Far and away one of the best books I’ve ever read on child-rearing is Standing on the Promises, by Doug Wilson. If you were to ask to borrow my copy, I’m not sure it would do you any good because you probably wouldn’t be able to read the words from all my notes and markings.
However, if you are looking for a “how to” book to help you raise your children, this is not the book for you. While the book is not without practical application, Wilson is far less concerned with giving you twelve easy steps to parenting godly kids as he is with giving you a firm foundation upon which to do so. But, I hasten to add, the book is anything but abstract and impractical. It is encouraging, instructive, and even inspiring. I heartily recommend it to any and all parents who are seeking to raise godly children in this ungodly age.
Here are a few choice quotes from the first chapter that I think are worth passing on…
The Fountainhead of Culture
The biblical family is an instituted government, established by God at the very beginning of human history. The constitution for this government was written by him, and revealed to us in his Word.
Parents bring up their children to be colonists at the proper time, planting families of their own.
Consequently, each family is designed to be a culture – with a language, customs, traditions, and countless unspoken assumptions. God has made the world in such a way that children who grow up in the culture of the family are to be shaped and molded by it. The duty of the husband and father is to ensure that the shaping is done according tot he standards of the Word of God.
[A common problem among modern Christians] is that of forgetting the family is a culture at all, and allowing, by default, outside cultural influences to take primacy in how the children are shaped. When the biblical cultural mandate for the home is abandoned in the home, the vacuum will not be there for long.
By nature, children are malleable. They will either be shaped lawfully, by those commanded by God to perform the task, or they will be shaped unlawfully, by outsiders. But as children, they will be shaped.
Several years ago I worked through Stuart Scott’s book, The Exemplary Husband, with a few folks from my church. We were moving along pretty well until we arrived at the chapter on communication. Yikes…I’ve got a long way to go before I reach mediocre, much less exemplary, regarding how well I communicate with my wife.
Now, I know that no one who reads this blog has any difficulties communicating, but just in case you know a person who knows a person who struggles in this area, I thought I would share a few of Scott’s key ideas.
Six Prerequisites to Good Communication
1.) A husband must want to please God more than anything else. (2 Cor. 5:9)
2.) A husband must be humble. (Eph. 4:1-3)
3.) A husband must be aware that he is accountable to God for everything he communicates (Matt. 12:36)
4.) A husband must know how to listen. (Proverbs 18:13) Listening well means…
5.) A husband must know that communication involves more than just words. He must be very careful about…
6.) A husband must be willing to put forth the effort and spend the time that it takes to communicate. (Rom. 12:10-12)
That ought to give us husbands something to work on for a while.
A few years ago, our church’s men’s discipleship groups studied a video curriculum by Gary Thomas called, Sacred Marriage. It is a series for both husbands and wives but I thought it would be useful to study with just the men. It was fantastic. The study is based on the book by the same name. I have recently begun reading the book and, like the video series, it’s great.
One of the things that struck me as I watched the video, discussed it with our men, and have now been reminded of as I read through the book, is how Thomas focuses on the foundation of (you could say, the theology of) marriage and what God’s ultimate purpose is in marriage. The book is not, as he puts it, a three, seven, or ten-step program for a better, happier marriage. Instead, he does some of the hard work of looking at God’s real purpose of marriage… which is to make us holy… not necessarily happy. That’s a hard message to sell… especially in the era of romantic comedies and the Hallmark and Lifetime television channels.
In the first chapter of the book Thomas puts it this way…
…there’s a deeper question that needs to be addressed beyond how we can “improve” our marriage: What if God didn’t design marriage to be “easier”? What if God had an end in mind that went beyond our happiness, our comfort, and our desire to be infatuated and happy as if the world were a perfect place?
What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?
As Thomas will go on to say in the chapter, holiness and happiness aren’t necessarily contradictory, but a person’s happiness becomes illusory if they think, a.) that it’s the sole purpose of the marriage, and b.) their spouse is the one in whom they will find such ultimate purpose.
The real intention of the book, for Thomas, is to show his readers that marriage, in the same way as abstinence for celibates and isolation for hermits, is a context for spiritual growth. He says marriage can become the means by which we can “grow in our service, obedience, character, pursuit, and love of God.”
If I might put it in Wesleyan terminology, marriage is a means of grace by which we draw closer to God and conform more to the likeness of Christ. That’s not a bad deal.
Grace and Truth,
Below is a brief video interview with Gary Thomas on what the purpose ought to be.