Principles of Discipline From Hebrews 12

As a parent and pastor, I love seeing when someone I teach lights up with understanding. This past Saturday, I taught my Parenting with Confidence seminar and that “light bulb moment” happened when we talked about discipline.

Specifically, we talked about the reason we discipline. As a parent it can be difficult to impose pain on one we love. But our chastisement is rooted in the nature of God. We learn to deal with our children by looking at how the perfect Father loves his.

In The Disciple-Making Parent, I talk about why we discipline from a discipleship point of view. In this post, I want to look at a more specific Scriptural basis for discipline.

The Father Disciplines Us

Ultimately, we discipline because the Father disciplines us. We understand how to relate to our child by looking at our Heavenly Father. God created the earthly relationship to understand the heavenly one, not the other way around. So our discipline of our children is rooted in the perfect character of God.

Let’s look at Hebrews 12:6-11 for some clues on heavenly and earthly discipline.

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

As a young father seeking God’s wisdom, this passage was extremely helpful to me. What are some principles that fall from this passage?

Some Guiding Principles
1. Discipline is from God. the discipline of the Lord – The Lord disciplines us. We are like him when we discipline. It is an outworking of his love toward us. This is an action of God toward his people.

2. Discipline is an act of love. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves. – He is love and yet he disciplines us because he loves. Proverbs tells us that to not discipline is to hate. The motive is love. Jesus said, “Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline.” So if a parent says, “I love him too much to discipline him,” Scripture would tell us you are hating him and loving yourself.

3. Discipline starts with fathers. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. –Fathers should take the lead in disciplining. This agrees with Ephesians 6:4 where fathers are commanded to bring up their children in the training and instruction of the Lord.

4. Discipline results in respect toward parents. and we respected them. – Proper discipline results in respect not alienation. There is a reason God gives us little children. When they disobey our commands, they know there should be a consequence. When there is no consequence, they start to lose respect for us. It is similar to the classroom teacher that cannot control his or her class. There is no respect for the teacher. Too many parents want their children to like them. Our children will like us when they are adults if they respect us when they are children.

5. Our discipline is for a short time. For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them. – Believe it or not, you will not always be correcting your children. In the broad span of their life, our discipline is really only for a very short time.

6. Our discipline is Imperfect. For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them. – What a sweet relief this verse is! As it seemed best to them. That means that my discipline will be imperfect and they will survive! This is not to endorse uninformed thinking. Parenting with Confidence does help here. Nevertheless, I only have to do my best. We should not hold back out of fear of “messing up” our child. They come messed up already!- I know I did not discipline perfectly. They will survive. Loving, thoughtful discipline will not always be executed perfectly. But in a house where there is love and affection our children will “survive” our mistakes.

7. Discipline is painful. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, – Now we come to our foundational verse. Discipline is painful. The pain of the discipline we impose should be more than the pleasure of disobedience. It is hard to inflict negative consequences on our children but it is necessary. God, our loving heavenly Father, has a plan for your life this year that includes pain. One reason he brings that pain is for your growth.

8. Discipline results in righteousness/peace. but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. – Though it may not seem like it, discipline actually brings the fruit of peace and practical righteousness (or uprightness). Where there is not self-control, there is a lack of peace. The home is filled with conflict and lack of order. Where there is self-control there is peace in the home, peace in the heart, and a godliness.

9. Discipline has a purpose of trainingbut later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. – Training is not words. Training is action with teeth, with consequences. The final step in righteousness is training (2 Timothy 3:16). We hope our children have habits of godliness.

10. Discipline is heart oriented My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord… for those who have been trained by it. – This observation might surprise you but the writer aims his comments at the heart of the one being disciplined. One can accept discipline and be trained by it or one can refuse to learn from it. Proverbs calls that refusal to learn the actions of a fool. Similarly, as parents we want to aim not just at behavior but at the heart. We don’t want just obedience when we are looking for fear of punishment. Rather we are hoping for and pleading for a heartfelt orientation toward wisdom and obedience.

When we think about disciplining our children, our primary text is not Proverbs but the New Testament. When combining Ephesians 6:4 and Hebrews 12:6 and following, we see that our parenting flows out of the character of God. We parent like he does. The world now sees discipline has abusive. Scripture and experience would argue that loving, careful, and proper discipline brings the “fruitful peace of righteousness.”

Want your children to love and follow Jesus Christ?

In today’s hostile world you need a strategy.

These resources will give you confidence.


Two Tips for Connecting Your Children with Spiritual Mentors

Connecting Our Children to Spiritual Mentors

I was recently interviewed and asked how parents can connect their children with other mentors in the church. In The Disciple-Making Parent I quote Kara Powell who suggests trying to connect our children with a least five adults in an informal way.

But how can this happen? The church can certainly help but what can we do as parents?

I have written extensively on this in Chapter 6 of The Disciple-Making Parent. But in addition to that material I ended up adding several other things in this interview.

1. Teach your children to greet other adults.
Children can and should greet adults. Did you know that “Greet one another” is a NT command that is repeated four times?

Yet many parents never encourage their children to greet other adults and carry on a short conversation. We make excuses for them. We say they are “shy.” The reality is that children can be trained out of shyness.

Depending on the ages of our children, we can and should train them to interact with a few adults. Sunday morning worship or a meal at someone’s home is a perfect chance. We can help our children by giving them questions to ask. Prepare them by saying something like, “I want you to go and shake Mr. Bettis’ hand and say ‘Hello.’ And then ask him how his week was.” My adult children laugh now remembering that one of our standard get-to-know you questions for guests that we gave them to ask was always, “Did you have any pets growing up?”

Many adults want to connect with young people but don’t know how. By putting the responsibility on our children it helps break the ice.

Right now in my church, I have two young guys, around 5 and 7 years old, who come up and greet me on some Sunday mornings. Now that we know each other a little bit I will often say hello to them first. Out of the whole cloud of kids I know these two by name and they know me by name. They feel comfortable coming up and talking. They are learning the skill of greeting others and a foundation is developing for talking later in their teen years.

Are you training your children to interact with adults? Appropriate to their age they can do it.

2. Talk up your friends to your children.
If we want some of our friends to be spiritual “aunts and uncles” to our children we also need to be careful how we talk about them. Little ears are always listening.

I once watched a husband and wife have an adult conversation about issues in their friends (Don’t we all have those flaws?). Rather than save that conversation for another time, they had it in front of their children.

Apart from whether it is appropriate to have the conversation at all, it certainly is not helpful with their children present. It robs them of the respect they should have for all adults.

As we seek to connect our children with others let’s be careful of how we speak of them. Instead, it is much better to actively praise our friends to our children.

The rest of my suggestions start on page 55 of The Disciple-Making Parent.

What would you add? Shoot me an email and let me know.

Want your children to love and follow Jesus Christ?

In today’s hostile world you need a strategy.

These resources will give you confidence.

Power of Example|

Raising an Alien Child – Jen Wilkin

The ERLC Parenting Conference was impressive in terms of organization and content.

Jen Wilkin’s talk – Raising an Alien Child – sticks out to me. When we met several years ago,I realized how similar our values were. Here is her outline and some quotations. So much practical wisdom here.

We are going to ask our children to think and live differently than the world in five different areas.

1. Activities – An alien child will spend his/her time differently than to other children. 10:00
The author of Deuteronomy assumed families would sit, walk, lie down, and rise up together.
A high school counselor said the most common reason he sees kids is depression and anxiety due to exhaustion and overscheduling.
Children that have family dinners four times a week are in a lower risk category for risky behaviors. Family dinner might be the most countercultural thing you do.
So be careful in the activities you sign up for and think about how they impact the family.

2. Speech – An alien child will not sound like other children. 19:40
The alien child will use kind words. Sarcasm is a form of verbal bullying. Sarcasm always has a victim. Someone is always paying the bill. We need to train in kind words. We want to set ourselves up as the experts. We train a child in the language of reconciliation.

3. Possessions – An alien child will not own what others own when they own it. 26:25
We teach delayed gratification because we are a people of delayed gratification. This is a basic skill of being a Christ-follower.

4. Entertainment – An alien child will not watch, read, or listen to what other children do. 32:45
We too often choose entertaining over training. Long car trips are not a time for everyone to zone out in their own world. Entertainment is also ceasing to be a shared value. We don’t just enjoy entertainment but we should enjoy enjoying the entertainment together.

5. Friends – An alien child will not invest in the same kinds of relationships. 37:00 No drama is allowed. Train children to be friends with each other. When it comes to sibling rivalry, you cannot neutralize it but you should not normalize it. We can raise them to be friends with each other.

And of course the only way to hope to raise an alien child is to be an alien parent.

Want your children to love and follow Jesus Christ?

In today’s hostile world you need a strategy.

These resources will give you confidence.


Who Should Discipline? Mom or Dad? – 10 Guiding Principles

Who Sbould Discipline?
I was recently presenting at a conference and suggested that Aaron’s son’s sins of active disobedience and passive disobedience might have been influenced by Aaron’s passivity as a leader. Though parents are certainly not responsible for the choices our children make as adults, we do influence and shape their wills as they grow up.

I strongly encouraged men to fight their natural passivity and engage in leading their homes. One specific application was in the area of child discipline.

At the end of that presentation one mom asked this question, “I have just come from a talk where the female speaker was urging the women not to be pushovers and put the discipline on the fathers. How would you fit your thoughts with hers?”

My Response
My response was something like this:

“I don’t think we are contradicting each other at all. In fact, I think these statements are complementary.

Men can have a temptation to be overbearing or passive in parenting. By far the most common struggle is passivity. Moms have temptations as well not to be the “bad guy” and inflict some sort of painful discipline on the little one that the they love. They can be tempted to either spoil them or pass the buck to the father saying, ‘Just wait until your dad gets home.’ As a result, dads may regularly walk into a messy situation at the end of the day and are too often the bad guy in the relationship.

Ideally, moms and dads are on the same page in terms of correction. Mom carries it out when dad is not around. She only refers the ‘big things’ to him. Dad makes sure that the family has a plan and the children are under control.

We might think of this like a Vice-Principle and a Teacher. A good teacher can keep his or her classroom under control. However, at some point one child might be acting out so much that she needs to send him or her to the Vice-Principal. Similarly, the husband takes the lead in making sure there is a family plan. And he backs up Mom by being the heavy at times.”

10 Principles To Guide Our Cooperation
That question prompted me to think about how Sharon and I tried to manage this issue in our household. The following are ten principles we tried to follow. We certainly did not follow them perfectly, but they did guide us.

1. Dad and Mom are a team in leading the household in the area of discipline with Dad ultimately responsible before God.

2. God expects and commands men to discipline their children. Positively he is commanded to bring them up in the discipline of the Lord (Eph 6:4). We are told that he is imitating our heavenly Father when he does this well and will be respected (Hebrews 12:9-11). And carrying out this duty with respect is a mark of a mature man (1 Tim 3:4-5). On the contrary, when a man’s children are wild and disobedient it is a mark against him (Titus 1:6).

3. Therefore, I, as the dad, need to learn about parenting principles and make sure my wife and I are on the same page. As a dad, I can delegate but I cannot abdicate. It is too easy for men to profess ignorance in this area and turn all the oversight to their wives. When it comes to making hard decisions, it is easy to just have a blank stare that says, “I don’t know what to do.” This does not honor the spirit of the previous Scriptures.

4. This means that we will learn godly principles of child-rearing together. Can two walk together unless they are agreed? Unity in child-rearing comes from a common biblical understanding. And that common biblical understanding comes from learning together.

5. Since we are on the same page, Dad will trust Mom as the person onsite the most with the children. She will be most in tune with what the children need. We can see from Scripture and nature that moms are God’s primary heart-makers. In calling men to take up their role, we don’t want to denigrate the insights and wisdom of thoughtful moms. Similarly, Mom will trust Dad’s insights knowing that he has a different perspective in this area.

6. We will communicate often to come up with plans for family discipline. Life is constantly changing. Dad will value Mom’s insight and suggestions. Since Dad is to lead the family, Mom will bring issues to him and thoughtfully engage with his insights. The team needs regular meetings to address changes and remind themselves of the plan. Sharon and I regularly went out for coffee to pray for our family, discuss how we were doing, and make adjustments as needed. This was a vital habit that kept us on the same page.

7. Since we are a team, we will not disagree about discipline in front of the children. We may have those disagreements offline. But in the moment, the children will see a unified team carrying out their parenting plan. Mom is carrying out most of the day-to-day issues with Dad verbally reinforcing their plan when he is home. Disagreements are worked out when there is a better time (See the previous point).

8. Moms should correct and enforce the principles of discipline. Those same commands in Point 2 apply to women as co-regents with your husband. Moms, you will not mess up your kids through discipline. They come messed up already! Discipline and correction are means of turning their hearts back toward you and the Lord. These are acts of love. Jesus said, “Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline” (Rev 3:19).

9. When Dad is home, he will take the lead if discipline or correction needs to occur. He will not sit passively in the other room while his wife hands out discipline. This grows even more true as the children grow older.

10. Moms will watch carefully their two temptations which are to a) overrule and disregard their husbands as well as b) passively pass all the difficult issues to him. Again, a regular family meeting is a great format to bring up these difficult issues.

These principles will need to be applied much more carefully in a blended family with children from previous marriages.

Discipline is a way of showing love and commanded by God. The Lord has put you in your children’s lives to mature them. And he has put these children in your lives to mature you!


Want to disciple your children?

Check out these resources.


Seven Ways to Pray for Your Children

As some are heading back to school, it is a great time to hit restart on a number of family discipleship habits. Taking your children out for donut dates is one great habit.

But even more foundational is praying for your children.

In Chapter 20 of The Disciple-Making Parent I have a whole chapter on praying for our children. Prayer is both a duty (as in difficult work) and a delight. So as you head back to school, head back to prayer as well.

Seven Suggested Ways to Pray for Your Children

1. Pray with thanksgiving. Paul began his letters with giving thanks. Thanksgiving has a way of altering our perspective. Make sure you are spending time thanking the Lord for your children and even the problems you are facing.

2. Pray for yourself, “Lord, show me my sin.” We can pray this humbling prayer because we are accepted in Christ and want to grow. The Lord will answer this prayer every time!

3. Pray for wisdom in the decisions both of you will face. As parents we face a myriad of decisions. Often we are making the large decisions on the fly. How much better to take a little time and actually pray about those bigger items.

4. Pray for secret things to be brought to light. This is a scary prayer to pray. But we do want them to grow in sanctification don’t we?

5. Pray Jesus’ high priestly prayer. On his final night, Jesus prayed that his disciples would be protected from the evil one, sanctified by the truth, and unified (John 17). Those are great things to ask for your family.

6. Pray as they ask you to pray. For our older children, a great question is, “What would you like me to pray for you?”

7. Pray they would see their need of Christ. The most foundational need our children have is the gospel. We can hold out the gospel but they must see their need.

Our Lord offers us a profound privilege in prayer. Let’s go before the throne of grace for our children (Heb 4:15-16).

Want to disciple your children?

Check out these resources.


Book Review: Hurt 2.0

While I am on a book review roll, let me add one more – a quick review of Hurt 2.0 by Dr. Chap Clark.

With a first name like Chap, the book has to be good, don’t you think?!

Teens Are Hurt(ing)
According to Dr. Clark, when parents dont attach to their children (see this review), they become abandoned and hurt. Dr. Clark’s book, Hurt 2.0: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers seeks to take us to the culture the adults cannot see. Clark focuses on “midadolescence,” young people who are in grades 9-12 and ages 15-18. A well-known expert in this area, he conducted his research by immersing himself in the world of high school teens. As he “lived” among them, he systematically recorded the conversations he had, the conversations he overheard, and his observations. Together, these are the content of his book.

Clark has not given us a how-to book but rather a wake-call to help every adult recognize and struggle with what our choices have done to the children of our society. Adults, Clark would say, understand very little of the inside life of the American teenager. These same adults have made choices that affect their teens and they don’t understand the effects. The majority of the book will explore the issues resulting from abandonment among adolescents and reflect on what has occurred as a result. As a result of this systematic abandonment, youth are lonely and hurt.

In the first part of the book, The Changing Adolescent World, Clark argues that, “No things are not the same as when you were a kid. They really are different.” Clark does a good job in helping us understand this idea of adolescence. Adolescence, he would say, is the time between biological adulthood and societal adulthood. In the second part, The Landscape of the World Beneath, he has chapters on: peers, school, family, sports, sex, busyness and stress, ethics and morality, partying, kids at the margin. In the third part, Where Do We Go from Here, Clark offers a few solutions, but these are somewhat obvious. We adults need to roll up our sleeves and invest in the lives of individual young people.

What Did I Expect?
Dr. Clark is a professor of youth, family, and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary. Thus, I expected a book on Christian teens or for Christian parents. Instead, at the end of the book, I am left feeling that I have read a rather somber survey of the downside of the American high school experience. His goal seems to be to describe a current cultural phenomenon. As a result, his proposed solutions, which are general and few, are aimed at how nonChristian adults can help nonChristian youth. Certainly this is an admirable goal. But without the hope of the gospel, we are left merely describing problems.

Hurt or Hurter?
A second reason I find myself wrestling this material is the passive way he presents teens. It starts in the title, Hurt 2.0. Young people are hurt. They are abandoned, lonely, and therefore escaping into all sorts of harmful behavior such as sexual activity and alcohol. They are gruff with those adults who reach out but still expect them to continue reaching out.

Yet Scripture would present these young people as having agency. They are called upon by God and society to act responsibly. Biblically, a better title would have been Hurter and Hurt 2.0. Teens are not passive victims but active individuals who can respond to the environment in moral or immoral ways. Malachi 4:6 implies that sin causes the hearts of the parents and the hearts of the children to turn away. The young people make choices too. And as God declares in Jeremiah 7:19 sinners “are harming themselves to their own shame.” They are simultaneously villains and victims.

The Positives
With that caveat stated, this work helps me understand the struggles of today’s youth. And I would add it helps me understand today’s high school educated non-Christian youth. By that measure, it is very messy. Yes, I do believe that underneath the shiny exterior, there is culture that is alcohol-filled, technology-filled, and clique-filled. Yes, structures and media have served to create this culture and parents have abandoned their call to connect to their children. And yes, statistically it is much worse than early years. We are the proverbial frog in the kettle which has not noticed as the water has gradually turned to boiling. It is helpful to have a prophet cry out about the problems.

On the other hand, while acknowledging the degeneration, I am not willing to acknowledge the uniqueness. I know from visiting Corinth, Greece that the area was filled with public pornography and homosexuality. Yet Christian parents had the grace to raise their believing children in that area. I also know that even in Puritan New England, Jonathan Edwards had problems with second generation “Christian” young people. Passing the faith to the next generation has never been easy. It has always been tumultuous.

What Are We to Do?
“What are we to do?” he asks. This is the shortest and weakest section of the book.

“What is who to do?” I ask. I am not sure what the answer is for the nonChristian world. But if you are a Christian parent, then you can do many things. You can recognize the turbulence that your child will face in a high school. You will recognize his or her entry into a roiling rapids that will seek to pull him under. And you will overcome your verbal reluctance or fearful domineering and seek to stay connected to the heart of your children. You will consider structural solutions like homeschooling or volunteering at school. You will take your child out for regular donut dates. You will seek most of all to listen.

And what can the Christian leader do? The Christian leaders can seek to equip parents with these vital truths.

My Reaction
I found myself ambivalent about Clark’s work. Why?

I wrestled with that question for a while. Perhaps it is because of my stage of life. I am past the point of parenting teens. In addition, we chose not to send them to the large public high school. In my ministry, I don’t work with regularly teens but rather with adults and church leaders.

Second, I am not used to someone just describing what he saw. Clark is not prescribing solutions. Part of me just naturally wants to move to gospel-oriented solutions. “Don’t just describe how bad sin is,” I want to say, “But tell us what you think should be done.” That action part of me longs for some answers.

A Reporter and a Conversation
However, if I see Clark as a reporter uncovering problems so that I can know about them, then I start to appreciate this work. If I want to really seek to understand the temptations that my children will face, I will be vitally interested.

And even more, I could definitely see this being a helpful conversation starter with my public high-school teen. Perhaps I would read a chapter on what Clark observed and then, on a date with my teen, ask “This book says __________ is common in high school. Do you think that true. Why or Why not? Tell me about it.” It would show that I wanted to bless my children by understanding their world.

In other words, for the parent in the midst of shepherding highschoolers, this may be exactly what you need to shock you out of your complacency and get beneath the surface with your teen.


Want your children to stay connected to your children? Check out these resources from Chap (Bettis that is)!

Book Reviews|

Book Review: Hold on to Your Kids

In Hold Onto Your Kids, (HOYK) authors Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté argue that all children need attachment. If they will not receive that attachment from their parents, they will find it in peers. The job of parents is to press in and attach themselves to their children. If they do this then those children can resist the pull of the teen culture. The book is broken into five parts: The Phenomenon of Peer Orientation, How Peer Orientation Undermines Parenting, How Peer Orientation Stunts Healthy Development, How to Hold On to Our Kids, and Preventing Peer Orientation.

In the first section, The Phenomenon of Peer Orientation, they state that “The gap opening up between children and adults can seem unbridgeable at times.” “The secret of parenting is not what a parent does but rather who the parent is to the child. It is not a lack of love or of parenting know-how, we are told, but the erosion of the attachment complex that makes our parenting ineffective. We will come back to these insightful overstatements later on.

Neufeld and Maté argue that we all have a need to be attached. Parents are intended to be the primary recipients of that attachment. But as peers press in and parents withdraw, the attachment shifts. It is a natural development of our culture but not healthy.

More of their statements have a biblical tone:

  • Absolutely clear is that children were meant to revolve around their parents and other adults responsible for them, just as the planets revolve around the sun. And yet more and more children are orbiting around each other.
  • Understanding attachment is the single most important factor in making sense of kids from the inside out.
  • The fundamental issue we as parents need to face is that of the competing attachments that have seduced our children away from our loving care.

HOYK argues that the power to parent is slipping away. “This power flows not from coercion of force but from an appropriately aligned relationship with the child.” Peer orientation is not only preventable but in most cases reversible.

Negative Consequences and Solutions
The third section of HOYK lists the negative consequences of having peer attachment rather than parental attachment. They include immaturity, bullying, sexual involvement, and lack of mental curiosity. In the fourth section, HOYK actually tells us how to hold onto or reclaim our children.

We start with “collecting” them. I would call this connecting to their hearts in many different ways. And, they argue, no matter where your children are, it is the parent’s responsibility to keep the children close. Means of connecting include greeting one another, protecting family outings, having family sit down meals.

As for preventing peer orientation, the authors debunk many of the notions that push parents to send their children out into the world of peers. These include the need for socialization, the need for esteem, or to relieve boredom. The last section, an addition to the original book, takes a look at the attachment that can come online even while children are apart. The online world is an answer to that desire for attachment, but the digital intimacy it creates is lonely.

Much Good
There is so much good here in HOYK. In the previous paragraphs I quoted passage after passage that is countercultural and in line with biblical teaching. As a former homeschool father, these statements could have dropped from the lips of numerous homeschool convention speakers arguing for homeschooling. In fact, I am surprised this resource has not been discovered by homeschool speakers. It reinforces many ideas I believe.

Warning: From Observation to Basic Needs
However, in my enjoyment of it, I found myself thinking again and again that while Christians recognize that the “softer” the science becomes the more we need to be wary.

In the midst of all that good there were numerous times they made overstatements. They moved from the functional observation to causal conclusions. Neufeld and Maté provide excellent suggestions for creating a strong family identity. And is there in fact something that God may have created in the natural human family that longs for attachment? This is entirely in line with Scripture.

However, the problems start when we burrow down to the nature of the child and what they need. In their recognition of a God-given pattern, they make the all too common mistake of exaggerating its importance. They would argue our children’s most basic need is not forgiveness and a right relationship with God but a lack of attachment to their parents. Problems are fundamentally not about sin and merely heightened by lack of attachment. Functionally, parents must become the saviors of their children. But we know the truth that there can be plenty of children who are attached to their parents who have no heart for the Lord. And plenty of children who are not attached to their parents who God has graciously saved.

Taking Away the Good
If we will not allow Neufeld and Maté to pontificate about our children’s most basic need and will tone down their overstatements what we have is helpful and needed by today’s Christian parents. We are made to love and disciple our children in an atmosphere of affectionate care. God does intend that we would be the primary influencers of our children. And indeed the glory of children is their fathers (Proverbs 17:6). Sin naturally invades our families through our own human hearts. The hearts of parents and children turn from each other to other things. (Mal 4:6). And one of those things that the sinful heart turns to is love of approval by others. As a result of the sinful choices and environmental choices like peer schooling, you can have children who have thrown in their lot with fools (Prov 1:10) and who are walking with the unwise (Prov 13:20) . When family identity is weak, peer pressure will be strong.

Neufeld and Maté have helpfully used different language to help us ask, “What is the status of the affectionate family bonds?” Those affectionate bonds do provide the emotional underpinnings for us to disciple our children. It does give us the emotional resources to discipline them and still maintain the relationship. And all of us long for relational attachment. God is a tri-unity who has lived in perfect relationship and community from eternity past. We are made for relationship. Thus, God gives us himself in Christ, and his plan is for us to be born into a family and born again into a church. We truly are made for attachment.

Another correction I would make is helping parents understand that while we can press in more emotionally through these years, we also need to launch them to independence. I know those two are not mutually exclusive, but there is a sense in which we want them to become more independent people, following Christ’s call no matter what. If we don’t do this, we have effectively created a tribe where the children live next to the parents and so on. While nothing is inherently wrong with this, there is something individually provocative in the statements of Jesus where he calls disciples to be willing to leave father and mother.

Bottom Line
If the reader will not be deceived by “new psychological insight” that will save their child, there is much good to be gained from the reading. This is a book about love and common grace not about God’s redeeming grace. Nevertheless Christian parents need to understand how they need to press into their children no matter the age. You can purchase the book on Amazon here.

The Donut Date Journal
The Disciple-Making Parent’s Donut Date Journal is the perfect solution to create attachment. It is set to be released August 1st, 2017. Perfect for parents, grandparents, and church leaders.

The Lavish Father and His Two Sons

I had the privilege of preaching at Grace Harbor this morning on Luke 15 and the story of the prodigal son. Only, it is not the story of the prodigal son but the story of the lavish father and his two wayward sons.

The main point of the sermon was that God’s lavish love is meant to lead us to ongoing repentance.

1.Introduction, reading of the text, and comments on the first two stories (00:01)
2.The Young Brother’s Self-Indulgence (12:30)
3.The Father’s Lavish and Scandalous Love (25:00)
4.The Older Brother’s Self-Righteousness (33:00)
5.The Shocking Conclusion (46:30)

Lessons for Parents of Prodigals (and All Parents)

1. The father loved his sons in a lavish and scandalous way. Though we focus on the son(s), all three parables in that chapter are meant to show us the love of God seeking sinners. His love was so great it exposed him to scandal. (You can listen in at about 26:00 to hear the scandal). If God allows prodigals in our lives, it is a chance for us to understand more deeply the love of God and grow in that lavish, self-sacrificial love ourselves.

2. The father endured great pain and shame. He would have had to liquidate some of his holdings. Furthermore, the younger son was essentially saying, “I wish you were dead.” Rather than rebuking him and disowning him, the father loved him anyway. Similarly, parents of prodigals often have to endure relational pain inflicted by the child and feelings of shame from the Christian community. Lavish love endures pain and shame.

3. The father endured great pain and shame with the older son. No this is not a typo. The end of the story shows that the father had been living with a rebellious older son whose relationship was not filled with love. His body was at home but his heart was not. It had turned in bitterness against the father. And when the elder son makes a scene and shames the father at his own party, he still goes out seeking the elder son. The rebellious child in the home presents a different type of pain.

4. The father does not grow bitter. Rather than thinking about how he has been sinned against, we see the continued love of the father. Like Joseph, he has forgiven the sin even though the physical distance is great. Based on all the sacrifices we make for our children, it is easy to grow bitter or depressed if they turn away. Joseph could say, “What you intended for evil, God intended for good” (Genesis 50:20). May we hold on to that promise as well.

5. The father did not cause the waywardness. Though not stated directly, it is certainly implied. How could a man who has the previous characteristics have caused the waywardness of the two sons? Many times parents of prodigals live under the guilt of, “What if…” We are commanded not to exasperate or embitter our children and yet, having done our best, we are not ultimately responsible for their choices. We influence but do not control.

6. The father prayed in faith. Again, this is not stated directly but I wonder how the father saw his son coming from a long way off. It seems the answer is obvious–he was praying up on his (flat) roof! Rather than accepting the situation, he was seeking God’s face. Parents of prodigals, knowing the love of God and his sovereign control, should be “up on the roof” seeking God in prayer.

7. The father did not give up. I wonder how many times the father climbed the roof to pray. How many times did he release his sons to the Lord? Though he must go about his day, his heart was out seeking them. In the two previous stories, the shepherd and the woman are actively seeking their lost item. So even though, his body was not out seeking them, I think his heart and his prayers were. Like Job, he fulfilled his fatherly, priestly duty of prayer.

What would you add? Email me and let me know.

Want your children to follow the Lord?

Need confidence in the journey?

Check out these resources.


This is About That

Hi Friends,

Attending a wedding today.
This 3 minute video will be shown at the beginning by our church leadership.
You can watch the whole thing in preview mode without buying it.

I highly recommend it for your family and to discuss.
Do we really understand the gospel in this way?
Do we really value marriage because of what it illustrates?



My Family, My Growth

Children are God-given sanctification tools in our lives.

God gives us little children that we might nurture, train, and instruct them (Ephesians 6:4). But in that process of shepherding their souls, God also intends that we should grow. In fact, our children are one of God’s primary sanctification tools in our lives.

They will stress us and demand upon us beyond what we think we can handle. They will shine a floodlight on idols of our heart. But the reason God shines that floodlight is not to condemn us but so that we might mature and grow.

The first step in that spiritual growth involves repentance. Five hundred years ago, when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door at Wittenberg, he began with this, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

Christian maturity happens by repentance.
But it has been my observation that Christians often forget this command and habit to repent. Especially in the home, it is easy to blame-shift, overlook, or excuse our sin. Perhaps we have had a hard day or we have been given a particularly difficult situation in our family. And so we excuse ourselves.

Growth in Christlikeness will never happen as we excuse our sin.

Five Principles
Instead, Christians who grow the most put these five truths in practice:

1. Godly repentance understands God’s standard. Jesus has rescued us from the law by giving us his forgiveness and righteousness by faith. But then he send us right back to those commands to know how to please him. And by the power of the Spirit I can follow his commands. They are not burdensome.

2. Godly repentance involves self-awareness of falling short of that standard. I want to be aware of those times that I do not walk by the Spirit in obedience. Some times that awareness will come by my own self-reflection. At other times, it will come because someone points it out to me. Just asking myself, “Did I handle that situation like Jesus would? Did I handle it perfectly (Matt. 5:48)?” helps me see any way that I fell short. Asking these questions also helps me take responsibility for unintentional actions that affect others.

3. Godly repentance does not excuse that falling short for any reason. Once I realize a standard I am supposed to walk by and how I am off that standard, then my tendency will be to excuse my sin or blame others. After all, we might  say to ourselves, “I am only human.” “I think I am doing pretty well with having to live with a husband like mine.” “You don’t know the background I have grown up in.” But no temptation comes in my life beyond what I can bear and the Lord does provide a door of escape (1 Cor 10:13).

4. Godly repentance involves motivation to please God no matter what others do. Since I am not excusing my sin, I am focusing on pleasing Christ. I can’t control others, but I can walk in the Spirit now. No matter how tough things may get in my home, I want to please Christ. I live with the final judgment in mind. I want to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You walked well through that trial I gave you.”

5. Godly repentance involves a focus on myself first and foremost. Finally, as a corollary of #4, godly repentance means I focus on myself. This does not mean I will excuse the sin of others. Perhaps there needs to be a conversation about some issues. I will not smooth over sin that needs to be talked about. But I realize that the only person I can control is myself.

Repentance is absolutely crucial to growing to become a mature Christian. God is working in my family life to show me areas I can grow.

Want your children to follow Christ as adults? tap_dmp_cover_final

Purchase The Disciple-Making Parent: A Comprehensive Guidebook for Raising Your Children to Love and Follow Love Jesus Christ to learn more about discipling your children. Send us your Amazon receipt and receive the audiobook for free!