I have no greater joy...

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." - 3 John 1:4

Redeemed. A life for Christ.

On October 12th, 2014, I baptized our first child, Audrey, at church. Audrey is seven years old. For each of those seven years Cathy and I have been laboring day and night to show her Christ. For seven years through tantrums, lies, greed, and other ways that the sin that ruled her life (though masked by an adorable and deceptively soft exterior) revealed itself, we have not just taught much but have also learned much about the total depravity of man. It is with great joy today that I can witness the working of the Holy Spirit in Audrey's life. It is a great peace in my soul to know that Audrey will be with us for eternity.

Being in the world but not of it

With Audrey we were new parents. Being new parents we made numerous common mistakes and probably invented new ones along the way... Thank God for his grace. Through the course of our learning and growing as parents we came to a pretty sharp reality that changed much of the way we parented. Our parenting had been structured by the culture that surrounded us, not by the God that created us. As I look back through my life, parenting has been one of the first and most profound ways the gospel has shaped my life and my families life. During the earlier years we deliberated topics from schooling to discipline. Our early years included contemplating public schools for education and likewise utilizing time-outs and taking away toys as a form of discipline... Our early years had no sense of shepherding a child's heart and did not distinguish between discipline and punishment. Like most in our culture today we were encouraged to prioritize a secular education, utilize creative 21st century parenting techniques, and for our aim to be to produce a well polished and productive member of society. That's right... our priorities were to provide a safe, comfortable, well-balanced, self-focused and self-advancing life for our child. Where was the gospel? Not in our home. What's all the more interesting is that our lives at this point were yielded to Christ and the gospel, we just had not yet let it define what it meant for us as parents. Though I also believe today that had we had a deeper understanding of the bible when we became parents we would have been better parents from day one. God has and will continue to use our failures for his good purpose. Regardless of that fact, I still thank him daily for his grace. 

Course correction

Though we've only begun realizing the eternal implications of parenting, I look at two decisions that have had the greatest impact (and highest importance) to date: Education and discipline (which could also be phrased "education in discipline"). 

Education was one of the first topics that we discussed. Though we had heavily leaned toward homeschooling our kids from the beginning, we nonetheless discussed the options that we had. We made the early decision to homeschool but the discussion did not include the reality I can say with confidence today: we simply could not have discipled our children biblically had we sent them away. Raising children is a life investment. Every moment of every day forms into lessons and imparts wisdom from God into the heart and mind of the child. A significant amount of these opportunities take place during the "school day". Observing and properly addressing things like frustration, anger, and laziness, take place while learning math or language arts. If my child were under the care and direction of the government for 8 hours a day not only would we lose the opportunity to raise our children but that is also 8 hours a day our child would be subjected to an education that completely removes God from its worldview. Despite the tangible benefits of being with our children day and night, the simple truth is that God has instructed parents to teach their children, not the government (Proverbs 22:6). When we look for parental instruction from God, the principals we extract from passages like Deuteronomy 11:19 is to be teaching the Word of God to our children all day and night, which just isn't possible if our kids aren't with us. 

Discipline began as one of the most confusing concepts that we practiced in the home in our early years. It was an awkward mix between "creative" 21st century techniques and Proverbs 13:24. Something the culture had taught us is that given all the advancement in child behavioral studies, there were better and more effective methods for discipline. Essentially, the bible wasn't sufficient for raising children. I'm convinced that this lie was Satan's way of penetrating the family unit. I say this not simply because the majority of our cultures discipline methods are unbiblical but that its function is to change a culturally unacceptable behavior to a culturally acceptable one. The purpose of discipline in the bible is to correct disobedience (sin) against God. The early errors we made were things like mom and dad making the rules and enforcing the rules. If you broke the rules or misbehaved then you answered to me for disobeying me. We later realized that we are not the authority but are given authority to act as an agent on God's behalf. The rules we now enforce are the rules God has created. Disobedience today isn't simply against mom or dad but actually disobedience against God. God gives instruction to parents and gives authority to parents to give his instruction to their children. We are simply not at liberty to create our own instruction and methods. 

Sound instruction

One of the major blessings I've personally received from the Lord in child rearing has been the deepening and strengthening of my theology. Now I'm sure one or two reading this are still fixated on the first quote in this post, 3 John 1:4, thinking something along the lines of: "Ken, you know Gaius wasn't actually John's son so using that verse to speak of your child walking with the Lord isn't quite accurate... right?". I joke about it but I am grateful for people like that in my life (you know who you are). This is one of dozens of "one-liners" in Scripture that have been corrected in my life because I now teach my children the bible. I use 3 John 1:4 instinctively because of the "one-line-theology" of my past, but maintain it because it still holds truth. Audrey is my student. Because of the grace of God, through my shepherding, Audrey today knows and obeys Jesus as her Lord and Savior. 

I've become increasingly aware of odd sayings that we've adapted in our lives. Phrases like "spare the rod, spoil the child" aren't actually found anywhere in the bible... not only is it not in the bible but it completely misses the point. The proverb "The one who will not use the rod hates his son" (Proverbs 13:24a) is best left in its original translation. If we did shorten it, it should be more along the lines of "spare the rod, hate your son". It's not a matter of spoiling them but hating them because an undisciplined child remains at enmity against God. Trusting in the bible and the bible alone in everything we believe and do has been one of the most critical decisions we've made in our lives. "All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." - 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

When it comes down to it, we either believe in God or we don't. If we do believe, we obey his word (John 14:23). The way we raise our children testifies to whether or not we are a disciple of Christ. The world will tell us that raising our children the way the bible teaches is child abuse. I've literally heard that accusation countless times, everywhere from comments online to news articles. I've even been told this in "softer" ways by people in my life. The world hates God, hates those belonging to God, and hates the instruction and ways of God (John 15:19). It is no surprise that things from spanking to homeschooling are so violently attacked by the world today. The tragedy is that many are caving to the cultural influence and governmental threats that exist today. Who will we listen to?

More disciples to be made

Audrey is the first of our (currently four) children that we are confident has been redeemed by God. My focus shifts from showing why she needs Jesus' forgiveness to now growing her relationship with him. As for the other three, the work continues. I don't know how long I'll have with each of my children. A few years? A few decades? Only God knows. What motivates this arduous life-investment in regards to my children is twofold: 1) As of today I am only confident of one of four of my children's eternal security. I don't want to waste a moment because I don't know how much time I have. 2) God's glory. All things we do are to be done unto the glory of God. The purpose of having children is to advance God's Kingdom. Not only does having my own children allow us to disciple them around the clock, but it also allows us to raise up and send out workers into the harvest (Matthew 9:37). People joke about my little Duffy army, but in reality it's not far from the truth. I'm training soldiers for battle (Ephesians 6:10-18). 

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