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The End of Many Books

The Covenant Household

by Douglas Wilson

The Doug is in his wheelhouse talking about fathers and family. His material is like steak and potatoes, you always enjoy it as much as you still want more.

The men at our church are reading and discussing this one. I think I’ve read all his previous books on marriage and parenting and household related issues, and was still convicted, edified, reminded, and glad to have read it.

I happen to think his use of the word “covenant” is sloppy, and I won’t pick on that here because the application for our roles and responsibilities, including some of the particulars that we need to repent from, are SPOT ON.

Read it, listen to it, and then don’t walk away from his use of God’s Word as a mirror before fixing your face.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

The Golden Rule for Parents

These past Sundays have been well spent remembering some parental purposes and priorities. We could go on indefinitely, but let me not set a bad example for fathers who don’t know when to stop lecturing. After today we’ll move on to some exhortations regarding temptations as we prepare to move on to our own property; we’d like to avoid being surprised by rot or mold under the carpet of our hearts.

Which provides an illustration of sphere sovereignty. The lender decides if we are creditable, not us. The fire marshal determines if our fire alarm is up to code. The color-blind can choose paint for their own living rooms, but they shouldn’t expect an equal vote for the group. There are, in fact, separate lanes.

So with parents. You are accountable for your family and for your own kids directly to God. Most of the time the rest of us can’t seen what you’re doing with them anyway; discipline is your call. The family is a sphere established by God.

But what about when you see another family in the wild, and something doesn’t look right? Should you say something? If someone says something to you, do you have to listen? What happens when spheres cross?

There has never been a set of perfect parents. All parents need to learn and grow. Isolated parents are foolish parents with Proverbs 18:1 applied. And if you won’t listen, it would be surprising if your kids do. As always, you’ve got to decide if you want to do good or look good.

Does no one talk to you because you’re doing it perfectly, or because you’re perfectly defensive? Are you easy to edify, or easy to offend? When you don’t say something to another parent, are you holding your tongue for their blessing? When you do say something, is it seasoned with grace?

The Golden Rule of parenting is just the Golden Rule applied to parenting. “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12). If you’re still not sure, ask your heavenly Father for wisdom and courage (Matthew 7:11); He gives good things to His children.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Like a Mother

It was Mother’s Day yesterday and I’ve been giving a series of exhortations about parenting, so, perfect. Let’s take advantage of the connection.

Paul reminded the Thessalonians that he hadn’t come just to make a name for himself. He didn’t flatter to get what he wanted, “nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ” (1 Thessalonians 2:6). There was a sense of great responsibility in his work, but it didn’t include demanding great recognition.

If you had to guess what role he used as a comparison, what would you say? Those who are tracking should have guessed that of a mother. The very next sentence: “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7).

For what it’s worth, Paul could identify mothers, though he wasn’t a biologist. Paul could talk about mothers, though he wasn’t one. Paul could generalize about mothers, though sinful mothers wouldn’t work for his illustration.

Apostles could make demands, not just for obedience, but for honor. This is what Paul just said he was committed not to do. He was not seeking glory from men. His illustration works when mothers are not seeking glory from those they are responsible to serve.

Lewis had Screwtape tattoo this image in Wormwood’s mind:

She’s the sort of woman who lives for others—you can always tell the others by their hunted expression. (The Screwtape Letters)

Being a mother is a glory, unless the mother is demanding glory. Moms, when you look well to the ways of your household your children will rise up and call you blessed (Proverbs 31:27-28). When you look well to how well you are looked after, you will have received your reward (think Matthew 6:2, 5, 16).

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Are We There Yet?

The difference between rookie parents and pro parents is not how old their kids are or how many kids they have. The difference is that a rookie parent keeps being surprised by what their kids don’t know, can’t do, or are having a bad attitude about. The “pro,” so to speak, is almost glad about it.

God made the world in such a way that expected development. After the fall, developing didn’t stop, but it became a lot more sweaty. God loves growth, apparently. He loves seeds and babies, He loves seasons and progressive sanctification. Even in our glorified, resurrected state, it seems that we won’t be done learning, we’ll just be done with the limitations and frustrations of sin.

Why does a teacher have a job? It isn’t to coordinate better trophies for what the students already know. Even the dumbest questions, including the repeated dumb questions because a student didn’t hear the first time it was asked, are an opportunity. Is it a different lesson than the one you had on your paper? Maybe. Is it a different lesson than expected? What did you expect? The curriculum is a tool, not the telos.

Everyone has to grow, every kid, every Christian. God made it that way. When parents get frustrated, let alone blindsided, that our kids are “there” yet, it’s because they’ve been ignoring what is as obvious as gravity. Even the best self-starters and independent kids can’t change their own diapers.

Is it surprising that you have to teach them how to pronounce words, how to deal with feelings for a boy, how to handle conflict or criticism? Who did you want them to learn it from? Who did you expect to parent them? Give your kids hope by bringing “them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Unsupervised Kids

In my most recent exhortation to parents I said, “God demands perfect obedience, and any disobedience, even candy-demand or candy-envy, earns death.” Before that I said that what’s good about obedience is that it enables fellowship, and that without fellowship obedience hasn’t reached the end of good. And before that I said that we are raising not just raising kids but raising parents, and that we should show our kids how to parent, first of all in faith.

The thread is obedience of faith. Not only do we obey God when we believe Him, but we obey God because we believe Him. Paul uses the phrase “the obedience of faith” in both his introduction and conclusion to the Romans; he had received grace to bring about the obedience of faith among the nations (Romans 1:5), which is according to the command of the eternal God (Romans 16:26).

It is obedient faith that fulfills the Great Commission. We make disciples by baptizing them and by “teaching them to obey all that [Jesus] commanded” (Matthew 28:10, NIV).

So, parents, the obedience of your kids is to be a fruit of faith, it is what enables fellowship, but obedience is not optional.

THIQ obedience is total, doing everything that was assigned. It is happy, cheerful, without anger or tormented countenance. It is immediate, not traded for an obedience to be named later. And it is quick, not poky, dawdling, or meandering.

The reason parents don’t expect perfect obedience is not because it is too high a standard. It is God’s standard, and He holds it without being harsh (see Matthew 5:48). The reason we don’t expect THIQ obedience from our kids is usually because we have a soft spot for our own sin, and letting our kids run around unsupervised is a perfect picture of letting our feelings run around undirected.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Candy and Christian Nationalism

I know people argue about whether or not the United States is a Christian nation. I wouldn’t argue for it in terms of every citizen being a Christian, which is obviously not true, but I might argue for it in terms of how much candy parents buy their kids for Easter.

People can eat candy as a distraction from death, but only Christians can eat candy while rejoicing in death. Of course, our rejoicing in death only comes because we know who died and why He died and what happened three days after His death. But we sing merry songs and buy bright colored dresses and eat chocolate bunnies because commercializing Easter as a holiday (and I’m not saying the commercialization itself is good) only works with people who talk smack to death, “Where is your sting?”

I’m actually giving another exhortation to parents here. There is no moral law requiring that you buy your kids Easter candy, there is no law against it either, Ms. Sugarbebad. But when your kids ask in times to come, “What do these baskets of plastic grass mean?” it is your obligation to tell them why.

So work it through. God demands perfect obedience, and any disobedience, even candy-demand or candy-envy, earns death. Christ obeyed perfectly, and then sacrificed Himself for sinners. He endured the suffering we deserved that we might taste that He is good.

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
(Psalm 34:8)

The Lord is sweet. Salvation is joy. Parent like it’s true. Work for your kids’ progress and joy in the faith (Philippians 1:25).

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Lord's Day Liturgy

What’s Good About Obedience

I have started a small series of exhortations to parents. You don’t have to be in the middle of cleaning up dried spaghetti noodles under the dining table to benefit, but it won’t hurt. Last time I urged parents who want their kids to believe in Christ to be believing in Christ. Parent from faith to faith.

And parent for fellowship. The goal is not a quiet house, the goal is not clean house, the goal is not a certain kind of conduct per se. The goal is love and joy and getting along together. The goal is household harmony practicing the same one-anothers we find among Christian brothers and sisters. We are teaching lessons, we are disciplining disobedience, we are driving around and washing dishes and we are aiming at the very thing God wants with us: kinship.

Peace with God means access to Him (Romans 5:1-2). Justification means we’re brought to the Father (1 Peter 3:18). When we walk in the light we have fellowship with Him (1 John 1:6-7).

Some of you have very little taste of this, from your own family growing up, and maybe still in your current situation. Getting to the goal of fellowship should take all you have. It will cost you, time and energy. You will be up later than you planned talking it out. You will be late to things, because not all sin happens at convenient times.

But you can’t sin your kids out of sin, you can’t ignore them out of sin, and you can’t discipline them toward fellowship if you aren’t in fellowship. Don’t parent with methods that drive a wedge, and certainly not with any tactic that allows you to isolate.

This is not saying to ignore lack of obedience, it’s saying what’s good about obedience.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Parents Picturing Parents

I was reminded again this past week that we usually need more reminders more than we need new information. We also usually need cheeseburgers more than we need a new special from some cooking artiste.

I’m going to begin a series of exhortations related to the work of fathers and mothers. I haven’t mapped out how many subjects to cover, or how many times I want to touch the electric fence. But there are many lambs in the flock, and sometimes they get a little jumpy.

One of my strategic twists on the subject is to remind us that we are not raising children, we are raising parents. We are dealing with people who will one day have their own people, and who, at some point down the road, will be responsible for us. Our time as “the boss” is short. You can have your kids do something because you say so, and it’s not always possible for them to understand everything at a given moment, but eventually they need to know. Who else is supposed to tell them? Did you think they wouldn’t need to be told?

Think about a list of qualities you’d love to see someday when you visit your children’s children, say, when you’re having sabbath dinner around their table. What characteristics would you want to see? I think that isn’t merely a subjective or preference question, at least not at the top. It can be answered.

Before I give you what I think numero uno should be, I’ll at least ask, whatever is on your list, are you currently showing them what it looks like?

And as for what should be first on everyone’s list: you want these future parents to trust the Lord, to love Him with all they are and have, to live by faith. You want your kids to be Christians, living from faith to faith. So again, are you? Are you trusting the Lord in front of your kids? Are you trusting the Lord for your kids?

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Against Raising Our Kids to Be Pornographers and Prostitutes

When I first started to think that God was calling me to be a pastor I was still in high school. And I did not want to be a youth pastor. One reason for that was because it seemed, based on my friendship with my youth pastor at the time, that the person who got to talk to the parents of the youth had a more strategic position.

My exhortation to confession today is loosely connected to the sermon text about how our work will be revealed (1 Corinthians 3:10-15 which is aimed at church leaders), and more specifically directed to parents of our junior high and high school and college age young people based on some things I’ve observed about our kids.

I want to start by saying that I am against raising our kids to be pornographers or prostitutes. I assume that we are all in agreement about that, and I wanted to take my initial step where the common ground was secure.

So we can and do agree that certain ends of our kids’ sexuality are no good. That’s good because the godless parts of our culture are in a tailspin of confusion and inconsistent condemnation over sexual corruption. They don’t know what they’re doing. But I want us to consider, do we?

We don’t want our kids to grow up and be prostitutes, but how much perversity are we willing to tolerate for them? We may not like thinking of it in those terms, but what are we thinking when we let them watch it, or mimic parts of it? Would we be okay with their promiscuity as long as it’s heterosexual? No? Then why in the world do we let them play around with transient relationships? Why do we let them practice being slaves to their feelings, because (when it’s not awful) it’s cute? Or because we don’t want to face the wrath of their feelings against us?

When it comes to parental purposes, it seems that we are either not thinking or, worse, our purpose is to avoid an imagined puritanical prudishness that causes too much cultural embarrassment. We have a plan, and that is to let them have fun and have crushes and not have to control their fleshliness too much beyond not getting pregnant.

Shouldn’t the purpose be for purity, in parts and hearts? We should want our kids to get married and be fruitful and multiply, and we are not taking that seriously enough. Parents, our work is on display.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

The Damp Bounty Paper Towel

One way we know that we’re growing up is by how much we can absorb. I don’t mean absorbing information, though the more mature we are the more we will increase (and be able to increase) in the knowledge of God. The absorbing I’m referring to is the ability and capacity to take up and reduce the intensity of someone else’s difficulty, to help them keep calm and obey on, to swallow up some of the freaking out rather than freak out in return. It’s catching their negative energy with a pillow, not returning it with a ping pong paddle.

There is an absorption spectrum that includes size and soak-ability. There is the dry, giant beach towel on one end, the damp Bounty paper towel in the middle, and the iron screwdriver on the other end. The screwdriver doesn’t absorb anything, will probably get rust on you after a while, and hurts if you hit it at the wrong angle.

Those who are spiritually mature absorb the immaturity and even some of the sinfulness of others. This ought to be our desire: to increase in absorption glory. We definitely don’t want to be dumpers, and there are certain roles that should never dump on others.

Parents ought not spill on their kids. Parents ought to be the ones who take it. Paul told the Corinthians with different imagery that “children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children” so that “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls” (2 Corinthians 12:14-15). Generally, husbands should absorb for their wives, teachers for their students, pastors for their sheep.

We do, of course, run out of absorption room at times. Mom was already running at full capacity when half the household started vomiting, at 2am. Dad is in the middle of a busy season at work, and gets into a car accident, has to deal with insurance, and start physical therapy, and the kids “choose” that week to go off the reservation. What do you do then? Pray for grace to find a dry patch of fabric and sew it onto the towel. Remember that we are in Christ. Trust that His soak-ability is made perfect in our wetness.