Archives For Parenting

Every year we hear about “the war on Christmas.” Journalists tell stories of towns taking down their nativity scenes and schools refusing to use the word “Christmas” in their holiday plays. These actions taken by well-meaning employees hoping to avoid offending people and stay out of court do not constitute the real war on Christmas. The greatest war we face each Christmas is the consistent battle to shun commercialism and embrace this remembrance of Jesus’ birth.

The Bible never says, “thou shalt celebrate Christmas,” but in God’s providence the appearance of this holiday on the calendar provides us with a great opportunity as families to connect, learn, worship, and delight. Here are some ways you can make the most out of Christmas Day.

Eat

The family dinner table provides great opportunities to connect as a family. Since the Christmas season is a time to rejoice, feasting around the table is a great way to do that. Have everyone share a great Christmas memory or tell stories, but make this a great time of connecting. Also invite over any families in your church or neighbors who may not have families with whom they can celebrate Christmas. This is a great way to be a blessing to a friend.

Read

We should not let Christmas Day pass by without reading one of the narratives of Jesus’ birth in either Matthew or Luke. One great way to do this is to read it right before opening presents together. This helps to remind your family that we give gifts to each other because God gave us the greatest gift imaginable in his Son.

Sing

Singing together as a family can be uncomfortable if you have never done it before, but overcoming this awkwardness is worth it. The great Christmas carols contain deep truths about the Gospel message in memorable tunes. Our families favorite is “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” which exults in Jesus’ identity and mission.

Pray

Take a few minutes to pray together on Christmas Day. It is entirely appropriate for our prayers to center on thanksgiving to God for his gifts. We may also have burdens we want to unload on the Lord together as a family, but we should especially focus on thanking him together for the gift of Jesus and the life he brings.

Unplug

The technology which keeps us connected to the outside world often keeps us disconnected from the people around us. You have very little reason to be constantly on your phone Christmas Day. Post the family picture on Facebook and then unplug. Take the time to make memories with the people around you.

Enjoy

Christmas brings tidings of comfort and joy, so enjoy it. Rejoice over who God is for you in Jesus and relish a day you don’t have to go to work. If your day is loud and filled with family, be thankful God has blessed you with so many people you can love. Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly, so this encourages us to have abundant joy on the day we celebrate his advent.

How else can we enjoy our celebration of Christmas?

Related Posts:
Why Christmas Needs to Stop Encroaching on Thanksgiving

For Further Reading:
The Expected One by Scott James
A Meal with Jesus by Tim Chester

Not Walking with Jesus

Men face many enemies in the quest to raise our children and greatest enemy stares back at us in the mirror every morning. Our own personal sin and selfishness wars against us. We wrestle with the temptation to either pamper our children our neglect them. We waver back and forth between permissiveness and control. Our children ask for more of our time but we struggle to give it to them because our face is buried in our phones.

A man must continue to grow as he grows older, and this only happens by growing as a Christian. We possess no power to change ourselves over the long haul because the sin in us is too deep. We need the forgiveness and restoration which comes through faith in Jesus as well as the transformation he works in those who belong to him. We call this process sanctification and it happens as a man hears from Jesus through his word, depends on him through prayer, and acts on what he learns through obedience. When he fails, he repents and gets up again by the Spirit’s power.

This process of repentance and growth produces lasting change in a man. The man who was irritable grows more gracious, the anxious man becomes more peaceful, and the timid man finds himself more courageous. Therefore, fathers must make the time to read the Bible to hear from God, spend time with him in prayer, and find brothers who know him and can help him as he walks through fatherhood.

Not Loving Your Wife

Not all fathers are married, but many are. If you are married, your relationship with your wife is second only to your walk with Jesus. You must take heed to Paul’s command to, “love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” You do not push the pause button on this injunction because children have been born, but instead you double down on it. For the husband, this means you daily look for opportunities to serve your wife and to prioritize making time to spend with her. Rather than allowing the kids to stay up until all hours of the night, you work with your wife to get them into bed so you can spend time together. Instead of walking in the house and plopping in a chair to watch sports, the wise husband comes home ready to engage his wife and help her in any way he can.

For several years the prevailing wisdom was that the health of a marriage depended on a consistent date night. While I still believe making time to do things together without the kids is important, I’ve come to see the daily time as having greater importance than date night. The consistent time together day after day creates a strong bond than many hours together spread out weeks apart.

Before the birth of our first child someone told me, “the best gift you can give your daughter is to love her mother.” Ten years and four children later this statement proved itself to be true. A strong relationship with your wife builds a safe environment in which your children can thrive.

Not Making Time for Your Kids

Everything about our culture makes war on the man who wants to spend time with his children. Long commutes, smart phones, homework, and the outrageous demands of youth sports leagues set up for men to have minimal interaction with his children. Therefore a father must take control of his family’s schedule in order to prioritize quality time with his children.

Many men believe they will “find” the time to spend with their kids only to find it does not happen. Those who want to find time must instead begin to make time for connecting. This begins with Dad being all the way home when he is home. Dr. D.A. Carson wisely counsels us, “Don’t fritter. When you work, work hard; when you are not working, quit entirely.” Following this advice will create ample time to spend with our children and reduce much of the frustration our children experience with us. When Dad gets home but still needs to answer emails, our kids don’t understand why we need to keep working when we get home. They become irritated with us because we are working and we get angry with them because they won’t leave us alone. The only answer is to work until you can finish and then come home and be completely at home. Turn off the phone or put it in another room. Work when you’re at work and be home when you’re at home.

Men should also create opportunities for connecting with their children in the ordinary rhythms of life. These opportunities come around the dinner table, in the living room, and in the front yard. Eat dinner together as a family with mobile devices in another room so you can talk and laugh. When you have yard work to do, involve your kids and let them help. It will take longer and won’t be done as well, but that doesn’t really matter. The wise Dad would rather have shrubs trimmed too closely with his children than to have a perfectly manicured yard while the kids sit inside.

Every father must learn the key word, “intentionality.” Growing as a Christian, connecting with your wife, and enjoying children cannot happen by accident. The pace of life in our culture refuses to allow it. Men, I challenge you this week to spend time in prayer with an open notebook. How will you begin to prioritize time for growth, time for your bride, and time for your children?

Related Posts:
Parents Keep a Cool Head
What I Learned about Life from My Father

For Further Reading
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

Parents, Keep a Cool Head

November 11, 2015

“Parenting is hard.” This sentence comes to my mind multiple times a week. We have four children ten and under, so we devote large portions of our day to playing, reading, teaching, correcting, consoling, and managing conflict. While few things in my life bring me as much joy as parenting, it can also be the source of some of my greatest difficulties. (In fact I took a break about 100 words into the post to play in a blanket fort. It was time well spent.)

What caught me the most off guard was how quickly our first child developed a will of her own and started disobeying. She did this by actively telling us she did not want to do what we told her to do and by ignoring what we told her to do. This only increased exponentially with each while. If I’m honest with myself, my children don’t present the greatest challenge to my parenting though; I do. My greatest struggles in parenting do not come from my children’s disobedience, but my responses to them that come from selfishness, impatience, and anger.

I have learned that I have to write a Bible verse over all of my interactions with my children when they are stubborn or disobedient. “for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” These words from the Apostle James explain why we should be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Our anger cannot achieve God’s righteousness. In other words, our sinful anger cannot achieve God’s righteous aims.

This sentence contains an important implication for our parenting. Parents cannot produce godly character or behavior in our children by losing our temper. We cannot frustratingly berate them into loving other people more than themselves. Impatiently scolding them embitters their hearts rather than softening them. Repeated shaming leads begrudging obedience in the short term but no lasting change of heart.

In addition losing your temper in response to your child’s sin focuses their attention on your behavior instead of their own. If they have been startled by a yell or are scared of what you might do, they have forgotten what they have done and become fixed on you. This creates in them an unhealthy fear of us based on placating our anger instead of a genuine change of heart.

When we lose our temper or impatiently vent at our children we tear down by example what we have sought to teach them in our more level-headed moments. Our kids hear our words but watch what we do. We cannot teach them to control themselves when we do not.

Parents, I want to encourage you to spend much time remembering the grace God has shown you. I cannot count the number of times I have said something to my children and immediately thought “God could say the same thing to me.” I grow impatient with them because they have disobeyed in a particular way multiple times over the course of a few months but forget how patient God has been with me in areas where I have been disobeying for years. Recall how often God has forgiven you and extended his mercy, then parent with a spirit marked by this mercy. This does not mean you do not correct misbehavior, but it changes the tone and manner in which you correct it.

Also spend many hours reading and meditating on Proverbs. Calls to have a cool head and a cool spirit occur often in Proverbs. He shows in manifold ways the folly of anger and the exceeding benefits of a calm spirit. Commit these passages to memory and pray like you have never prayed for the Father to burn them into your heart.

Related Posts:
Losing Your Temper With Your Children is Not Discipline
When You Lose Your Temper with Your Kids

For Further Reading:
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

 

Family Dinner

photo credit: smilla4 via photopin cc

Several studies over the last few years examined the habits of families at dinnertime. While more families are having dinner together five nights a week than they were fifteen years ago, a concerning percentage of families still don’t gather around the table for dinner on a regular basis. No one needs to spend much time thinking about why this might be the case. Practices, long commutes, the easy availability of fast food, and homework war against this simple, yet effective family practice.

In our lives we tend to ignore important things to focus on urgent things. Practice, homework, and squeezing in an extra thirty minutes at work feel urgent. It seems as if these things must be done and they must be done now. Taking the time to share a meal together does not invoke the kind of urgency other tasks do, but its importance cannot be overstated. Here are three basic reasons that we need to recover the family dinner table.

Family Dinner is a Time to Talk and Laugh

If you asked me to name the first image that came to my mind from my childhood, it would be sitting around the table with my family. At the family table we laughed, we told stories, and we learned about life. We pray our daughters will have the same memories from the family dinner table. Typically we try to get our girls talking about the things they have been doing and are interested in. At every family dinner we end up having a discussion about something from my or my wife’s childhood. When the conversation lulls, one of my favorite things to do is to make up a story about something I dreamed the night before. I never know where the story is going when I get started, but by the end we are all laughing. This time of connecting has been invaluable for our family as we get the chance to make sure we aren’t missing time with each other in the midst of our sometimes hectic schedule.

Family Dinner is a Time to Eat Healthy and Develop Good Habits

One of the few alternatives to the family dinner table is eating out at a restaurant or getting fast food and eating in the car. There are times this becomes necessary, but we need to work to make those times fewer.  A post on CNN shared a study which found that children who ate at home with their families were more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables and less fried foods and soda. While it is difficult to find healthy options eating out, eating at home can ensure your family eats healthier. Also children learn how to help pitch in during family dinner. They learn responsibility through helping to set the table and clean up for themselves after dinner.

Family Dinner is a Time for Bible Reading and Prayer

One of the greatest challenges to family devotion can be finding a time to get everyone settled down. Family dinner provides a built in time for family devotion. Family devotion does not have to be the length of your local church’s worship gathering. It should just be a simple time of Bible reading, prayer, and singing. If your children are small, I recommend the Big Picture Story Bible or Jesus Storybook Bible. As your children get older you can transition into using your preferred Bible translation. Currently our family reads a portion of the Gospel of Luke and we discuss it together. This time rarely lasts longer than ten minutes since we have an eighteen month-old. When you sing together, choose songs that are age appropriate. In fact many hymns are easily singable for children. Our children picked up “Jesus Loves Me,” “Come Thou Fount,” and “Be Thou My Vision” when they were pretty young. For our youngest, she loves the song, “My God is So Big.” Prayer time should focus on specific family needs, praying for friends, praying for opportunities to love your neighbors and praying for your children.

Family dinner time does not offer a panacea for all possible families problems, but it can significantly affect your family’s relationships.

Related Posts:
Nine Lessons from Nine Years of Parenting
How to Do Family Worship

For Further Reading:
A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home by Jason Helopoulos

medium_5483359493The indictment of Adrian Peterson last week ignited a nationwide discussion about spanking. Many used this as an opportunity to make a point about all forms of spanking. Armed with social science studies and emotional stories of child abuse, they argued that all spanking is child abuse which psychologically damages children. Their jumping on this situation to push their agenda surprised no one.

What I did find surprising has been the chorus of voices defending spanking. Charles Barkley defended both Peterson and the practice of spanking in an NFL Today interview with Jim Rome. The Huffington Post offered this summary of the discussion.

“I’m from the South. Whipping is … we do that all the time,” the former basketball star, who was born and raised in Leeds, Alabama, said. “Every black parent in the South is gonna be in jail under those circumstances. I think we have to be careful letting people dictate how they treat their children.”

When Rome contended that it doesn’t matter where someone is from because “right is right and wrong is wrong,” Barkley disagreed.

“I don’t believe that because, listen, we spank kids in the South,” he said. “I think the question about did Adrian Peterson go overboard. … But, listen, Jim, we all grow up in different environments. Every black parent in my neighborhood in the South would be in trouble or in jail under those circumstances. … As far as being from the South, we all spanked our kids. I got spanked, me and my two brothers.”

Many Southerners echoed Barkley’s sentiments this week. I’ve read countless people refer to the spankings they received as children and how those spankings helped form their character. Others have said they would be in trouble if Child Services began investigating the way they disciplined their own children.

Unfortunately many who wish to defend the practice of spanking have picked the wrong case to make their point. Texas authorities released pictures which were used as evidence against Peterson and while I have no desire to render a verdict in his case, they do not look like anything that results from what could be considered constructive parental discipline. When Solomon said, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him,” he was not sanctioning the bruises and lacerations these photos reveal.

Another issue needs to be addressed in some of the defenses of spanking offered this week. Losing your temper with your children is not discipline. Solomon spoke as often of the folly of an uncontrolled temper in Proverbs as he did about using the rod to discipline your children. When you lose your temper with your children because of something they have done, your children stop thinking about their actions and start focusing on how angry you are. You cannot correct their sin by sinning yourself. James’ words in 1:20 must be written over all of our parenting. “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Lasting spiritual fruit cannot be brought into your child’s life by flying off the handle and disciplining them in anger.

In our polarized society, we quickly take sides on an issue without thinking about the consequences of our decisions. If Christians try to jump on the Adrian Peterson bandwagon in order to defend the practice of spanking, it will be a losing battle. This case is not an opportunity to defend spanking; it is a reminder that the purpose of discipline is not to punish children for wrongdoing. The discipline that the Bible advocates corrects, teaches, and instructs. Christian parents discipline because we have a heavenly Father who disciplines us. The writer of Hebrews said “the Lord disciplines those whom he loves.” He does not so punitively and cruelly, but lovingly and correctively. He disciplines his children not to take out his frustrations on us, but for our growth in his grace. We would do well to let his model of discipline shape our attitude about discipline.

Related Posts:
When Your Lose Your Temper with Your Kids
Teaching Proverbs to Your Children

For Further Reading:
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp
Don’t Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman

This past Sunday we started a new sermon series at Chelsea Village called “The Gospel and the Family.”  For seven weeks, we are going to look at the relationship between the Gospel and dating, marriage, singleness, divorce, faithfulness, and parenting.  This Sunday’s sermon proved that there will be no way I can cram everything that I have been reading into these seven sermons.  Below, you will find links to a few of the many articles and posts that have been helpful to me in preparation for this series.  If you want to see the books that have been helpful, you can follow this link.

Let me also add a quick word about how to save helpful content that you read online.  Evernote has become my brain.  It is an app for taking notes, but it has a feature that makes it really helpful for web content.  The Web clipper allows you to save a webpage into Evernote where you can tag it and add it to a titled notebook.  In my Evernote app, I have folders for every book of the Bible, theological topics, and practical issues.  They are easily searchable by title or tag.  With the free apps, I can have access to my notes across on all of my mobile devices.  This has helped me remember items in an efficient manner.

Marriage
When I Don’t Feel Love for My Spouse” by Steve Cornell

Marriage: The Happy, Holy, Beautiful Mess” by Matt Johnson

How to Destroy Marriage Before It Starts” by Garrett Kell

The Wedding Vows: 20 Years Later” by Steve McCoy

Kill Anger Before It Kills You or Your Marriage” by John Piper

Seven Ways to Destroy Your Marriage” by Perry Noble

4 Lessons from Luther on Married Life” by Justin Taylor

Parenting
A Quick Guide to Family Worship” by Winfield Bevins

Is Your Child a Christian?” by Brian Croft

7 Ways Fathers Provoke Their Children” by Mark Driscoll

God Rules the Mundane” by Gloria Furman

Advice for Parenting Young Kids” by Steve McCoy

21 Ways to Be an Exceptional Dad” by Josh McPherson

Parents, Require Obedience of Your Children” by John Piper

Why Require Unregenerate Children to Act Like They’re Good” by John Piper

5 Ways We are Making Parenting Harder” by Megan Spreer (This is not written from a Christian perspective and contains a little language, but do not miss the point.)

Should I Make My Child Apologize?” by Jen Wilkin

Next week Kevin DeYoung’s newest book Crazy Busy will hit the shelves.  In it, he addresses the problem of “busyness”  and how to attack it from a biblical framework.  The source of much of our “busyness” is our kids.  Here’s a snippet of DeYoung addressing this vitally important issue.

Parenting from Quadrant 2

September 5, 2013

coveyMark Driscoll’s “Reverse Engineering Your Life” introduced me to the concept of Stephen Covey’s Quadrants.  (The talk is no longer available, but you can read about the concept in Real Marriage.)  This is taken from his book First Things First and help us understand how to prioritize how we spend our time.  There are four quadrants of activities that you can take part in. Quadrant 1 contains things that are both urgent and important.  These are crises that must be seen to immediately.  Urgent, but not important tasks occupy Quadrant 3.  Your ringing phone and the ding of your email are in this quadrant.  They seem urgent because they are flashing or ringing, but they are likely not important. (This is why I am thankful for caller ID and the unsubscribe link at the bottom of emails.)  The fourth quadrant is things that are not important and not urgent.  This quadrant is home to checking Facebook, playing video games, and many other tasks that are ultimately time wasting.

You will notice that I skipped Quadrant 2.  Tasks that are important, but not urgent belong in this second quadrant.  These things are important to do, but they are not yet crises.  You should spend the most time doing things that fall into this category.  You work on your ultimate priorities in this quadrant.  You have date night, read your Bible, plan ahead, and spend time with your kids.  It is this last task that I want to focus on in this post. Continue Reading…

BibleMany times when Christian parents think about teaching the Bible to their children, their thoughts automatically turn to family worship.  While family devotions are a great tool, we have to remember that most of the teaching that we do with our children does not happen in that type of environment.  Most of it happens in little everyday situations.  What we will discover though, is that if we teach the Bible to our children in these “little” moments, a lifetime of learning and character formation will happen.

The Bible itself addresses this.  Moses addresses the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 as they get ready to take cross into the promised land.  He reminds them that the Lord alone is their God and that they should love him with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Then he tells them that the Lord’s commandments should be on their hearts and that they should teach them to their children.  He uses several couplets to show that this is to be done in all of life.  They should be teaching when they are in their home or walking by the way and when they are lying down or rising up.  The point is clear.  No matter what they are doing they are teaching their children, and God’s word should be on their hearts so that it comes out of their mouths when the opportunity for instruction presents itself.

There are several distinct types of opportunities that present themselves and we should be quick to use Scripture to instruct our children in each of these situations.

Use the Bible to Instruct Your Children
This is a catch all category and simply covers the fact that we should constantly look for teachable moments to share the words of God with our children.  This can happen by looking at a sunset and explaining creation or while performing an act of kindness for a neighbor and talking about why we do this.  Answer their questions (I know there are a lot of them) and look for opportunities to talk to them about spiritual things through their ordinary questions.
Continue Reading…

photoFor the last several years, our devotional times with our kids has centered on the grand narrative of Scripture.  We primarily used The Big Picture Story Bible and Jesus Storybook Bible for this.  In the last few weeks, we have started working through the Proverbs with our children.  Our oldest two are now seven and five, so we recognized their need for wisdom.  As we have been reading through Proverbs and talking with them, I have seen several practical benefits of teaching the Proverbs to our girls.

It teaches them that they need wisdom they do not naturally possess.
King Solomon wrote Proverbs so that his son might learn to be wise.  In the first chapter he says the reader will gain knowledge, insight, and discretion.  The result is that that he will live his life with righteousness, justice, and equity.  While promising this wisdom, he reveals the audience that he is aiming for.  Solomon tells us that the simple will learn prudence and the youth will learn knowledge.  He further states that the one who is wise will listen.

The introduction suggests that children do not possess the wisdom that is needed for a fruitful, godly, and joyous life.  In fact, this only confirms what people see in reality.  When Solomon says that “folly is bound up in the heart of a child,” we know that he is right.  We readily see that our kids are made in God’s image, but we also see the reality of sin and folly in their lives.  Proverbs speaks to them as made in God’s image, but desperately foolish.  Reading through Proverbs and seeing the instruction in this book will help them to see their folly and will open in them an awareness of their foolishness.

It teaches them that the Bible speaks into real life situations.
Last night our devotion centered on the words “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”  This gave me the opportunity to talk to my daughters about the words that they use.  We were able to use real life illustrations of how words can hurt and how words can build up.  They interacted with me and talked about how words have hurt them and how words have helped them.  They could see the reality of this text and it addressed them where they are.

The Apostle Paul teaches in 2 Timothy that all Scripture is inspired by God and that it is all useful for life and godliness.  Proverbs helps children begin to understand this in a real way.  It talks about anger, words, and money.  It teaches the value of hard work and the folly of laziness.  It teaches about the heart as the fountain of their character and guides them in understanding why they do what they do.

It teaches them that they need the Gospel.
Working through the book of Proverbs will reveal the sin and foolishness that is in the hearts of their children.  As you read about how words can destroy, they will be reminded of times that they used their words to hurt people.  They will have the times that they have lied held up in front of them.  Their inherent greed will be exposed.

If we are not careful, Proverbs can turn into “be a better person so that you can have a better life.”  If we keep Proverbs emphasis on the heart in the forefront, Proverbs provides a great opportunity to expose our children to the Gospel.  We can show them that Jesus is the wisdom of God.  We get to tell them that Jesus gave his life for all of our sin and folly, and that there is forgiveness offered to us all through faith in him.

Some Practical Suggestions:
When you have small children, reading through an entire chapter of Proverbs with them is difficult.  Because their is not a logical flow or narrative progress, they start getting confused.  We have found it to be more beneficial to work with only a few verses at a time.  Then we go through the verses and ask the kids what they think that they mean.  When we are met with the inevitable blank stares, we try to work through individual words and help them figure out what the verse is talking about.  This easily transitions into practical ways to help them understand the message of the verse and how it impacts their own heart and life.

Related posts:
How to Do Family Devotion