Responsible Parenting

Parenting is simultaneously a joyful and overwhelming task. The responsible parent will regularly feel a sense of contentment and the fear of inadequacy. One question at the root of many of our thoughts is, “how do you know if you are parenting well?”

There are many principles and applications to consider as we think through a good answer to this question, but I’d like to keep things simple and basic in this post. One Bible passage that speaks directly to children and parents is Ephesians 6:1–4. Let’s read it here, and then let’s note a couple of things.

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.’ Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

This passage emphasizes at least a couple of things.

One “the Lord” is the foundation of parental authority, and this is closely tied to the reality that children are indeed a blessing from God (Ps. 127:3). We all want to praise and thank God for His good gift of children and the opportunity He has given us to parent them. Also, remembering that parental authority comes from God will help us make good use of our fatherly or motherly authority without being too soft or too hard.

The second thing we can notice in the passage is that parental authority comes with a divine command and responsibility. Especially addressing fathers, the Scripture clearly places the responsibility to discipline children (that is to teach and to train them) according to the instruction of the Lord. God gives fathers and mothers the authority to teach and train their children, and He gives them the responsibility to do so as well.

What a sobering and humbling thought!

God has entrusted these little ones to the care of their father and mother. Moms, God has given you an allotted time to cherish and nourish the tiny one you hold (who may or may not be so tiny anymore). Dads, God has given you an allotted time to cultivate and develop the child He has placed in your care.

May God help us all, as God’s stewards, to love and lead our children well.

Fatherly Love

Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of His inheritance? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in steadfast love” (Micah 7:18).

Fathers and mothers are distinct from one another, and differences regularly become clear in the discipline of children. A mother will often operate with flexibility in her expectations, but a father will usually demand immediate compliance. A mother may go until her emotional stamina can handle no more, but a father can regularly distribute discipline without much emotion at all.

Both fathers and mothers exemplify greater realities, reflecting characteristics of God Himself (even if imperfectly and sometimes abhorrently). God is like a cosmic parent, and all humans are like His children. Just as children with an earthly father, disobedient and defiant people are liable to God’s anger and wrath. What a heavy thought to consider… Your heavenly Father sees every disobedient thought, word, and deed!

Ah, but the beautiful and profound message of the Gospel is that God does not retain His anger forever. In fact, He delights in steadfast love! Through and because of Jesus Christ, God loves disobedient children. While disobedience requires punishment, God has fixed His wrath-filled gaze upon Christ in the place of those who trust in Him!

The great news is this: God is not a vindictive judge; He is a gracious Father who delights in steadfast love. He pardons sins and forgives disobedience, and He gladly gives a divine inheritance to all those in Christ.

Goodbye Buddy…

This morning, likely for the last time, I prayed with a six-year-old boy who became my son… at least for a while. My mind is searching for terms and concepts at the moment to accurately convey the relationship and connection, but I am not sure exactly how to describe it. I am not his father; I only met him about a year ago. He is not my son; he sporadically called me “daddy,” and I never once gave him the benefit of the loving physical discipline I give to my other sons.

And yet, he is not just any boy… In a real sense, he is (or at least was) my son.

My wife and I have been foster parents (off and on) for a combined total of about three and a half years. One of our foster boys went back home to his biological mother today, and this is the cause of my introspective post.

In these first moments, after he has gone, I am celebrating the good things we both enjoyed. I enjoyed another playful personality at the dinner table and another eager-but-clumsy body to throw around on the living room floor. Boys are quite simple in their desires and expectations you know. A full belly and some rough-housing will go a very long way.

He enjoyed the imperfect and genuine love of a father. This took the form of quick-witted responses to his naive attempts to assert his dominance. It was expressed in many intervening interrogations when situations demanded them, questioning each boy to learn just how much truth was left untold. It was also demonstrated in regular Bible-reading, interesting stories of past Christians who lived and died for Christ, and gathering nightly for prayer as a family in one room or another.

Oh yes, as I now think of it. This boy is my son. Who else gets such investments from me? There is no other relationship like it… father and son.

We will miss him, and (in his own way) he will miss us too. And yet, we will also treasure him, as we have treasured him thus far. He was a welcome addition to our family while he was near, and he shall not lose his place in our hearts just because he is now far.

As I have prayed so many times before, may God grant him grace and draw him near. May he come to know, to understand, and to believe the Gospel of Christ. Only in a deeper understanding of the Gospel will my son ever know why I willingly became his father, and then let him go.

A Father’s Prayer for Every Day

The Valley of Vision is a collection of old prayers that exemplify intentionality, passion, and a Bible-focus in prayer. The language can seem foreign to modern readers since it resembles a loftier tongue of days gone by. And yet, the content of these prayers is of such high quality that modern Christians will no doubt benefit from such examples.

Here is how I prayed, in my own words, the prayer entitled “The Family” (especially because of Father’s Day)

O Sovereign Lord,

You are Creator and Father of all people. You made all people, and you now sustain them as well.

And yet, You are the special Father of those who know, love and honor You. Your special children find Your yoke to be easy and Your burden light; they feel fulfillment in Your good work and glorious joy in Your commands.

Oh, how I shutter to think how little Your goodness has affected me!

Even though You have given me such good gifts – Your Word, Your Spirit, and Your Church – I have not given proper time and effort to such things. How negligent I have been in doing good to others, and how foolish I have been with my resources.

Here I am before You in my sins and my disobedience. Oh God, have mercy on me, and may Your goodness and patience bring me to repentance and renewed fervor.

Help me to hate and forsake every false way. Help me to be alert, making an honest assessment of my condition and my character.

Help me control my tongue, and make my heart burn with diligent desire for godly things. Help me watch and pray against my many temptations, and help me defeat and destroy the sinful desires remaining in me.

Pierce my heart through with sorrow and concern for the salvation of others, and make me especially aware of the souls of my family.

Oh God, I cannot stand the thought of the eternal destruction of those I love. May those who are precious to me be all the more precious to You! May they be devoted to Your glorious grace and not Your righteous justice.

Lord, please make my devotions among my family effective and holy. Make my instruction, my discipline, and my example to permeate my house, so that it becomes a nursery for heaven and like the garden of the Lord.

Enrich the little lives for which You have made me overseer, and cause these little trees to grow in fruitful righteousness for Your glory.

Lord, please make those of my household fit for heaven, and not merely suitable citizens of this world.

Oh God, grant that the experiences of grace, the exposure to Your Word, the examples of godliness, and these prayerful requests be effective means in saving those I love from their due punishment.

I rest finally and ultimately in Your goodness and Your grace. May You bring all things to their appointed ends for Your glory and our good.