In the communal ecclesia/community of being, we discover how to pour ourselves out for the persons (and needs) of our community as other members learn to do the same. This is not optional but necessary and desirable under the Lordship of Jesus and the formation of the Spirit. Admittedly, this is not always the most attractive or convenient practice at first. This is why church planting necessitates a beginning with disciples and discipleship.Read More
Our family just got back from vacation. Family vacation these days means a cross-country trip to grandma’s house in Kansas. But don’t take this as a complaint. We had a phenomenal time with friends and family. Fishing, swimming, four-wheeling, boating and tubing, bocce ball, and Silver Dollar City with people we love beats private vacations and surreal views any day in my books. During the trip we were able to visit some old friends, and it just so happened the night we visited they hosting our old church for a cookout and party. On our way to the party we drove by the church building we used to attend, so Robin pointed it out to the kids. Her exact words were, “Hey kids, there is the church building mommy and daddy first attended together.” Safari, who loves looking at our old photos and wedding album, asked if the girl with the orange hair and other little boy go there. We both got a chuckle and said yes.
The girl with orange hair and the little boy were two of the first people we saw at the party, and neither is little anymore. They have both grown up! Lydia is a beautiful seventeen-year-old, and John is a twenty-three-year-old world adventurer now.
The party was in a field down by the pond. As we were walking down you could hear lots of commotion but you could not see anyone. You could hear the kids screaming and yelling, expressing their joy and excitement of swimming and kayaking around the pond. You could also hear the adults laughing and enjoying one another’s stories. A real sense of excitement welled up within me from the energy of the crowd, as we approached. When we turned the corner around the trees and could see everyone, my daughter Safari asked, “Daddy is this the church?”
She had seen the building and now she has seen the church!
[Jesus] saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. - Mark 1:20 In the coming days I will begin to break down some of our more interesting parenting practices, but before we can do that we need to clarify the purpose for our children's lives and our lives. In this sense, Robin and I start with the end in mind. At least the end of our hands-on parenting time goes. One day Jesus will request our children's service. They will be asked to leave us in order to follow Him. I am not talking about saying a prayer, taking a public bath and living a moral life. I am talking about going to a place or to a people they would not have considered beforehand. I am talking about living a life of mission according to Scripture. Whether that is in Africa, the projects or the suburbs is up to Him and Him alone. But contrary to popular opinion, God is not concerned as much with their comfort and safety and He is with the worlds pains and sufferings.
Giving Our Children the American Dream? If Robin and I spend our entire parenting life ensuring our children's absolute safety, making sure they have the best of the best of everything, and serving their every whimsical need up to the point Jesus calls them; then how can we expect them to step into the dangerous Kingdom of serving Jesus in the future? The Kingdom of Jesus asks them to give up everything they have and lose themselves and forget their needs for the sake of everyone else? This is why the American Dream and the consumerism that supports it is an absolute curse to the gospel and Kingdom of Jesus Christ. If you don't start from the beginning when do you start?
Alan Hirsch has put it best,
“[W]e have sought to domesticate Jesus and make Him a much more manageable lowercase “l” lord that comfortably legitimates our lifestyles. Let’s be honest: for most Christians, Jesus has come to look and behave like a nice, regular, high-conformity, somewhat-morally upright/uptight churchgoer.”
Erwin McManus observes of Christian parents,
“I’ve seen far too many kids raised in Christian homes who are indifferent towards Jesus and often carry a great disdain for the church. Sometimes it’s the result of blatant hypocrisy, but other times it’s the result of nothing less than sheer monotony and boredom. We raise our children in the cocoon of a domesticated faith and wonder why they run as far as they can to find adventure.”
Our prayer is that our children run as far into the arms of Jesus Christ that they find themselves stuck in the midst of an amazing adventure that is filled with love resulting in risk and self-sacrifice. Our hope is that our children will not be afraid to take the risk in favor of safety, and that they won't seek some stupid form of adventure because they were never given an opportunity to do something dangerous at home.
Isn't this for later stages of life? Rather than conforming Jesus into our image and allowing that Jesus to justify our way of living, which includes the way we raise our children, Robin and I have said we will live according to the Way of Jesus and begin conforming our children to this Way from the beginning. We have chosen to start with the end of our hands-on parenting life in mind. I will break down what this means in the blogs to come. As I have said many times already, infants and babies are sponges. I believe they are some fo the most intelligent life forms in the universe. Why is it easier for a child to learn a new language than it is for an adult to do so? Infants and small children are picking up things and forming the personality traits that will impact their future development.
Today I will leave you with this difficult message from Jesus,
"Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one's own self!—can't be my disciple. Anyone who won't shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can't be my disciple." - Luke 14:25-27 (The Message)
"This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased." - Matthew 3:17 I cannot express how much I love parenting. My hope is that it is not too difficult to notice this. In truth, I was and still am a pretty messed up character who only has bit of worth, which comes from the grace and mercy of my Heavenly Father. One of the reasons I enjoy parenting so much is that in many ways it highlights who I am as a person. Like I stated in the intro to this series, I believe the parenting is second only to marriage in God's tools of discipleship.
Identity Parenting starts with me, the parent. One of the greatest fruits that comes from God's parenting form of discipleship is humility. Humility is not necessary holistic. Just because your a humble in your profession does not mean you will automatically be a humble parent, and vice versa. At the center of humility is a persons well-placed identity. When we discover our identity, we discover where we receive our self-worth or what makes us feel valuable or worthy. When self-worth is coming from a healthy place, more than likely we will find humility.
My Son, whom I love; with who I am well-pleased From Matthew 3:17 we find two paramount truths for the sake of parenting. Jesus' Father, our Heavenly Father, solidifies who Jesus is and the worth He has. Think about it. Jesus had a mission to proclaim and reveal the Way of the Kingdom and save the world from the death sin held over all creation. Talk about a big task. From the very beginning, before Jesus had done anything, God His Father proclaimed Jesus was His Son and that He was pleased with Him. Jesus had done nothing to earn this worth, He was simply given it. This freed Jesus from attempting to earn His Father's favor. So when Jesus faced what could have been viewed as failure in the eyes of the disciples, Jesus remained calm and steadfast.
This can be seen in John 6:60-70. Jesus had just explained the importance He would play going forward and many of his followers did not like it. In fact most of them were grumbling and eventually left. Why didn't this cause Jesus to doubt himself? How was He able to keep confidence and face those that remained? If the abandonment of so many people had, even in the slightest, caused Jesus lose faith, His disciples would have surely sensed it. Instead of questioning His leadership, they responded by saying where else can we go? They KNEW Jesus held the words to life.
Unwavered Why did Jesus' faith not wavier? He did not wavier because His identity or self-worth did not come from the people who did or did not follow Him, but from His Father. Same can be said for when He wowed the crowds with amazing miracles or with his authoritative and wise words. Earlier in the chapter of John (6:15), Jesus had sensed they were going to force Him into being King but He retreated and gave the message that made so many upset. Neither pride nor self-doubt had no foothold on Jesus because the only thing that gave worth to Jesus was His Father's view of Him.
Oncoming Disaster? This alone is a great lesson for parents to understand but not the point I want to focus on today. Today I want you to put yourself in the place of Jesus. Those who choose to live in Christ covenant themselves in the same manner with the Father. This means your Heavenly Father is still pleased with you regardless of how successful or unsuccessful of a parent you are (yes, this is assuming you are not beating, cussing out, or flat out ignoring your child). This is HUGE for a parent because TOO MANY parents place their self-worth or value in the performance of themselves and their child. Most parents want to be good parents, but this is particularly difficult for parents who feel their self-worth or reputation is impacted by their parenting skills. If I feel my child's behavior is an indicator of how good I am, the oncoming wreck can be disastrous.
A crying baby is no longer just a crying baby when we are receiving worth or value from the performance of our child. It is now personal because it is taking something from me (or adding something to me: pride). This is NOT GOOD. In fact, this is a HUGE cancer to raising a child. This puts a lot of stress on your child. Children, especially infants, are sponges to stress, tension and frustrations.
The is the reason I get so frustrated with the person saying a child is good birth control. It is hard enough for a parent to let go of self-image issues in regards to parenting without the added pressure of outsiders. As a parent you HAVE TO come to the understanding that your child's behavior is not (necessarily) an indication of your parenting skills, and regardless it does not give or take away from who you are as a person. You ARE the [son or daughter] of the Father, whom He loves; who is well-pleased with you. How do I know this? Because He created you and HE DOES NOT make mistakes.
Think of it this way... It is not an indication of who God is or how good He is when WE mess up or misbehave, and neither is it an indication of who we are or how good we are when our child cries or misbehaves. God does not hide us away form the universe because we misbehave and He is not embarrassed by our flaws, and neither should we hide away or be embarrassed by our children. He is a proud Father who is lovingly seeking to make us Holy, but our Holiness does not predicate His. As parents we are lovingly seeking to make our children good, but their goodness does not determine ours.
Functioning from Identity A What typically gets us in trouble is we are parenting for our identity (self-worth/self-image/self-value) rather than from our identity. I have attempted to show that when we are worried about what our child's performance (cries, does not cry/behaves well, does not behave well) says about us, we are no longer just parenting. We are protecting and/or defending our "self" (identity). Here is an image to help us see the flow of how we should operate:
Here the Father gives us our identity as his sons and daughters with whom He loves and is well-pleased before we ever consider parenting. Now out of the identity, as his sons and daughters, we become obedient to parenting as He parents. Our worth has already been solidified and now our success in this view is base only on being obedience to parenting how he parents. When we are parenting from our identity as children of the Heavenly Father, we are then obedient to parenting our children as the Father parents His. When we are parenting from our identity as a child in whom God loves and is well-pleased, we are freed to be confident that regardless of whether our child cries or does not cry we are still good parents. Just as our response to Him is not an indication of who He is, neither is our child's response to us an indication of who we are.
Conclusion I remember telling Robin that I was not going to be concerned with how other people viewed our parenting skills. We had and continue to have a mission/purpose in our parenting (I will speak later in the series) and that is what matters to us. For whatever reason I have never been concerned with a crying baby, whether in public or in private. What I am concerned with is fulfilling our mission. I believe this has unintentionally (or accidentally) created a calm and relaxed environment for our children. Babies, especially infants, are sponges to stress, tension and frustration. The more on edge you are, the more on edge they will be. They TRULY will imitate your posture.
Remember your responsibility is not to raise good kids but to parent in the manner in which your Father parents his. Your worth as a parent does not come from your child's behavior but by your obedience to parenting your child the way the Father parents his. God gave both you and your child free will. You can only control how you respond to a situation. In a difficult time, remember you are the Father's child, whom He loves; with whom is well-pleased. For those who struggle with what others think or with comparing yourself to others, focusing on better parenting skills may only make the situation more difficult. Instead, ask your Father in Heaven for grace to parent like He does. Also, continuously let yourself be remind that your self-worth,value and image comes from Him, and not from yourself or others. If this is a personal issue (consciously or subconsciously) you can be sure God is at work using the parental tool of discipleship :).
I constantly hear church planters tell me they're tired, stressed out, and frustrated. This is a discipleship issue. Church planters may be overloading the cart and inadvertently taking the feet of discipleship out from underneath it. When all these other things must be done, there is not time left for discipleship.Read More