Wednesday, May 25, 2016

3 Priorities for Christian Parents by: Tim Challies

What’s a parent to do? We know that God tells us to raise our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord—we get that. But what does that actually look like? How can we flesh out that simple framework?
I was recently reading through 1 Thessalonians and once again came to one of my favorite passages. In this letter Paul is addressing specific concerns raised by the congregation in Thessalonica. It seems that one of the matters they wanted him to address involved the simple question of Christian living: How do we live lives that are pleasing to God? How can we know that God is pleased with us? The most significant part of Paul’s response to the question comes in chapter 4.
It struck me as I read it: Isn’t this the question we ask for our children? How can they live lives that are pleasing to God?
Isn’t that the dream and desire of every Christian parent, that their children will live lives that thrill God?
 In this section of his letter Paul provides three priorities. The priorities Paul offers to this first-century Christian church can be helpful to twenty-first century Christian parents.

The Importance of Sexual Purity

The first priority Paul highlights is the priority of sexual knowledge and purity—knowledge of God’s purposes in sexuality and dedication to obedience. He says, “This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality” (3-4), and goes on to describe the importance of sexual self-control. Here he is clearly following up on earlier teaching where he told them about God’s purpose and plan in sexuality. He ties their holiness directly to their purity, making it clear that the only kind of life that honors God is a life of abstaining from sin and pursuing holy expressions of sexuality. These were no doubt important instructions to recent converts living in a licentious society that permitted and celebrated many forms of depravity. He even warns that there will be immediate and perhaps even eternal consequences to sin (6) and reminds them that they are indwelled by the Holy Spirit who gives them an internal warning against such deeds (8). “For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness” (7).
Similarly, parents bear the responsibility of teaching and training their children to understand the importance of sexual purity and, before that, the sheer goodness of human sexuality. They must both discipline and instruct, teaching what God requires and being prepared to correct their children when they go against such instructions. In an age of moral revolution and terrible sexual confusion, no concerned parent can neglect to arm their children with a sound knowledge of God’s perspective on sexuality.

The Priority of the Local Church

After Paul speaks of the importance of sexual purity he advances to the priority of the local church as the Christian’s mission field for love. “Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more…” (9-10). These believers were a picture of Christian love, expressing love within their local assembly that then overflowed into acts of love to the wider Christian community. And yet Paul knew that where love isn’t growing it is declining. He knew that love never ends because there is no end to the possible deeds of love. And so he encouraged them to continue to make love a priority—beginning right there in the local church.
Here we can learn the importance of teaching our children to prioritize the local church, and teaching our children to see the church not only as a place of worship, but a place of love—a place to express love to other Christians. Do your children know that the local church is absolutely foundational to God’s plan for us, for them? Do they know that we are not merely consumers of worship but dispensers of love? (It’s encouraging to note that this church listened to him—see 2 Thessalonians 1:3.)

The Dignity of Hard Work

Having told the church of the priorities of sexual purity and local church fellowship, Paul tells them “to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you” (11). This is a call to believe in the dignity of labor and, on that basis, to work hard. In a church that apparently struggled with laziness and meddling (see also 5:14, and 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15), Paul commanded that they be content to be unknown and unnoticed except for their hard work. This work had value in providing evidence of their profession of faith (“so that you may walk properly before outsiders”) and as a further expression of love to other Christians (“and be dependent on no one”). Through their hard work they would display the power of the gospel and be able to avoid lazy dependence upon the church.
Our children need to know that God created us to work and that there is dignity in all labor. Paul himself, though a pastor and scholar, an elite and intellectual, was unashamed to work with his own hands, to provide for his own needs. Paul knew this:
Sin grows in the soil of idleness and a refusal to work displays a willingness to sin.
 He would undoubtedly agree with Spurgeon who said, “Idle people tempt the devil to tempt them.” Much of our children’s sin, especially as they grow older, can be traced to idleness, to long and lazy evenings, to an unwillingness to dedicate themselves to hard work.
We need to teach our children far more than these three things, of course, but Paul’s instruction to the church in Thessalonica, his answer to “How do we live lives that are pleasing to God?” give us a great place to begin, a set of priorities applicable to every parent. Parenting is more than this, to be sure, but it must not be less.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Whom can we trust?

Our journey through the Old Testament continues this week with Israel crossing the Jordan River and entering into the promised land at last. Their first battle is against the city of Jericho. God fought for His people and gave the city to them. It was clear from the beginning that it was God’s power, not Israel’s strength, that would give them the land.


Just as the Lord defeated Jericho for the Israelites, Jesus defeats His enemies and leads believers into the promised land of eternity.


Help your kids connect how God defeated Israel’s enemies with how Jesus defeated our greatest enemy: sin.


      Babies and Toddlers

      We can trust God.
      Joshua led the people into the promised land.
      Joshua trusted God to be with His people.
      Later, God sent Jesus to be with His people.


      Whom can we trust? We can trust God.
      God led His people into the promised land.
      Whom can we trust? We can trust God to take care of us.

      God fought for His people and led them into the promised land.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Good article from

Thank You So Much, Dad

My daughter, Laurelen, graduated from a small, classical Christian high school. The school enjoys a commencement tradition in which the parents hand the diploma to their child, but only after speaking a few words of encouragement (usually accompanied with some nostalgia) to him or her. The graduate responds with some brief, prepared remarks of his or her own.

From her response to us, here’s the section Laurelen specifically addressed to me:
Dad, I can’t think of learning to read, reading, or books without thinking about you. I remember how encouraging you were when I first learned to read. I would finish those little books, so proud of myself, and you would encourage me to start another one right away. I remember you reading to me when I was little and telling me how exciting it would be when I learned to read and could read to you. For as long as I can remember, you’ve been bringing home books from used bookstores for me to read and enjoy. By the time we moved from Kansas City, I had 4 or 5 bookcases full of books that you had lovingly brought home for me.
Reading has always been such an important part of us as a family. Dad, the way you have so consistently led us in family worship every single night of the week for every night of my life [Note: her memory certainly failed her here] is so meaningful and inspirational to me. I’m going to cherish those moments together for as long as I live. You have been a wonderful, loving, spiritual leader for my entire life. Not only our time reading the Bible or Christian books together, but also our time reading classic books will be something I’ll remember forever. Thank you so much, Dad, for making that such a huge part of our time as a family.
As meaningful to me as they obviously were, Laurelen never finished reading these two precious paragraphs (which, with her permission, I copied from her manuscript). When she started talking about how much family worship had meant to her, Laurelen began to cry. And when I say cry, I mean I cannot remember her weeping that hard since she was a preschooler. She came and sobbed on my shoulder, and the photo of that moment is my all-time favorite of the two of us together.

Are You Listening?

Now before you imagine something that isn’t true, I want you to know that I cannot recall once in the thousands of nights before Laurelen wrote these words when we concluded family worship and I had some atmospheric sense of the presence of God. Not one time did we finish family worship where I would have said afterward, “The Lord evidently moved in great power among us tonight.”
On the contrary, most nights our family gathering was more like, “Will y’all pay attention; I’m reading the Bible here. . . . Please put down your phone. . . . Are you listening?”
Many times after family worship, I wondered if anything good had been accomplished. Almost nightly I had to remind myself to trust in the Lord to do his work through his Word, and not in my perceptions or feelings about what had or had not occurred.
Often came the nights when I perceived no enthusiasm to gather for family worship, and frankly, many times I had very little myself. In many such cases I knew we needed to proceed with at least a brief time of family worship out of sheer discipline and a resolve that refused to cave in to plausible excuses of everyone’s fatigue or busyness. Sometimes I sensed that to mandate family worship on that occasion would be received as harsh and legalistic, so we settled for simply singing the Doxology or offering a brief prayer. And I second-guessed myself just about every time I had to make such a call.
Strive for faithfulness in family worship, not immediate results. I fully understand that what you may see night-after-night, week-after-week, month-after-month, year-after-year in family worship may be uneventful. Just realize that the effects are rarely immediate; usually they’re cumulative.
Oaks aren’t grown by the effects of an occasional spectacular day of weather, but by long-term, consistent exposure to the elements that encourage their growth. The same patient persistence is true for growing “oaks of righteousness” (Isa. 61:3).
Give your family years of faithful—if unspectacular—leadership in family worship, and you’ll agree it’s worth it all when someday, perhaps far from now, unexpectedly, you get a response like this.

Donald S. Whitney is professor of biblical spirituality and associate dean at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He has written several books related to Christian spirituality, including Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian LifePraying the Bible, and Family Worship. Don blogs regularly at

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Great Article from The Village Church

The Daunting Significance of Making Disciples at Home

Author: Adam Griffin CategoryCultureTheology

What wouldn’t you be willing to sacrifice for a child? If you are anything like me, you would do almost anything: punch a charging she-bear, somersault in front of a speeding train or offer yourself as tribute to a would-be kidnapper. And on a smaller scale, you would skip a meal so they could eat, miss work so they could heal and stay up all night so they could rest. When a child’s well-being is on the line, it is the adult’s pleasure and duty to “give up” so they can “get.”
As significant and valuable as the physical welfare of a child is, it pales in comparison to the welfare of their immortal and irreplaceable soul. What wouldn’t you sacrifice for the sake of a child’s soul? Consider then the role we, particularly parents, can play in nurturing the eternal, spiritual nature of a child. The fruit of our family discipleship, or neglect thereof, may echo forever. This is a good and sobering thing to consider.
The responsibility of spiritually leading the next generation is tremendous, and the Lord calls us all to be part of the work with Him. To paraphrase the words of the apostle Paul, we can plant seeds of faith and water them, but it is only God who can make them grow. So while it is true that God alone saves and grows faith in the human heart, we cannot, even for one day, neglect our call to plant and cultivate truth in the lives of children. It is through these efforts that the Holy Spirit has chosen to work.

Eat, Play, Sleep

When I first became a parent, I was intimidated. It was daunting to consider how much that little life depended on me. The best piece of advice I received in that season came from my older brother, Ben. He told me that most of us are born with very simple needs, and as my son’s needs grew, so would my confidence and skill set in caring for him.
In addition, my wife taught me a very simple rhythm for physically nurturing our newborn: He needed to eat, play and sleep. He did these three things all day, every day and sometimes all night. Eat – Play – Sleep. Throw in the occasional bath and diaper blowout of course, but other than that, Eat – Play – Sleep. Focusing on these physical needs kept my goals and responsibilities clear and simple.
If most of us wouldn’t think of letting a day go by without addressing the physical needs of a child, is it not paramount then that we afford an even greater focus and effort to addressing their spiritual needs every single day?

Read, Pray, Sing

If the thought of nurturing spiritual needs in your children causes worry or anxiety, don’t be discouraged. Family discipleship doesn’t have to be complicated or daunting. The Lord can use your faithfulness in a few simple things for a few minutes a day to transform your heart and the hearts of your children. Of course it will be difficult, messy and frustrating at times, but as painstaking a process as family discipleship can be, it is eternally worth it.  
Family discipleship can be as simple for a child’s spiritual welfare as the approach for the physical welfare of a newborn. But instead of Eat – Play – Sleep, our spiritual refrain is Read – Pray – Sing.
Reading Scripture to or with your child doesn’t necessarily take a lot of planning beforehand. Read a chapter of Proverbs, a narrative, a memory verse, or just read in order through the Bible. If you have a very simple understanding of the Bible, start with just reading and, as your kids grow, so will your confidence and skill set in applying Scripture and hearing what God is saying.
Praying is as simple as speaking out loud to God the Father. Take prayer requests from each family member and keep track of how your family sees God answer. Pray for what you are grateful for and for what you would like to see happen in the name of Jesus and according to His will.
Singing is as natural to a child as sleeping or eating, regardless of their age. It is a perfect conduit for giving God what He deserves—our worship and affection—and for giving children the truth of the Word in a way that they can catch, follow and repeat, even before they are capable of grasping the meaning.
Read – Pray – Sing. It is not complicated, yet it can be incredibly profound. Maintaining this handy rhythm keeps the preparation and implementation of family discipleship simple.

A Guide to Family Discipleship

Read – Pray – Sing is just the tip of the iceberg for the critical call to discipleship. For many of us parents, we became so without ever being equipped to spiritually lead our families. For that reason, The Village has created a Family Discipleship Guide as a resource for you to begin or bolster discipleship in your home.
Regardless of your family makeup, the simple tenets of the family discipleship framework presented in the guide will apply to your family. Read – Pray – Sing and other ideas like it help to take away the potentially intimidating nature of something so important. Consider dedicating some time to walking through the guide and establishing a sustainable rhythm of spiritual leadership. Feel the peace and pleasure of leading your family in the will of the Lord.

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