Category Archives: Home and the Gospel

So many people think that it is the job of the church to disciple their children. I hear it often when talking to people about why they are looking for a church – “We want our kids to be raised as Christians.” Ideally the church supplements what mom and dad are doing to make disciples in the home. These are my thoughts and ideas about how to get the gospel into the lives of our children.

A Psalm 71 Present For My Birthday Boy

E Baby B.DayNo matter how you look at it, life is a precious gift. If you are a Christian, then you recognize that life is an especially meaningful gift because it is designed by God for an eternal purpose. The Bible tells us so.

Today is my son’s eleventh birthday. I love that boy and I want to do spiritual, eternal good to Him. I want him to know that he is intricately designed for a God-glorifying purpose. For this reason, when our children have birthdays, besides giving them gifts, parties and special privileges, I try to say something meaningful to them from God’s word. So this morning I asked him to stop what he was doing on his iPad so he could look at me and I read to him Psalm 71:4-6.

 

Rescue me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, Out of the grasp of the wrongdoer and ruthless man, For You are my hope; O Lord God, You are my confidence from my youth. By You I have been sustained from my birth; You are He who took me from my mother’s womb; My praise is continually of You.

When I was done reading I said to him something like this:

Son, did you know that just like the person who wrote this passage thousands of years ago, you too have been sustained from your birth by the almighty hand of God? Son, did you know that He brought you from your mother’s womb with breath and life? Did you know that you are fearfully and wonderfully made? So son, find your hope in this God; the only God (5). Son, call out to the LORD God when you are in trouble (4). Son, may you see the goodness of God to you now that you are a youth and are growing into a man (5b), and in response, may you always praise God continually (6). Son, daddy loves you and the best thing for you is to know and follow this God, though Jesus. I thank God for you, son. Happy Birthday.

I didn’t sit down and write a mini-sermon. I just read the text to him and responded by expressing how God’s breathed-out word applied to him on this important day in which we remember that God gave us a very special gift.

Do you do this? Do you take special moments and bring God’s word to bear on the situation? I get lazy sometimes and don’t do it. But I try to always say something meaningful about God’s word, or from God’s word.

Your child will receive hundreds of gifts, many parties and privileges, and thousands of happy birthday wishes. Those are all good. But if you want to give your child something great and eternal, take hold of special moments like birthdays and speak into their lives truth from God’s special word. They may not remember exactly what you said, but I am confident they will remember that you thought they were important enough to give them the greatest gift of all – God’s life-giving word.

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Cigarettes, Parenting and Panic

My ten-year-old, Luke, is reading Unbroken. I told him that he should read it because there is a lot to learn about character, redemption and forgiveness from the life of Louie Zampereni. But, as is the case with all people, there is a lot that Louie Zampereni did and experienced that I would like my son to avoid.

According to the book, and to the amusement of Luke, Louie Zampereni began smoking at the age of five. When I condemned this nasty, expensive, disease-causing habit with: “That’s not good!” He quickly reminded me of the time when I was eight and smoked a whole pack of cigarettes with my five-year-old brother – a funny story 31 years later.

Uh-Oh! What have I done?

Immediately, I started second-guessing myself and hoping my good intentions don’t eventually back-fire on me. I hope my son doesn’t conclude, “Well, Louie and dad had a few rebellious moments and they turned out fine, so what’s the harm in trying? How bad could it be if dad and Louie did it?” Unwittingly, did my attempt to help my son see Godly and manly things, also open the door for harmful things?

Parenting can paralyze, causing us to second-guess every strategy, word and action. Parenting can also turn us into tyrants, causing us to try to control every detail of a child’s environment.

Both extremes are mistakes that will likely do far more damage than good.

As I was pondering the pitfalls of parenting and my own fears, I began recovering and articulating some core parenting convictions that I have used as guides. I think these are especially helpful when I encounter “Uh-oh moments”.

  • I do not want to make self-righteous moralists. I do want to be used by God to make God-glorifying, Jesus-treasuring, local church-loving disciples. The first thing to say here is that a true disciple will want to glorify God, treasure Jesus and love His Church. The second thing to say is that my part is to be a willing and faithful vessel that the Holy Spirit uses to accomplish this. If I rely on myself and try to do the work of the Spirit and use Jesus so my children will be good little boys and girls that stay out of trouble and don’t use drugs, I will make behavior-driven pharisees. If I abdicate my responsibility as a willing vessel, I will produce narcissistic consumers. Churches are full of all three.
  • I will embrace with urgency the privilege and responsibility to be the primary teacher of the whole will of God to my family. The relationships and programs of the local church are supplemental graces for equipping and training to do gospel ministry in the home, but I will not outsource and abdicate my God-ordained leadership as a man (Genesis 2:15-18; Deuteronomy 6:1-9; Psalms 78:1-8; Ephesians 4:11-16 and 6:1-4). I will not singularly blame the youth ministry or the youth minister that my children don’t love God and the local church. When I critique and question, I will start with me.
  • I will be committed to a long-term process of disciple-making. I will patiently and consistently sow the word of God in the lives of my children as a part of a long-term strategy. From the cradle to graduation, I will be diligent to consistently live what I teach. When I fail, I will repent and seek forgiveness. I cannot afford to squeeze years of missed opportunities into one talk because of a parenting crisis. I will be proactive, not reactive.
  • I will not panic. When my children disappoint or rebel against God, I will not panic. That does not mean I won’t live with urgency and do hard things and have hard talks, but I will not act as though God is not faithful. I will not manipulate and use fear to control a situation that is beyond my control. I will pray and trust God to do what only He can do, and I will be ready to speak and act when it is clear I can glorify Him as a parent.
  • I will value the importance of prayer. I will see the challenge of parenting as sanctifying grace from God, and pray to Him for wisdom and strength. I will trust God’s promises and believe that He is using all things, even a parenting crisis, to refine me and grow me for His glory. I will also never give up hope that God can reach my child. I recognize that if I ever stop praying, I have stopped believing. I determine to never quit praying for my children so that I am ready to speak to them when God gives me the opportunity.
  • I will share my life with others. God has saved me to be a part of His Church through the local church. I will seek the wisdom of those who are ahead of me, and I will pass on what I can to those who are behind me. While my family is my primary responsibility, I also have a responsibility to share life with people to make God-glorifying disciples. The local church is not optional. I need others and they need me.

“Dad, Do You Drink Beer?”

Our family of five just spent the last nine days on vacation and during that time I fielded a litany of questions. The one I remember the most is this one: “Dad, do you drink beer?”

It stuck with me because it seemed a very strange question in light of the fact that my most extensive beer experience was a mere tasting back in high school.

Why then did Luke ask me a question that seemed out of the blue?

On the way to our vacation destination and while we were there, he observed multiple people drinking beer. Children notice and hear more than we realize and so seeing a decent amount of beer consumed he must have wondered if his dad was secretly doing what he saw others doing.

And so I answered him this way: “Son, have you ever seen me drink a beer?” To which he responded, “No.” To which I asked, “Son, do you think daddy hides things from you?” To which he responded, “No.” To which I stated, “Son, mommy and daddy don’t hide things from you because we want you to trust us. We don’t sneak around doing things that you don’t know about, and if ever you have other questions about what we do and don’t do, you can ask about that also. Okay?”

This little story is not primarily about whether I think it is wrong to drink beer or other kinds of alcohol. We already have and will continue to talk to both of our sons about the dangers of drinking and why we convictionally choose not to drink – though we are in some ways free to do so. The point is that my son wondered whether I was being completely honest with him about what I was saying and what I was doing, and so he wanted to know whether I was being consistent. I looked him in the eye and told him that he could trust me because what he heard and saw is what is real.

I don’t know if it was a memorable moment for him or not, but for me it was a powerful moment to be able to say to my son, “You can trust your dad on this.”

I want to be as consistent as I can in parenting the children God has given.

I want them to trust us and I want them to feel free to ask questions. Even hard ones.

I want to be able to look each of them in the eye and say, “We don’t attempt to hide things from you. You can trust us.”

These parenting aspirations were strengthened in me as the result of a simple and honest question. May God use them for His great glory and the good of my children.

Pointers for Using The New City Catechism

NCC_coverWe have invited our church family to join us in using the New City Catechism as a Gospel-Centered equipping tool for the home because the home should be ground zero for gospel training (Deut. 6:4-9; Ps. 78:1-8; Eph. 6:4).  But what is a catechism? A catechism is simply a tool that uses questions to teach biblical truths in an orderly way. For instance, the first question was: “What is our only hope in life and in death?” The question for week two is: “What is God?” You can view the catechism or download the catechism App at www.newcitycatechism.com.

Now I suppose the thought of leading any kind of biblical instruction in the home can be intimidating, and I imagine that fear is one of the primary reasons that so many people don’t ever try to have a family devotional time. If this is true of you, don’t talk yourself out of trying this before you give it a chance. Here is some encouragement to go along with some practical pointers.

  1. Pray before leading. Ultimately it is the Holy Spirit who will convict, guide, glorify and change hearts and minds. Don’t make this into a godless and therefore, fruitless task.
  2. This is not an easy and  quick-fix. Our minds wonder. Our children seem to have ants in their pants. The result: We wonder, “Is this doing any good?” Don’t give up. I have found that if you stick to it, your children will start to expect it and even ask to do it.
  3. If leading, be patient with yourself.  No one should expect that you are going to deliver a wonderful sermon or lecture. Let the catechism do the bulk of the work and just concentrate on doing it consistently and being an eager facilitator.
  4. It doesn’t need to take a lot of time. Usually five to ten minutes will suffice. But then again, if your family is engaged, run with it and see what the Holy Spirit does.
  5. Repetition is a key learning component so don’t move on too quickly. The goal is not to cover material and move on, but rather to do it several days a week so that the truths begin to sink into the mind and heart. This is why there is one question for every week.
  6. Helpful questions will bring life to the discussion. The beauty of the catechism is that you don’t have to prepare much but you will need to breathe some life into it. Ask simple follow up questions like: “What does this mean?” “Why should we think that?” “How should we live because of this truth?” One of the byproducts of this time should be that it helps you become a better teacher.
  7. Don’t be discouraged when you don’t know. If you don’t know an answer, just admit it and find someone who does know. Or learn together by using the scripture and ponder the question together as a family.
  8. The App is better if you are able to access it. The printed copy is enough, but the app has a video, commentary and a prayer of response that could be done on separate days.
  9. This should not replace your daily Bible reading and prayer. If it is a catalyst to helping you read and pray – great, but you need to be feeding yourself and then leading your family.
  10. Carve out the time and do it consistently. “The signature of mediocrity is not the inability to change, it’s chronic inconsistency.” – Jim Collins – We had to ban the TV, the IPad and the Computer in the morning so we could make this a priority and have the attention of our children, but it has been worth it to create the expectation that we will consider divine and eternal truths together at least five times a week. As an individual or as the leader of a home, if  you don’t discipline yourself to carve out the time, you have no one to blame but your own person. This responsibility of truth in the home is eternally serious. I hope you use this as a means to a God-glorifying end.

Switching It Up; Family Devotions at the Prentice House

I write this with the hope that it will spur others on to take up the privilege and responsibility of disciple-making in the home, and to show that there is a time to re-evaluate and make changes.

I recently became quite frustrated with our lack of a consistent and disciplined routine, especially in the morning. It seemed we were not finding time in the evening to have a family Bible time and the mornings were filled with the distraction of Curious George and whatever Luke’s selection might be. I told our family that starting this week there would be no more TV in the morning. That announcement was met with some resistance, but sometimes a parent has got to be a parent and not just a friend.

So here’s what our family has just started doing:

  • No TV in the morning. It has been surprisingly peaceful and it makes it easier for all of us to listen and focus.
  • At around 7:30 we will have a time of Catechism. Catechism simply means to instruct in an orderly manner using questions and the Bible to answer those questions. Here is the one we have started using. Baptist Catechism. We will answer one question per week, reading one scripture per day. There are 118 questions so there is plenty of material. You can download for free the Catechism here.
  • I also plan on alternating each day some personal time with the boys going over AWANA verses and praying for them. This I want to do before our family time.

This time does not need to be very long. I think keeping it short is the best strategy. But one thing it must be; it must be consistent and we must have a plan to do it.

The other point I would make is that the responsibility falls to the parents and especially the father to be disciplined in making it happen. We need to go to bed on time and get out of bed on time. We parents, and especially the man, have to be the pace-setters and have our stuff done so we can prompt the children. If a family devotional time isn’t happening in the house, it’s nobodies fault but the fault of the parent. We can’t blame tiredness or busyness because that’s always going to be there. This is too important of a responsibility to put on the back-burner.

My fresh realization of my responsibility is what recently prodded us to make a change. I hope it prods you to start, or do whatever you need to do to do something consistently in your house that teaches in an orderly manner the truth of God’s precious and life-giving word.

5 Questions Parents Should Ask When Their Child Misbehaves

How will you respond or how do you respond when your child disobeys, misbehaves or disappoints with their actions?

Most of us react and many times it is not pretty or helpful.

On Wednesday Nights at Converge we have been watching a 10 session parenting video by Paul Tripp called Getting to the Heart of ParentingI have found it to be very convicting and very helpful. I have found it to be biblical and theological and yet very practical.

Last night we watched session four (Click Here to watch) and Tripp continued to talk about how parenting should be about the heart first and then behavior. So often we are only dealing with the symptoms (behavior) of the heart and not the heart (causal core of all we are) itself. When we focus only on behavior we end up making disciples but not the biblical kind. Instead of making transformed and Christ-like people we make moralists and little pharisees.

We should want therefore to get at the heart. We want to get at heart issues that allow God to transform the whole person. After all, the heart is wicked above all things (Jeremiah 17:9).

But how do we get at the heart. How do we help our children move beyond behavior modification and moralistic performance to becoming a new creation who then lives to righteousness (1 Peter 2:24)?

Tripp recommends 5 very practical questions that have a very specific order. These questions are to be asked when a child misbehaves and disappoints. He stresses the order of the questions must not be changed.

  1. What was going on? The point is to get some sort of telling of the situation. Establish a story that reveals the perceived facts.
  2. What were you thinking and feeling as it was happening? This question goes after the heart. What was the motivation of the heart (causal core)? This question helps us teach our children that our heart is always desiring something and it helps us and them to evaluate it.
  3. What did you do in response? This question gets at the words and behavior that flow out of the heart (See Matt. 12:34b). It’s important to see the flow of how things work. Behavior is the result of the heart.
  4. Why did you do it? What were you seeking to accomplish? Again, this gets at the heart because it shows the motivation for what was done.
  5. What was the result? What did the heart produce in way of actions and outcome? It produced consequences and harvest. We sow what we reap.
Tripp argues that these questions teach us to slow down so as not to react only to behavior, but help us to see what is causing the behavior, and hopefully it helps our children learn to examine themselves in a biblical way to see that life is not just about behavior. After all, the older we get the more clever we are at crafting our behavior in a way that doesn’t look so bad on the outside, even if we are out of control on the inside. We are masters at camouflaging our deficiencies.  So the questions teach the parent and the child to think biblically because the Bible tells us that the reason we sin is because we are sick at the heart level.
We need to learn to be heart surgeons and not just plastic surgeons because it will not matter how good we look on the outside if we have lethal heart disease. And every person on planet earth does (Read Romans 3).
We must quit treating symptoms and treat the disease. Try these questions in order and see if they help you examine your heart and the heart of your child.

What We’ve Lost and Gained by Adopting

We talked about adopting for years and we wanted to adopt before I got really old. I didn’t want a teenager in the house after 60. So we prayed and we decided to go for it. I thought surely we wouldn’t be chosen for months, but God had other plans and we received a call within the week about meeting a birth mom who was considering adoption. We met the birth mom and her mom in November in Tulsa, and now we have a precious little baby girl living with us, as we wait to legally make her ours permanently.

So trying to wrap my mind around everything, Lacey and I discussed in a recent car ride what we have gained and what we have lost in the process of adopting Bella Faith. Here’s what we came up with:

What We’ve Lost

  • We’ve lost sleep. Bella is a good sleeper but she seems to like to be awake at inconvenient times, namely when Lacey and I should be sleeping. Thanks to my wife who absorbs most of the sleep loss.
  • We’ve lost money and will spend money. Adoptions cost money. Little people cost money. Formula and diapers don’t last long. Also, I suppose I should start saving for the prom and the wedding – according to my wife.
  • We’ve lost future income. By agreeing to use the adoption agency we used, we also agreed that Lacey would stay home and not take a job outside the home until Bella turns five-years-old. This means a few financial goals of mine will have to wait.
  • We’ve lost weight.  Well, Lacey has.
  • Lacey has lost the car war. Now you know why we have a “swagger wagon.” Lacey gave up her car pride to adopt little Bella.
  • We’ve lost privacy. Adoption requires that we tell a person who does a “home study”, almost everything about our lives. Additionally, we have opened up our lives to a whole other family.
  • We’ve lost the completion of potty training and bath time. Luke and Elijah can now brush their own teeth, wipe their own behinds and bathe themselves. Now we are starting over.

What We’ve Gained

What we’ve lost begs the question whether adoption is worth it. Is it worth the loss and trouble? See what you think?

  • We’ve gained a daughter. Children are blessing from the Lord.
  • We’ve gained a disciple to be made. Jesus said for us to make disciples and that responsibility starts in the home. Bella will get a heavy dose of the whole gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • We’ve gained more family. Faith, Bella’s birth mom has become like a sister to us. We love her and want what is best for her. Because this is an open adoption we have gained lots of new family who will continue to be a part of Bella’s life.
  • We’ve gained the testimony of being pro-life. We have for a long time defended the right to life for the unborn, but doing something about it gives us credibility because we have become a part of the solution.
  • We’ve gained the experience of being blessed by our church family. The prayer, encouragement and monetary support have been overwhelming. We truly have been loved by those who have supported us.
  • We’ve gained the joy of a newborn. Yes, she poops a lot and wakes up at inconvenient times, but I love to look at her – even when she does nothing but lay there. I see her and I see the glory of God in creation. I see intricate detail and someone that is fearfully and wonderfully made, and my heart fills with joy.
  • We’ve gained important life lessons for our two sons. What an opportunity to teach our sons about making sacrifices for others. What an opportunity to teach them respect for little girls and to learn to protect their little sister. What a lesson on sharing with someone our life.
  • We’ve gained the opportunity to make it hard on suitors. I’m really looking forward to this, and I want myself and my sons to set such an example of what a gospel-centered man should be, that Bella will have great expectations for the man who seeks to win her heart and make a covenant to her before God.
  • We’ve gained a deeper understanding of what Jesus has done for us (Romans 8:14-16; Galatians 4:4-6). We have been adopted through Jesus Christ and I see this adoption teaching us about this for years to come. What is the gospel and what must I do to be saved, and therefore adopted by God through Jesus?

Much more could be said in both categories, but you tell me; is it worth it? In this world there will be loss and trouble (John 16:33), but Jesus has modeled for us that we are to embrace the loss for that which cannot be taken away. Sometimes to lose is to gain (Matthew 16:24-28) and I don’t think in the grand scheme of things, we have lost a thing.

“Kids These Days!”

If you have made it this far make sure you read the whole blog lest you think I am completely heartless and just haven’t lived long enough. As best I can, I acknowledge that I have a lot to learn, but some of the best learning is preparedness.

I was at my son’s Y Soccer game this past week and I crossed paths with a lady who said to no one specific, but herself I suppose, “Kids  these days!” I have no idea what she was referring to or if she meant me to hear her, but heard her loud and clear I did. I don’t even know if she was talking about her own children, but the statement was lodged in my mind, stuck like gum on hot pavement.

I’ll be the first to say a lot has changed since I was a boy. Children are different because they live in a different time and have different stuff and face different challenges and temptations. Things have changed and people are changing, and when we look at children and teenagers we see a lot that is unrecognizable compared to our own upbringing. But is it right to say: “Kids these days!”?

I’m waiting for someone to say: “Parents these days!”

The reality is that children sleep in the beds that are made for them because that is all they have ever known. Formative environment cannot be underestimated. Of course it is true that children will eventually start making their own beds and they will have to accept responsibility for their decisions. And sometimes despite the best efforts of parents, children still make devastating and painful choices. This problem is as old as the world (Genesis 4 – Cain and Abel). But we can’t ignore that if there is a trajectory or cultural, consistent tendency among children to be disrespectful or spoiled, then can we do anything but conclude that we don’t have kid problem but a parenting problem? And by the way, really the root problem is a sin problem, but even then, who holds the primary responsibility for addressing that problem?

When I see either of my two sons acting up or out, especially in public, I sometimes get frustrated and even embarrassed, but if I stop to think about what I am witnessing, I often see microcosms of my own flawed tendencies. If I stop to honestly ask why they do what they do, I almost always see myself in them. As an adult I can manage and mask my shortcomings, but children are not so experienced at this craft and in the process I get exposed. This can be painful and yet healthy. We need to be exposed and children do it well.

So here’s the application. Parents have to take responsibility for the fact that their children are reflections of their own lives – good and bad. It’s the nature of all of life. Close and personal proximity leads to the transmission of habits, character, beliefs, etc. I am culpable for what my children believe and how they behave. I share in the responsibility for the people my children are and  will become.

Here’s the rub though. Despite our best efforts to train up a child in the way they should go, they might still crash their lives and hurt others in the process. I would think though that this would only motivate a parent more. This possibility ought to make us want to live Deuteronomy 6:1-9 and heed the warning of  Psalm 78 with all our might. It ought to make us pray with great consistency. It ought to make us examine ourselves and our children to see if what we are doing in moderation is leading to dangerous excess in the lives of those we say we love so very much. Parenting ought to drive us to cherish the gospel and live to righteousness because of the gospel (1 Peter 2:24).

We can’t ignore our influence and shirk our responsibility. The reality is that a lot of the reason our kids are the way that they are is because they are our kids and we have passed on to them what we value and the way we live. Every person will give an account to God for their actions. The Bible says as much over and over, but that means also that every parent will give an account for their child’s life-long foundation and direction. In God’s strength, I hope every Christ-following parent will live like that is true.

When Should a Child Be Baptized?

When should a child be baptized?

The simple answer is that a child should be baptized after they become a believer in Jesus Christ. Baptism is for those who have turned from their sins and put their faith in Christ. Baptism is for believers (Acts 2:41; 8:12; 10:47; 16:30-34).

That seems easy enough – right?

Wayne Grudem in his book, Systematic Theology, says: “Baptism is the sign, administered by the local church that shows that a person has given sufficient evidence for truly being a believer.”

I mention Grudem’s statement because it gives us cause for pause when he adds that baptism is for those who have “given sufficient evidence for truly being a believer.” This statement should create for us a healthy and contemplative tension that causes us to ask: “What ‘sufficient evidence’ should we look for that would let us in good conscience baptize a child?”

After all, we don’t want to rush a decision for several reasons. First, we don’t want to give false affirmation or assurance that a child is saved. Second, if a child has a believing parent who lives and tells the gospel, then more than likely the child is going to want to be a Christian, say they are a Christian and do the things a Christian does-just like mom and dad. Children want to be like their parents. Parents are the heroes of their children and children can be like parrots, repeating exactly what they have heard. Saying the right words is a reassuring start, but it does not mean that a person has been saved (Matthew 7:21-23).

Parents have a very important responsibility when it comes to evaluating whether a child should be baptized. I believe it is a great idea for parents to have their child meet with a pastor, but the pastor is not as intimately acquainted as the parent is with the child’s spiritual vernacular or their at-home behavior. Certainly, those things don’t save a child from their sin, but they most assuredly give crucial evidence as to whether there is sufficient evidence for a church to baptize a child and, therefore, affirm whether or not the child is biblically born again and saved.

So what “sufficient evidence” should we look for before we affirm and celebrate the baptism of a child?

This is not an easy question to answer. It is complicated, and I think it is complicated by the complexities of adulthood just as much as it is by the simplicity of a child’s willing and teachable heart.  I’ll do my best to explain this in a minute, but here are some truths that a child must understand to be saved so that they can then be baptized as a believer:

  1. A child must understand that God is holy and righteous. They must understand that God is perfectly sinless. How does a person know they understand and grasp this? To begin with, I don’t think I fully grasp it, but I do recognize that God is completely different from me in his moral perfection. A child must also see that in their sinful state they are morally deficient and hopelessly unrighteous. Unless they understand that God is perfect, they will not understand the second truth they need to know and feel.
  2. A child must understand that they are sinner (Romans 3:9-18; Romans 3:23) and must show a Holy Spirit empowered conviction concerning their sin. This one is especially difficult to discern about a child because sometimes we expect a child to act like an adult. In other words, if their behavior is acceptable then we might mistakenly see that as the good deed evidence that validates that they are being convicted of sin and conforming to Christ-likeness. But is it possible that we are not seeing the Spirit convict, but that we are seeing behavior modification that is the result of seeking parental approval? For instance, is it necessarily conviction of sin if a child sorrowfully cries for punching a sibling? Does sorrow or remorse always equal conviction and repentance? What do we need to look for that shows that a child understands that they are a sinner in need of Jesus the savior? What does conviction of sin look like for a child? Here are a few questions to ask that will help evaluate whether or not the Spirit lives within a child, showing they are a believer. Do they come clean when they have not been caught? Do they confess sins that they know they could have gotten away with? Do they hurt for others without being told they are to do so? Are they sensitive to the needs and pain of others? Do they take the initiative to do kind things for others? These questions are helpful in my mind because they show that a child is doing more than reacting to parental or behavioral consequences. If a child is responding to something internal, perhaps the conviction of the Spirit, instead of the wrath of mom and dad, this seems to me to be the kind of evidence that we could contribute to the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit is waging war within the child against the flesh. One last question, do they see their sin as being against God, or only against people? This goes back to number one. If it is only sorrow for actions against people then they may have not grasped that ultimately their hurtful actions against people are really a sin against God (Ps. 51). All sin is treachery against God and a child needs to recognize this as evidence that they see God as perfectly holy.
  3. A child must understand that only Jesus can save them (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; John 17:3). Has a child confessed with their mouth that Jesus is Lord, the only way to God the Father, and believed in their heart that God raised Jesus from the dead? Do they have a child appropriate understanding that Jesus lived a perfect life that we should have lived, and because He was perfect only Jesus could die in our place to absorb the wrath we deserved? Jesus is the only hope any child has, and they must grasp that.

These are evidences of being in Christ.

You will notice a couple of obvious points. First, a child must believe the same things that an adult must believe to be saved. Second, a child must know the facts of the gospel and understand the application of those facts. The rub is this: How does an adult see the work of the Spirit in the life of a child?

There is a teachable moment for us adults. Do we know God’s word well enough to know the person of the Holy Spirit? Do we recognize the handiwork of the Spirit in our own life well enough to recognize it in the life of our child? Additionally, do you we know our child well enough to know that there is something supernaturally happening in their life?

At this point someone might accuse me of giving little, or no help, since I have suggested that the evidence we need to look for is the same evidence we would look for in an adult. So here are three concluding thoughts that might help define the three imperatives above.

If a child gives evidence for all three above, it doesn’t hurt to wait a while before they are baptized. Don’t rush a child through the baptismal waters. Be patient and see if they persevere in periodically asking about when they will have a chance to show people that they are believing in Jesus. If God has saved your child, there will be a persisting yearning to obey. One of the defining marks of the Spirit is perseverance in obedience to the faith. A child may not ask about it everyday, but they will bring it up consistently over a period of time.

Warning! Don’t wait too long. The danger of waiting too long is that obedience gets minimized or portrayed as not urgent and important. The last thing I want my son or daughter to say to me is: “Daddy, why don’t you believe me?” Just make sure that you take the time to explain to your child why you are waiting, while you are waiting.

Finally remember that this, like everything, is an opportunity to trust God and see the Spirit work in your own life. God knows what He is doing, even if you don’t. Pray like both are true. Baptism is incredibly important because our obedience as saved people is important (1 John 2:3; John 14:15), but baptism does not save you or your child. God saves by his grace through faith in Jesus, and in Jesus alone.

  • Does your child know and understand the facts of the gospel?
  • Is there conviction of sin? Are they just sorry, or is there a sense of wrong that leads to a desire to obey?
  • Is there a Spirit-empowered perseverance to obey?

Carving Pumpkins and the Gospel

Lacey and I recently took the boys to a pumpkin patch and we let them each choose and pick a pumpkin. I then lugged the pumpkins back to the car and we took them home to carve them up. As you probably know we began by cutting the top of out and then removing the inside stuff. After creating an adequate sized hole around the stem that would allow us to get our hands inside to clean the pumpkin, both boys emphatically made known their disgust for the foul smell, as well as the slimy and gooey and disgusting feeling that they felt as a part of the gutting process.

Lacey seized this opportunity as teaching moment to pump more of the gospel into the minds of the boys. She told the boys that we are each like a pumpkin before trusting in Christ. The inside of the pumpkin is like our sin. Our sin is dirty, stinky, and disgusting to God. But God, being rich in mercy can remove our disgusting sin by faith in Christ, making us useful for God’s glory through the power of the Holy Spirit. Once Christ has saved us by faith He can use us to shine for God just a pumpkin shines in the night after it has been cleaned out and made ready for light and the purpose it was altered for (Ephesians 2:1-10).

This may seem silly, but in the life of a home with two small boys it is a thoughtful way of making Jesus relevant with every family moment. If we would only be intentional and thoughtful there are so many ways to get the gospel into the little minds of children. Take the time to do something special with your family and then as you are going (Matthew 28:19-20) think of ways to show and tell the gospel. God might use the carving of a pumpkin to burn the story of the gospel into a little mind. All things are made by Jesus and for Him (Col. 1:16). We just have to figure out how and apply it.