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"It is a lovely study on the parables' value for bringing up children. The format makes them very practical and useful for group study. Her insights into the implications for nurturing children (and adults) are excellent and highly applicable."
- Rev. Dr. William Edgar, Professor of Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary
I will confess I've been a worrier lately. We are making life changes - stepping out in faith to start a ministry to serve foster kids who are aging out of the foster care system. We're taking a very personal approach. We want to have a property that we share with them, so that means we need to move, uprooting our kids and leaving our community, for what is right now, not much more than a hope and a dream.
What if no one supports us or helps us and we find ourselves inadequate to the task?
What if it fails and we give up so much for nothing?
The reason behind almost everything I write - both in blogs and books is based upon the belief that Christ can best inform our parenting. I've been told, by more than one Christian, that Jesus has nothing to offer us in regards to parenting wisdom. "We are on our own with a few spare verses in the epistles and Proverbs. We can make our own way, Jesus need not apply." I would argue that Christ is the first and best choice to inform parents what it means to be a good parent. He gives us everything we need to parent beautifully and to glorify God in the process.
There are many ways to relate to God, but Jesus taught us a new way. When told us how to pray, starting with “Our Father in Heaven,” he wasn’t just giving us words to recite, he was teaching us how to talk to God as a father (Matthew 6:9). The Father sent Jesus to bring us into a new relationship with Him. The work of Christ allowed us to be adopted as children “So you are no longer a bond-servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” God ripped the temple veil, which separated humanity from closeness to God when Jesus died (Matthew 27: 51).
Through the risen Christ we enter into a new life and receive all the benefits of Jesus, including a clean slate, eternal life, and access to God as a Father. Through Christ, we can come to God with confidence, as children, no longer slaves (Hebrews 10:20, Galatians 4:7). By receiving Christ, we have been given the right to become God’s children (John 1:12). “And because you are children, God sent out the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father!’" (Galatians 4:6). Through the Holy Spirit, we have union with Christ who “is the image of the invisible God... For all the fullness was pleased to dwell in him" (Colossians 1:15,19).
During his time on Earth, Jesus revealed the good Father to us. "No one has seen God at any time. The one and only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him" (John 1:18). As Jesus said of himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on, you know him, and have seen him…He who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:6-7, 9).
Despite not having physical children, Christ's life provides many examples for us as parents. Isaiah referred to Jesus as the "Everlasting Father" (Isaiah 9:6). He is not the person of the Father but is one with the Father (John 10:30). Jesus has revealed how a good Father relates to those in his care. Jesus often referred to his disciples as "little children" (Matthew 11:25, Mark 10:24, John 13:33) and treated them as such: initiating, providing, protecting, guiding, correcting, teaching, preparing, modeling, encouraging, and loving those entrusted to his care. He said, "I will not leave you as orphans" (John 14:18).
We are called to be like the good Father through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:22-24, I John 2:6, Luke 11:13). God sent us the Holy Spirit, who continues to reveal the good Father to us. "These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God" (I Corinthians 2:10). "All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him” (Colossians 2:3). By his Word, his Life, and his Spirit we have access to all wisdom and knowledge, including for guidance in parenting.
If you want to know more about what it means to parent in Christ, check out my books or blogs.
What would be the most difficult thing for you to give up for the rest of your life?
Surrender is rarely seen as something positive. It means accepting that the battle has been won not on your terms, and you are willingly giving your life over to the authority of the winning side. It means taking a humble position and embracing what is over what we want. Surrender is an act of faith, keeping hope alive by choosing defeat over death. It is the first act for those coming to salvation, and a continual habit of those walking with Christ.
To surrender to Christ is a decisive blow to our flesh. “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live...” (Galatians 2:20). But that’s not the end of the verse. This surrender gives way to new hope and new life: “...but Christ living in me. That life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.” Along with the old self, the power of sin is broken, “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be in bondage to sin” (Romans 6:6). We surrender not as defeated heroes, but as refugees, escaping a life of slavery, starvation, and abuse. We surrender not for fear or threat, but in hope that the One to whom we surrender has a better life for us.
The returning prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32, who gives up on his way of life and runs back to the father hoping to be a servant, is a picture of our surrender to God. His surrender is met with rewards beyond his expectations. He is received with open arms, lavish love, and a new life as a restored son. We too can bring our children to surrender not with crushing blows, but by convincing them that we will receive them with open arms and lavish love.
Parenting requires a great deal of surrender — from surrendering to the discomforts and changes of pregnancy, to giving up our schedules, to giving our children independence to be unique. To surrender also means giving up our parenting fears, which assume the worst and make us over-protective. It stifles growth and produces fear and frustration in a child. We are to protect them, not to serve our own anxieties, but to serve a God who will hold us accountable for the care we give.