children

Brief Notes on Children’s Education: On Boundaries

Brief Notes on Children’s Education: On Boundaries

Developing a robust view of the world in our children demands boundaries. Therefore, defining these boundaries are crucial educational steps in the early stages of child-rearing.

The absence of boundaries generally produces confused children. We may call this “Enlightenment Parenting.” The children of the enlightenment will jump in the first puddle they find. Whether shallow or deep, they will learn to walk by sight rather than faith. But if they understand the purpose of boundaries, even expressing appreciation and love for them, children will walk in green pastures and be planted by the rivers of life growing into a greater knowledge of God’s world.

Children as Distraction

Children as Distraction

When I was a pastoral intern, I remember someone approaching me after a service and confessing that she simply couldn’t tolerate little children in worship because of their noises. “They were a distraction,” she said angrily. I often think this is the way many evangelicals view children: as distractions. They are distractions at home, so we find ways to entertain them rather than engage them. They are a distraction at church, so we do the same.

The disciples rebuked our Lord because they believed that the children were a distraction to Jesus’ “real” ministry (Mat. 19:13). But Jesus rebuked the disciples and said his ministry is to draw little children to him and to build a kingdom through the faith of those little disciples.

When we send our children to another gathering away from Jesus’ central gathering in worship, we are creating a separate class within Jesus’ earthly kingdom. Even though our intentions may be pure, we may be thinking as the disciples did and thereby missing the opportunity for Jesus to place his hands upon them and bless them with His love (Mat. 19:15).

The Comedy of Worship and Crying Children

The Comedy of Worship and Crying Children

When Paul says we are “fools for Christ,” he is saying that the Christian faith is comedic. An unbeliever should find Christian worship humorous at some level. In fact, to be a Christian is to live in the comedy of God’s work in history. Think about it: God is using the cries of infants to frighten his foes (Ps. 8:2), and our Lord says that the kingdom belongs to little children (Mat. 19:14). What could be weaker and funnier than a kingdom/army of infants?

In short, worship is a humorous clash of old and young, crying and singing, male and female all together worshipping one true God. I have often said that worship is not a classroom. The ideas we have of people quietly sitting receiving information needs to be dismantled. Little children need to be with adults in Church because without them the kingdom gathered is an incomplete kingdom. While cry rooms and nurseries are good and right, institutionalizing children’s church while the big people meet elsewhere is unwise and unhealthy for the proper flow of the kingdom of God on earth.

When we participate in worship together–nursing infants, little children, teenagers, adults–we are participating in history’s great comedy where God joyfully defeats evil (Ps. 2) through the cries of the weak and strong.

The Arguments Against Children in Worship

The Arguments Against Children in Worship

I want to appeal to evangelicals who do not accept the premise that children belong in worship with adults. Now, the majority of those who read me find the above concept strange. Many of us have seen the fruit of seeing our little ones grow up worshiping next to us and singing our songs and confessing sins. Yet for many, the idea of children in worship seems foreign.

These parents will make at least four arguments against bringing children to worship with them on Sunday. First, some will argue, “I can’t keep my children quiet during worship, therefore I don’t see the need to keep them with me.” I am especially aware of this argument with families that have lots of kids. Second, some will argue, “I am not going to get anything out of the service if I have to keep an eye on my kids.” Third, a few will argue that keeping kids in worship with parents is a waste of time since they will get nothing out of it. They are, after all, children and lack the capacity to grasp the language of a worship service. Finally, aware of evangelical parents who view Sunday morning as a day to relax from parental duties and catch up with church friends, so putting kids in children’s worship provides the needed rest for weary parents.

I am certain there are additional reasons, but these are a few that I hope to tackle in upcoming posts in the hope of beginning a conversation on why I and so many others have faithfully kept our children in worship Sunday after Sunday.

Inconsistent Pro-Lifers

Is it possible we have become inconsistent pro-lifers? Advocates of the dominion mandate, but traitors to it at the same time? Lovers of children, but keeping them from Jesus’ benediction? We need to strive for consistency in this important matter. So we must ponder how we answer these questions: How do we as a church encourage new mothers? Do we provide them meals to ease the new challenges they will have? Do we welcome children into our church with the same joy Jesus did in the Gospels? Further, what about the elderly among us? Are they simply inconveniences? Have we given thought to how we can learn from their wisdom? What about the younger folks in our church: have we listened to their concerns? Or have we simply separated them from the rest giving them over to their specific millennial set of interests? There are times when activities for certain age groups are good and right, but has that become our norm, rather than the exception? If our desire is not incorporation, but segregation, in what sense can we foster a culture of life when we have developed a culture that disintegrates family structures and church life? Is it possible, I ask once more, that we have become philosophically and practically inconsistent with the agenda of life we treasure so deeply?

Mother’s Day and Child-Birth

“The seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the servant.”

It was through the seed of a woman that Messiah came and bound evil. Our hope did not appear out of nothing. The Virgin Mary conceived our hope. In I Timothy, we have the cryptic words of St. Paul, who said, “Women will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” This is a re-telling of Genesis 3: Women will be saved through the new Adam birthed from a mother’s womb. However, this salvation comes through faith, love, and holiness.

Moreover, I cannot think of a richer way to express the self-giving nature of motherhood, except through this triad of faith, love, and holiness. A mother’s faith is her salvation. Her love is her armor, and her holiness is her perseverance. Salvation comes through the glory of self-giving, even in the act of childbirth. It would demand the faith and love and holiness of millions of women through history to have confidence that a Messiah would arrive on earth through one of them.

We live in a day where motherhood is despised. We take a day to honor them, but truly what meager attempt to honor those who offer so much? Being a mother is now considered by many to be an interference in world economy. The United Nations began a decade ago an assault on motherhood saying that having children is keeping women from finding their fullest potential. As the world, the flesh, and devil go so go the United Nations. We need to realize that in our day any role that has been established by God will be confronted by evil, and such is the role of motherhood in our society.

So how shall we then live on this Mother’s day?

First, we live honoring our mothers. We rise and call her blessed day after day after day. Children, if you want to live a long and fruitful life, honor your mother with your words and actions.

Secondly, we care for our aging mothers. We have seen several examples at Providence of sons and daughters caring for their aging mothers until her last breath. This selfless act is refreshing in an age where many mothers die alone in their homes or nursing homes.

Thirdly, I encourage those of you whose children are no longer at home to function in a motherly role towards our young, soon-to-be mothers and wives. If there is ever a time when young ladies need the wisdom of our mature ladies, it is now.

Fourthly, for those who grieve today because of the recent/past death of a mother or a mother/figure, we grieve with you. When the ancient Israelites grieved the loss of a loved one, they told stories; be refreshed by the memories of your mothers.

Fifthly, for those who grew up without mothers, this can be a difficult day as they watch everyone celebrating their moms.  On this day, find comfort in the love of God. He spreads his wings over you as a mother cares for her own.

Finally, let’s together honor mothers and their love of Christ and the Church, our heavenly mother. Let’s sing their praises and shout at the mountaintops. Providence Church desires to be a place where diaper changing, doing the dishes, educating, singing while cooking a meal, writing a letter of thanks, kissing and hugging children, disciplining children, equipping younger mothers are all activities that are praised and not mocked. Happy Mother’s Day: Your labors in the Lord are not in vain!

 

Worship or Sports?

The contrast seems almost profane, but yet our evangelical culture allows this profane contrast to sound sensical. While sports can be important and should play a role in our lives–I speak as a lover of sports–our priorities must never be confused. Over at Reformation 21 the ever prolific Mark Jones offers some thoughts:

I think it is important, in all things, for our children to learn from their parents that from the time they come out of the womb to the time they leave the home the Lord must come first. Following Christ demands that we even renounce our family if we have to (Lk. 9:57-62; Lk. 14:26); how much more should we renounce sports for Christ’s sake? We are always to seek first the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33).
Giving up worship for sports is not an option for Christians. In fact, to miss worship because of sports is positively wicked. Your children will not likely be converted on the field or on the court or on the diamond. In God’s house, with God’s people, they are in the most important place for their never-dying souls. They are in the place that shapes their living for the week, week after week, year after year, decade after decade.
The most important thing Christians can do in this world is worship God in the corporate assembly of his people on the Lord’s Day. Think about that. We enter into the heavenly places when we worship. We commune with the triune God and his people. Through faith, we receive grace upon grace, and we offer praises to the living God. And would we rob our children of this inestimable blessing for a game?

While I have written about this in my little book The Trinitarian Father and have written about it elsewhere, the conversation seems to be in constant need of being stressed. This is not merely a question of to be or not to be sabbatarian. I know many like myself who would take a clear exception to the Westminster Confession in favor of the continental view who still sees this element as binding. Jones asserts that this compromise is positively wicked and can have a negative affect on the religious education of our own children.

Give them stories

It was Russell Kirk who once said, “If you don’t give young people good stories, they will seek out bad ones.” I have told my children many times about my days growing up in Brazil. I told them about the poverty that was so prevalent; the slums that provided an unforgettable scent to our little part of the city. I also told them about the soccer games we had near the slumsa and how the smell never bothered us when we were communing around the sacrament of a soccer ball. My children look at me with wonder in their eyes. They can hardly believe that their father had such a history. It’s my story and I tell them as often as possible.

My hope is that as they grow I may be able to tell them grown-up stories about my older years as a teenager and the lessons I learned. I want to put it all in the context of daddy’s commitment to Jesus and how Jesus delivered their father from a multitude of sins. These are good stories. I want them to see redemption in each one of them. I want them to have good stories in a world shaped and orchestrated by God. I want them to hear of good stories where faithful saints undergo pain and persecution, but yet find hope in God through it all.

I pray that my children will not seek out bad stories due to the lack of good ones.

Phillip Pullman stated that “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” I want my children to see stories in relationship and never isolated from our provision. I want them to hear them and through them see that we are providing them a form of food that will sustain them in their own stories.

There are many stories in this world. Some of them are true, good, and beautiful. Some of them are false and are meant to take away your appetite from the true story-teller of this world; the Creator of all stories. When my children come across these types of stories may they see it for what they are: pseudo versions of God’s narrative; anti-story.

  1. known as favelas  (back)
How to Have the Perfect Family

How to Have the Perfect Family

This is an important article. I hope you read intently each word. I would be so bold as to say that it may change everything you ever thought about the family. I am not one for hyperbole, though I wish I had written this piece a million times. Better, I wish I had the opportunity to practice this consistently in my own home. I am in the middle of the battle. I am not post-battle wishing I had done things differently in battle. I am in it. The diapers in my trash can prove it. The smell of spit-up–oh, that awful smell! My wife (peace be upon her) is amazing! She is quick to love, tempered, and full of patience. It is safe to say we have a perfect family. I never though it would have been so simple. After eight years of theological training, an almost completed counseling certification, and I think only the last few years I discovered that I have arrived. Our family is perfect. Our children are perfect. They are perfect in the precise way God intended them to be.

Now, you may ask: “I pray, dear sir, tell my thy secret?” Indeed I will. How to have a perfect family? Admit your imperfection as a parent. Legalists will never have perfect families because they will always set a standard that is too high for their children or themselves to fulfill. They refuse to see the error in their own ways, and they trap their children in a warming pot just comfortable enough for them to realize they are ok when in reality they are not. But the biblical parent is quick to admit his fault before his family. Go ahead. Try it. Perfection draws nigh.

It was a warm afternoon in North Florida. You may be tempted to think that that is the definition of Florida, but it’s not. This afternoon was particularly hot. At that moment I felt the unbearableness of being human.  I felt exposed. Drops of sweat slowly creeped down my shirt. At that moment if Mother Teresa knocked my door I would have told her to come back later. So, it happened. One of my children disobeyed my direct orders. Mind you: at that moment the world revolved around me and my wet woes. I quickly reacted–told him to stop what he was doing in a less than tender voice and proceeded in my liturgy of self-pity. You see, at that moment I did not want a perfect family. I wanted my own perfection. That’s unhealthy. It took me a while before I was able to admit my stupidity. I did and quickly repented to God and my child. My child, by the way, quickly forgave me. It was beautiful. Just the way things ought to be. I had the perfect family at that moment.

I have discovered in my six years of parenting that I want a perfect family. Understand what I am saying. I want to be holy and perfect as God is holy and perfect. I don’t want to be perfect and holy in the same manner God is. God is infinitely holy and perfect. His perfection cannot be marred by sin. His holiness is all purity. But God wants us to be perfect not in any hypothetical way. That would be cruel. He wants us to be perfect like fallen human beings. He wants us to be perfect united to His Perfect Son, Jesus Christ. He wants us to be perfect by admitting our imperfection and our endless excuses to be something or expect something of our families that not even God expects.

Over the years I have seen perfect families. By that I mean I have seen fathers and mothers repent biblically and consistently. I have seen fathers seeking the heart of their children. It has been wonderful. The perfect family has laundry on their couches, dishes to be cleaned, but joyful voices around the house- voices that frighten God’s enemies. You cannot manipulate the joy of children. When there is unresolved discord in the home, we know. Trust me, we know. But when there is confession and consistent love they laugh. And that is perfection.

A counselee asked me jokingly recently, “What must I do to be saved?” I said without hesitation: be perfect. I went on to explain what that meant. To be perfect is not the state of knosis. It is no secret knowledge. In fact, it’s quite simple. It’s being open about your inadequacies and striving by the Spirit of God to be holy.

I know your world is not shattered by such propositions, but I hope it is an affirmation that parenting is hard and no amount of abstract theology will do. There is a lot of work to be done. This is not the place to do it, except to make the poiint that you can have the perfect family. Just admit often your imperfections. Don’t set up a standard for your children that is higher than what you would expect for yourself. And after all of that: thank Jesus. He is the author and perfector of our faith.

Children and Worship: Fit and Qualified

Children and Worship: Fit and Qualified

Children in worship is an important theme in sacred scriptures. Children are an assumed part of the covenant worship of God.  a Their absence in worship would be a form of re-building the walls of partition. The wall erected to keep people out was torn down to bring people in. The absence of children in worship service revives the old cursed wall (Gal. 3:28).

The Christian faith has always been genealogical. It has always been about blood. Both major testaments function with this hermeneutical principle. But there is a fine qualification to keep in mind. This genealogy traces back to the first church formed in the Garden of Eden. The Church, which began in seed form, and which became pentecostalized b in Acts two, is a true family. Her blood is divine. Jesus bled for her and the Spirit bled drops of fire into that Church, and from that blood formed one holy, catholic, and apostolic body. This newly formed community comes together as one when she worships. She ceases to be a collection of families, but one family. She receives a new identity.

Children enter into this body through the same door that everyone else enters through: baptism. In baptism, children receive the ritualized mark of the Spirit. The Spirit bleeds red drops of fire on her head and empowers the infant to grow in grace and truth. The child is then educated in the ethics of Yahweh (Deut. 6). He shares the same heritage (Ps. 127-128) and the same blood (Acts 2). He becomes a qualified member of this new creation. He does not wait to be qualified, but becomes qualified through fire. Pentecost, then, is the coming together of water and fire.

Children become a necessary furniture piece in the new house of God. She is a little temple joined with many temples forming one holy temple wherein the Spirit dwells. She becomes a warrior; a warrior who depends heavily on more experienced warriors, but a warrior nevertheless. She is ready to follow in the train of the apostles without ever being able to utter her first word. God, the Spirit, gives her speech. God makes the dumb to speak, and He makes babes to cry out (Ps. 8). God’s noble army of men and boys, matron and maid is not composed of polished servants, but of servants that are being polished by the grace of the gospel in the community of faith.

Why children in worship? Because little pebbles become great stones. Because little seeds become great trees. Because little voices still frighten the enemies of God. God is perfectly capable of translating any language in the world. But when he translates the language of nursing infants into praise, He says, “this is very good.”

  1. One might even say assumed furniture in the household structure  (back)
  2. Spirit-sealed  (back)