(Missionary to Thailand Brandon Lingle has written a parenting book in Thai, and he has graciously agreed to share it in English.)
One morning as I was taking a walk, I noticed some fish and how effortlessly they were swimming. It was obvious that they were created to swim and I was designed to get around by foot. Don’t get me wrong, I like to swim, but I never swam as gracefully as a fish. Water is its home, and its body was created and designed for that environment.
So what about you and me? What were we designed and created for? What comes naturally to us? These foundational questions are more important to us and our parenting than you may think.
Created to Worship
It’s natural for us to seek what satisfies us then praise it. For example, after being satisfied with a good meal what do we do? We give it our praise by saying something like, “That was so good!” You may be already thinking, “What does this have to do with parenting?” Well, what do you want most for your kids? I know what I want. I want them to be satisfied. Not just for a moment, but completely satisfied in life throughout their life. We want our kids to experience the highest pleasures available in this world. What parent would want anything less for their child?
Have you ever noticed we don’t have to teach them to want the same thing for themselves? Ever since we were all born we have been on the sole quest of satisfying our longings. Blaise Pascal once wrote, “All men seek happiness.” It’s natural for us to want to be happy and satisfied. It is our highest goal and number one mission.
My two year old has the daily goal of obtaining satisfaction in snacking, playing outside, and chocolate milk. You can say he lives for these things. Right now those things are everything to him, but we all know there will come a time that chocolate milk will lose its awe and grip on his heart, and someday he will move on in his quest for something greater.
Our kids were not only born with a natural tendency to seek and find what satisfies them, but they were also given the gift of being able to express their pleasure in it. Listen to the insight C.S. Lewis gives on the importance of expressing praise: “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.”
He is saying our joy isn’t complete until we can express our enjoyment in what delights us, and look at this illustration he gives to make his point: “It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.” That is so true, and it’s true that our kids’ delight in a snack will be incomplete until they can tell someone how good it is.
When you and I have “Taste(d) and seen that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8), we do the exact same thing, we praise Him. We were created for this very purpose. We were created to worship. God wired us this way for our joy and his glory. It’s been said that, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever,” God receives glory when we enjoy and praise him for his goodness and blessings.
John Piper said the same truth in another way: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” Praise and worship is the response of our hearts enjoying someone or something that is glorious and good.
Worship is expressed in many different ways all over the world. There is no people group or person who doesn’t practice some form of worship. Those who try to say, “Well I don’t have any beliefs” are the ones who are really saying, “I just believe in myself.”
So parents around the world are teaching and modeling for their children what to worship whether they know it or not. For example some parents teach their kids directly or indirectly that obtaining money is everything. These things might satisfy them for a time, but once they get it, their hearts will still long for more or something greater.
Augustine described it this way: “Our hearts are restless until they can find rest in [God].” And that’s because the Bible says God formed us for himself, that we might declare his praise (Isaiah 43:21). Our children were created to seek and praise something infinitely greater and more glorious than anything this world has to offer.
God’s creation gives us just a peak at how glorious, powerful, creative, and worthy of praise our God is. It recently rained more than 30 millimeters. In just one square kilometer that is 30,000,000 liters which weighs 30,000,000 kilos! That’s heavy. How did it get up there and how does it stay up there in those soft fluffy clouds? Evaporation, basically water changes form so it can rise. And then it becomes water again, which is condensation, so it can come back down.
Praise God that 30,000,000 kilos of water, equivalent to the weight of about 10,000 elephants, isn’t just dumped on us and our neighbors at one time. Thankfully it dribbles across an area, over a period of time, and the drops are just big enough to make it to earth without evaporating, and not too big to destroy plants. Amazing!
It doesn’t take much to amaze a kid, and it’s our responsibility to point out to them things that will fill them with wonder and awe. Unfortunately we as parents can get so bogged down under our other responsibilities that we miss the glory of God ourselves. We can’t give something to our kids we don’t possess ourselves.
If we are not amazed at how amazing God is, how could we teach our kids to be? We must point them to where their worship belongs and was made for. But the question is how can we do that? What means has God given us to accomplish this in our parenting? The answer is the gospel.
When they hear the word gospel, the majority of Christians think of a message that unbelievers need to hear in order to be saved. It’s true that the gospel has the power to save (Rom 1:16), but did you know that it has power and a purpose for believers too? The reality of God’s love and goodness should be recited to ourselves daily. Don’t miss this, mom and dad. One of the most powerful tools and gifts God gives us in parenting is the gospel. Look with me briefly at the Bible to see for yourself:
Paul was writing to Christians in the book of Romans when he said, “I am eager to preach the gospel to you who are at Rome” (Romans 1:15). Did you see that? Paul wanted to share the gospel with believers, and that is exactly what he did for the first eleven chapters.
He did the same for the church in Ephesus. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul used the first three chapters to proclaim the gospel.
Same thing to the Christians in Colossi. The first two chapters of Colossians is all gospel. And after he shared the gospel with believers in the first part of each letter he spent the remainder of the letter explaining how to apply the gospel to everyday life.
Why would he do that? Paul understood that the gospel isn’t just a message we need once in our lives, but a truth that we should remind ourselves of daily because it keeps us focused on what matters most. It keeps us going, and it keeps us humble and full of praise. The Christians in Colossi were warned to remain grounded in the gospel and not shift away from it and its hope (Colossians 1:23).
Please don’t miss this! You and I have to learn how to preach the gospel daily so that we may stay grounded in it. If you and I want to be the parents God has called us to be for our children, we must take the gospel and run it down deep into our hearts and our children’s hearts daily.
What is the Gospel?
So what is this good news we keep talking about? The good news is that God is good. The gospel is the story of God’s goodness. In the beginning God created everything and “it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). But, the story takes a huge turn when man disobeyed and sinned against God, thus separating them from God and his goodness (Genesis 3).
During this tragic moment God gave them some hope and good news. They needed it. This first promise of hope, found in Gen. 3:15, was a promise of a Savior who would come. As the story unfolds we are told he would make a way for sinful man to be reconciled to their good God. The gospel is good news because Jesus Christ did come as promised!
On the cross Jesus said, “It is finished” as he paid the ransom for sin (John 19:30, Matthew 20:28). Those who repent from their sins and believe in Jesus are forgiven and made right with God (Mark 1:15, Ephesians 1:7, 2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus is the good news! Who he was and what he did is the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4).
But to completely understand this gospel you must know and believe the bad news also. This part of the gospel is scary and the reason many cannot accept it. The terrifying news that the gospel reveals to us is this: God is good and holy. That is the most frightening news in all the Bible. How is it that God being good is also bad news? God is infinitely good, holy, and just, and that’s terrifying because we have sinned against him and each other.
God is good because he doesn’t let evil reign and he doesn’t let a single act of evil go unpunished. We should be thankful for that, but we should also tremble because we “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23). So how can a just and holy God clear the guilty? The answer is Jesus. God can pardon us because Jesus paid our fine on the cross.
The Bible explains how this transaction took place, “For our sake [God] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus went to the cross, in our place, to pay the wages of our sin (Rom. 6:23). Jesus is the gospel!
Our kids need to know God and the gospel. But the story of God and his gospel isn’t just a one-time conversation we have with them hoping they will believe it and be saved. They, and we, need to be saturated in it daily. Look at this well-known verse and see for yourself.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)
Notice with me something important about this verse. Do you see the first pronoun? Parenting first starts with us. We are to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. And what does that have to do with parenting? God has woven into the very fabric of our children’s being to copy what they see. Randy Alcorn said it best: “Sometimes our children will fail to listen to us. Rarely will they fail to imitate us.”
When God gave us these commands he wasn’t adding to our to-do list either. Notice that he said, “when you walk” and “when you sit in your house.” That is something we are already doing. God isn’t giving us more things to do to fill up our schedules. No, He is saying while we are living life, love Him and teach our children His Word.
As you can see, worship and gospel truths are not just a Sunday morning thing we do and talk about at church. My hope is that in this book you will see how the gospel is applied to everyday parenting. It is more than just a story we share with our kids. It is the truths about God we find in the Bible that empower, humble, encourage, and guide our parenting from day to day.
Our kids not only need to know how much we love them, but they need to know more than anything how much God loves them. We daily need to remind ourselves, and our children, of God’s goodness and love that was fully demonstrated on the cross. I heard someone once say, “God could have created us without loving us, but he could not have gone to the cross without loving us.”
As Christians we believe God created everything, and that includes parenting. So it would be wise of us to parent the way God intended.
Copyright © 2020 by Brandon Lingle @ https://lookaside.fbsbx.com/file/Intro%20-%20Chapter%201.pdf?token=AWweAHzYHnnqtG2JEAISzHe3UhxcHs-NuTUU4ezmjnOlaskyUYxtwmTJTQmnzd9PB1B4dxu1AkBlaA6niTImhDiBNoDcyjBKL4wqWplEPWnPC0zaKv89YZoCVxEdNYkXFzsn_13oGGWZPyJGqX_W7Z8W3LAZk32Rd8AxCCrO0vHuCg . Used with permission. No part of this article may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from Lifeword.org.