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.

Why Bringing Your Kids to Church Is Not Enough

The conversation goes like this. A well meaning parent comes up to me, expressing their desire to get involved with the church. Always curious, I ask why, and the answer I typically get is this: “I want my child to grow up in church.” Though certainly we should want our children to grow up in church, I’m gravely concerned with what is often meant by this innocent statement. Usually what people really mean is this: “I want my children to be raised with some sort of faith, preferably the Christian faith, because it was so important to my moral upbringing. Since I am either unwilling or unable to provide it myself, I’ve come to the church to get them to take care of the spiritual life of my child while I’ll take care of everything else.” To put it more simply, parents want to outsource the spiritual nurturement of their child to the church. 8483660163_3fd14630eb_z

Though I certainly welcome any family and any child into the community of the saints, I do want to challenge the idea of outsourcing the spiritual care of your children to the church. Unfortunately the church has only reinforced this mindset within many people through our programs and ministry methodology. We have taught parents to come and drop off their children where paid professionals stand by to handle the tenacious work of discipleship. As a former youth pastor, I’m fully aware that ministry to teens without the parents simply doesn’t work. The responsibility for the spiritual care of our little ones cannot be placed upon the church entirely, but rather the full weight of responsibility rests on the shoulders of daddy and mommy. God has called the parents to evangelize and disciple their children. The church then exists to come alongside mom and dad to equip them for their task and supplement what is already taking place at home.

So if you are a Christian parent, please bring your children to church, but you must do *more* than that. As any experienced parent will tell you, more is caught than taught. Therefore, in addition to just dropping your child off at church, we must model the Gospel to our children. We must live out what it means for Christ to be our greatest love and greatest treasure. We must display what it means to submit our lives to king Jesus and his authoritative word. If you take seriously your job as a parent, you must live out your faith to those little eyes who are always watching.

Here is the main point: In addition to bringing our kids to church, we must model a life of devotion to Jesus.

Though we certainly never do it for the show, our children should see our devotion to Jesus in action. Our children watch us in the most private and mundane of moments and they should see our professed love for Christ on display. They should see us pray and read the Bible, growing in our relationship with Jesus. Our children should be able to look to us as example of what the Christian life is. Sadly, for far too many families, Jesus only comes up on Sunday mornings and is ignored the rest of the week. When you tell your children to follow Jesus on Sundays, but ignore him every other day, chances are your kids will follow Jesus none of the days. Why? Because your own spiritual life screams hypocrisy.

How can mom or dad tell me Jesus is worthy of my devotion when they show no evidence of that devotion themselves? Why make Jesus the Lord of my life when he isn’t the Lord of theirs?

I’m afraid many parents do more harm than good by forcing their kids to go to church, teaching them that church is like broccoli—nobody likes to eat it, but you have to eat it because it's good for you.

I’ve talked with many parents who struggle with their children who don’t want to come to church, particularly in the teenage years. Every Christian parent encounters this at some point in their parenting, and parents should indeed require their children to come to church, whether they want to or not. Though what is most likely happening behind the scenes is something much bigger than just refusing to come to church; the teen calls the bluff on the parent’s hypocrisy, reacting against the parent who speaks out of the both sides of the mouth.

We must repent of our Janus-faced parenting and confess our hypocritical compartmentalization. After all, the goal of our parenting is not to produce well-behaved, moral little monsters, but contrite sinners, redeemed by the blood of the Christ. If we hope our children will join the redeemed, we must not cast doubt on the truth Gospel by our hypocritical life. Parents must authentically live out their faith before their children. Though we may have the rest of our church fooled, our children are not. Our rehearsed play-acting will only put a bitter taste of Christianity into our children’s mouths. We need less Christian thespians, and more parents who authentically, consistently, and genuinely live their lives in devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ.

So bring your kids to church, but you better demonstrate devotion to Christ in your private life. If not, your legalistic requirement of church attendance and your hypocrisy could very well estrange your children from the Christ you profess to love.

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.

Pastor Dad: The Honor, Joy, and Responsibility of Fatherhood

Dads are a big deal. In our society, when we are more confused about masculinity and manhood than ever, we need Godly fathers to step up and lead their homes. Today I'm celebrating my first father's day. It is my joy to be the father to my sweet son Jude. As I reflect on my first Father's day, I am critically aware of the huge honor, joy, and responsibility of fatherhood.

As a husband and father, God has called me to be the pastor of my home. He has called me to imitate Jesus by laying down my life for my family. It is my job to sacrifice and humbly lead. As I study the scriptures, it is clear that a father is to be a mini-pastor over his family. God has given him a small flock of his wife and children to shepherd, love, and protect. In our homes and in our churches we need a revival of Dad's who see their roles in their homes as pastors.

We need Dads who takes their responsibility as the spiritual leaders in their homes seriously. We need Dads who can take their wife and children by the hand and lead them in prayer. We need Dad's who are competent enough with the Scriptures to teach their children and correct them from error. We need Dad's who do not train a bunch of moralistic pharisees, but children wrecked by the grace of God.

At the end of the day I know that God is going to hold me accountable for the spiritual condition of my wife and children. It will be up to me to disciple them, lead them, and protect them. It will be up to me to teach Jude what it means to be a man and what it means to follow Christ. As the pastor of my home, I cannot delegate these responsibilities out to children's ministries or youth ministries.

We need more Dads to grasp this vision of biblical fatherhood. We need more Dads to step up and be pastors of their homes. Dad's, this is a daunting task you and I are called to do, and we are unable to do it apart from the grace of God. Seek His face, press into His word, and have confidence in Christ. By God's enabling grace, may Dad's rise to the glorious honor, joy, and responsibility of fatherhood. May we bring this next generation up in the fear of the Lord, and may our children and grandchildren praise our God and King, Jesus Christ! What greater joy and honor is there than to leave a lasting impact in the world through the discipleship of our children.  Dads, lets get to work and pastor our families.