My Four Year Parenting Anniversary

Today is my firstborn’s fourth birthday, or my four year anniversary of being a Dad. Those four years feel both like an eternity and a breeze in the wind all at the same time. Since my son first came into the world four years ago, we’ve added our first daughter to our home (who will be two next month) and a second little girl on the way. The last four years brought good days and bad days. On the one hand, I’ve stood in shock of a temper tantrum with such volatile flailing that you’d think the demons of hell have taken hold of this child. On the other hand, I’ve received more kisses, hugs, and I love you daddy’s than any heart could hold.

God has given me the gift of fatherhood, and with that comes the painful revealing of my own sin. Second only to my marriage, nothing reveals the sin of my own heart like fatherhood. Yet, God has sanctified me through the journey. I never realized how selfish I was until I had another human life depending on me. God has taught me to die to myself and to take on the form of a servant to my family.

However, the most overwhelming part of the parenting task, is the eternal ramifications at stake. Indeed, God has entrusted me not only with keeping these children breathing, but nurturing their souls. Compared to keeping them fed and alive, shepherding their souls is far greater challenge. My job as a Christian father is to both proclaim and model the Gospel to my children. However, my children are more apt to pick up their daddy’s patterns of sin than my meager godliness. Each day, my children develop their view of God from daddy’s example. Though they cannot yet read the Scriptures, they learn about God from daddy’s life and teaching. Knowing that such eyes keep watch protects me from thinking I’m ever “off duty” in the Christian life. Thus, I must be cognizant of the hypocritical life that could very well develop between my public persona as “pastor” and the personal persona as “father.” My children need a Father who lives his entire life under the banner of the all surpassing preeimence of Christ.

The Aim of Parenting

For parents out there, we must ask ourselves, “What is the aim of our parenting?” In other words, “Who are we trying to form these kids into being?” I’m afraid many parents greatly miss the mark on this. They are far more concerned about their children’s accolades and GPA rather than their spiritual formation. It’s good to want the best for your kids, and to give them every possibility imaginable, however what kids need more than anything else is a Mom and Dad devoted to Jesus and who centers their home upon Christ. Such children who grow up with parents who read the Scriptures, teach theology, and pray for their children, are blessed beyond measure.

Yet, the aim of our parenting points ultimately towards Christ and his glory. The greatest disciple making any of us will do will be with our children. As God gifts us with these precious children, we invite them to watch our life and our doctrine. We nurture them, love them, and weep over them, begging the Lord to save their souls and use them mightily for the advancement of the Gospel. Children are like arrows in the hands of a skilled archer. We raise them only to release them into the world, praying that the sharpening and training over two decades will bring glory to Jesus.

For me, these last four years of parenting have flown by, and even still I’m reminded of the ticking clock of how little time I have with my children. Every child’s birthday, I’m reminded of the urgency and importance of my work as father that will far exceed and outlast my work as pastor or scholar. May we parents resolve to honor God in our task and fully devote ourselves to the precious work of ministry called parenting.

How to Disciple Your Toddler: 8 Simple Ways

Parenting a toddler is like a marathon—one long test of endurance and stamina. The days and nights collide into each other as your toddler bounces of the walls in excitement and joy. Each new day provides another opportunity for another adventure, filled with new discoveries. Though exhausting, toddlers bring such incredible joy and excitement to the home. As the dad of an almost three year old, I've noticed that these young years provide an incredible opportunity for discipleship. After all, as Christian parents we are called to evangelize and disciple our children.child_prayer2_744581311 Yet, in my experience, many parents struggle with specifically how to do that. After all, toddlers are just learning language. How much can you really disciple? Well, more than you think. As you parent a toddler, you do not pull out your Millenial charts on the book of Revelation, but rather you set the foundation for future discipleship. If you are building a new home, you cannot start putting paint on the walls before you prepare the foundation. Lay the foundation first; the time for paint will come eventually. The toddler years provide an incredible opportunity to lay a solid foundation that will prepare your child to understand the Gospel as he or she grows.

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So how can you disciple your toddler and lay a solid foundation? By no means am I a toddler expert. Though I am a pastor, I'm just an ordinary dad trying to figure out how to shepherd my family, daily trusting on Jesus for help and guidance. But for what its worth, here are some helpful suggestions on how you can take advantage of these early years.

1. Read Bible Stories to your Toddler

A simple, but sadly neglected way to disciples your toddler. Read the Bible to them! Find a great book like  the Jesus Story Book Bible to read to them each day. Teach them to be excited about God's word and learning about Jesus. As they get older, you can teach them more and more, but start the habit now! Yes, help your child understand the Bible stories and the meta-narrative of Scripture, but at this young age you are primarily trying to embed a love and thirst for the Scriptures as your child grows up.

2. Sing to Your Toddler the Christian Classics

It is amazing how much children can learn through song. Sing "Jesus Loves Me" and the "B-I-B-L-E" to your toddler. My wife Kaitlyn started a tradition with our little boy each night. After our nightly prayer, we sing a few songs (We have a set list of the same few songs every night). He loves to sing and we love to sing with him. Teaching him the lyrics to the Christian classics continues to cultivate his heart, preparing for the Spirit to work.

3. Teach Your Toddler to Pray

Your toddler can pray. As you make prayer a habit each day, encourage your child to pray. We try to do that by teaching our little boy to thank God. Even at a young age, when his language skills were undeveloped, he was able to thank God for mommy and daddy. Sometimes he would even thank God for the wall. You know toddlers; they say crazy things.

4. Show Excitement about Church

Toddlers get excited about what you get excited about. If attending church is the low-point of your week, your children will pick up on it. However, if you make church and worshiping the Lord a big deal, then you will teach your toddler to love Church and the people of God. Set an example not just in your attitude, but in your attendance. Make it a priority to go to church with your children. Go as frequently as you can to any midweek activities. You want to cultivate a love for church within your child at an early age.

Yes, when your kids get older you may have to make them go to church (and godly parents will), yet you want your child to want to go to church. Build that foundation early.

One of my little boy's favorite days of the week is when we go to church. He loves it. In fact he asks to go just about everyday. I pray that my son will always have a desire to be around the body of Christ and worship the Lord.

5. Reinforce your Child's Sunday School Lesson at Home

If you go to a good Bible-believing church (and I hope you do!), your child should be learning the Scripture at Sunday School (or whatever your church's equivalent is). Most churches send home a handout reviewing what your child learned that morning. Help disciple your child by reinforcing what your child is learning at home. Go over it a lunch and over the week. If there is a memory verse for the week, help your child learn it. Reinforce the main point of the lesson. The church is not their to disciple your children for you, but to assist you in the work. Utilize their help!

6. Memorize Scripture

If your child can name every train from Thomas & Friends (like mine can), your child can memorize Scripture. As your child's language is developing, why not go ahead and hide God's word in their heart? Though we are just beginning Scripture memorization with our little boy, he enjoys it. It warms your heart to hear him quoting Genesis 1:1 while he is quietly playing in his room.

Pick out simple Bible verses and repeat them often. Perhaps during your family devotions or at the dinner table or before bed. Your toddler is like a sponge and will soak up God's word.

7. Demonstrate the Love of God

Your child's understanding of God's love will be based on your example. That's an overwhelming truth. As parents we are called to image God's love to our children. As our children watch the way we speak and act, we will either reveal or obfuscate the love of God. When we respond to our child in rage, anger, and frustration, we confuse our children about God's grace, mercy, and love. There is a time for discipline, and that should not be neglected. But, our children, above all else, should see the love of God in us and through us.

This is a heavy weight for us Dads in particular. God reveals himself to us as Father. Therefore, when your children begin reading in the Bible that God is their Father, they are going to think about you. Model for them the love of God well. Far to many children cannot understand the concept of God as Father because either they don't have one or their father was a selfish and abusive prick. We need godly Dads who can model the love of God to their families more than ever.

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8. Teach Your Children to Live Under Authority

Our radically individualized culture believes all authority is filled with corruption. As a result there is a hyper-suspicion to anyone in authority over us. Whether it is the government, our teachers, our pastors, our boss, our our parents, we tend to be skeptical of authority. This allergy to good, God-given authority begins in the family. Dad and Mom must model a biblical vision for authority and leadership over their children, and that includes discipline. One of the biggest lessons you can teach your child is that authority is part of God's good design. Therefore they must submit to it and respect God-given authority. As a result, teaching your toddler that Daddy and Mommy are in charge is a crucial spiritual lesson for your children to learn. If you hope to disciple your children in their teenage years, you must first teach your children to live and learn under your authority. After all, how are they going to submit to the authority of Christ over their lives if they haven't learned to submit to Mom and Dad?

Prepare your Child's Heart

No parent can convert their child to Christ, only the Spirit can do that. Yet, careful cultivation of your child's heart can lead to a powerful work of the Spirit in your child's life. The general adage from Proverbs rings true, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6, ESV).

Take advantage of these sweet years, when your child is hungry to learn. Set a solid foundation for future spiritual nurture by discipling your toddler now, all the while praying for a great work of the Spirit to save the little soul under your care.

What Super Bowl Marketers Know that the Church Can't Miss

The super bowl this year was one for the record books. People watch the super bowl for a variety of reasons – some for the game, others for the commercials, and some for the half time show. The super bowl has become such a huge event in America it is practically a national holiday. As I was watching the game something stuck out to me about the commercials this year. It seemed like many of the commercials strongly featured Dads.  A few different companies this year decided to market their products by featuring prominently fathers. It was nice to appear to the sentimentality and bring father’s in the focus, but why? No matter how great the commercial is, the aim is not to pull on your heart strings but to sell you a product. These companies don’t spend millions of dollars to just give you warm fuzzies. We live in a marketing world. We are always being sold something, and often marketers know our culture and know what makes us tick better than anyone. And this year, for Super Bowl 49, Dads were the focus of the commercials. Watch some of these commercials in case you missed them.

Isn’t this strange? In a day and age where many are arguing to eliminate gender stereotypes and where Father’s living in the home is a relic of the past, these marketers decided they could best sell their products by bringing fathers to our attention. While the marriage between a man and a woman is being redefined in our culture into a genderless union and while the home has been shattered by divorce, these marketers feature loving, gentle, and present fathers.

There is a crisis of fatherhood in America. The traditional family of Dad, Mom, and children seems to be rapidly fading. Many men ignore, run away from, or deny any responsibility they have when it comes to their children. Rather than rising to be worthy of the title husband and father many men are content with the title “baby daddy”. Men refuse to fight for their marriages and for their families and cowardly run from difficulty indulging every selfish pleasure their hearts crave.

But that’s not the picture these advertisers presented to us at the super bowl. These advertisers know us better than we think. They know that there is something hard wired into humanity that longs to be loved by a father. We long to experience the warm protective, self-denying, embrace of dad. The picture of Dad they presented to us is the ideal we crave, but not this is not the reality for many of us.

Children need Fathers. Despite arguments trying to minimize the father in the family, marketers know what many deny – we long for a Father. These super bowl commercials point to the great challenge of Christian men to be father’s who sacrifice, love, protect, and provide for our children.  We need Christian men who can demonstrate in word and deed the love of God the Father to our children. Every human being longs for this. Though our earthly fathers may fail us, we must always point people to the Father who never does. We must point them to the Father who displays his lavish love for us by purchasing our redemption. America has a hole and a desperate longing for fatherly love. The marketers know this. Does the church?

Which Kind of Church Kid Are You?

I grew up in the home of a pastor. I spent my youth rolling down the aisle in fisher price cars and stuffing my face with communion bread after the service. I know church kids, because I am the stereotypical church kid. I was at every church function whether I wanted to be or not. Church kids are an interesting breed and in my experience there tend to be two different types of church kid: Pharisees or Tax Collectors.

The Pharisee Church Kid

There often is not much in between. When you grow up in the Church before the regenerating work of God, these two seemingly opposites develop. On the one hand, you hear the demands of the Law, demands like “do not commit adultery”, “do not lie”, or “do not steal”. The young little self-righteous Pharisee will hear these words and begin to immediately be puffed up in pride. “I can do this” so we think, and in our self-righteousness we become blind to our sin and thus follow the letter of the law and miss its spirit.

The pharisee lives there live comparatively. They are not interested in genuine righteousness, just comparative righteousness. He lives his life constantly evaluating everyone else. He will go to school and grow up amongst his peers denouncing them in self-righteous judgement. “I’m better than that guy”, so he thinks. The church kids who are probed to Phariseeism become moral little monsters, puffed up with a judgmental self-righteousness. How do I know so much about these little moral monsters? Because I am a recovering Pharisee.

The Tax Collector Church Kid

On the flip side, many church kids become the tax collector. Unlike the pharisee church kids, they become so fed up with rule following that they just give up Christianity completely. They realize they cannot get more gold stars than the Pharisee kids and that they struggle to live for God and constantly find themselves in sin. Some how along the way, either by their own hardness of heart or the incredible failure of their church, they completely miss the Gospel. The Tax collector kids realize early how unable they are to keep God’s law. They realizes that they are unable to obey and rather than becoming sorrowful over sin, they check out and abandon Christianity. These are the church kids who end up doing keg stands in college. They become so frustrated with their works based religious upbringing that rather than resisting their sin, they embrace it.

We Cannot Do It

Yet, the Gospel has much to say to both of these two types of people. In this sermon Jesus rebukes both the Pharisee and the tax collector. Jesus’ strongest rebuke is to the pharisees. It is often those who have the thick headed metal skull of Phariseeism that need a vicious blow to the head to get their attention. The hardest people to share the Gospel to are those who think they already believe it. So it is with the Pharisees.

Jesus regularly exposes the religion of the Pharisees as a complete sham, especially in the Sermon on the Mount. Yes, the Pharisees may be sparkling clean on the outside, but inwardly they have the grotesque stench of a decaying corpse. Jesus shows that the Pharisees have greatly missed the intention of the Law of God and shows them that they actually have not been keeping it at all. They have loved their neighbor, but hated their enemy. They have not committed adultery, but they indulge lustful thoughts. They take oaths, but manipulate the system so they can get away with deceit. This is the great frustration Jesus has with these Pharisees, they are hypocrites!

Now it easy for us to take a sledge hammer and beat the snot out of the Pharisees as if they are those people and not us. Yet more often than not when we are talking about Phariseeism we are talking about ourselves. Many of us are moral little monsters who place our hope in our religious performance. We pride ourselves on our moralistic skill and desire the praise of others to boost our spiritual ego.

Jesus teaches us this, there is no spiritual somebodies in the kingdom of God, there are only spiritual nobodies. Blessed are the poor in Spirit! Blessed are those who recognize their spiritual inability, for there’s is the kingdom of heaven! This is Jesus’ whole point, that the tax collectors are closer to entering into the kingdom than the Pharisees, because the tax collectors at least know they cannot do it on their own.

Church Kids in Need of Jesus

Yet both of these church kids, the Pharisees and the tax collectors are lost and in need of a savior. Both groups have completely misunderstood and distorted Christianity. The Pharisees create a religion of moralism while the tax collectors a religion of hedonism. The Gospel of Jesus Christ both rejects moralism and hedonism. Salvation cannot be earned through good works. We only enter heavens gates through the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ that we receive by grace through faith. At the same time Christ calls us as children of God to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel .

If you grew up in the church, I don’t know which kind of kid you were. Maybe you were the self-righteous pharisee or maybe you were the hedonistic tax collector. Regardless of your rebellious inclination, the Gospel is the power of God for salvation for all people, even church kids. If you are like me, along the way my pharisaical heart began to realize that I was not nearly as righteous as I thought I was. God began to show me how much of a sinner I truly am and that I needed a great savior. God was gracious enough to show me my short comings and to lead me to Calvary where my sins were paid. It is only through the gracious work of God that this little moral monster became an adopted son of God.

How Moms Change the World

Mothers are a gift from the Lord. Yet, our society tends to treat motherhood as a pretty worthless task. Many seem to think that motherhood should be on the back burner to personal ambition. Children are often seen as burdens who hold back women from true fulfillment and success. This just goes to show us how twisted our culture's definition of success truly is. What is the measure of a woman? Is it the position in her corporation or the amount on the paycheck? Is it the degrees she has attained or influence she possesses? Is motherhood a waste of a good intellect and a sound education? I would say most assuredly not. Motherhood is one of the most glorious callings a woman can attain in this life. There is no task more urgent, demanding, and eternally significant than the calling of a mother. Companies will go bankrupt and money will be spent, but the legacy of investing into the next generation has ramifications that ripple into eternity. Here is how Moms change the world.

1. Mothers Disciple the Next Generation

Motherhood is in essence a lifelong discipleship with children. From infancy to adulthood, moms teach and train the next generation to function in the world. Moms not only do this in a practical sense, but the Christian mom does this in a spiritual sense. She is not only working to send out productive, responsible adults from her nest, she is also seeking to send out faithful, reproducing disciples of Jesus.

A Christian mom spends her life praying for her children, teaching them the Bible, singing spiritual truths, and counseling in scriptural wisdom. Motherhood is a 24/7 discipleship journey. Motherhood is one of the most fruitful ways for a woman to fulfill the Great Commission given to us by Jesus.

2. Mothers Demonstrate the Love of Christ

Mothers tangibly show their children the love of Christ. Before a child can even speak, a faithful mom has already shown the love of Christ. True love is a sacrificial love that has others best interest at heart. Jesus did this for us by going to the cross on our behalf, sacrificing his life so we could be forgiven of our sins. So to do Moms sacrifice and give to their children through blood, sweat, and tears.

If you desire to see true love lived out, watch a godly mom with her children. She is tender in kindness, compassionate in disappointments, fierce in rebuke, gentle in hurt. She sacrifices and gives until she has nothing left. She is hard working, never seeking any praise or pay check for her efforts. With a smile on her face she does the menial tasks no one in the family wants to do. She gladly count herself as loss for the good of he family. She gives and gives to the expense of herself.

As children watch the life of their mom, they are able to better comprehend the love of Christ as they see that loved lived out through their moms.

3. Mothers Create a Legacy

Yes, mothers do change the world in a way even the most powerful executive never could. The legacy of raising and discipling children makes an eternal impact, not only on the souls of your children but for generations to come. As mothers pass the baton of the Gospel from one generation to the next, the mission of God spreads as more and more disciples are made. The world is changed through Jesus Christ as disciples are made and His glory spreads. Motherhood is often the front lines of the Great Commission.

So even though society might seem to devalue motherhood as an insignificant or menial task, do not believe those lies. Motherhood is a glorious task and calling from God to change the world through the discipleship of your children. There is no task more urgent, important, or significant that your work as a mom.

Thank You Moms for Changing the World

To all you moms who sacrifice and give to your children and who seek to raise them in the Lord, I thank you. On this mother's day I want to especially thank my own mother, Ginny Deeter, who so faithfully lived out these three truths. I also want to thank my wife Kaitlyn for her dedication and commitment to the glory of God in the discipleship of our son Jude and any other future Deeter children.

Moms, may the Lord find you faithful in this weighty task he has given you, and may He receive all glory, honor, and praise through your life.  As you faithfully serve as a mother you are in fact changing the world for the glory of God.