This past Sunday I preached a message on parenting, from our current series called “Home Life”. We have been looking at how the gospel transforms and informs all of our relationships. Beginning with our heart relationships with God, grace impacts how we live at home with others as singles, marrieds and parents.
As I told our church, talking about parenting is one of the topics I can find most difficult. Not because I don’t know what the bible says, but because it’s here I feel my own struggles as a Father. I have been blessed with four incredible children. I want to steward this grace and I feel the weight of doing it well.
God has a grand purpose for parents. We are to teach our children who God is and what he has done, who they are as his creation and who they can be in Christ. We are to train our kids to walk in the Lords ways, to love him most and honor him with obedience for his glory and their good. That’s a lot of pressure.
Fortunately our Father in Heaven has not left us alone in it. We have his presence and his power and so press on. We also incredibly have the gospel and his grace even when we fail and fall short, and this guards us from despair and guides us into hope. My children need the cross of Christ, and so do I. Gods plan is that we would approach his throne together.
The following is a list of principles I gave for parenting with the gospel in mind. They are truths I’ve gleaned from scripture, tried through the enabling of the Spirit to apply in our own home, and hope you find them helpful as well.
PRINCIPLES FOR PARENTING
Fill your home with Truth
Let Scripture lead the way. Teach them what the Lord has said and help kids to see as he sees. Illuminate their world with Gods Word. Speak His truth and teach them to be truthful. An honest home is a unified home. I teach my kids that lies divide. It’s always been The Liars way to separate us from God and one another. Model speaking the truth in love and make your home a safe place to always speak the truth; good and bad.
Flood your home with Grace
A safe home is a grace filled home. We all want good kids, but goodness is not the goal; it’s godliness. As the kindness of the Lord leads to repentance and joy, so parental grace can invite our children into greater freedom and satisfaction in Christ. Give them truth. Hold them to Obedience. Lavish them with grace. To the extent I understand my Father does not condemn me, I begin to learn to bless my kids with grace. They will screw up and so will I, we all need the gospel; lets express it, that we might experience it together.
Fill your children with Love
Children need our affection. They need encouragement. They need to be loved for who they are, as the person God has created them to be in him. Help them to cultivate an identity in Christ. Know them as individuals. Celebrate them for their individuality. They are fearfully and wonderfully made. They need your approval and your applause, as we learn to appreciate our Heavenly Fathers. Give them unconditional, unabashed uncompromising love.
Give your children Presence
I love to give gifts. It’s one of my love languages for sure, but the gift our children want most, however they might interpret it, is to have us present with them. Be attentive to them and listen well. Learn who they are and what makes them tick. Turn from all that vies for your consideration and look deep into their eyes when they come to you. Let them know they matter more than any screen. Be there for them in the little things, not simply the big events. Give them quantity and quality. Be present in body and soul.
This is hard for anyone. Friends, co-workers and marriages all struggle to communicate well. It’s part of being truly present with them. Talk with your kids along the way. Learn to listen to them; not just to their words, but to their hearts. What do they treasure? Hope in? Desire? Teach them and let them teach you. Tell stories; the great true ones about the mighty acts of God and fantastical magical ones that stir their imaginations. Tell your story, your family’s stories and help them learn to tell their own. Talk about your struggles and encourage them to share theirs. We teach them to apply truth and grace as we help them to understand their stories are part of Gods story for them.
Play, imagine, create and celebrate. Explore together. Rest together. Have fun together. Make lots of memories. Not just when they are young, but all their lives. Budget for it. Save for it. Sometimes spontaneously splurge for it. Be generous with your money and your willingness to have fun. Good homes have chuckling children and gospel parents know how to laugh too.
Let us teach our children that they are not the center of the world. We are made by him and for him. We are invited into something bigger that ourselves. Do our kids see the Kingdom prioritized in our own lives? Are you excited about the things of God? Do they know, in Christ, they have two families; theirs and his church? Help them learn to be generous, hospitable, servants of God and man. Bring them into the ministry and mission of God as you engage in it yourself.
In the end, our children belong to God. He alone can save them and keep them. As parents let us plead for our children before God. Pray over them and with them often. Teach them to take all their cares to him because he cares for them. Pray for them as they sleep. Get on your knees for them in the night. Lift them up during the day. Bring their specific concerns and struggles to him. Ask the Lord to keep them from sin and evil. Beg for his saving grace and his gift of faith and beseech your Father to be theirs. The more I pray for my kids, the more I trust him with them. If there is peace to be found in parenting, if there is hope for their salvation and if there is joy for them in this life and the next it will come from him and it’s sought through prayer.
I pray the Lord be your strength and hope in parenting. Remember, his plan is to give them and you, more of himself along the way.
*Listen to the message “Raising Up Children”
Here are a few tremendous resources for parenting:
The Jesus Story Book Bible by Sally-Lloyd Jones
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp
Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick
New City Catechism (App) by Redeemer Presbyterian Church