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.

 

Bible Verses to Teach Your Children

Fellow parents, if you haven’t made a practice of this already, it may be a good time to start encouraging your children to memorize Bible verses. Our twin daughters are now three and a half so I started to compile a short list of Bible verses they could memorize. Of course, the possibilities are endless when it comes to Scripture memorization, but here are a few verses that came to mind.

 

1. “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11

 

2. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother….that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Ephesians 6:1-3

 

3. “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20

 

4. “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” Proverbs 1:8 (see also Proverbs 4:23 and 23:22)

 

5. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11 (Maybe this one would be good for the teen years)

 

6. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

 

7. “Jesus said, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

 

8. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

 

Perhaps you could memorize some of these verses along with your kids. It certainly won’t hurt if you don’t already know them by heart. But always remember the responsibility that God has entrusted to you to train up your children in the ways of the Lord. “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

 

More than anything as parents, we want to instill in our kids a love of Scripture and a desire to know Him through His Word. Of course, there is a Holy Spirit component, which we must not forget, but there is also need for parents to be intentional about exposing their children to the Scriptures. If you think of it, pray for Steph and I because this is as much for us as for anyone. And if you would like us to pray for you, be sure and drop me a note. I would love to pray for you in this regard.

Some Parallels Between Discipleship and Nursing

A few months ago, my wife Stephane came up with some parallels between discipleship and nursing. I thought they were insightful and decided to pass them along to you.
1. Both must take place often.
Mothers know that every few hours, her baby must be fed. The baby only has a small stomach and therefore needs regular feedings to continue growing and maturing. The same could be said of the disciple. Ideally, the growing Christian will meet regularly with a spiritual mother or father who will guide them in understanding God’s Word and following Jesus. The Bible tells us, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation – if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2-3).
2. Both require the right kind of nutrition.
Stephane quickly learned during her time of nursing that it is important to eat the right kinds of food. For example, oatmeal increases the milk supply, while cabbage decreases milk supply. The most obvious parallel to discipleship would be reading the right kinds of literature. For example, the Bible = oatmeal while a Joel Osteen or Joyce Meyer book = cabbage. I can almost assure you that a steady diet of God’s Word will result in a growing Christian. In contrast, a steady diet of your token pop-Christian book will result in a stagnant Christian at best.
3. In both, the relationship will eventually change.
Eventually, the mother will take steps to get her child off of the breast and onto solid food. We would be a little alarmed in a child was still nursing at 4 or 5 years of age. Unfortunately, many professing believers don’t grow up to Christian maturity (check out Hebrews 5:12-14). Many people who populate our churches today don’t want to leave behind their comfortable Christianity to take up their cross and follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24-26).
4. In both, the ultimate result is multiplication.
Years later, every parent has the hope that their child will eventually “be fruitful and multiply” and make them grandparents. In the same way, Christian parents want their children to grow up to be disciple-making-disciples. This is where the snowball effect kicks into play – disciples of Jesus Christ are being multiplied left and right as God gives the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6) and that’s exciting!
What about you?
Are you involved in an intentional, one-to-one discipling relationship? If you are not, let me encourage you in that direction.

Where is God when I need Him?

Something happened this past summer that I won’t soon forget. My son John was playing on our front porch with his two sisters. I was inside the house but only a few feet away, watching through the door window. My memory fails me as to what exactly happened, but John started crying and immediately crawled over to the door and started pounding on it. Normally, I would have opened the door as quick as I could and grabbed him and consoled him, but instead I just watched him because I knew he was really ok  (I’m sorry if this sounds cruel to you). I watched John with great intrigue as he looked through the door window, screaming, crying, and wondering where his Daddy was. Here’s the kicker – I was right there on the other side of the door and had been watching him the whole time. You see, the sun was shining on the window pane in such a way that he couldn’t see me. I was right there with him, he just didn’t know it. Now, before you get worried, I did eventually open the door, picked up my son, and consoled him with a big hug and a kiss. This whole sequence of events only took a few moments to unfold but it did teach me a powerful lesson I would like to share with you.

All to often when we are experiencing pain and trials in life, we wonder, where is God when I need Him? We wonder if God cares that we are suffering? What we don’t realize is that God is right there in the midst of our pain. Just like the experience of my son John, we might not be able to see Him (1 Peter 1:8), but we can take comfort in knowing that God is with us. If you are a Christian, that means you are a child of the King, and the Bible assures us that God takes care of His children.

Two thousand years ago, God entered into our world and became a man. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Why did Jesus do this? Hebrews 2:17-18 explains. “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

No matter what you are going through, always remember that you have a merciful and faithful high priest, who is not immune to suffering (think of the cross). God is right there in the midst of whatever you are experiencing and if you trust Him, He will see you through and you will grow in the process (James 1:2-4).

A Prayer For Our Son

This Sunday (July 14th) our son John will be dedicated to the Lord. Although my wife and I did this long before he was born, Sunday will be more of a public proclamation in front of our church family. Steph and I have the God-given responsibility of raising this child, but there is also an element of resignation on our part where we give John back to the Lord. In essence we are saying, “He is yours God – use him for the glory of your name.” This is our prayer – the prayer we have been praying for the past year and will continue to pray as John continues to grow and develop.

Precious Jesus,

Thank you for blessing us with our little man, John. When he was born, I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I cried. What a wonderful blessing John has been to our family! As we prepare for his formal dedication service on Sunday, we want to commit him to you. He is yours. Use him as you see fit. Bring him to a saving knowledge of the Jesus, even at a young age. May he come to understand and glory in the gospel of Jesus Christ and may you raise him up to be a great man of God.

May John love you with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. Give him a good mind that is exercised in the things of God. Give him a heart that longs hard after you. Give him a mouth that proclaims your grace and goodness wherever you send him. Give him the courage to stand for truth – Your Truth – in a world that is constantly shifting and embracing evil at an alarming rate. Give John the strength to persevere and remain steadfast for Christ. Give him a love for Thy Word and give him wisdom beyond his years. Bless him with a wonderful wife who shares the same love for Christ. And give them children of their own to dedicate back to you.

What a gift you have given us in our son John! May you now give us the grace we need to “bring him up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Stephane and I can’t do this apart from your grace and wisdom. And when he is all grown up, help us to let go of him. Following Jesus is risky and dangerous and you may send him somewhere we don’t think is “safe.” But we give him to you – he is dedicated to your service, wherever and whatever you may call him to. Fill John with your Spirit. Guide him all his days. Empower him with your grace.

In Jesus name, Amen.

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.