Parents & Kids of Faith

  • Thursday, December 1, 2011

  • The Gospel Alphabet by Timothy Keller

    E is for Evangelism
    The Gospel is food for believers. But it is also the only saving medicine for those who have not yet believed. And we are compelled by the love of Christ to declare this Good News to all people. St. Francis of Assissi told his friars not to preach unless they had permission to do so. But, he added, “Let all the brothers, however, preach by their deeds.” Francis’s words have often been paraphrased along these lines: “Preach the Gospel always; use words when necessary.” The fact is that words are necessary, every time. We are always witnesses to the Gospel (Acts 1:8) and, as witnesses, we shall be called upon to testify. When we are, we must be sure to get the message of the Gospel right for there are many counterfeit “Gospels” in the world.


    Buying gifts for men is not nearly as complicated as it is for women. Follow these rules and you should have no problems.

    Rule #1:
    When in doubt - buy him a cordless drill. It does not matter if he already has one. I own 17 and have yet to complain. As a man, you can never have too many cordless drills. No one knows why.

    Rule #2:
    If you cannot afford a cordless drill, buy him anything with the word ratchet or socket in it. Men love saying those two words. "Hey George, can I borrow your ratchet?" "OK. By-the way, are you through with my 3/8-inch socket yet?" Again, no one knows why.

    Rule #3:
    If you are really broke, buy him anything for his car, a 99 cent ice scraper, a small bottle of de-icer or something to hang from his rear view mirror. Men love gifts for their cars. No one knows why.

    Rule #4:
    Never buy men bathrobes. Once I was told that if God had wanted men to wear bathrobes, he wouldn't have invented Jockey shorts.

    Rule #5:
    You can buy men new remote controls to replace the ones they have worn out. If you have a lot of money buy your man a big-screen TV with the little picture in the corner. Watch him go wild as he flips, and flips, and flips.

    Rule #6:
    Do not buy any man industrial-sized canisters of after-shave or deodorant. I'm told men do not stink - they are earthy.

    Rule #7:
    Buy men label makers. Almost as good as cordless drills. Within a couple of weeks there will be labels absolutely everywhere. "Socks. Shorts. Cups. Saucers. Door. Lock. Sink."
    You get the idea. No one knows why.

    Rule #8:
    Never buy a man anything that says "some assembly required" on the box. It will ruin his Christmas and he will always have parts left over. No one knows why.

    Rule #9:
    Good places to shop for men include Tractor Supply Center, Menards, Home Depot, John Deere, Lowes, and Walker Tire. (NAPA Auto Parts and Sears Clearance Centers are also excellent men's stores.) It doesn't matter if he doesn't know what it is. ("From NAPA Auto, eh? Must be something I need. Hey! Isn't this a starter for a '68 Ford Fairlane? Wow! thanks.")

    Rule #10:
    Men enjoy danger. That's why they never cook - but they will barbecue. (No one knows why.) Get him a monster barbecue with a 100-pound propane tank. Tell him the gas line leaks. "Oh the thrill! The challenge! Who wants a hamburger?"

    Rule #11:
    Tickets to a Cornhusker game are a smart gift. However, he will not appreciate tickets to "A Retrospective of 19th Century Quilts." Everyone knows why.

    Rule #12:
    Men love chain saws. Never, ever, buy a man you love a chain saw. If you don't know why please refer to Rule #7 and what happens when he gets a label maker.

    Rule #13:
    It's hard to beat a really good wheelbarrow or an aluminum extension ladder. Never buy a real man a stepladder. It must be an extension ladder. No one knows why.

    Rule #14:
    Rope. Men love rope. It takes us back to our cowboy origins, or at least The Boy Scouts. Nothing says love like a hundred feet of 3/8" manila rope. No one knows why.

    by Matt Lauterbach, Sovereign Grace Ministries, San Diego

    I would like to sug­gest that the doc­trine of the image of God is neglected in books on par­ent­ing. I can­not remem­ber any empha­sis given to it in my thirty years as a pas­tor. Yet it shapes every­thing I see and do as a parent.

    The Bible is not a list of things to do. It is a way of see­ing. When I get inside the Bible and it gets inside me, it is a way of see­ing life.

    When I pick up my Bible I am given a lens through which to view life. It is a lens col­ored by major themes: God the Cre­ator, Man the image of God, Sin that cor­rupts the image, and Christ who redeems and ulti­mately restores man to his cre­ated glory. This is the sto­ry­line of the Bible: Cre­ation. Fall, Redemp­tion, and Glo­ri­fi­ca­tion. Through that lens I view all of life, includ­ing parenting.

    Par­ents, includ­ing myself, tend to miss part of the lens. We lean toward cer­tain per­spec­tives. We often view all prob­lems with our kids in light of sin. We are tempted to miss redemp­tion, and to view all solu­tions to sin in terms of moral­ity and moral pres­sure (as in, “How many times do I have to tell you to clean up your room?”).

    We may also see our believ­ing chil­dren with inap­pro­pri­ate expec­ta­tions. We want glo­ri­fi­ca­tion NOW!

    My friend Elyse Fitz­patrick, with her daugh­ter Jes­sica, has writ­ten an excep­tional book on bring­ing the Gospel to our kids. It’s called,“Give Them Grace.” They will help you see your kids in light of redemp­tion in what is one of the clear­est treat­ment of this sub­ject I have seen.

    But the Gospel is rooted in cre­ation. And I think we tend to miss the view of our kids as image bear­ers. And that is not a minor matter.

    They are image bear­ers. They are crea­tures, made by God and for God. They are given glory and honor by God. They have inher­ent value, of greater worth than ani­mals. How we treat the image of God is how we treat God. The dig­nity of humans is built into the Law and the Prophets and the Gospel. And we must see our chil­dren as image bearers.

    Let me sug­gest a few things we see when we see them as image bearers.

    First, we see them as utter equals in cre­ation and redemp­tion. I may be Dad and a par­ent and have a respon­si­bil­ity to raise them in the nur­ture of the Lord, but that child is my equal in dig­nity. They are, in cre­ation, crowned with glory and honor (Psalm 8).

    Sin makes us despise peo­ple, espe­cially peo­ple beneath us in power. Reli­gion forms crazy rules that excuse cru­elty or apa­thy to needs. Jesus faced this each time he healed on the Sabbath.

    Par­ents can be bul­lies by treat­ing their chil­dren with dis­honor. That is sin. The way we treat the image of God is how we treat God.

    This means that any act of par­ent­ing which demeans, dis­hon­ors, shames, or humil­i­ates my child is an assault upon the image of God. There­fore it is an assault upon God. (I would apply the same rig­or­ous test to all exer­cise of author­ity, by the way). I won­der if we, as par­ents, are tempted to use humil­i­a­tion as a pow­er­ful tool to moti­vate our kids? I won­der if we treat our kids as less than us?

    Along­side of this is the evil of the old adage, “Chil­dren are to be seen and not heard.” While that may sound like the height or order in the home, it can be applied in a way that despises the child and marginalizes them until they have some­thing adult-like to offer.

    Sec­ond, it means my child is an indi­vid­ual and has the right to some mea­sure of indi­vid­u­al­ity. Part of being in the image of God is sim­ply: We are indi­vid­u­als well. Chil­dren are not an exten­sion of me. They have likes and dis­likes that are dis­tinct to them. Par­ents are to cul­ti­vate the child as an indi­vid­ual. I do not mean in the silly self-esteem kind of way, but in a respect for the designs of God in their per­son­al­ity and gifts and pref­er­ences. I have to rec­og­nize that when my child is some­day glo­ri­fied in Christ, they will be a dis­tinct indi­vid­ual, and not just like me.

    My wife has been the one to help us see this. Many years ago, after a “din­ner time bat­tle” (over one of our chil­dren not fin­ish­ing their food because they did not like it, and my insist­ing they do so or be dis­ci­plined) my wife inquired, “I was won­der­ing if there are foods you do not like?” I assured her there were and she knew what those were. She then asked, “Do you sup­pose that our kids being indi­vid­u­als and image bear­ers have a right to say they do not like cer­tain foods?” Ouch!

    She was right. I treated them as exten­sions of me. I was telling them they had to like and dis­like. They are not exten­sions of me, but image bear­ers, individuals.

    Oh, I know all about the starv­ing chil­dren in Africa argu­ment for why our kids should fin­ish their din­ner — but that is another exam­ple of mak­ing every­thing into a moral issue, of oppres­sion by abuse of power. It cre­ates a moral issue where there is none. Is there a com­mand in the Bible for peo­ple to eat every­thing on their plate?

    The fruit of that dis­cus­sion was sim­ple: we estab­lished a pol­icy in our home that we could each have a short list of foods we did not have to eat. My wife cooked around those pref­er­ences. One of our kids wanted to change their list every day, but that seemed a lit­tle over the top!

    Third, they should be given room for self-determination, and increas­ing room for this as they mature. The goal of par­ent­ing is a mature adult, with the abil­ity to make wise deci­sions in the adult world. Par­ents, tempted by fear, over-control their kids. We make all their choices for them. We refuse to let them test and learn the path of wis­dom by mis­takes. We are afraid of mis­takes. When they move toward adult­hood, we inter­pret their desire for self-determination in anything as rebel­lion. I am not so sure.

    For us, we sought (unsuc­cess­fully some of the time) to allow them every occa­sion pos­si­ble to make up their own minds and choices. This was fenced by bib­li­cal holi­ness and wis­dom. But really, it was not all that hard. If we went out to din­ner, they could order what they wanted. That was not so easy given our com­mit­ment to healthy eat­ing. They could dec­o­rate their room as they wanted, they could buy the clothes they wanted, and they learned to man­age their own bud­get for clothes and snacks when they were able to — even if they made bad choices. Of course, there were bud­get guide­lines (no, you can­not build an addi­tion on the home for your room) and moral guide­lines (no, that piece of cloth­ing with those words on it are not pleas­ing to God). But we cul­ti­vated them as image bearers.

    More sub­tle than this was appre­ci­at­ing their indi­vid­u­al­ity. There was a dis­tinct temp­ta­tion as par­ents to shape their per­son­al­ity. We tried to make the intro­vert more extro­verted. We tried to make the eas­ily excited child into a zen bud­dhist with supe­rior self-control. Granted there are mat­ters of sin and sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion in all areas, we appre­ci­at­ing their indi­vid­u­al­ity was hon­or­ing the image of God, and remains so to this day when they are all adults.

    Obvi­ously there are areas where a child can­not be self-determined. Fam­i­lies must be led from bib­li­cal prin­ci­ple. Prin­ci­ple lim­its the “self-determination” of all. There may be rules as to fam­ily meals, church par­tic­i­pa­tion — rules that every­one lives with because we are not just a col­lec­tion of indi­vid­u­als under the same roof, but we are a family.

    But I would guess that, if peo­ple are like us, the accent for many Chris­t­ian par­ents is on unnec­es­sar­ily restrict­ing self-determination. Per­haps this is a reac­tion to the lack of order and prin­ci­ple we see around us.

    There are other implications.

    Last of all, it also helps me see what I am up against: sin. There are times when I saw the image of God clearly in my kids and praised the God of wis­dom who made us that way. Really, think of watch­ing your child learn a lan­guage. It is a won­der. Think of how they respond to music. It is a reflec­tion of God’s glory.

    But sin is present. My child in sin is a dis­torted ver­sion of what they would be apart from sin. As a par­ent we can see the gifts God has given our kids. We envi­sion what those gifts will look like when they flour­ish. But we also see the power of sin in their lives. We see the dis­tort­ing and cor­rupt­ing influ­ences of sin. The tragedy of sin is on dis­play before our eyes (and also before their eyes in us).

    My only hope is for a power great enough to break the rule of sin. That power is in Christ alone. The law will not change their hearts. I can­not lec­ture them out of their self­ish­ness or humil­i­ate them out of rebel­lion. I can­not dis­ci­pline them out of them either. The tough and deep root of sin is only extracted by the blood of Christ applied by the Spirit of God. And that appli­ca­tion hap­pens when I tell them of the grace of God won for them at the cross.

    Christ died to restore us to being full rep­re­sen­ta­tions of God’s char­ac­ter. That is what we were made for. That is my real power for par­ent­ing. In Christ the image will begin to be restored in this life and glo­ri­fied in the age to come.

    But mean­while, look at your chil­dren as image bear­ers of God. Treat them as your equals. Treat them as individuals.


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