Seven Ways to Father Well

For the first couple years of being a dad my running mantra to other fathers was: “Here’s what I think…but then again I’ve been a father for about 5 minutes.” My advice, however solid, foolish, or naive, always came with it a disclaimer. I had forever chuckled at parental advice from those without children, and had therefore been reticent, before my own kiddos arrived, to hand out child-training tips. Even with the arrival of Spurgeon (my first born) I was reluctant to advise for a couple of years. However, having consumed a half-dozen books on the topic, perused countless blogs, seen the good and bad of fatherhood from friends and acquaintances, and recently enjoyed my fourth Father’s Day as a pop, I figured I would jot down lessons I am learning in my pursuit of being a strong, godly father. Most of these principles have substantial Biblical backing and in none of these principles have I achieved perfection. I am learning, struggling, and pressing through but I already see a ton of fruit in the lives of my kids through the faithful implementation of these principles.

1 :: Husband Faithfully 

The statistics are alarming. Many men who end up addicted to pornography and with a skewed sense of love are products of affection-less parents. Kids need to see their father spend time with, date, hug, affirm, and prize their mother. This is the best example for them of how men are to treat women, and women men. I will admit, I am far more cerebral than emotional so open affection and flowery romance does not come naturally for me – and I know it doesn’t for many men. But if we desire to father well it all begins with how we love our bride.

2 :: Work Diligently

Laziness seems to be an increasing epidemic in this generation. The pithy mottos of “everyone is a winner” and “you can have anything you want just ‘cause you want it” have come back to bite. Fathers should be teaching their sons – particularly through example – how to work hard. Diligence is almost always rewarded and our kids should see us, particularly at home, laboring feverishly to meet the needs of family and the demands of the home.

3 :: Laugh Frequently

Life is cumbersome with many deadlines, dilemmas, and disappointments. In spite of these things, God gives us ample opportunity to enjoy life and laugh often and we should – with our children – take full advantage. Don’t confuse why you work: work to live, not the other way around. Punch out after putting in a solid day of diligent labor. Come home to actually be with and enjoy your family. Put the phone away, the remote down, and relish the Divine gifts of laughter and amusement. For the past three years Dink and I have encountered heartache and loss, yet we are endeavoring to press through those trials and savor the fleeting moments with our kiddos.

4 :: Discipline Consistently

This is tough. Many parents either allow their kids to run roughshod with little correction (to the bewilderment of those in their church, school, or community) or incarcerate their children in a tiny prison of perfection and robotic behavior. Neither is healthy or right. Consistent discipline, not punishment, is what is best and what is Biblical. Punishment is paying back my kid for bad behavior; discipline is instructing my child toward right behavior. Whatever your form of discipline may be, I would strongly encourage you to be consistent, be calm (don’t get angry or hostile), be informative (let them know why they are being corrected), and be loving.

5 :: Hug Routinely

More than any other, this principle should go without saying, but in the hustle and bustle of life we often forget to actually exhibit the love that we have for our children. Kids need tangible expressions of affection. Hand-holding, hugging, cuddling, and kissing your kiddos is proven to increase their health (mentally and physically) and happiness.

6 :: Teach Regularly

The world around us will not cease in attempting to catechize our children. Allow this vicious instructor to stand at the head of the classroom and your children will learn idolatry, discontent, and disrespect. Instead, silence the voice of a godless culture, and rise up to regularly educate your kids. God has gifted us unending instructional opportunities and as fathers we should snatch up these opportunities. Through Scripture, literature, history, narrative, and experience, teach your children life skills, respectful behavior, sports, crafts, art, truth, and the list rolls onward. Disciple them to know, love, and serve God. Don’t allow a day to pass without some type or form of direction taking place. It’s what their little minds and souls need.

7 :: Live Authentically 

Hypocrisy has driven more children from their parents and the church than any other vice. To be clear, hypocrisy is not failing to live up to your established values, but rather is putting on a mask and projecting yourself as something that you are not. While fathers can fool the crowds, they cannot fool their kiddos. Children will see the mask for what it is and grow increasingly repulsed by it. Living authentically means that I am striving to live according to what I know and declare to be right, acknowledging and apologizing when I fail, and reminding myself and my kids of the enormity and undeservedness of God’s remarkable grace.

I truly hope to see men take seriously the gift that is fatherhood and strive forward to lead and love their children well.

Semper Reformanda

The Faithful Family

The family unit in America is clearly devolving to state a meaninglessness and despair. Marriage, parenting, the discipline of children both formative and corrective, and the flow and function of the family unit are deteriorating and leaving the masses questioning, “What’s happening to society.” Sadly, this is true inside the visible church as well. Author and theologian Douglas Wilson penned these appropriate words concerning the signs of our time:

“A short walk through the marriage and family section of the local Christian bookstore easily demonstrates that modern Christians have a tremendous interest in the subject of marriage and family. But this booming marriage business (books, conferences, seminars, marriage counseling) is really a sign of disease and not health…We are like terminal cancer patients, fervently researching alternative treatments, hoping against hope that something can be done. Desperate for happiness in our relationships and discontent with what God has given us, we are imploring the experts to show us the way out…The foundation of a godly [family] is the same foundation for all godly living—in everything we are to seek the glory of God.” [1]

This is a sobering assessment of the state of the family; even inside Christ’s Church.

Luke’s inspired description of Zechariah & Elizabeth, the faithful parents of Christ’s Forerunner, I believe, paints for us today a model of the faithful family. Clearly, God will use anyone for any purpose that He has ordained. But wouldn’t it be wise of us to place ourselves in the path of God, prepared in advance with the willingness and availability for His use? Of course. Just how did Zechariah and Elizabeth do this and how can I follow their example left for me?

Both Righteous Before God, Walking Blamelessly

Any serious student of Scripture understands that any righteousness that a naturally fallen man or woman has in their fallen state is righteousness not their own. As Martin Luther would come to describe it later, Zechariah & Elizabeth held an “alien righteousness.” These two had been justified by God, declared to be in right standing positionally, by His grace through faith. Notice that this “righteousness” was not a superficial righteousness or a perceived righteousness but they were righteous “before God.” What joy the faithful family can have knowing they “before God,” in Christ, they stand pardoned, relieved of their guilt! If a family is to enjoy intimacy with God, while being used by God, it starts here.

Notice that the faithful family is a family that goes beyond a mere profession of faith but lives out that faith daily. The family Zechariah & Elizabeth’s began when they said “I do” was a family marked by “I do” toward God’s Word and placement in their lives. They were said to have been “walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statures of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). This was a family committed to the daily maintenance of faith combined with daily repentance from sin toward God.

To find Zechariah & Elizabeth being used by God for a great work should be no surprise. The faithful family unit has been ordained by God to be one of the primary mechanisms through which He works. Take for example, Adam & Eve and the protoevangelium entrusted to them; or Noah & his family, their work and God’s salvation through them; or Abraham with Sarah (not Hagar), Isaac (not Ishmael), and Jacob (not Esau); and the list could go on and on. God establishes faith in families, strengthens faith within families, and then works from that faith of families; to the praise of His glorious grace” (Eph. 1:6). However, God has invited us to participate in this process with Him. Just how do we do that? By following in Zechariah and Elizabeth’s footsteps.

Marry Within the Bounds God Provides

Zechariah, the son of Aaron, married Elizabeth, a daughter of Aaron. Simply stated: Believers are not permitted to marry outside the bounds of the believing community. This command is clear from the Old Testament commands of God to the people of Israel not to intermarry with the pagans around them to the New Testament command not to be unequally yoked. Dads, this is primarily your responsibility in rearing up your children. Moms, your role is to support and reinforce your husband’s leading of the children as ,together, you steer your children’s decisions in relationships. That sounds crazy in our culture, but then again most biblical principles will. Pastors, your job is steer mom and dad, preaching the whole counsel of God and shepherding mom and dad as they shepherd their children. This is the foundation of the faithful family, for if one spouse is not in the faith there can be no foundation for covenantal continuity.

Live Within the Bounds God Provides

Zechariah and Elizabeth were walking blamelessly, daily pursing Christ righteousness and kingdom. They were able to do this because the knew Word, lived the Word, and gave their lives to serving the Lord. If the Word of God is not the centerpiece upon which your family is built, currently standing, and to where you turn for direction you cannot expect 1) God to hear your prayers (Luke 1:13), 2) Expect God to use us for great works (Luke 1:15), or 3) Expect our children and their future families to stand firm or follow the Lord (Luke 1:15-17). The faithful family will live within the bounds God has provided.

Live With a Repentant Heart

Zechariah was not a perfect man. Even having been delivered a message directly from the throne room of God Most High (Luke 1:19) he still doubted. And he had reason to doubt if was looking to himself. God promised an old man and an old woman, well past child-producing or child-bearing years, a son. However, after being disciplined by the Lord for his doubting (Luke 1:20), Zechariah was quick to repent when naming his promised, miracle baby boy (Luke 1:57-66), and just as quick to praise the God who gives for His great mercy.

This gives me great hope for me and my family. Zechariah, the righteous, blameless, servant, doubter, who God used to advance Christ’s Kingdom. May the Lord find me and my family fit for His service as well.



[1] Reforming Marriage, pg. 13, 14

A Surprising Unity

The Pharisee’s asked Jesus, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

From this point on in the John 10 we see Jesus’ answering their question, as they asked, plainly. He speaks of unity between Himself and the Father and the everlasting safety this unity brings their sheep. It is a glorious passage, full of depth and detail concerning both who Christ is and who we are in Him. Because of this, these verses demand our keen attention. We firstly see, surprising unity.

Surprising Unity (v25-30)

As Jesus begins to unfold His plain answer to their question He begins discussing the works He’s already done saying in v25, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name bear witness about Me…” It doesn’t take much convincing to believe chocolate is delightful once you taste it, so too, after seeing the kind of things Jesus did and hearing the kind of words He said it doesn’t take long to realize that Jesus is the Messiah. He isn’t the new kid on the block. He’s been around, He’s taught many times, He’s given many signs, and these things He’s done ought to be sufficient evidence and proof of who He really is. Who else can turn water to wine? Who else can heal the sick, restore the lame, feed 5,000, walk on the water, and heal a man born blind? They say He hasn’t told them who He is yet, but Jesus reminds them that He already has. He’s done these works not only in the Father’s name, these works also bear witness that He is the sent one from the Father. You’d think after hearing all He has said and seeing all He has done, that they would believe!

But as plain as it may be, they still don’t believe. Why? v26 gives us the answer, “…you do not believe because you are not among My sheep.” Jesus isn’t saying they do not believe because they are not among His sheep yet, or that by believing in Him they then could belong among His flock. Jesus words are sharp and clear, they do not believe because they do not belong. Similar to Pharaoh growing harder in heart with each plague that hit Egypt, these Pharisees grow harder in heart with every work done by Christ. With each authoritative teaching, each powerful sign, and each miraculous wonder, their hatred of Him grows. Why? They’re not sheep, they’re wolves.[1]

He continues on in v27-29 with a list of blessings that His true sheep enjoy, “My Sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” Again, there is a profound intimacy between this Good Shepherd and His sheep. They know Him, they are known by Him, they know His voice, He leads them, they follow Him, they receive eternal life from Him, they are chosen by the Father and given to the Son, and they are forever secure in Him, so secure that no one or nothing is strong enough to snatch them out of His hand. Just as a Father holds onto his child walking by the road to ensure the child’s safety, so too true sheep are forever secure, not because they hold on to the Shepherd, but because the Shepherd forever holds onto them.[2]

Only God can do the things in v27-29, and only God’s children enjoy and benefit from these things. By stating these things plainly Jesus is telling them that He is the Christ. But in case they missed it, He makes a stunning statement in v30, “I and the Father are one.” This statement is surprising. Not to us, we know who this Jesus is, and our convinced that He is God. This statement is terribly surprising to the Pharisees listening. They had long loved and affirmed the words of the Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:4 that says, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Ages upon ages the Jewish people held dear the doctrine of God’s oneness. Jesus’ words here echo the Shema and make the great claim that the oneness of God they held dear for so long is in reality a oneness among multiple Persons who are co-equal and co-eternal in power and glory. Though no one has seen God the Father, Jesus states that He has made Him known, thus, whoever sees Him sees the Father.[3] That this great surprising statement of triune unity among the Godhead comes on the heels of the promises made about keeping His sheep safe and secure, Jesus is saying the work of keeping the sheep is a work of both the Father and the Son.

So, the surprising unity among the Trinity shows itself here to be the foundation of our eternal safety and security. We have a reason as vastly deeper than the Grand Canyon to be of good cheer here, because this doesn’t mean the sheep will be saved “…from all earthly disaster, but that they will be saved, no matter what earthly disaster may befall.”[4] Or in other words, we will persevere in faith to the end only because the triune God preserves us.

I am aware than on any given day it is not rare for someone who is not a Christian to be reading this blog. That’s great, we’re glad you’re reading. Let me point out two things to you.

First, this safety and security in view here is not a promise made to you. As far as the Bible is concerned if you remain in your sin and unbelief you have no reason to expect safety and security in the life to come. In fact you have every reason to be terrified of the life to come. That ought to concern you. This leads me to the second item, we want this promise to be for you. Do you know that today you can actually become a Christian? That you can repent of your sin and turn toward Christ in faith and be saved forevermore and become a new creation right now?

Weigh these things heavily now, one day you’ll wish you had.



[1] Pastoral Apprentice Mike Joas spoke of this similarity in our application grid meeting.

[2] R.C. Sproul, John – St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 196.

[3] Reformation Study Bible, notes on John 10:38, page 1877.

[4] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT, page 521.


In a fallen world, tragedy visits us all.

Tragedy may manifest itself in natural disasters, a broken home, betrayal of a friend, loss of a job, or death of a loved one. For some, the incomprehensible strikes, questions rage, doubts swirl, and we cry out to God in desperation! Our tragedy drives us to the only Refuge and He protects us within His walls and provides for us in His love. Such was the case with the passing of Job.

Job Allen Peterson, my nephew, lived an hour and twenty-four minutes on July 8, 2017. Tragedy. Death is a tragedy. It is not our friend; in fact, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:26, says that it is our enemy. Death is an enemy of God, the Author and Giver of life. Death, too, is an enemy of ours as it steals that which God gave the unique of all creation; namely, his breath in our lungs. But this tragedy is not like any other I’ve ever been a part of.

It was truly a day of thanksgiving when, on Thursday, November 24, my brother-in-law quietly shared with me that he was expecting his second child. I can remember the joy that filled my heart for him as we sat on the porch swing and praised God. I was like a seven-year-old boy bursting with excitement over new news when only weeks later I clued our congregation in on our upcoming blessing when I accidentally let the cat out of the bag while preaching. Children are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3-5) and our family celebrated and praised the Giver of Good Gifts.

While we, the family, were awaiting the phone call following the first sonogram, Job’s parents were receiving news that would change their lives forever. There was something wrong. There were tests and phone calls and doctor visits and more tests and waiting and waiting and waiting…praying and praying and praying.

The baby that we would come to know as Job didn’t have kidneys, a bladder, or lungs. No kidneys meant little-to-no amniotic fluid and no amniotic fluid meant his lungs wouldn’t develop. Who knew that a kidney transplant was possible on an infant or other means were possible remedy the bladder issue? But no lungs? How could this happen? Would God intervene? Certainly, He is capable. But is He willing? A miracle is what was needed. So, we prayed. We dove into the Word. We trusted. We cried. We struggled. We rested. We prayed. We praised. We cried. We trusted. We prayed. As long as he was in the womb, there was still a chance; there was still time. But that day came and Job never developed lungs.

The incomprehensible had struck but the incomprehensible wasn’t the passing of Job; it was the comfort, peace, strength, and supernatural faith that God gave his parents and the rest of Job’s family. I’ve been processing this for a while now and I’ve had to change my use of adjectives. It became clearer and clearer that my description of God’s grace as “unbelievable” was a poor representation of the God who is not unbelievable but is incomprehensible.

Let me explain.

(1) Just days before receiving the news that his baby would likely not survive, God reveals himself to my brother-in-law, graciously gives him new life in Christ and ignites a flame of passion for knowing the Lord that could not be extinguished by even this tragedy of tragedies.

(2) Amidst the struggle and the pain, Job’s parents consistently rested in the sovereignty and goodness of God and committed to praising God if He chose to save Job and to praise God if He chose not to. Which was not mere lip-service but is a reality of life for them.

(3) On Saturday, July 8, the Lord delivered Job safely into the arms of his mommy who carried him, protected him, provided for him, and nurtured him. In spite of the odds, and in spite of the doctor’s best guess that Job would not survive the delivery, our Gracious God gave Job’s mommy and daddy an hour and twenty-four minutes together.

(4) As Job passed from this life to the next, together, we praised, we prayed, we cried, we held his little hands, and stroked his beautiful hair, and we felt the presence of God like never before.

(5) As Job’s mommy held him tight to her breasts, as tears of joy and pain rolled down her cheeks from deep within, you could hear the faint sound of worship in song coming from his mother who had only minutes to share the most important message Job could ever hear; God’s glory & goodness in Jesus Christ.

(6) Four days later, we gathered around a tiny casket and praised the God who gives life. There were a few tears and our hearts were saddened but that was not the focus of that day. The “God of all comfort who comforts us in our affliction” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) was present. The God who provides “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) was present. The God who “is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1) was present. The focus of Job’s funeral was on the supernatural comfort, peace, & strength that is promised to those who belong to Lord of Hosts and was provided by God through this storm.

Who is this God who gives such good gifts? Who is this God who strengthens the weak, comforts the afflicted, and can put a song on praise on our lips amidst the pain of such loss? He is Jehovah Jireh, the Lord who provides (Genesis 22:14). He is Jehovah Rapha, the Lord who heals (Exodus 15:26). He is God and He is Good and all that he does is good (Psalm 119:68).

“I love you, O Jehovah, my strength. Jehovah is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon Jehovah, who is worthy to praised and I am saved from my enemies” (Psalm 18:1-3).

Words are not enough. Blogs are insufficient. But it is our privilege and honor to give what we can as an offering of praise…“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom” (Psalm 145:3).

Parenting By Gospel Grace

My wife and I are parents. We love being parents and we want to be a good ones. But we struggle to be that most days. Between the days activities of – getting breakfast for our young boys, getting them dressed and ready for the day, getting them where they need to be at the time they need to be there, and getting them washed and ready for bed – my wife and I are acutely aware that we need help as a parents. We’ve taken parenting classes, read parenting books, talked with other parents in and out of our church, and ironically the one jewel we often forget in the world of parenting philosophies is the gospel.

Paul Tripp has recently wrote a book on parenting centered on the gospel. He wrote an article summarizing his new book on the Desiring God blog last week and it’s stuck in my email inbox ever since then because it’s so good. If you’re a parent, wanting to be a parent, or have years under your parenting belt, this article will encourage you greatly. I’ve reposted it here below for you in whole:

‘You Don’t Need More Parenting Advice’

Paul Tripp

For the past two decades, I have grown increasingly uncomfortable. I have grown uncomfortable as I’ve listened to people tell me how they’ve used my book on parenting, Age of Opportunity, or my brother Tedd’s book, Shepherding a Child’s Heart. Something was missing in the way these parents were interpreting and applying the strategies detailed in the pages of our books.

It took me a while to figure out what was off. Then it hit me: the missing piece was the gospel. This sounds obvious, almost cliché, but the significance of remembering or neglecting the gospel in parenting is greater than we often realize.

The Biblical Picture of Parenting

Whenever I travel to speak, I always have someone come up to me afterward asking for an effective strategy for this, a guaranteed formula for that, or a proven approach to some other struggle. I try to impart helpful guidance in the moments we have together, but what they (and I) really need is a big-picture, gospel worldview that can explain, guide, and motivate all the things that God is calling them to do.

Take marriage, for example. If you want a healthy relationship with your spouse, clicking on Buzzfeed’s “Fourteen Ways to Make Date Night More Romantic” will not get you there. You need the gospel of Jesus Christ to establish foundational principles of unity, understanding, and love — not a listicle of tips and tricks.

This is what we’re after in parenting. If you desire not only to cope but to thrive with vision and joy as a parent, you need more than seven steps to solving whatever. You need God’s helicopter view of what he’s called you to do. You need the gospel of Jesus Christ to reveal the foundational principles that will not only help you make sense of your task, but will change the way you approach it.

Often, these biblical principles are counterintuitive to the natural principles of our flesh. Nevertheless, they’re essential to understanding who we’re supposed to be and what we’re supposed to do in all things, including parenting.

Fourteen Christian Principles of Parenting

This may seem hypocritical. I just told you not to rely on BuzzFeed’s list of fourteen ways to make date night more romantic, and now I’m offering a list for Christian parents. The difference is that this list isn’t comprised of strategies or techniques: these are fourteen overarching themes in Scripture that, when properly understood, offer a vivid picture of God’s calling for parents.

1. Calling: Nothing is more important in your life than being one of God’s tools to shape a human soul.

In a couple brief but profound paragraphs, Deuteronomy 6:4–9 and 20–23 summarize the value that God places on parenting.

2. Grace: God never calls you to a task without giving you what you need to do it. He never sends you without going with you.

Ephesians 3:20–21 provides us with the single redemptive reality that makes parenting possible.

3. Law: Your children need God’s law, but you cannot ask the law to do what only grace can accomplish.

Romans 7:7 tells us that we need the grace of wisdom that God’s law alone can give, but the rest of the chapter reveals how only the Spirit can produce change.

4. Inability: Recognizing what you are unable to do is essential to good parenting.

God has tasked parents with many things, but nowhere in his word has he tasked you with the responsibility to create heart change.

5. Identity: If you are not resting as a parent in your identity in Christ, you will look for identity in your children.

Second Peter 1:3–9 warns about identity amnesia. When applied to parenting, it means that when you’re not getting your identity from God and the work of his Son, you will probably try to get it from your children.

6. Process: You must be committed as a parent to long-view parenting because change is a process and not an event.

Even the world’s best teacher — Jesus — had a process mentality and, because he did, he was willing to leave his work to unfinished people (see John 16:12–15).

7. Lost: As a parent you’re not dealing just with bad behavior, but a condition that causes bad behavior.

Luke 15 is a tremendous help to parents, because it sheds light on the condition that is the reason for all you have to deal with in the thoughts, desires, choices, words, and actions of your children.

8. Authority: One of the foundational heart issues in the life of every child is authority.

Teaching and modeling the protective beauty of authority is one of the foundations of good parenting. The famous Ephesians 6:1–4 parenting passage is very helpful for this principle.

9. Foolishness: The foolishness inside your children is more dangerous to them than the temptation outside of them. Only God’s grace has the power to rescue fools.

Psalm 53:1–3 reveals that your child has the heart of a fool and, because he does, he is a danger to himself and desperately needs God’s arms of rescue that come through your parenting care.

10. Character: Not all of the wrong your children do is a direct rebellion to authority; much of the wrong is the result of a lack of character.

Romans 1:25 and 28–32 connect character issues to the most significant of all human functions — worship.

11. False Gods: You are parenting a worshiper, so it’s important to remember that what rules your child’s heart will control his behavior.

This should be no surprise, considering how often the Bible warns us (see Exodus 20:3Deuteronomy 11:161 Samuel 12:21, and many more).

12. Control: The goal of parenting is not control of behavior, but rather heart and life change.

No matter how successfully you control their choices and behavior, your control cannot and will not free your kids from a deeper need – a clean heart (Psalm 51:61017).

13. Rest: It is only rest in God’s presence and grace that will make you a joyful and patient parent.

This may surprise you, but I cannot think of any directive from the mouth of Jesus that is a more appropriate call to every Christian parent than the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18–20).

14. Mercy: No parent gives mercy better than one who is convinced that he desperately needs it himself.

Hebrews 4:14–16 gives us a model for a life-long mission of humbly, joyfully, and willingly giving mercy.

Parenting by Gospel Grace

Many Christian mothers and fathers are exhausted, discouraged, and frustrated. It’s time we consider a new and better way: the way of grace. These fourteen gospel principles are meant to help you see how radically different parenting becomes when you quit trying to produce change and become a willing tool of the grace that rescues, forgives, and changes.

They are meant to yank you out of the daily grind and have you consider the big picture of what God is inviting you to be part of: the high and holy call to be an essential part of his mission of rescuing the children he has given you.

In all these things, it’s not just about the mission that he has sent you on, but the fact that he has gone with you. Parents, God faithfully parents you, so that by his faithful grace you can, in turn, faithfully parent your children. In every moment of parenting, our heavenly Father is working on everybody in the room.

3 Reasons Not to Homeschool

From Christina Fox, over at the The Gospel Coalition blog:

When I meet someone new and they learn we are homeschoolers, I get a variety of responses. Some simply stare at me, perhaps wondering why I’m not in standard homeschool uniform. “Where is her denim jumper?” they might think. Others respond with “Good for you!” and begin asking questions with genuine curiosity about how our family homeschools. Still others share with me all the reasons they could never homeschool. And then there are some who mutter “That’s nice” and look at my children with a mixture of pity and a disdain.

Homeschooling Times Are Changing

The responses I receive have a lot to do with widespread perceptions of homeschooling. Perhaps the diversity of responses reflects the fact that homeschooling is changing. It’s not what it once was. More and more people outside the church are choosing to homeschool. And no two homeschool situations look the same. In some families, two kids might be homeschooled while another two might be in a traditional school. In other families, children might participate in a homeschool hybrid program where they attend a school setting once or twice a week and are home the rest of the week. Some families use public school online education at home. In our family, my kids are homeschooled four days a week and attend public school one day a week.

Homeschooling is also growing in numbers. In 1999, more than 850,000 students were homeschooled in the United States. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education reported an estimated 1.77 million students were homeschooled. In North Carolina, more children are homeschooled than attend private schools.

This time of year, as we begin to transition out of vacation mindset back into school mode, you may be considering homeschooling for the first time. And there are many good reasons to consider it. You get to choose the curriculum for your children. You’re able to teach every subject through a biblical worldview. You can take time to study things your children enjoy learning about, at their own pace and on their own level. Homeschool allows for greater flexibility in your schedule. Since it doesn’t take as long as a typical school day to complete lessons, there’s plenty of time for extracurricular activities, sports, clubs, additional classes, and hobbies. Homeschooling also provides more time for families to spend together. I could go on.

But there are also reasons not to homeschool. If the idea of homeschooling has been on your mind, here are three reasons you should not homeschool your children.

1. Because you are afraid.

Fear is a lousy motive for anything. Scripture is clear we are not to live a life of fear, whether it’s fear of people, circumstances, the future, or anything else. We shouldn’t homeschool because we fear something bad will happen to our children. Our children will have bad things happen to them whether we homeschool or not. We live in a fallen world where sickness, injury, crime, and other things occur around us all the time. The only fear that ought to motivate us to do anything is the fear of the Lord (Prov. 1:7).

2. Because you think it will save your child.

Homeschooling won’t ensure your salvation. The Holy Spirit is the one who awakens your child’s dead heart and gives a soft heart of flesh (Ezek. 36:23–24). So don’t pursue homeschooling because you think it will guarantee their salvation. It’s true that homeschooling affords you plenty of time and opportunity to discuss the things of God with your children, and that’s great. There’s time to dig deep into God’s Word, memorize it, and learn how to apply the gospel to all areas of learning and life. But homeschooling in and of itself will not save your child.

3. Because it’s what all your friends are doing.

In some Christian communities, homeschooling is popular. If everyone around you is homeschooling and you’re not, it can feel like you’re less of a Christian for not doing so. To homeschool because of some outside pressure is not a worthwhile reason. Additionally, your Christianity does not hang upon your method of schooling. Your salvation comes by faith in the work of Christ, and such faith is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8). Someone is not a better Christian because they homeschool. Homeschooling is something you do because you believe it’s best for your family. It’s a decision made after much prayer, study, and research. It’s a decision made for God’s glory, not to please others, not to fit in, and certainly not to appear more “Christian.”

Research and Pray

As a parent who’s gone through the difficult decision-making process to homeschool, I know what a big decision and commitment it is. As homeschooling continues to grow and change, I imagine more families will consider it.

If you’re contemplating homeschooling your children, I encourage you to spend time in thorough research and prayer. I also encourage you to not base your decision on fear, your children’s salvation, or peer pressure.


Christina Fox is a licensed mental health counselor, coffee drinker, writer, and homeschooling mom, not necessarily in that order. She lives with her husband of 18 years and two boys in sunny South Florida. You can find her sharing her journey in faith at and on Facebook.

John Newton: The Parent

John Newton is well known for writing the historic song “Amazing Grace.”  What we don’t often hear about is his parenting.  His daughter, Betsy, was growing up and about to set sail in the vast seas of this world and John, being a godly father, had these words to encourage her voyage. May the same words be true of us as we seek to parent children in a fallen world.

I know there is an infallible Pilot, who has the winds and the waves at His command. There is hardly a day passes in which I do not entreat Him to take charge of you. Under His care I know you will be safe; He can guide you, unhurt, amidst the storms, and rocks, and dangers, by which you might otherwise suffer, and bring you, at last, to the haven of eternal rest…Our voyage through life will sometimes be incommoded by storms, but the Lord Jesus is an infallible, almighty Pilot. The winds and the seas obey him. None ever miscarried under his care; and He takes charge of all who entrust themselves to Him.

Learning Parenting from a Pagan Book?

Kevin DeYoung:

How is religion passed down across generations? That’s the theme of the new book Families and Faith by Vern L. Bengtson (with Norella M. Putney and Susan Harris). As an exercise in statistical and sociological research, there is nothing particularly biblical or spiritual about the book (though, interestingly, the author describes how at the end of the project he started going to church again and now is an active part of a local congregation). And yet, this doesn’t mean there is nothing to learn from books like this.

In the concluding chapter Bengtson suggests five things families should know, do, or remember if they want to pass on their faith to the next generation (195-98).

1. “Parents have more religious influence than they think.” One of the main themes in the book is that parental influence with respect to religion is not actually waning, despite the alarmist cries from watchdogs and worry-worts. The single most important factor in the spiritual and religious lives of adolescents continues to be their parents.

2. “Fervent faith cannot compensate for a distant dad.” It’s important for children to see religious role modeling in their parents. But personal piety is no substitute for the quality of the parent-child relationship. Parents who are warm and loving are more likely to pass on the faith than those that are distant and authoritarian. This is especially true when it comes to fathers. A relationally and spiritually distant dad is very difficult to overcome, despite the religious zeal of the mother.

3. “Allowing children religious choice can encourage religious continuity.” On the one hand, Bengtson argues that tight-knit religious communities with clear doctrinal and ethical boundary markers are more likely to pass on the faith from one generation to the next. On the other hand, families must allow for some flexibility. Children must not be afraid to explore the whats and whys of their parent’s faith, even if that exploration feels uncomfortable to mom and dad for a time.

4. “Don’t forget the grandparents.” This was the most eye opening theme in the book. In white middle class America, when we talk about the family we mean the nuclear family of mom and dad and their kids. Bengtson’s research shows the important role grandparents play in either subverting the faith of the parents or reinforcing it in their grandchildren. It makes sense: if our children are around grandparents (not to mention aunts and uncles and cousins) who all believe, faith will feel much more of a natural given.

5. “Don’t give up on Prodigals, because many do return.” In Bengtson’s sample, the prodigals who came home were the ones who knew they had parents waiting for them, ready to accept them if and when they returned to their roots. Don’t give up parents. Keep praying and keep on loving.

Overall, Bengtson argues that families are doing pretty well in passing along their faith to the next generation. Intact families do better than families with divorce, and religious homogenous parents are more successful than parents in interfaith marriages. Warm, affectionate parents–the kind kids admire and look up t0–do better than cold, distant parents. And these parents do better with the support of grandparents. But even when these ideals are missing, family mechanisms can compensate: “families are wonderfully resilient” (198).

The even better news is that our God is wonderfully gracious, faithful, and able to do more than we ask or imagine.

Help Your Kids Say No to Porn

Jen Wilkins:

The first time porn was served at the cafeteria lunch table, my son was 11 years old. Does that seem young to you? Research suggests that one in three children ages 11 to 14 have viewed pornography on a mobile device. Add to that the very real possibility that a child will stumble across explicit content on YouTube or in a pop-up ad during innocent computer usage, and one thing becomes clear: parents must be proactive in talking about porn with their kids.
I’m not a fearmonger when it comes to parenting. In fact, I think fear is a terrible motivator for making parenting decisions. But if children are being exposed to porn at young ages, the loving thing to do as a parent is to equip them to know how to respond. The most frequent parenting question I’m asked is, “When should I talk to my child about sex?” My adamant answer is, “Much earlier than you might think.” If you’re concerned about your child being exposed to porn, you have to talk about sex, and you must do so early.
Let me tell you what played out at the sixth-grade lunch table that day. When the phone with the images was offered, my son responded, “I don’t look at porn.” The owner of the phone, perplexed, asked, “Then how will you know how to have sex?” My son responded that his parents had told him all about it. Jaws dropped. Not one other sixth-grade boy at the table had yet talked with his parents about sex, or, it would seem, about porn. But they were by no means lacking in instruction.
We may stall on the sex talk, but the world will not. If we delay introducing the topic because of personal discomfort, shame, or uncertainty about how to begin, our children will form their first ideas about human sexuality based on the reports of their peers, the images on their devices, or the pop-ups that introduce them to porn. They will also assume their parents are not willing or equipped to handle discussions about sex.

Ask the Right Question

Too many parents are still asking the wrong question with regard to children and explicit content. We can no longer ask, “How should I prepare my child for if they see porn?” Instead we must ask, “How should I prepare my child for when they see porn?” External controls are important, but they only shield your child from a handful of instances when porn can make an appearance. Mobile devices are everywhere, and your neighbor’s unsecured Wi-Fi is easy to find.
We must begin giving our children internal controls as early as possible. We must give them a way to flee danger as soon as it presents itself. Just as parents of my generation taught their kids a script for when they were offered drugs, we must teach our kids a script for when they are offered porn. And we must be ready to have frank, fearless conversations about what they may have already seen, conversations free of any hint of condemnation. We must maintain a safe environment for openness and ongoing dialogue about this and other difficult topics.
Your children may very well be exposed to porn before they are developmentally able to understand what they are looking at. They need your help to know how to respond. Give them red flags, a script, and a plan.

Red Flags, a Script, and a Plan

Though not developmentally ready for a full-blown explanation of the nature and dangers of porn, young children can learn two red flags to help them avoid contact with it, two red flags that also guard against predators. Teach your child at a young age that “naked is private,” and that “don’t tell your mom and dad” means danger. Both of these red flags will help them recognize when they are being shown something you wouldn’t want them to see.
Train your children how to respond to an offer of porn by giving them scripted words to use, and a plan of action:
Parent: “If someone shows you a picture of something and asks you not to tell anyone, what should you do?”
Child: “Tell them ‘no thanks,’ and then come tell you.”
Parent: “If a picture of something strange comes up on the computer, what should you do?”
Child: “Ex it out, and then come tell you.”
Rehearse this language, just as you would rehearse what words to use in other situations, like if a stranger offered a ride home from school.

Culture of Confession

Children need to know they can come tell a parent without fear of getting in trouble or setting off high drama, even if (especially if) they looked at what was offered. When we give them permission to come to us, we reinforce a culture of confession in our homes. We may not be able to shield our kids from pornographic images, but we can give them the internal tools they need to protect them from becoming entangled in secrecy, shame, and a warped view of sexuality.
Whether they are 8 or 28, we want our children to choose confession over concealment every time. Reward their courage in coming to you by reacting calmly, affirming that they have done the right thing, and then helping them process what has happened and what to do moving forward.
We must communicate clearly to our children that porn is telling a lie and that we will tell them the truth. As your child gets older, talk frankly about what porn is, about how it teaches a perverted view of sexuality, and about how it exploits both the viewer and also those revealed in the images. Talk about the consequences of having a wrong view of sex and sexuality, the dangers of lust, and the sin of objectifying another person made in the image of God.

Start Early

If you have preschool-aged children, begin gathering resources now to help you naturally introduce the topic of sex in age-appropriate ways as opportunities present. (In other words, if you take your kids to the zoo in the spring, be ready to broach the subject if the animal kingdom introduces it.) Rather than think, How long can I put off the sex talk? ask, How soon can I begin to equip my child to filter messages about sex and sexuality in age-appropriate ways?
Be the first voice your child hears about sex and sexuality, and about fleeing porn exposure. Don’t let fear cause you to delay beginning this conversation. And don’t let fear cause you to have the conversation in a way that scares your child or casts sexuality in a negative light. Get educated about what resources are available to help you confidently and calmly discuss sex as a beautiful gift from God, to be enjoyed within the good boundaries he has set. Lovingly teach your kids red flags, a script, and a plan. And trust your heavenly Father that even this parenting hurdle is one he can help you surmount.
Check out these additional resources. (By listing these resources I am not giving them an unqualified endorsement. As with all parenting resources, the responsibility lies with you to read discerningly, take what you can use, and leave the rest. Happy digging!)

Jen Wilkin is a wife, mom to four great kids, and an advocate for women to love God with their minds through the faithful study of his Word. She writes, speaks, and teaches women the Bible. She lives in Flower Mound, Texas, and her family calls The Village Church home. Jen is the author of Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds (Crossway, forthcoming). You can find her at and follow her on Twitter.

Every Story Whisper’s His Name

0310708257mFor this weeks “On My Shelf Monday” I am going, not onto my shelf, but the bookshelf of my 2-year-old son Jack.  He has a Bible we read to him every morning from, and we’ve found this Bible teaching us just as much as it’s teaching our son.  It is the best children’s Bible I’ve ever read – and now will be the only children’s Bible I recommend.

Publisher’s Description:

Containing forty-six Bible stories from creation to Revelation with beautiful, rich, and vibrant artwork,The Jesus Storybook Bible invites children to join in the greatest of all adventures and discover for themselves that Jesus is at the center of God’s great story of salvation – and at the center of their story, too.

About the Author:

Sally Lloyd-Jones was born in Uganda and raised in several different parts of Africa. She worked in children’s publishing for several years but now writes full-time. Sally resides in Manhattan and has been a member of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) for over ten years. Sally’s web site.

About the Illustrator:

Jago is an accomplished illustrator with several prestigious awards to his credit, including a Macmillian “Highly Commended” Award for Children’s Illustration in 2003, an AOI Silver Award in 2004, and the National Literacy Association Wow! Award. Jago lives in Cornwall, England, with his wife and daughter.


“I would urge not just families with young children to get this book, but every Christian–from pew warmers, to ministry leaders, seminarians and even theologians! Sally Lloyd-Jones has captured the heart of what it means to find Christ in all the scriptures, and has made clear even to little children that all God’s revelation has been about Jesus from the beginning–a truth not all that commonly recognized even among the very learned.”
– Rev. Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City

“Sally Lloyd-Jones, a Redeemer [PCA, New York] member for many years, has done a wondrous thing. She has captured the plot line of redemption in a children’s story Bible that sings the praise of Jesus and his saving grace on every page, in every story.”
– Kathy Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City
Read all of Kathy Keller’s review

Should We Tell Children to Love Jesus?

John Piper:


Spurgeon was concerned about the emphasis of telling children to love Jesus rather than trust Jesus. He expressed it like this:

Many [distort the doctrine of justification by faith] when addressing children, and I notice that they generally speak to little ones about loving Jesus, and not upon believing him. This must leave a mischievous impression upon youthful minds and take them off from the true way of peace. (Lectures to My Students, Vol. 2, 1889, p. 270)

It is a legitimate concern. Trust is more concretely demonstrable for children than love. A little child can be told to jump from the fourth step and daddy will catch him. “Trust me. I will catch you.” They can grasp that at two years old.

Similarly, a small child can grasp the application to Jesus: He will always be there to take care of you. In fact, he died once, to save and protect you. You will understand that more someday.

But what it means to love Jesus is not so easily demonstrable. Loving Jesus is more emotionally complex. It includes perceiving the qualities that make Jesus a beautiful and excellent person, worthy of our highest admiration. It involves treasuring Jesus for perfections that set him off from all others. This is not as easy for a child to grasp.

Love in the Trust

Emphasizing a child’s duty to love Jesus more than emphasizing the need to trust him may cause a distortion of love into a set of deeds. Children are wired to translate all perceived duties into deeds.

But that is not what love is. It is before and beneath deeds. When Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15), he meant that love precedes and enables obedience, not that love is obedience.

On the other hand, sooner or later, we will need to help our children realize that saving trust in Jesus has love for Jesus in it. And true love for Jesus has trust in Jesus in it.

Saving trust in Jesus banks on the truth that Christ died for us in order to make himself the eternal, all-satisfying treasure of our lives. The gospel is the “gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). He prayed for us: “Father . . . may they be with me where I am, to see my glory” (John 17:24).

Since the work of Jesus was done to give us himself to love forever, we cannot say we trust in him to do his work for us, while not treasuring the gift that he died to give — himself.

And loving Jesus always includes trusting Jesus to achieve all he said he would, because one of the things we love about him is his trustworthiness and his perfect mercy and justice shown best in the cross.

The Necessity of Love

So sooner or later we will introduce our children not only to the necessity of trusting Jesus (“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31), but of loving him.

We will discuss with them texts like this: “[People] are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. . . . [Those will be] condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:9–12). We will show them that “loving the truth” is not just believing that it is so, but “having pleasure” in it. And that means in him — The Truth.

We will read to them with great seriousness the warning, “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed” (1 Corinthians 16:22). And we will show them the enemies of Jesus really didn’t have God as their Father. We know that because they didn’t love Jesus: “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me’” (John 8:42).

To Love As We Ought

But we will lavish on them the promises with great joy:

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

“But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” (1 Corinthians 8:3)

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him.” (Psalm 91:14)

“The Lᴏʀᴅ preserves all who love him.” (Psalm 145:20)

And we will sing and pray with our children the wonderful truth that “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Which means not only that he sent Christ while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8), but that his love takes out of us the heart of stone and wakens love for him.

Spirit of God, descend upon my heart; Wean it from earth; through all its pulses move; Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art; And make me love Thee as I ought to love.

Seven Things to Pray for Your Children

Here are seven helpful, specific things to pray for your children:

1. That Jesus will call them and no one will hinder them from coming.

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away. (Matthew 19:13–15)

2. That they will respond in faith to Jesus’s faithful, persistent call.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

3. That they will experience sanctification through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit and will increasingly desire to fulfill the greatest commandments.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

4. That they will not be unequally yoked in intimate relationships, especially marriage.

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)

5. That their thoughts will be pure.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

6. That their hearts will be stirred to give generously to the Lord’s work.

All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord. (Exodus 35:29)

7. That when the time is right, they will GO!

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)