He's Got the Whole World in His Hands—Including Your Kids

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Parents are responsible to provide and care for their children. We are the primary disciplers of our kids. But parents are most fundamentally stewards. Though we’re called to faithfulness with our kids, they ultimately belong to a promise-keeping God who is more faithful than we are.

As Psalm 127 says, our children are a heritage from the Lord, an unmerited reward from him. The older our kids get, the more it becomes clear we can’t control their destiny. It doesn’t rest in our decisions or in theirs’. Our children’s future, their health, their skill, their will and desires for life, who they will choose as a spouse, and even how long they will live—all this belongs to God.

The enemy of stewardship is entitlement mixed with sentimentalism. An entitled dad with a sentimental vision thinks, This kid is mine. He’s going to be just like me. He’s going to be into the music I like. He’s going to love Alabama football just like I do. But when Dad’s expectations aren’t met and his kids don’t turn out the way he hoped, he’s angry, and he doesn’t know how to engage his child.

Likewise, the entitled mom thinks, I deserve better than this. Don’t you know how I suffered to bring you into the world. When her teenager rebels, she can turn bitter and feel lost with God.

Scary Stewardship Vision

A stewardship vision of parenting—one that says my kids belong to God—is scary, since God doesn’t always meet our expectations. He doesn’t see as we see, nor should he. His vision for our lives is better. Embracing this truth is ultimately freeing, and it will lead us to gratitude.

James K. A. Smith wrote the following in a letter to young parents in his church:

You’re going to think it’s incredible when Liam smiles, or says “Mama,” or rolls over on his tummy, but let me tell you: that won’t even compare to the afternoon when, in what feels like an out-of-body experience, you realize you’re having a conversation with this man—you might be sitting on the front porch talking about Mumford & Sons or Andy Warhol or World War II artillery, and for a moment you can hardly believe that the little bundle you brought home from the hospital has grown into this beautiful, mystifying, wonderful young man. And you realize that, in your son, God has given you one of your best friends in the whole world, and you try to suppress your smile while thinking to yourself, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

A covenantal way of thinking frees us from the pressure to get everything right with our parenting. In a fallen world, some kids will be sick, and some will fall away from the faith. We can never accomplish all our good goals for their health, education, manners, and athletics. Even the kind of future relationship Smith describes isn’t guaranteed. But a stewardship vision frees us to be thankful and enjoy God’s good gifts when they do come, because our kids (and all good things they bring into our lives) are undeserved gifts. As Paul says, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7).

Three Confessions

In the Baptist tradition, the practice of child dedication in corporate worship can help us to stop and begin to cultivate an attitude of grateful stewardship. It’s a way of publicly celebrating the good gift of children before our people. It’s a way of publicly practicing gratitude for our kids rather than complaining about them. It’s also a public confession that any good we receive at our children’s hands comes from the God who gave them to us.

Here are three confessions that can be made in a child dedication service.

First, God wants our kids, and ultimately their hearts and lives, to belong to him. So we confess together, “God, all we have—even our children—belongs to you. Everything we have is yours.”

Second, we don’t just dedicate our children; we dedicate ourselves. So we confess and affirm our God-given responsibility as parents.

Third, we ask for help in the form of a commitment from our local church, the believing community. So we ask them to confess, “We’re standing with you. We’re partnering with you as you raise your children in the faith.”

May the Lord inspire and encourage you as you consider planning a child dedication service for your church community.

This article was adapted from Before the Lord, Before the Church: ‘How-To’ Plan a Child Dedication, an eBook published by Sojourn Network. The notes in the book unpack each of these three confessions with more detail. It first appeared at The Gospel Coalition.

Legos and Theology: The Joy of Knowing and Experiencing God

One of my favorite things is when my kids are interested in something so much they seek to learn about it for themselves. The more they learn about it the more they grow to love it, and the more they love it the more they want to know. A main way they do this is by looking up their topic of interest at the library. 

High on the list of great loves for my kids are Legos. A book often checked out is the Lego Idea Book. They’ll spend hours looking through it to gather more ideas. They love legos, so they want to learn more about how they can build great new creations. Their love for Legos leads them to learning, and then they put into action what they have learned.  

I want to cultivate that same kind of excitement for my kids when they are learning about God. But when we hear the word theology, many of us fall asleep. The word is almost a hypnotic trigger. What do you think of when you hear the word? Does it conjure up images of a stack of big, dusty books or is there something more?

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30 ESV

Theology is simply the study of God. It’s a good practice for us all, young and old, to continually be learning more about him. More about who he is, what he has done, what he desires, and who he says we are. Studying theology invites us not only to gain more knowledge, but to align our hearts and minds to God’s way of thinking and living. What an incredible inheritance we leave the next generation when we help them to love and treasure Christ! This is why our families and churches should strive to aid kids in learning about God in ways that are deep, engaging, and captivating. In his book, The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer says:

“We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian Fathers of generations past. This will prove of greater value to them than anything art or science can devise.”

Knowing Him leads to loving Him. The hope in developing a love of God through the study of theology goes deeper than kids purely gaining knowledge for its own sake. We want our kids to study theology because we want them to meet the One they are studying about. Jen Wilkin explains the connection between theology and loving God in her book Women of the Word, “If we want to feel a deeper love for God, we must learn to see Him more clearly for who He is. If we want to feel deeply about God, we must learn to think deeply about God…...The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.”

Loving God will be caught. We must continue to grow in our own understanding of God if we expect to be able to challenge our children to do the same. The temptation for many parents and teachers is to introduce their kids to a list of information about God rather than modeling for them what a loving relationship with God looks like. But theology becomes a joy when it's an experience--like building with Legos. A friend of mine once told me teaching is more than seeing a child as bucket waiting to be filled with information. Kids need to know and experience what they are learning about. We must help them love God with their minds and hearts, guiding them to form a relationship with their Creator beyond knowing only facts and details. If kids know a ton about God but haven't experienced Him personally then all we have accomplished is growing Pharisees.

If our kids have a relationship with God he will change their hearts and they will want to know him more. They will want to start building. They will want to study about Him. And they will want to tell others about the God they know and have experienced.

What practices help your kids know and experience God?

Dads, spend time with your kids one-on-one.

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If you're a husband, I’m assuming you’ve read Date Your Wife by Justin Buzzard, (and if you haven’t, you should) and that you understand the need to spend quality time pursuing your spouse. In this post, I want to encourage all dads to pursue your kids too. Leading family devotions are one thing, but personal time with each of your children is equally important. By addressing men, I’m not saying that moms can’t do this as well. And if you're a single parent, these goals are still applicable. Here is what I want to make clear. Husbands and fathers have responsibility before the Lord to care for and cultivate their family (Ephesians 6:4). Here are three goals. 

Know your kids personally.

As you spend time with each of your kids, you'll get to know what they're into. As you listen to them and let them share their heart, you'll get a glimpse into their world. You'll see the way they see the world, and you'll have opportunities to help them see the world through a gospel lens.

I have twins, who probably couldn’t be more different. My daughter is very extroverted, and she loves to be around people. My son is more introverted. If I treat them the same or try to disciple them with the same methods, we'd all end up frustrated. But by spending time with them one on one, I know them personally and have a better shot at being successful with goal number two...

Lead them as individuals.

By knowing them personally, you're better prepared to lead them individually. And you show them what it means to have a personal walk with Jesus. When I spend time one-on-one with my son or daughter, I see and can anticipate where they are currently struggling or how they may struggle in the near future. Then, I can talk with them about or model what it looks like to handle that struggle in a godly way. And that leads them to goal number three... 

Show them how a life of grace works.

More of the Christian life is caught than taught to our kids. So, model spiritual disciplines for your children. Show them what it looks like for you to depend on Christ and his means of grace. In this way, you'll show your kids their own need for Jesus and the free grace he offers.

While we will not do this perfectly all the time, as we are faithful to draw near to each of our children, we can rest in hope that salvation belongs to the Lord. He's chosen to use us as his agents of salvation and for the gospel growth of our kids. Dads, it's an awesome responsibility, but I think you'll find it to be an awesome grace as well. So, ask God for help right now. Then, put some one-on-one times on your calendar. 

Teaching Kids to Praise

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If you are a parent, then God has commanded you to teach your children about Him.  And He has commanded you to teach your children to worship him expressively. In Psalm 78:4, the songwriter, Asaph, declares: “We will… tell the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” Asaph is an example of both a father who led his children in worship and a leader who led the community in worship. Asaph wrote worship songs that gave praise to the Lord and reminded the people about all that he did. 

David gives us similar instructions in Psalm 145. He writes 

"One generation commends your works to another;
    they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
    and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
    and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
    and joyfully sing of your righteousness." Psalm 145:4-7

This is God’s command for us. One generation declares the works of the Lord to another generation. What do we declare? Look at the passages. We declare God’s mighty acts, his splendor, his majesty, his power, his glorious deeds and wonderful works, his abundant goodness and his righteousness.

How do you do that mom and dad? Even if you are not musical like David or Asaph, you can lead your children to worship God. Here are just a few encouragements: 

  1. Slow down and say thanks to God for what he’s given you. David says, “I will meditate on your wonderful works.” One of God’s wonderful works is your children. Your son or daughter is fearfully and wonderfully made. So, the next time they make you laugh or say something cute and you’re tempted to pull out your phone and share that moment with the world… Instead, just take it in. Enjoy it. And remember the Creator who gave you this gift. Stop and say thanks.
     
  2. Put off complaining and put on a life of praise. Kids will wear you out! When they’re babies, it’s those midnight feedings and constant diaper changes. As they grow, you’re running here and there to practice or clubs. Helping a child grow up is hard. And you know what we do? We get with our friends or online and complain about it. We’re complaining when—according to these passages—we should be telling, proclaiming, celebrating, and joyfully singing about God’s goodness and love. So, when you’re tempted to complain, stop and remember that God loves you. Then, celebrate him. Check out the new kids album from Sojourn Music, Clap Your Hands, Stomp Your Feet. Put that music on and sing about God as you drive in the car with your kids. Read a Bible storybook before bedtime, and pray a little prayer of thanks as you tuck your baby in at night. Most of all, enjoy yourself as you're celebrating God! Expressive joy in Christ makes his message believable for our children. You are the curriculum that your child will learn most fully. So, be expressive. It is a good thing to praise the Lord (Ps.92:1).
     
  3. Encourage your kids to be responsive and expressive! You shouldn’t demand outward expression from your kids, but you can encourage it. The Scriptures call everyone to clap their hands to the Lord. It's a universal appeal (Ps. 47:1). So, we should be clear with our children that God is calling them to respond to him as well. Invite your kids to respond to God with their bodies, and explain why we worship the way we do (Ex. 13:8). You have the privilege and responsibility to show your kids the greatness, power, and glory of Jesus. So, take time to talk about the words we sing on Sunday. Take time to ask questions about what a song means and how its words apply to your child’s life. By asking, you can discover how much your kids understand about what we’re doing.

TRY IT THIS WEEK:

(1) Explain to your children why we sometimes raise our hands when we sing or pray. Read 1 Timothy 2:8. Then, explain how we want our kids to get comfortable lifting their hands in worship, but we don’t want them to misunderstand what it signifies. We don’t lift our hands in order to become holy. Rather, we lift our hands as an expression of what God is doing in us.  Lifting our hands shows that God is holy (different from us), and he has made us holy (different from the world). 

(2) Read Psalm 98 together as a family.  Then answer these questions:  Who and what is worshiping God in this song?  How are they worshiping God?  What parts of their bodies do they use? What instruments do they use? Why do they worship God in this way?

Check out the new Clap Your Hands, Stomp Your Feet VBS. This worship themed VBS includes a director’s guide, games guide, craft and assembly guide, printables, and much more. It even includes a studio-recorded children’s worship CD and digital songbook produced by Sojourn Music. Purchase now from New Growth Press.