God The Father > Peter The Father

Night blog postIts easy to think you are a great parent! I did. Then I had a baby who cries, and cries, and cries. As I watched my son beat most every one of our scheduling, medical, and social engineering concoctions for sleep, I came to the realization that I have some serious limitations. Thankful God’s parenting skills do not! 

As I have sat up with my son coveting sleep, I’ve capture a better understanding of God’s fatherly love for us. Although my son is cute and personable as all-get-out, I still become weary, tired and irritable with the little dude after a few tough weeks. When his needs class with my sinful heart, my patience begins to evaporate.

 But here is the great news: God’s loving patience for me never ends.  Time and again, I sinfully wander away from the truth to worship my ego, stuff, and personal peace and affluence. I insult the very nature of God, the God who has given me way more than a onesies, a crib, and dissolvable food. Yet, God still loves me. He is continually gracious to me. He continues to lovingly discipline me. He continues to grow me in wisdom and understanding. He continues to provide me with health, food, an income. And, he continues forgives me, extending his merciful hand of fellowship through the blood of his son. Although I’m ready to tap out of fatherhood after a few rough hours, God lovingly cares for me for eternity!

As one theologian from yesteryear said,

Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.

Having children has helped me to see what a poor father I am. And it has also helped me understand what an awesome and great Father our God is. When I compare my heart to God’s, I cannot help but confess that God is “worthy of worship worthy of praise!”Oh to be parent more like God! 

As I gear up for the next round of late night tears, I know there is hope. (Yes, every baby goes through phases, seemingly faster than diapers.) But the hope I’m talking about comes from Christ. Because we have been loved by GOd the father, I know and want to love my son even in the hard moments. We are our father’s children. And there is nothing my son can inflict upon me that I have not already inflicted upon my heavenly father. Yet, God continues to love me. And equipped with a gospel mindset, I can patiently love my little man.  

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another – I John 4:11

Changing Diapers For Jesus

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2:3-4

Dancing puppets, bouncy bands, and cool smoke machines are transforming the old children’s church wings with decaying pictures of Noah’s Ark into miniature amusement parks complete with complimentary drinks. And there is much to be said for updatingChanging Babies For Jesus décor and for reevaluating curriculum to make sure it is gospel infused and connecting with today’s kids. Making “Victory in Jesus” your 2014 VBS theme song is probably not the best way to reach One Direction groupies. But as we take children’s ministry to the “next level,” we cannot forget that family ministry is best done by the church family; not just the children’s pastor or the preschool director.

Yes, church leaders have the important task of helping us parents better love Christ so that we can faithful care for our children. But caring for the exhausted mother and the frustrated dad extends well beyond the walls of the children’s building and even of the sanctuary. For the church to effectively minister to families, Christians need to be in each other homes, offering relief through babysitting, bringing meals, and counseling with the tired. As disciples of Christ, we are called to count others as more significant than ourselves, looking out for the interests of the new mommy, the well-worn mother of five, and the parents struggling with acclimating a newly adopted child.

Placing the interest of others above our own is not easy for singles, senior adults, young couples, or anyone else for that matter. There are a million reasons why not to care for families ranging from jealousy to “I already did my time.” But the basis for our service is not found in what we have or have not done. It’s found in what Christ did and does. If you think changing a dirty diaper is nasty, then think about how repulsive our sin stained skin looked to Christ. We were perpetually nasty and didn’t even have the angelic factor of a newborn or the curious intelligence of a gradeschooler to make us attractive. Yet, God humbled himself so that we might live. He loved us when we were his enemies. If we love Christ, we cannot help but want to be like Christ by humbling ourselves to care for others, even the snotty-nose kiddo’s!

When we do love families with kids running crazy, we cause Christ to shine bright in this dying world. I’ve heard many an exhausted mom rightfully rave about a friend who took their children for a day. And having been loved well by my church family following the births of my two sons through cards, meals, visits, and some late night home nursery care, I can testify of how the selfless care of others strengthens a parent’s hearts.

Admittedly, looking out for others is not natural to us. I frequently have to ask my wife to forgive me for saying something rude. But in Christ, we are new creations, capable of truly loving others. And looking out for the interest of others does not end with the local family. It extends to the entire body of Christ and to the lost world. I fear that many parents feel the need to escape from their kids on Sunday morning because we have not effectively cared for families Monday through Saturday. There are many ways by which we can improve our care for families such as starting a “new mother’s response team “or having a Sunday school class adopt families offering to babysit for free once a month.  The solution for each church family will undoubtedly be different. But the need to look out for the interest of others reaches us all!

What To Expect When No One’s Expecting

what to expect when no one is expectingJonathan V. Last. What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster. New York. Encounter Books, 2013. 230 pp. $18.01

According to our God, both the little screaming child who just slapped its mother across the face and the infant peacefully cooing itself to sleep are blessings from above. But the divine perspective of Psalm 127 is quickly losing traction in the world as record number of couples doubt the wisdom of having a house full of children. Seeking to understand why, “only 3 percent of the world’s population lives in a country whose fertility rate is not declining,” what affects childless societies will have upon the world, and how to combat the effects of this childless trend, Jonathan V. Last published What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster.

Though not written from an openly evangelical perspective or from a desire to “convince you to have babies” the book’s statistical revelations affirm a gospel centered world view (p. 10). As the reporter turned author found, children are an empirical blessing. When populations begin buying more adult diapers than baby diapers, the world becomes increasingly unstable. In the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the government launched a program that converts prostitutes into elderly care nurses (p. 99). In Japan, a nation that is projected to have one baby for every citizen over the age of 100 in 2040, the minister of finance encouraged the elderly to simply, “hurry up and die”[i] to save the country from financial ruin (p. 142). And by 2040, the United States will face its own financial crisis as there will be only be two workers to care for each retired baby boomer, costing each worker $8,578.00 just in Medicare expenses (p. 109). Although Last is aware that a childless world is an unprecedented event, his extrapolation of current research darkens our expectations.

Thankfully, Last does not leave us excepting only gloom. He offers several helpful suggestions that could encourage couples to have babies. He also gives his readers some good news discussing France, Georgia, and societal groups that have seen their fertility rates stay consistent or even rise above the fertility replacement rate of 2.1 children.

Not surprisingly one of these groups with higher than average birth rates is the church. According to Last, 41% of Protestants who attend church at least once a week “say that three or more children is ideal” (p. 86). He goes on to write:

Religion helps marriage and marriage helps fertility – the end result being that religiosity winds up being an even better predictor of fertility than either education or income (p. 87).

In short, Christians who value the gospel are having more children.

The challenge for Christians going forward will be to maintain their fidelity to the gospel. The world has increasingly less tolerance for religious ideals.  As Last notes, one’s-self is now the highest priority. Instead of godliness, humanity wants happiness. “Best Life Now,” anyone? And as a result of the world’s narcissism, procreation has become, “an act of self-actualization” (p. 93).

Self-lovers consistently advocate for less and less children. In Japan, a nation formerly known for being pet-crazed, self-love has spawned a new social class, the “parasite single.” These working, college educated women have become Japan’s biggest consumer class by choosing to avoid marriage and to live with mom and dad well into their thirties (p. 145). These women devote almost of their incomes to the pursuit of pleasure. Consequently, Japan’s birth rate hovers around 1.4.

The United States is following suit. The love of self is driving Americans to view pets as “low-maintenance replacements for children.” As late as 1985, fewer than fifty percent of Americans had a pet. Today American pets, “outnumber children by more than four to one” (p. 2). And over the past 16 years, the pet business has grown from a $17 billion to a $43 billion industry. America’s birth rate now sits at 1.9.

So when we hear people wax kindly about how their dogs are their children or when we hear people encouraging a couple to delay having a child until they can get that car, house, raise, etc. we must remember the source.[ii] And then, we must remain faithful to scripture. We must affirm that children (not pets) are a blessing. We must remember that, “the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches,” place our souls in eternal danger (Mark 4:1-13). We need to abandon troubling earthly treasures and embrace the blessing of God (Mark 9:36-37).

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom. 12:2).

When people or our own hearts doubt the wisdom of God’s plan, we should direct them to scripture first and foremost. But if you are in need of real world evidence that children are a blessing or if you want to know the real world cost of abandoning this divine directive, I would encourage you read What to Expect When no One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster.

[ii] One word of caution: Speak kindly with those who advocate the above positions. Speak truth in love (Eph. 4:15). It’s possible that the “money lover” truly wishes to spare others the suffering of poverty or that the “ridiculous pet owner” might be barren mother. We need to address the concerns of their hearts with scripture and encouragement.