Family | One of these little ones who believes in me…

daughterAs my wife and I went over Matthew 18 yesterday, the topic of discussion focused on the first portion for quite a while. Today, I thought it might be helpful to share some of our parenting perspectives. Our children are still young, so what I will be discussing today is what we have settled in our hearts based on what we read in Scriptures regarding our children. With the summer drawing to a close and the upcoming holiday season, I think this is a good time to discuss these matters in the open. Let us begin by reviewing the first portion from yesterday’s Gospel Wednesday post.

Matthew 18:1-6 (ESV) | Who Is the Greatest?

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

At the risk of giving away a portion of what we will read through next week, let us look at how the subject of children comes up again in chapter 19.

Matthew 19:13-15 (ESV) | Let the Children Come to Me

13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.

Luke also captures this moment with some slightly more specific language:

Luke 18:15-17 (ESV) | Let the Children Come to Me

15 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these children… even infants. Possibly one of the worst consequences of the man-made doctrine of an “age of accountability” is that we have in many cases checked-out in our responsibility to train up our children in the things of God until they are old enough to be held accountable for their teaching. My wife and I come from very different church backgrounds… and together we have committed ourselves to training up our children in the things of God from infancy through maturity. We will fail, we will sin, and we will repent and turn to a loving, gracious, and merciful God who is faithful and just and who will complete the good work He started in us and in our children.

 

We Will Not Teach Our Children to Doubt Our Witness

This rule began before I had asked my wife to marry me. We were on our second date in December of 2007, and the radio must have played something related to Santa, because I very plainly told my date, “I will not lie to my kids… my kids will not put their faith in Santa”. In fairness, my words were probably more rough… no doubt referring to him as an obese demi-god or giant elf in a clown costume who spies on the kids throughout the year… yeah. It wound up being quite the argument… and a major cause for concern for her sister who took offense to my anti-santa stance well into our first year of marriage. Why the anti-santa stance? Initially, I hated the notion that I had been lied to about Santa, and every adult who contributed to the lie knew they were lying when they lied.

But society doesn’t just lie about Santa… it bears false witness to our children. Adults take children to a drunk in a clown suit, have them write letters, claim to deliver them to Santa, and default to Santa as the judge of the worthiness of child’s behavior throughout the year. Adults secretly shop for gifts, hide them, wrap them up, sometimes even signing them in Santa’s name… place them under the tree, eat the cookies they helped their children make for the Santa they know does not exist. Bearing false witness. At some time, the child either catches the adults in their lie or is so crushed in disappointment because of their unanswered prayer to the false god (Santa), that their parents then have to scramble to rebuild their child’s trust in them. At this point, whatever case the parent wants to build for their motive and intention is null and void. You do not have the ability to see or measure the damage you’ve inflicted on your child’s heart, on her trust, even on her faith. Only God can see that, and He is definitely watching. If only Santa were the only problem… some parents also do this with the tooth fairy… and some churches do it with the Easter bunny.

Why do we do it? Honestly, I struggle to find nice words for why we do this to children. The best I can come up with is that we’ve bought into the worldly notion that we can cultivate “belief” in children so that they don’t lose it like we did. We live in a fallen world with Peter Pan dreams of never growing up. Completely unbiblical. Yet, in our hubris, we think we can give our children magic to believe in to somehow enhance their child-like faith. Rubbish. We cause them to sin.

Exodus 20:3 (ESV) You shall have no other gods before me.

Sure, you think you’ve defined with laser-like precision the distinction between the fat elf who brings gifts and the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and that what your house truly celebrates during Christmas is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. But ask yourself this question honestly… in whom does your little 3yr old place her hope during the Christmas season? What does she most look forward to on Resurrection Sunday, a celebration of our risen Savior or the abominable egg-laying rabbit?

Exodus 20:16 (ESV) You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Not every child figures out the lie at the same stage in life. Do we repent of our misleading and false teaching? No. Sadly we often co-opt the child to continue the lie with their friends and siblings. We warn them not to hurt the feelings of their friends, not to “ruin it” for them. We encourage them to bear false witness concerning santa, the bunny, and the fairy. God forgive us.

You what is really destructive in all of this… we give these little ones far more evidence to believe in the false gods than we can hope to give of the One True God. As parents, we’ve been blessed of God who gives us children… and these little ones are in our charge. How dare we play around with their hearts and urge them to believe in what we know to be false, squandering our testimony by giving a false witness in their formative years… and later urge them to believe in the truth of God’s Word? Should we be so surprised when the public school system so easily causes our children to doubt in the Risen Savior? May God forgive us.

We Speak truth, Repentance, Forgiveness, and Truth

It is not easy to speak truth to our children. Our little ones are naturally curious and ask seemingly never-ending chains of questions. My wife and I have committed ourselves to telling the truth. Not always answering fully… there are many times when we simply have to tell them “we’ll discuss it more when you are older”. But we endeavor to make every answer we give to be one that will not later have to be changed or refuted. We are sinful beings… so when we get it wrong, we model repentance and ask forgiveness. It is a humbling experience to kneel in front of my 5 yr old son to confess that I had been mistaken about the time/date of a party and due to my error, he missed a party. I have to apologize, repent, and ask my boy to forgive me through his fat lower lip and tear-filled eyes. I praise God when my little boy forgives me.

Speaking Truth on a regular basis is surprisingly difficult. The Truths of God’s Word seem far tougher than the precious-moment-Jesus that gets heavily marketed to our children in Christian bookstores and Sunday School. It is surprisingly difficult to resist the urge to affirm a child’s desire to take comfort in the notion of a dead pet going to heaven, or to think that a dead loved-one “looking down on them from heaven”. Even the notion of good and evil is skewed in cartoons and kids-shows… the idea that most people are inherently good is shoved in our children’s faces… but the Truth is that we are sinful and unrighteous and condemned in our unbelief. These are tough topics to discuss with adults who are immature in the Faith, much less little children… but it must be done.

Proverbs 22:6 (ESV) Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

As a father of two, I’ve been given a high calling and responsibility from God to serve as the priest of my household. The only way I can do this is to rely fully on God’s Word and the work of the Holy Spirit to bring the Word to life in the hearts and spirits of my children. I will set the best example I can, but that example must include confession, repentance, and humility… wretch that I am… and I must extend to them the grace, mercy, and compassion I’ve received from my Heavenly Father. I don’t always get feedback or indication of the effectiveness of my teaching efforts… I have to rely on the Holy Spirit to add the increase. I draw great comfort from the Apostle Paul’s writing to Timothy.

2 Timothy 3:10-17 (ESV) | All Scripture Is Breathed Out by God

10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

From childhood. I don’t like to dive into the Greek much since I am not a Greek scholar; however, this word used here for childhood covers life from unborn to infant or young child (brephos).

Conclusion

As parents, we take the warning of Matthew 18:6 very seriously. Our children watch kid shows, and play with toys, use their imaginations, and even make up stories for entertainment. They play make-believe with their sitter and with us and we have a blast. However, what we don’t do is encourage them to place trust or faith in anything we know to be false. We take every effort to strip away anything that might cause their little hearts to faint or their faith to be led astray. There isn’t a day that passes by without us confirming what is real and what is not, whether it be a commercial on TV or something they heard one of their friends or cousins say about ghosts, heaven, the Bible, good, evil, or God. As my kids grow and mature, it becomes more and more clear the significance of assessing the household of a man being considered for deacon or elder in the Church. A man who has demonstrated himself faithful to serve as priest of his home is definitely the kind of man you want in leadership of your local church.

This charge to guard the faith of the children isn’t limited to your own children. Jesus wasn’t talking only about the disciple’s children… we have a responsibility to all of God’s children… even infants.

A word of caution: Don’t attempt to co-opt my children in your false witness. My wife and I do our best to encourage our little ones to extend grace to others who enjoy playing the make-believe game of santa, fairies, and the abominable rabbit… but that’s about it. If it happens in front of me, I will instruct my children clearly… as graciously as I can for your sake, but it will be unambiguous and clear… and it will not likely be politically correct.

Jude 24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

3 Things We Need to Hear

daughterToday, I just want to share something that has been on my heart for about a week now. As a husband of one wife and the father of two little ones, a boy of 5 and a girl of 3, my primary concern is my family and their physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Our children have really begun to express their individuality in many ways, and at times it can be tough to adjust to their changing attitudes, questions, and responses such that they can continue to grow as individuals while remaining submitted to authority. I fail daily. One thing I’ve tried to model for my family is confession and repentance. I try to make it a point to apologize to my wife and kids when I lose my temper or wrongly dismiss them or their concerns. Over the past weekend, I noticed something about my relationships (particularly with my daughter of), about some of the things we need to hear for comfort, for relief, and for rest. This isn’t a scientific study, nor is it going to be anything deeply theological, these are just my observations.

3 Things We Need to Hear

#3 | I love you

Many will argue that this statement is the most important thing we need to hear. I would have argued the same until recently. If you will bear with me a bit, I hope to make the case for the 2 things we need to hear even more than “I love you”; however, those things will be meaningless outside of the context of love. My wife and I make sure to tell each other “I love you”, and we strive to make it known to our children, “I love you… no matter what”. The other day, after having to discipline my daughter for some bad behavior (time out), I went to my daughter to give her a hug and remind her that I loved her. Her response melted me, “I love you, too, daddy… even when you’re mad at me”. We need to hear “I love you” as a reminder, for encouragement, and for comfort. We need to know that we are loved.

John 3:16-18 (ESV) | For God So Loved the World

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Romans 5:6-8 (ESV)

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

#2 | I Forgive You

Once a loving relationship has been established, the most loving thing you can say to someone you love is, “I forgive you”, when they repent. I believe that this is something we’ve lost sight of here in the West, even in the Church. This past weekend was a long weekend, and my wife and I really wanted to spend the time together, so I got a lot of personal time with my kids. Which means that Daddy had to be the disciplinarian for an extra day. On one occasion, my daughter had done something she knew full well she wasn’t supposed to do, and tried to hide it. When I caught the infraction, I expressed my disappointment, issued a reprimand, and charged her not to repeat the infraction. Well, it happened again a few hours later. I was tired, so I just sat on the couch collecting my thoughts. My daughter came to me… slowly… and said, “daddy, I’m sorry for [doing what was wrong]…” and then the bottom lip started to puff out. I responded with, “thank you for apologizing… I love you honey” and I gave her a hug… but her bottom lip was still out, and it started to shake a bit. I was confused. She was still troubled and looked like she was going to start crying… “are you still mad at me?” That’s when it hit me. “Honey… I forgive you, sweetie… I forgive you”. At the sound of those words, my beautiful little daughter relaxed… shoulders dropped, as did the single tear that had welled up in her eye, and she let out a sigh and smiled. And then Daddy got a big sqeezy hug, which he returned with equal enthusiasm. She didn’t doubt my love, not for a second, but she still needed to hear me say, “I forgive you”.

In less dramatic fashion, I was in a meeting yesterday for a charity organization. Several senior officials were there, and one of them jokingly commented on an odd word I had used. I thought nothing of it but later caught myself using a synonym as a replacement for the initial word and jokingly referred back to the senior official. Several hours later, I got a phone call from that individual, and in that conversation he apologized for poking fun at my word choice, given that we were not close friends and it was in a meeting. I did the typical thing of dismissing the apology by asserting “no harm done, I thought it was funny”. He graciously accepted my explanation, but insisted that what he had done was inappropriate despite my claim of “no harm, no foul”. Again, it hit me, I need to plainly, simply, and humbly accept his apology and tell him, “I forgive you”. So I did, and it lightened up the conversation so much. I was then able to encourage him to be comfortable with me in the future and that such comments would be fine… he was now free to accept such encouragement, because the burden of guilt was lifted. Please, don’t dismiss repentance… don’t bat it away… it isn’t always about YOU. Forgive the one who is repenting, for the sake of his/her conscience.

2 Corinthians 2:5-11 (ESV) | Forgive the Sinner

Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

#3 | You Are Forgiven

If the western Church has lost sight of personal forgiveness… I believe it is largely due to having lost sight of the importance of the Gospel being preached to the Believer. Evangelicalism has allowed the Gospel to become “something that the lost need to hear to be saved”, but for some reason those who are saved are expected to just remember what the Gospel is while they get beaten down by principles to living more holy and acceptable lives (the Law) from week to week, month to month, year to year. We need to change the way we do “altar calls” and get back to preaching the Truth of the Gospel with conviction and regularity. To the unbeliever and believer alike, we preach “repent and be forgiven”… but to the believer, we include “You are Forgiven, in Jesus’ Name” by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the Glory of God alone.

2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (ESV)

14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

1 John 1:5-10 (ESV) | Walking in the Light

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Through Christ’s once-and-for-all finished work on the Cross, this forgiveness, reconciliation, and cleansing is not merely a one-time thing for us… but daily occurrence.

Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV)

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.

Amen. It is my sincere prayer that you attend a church that preaches Gospel to believers. We need to hear “you are forgiven” often. We need to hear it, even those who are of the faith.

Conclusion

Let us not grow weary in doing good, love the Lord, love your neighbor, repent and be forgiven. In as much as you have been forgiven, forgive others. Let them hear your forgiveness, even if you don’t yet fully understand the sin.

I pray that my children may grow in the knowledge of Christ, assured of their salvation in Christ Jesus. I pray that my wife might find rest and comfort in the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. And I pray that each time I fail, that I remain humble enough to repent and seek forgiveness, as well as to grant forgiveness to others.

Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV) | Prayer for Spiritual Strength

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Related blogs:

Church History | Gospel for those who have been hurt by the Church

 

Prayer Request

prayerYesterday we received news of a medical emergency in our extended family. We ask for prayer as we seek to provide support and comfort for family. We don’t have a lot of details, so we are asking for peace, boldness, and for wisdom. Once things settle a bit, we will try to get a few bible studies posted; however, I lack the focus right now to proof-read the drafts at this time. Thank you for your understanding and your prayers.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-25 (ESV) 23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. 25 Brothers, pray for us.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge