He Loves Kids, So Should We


One of the indicators of how much you love God is how much you love what God loves.

And God loves children.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’

Genesis 1:28

Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.  But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.  Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’

Luke 18:15-17

Much of our culture seems to view children as a nuisance.  Where C.S. Lewis could once say that he didn’t much care for the company of children but saw that as a defect in himself, our day and place seems to see the presence of children (and especially of a lot of children) as itself a defect.

There doesn’t seem to be much of a premium placed on childbearing.  Children don’t seem to be viewed as a blessing.  A husband and wife having more than a kid or two is usually seen as a weird thing.

Our culture doesn’t appear to value this valuable thing.

I say this with three kids being bad in the other room and just after a shift of nursery work this morning at our church’s service that was a touch exhausting.

Childbirth was God’s creation.  And God is the author, the pleased author, of each human soul.  So to despise children is to despise the creation of God.  And there is no way to hate what God creates and at the same time have a healthy relationship with Him.  

I know kids can be loud and annoying.  But I don’t think that’s the root of our culture’s disdain for them (however widespread it is).  Instead, I think we have a particularly self-absorbed spirit in this generation.  I think we don’t like being inconvenienced.  I think we don’t like sacrifice-on-demand.  I think we want to give of ourselves, if we want to do it at all, on our schedule.  The work of disciplining and teaching and hugging and joking and answering the questions of and feeding and providing and bathing some little person when and how he needs it, not when and how we’re ready to do it, is repulsive to a self-centered heart.  This is why parenting has been so instructional for me.  It has forced me to love God more and rely on Him more.  The reality is that I’m a selfish jerk apart from Christ, and through parenting and being around other people’s kids via the church, God has forced me to be more like His Son.

God has forced me to love Him and other living human beings more through parenting.

The more you love God, the more you’ll love what He loves.  If our churches don’t value kids, if we don’t value kids, we may need to perform a little self-examination on our faith.  And if you agree with me that our culture doesn’t have a good appreciation of children, childbearing, and child rearing, then we have an even greater responsibility, as Christians, to get our hearts in line with His.

A watching world needs to see what a healthy love of kids looks like.

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Some Specific Tips On Leading Your Family


I promise, I am not writing this as an expert.  I am no expert.  But a friend suggested the other day that I write a post on fathering and being a husband.  A practical post.  A post filled with some specifics.  

And I didn’t have a sermon to work on this week, so I spent my lunch break on this.  

Just so you know where I’m coming from, I’ve been married about 8 years.  I have 3 children already born, 1 who’s in Heaven, and 1 due, Lord willing, in November.  I’ve also been shaped by being a pastor/elder for about 5 years.  So there we are.  

I hope these can be of help and be adapted to your situation. 

Some tips on leading your family in Christ:

  • Say Sorry When You’ve Sinned Against Them

It kind of surprised me that this was a novel concept to some of my acquaintances and co-workers.  When in passing I’ve mentioned that I’ve apologized to my children for sinful anger towards them and asked their forgiveness, it’s at times seemed to take them aback.  I would’ve thought that adult human beings would understand that if we can do wrong to our neighbors or friends then we can do wrong to our children (and wives).  Sin is sin, and Scripture is clear that it needs to be confessed to God and to the party that we’ve sinned against.  

Plus, if I want my kids to confess and repent of their sins, I need to do it, too. 

  • Worship God As A Family Daily

Have family worship.  Have family worship.  Please, please, please have family worship.  

My kids are 5, 3, and 1, so this is a season of worship being fairly short.  But the fact that it’s daily, rain or shine, busy day or not, has yielded tremendous fruit.  Seriously.  As a family, we’ve gone through Jude, Revelation, Mark, Acts, Genesis, Exodus, and now Leviticus, and my two older ones have a pretty good understanding of the story God is telling in creation, history, and Jesus.  Just because of that.  There’s no magic.  It’s just because they hear the Bible and its stories in context every day.  

The way it works for us is very simple:  

  1. 3-5 minutes of reading or summarizing a section of the book of the Bible we’re in (usually about a chapter).
  2. Singing a song together.
  3. One or more of the kids praying to God for a family request as I lead and nudge them in the right direction.  
  4. We’ll typically end with a little bit of a Christian fictional book (we finished Pilgrim’s Progress last year and are reading through The Chronicles of Narnia now) or a short animation or video of the Bible story we’re in.  The Bible Project videos have been helpful for that second option.  

That’s it.  Bible, song, prayer, story/video.  The whole thing is 10-15 minutes tops.  And we’re flexible.  I often lead it at the dinner table, but not always.  At least once a week we end up doing it on the van, on the way to the store or small group or Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house.  
Again, what I’d commend to you with all my heart, if you hear nothing else I’m saying, is that you do worship God as a family daily.  No matter how you’re feeling, no matter how bad the day is.  5 minutes every day for 2 years adds up.  We know this with exercise, and I believe it’s no less true for taming our family’s hearts.  I’ve witnessed it.  I wholeheartedly encourage you to have short (or long, if you can handle it) family worship every single day.  It’ll yield precious fruit if it’s regular, even if it’s not always breathtaking or particularly moving in the individual moment or instance.  

  • Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

This kind of goes along with family worship being daily, but for kids this is so key that it deserves its own point.  Repeat truth in your home.  Find phrasing that is Biblically faithful and then use it as often as you can.  Here are a few examples of phrases my kids can say in their sleep, now, just because of my repeating them for 2-3 years:

“Sin brings death, Jesus brings life!”

“God saves bad people.”

“God will throw Satan in the deep, deep hole” (from when we read through Revelation). 

“We honor mother and father, because it keeps us safe and makes God happy.”

“Jesus teaches people, Jesus helps people, Jesus heals people, and Jesus loves people.”

“The church has a story to tell, and that story is about Jesus!”

We make it fun.  We say them loud and smiling and sometimes in silly voices, but above all my kids know that those things they’re saying are true and good and important.  And they know that those are the 3 reasons Daddy repeats them to them and to himself.  

  • Don’t Fear Saying “I Don’t Know”

God already knows you’re a human, Dad/Husband.  He knows that you have ignorances.  Yes, you’re the head of your wife and of your family as a whole, but you’re also frail and sinful and growing in grace and truth. 

I have to fight this fear all the time.  I want people to think I’m the perfect husband or father or pastor, that I know the most or am the Godliest.  I’m often terrified of having myself doubted in any of those capacities.  So I have to remind myself (like right now) that God already knows my weaknesses, and has called me to this family anyway.  I can be transparent about the things I don’t know or can’t do, and in the process teach my kids to rely on the One who does know all things.  

  • Keep Your Wife First

I am one flesh with her, not my children. 

I made vows to her that I made to no one else, including my children.  

Men, our kids will leave us someday and, Lord willing, cling to their own spouses.  That’s His design.  And it’s therefore it’s also His design that in marriage, and not in parenthood, we have promised to care for another human being into old age and until we die.  

I pledged before God to cherish this woman in a very special way, a way unique to her and a way that is made, by its very nature, to be exclusive.  

My marriage is glorious and deserves to be prized above all other human relationships He forms for me.  That’s the design.  

  • Have Fun

This is the one I struggle with the most, but it’s so key.  These are blessings, these wives and children we’ve been given. We should enjoy them to His glory! 

So specifics.  Right.  

Take them to Chuck E. Cheese’s.  Even on a school night, once in a while.  Don’t be afraid to break an unspoken rule from some hidden curriculum in your mind.  Go get ice cream at 9 o’clock on a school night once in a blue moon.  These are children given to you to raise in fear and love of God, to cherish and enjoy and give memories to.  They weren’t given to the local school board or to your neighbor or to that judgmental relative you want to impress.  

And if it’s not rules that keep you from having fun but your own silly hobbies or pleasures, then throw them out.  Seriously.  If Call of Duty or BW3’s or golf is standing between you and ever playing Uno with your daughter or ever wrestling with your little boy or ever having playful and flirtatious conversations with your wife, toss the hobby aside.  Pare it back or quit it altogether.  These are souls given as blessings to you, little eternal people He has populated your life with, or in the case of your wife, a friend and lover He has united you to for life.  They are more important than video games or fantasy football leagues, and having fun with them is more valuable than having fun with a work buddy you won’t know in 12 years.  

  • Love Jesus

I’m ending here.  Christian husbands and dads, stay personally connected to your God.  The more you love Christ, the more you’ll love what He loves.  Those who truly love Him walk in obedience to Him, and the more you love the more you obey.  Being a good husband and a good father best flow from a love we’ve already tasted.  

Specifics.  

Read at least a chapter of the Bible daily by yourself.  Pray by yourself every single day. Ask God to help you love His Son.  Pray daily for your children’s salvations, or if they’re already born again, then pray daily for their spiritual growth.  

But however you apply this, walk daily in worship of King Jesus.  The days I am a deficient father and husband are the days I am a legalist or an unrepentant, hardhearted man or a doubter in my Savior.  Worship is the wellspring that good fatherhood and good love for my wife come from, and idolatry and sin are the poison that make the bad days insufferable.  For them and for me.  

All right, that’s it for today.  

I hope this helps your family, or, if you are single, helps to frame some of your thinking about family.  The friend who texted me to write this is himself single, so I suppose all different stripes of Christian (and non-Christian) are curious about this sort of thing.  And that’s healthy, I think.  

We worship a good God.  And He is a Father.  And a Husband.  

And He is the best of both.  

So I want to live in that light.  

Some Personal Proverbs


The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:  To know wisdom and instruction,to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth — Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. 

Proverbs 1:1-6

I’ve been thinking about Proverbs lately.  About God’s book of general statements of wisdom.  I’m grateful for the book of Proverbs, because it’s helped me to think through some very practical matters.  What’s the right way to parent?  What’s the right way to work?  What’s the right way to speak? 

I’m not old, and there are many ways in which I’m still foolish (I still often prize people’s opinion of me more than God’s, for instance).  But I think the following observations I’m making are faithful to the witness of God’s Word.  They’re in no way inspired, in that they are not breathed out by God, as the real book of Proverbs is.  

But I offer them for what they’re worth.  
A few personal proverbs, if I may:

  • Young, married men and women: Have children. I’ve never met a Godly older man or woman who wishes they’d had less children, but I’ve known more than a few who wish they’d had more.  
  • If I have a really long list of people that I can’t stand, it’s worth asking whether the issue might be me.  
  • There is nothing I’ve personally encountered that better illustrates the folly of the human heart than the movement to support the right to abortion.  “It’s not a life.  No, we don’t want to look at ultrasounds, I said it’s not a life!  And even if it is a life, a woman should have the right to end it.  No, she shouldn’t have the right to end other lives, just this one.  I’m not crazy, man, come on.  She should just have a right to end this life.  I mean if it’s a life.  And we celebrate that in this country.  Even though we want these things to be safe and legal and rare.  We celebrate it!  But no, seriously, I don’t want to look at an ultrasound!”
  • Forgiveness will be as hard as your heart is. 
  • The fundamental problem with ISIS is theological, not economic or social.  At root, they have a wrong understanding of the character and values of God.  Everything else flows from those headwaters.  
  • Where the world is a system of people moving further and further apart because of annoyances and unforgiven wrongs and technological isolation, the church should model people moving ever and ever closer in intimacy because of a shared love as big as the Gospel.  
  • Bitterness requires entitlement as it’s fuel.  You have to believe you were owed something that you didn’t get.  Remove the fuel and the spark won’t catch.  Replace the lie that you were owed something good you didn’t get with the truth that the only thing we were each owed is Hell, and bitterness won’t have any gas to keep blazing on.  
  • If you want to know how much a Christian man believes the Gospel, one way to find out is to watch how he treats his children.   
  • Remember, “father” is both a noun and a verb.  And appropriately so.   

Happy Wednesday, all!

    Why My Family Won’t Celebrate Halloween

      

    A couple of days ago my family and I were walking through Home Depot.
     Towards the front of the store were some cartoonish inflatable Halloween decorations for a front lawn.  You probably know the type:  Graves, skeletons, tombstones with humorous inscriptions.  And as we walked away from them I felt strongly that I needed to tell my oldest (5) that our family doesn’t celebrate death.  And then she started to tell me all the things that we’ve talked about as a family that are from God’s stories of Creation and Consummation in Genesis and Reveation:  That death is bad, that it came from sin, and that someday Jesus will come back.  And when He does, she said, “No more death, and no more tears, and no more boo boos.”  These are the truths we’ve tried to communicate to our 3 little children.  

    And so while I don’t think there’s anything sinful in dressing up or in giving away candy, we won’t go door-to-door on Halloween this year because so much of what my kids would see would be a playful or morbidly curious attitude towards death.  At least 1 of my kids heard us sing “Laid Death In His Grave” this Sunday at our church gathering.  I don’t want us to sing joyfully that Jesus conquered something on Sunday and then playfully observe it a few weeks later. 

    God grieves death.  And He hates it.  He gave up His own Son to defeat it.  He will someday cast it into the Lake of Fire with Satan and all his demons and the (finally) unrepentant.  And because of all that, my family shouldn’t view death as a game or a joke.  I love games, and I love jokes, but the goodness of each comes in knowing what’s fun and what’s funny.  And death is neither.  

    God built this world without death, and it is sin that unleashed it upon His beautiful work.  Death distorts and deteriorates God’s marvelous creation, and He allows it to for a time.  But while I wait for His Son to return and put this enemy under His feet, I want to have the same posture towards it He has.  

    Death is nothing to play about.  It is not natural.  It is not something to entertain a morbid fascination for.  Death is the outworkings of an awful rebellion.  I don’t want to celebrate it any more than I celebrate idolatry or adultery.  

    One of the best gifts I can give my kids is the awareness of what is good and beautiful as opposed to what is ugly and passing away.  And so for me, this isn’t about forbidding something just to forbid it, and it isn’t about laying down some sort of distinctive Thomas family law.  It is about preparing my kids’ hearts for the beauty of Jesus’ return, and teaching them to grieve what God grieves, hate what God hates, and hope for what Jesus is bringing. 

    Death is monstrous.  I don’t want us to celebrate it.  I want us to celebrate its defeat at the hands of the greatest of Kings.  

    Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 

    1 Corinthians 15:24-26

    The Boy Mattered More


    It’s a profound moral failure to think that an animal’s life is just as precious as a human’s.  It is not.  While both have value, they are not equal values.

    Let me summarize my argument in three simple sentences:

    1. An animal’s life matters to God.  
    2. A human’s matters much more. 
    3. Therefore, it was right to kill the gorilla to save the boy. 

    Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

    Jesus, in Matthew 10

    Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’

    God, in Genesis 1

    Last week, here in Cincinnati, a gorilla grabbed a 3-year-old boy after he got into the gorilla’s enclosure.  Knowing that tranquilizers take time and that the gorilla could kill or seriously injure the boy in a second, the staff shot and killed the gorilla to save the little boy’s life.


    Now, while I can understand some sadness in the fact that the gorilla was killed, what I cannot empathize with is the particular kind of sadness that wails as though something wrong was done here.

    It wasn’t.

    Both the gorilla and the boy were made by God, but the boy mattered more.  He should grow up knowing that He mattered more.  He should grow up knowing that his neighbors and his friends and his enemies matter more.  Because to be wise is to value things the way God values them; to assign to individual things the weight that He does.  God did not die on the cross to offer His Gospel to animals, but to people.  God made man and woman in His image and gave them dominion over the animals and the earth.  And during the time of Israel God commanded animal sacrifice while condemning human sacrifice.

    God says He values us and animals, but that He values us more.

    This boy should grow up knowing that while a sad thing was done, the right thing was done.  Because that’s how much his life counts.  

    One of the ways to make tell of a society’s wisdom, or lack thereof, is to see what it gets outraged over.  Animals are wonderful and made beautifully by an awesome God.  But human beings are the crowning jewel of His image on Earth.  And if a society can’t tell a pearl from a sandstone, it’s lost its moral high ground when it comes to being outraged.  

    As someone who loves this society, I hope we retain our moral health, and so we prize things in their appropriate order.

    Two final sentences:

    1. I love animals.
    2. The bodies and souls of humans, of children, take precedence over them.

    But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

    Jesus, in Matthew 18

    Why I Pray for the End of Planned Parenthood

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    Because it is an organization that, whatever else it may do, stops the hearts of infants and then sucks their bodies out of the wombs of their mothers. And that is wicked. It is evil.

    Let me give you a few of my heart’s desires concerning the current American abortion debate: I want people to receive medial care. I want women who are pregnant and scared to be cared for and loved. I want children to be adopted, especially by parents who have been reborn by God’s Holy Spirit. I want women who have had abortions to be forgiven and cleansed through the sacrificial blood of Jesus. And I want the brutality of children being murdered and their corpses dismembered to end and to be repented of.

    Those are all things I want, despite what I’m sure Planned Parenthood would have you believe about pro-lifers.

    So why do I pray that Planned Parenthood be ended, even if it does other things beside perform abortions? Because there is no acceptable ratio of poisoned infants-to-HIV screenings.

    I will gladly support the very government funds that right now go to Planned Parenthood going instead to any agency or health care provider that does not use metal pincers, vacuums, or chemicals to end the lives of unborn children.

    It is an affront to God and an assault on humanity to proactively end the lives of infants as they grow in their mothers’ wombs. It is murder; sin against the defenseless infant and sin against his or her Maker.

    And so I pray that it would stop. And that the organization that perpetrates it would cease to exist.

    A Pastor’s Letter to His Congressman

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    The following is a letter I sent to my Congressman, Steve Chabot:

    Dear Congressman Chabot,

    I appreciate your service to this country and the people of Cincinnati. I have never written one of my political representatives before. My reason for doing so now is quite simple: I have never been this outraged.

    The videos thus far released by The Center for Medical Progress in which Planned Parenthood officials discuss how much they’ll charge for the body parts of murdered infants, for human flesh and blood killed and extracted from the womb, is morally repugnant. It is an affront to God, and it should be an affront to a nation that considers itself a force for good in the world.

    “So then you’re kind of cognizant where you put your graspers, you try to intentionally go above and below the thorax so that, you know, we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna’ crush that part, I’m going to basically crush below, I’m gonna’ crush above.” That is Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Senior Director of Medical Services for Planned Parenthood, on dismembering infants in the womb in such a way that the body parts can then be sold.

    This behavior is quite literally diabolical. It is monstrous. And I am disgusted that our tax dollars go to support it. I do not care if it was legal. I do not care if Planned Parenthood made money or lost money. They murdered infants, flippantly discussed it, and sold parts of those human babies. What they do to children in the womb is phenomenally wicked. The moral blindness they display after-the-fact is simply more obvious evidence of their evil folly.

    I have voted for you regularly since 2006. As a thirty-year-old, I have many voting years ahead of me. I pledge to you my vote in the upcoming election if you denounce Planned Parenthood and work to end any federal financial support or governmental support of any kind for this hideous organization. I will never vote for you again if you refuse to say or do anything about Planned Parenthood.

    As a fellow citizen of the United States, a democratic republic where the citizens and their constitution are sovereign, I ask you to uphold the Constitution, written to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

    A leader’s first responsibility is to what is right. I respectfully call you to that task.

    Wade Thomas