What does discipleship in the home look like, what are practical ways of accomplishing this feat, and what are the fruits of such an endeavor. Discipling our children is not just a necessity, it is a command from God. Jesus, when He was 12 was constantly at the temple studying about God and increasing His knowledge of His heavenly Father. We increase our head knowledge as the Holy Spirit works in our heart to bring about change or heart knowledge.
Our children face what are now considered cultural norms; but are unprecedented ways of sinning against a Holy God. Paul faced similar circumstances in his day. He explains the reasons behind this behavior in Romans 1:21-23.
21 "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures."
There is the crux of the issue. Even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks. The world is a tough place to be in. Ask anyone that has a day job and they will tell you the same. Ask some of your non-Christian friends or co-workers and even they will agree with you. Kids are pulled in every direction by every person they meet. Society at large tells them they can be anything they want as long as what they want is not Christianity. Society tells them to engage in sexual activity and to try new things so long as that new thing is not Christianity. There is a culture war fought in the spiritual realm and the enemy has his ballistic missile cross-hairs on your children.
Consider that your children spend an average of 35 hours a week in the public sphere of influence. 35 hours translates to 140 a month, and 1260 hours a year in a traditional school year. They spend hours with their friends and consume copious amounts of media, often unchecked and unsupervised. How can we compete with the world and without provoking them; “bring up our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). What follows is not a comprehensive list; however, it is a list of 5 things I have implemented in my life over the years and has proved fruitful.
I need to offer a disclaimer here; none of these are possible without being wholly submitted to the Lord Jesus, which is #5. What I mean is, if you desire lasting change, if you desire to bring glory to God and Jesus to other people then one must be submitted to the Lord and committed to an eternal perspective. You must be wholly committed to the discipleship of your children and Biblically speaking it is our job as parents but most importantly it is a fathers God ordained role.
Shut off Auto-Pilot and Fly Right
Fathers, we have got to stop going through life with the auto-pilot engaged. Let me say, I understand. As a full time employee, husband, father, student, church member and more importantly disciple of Christ I know that life can be weighty at times. We should not allow the demands of life to get in the way of discipling our children. If you can give up something that falls into the category of “my desires” then do it. You may not “crash the plane” so to speak but you will have no influence on your child’s spiritual condition.
They need a leader and the Bible makes very clear it is the role of the Father to spiritually lead his family. This cannot be done on auto-pilot. It does take time and involves heart change but change is good. We need to first understand our role: spiritual leaders. If we are called to be spiritual leaders, we need to ensure we are fed spiritually and “dressed like a man ready for action.” This is only accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit in fervent prayer, Bible study, and being discipled. Here are a few practical things I do to accomplish this.
Give up on yourself
We were not meant to go about life apart from the power of God that is in Christ Jesus so quit trying. The very foundation of man is a complete dependence to his Creator. Life apart is meaningless and full of anxiety. Therefore, understand who you are in Christ, you are a son of God. Galatians 4:6-7 says
"And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God." A son inherits all that the Father has and we are joint heirs in Christ.
Plead with God to change your heart.
Pray to the God of Heaven to give you a new heart. If you need to see this in action read Ezekiel 37. See yourself lying dead there in the valley. Dry bones, no life and see what the Lord does. God is in the business of changing hearts and He will change yours.
See your child as God intended
A heritage unto the Lord. They belong to God most High and He has entrusted you with them for such a time as this. God never gets an address wrong, He never makes a mistake and He did not with you nor your children.
Instruct Your Children with Family Devotionals
As joint heirs in Christ we must instruct our children in the very same. Family devotionals sounds tough but it is not. This can simply involve:
If children are old enough I encourage them to offer a prayer request. Sometimes a little guidance is all they need. You would be surprised at what is going on in their little hearts when they share their requests. It is also a perfect opportunity for you to work through John 14:13 “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.”
This can involve a lesson, a book or a book of the Bible dependent on the appropriateness of age.
Aim to Change the Heart, not the Surface Level Behavior
This concept is so important and it is Biblical. The Bible is very clear that our behavior, (e.g. what we say, do, think and act) is a result of a sinful heart. We must aim to change the heart of both our children and ourselves. Without a changed heart you get what I call “circumstantial behavior” that is behavior that only lasts when there is an authority around to enforce it. The Bible likens man to a tree many times, and this tell-tale analogy shows the heart is the problem. In Matthew 7:18 Jesus says
“A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.”
If the fruit is rotting, hanging good fruit on the branches will just be a waste of time, spraying perfume on a dead body doesn’t help. Jesus says in Matthew 23:25-26
“… wash the inside of the cup and the outside will be clean.”
The bad root that is causing the fruit to rot is the heart and it must be addressed. A good book to read on this is Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp, and Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul Tripp. Each addresses the importance of heart change, not mere surface level behavior. Tedd Tripp’s book is specific to children but is beneficial to adults. Paul Tripp’s book is more geared toward everyday people who engage in personal ministry.
Lead Your Children
Leading by example is no small feat. It takes a man focused on God as he goes, to lead with grace, mercy, humility and continually get back up after every fall. Your children need to know that it is okay to fail, it is okay to struggle, and it is okay to ask questions. Let’s face it, in life there will be failures; we are not perfect, and sin still remains.
However, when you fail your children need to see repentance and growth. In the life, death, burial and resurrection of Christ Jesus God forgave our sins, but we still need to repent of sin and seek God’s forgiveness. We need to teach our little ones that sin is not just a tiny wrong committed against another individual; rather it is a great offense to the God of the universe first and foremost.
Second it is an offense to the person whom we/they have wronged. Therefore, when we sin we should seek forgiveness from a Holy God and ensure our heart is submitted to Him. Then and only then can we seek forgiveness from the person we have wronged. Emulate Christ for your children and help them understand that daddies mess up too. It is okay, every mess up is an opportunity to see the changing power of Christ in the heart of fallen sinners.
Crucify Your Flesh and Follow Christ
This is by far the most important step in seeking to live like Christ, lead and love our children. When you became a daddy, God is saying, “take care of this child, teaching him/her all that I have commanded you, and lead them spiritually. For you will give an account of how your lead them.” He knows our failures, fears, responses, and still gave us children to rear for His glory.
As a daddy our desires should be crucified daily and we should seek to follow Christ no matter what. The most ridiculous thing I can do after an “abundant” day at work, and 1 1/2 hours of traffic, is to rely on myself in leading my family. My sinful desires of comfort, “peace and quiet” and whatever else my wicked heart can dream up will overtake me every time unless I am resting in the power of Christ and seeking to follow Him.
I pray when I cross the threshold of my driveway for more grace, mercy, wisdom and a gentle heart as I head to the door. Was my day busy, stressful, cumbersome, agitating, and long, you bet; but God called me to lead my family for His Glory not fulfill my lusts of the flesh. Luke 9:23 — Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
y day begins when the nerve wrenching sounds of my alarm tell me its time get up, usually around 4:30-4:45 AM. I do not get up this early because I have a farm to tend to, (I would probably be up earlier if I did), nor do I get up this early because I enjoy catching the proverbial worm. I get up this early because like most I have certain things I have to tend to before leaving for work.
In a previous post I wrote about cleaning our spiritual room, (read about that 3 Ways to Clean Our Spiritual Room) which involved intentionally clearing the clutter of our lives and spending time with God. I usually do this in the early morning and then move on to other tasks. I find that this part of the day is the most peaceful and if I am to get anything accomplished it must be during this time because with 4 kids, “peaceful” is almost a miracle. Here I mean quiet and calm, not the peace that surpasses all understanding. Post daily devotion time, and completion of those things that have been taking up what could be considered permanent residence on my “to-do” list, I will eat and shuffle off to work. Most days I am out the door before my wife or any of the little ones wake up.
Occasionally my wife and I will take turns putting our toddler to bed. He is 3 (in 2017), stubborn, high energy, persistent and all those other qualities we so sheepishly see in ourselves. Therefore, bed time can sometimes be a daunting event. Let’s face it, parents with 3-4 kids know what it is like dealing with number 3 or 4, especially if that child is very uh.. er… hardhead…um.. determined. It is sometimes a spectacle of great entertainment. He is running around laughing in his birthday suit because he has decided that strapping on a diaper, hitting the sheets and meeting our demands is undesirable. Meanwhile the day and its troubles have you exhausted to the point of thinking well, “I could tackle him and get this diaper on,” or “maybe he will tire out soon.” Both endeavors are futile but eventually he complies.
My wife says, “can daddy put you to bed?” He starkly replies, “no!” I go in for a hug and an “I love you,” which is met with “I don’t love daddy.” Aghast, my wife and I make eye contact and she sternly rebukes him, “that is not nice, you love daddy.” “No!” He says again, to which my wife inquiries, “why not?” Then I hear it and it breaks my heart, “he is a bad daddy!” We take a few moments to collect ourselves and calmly look at each other. “Why is he a bad daddy?” my wife exclaims. “Because he goes to work all the time!” my 3 year old forces out with a disgruntled look. It is a rare feat when we catch a glimpse of the reality our kids live in. When we do, we should be grateful because it gives us a rare opportunity to reach into their world and make things make sense on their level. So, if you want to know how to be a bad dad..
1. Go To Work All The Time
Of course what he means is that I am at work all day and it seems to him like an unnecessarily long time. 1 Timothy 5:8 Reads: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Let me preface this by saying, I do not think this is talking strictly about working outside of the home, it is referring to an individual’s responsibility to take care of his/her family. This is generally done through employment but can be done through other means as well. In the context of 1 Timothy the idea is taking care of, or providing for one’s family whether this is a child or children caring for their elderly parents or a father / husband providing and caring for his family.
We are called by God to care for our family. This also means spiritual care and leadership. However, in order to effectively lead we must ensure we are aligned under the headship of Christ. He is who we are to emulate not other Christians, not other men, but Christ. That is not to say there is no benefit from fellowshipping with other Christian men as scripture says in Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another. From a toddlers perspective, go to work if you want to be a bad dad.
2. Don’t Give Them What They Want All The Time
This can be difficult for new parents or parents of the “baby;” however, it is important to realize that giving a child everything they want, when they want it leads to a self-centered sense of entitlement. Doing this can raise children who are incapable of providing for themselves, knowing what is expected of them, appreciating blessings the LORD provides and accepting responsibility for their actions. Every time we take a trip to the store he always wants a new toy. Never mind that he already has too many toys in his room at home, he wants a new one.
His most precious and pitiful act of hopeful expectation is “please dad, I just don’t get to have a toy.” To which I reply “Son you have toys at home, you do not need any more.” He respectfully replies, “But dad, I just don’t like those toys.” I happily oblige with, “great, we need to get rid of some stuff anyway.” This leads to an unmatched disgusted look of disbelief. He used to have meltdowns but after repeatedly learning how to embrace delayed gratification he has learned to appreciate what he has. Teaching our children to be thankful for everything and to expect nothing creates an attitude of gratitude unmatched.
3. Lead Family Worship
In our house I try to maintain a family devotion at least 3 times a week. You can read more about what kinds of things you can do in your family by reading a previous post here: Discipling Your Children in the Home. Almost every time when we first started family devotions we were met with a meltdown. “Not again, daddy.” or “ahh… but dad, we just always do Bible study.” After some time, he became excited for family devotion and would run and fetch his Bible. This is one of the most important things we can do as dads. Leading up to chapter 6 we see that Moses is teaching the Israelites God’s law, statutes and commandments and imploring them to follow the LORD. Deuteronomy 6:7 reads, “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”
Lest we think we need only teach our sons, the Hebrew word used here means, one born of your bone or family; therefore, all ones children are included in this meaning. If you want to be a bad dad, lead your family in repeated family devotions. This is by no means an exhaustive list of “how to be a bad dad” but from a toddlers perspective it covers the three most prevalent that matter to him most. Remember Christ, truly man and truly God, the perfect Son of the Father gave His life on the cross as a ransom for many. Take refuge in Him, that is put your complete trust and confidence in Him, who He says He is, and what He has done and will do. Remember John 10:10…
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. Christ came to give us life, and through the power of the Holy Spirit you too can be a “Bad Dad!”
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Have you stopped to consider what we as humans allow into our bodies? Think about it, processed food, high in fat and sodium, candy, chips, all manner of junk food. If you ever wondered how much waste is in a particular food, simply head on over to Calorie King to find out. Not only will you find out what is in the food, you can also see how long it will take with a particular exercise to eliminate those calories. In order to burn off one sugared or glazed chocolate cake-type donut, one would need to choose from the following:
After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand. 11 It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.” 12 Then the disciples *came and *said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?” 13 But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”
Jesus answers a previous accusation from the Pharisees, “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” Unclean hands before eating was a act thought to defile a practicing Jew.
Jesus responds first by calling out the Pharisees on various other offenses. Then He turns to their question and explicitly states that it is not what you put into your mouth, that defiles a person but what comes out of the mouth. Jesus then goes on to provide a more detailed answer explaining why it is what comes out of us that defiles.
15 Peter said to Him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 Jesus said, “Are you still lacking in understanding also? 17 Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? 18 But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. 20 These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.”
In His explanation Jesus presupposes the natural corruption of the heart because of sin. We find much support for this in scripture.
Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.
“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
Our heart is desperately wicked and although “follow your heart” is the spirit of the age; Jesus reminds us that following our heart will only lead to evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication or sexual immorality, theft, lying, slandering and much more. Jesus Christ is the only one who can change our hearts.
God says in Ezekiel 11:19-20
19 “And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God.”
When God changes our heart, we will still struggle with sin. One of my professors once said, “in the heart of a lost person, sin reigns, but in the heart of a saved person sin remains!” How true is that. What does this have to do with media intake? Well, quite frankly, everything! The external is an overflow of the heart. It is already desperately wicked and so it follows that whatever we continue to fill it with will overflow into our lives. We are driven by our heart and there is no way around that. When we consume media that displays and encourages sin, we exercise our heart in the wrong direction. For example, if your heart struggles with lust, it should follow that consuming media which glorifies sexual promiscuity is a willful plunge into temptation that is almost certain to manifest into sin.
This is not to say that one cannot engage in any type of media outside the rated G title; however, it is important to know how visual content affects us. While “each man should be convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5) may I submit to you that we should not be “conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of our mind” (Romans 12:2). Renewing our mind should include daily devotions, prayer, and study; while not excluding media it is important to keep clear of things that turn our heart and mind to temptation.
We see God specifically tell the nation of Israel to do the same. In various places in the Old Testament God continually warns Israel that they must not engage in the activities of the people around them; for they practice detestable things. These ranged from taking advantage of others to child sacrifice. Once Israel entertained the idea (temptation) it always manifested into sin.
I would say that families that include kids should be even more careful about what type of media they consume. Children constantly learn what to do, how to act, what to say and watch directly from their parents example. As parents, we should heed God’s command in Deuteronomy 11:18-20
18 “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 19 You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. 20 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,
If we continually allow for dark things to come into our home, we should not be surprised when it affects our families. We must also consider the amount of time that children spend in the world; taught and guided by principles and morals that, in most cases go against the word of God. The home should be a place of peace, a sanctuary where they can feel safe.
Our home should be a place of light and not darkness. Hollywood spends millions of dollars peddling trash into the homes across the nation and world for one reason; they have understood all too well the old adage: “the eyes are the window to the soul.” While scripture itself does not directly make this claim it does say that the “eyes are the lamp to the body;” which could suggest the same. If our eyes are the lamp unto our body, this suggests that they feed our body light; however, if all they consume is darkness, well than the body is can no longer see. Let’s consider Psalm 1.
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
This Psalm compares the righteous with the wicked; however, the first two verses are what we should consider. Here a man is considered blessed (or happy) who does not walk, nor stand, nor sit in the counsel of wicked people. Consider the downward depression. First the man is walking with the wicked, then he is idly standing with sinners, and finally sitting with scoffers. Bottom line if a person continues to do things that bear darkness rather than light they to shall eventually take a seat with scoffers, sinners, and wicked people. This is not to say we should avoid the lost, rather the contrary as we are called to evangelize the lost; however, what it does mean is one who continues in the darkness will eventually become an idle patron in the seat at the table of darkness.
If Jesus says our heart is full of evil and Jeremiah says it is desperately wicked, we begin with a heart of darkness. We should seek out the light and fill our heart and mind with such. When it comes to media consumption we use two different sites to check the movies/show/games we allow in our home. One is secular based and one is Christian based. If we find a movie that is questionable we will preview it first before allowing our children to watch it.
Site one is Common Sense Media, and is the secular site. It has reviews of movies, books, games, and television shows. It is very comprehensive and explanatory in the reviews which are provided by both adults and children.
Site two is Plugged In is Christian based and provides reviews of movies, books, games, music and more.
It is vitally important to guard our eyes as they are the lamp unto our body. The darker it is, the more we stumble. God continually warned Israel about this and warns us all the same. Christ is the light of the world and men hate the light for they do evil deeds in the dark and the light exposes their wickedness. I must reiterate that what one consumes ultimately comes down to Romans 14 where “everyone must be convinced in his own mind” but may I submit to you, the eyes when filled with darkness see no light.