A Wonderful Tension: The Importance of Fathers and the Supremacy of Christ

As I think about Father’s Day approaching, I can easily think of areas in my parenting that I need refocus in.  Voddie Baucham Jr. helped me put my fatherhood in perspective this morning:

The role of men in their families is so important that God picture21honored it by conferring upon us his own title, Father.  We’re the governors and guides of our families, and the way we lead has far-reaching implications…I’ve watched families crumble under the weight of paternal neglect…I’ve watched households transform quickly as fathers take the helm and begin to lead and disciple their wives and children.  I’ve seen marriages healed as husbands begin to take seriously their duty to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25) and to raise their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).

The role of fathers in the family can hardly be overstated.  However, the supremacy of Christ is our fuel, our goal, and our comfort in this great duty.  Because of the power of the gospel and the past and present work of Christ, we can have strength to lead our families today, the vision for where we need to be leading our families, and the reality of forgiveness and help for where we have failed and when we will fail.  I need Jesus.  My family needs Jesus.  Baucham continues:

…The family is not the gospel; nor is the family as important as the gospel.  The family is a delivery mechanism for the gospel.

In Ephesians 5 and 6 the role of fathers loving their wives and discipling their children, the responsibility of wives to submit to their husbands, and the duties of parents to their children are all couched in terms that are unmistakable in their gospel-centeredness.  This is all about “Christ and the church” (5:32)…

…In the end, I want you to see Jesus.  I want you to see him in a way that drives you to pursue him personally and to keep him before your wife and children in a way that causes them to seek him as well.  In short, I want you to shepherd your family in the direction of the Good Shepherd.
(From Family Shepherds, pp. 11-14)

Teach Them Diligently: Eight Principles to Help You Teach Your Children According to Deuteronomy 6

picture of familyLast weekend my wife was at a Women’s Retreat and I watched our three young children on Friday night, and the two oldest again on Saturday.  I made several plans of things to do with them, but those plans quickly became a trip to the store and a trip to the park between changing diapers, cleaning up meals, hugging away boo-boos and realizing that pig tails are way harder to make than they look–in fact, impossible for me.  Having this concentrated time with the kids and without my wife not only reminded me afresh of all of the ways she works so hard as a mom for our family, but it also made me contemplate the importance of knowing our parenting goals.

We don’t want to wake up 18 years from now and realize that we changed diapers, cleaned up meals, and shuttled kids to sports but missed the most important thing.  More than anything, my wife and I want our kids to know and love Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  Sometimes we simply need to be reminded of some of the basics towards that eternally significant goal.  Deuteronomy 6:4-15 clearly lays out 8 things God expects us to be teaching our children.  We teach these things not only when we read a Children’s Bible before bedtime, but also when we are going to the store or enjoying God’s creation at the park:  “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and you 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.”

  • Teach your children that your family is part of the larger body of Christ (Deut. 6:4).  Deuteronomy 6 is given to Israel corporately, even though the parents have to apply it individually.
  • Teach your children about God (Deut. 6:4)  You hear theology in this verse; children are sponges, soaking in information about not only the world but also about God.
  • Teach your children to love God (Deut. 6:5)  Jesus said this was the greatest commandment.
  • Teach your children to obey God from the heart (Deut. 6:6-7)  If it comes from their heart because they love God, they will want to obey Him even when you’re not looking.
  • Teach your children to follow your example (Deut. 6:6-7)  This implies that you are believing the gospel and following hard after Christ yourself.
  • Teach your children at every God-given moment during the day (Deut. 6:6-7)  Every day, all day.  God gives a countless number of teachable moments each day.  Teach them diligently!
  • Teach your children the Bible and how it interacts with their lives (Deut. 6:7-9)  If you’re giving them a solid foundation of God’s Word, you will be able to pull from it as situations come up each day and they will see that the Bible applies to them.
  • Teach your children to love God, not the world (Deut. 6:10-15)  Everything can become an idol.  Teach them to be in the world but not of it.

How Do You “Shelter” Your Young Children From Current Events?

picture 20We happened to be staying in a hotel the same day that the recent bombing at the Boston Marathon happened.  The next morning, my wife and I helped our 5 year old and 21 month old get their food from the breakfast dining area, then got our own food while one of us was holding our infant.  We were all excited for the breakfast spread at the hotel and were just starting to enjoy it when a morning news program began blaring in the dining area.  All eyes were on the TV, trying to hear the latest news about the explosions.  We couldn’t turn it off.  Getting down there and getting back upstairs was no easy task–impossible to imagine going in reverse with food in our hands–so we sat there for a few minutes trying to distract our 5 year old, until he asked if there were any kids hurt in the explosion.  We gathered them up quickly and headed back upstairs with our food, little ones and food both in our hands.

Because of the ages of our children, we don’t listen to the news while they’re awake at home, or in the car anymore.  But this week my 5 year old and 21 month old saw images of explosions while out in public, and last week my son asked me why men can’t marry other men because he saw two men once that “looked married.”  This is where Deuteronomy 6:6-7 comes into play while also asking the Lord for wisdom:  “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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.”

Sometimes as you walk through life your young kids will ask you questions that you are not prepared to answer, and that they may not be ready to hear a full answer to.  I won’t pretend to be able to do this perfectly, but we can balance giving them an appropriate answer that brings God’s Word to the issue while also not telling them things that are too much for them right now.  For example, I was able to give my son a concise answer about marriage that seemed appropriate for his age, by simply telling him that God made marriage for a man and a woman only.  He asked more about it, but I told him that was all he needed to know right now.  As he gets older, we will have longer discussions about relevant issues like marriage and explosions.

Corrie Ten Boom illustrates this well (from The Hiding Place) with a story of how her father answered a question she asked when she was young:

He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor.

“Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said.

I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.

“It’s too heavy,” I said.

“Yes,” he said. “And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.

Don’t you love how parenting makes you beg God for wisdom?  Lord, give us wisdom to teach our children biblical principles when they come across hard issues in this world, while also knowing what their young minds can and cannot handle.

Jesus Loves the Little Children

The recent 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, bringing with it the realization that over 50 million children have been aborted in America since 1973, has made me consider again how God views children.  Why did I tell the Children’s Ministry volunteers at our church recently that if they are involved in Family Ministry, they are involved in a ministry that is close to the heart of God?  How do you think about your own children?  Is it true that God has a soft spot of affection for little children?

I could give you verse after verse right now that affirms this truth.  Every verse about little children in the Bible is positive.  But to see what God thinks about children, we simply need to look to Jesus who is God incarnate.picture 14

I used to wonder if the paintings that we often see of Jesus holding children on his lap were true.  Does it really say that in the text?  “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them.  But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God … And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” (Mark 10:13-14, 16)

“They were bringing” has the idea of a habitual action.  This often happened in Jesus’ earthly ministry.  But how did the Lord punctuate his rebuke to the disciples?  He “took [the children] in his arms,” which could also be translated, “hugged” or “embraced” them.  When Jesus wanted to show what God thinks about children, he hugged them.  This is a picture of Jesus that we need to remember whether we’re thinking of the unborn, Family Ministry, or our own children.

Christian Parenting Reminders from Jason Helopolous

I needed to read this today and I hope that it is an encouragement in your parenting as well.  Click here for the entire excellent blog post from Jason Helopolous at the Gospel Coalition.

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Some of my greatest joys in life stem from being a parent to two delightful children. However, some of my greatest struggles in life also stem from being a parent to these same two children. There are days that I cannot imagine anything more rewarding and other days that I want to get into the fetal position and remain there for a week. Here are a few reminders for me and all the other Christian parents out there:

Affection and Love: We can never show our children too much love. I have yet to meet the adult who tells me, “My parents just showed me too much love!” But sadly, I have often heard the reverse. Shower your children with affection. May they know our warm embraces and messy kisses!

Have the Right Goal in View: As Christian parents, our goal in raising our children is not primarily to prepare them for going out into the world as fully functioning adults. Our goal, as Christian parents, is to prepare our children for eternity! This should shape all that we do in our homes.

Focus on My Responsibility: But having said that, we can’t “force” our children to be faithful, less sinful, or more righteous. That isn’t our responsibility. Our responsibility is to be faithful in our own charge as parents. In that regard, I can surely hinder or help their sensitivity to Christ, growth in sanctification, understanding of grace, and maturing in character, but I can’t guarantee it, secure it, or determine it. Let’s be faithful in what we do have responsibility for and spend less energy trying to control that which we don’t have responsibility for.

Keep Your Eyes Forward: We can be prone to look over our shoulders. What will OUR parents think? What will others at church think? What will my pastor think? Our children are disobedient and we find ourselves cringing inside and looking to see if anyone else was watching. And when we see others looking on, immediate concern grips our minds. Will they think my children are disobedient or bad? Will they think I am a terrible parent? Stop! We aren’t parenting for others’ approval. We are parenting for the good of our children to the glory of God. Let’s keep our eyes looking forward and heavenward for the good of our children and the glory of God.

Don’t Get Too High nor Too Low: Children change, so let’s not get too high or too low by what we see in our child’s character, actions, or soul in any given day or during any given period. Let’s rejoice some. Let’s mourn some. But let’s do so with restraint.

Run the Right Direction: God knows a thing or two about wayward children, so let’s seek Him who has an understanding ear. What grace we need in parenting and what grace is given in Christ. May we run to Him with our frustrations, struggles, trials, and failures. He should be our first counselor and comforter.

Christianity not Morality: Morals are good, but not in and of themselves. Let’s teach our children and pray for a morality that flows from a heart changed by God’s grace. For many of us, our default is to slip into morality parenting, rather than Christian parenting. The former is focused solely upon outward behavior, the latter is focused upon inward change which will manifest fruit  in moral outward behavior.

Lastly and Most Importantly, Count the Blessings: Let’s thank God everyday for our children. Even on those hard days, find the blessings amidst the chaos! Count every blessing that comes as a parent. Let it fill us with wonder that the Lord of the Universe has given us the privilege of having these little souls under our care. What a blessing. Thinking on that may even help us get out of that fetal position.

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[HT: Jason Helopolous]

Give Your Teenager a Gift that Can Have an Eternal Impact

If you are the parent of a teenager or are a grandparent of a teenager, I encourage you to consider giving them one of these Bibles or books that can have an eternal impact in their life.  Just as the Apostle John had “no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth,” (3 John 4) speaking of his spiritual children, if you are a Christian parent I know that you will have no greater joy than to know that your children are walking in the truth of God’s Word.  These resources can help.  I have written a brief review of two study Bibles for teens and four carefully chosen books.

I simply ask you to consider something before you choose one of these Bibles:  think deeply about where your child or grandchild is in his or her walk with the Lord before choosing a new Bible.  Which would be the most helpful to him or her?

I have purposefully chosen books that stand alone if a teenager is motivated to read them, but that could also be easily used for parent-teenager discipleship.  Any one of these four books would be perfect for planning a time to discuss a chapter after each of you have read it.  If you have never done this, start with once a month–for example, if you chose Growing Up Christian, it has twelve chapters, so you could plan to meet with your teen the first Saturday morning of every month for one year.  Feel free to comment below if you have ever done something like this with your teenager before!

The ESV Student Study Bible is a great Study Bible for a teenager.  I love my own ESV Study Bible, and the difference between a normal Study Bible and a “Student” version is that it explains things more clearly at times for those who have not studied the Bible for as many years.  For example, at Genesis 1:26 my ESV Study Bible and the ESV Student Study Bible have essentially the same study note.  But the ESV Student Study Bible also has a graphically appealing “Did You Know?” box that explains God’s plural use of “us” in that verse.  See a video here that explains the idea behind the ESV Student Study Bible and if you’re thinking of purchasing it check out the different cover color options available.  I also recommend The MacArthur Student Bible for the same reasons as above, but it only comes in the NKJV.  If your teen is not currently reading and understanding the NKJV well, then I would stick with the ESV (if you have an older teenager, the regular MacArthur Study Bible is available in ESV and has an appealing layout with excellent study notes).

The book Growing Up Christian by Karl Graustein is the best book I have seen for teenagers who have grown up in the church.  Joshua Harris explains, “[the author] wants to see them transformed by Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross–not merely living off the religion of their dads and moms.”  It is easy to read but has great depth and includes questions that you could use for a friendly discipleship discussion with your teen.

Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper is a life-changing book that challenges young people to live solely for the glory of God.  He begins by writing, “The Bible says, ‘You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body’ (1 Cor. 6:19-20).  I have written this book to help you taste those words as sweet instead of bitter or boring.”  I can’t recommend this book more for the teens and twenty-somethings in your life.  It was influential in my own call to ministry.

Do Hard Things by Alex & Brett Harris is subtitled, “A teenage rebellion against low expectations.”  They assault the “myth of adolescence” by challenging fellow teens to live for God now rather than later.  Here is a helpful review of this book by my friend Jesse Johnson.  This is the only book recommended here that I have not read yet myself, but it strikes me as being in the same vein as Don’t Waste Your Life but maybe better for younger teens.

Bitesize Theology: an ABC of the Christian Faith by Peter Jeffery is the perfect book for your teen if you know that what they need right now more than a challenge to live fully for Christ,  is a better understanding of the basics of God’s Word.  I have never seen another book that can explain terms like “justification” and “sanctification” in 3 easy to understand pages.  Unless you have a highly motivated teen, this would definitely be one to do together with them (there are also study questions at the end of each chapter) and it would be well worth your time!

Parenting is Hard for a Reason

Christina Fox has a post at The Gospel Coalition blog that encouraged me in my own parenting this week.  I read it yesterday afternoon and then I was tried in it last night.  I love how Fox applies the gospel–as displayed in the cross–to parenting.  I need forgiveness when I see that I sinned in how I parented.  I can teach my children about the gospel and their need for forgiveness in Christ even as I ask for their forgiveness.  As Fox says, parenting is hard for a reason.  It is another reminder of our need for Christ.  Read some excerpts below or click here for the full article.

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It had been a long and trying day where nothing went the way it should.  I must have corrected the kids every five minutes.  After refereeing fights and cleaning up messes all day, I was exhausted, irritated, and impatient.

Sitting at the dinner table that evening, it was my oldest son’s turn to give thanks.  When I heard him say, “And God, could you please help mommy to be patient with us?” I realized I wasn’t the only one affected by our difficult day.  I was part of the problem.

Before I had children, I considered myself a patient person.  Having worked with children professionally, I felt confident in my ability to interact with them.  I assumed that working with troubled children would automatically qualify me for parenting.  It was soon after I had my first child that I realized just how wrong I was.

When my kids were small, I couldn’t understand why things weren’t going as they should.  I read all the books.  I followed each method and step listed on the pages.  I did everything I was told to do.  But my children didn’t always sleep the way the experts said they would.  They didn’t potty train in a day.  I’m not convinced they’ve learned their manners.  And they didn’t (and still don’t) do what I say the first time.

I couldn’t wrap my mind around it all.  When parents seek to raise their children in a godly way, how can parenting still be so hard?  But if I believe that God is sovereign, then I must believe he is sovereign even over all the challenges I have with my children.  If they have a rough day, whine, complain, and don’t get along, it is not outside his control.

While I used to despair over my children’s imperfect sleep patterns, rambunctious behavior, and failure to say please and thank you, I now realize there is a greater purpose—my refinement. Each struggle, each exhausting day, each behavioral problem, is an opportunity for me to grow in my faith. God uses my children as mirrors to reflect to me the sin I didn’t realize resides in my heart. He is in fact using my own kids to refine and transform me.

Parenthood is tilling the soil in my heart, weeding out the sins that keep me from growing in faith. Some of the roots run deep and have entangled themselves around my heart. Before having children, I didn’t realize how deeply rooted sins like impatience, selfishness, and irritability grew in the sin-fertilized soil of my heart. It took the challenges of raising children to reveal them to me.

But even as God reveals my sins of impatience, irritability, and selfishness, he also reveals his grace. When my children are easily distracted and I respond with impatience, not only does the Spirit reveal that sin to me, he also points out to me all the ways God is patient with my own distracted heart. When struggles in parenting reveal my sin of irritability, it also shows me God’s endless forbearance. When the weeds of selfishness become apparent in my heart, I also see how selfless Christ was for me at the cross.

Time and again, the gospel of grace covers my sin, bringing me back to the cross of Christ. Jesus knew I could never be a perfect mom. He knew I couldn’t respond to my children with love and grace at every moment. He knew I’d have days where I would fail. And that’s why he came. At the cross he suffered for every time I am impatient, for every time I fail to teach and train my children, and for every time I don’t love them as he loves them.

That day when I came face to face with my sins at the dinner table, I count it as grace. For it is God’s gracious love that desires to rid me of the sins that keep me from him. And after my son prayed, I asked him for grace and forgiveness for my impatience that day. Reminding him that I am sinner just as he is, I used the opportunity to point him to the grace of Christ who bore all our sins on the cross.


HT: Christina Fox

Biblical Parenting Books

There is a plethora of resources available to Christian parents today, which is both a blessing and a problem.  How do you know which are the most biblical and which may steer you in the wrong direction?  After all, you want to be right on track with what the Bible says about parenting!  You don’t want to realize that you missed the target when your children are leaving the house, but you want to “…bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4)  I encourage you to make it your goal to read at least one of these books this fall!  Here are my current Top 10 Biblical Parenting Books…

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp has become a classic biblical parenting book.  If you are only going to read one parenting book this year, or if you have never read this, I can’t urge you more strongly to start with this one.  There is also an excellent Study Guide available that really expands upon the book in a simple manner, written by Tedd Tripp 10 years after the original publication, and will help you to practically work through some of the topics in your own family.

“Don’t Make Me Count to Three!” by Ginger Plowman is my wife’s favorite parenting book.  It takes the biblical principles in Shepherding a Child’s Heart and makes them extremely tangible.  My favorite quote is from the Foreword, “I’ve heard many ‘experts’ proclaim that the Bible has very little to say about raising children.  Perhaps they have spent too much time earning their degrees and too little time learning the Scriptures.  God’s Word has plenty to say to parents if we diligently read it, apply it, and reap its fruits.” (pp. 16-17)

If you are looking for a “theology” of Christian parenting, this is your book: What the Bible Says About Parenting.  John MacArthur faithfully and clearly explains the Scriptures that God has given us regarding parenting.  Don’t let “theology of Christian parenting” turn you away though–in my opinion, this is one of John MacArthur’s best books.  He is practical and passionate when he talks about the family and raising children God’s way, and it shows in his own family.

Your Family God’s Way by Wayne Mack.  If you are having communication struggles within your family, whether in your marriage, with your children, or teens, this is the book for you.  The subtitle, “Developing & Sustaining Relationships in the Home” belies that it deals with more, but the way that Wayne Mack practically explains the biblical principles of communication is worth this book’s weight in gold.

If you are struggling with being pessimistic about your family or your role as a parent, Disciplines of a Godly Family by Kent and Barbara Hughes is biblically joyful and positive.  It is chock full of ideas for enjoying your family, learning and growing together, and living for the Lord.  It is not as much of a parenting manual as some of the other books, but I highly recommend it if you need to move beyond a foundation, or if you need hope or ideas.

See my earlier blog post regarding The Duties of Parents by J.C. Ryle.  It is available in a free download as a PDF here!  It is an excellent booklet and is only 38 pages.  The only caution I give is that Ryle sees Proverbs 22:6 as an absolute promise from God rather than as a divinely inspired proverb that explains how things generally work.  If it were a promise, however, there would be no faithful parents with unfaithful children.  It is well worth reading though and it will be helpful with your parenting.

The title of Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting by William Farley intrigued me enough to get it on my bookshelf.  I am confident commending it heartily as my Pastor, Mike Pohlman, recommends it.  See his blog post here.  Farley says in his Introduction, “In my experience, the most effective parents have a clear grasp of the cross and its implications for daily life.”

The Faithful Parent: A Biblical Guide to Raising a Family by Martha Peace and Stuart Scott is written by the same author  that I have trusted enough (Scott) to read The Exemplary Husband three times!  In an interview about this book Scott remarked that it is written from a “different yet biblical perspective: God’s and the parent’s faithfulness rather than the ‘product’ or the outcome.”

In Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens, Paul David Tripp hopefully titles the first chapter, “Age of Opportunity or Season for Survival?”  Certainly it is the former.  Ken Sande explains that this book “…provides a superb road map for raising teenage children…[and] experiencing with them the challenges, victories, and joys of our journey to maturity in Christ.”

Growing Up Christian by Karl Graustein is not a parenting book.  It is actually written to teens who have grown up in the church and subtitled, “Have you taken ownership of your relationship with God?”  It is well written and a book that would be perfect for a parent of a teenager to read simultaneously with their teen and discuss over coffee or a meal together.  It would be a great way to shepherd your child’s [teen’s] heart!

The Blessing of Being a Parent

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Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” Psalm 127:3-5a.

Note: Our 3rd blessing, Ezra Counts (see picture above), was born yesterday!

As congratulations have come pouring in on the birth of our son, one word I have often enjoyed hearing is “blessing.” If one word could be used to describe God’s attitude toward children, it is “blessing.” Think of the attitude of the psalmnist in Psalm 127. Heritage. Fruit. Reward. Blessing.

Contrast this with the often heard world’s view of children: Expensive. Brats. Time-consuming. Unwanted.

We need to have our minds renewed by God’s Word in every area of life. The tricky part usually comes years later. It’s pretty normal to be joyful when a new baby is born. But Moms, don’t forget God’s blessing on you when that child is having terrible two tantrums. Dads, don’t forget God’s blessing on you when you have to talk to your teen about dating or driving privileges. It’s a blessing from our good and gracious God to be given children. They are a stewardship from Him. May we take up that stewardship joyfully for the next eighteen plus years.

“The Duties of Parents” by J.C. Ryle and Free Download

All Christian parents need biblical, helpful reminders of what their responsibilities are to their children.  I have been so encouraged and challenged by The Duties of Parents by J.C. Ryle that I am quoting Ryle’s first 3 points below.  If I hear they are helpful, I may quote more portions in the future.  Here’s the great news: the entire 38 page booklet is available in a free PDF or Kindle dowload here (if you would rather have the published booklet for less than $5, click here).

1) First, then, if you would train your children rightly, train them in the way they should go, and not in the way that they would.

Remember children are born with a decided bias towards evil, and therefore if you let them choose for themselves, they are certain to choose wrong.

The mother cannot tell what her tender infant may grow up to be–tall or short, weak or strong, wise or foolish: he may be any of these things or not–it is all uncertain.  But one thing the mother can say with certainty: he will have a corrupt and sinful heart.  It is natural to us to do wrong.  “Foolishness,” says Solomon, “is bound in the heart of a child” (Prov. 22:15).  “A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Prov. 24:15).  Our hearts are like the earth on which we tread; let it alone, and it is sure to bear weeds…

If you cannot make up your mind to this first principle of Christian training, it is useless for you to read any further.  Self-will is almost the first thing that appears in a child’s mind; and it must be your first step to resist it.

2) Train up your child with all tenderness, affection, and patience.

I do not mean that you are to spoil him, but I do mean that you should let him see that you love him.

Love should be the silver thread that runs through all your conduct.  Kindness, gentleness, long-suffering, forbearance, patience, sympathy, a willingness to enter into childish troubles, a readiness to take part in childish joys–these are the cords by which a child may be led most easily–these are the clues you must follow if you would find the way to his heart.

Few are to be found, even among grown-up people, who are not more easy to draw than to drive.  There is that in all our minds which rises in arms against compulsion; we set up our backs and stiffen our necks at the very idea of a forced obedience.  We are like young horses in the hand of a breaker: handle them kindly, and make much of them, and by and by you may guide them with thread; use them roughly and violently, and it will be many a month before you get the mastery of them at all…

3)  Train your children with an abiding persuasion on your mind that much depends on you.

…this is one of God’s merciful arrangements.  He gives your children a mind that will receive impressions like moist clay.  He gives them a disposition at the starting-point of life to believe what you tell them, and to take for granted what you advise them, and to trust your word rather than a stranger’s.  He gives you, in short, a golden opportunity of doing them good…

Beware of that miserable delusion into which some have fallen–that parents can do nothing for their children, that you must leave them alone, wait for grace, and sit still.  These persons have wishes for their children in Balaam’s fashion–they would like them to die the death of the righteous man, but they do nothing to make them live his life.  They desire much, and have nothing.  And the devil rejoices to see such reasoning, just as he always does over anything which seems to excuse indolence, or to encourage neglect of means.

I know that you cannot convert your child.  I know well that they who are born again are born, not of the will of man, but of God.  But I know also that God says expressly, “Train up a child in the way he should go,” and that he never laid a command on man which He would not give man grace to perform.  And I know, too, that our duty is not to stand still and dispute, but to go forward and obey.  It is just in the going forward that God will meet us.  The path of obedience is the way in which He gives the blessing…