3. It’s ironic that I’m blogging because I don’t consider myself a “techy” kind of guy.  I do love to write, but my wife is much more technologically inclined than I am (by the way, she has been super-helpful to me in this and I need to give credit where credit is due – thanks Honey!).  Also, wordpress.com is easy to use and operate which is a blessing.  
  4. I want to keep this blog gospel-centered.  If Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:21) and His Church (Matthew 16:18) is not the focus, then I am only wasting my time and your time.
  5. I realize that a blog called “Standing for the Truth” may not be the first choice for a child of post-modernity.  I grew up in a generation that does not like to think in terms of “objective truth” or anything that makes claims on our lives.  But as I read and study the scriptures, it is clear that we must take a stand for gospel truth (Ephesians 6:10-18).
  6. Blogging is only supplemental to my role as husband, father and pastor. Going hardcore has been a temptation for me in the past. I could try to post something everyday, but I have come to realize this is not my primary calling. Ministry and family come first and I really only have an hour or two each week that I can devote to the blog.  At the same time, what I write is an overflow of my life and ministry.  Often what ends up on the blog was originally sermon content or a discussion in one of our Bible studies.

Thanks for stopping by the blog – whether you are first time visitor or have followed for some time now. I trust that what you have read has been encouraging and challenging and that God has been glorified through it all.   

Is All Truth Really God’s Truth?

Several years ago I attended a one-day pastors conference in Columbus, Ohio. The featured speaker was a pastor from Florida whose church numbered well over 10,000 people. As the day progressed, I grew more and more concerned. This pastor taught church growth principles while sprinkling in some stories along the way, but any biblical content was totally absent. I knew there was going to be a Q & A session at the end of the day, and for the last couple hours, I debated whether or not I should say something. With my blood pressure rising and a growing sense that what I was hearing from hugely problematic, I knew what I had to do. When the Q & A time came, I rose from my seat and went to the microphone. My question went something like this:

 

“Sir, you have spent the whole day teaching about leadership principles that you have used in your church. My concern is that the Bible is nowhere to be found in your presentation.”

 

I will never forget how this pastor stood up and without hesitation said, “All truth is God’s truth! Everything that I have taught today can be found in the Bible.” He briefly expanded on this and when he finished there was a chorus of cheers and amens from several of the other pastors in attendance. I humbly took my seat, having nothing to say in response.

 

Since that time, well over 4 years ago, I have often thought about that experience. It would appear in this instance that we have a clear violation of the Reformation principle of Sola Scriptura. For those of you who are not familiar with that concept, it is Latin for “Scripture alone.” As Christians, we acknowledge that Scripture is the foundation of all truth and is the sole authority in our lives.

 

The London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) puts it this way: “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men.”

 

In short, Scripture is sufficient. This is not just a Baptist belief – this is a Christian belief. What is unfortunate is that most Christians (especially pastors) are willing to affirm Sola Scriptura in theory but not in practice. Going back to my introductory statements, this Florida mega-church pastor would no doubt hold to Sola Scriptura. But when it comes to growing a church, it is obvious he doesn’t believe in the sufficiency of Scripture. Instead, he has turned to secular leadership literature and the so-called “principles” he finds in the business world to grow his church. The question must be asked: is the New Testament inadequate? Is the Bible insufficient for our ecclesiology – for our understanding of the church?

 

Perhaps you are wondering, how do you get away with this departure from one of the clear doctrines of the Christian faith? Well, it starts when you take something that works in the business world and call it a “leadership principle.” Then you reason that if it works in the church (meaning: the church grows numerically) that principle is surely “tried and true.” Hence we have “all truth is God’s truth.” Admittedly, this is quite a leap, but for the past several decades, ever since the advent of the Church Growth Movement, this paradigm has been adopted by countless churches.

 

Just for the record, I don’t think it is wrong to read secular leadership books or even to attend secular leadership seminars. But the Word of God is always authoritative and it must serve as the filter by which we evaluate all truth claims originating from outside the Bible. All to often, pastors have been quick to label something “true” simply because it worked for them in their context. But this does not necessarily mean that these “principles” are faithful to the Biblical norm.

 

What is all comes down to is this – what is your foundation? Is your work built upon the sure foundation of God’s Word (Psalm 127:1), or upon something else? The pastor’s conference I attended several years ago was filled with worldly wisdom and pragmatic insights, but little (if any) biblical truth. This was justified with a flippant statement “all truth is God’s truth.” No doubt all truth is God’s truth, but we have to ask – is God’s truth really my truth? Is God’s Word my sole rule of faith and practice? One day every man’s work will be revealed for all to see (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Was it built upon the foundation of God’s Word and in the power of the Holy Spirit? Or was it done in human strength and wisdom? On that great Day (Isaiah 7:18-25), we will know for sure.