Interview About Parent-Driven Discipleship

Last night I had the chance to talk with Henry Neufeld, my publisher, about my book Parent-Driven Discipleship. If you have a spare hour in your day (or you are just really bored) take some time to watch the interview. Would love to hear your thoughts!

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“Train Up A Child” – Focusing On Christ During Christmas

christmas-cross

I love Christmas! I love the smells and the sounds. I love being with family. I love the overall “cheery” attitude that most people have during this season (outside of the Black Thursday/Friday “I will trample you for this toy or electronic gadget” mindset).

Our society is growing more secular by the day. Things that were once held as sacred have become commonplace and ordinary. Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, has been hijacked and commercialized along with other religious holidays (Thanksgiving and Easter come to mind).

As Christians, we must guard against blindly following the culture. My greatest concern for our children is that story of Santa Clause is the antithesis of the story of Jesus Christ and his gospel. Before I offer my reasoning on this, let me say that I grew up believing in Santa Clause. I do not think I was scarred nor deceived. I do not believe my parents were wrong in allowing this to happen. But, our family does approach it in a different way.

We do not go out of our way to destroy the concept of Santa Clause in the minds of our two girls (age 3 & 5). They still watch TV shows that talk about Santa Clause. They color pictures of him. But we do try to help our girls understand why people celebrate him while also putting it into perspective as we celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. I’m not telling you that you have to do what we do but this is what we do. Let me offer a couple of reasons why:

1. We have a biblical responsibility to disciple our children. Parents are called to train their children in the ways of the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:4). We take this very seriously because we recognize that we will have to give an account for our faithfulness in this area. We seek to take every opportunity to point our girls to Christ. The culture (movies, TV shows, books, other well meaning people) bombards them with tons of things during the Christmas season and we must diligently direct their attention to Christ. This is one of the reasons I wrote a Christmas Devotional for families to use during the month of December. The time I have with my girls is short and I want to make every day (and holiday) count for the cause of Jesus Christ and his gospel.

2. The popular/secular story of Santa Clause is the antithesis of the story of Jesus Christ and the gospel. If you think deeply about the story of Santa Clause you will begin to see that this is true. Santa is portrayed as an all-knowing, all-present being who is watching kids throughout the year to see whether they have been good or bad. The reality is that these things (all-knowing and all-present) are reserved for God alone. I don’t want my kids to mix this up. Our culture also portrays the idea that Santa only gives presents to kids who are good throughout the year. Basically, children earn their presents by good behavior. The message of the gospel is the opposite. We do not earn salvation by our good works but by the grace of God. I really don’t want my kids to mix this up!

**Every Christian family has to make a decision concerning how they will approach the culture in which we live – a culture that grows increasingly hostile to the Christ of Christmas. Seek the Lord diligently and ask him how you should lead your family this time of year. You may come up with a different approach, which is completely fine. I just thought it would be helpful to offer our perspective!

A Contemporary Baptist Catechism

catechismSeveral years back (2009 I believe), I put together a little book to help parents teach their children the truths of Scripture. I had forgotten about this little book until I came across some files I had on my computer this past week. Wouldn’t you know it – the book is still available for purchase either as a pdf file or in paperback. If you are interested in something like this check it out! Here is what I wrote for the back cover:

Are you prepared? Do you have a plan to teach your children the things of the Lord? Has the thought even crossed your mind?

Parents, God holds you accountable for the special task of raising your children. Included in this task is the responsibility of teaching them the things of the Lord. This contemporary Baptist catechism will aid you as you seek to teach your children the truths of Scripture. It will also help as you begin to cultivate a godly atmosphere in your home.

Why not start today?

It will matter for eternity!

 

Longing For The Day

Over the past couple of days I have been reading John Flavel’s book The Mystery of Providence during part of my morning devotion. It does my soul well to read books written by men in church history who are now with the Lord.

My reading this morning centered on God’s providence in things such as our birth and upbringing. I am forever grateful to God that he allowed me to grow up in a Christian home.

As I read this morning, my mind wondered back to the spring of 2010. I was in Lithonia, GA taking a D.Min. class when I received a phone call from my wife. We had been trying for our second child and Janie started experiencing some complications. I will spare you all details but, to sum it up, we found out at the end of that week that she had a miscarriage.

We experienced a range of emotions during that week and the weeks following. We were blessed with our second daughter, Leah, in October of that year and I must confess that I have not thought that deeply about the child that we lost.

Flavel’s words struck me hard this morning:

“And if we consider the nature of that obscure life we lived in the womb, how small an accident, had it been permitted by Providence, could have extinguished our life, like a bird in the shell? We cannot therefore but admire the tender care of Providence over us, and say with the Psalmist: ‘Though has covered me in my mother’s womb’ (139.13): and not only so, ‘But thou art he that took me out of the womb’ (22.9). He preserved you there to the fullness of time and, when that time was come, brought you safely through manifold hazards into that place in the world which He from eternity prepared for you.”

As I considered God’s providence, I was reminded once again of the child we lost. This was no accident. Had God desired, He could have spared his or her life. He could have removed the complications Janie experienced and allowed our child to go full term.

Some may want to ask the question, “Why?” “Why would God allow this to happen?” The truth is I never thought about asking this question. I never doubted God’s plan or His purposes.

This morning John Flavel reminded me not only of the preciousness of life but also of death. In God’s providence He “extinguished” our child’s life in the womb but we must never forget that in that same moment Heaven grew. Our child lives and I long for the day I will get to meet him or her!

What I Learned Being Mr. Mom

My lovely wife, Janie, is heading back right now from a Pastor’s Wives Conference (T-minus 1 hour until her arrival). To say we (me and my girls) are ready would be the understatement of the century! We have had a blast but it is just not the same without mommy being around! This 48 hour “no mommy” zone has taught me quite a few things:

1. My wife’s job is harder than mine. Taking care of a 2 and 4 year old is a full-time and part-time job wrapped together.  Even though I am stressed a good bit as a pastor, it is nothing like being a stay-at-home mom. The fact that Janie can even utter two words to me at the end of the day is flabbergasting!

2. I need to tell her thank you more often. I do not praise Janie enough! She is wonderful and I need to tell her that more often. Hers is a thankless job and I need to make sure she knows that I value what she does and there is nothing greater that she could be doing.

3. I missed my best friend. There were countless times during my Janie’s absence that I wanted to share something with her: a funny moment, a thought, a kiss. I need to value the time we have together. The old saying rings true, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

4. The life of a single parent is hard. Taking care of my girls was hard work and the thought of doing it all by myself all the time is mind-boggling. My dad was a single parent for three years during my childhood and I have a renewed respect for everything he did. I also have a greater appreciation for all those single parents in our church and community.

5. My girls are a lot of fun. We had a blast over the past two days. We ate donuts for breakfast, ice cream for lunch, and I even painted their fingernails and toenails. In the day-in and day-out grind it can be difficult to appreciate the moment. I want to do a better job of this!

6. Technology is awesome. I was able to talk with Janie several times each day and send her some videos and pictures of the girls doing various things. She also sent me a couple of pictures of their experience. The fact that this would not have been possible 10 years ago is crazy!

The God Of Sesame Street

I had quite a unique experience this morning. My 4 year old was watching Sesame Street as I was getting ready to head into the office and the episode featured Jimmy Fallon as the “Wild Nature Survivor Guy.” Here is a basic rundown of the episode (if you are interested).

Basically, Jimmy Fallon is discussing what it takes to survive out in the wilderness (think Bear Grylls) even though he is in Sesame Street where there is no real need for survival skills. This is the funny part.

The not so funny part is the way Fallon talks about nature as if nature is god. Numerous times he talks about nature providing everything we need (ie. water, leaves to keep warm, food, etc.). Interestingly, in the politically correct world of Sesame Street, there is no mention of God creating this world to function as it does. There is no mention that it is God who provides for our needs. There is no mention that he causes it to rain on this earth or causes food to grow.

I was reminded of the words of Matthew,

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble (Matthew 6:25-34).

I am by no means calling for a boycott of Sesame Street nor do I believe we should expect anything different from a secular media outlet like this. Sesame Street may be a good resource for teaching kids about various things but we, as Christian parents, must recognize that they will not teach our children the things of the Lord.

In fact, they are teaching the exact opposite of what we believe and we must be prepared to train our children in godliness. We must listen to what is being communicated and then correct the errors that are pouring into our living rooms day after day.

Moses reminds us of our responsibility in Deuteronomy 6:4-9,

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 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 sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

What a challenge! There is no greater responsibility that we have as Christian parents than to train our children when we sit in our house, when we walk along, when we lie down, when we rise, and when we watch Sesame Street.