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.
I've shared this piece a number of times over the years, primarily because of the impact Ken Boa made (and continues to make) in my life. I also share it because, in many ways, his influence shows up in much of how I think and minister, as well as what I write. When I begin a new website, (or a website reboot), I try to make sure I include this small gesture of gratitude. I now appreciate the time and effort Ken invested in me as much as when I first wrote this.
Any person who has ever taken a class I have taught has heard the name “Ken Boa” more times than they ever wanted. Ken was a mentor of mine from 1989-1992, while I attended seminary in Atlanta.
I first “discovered” him through an audio tape someone let me listen to. After that, I went to the seminary library and read everything I could get my hands on. I also started attending as many of Ken’s Bible studies and small groups as possible.
Sometimes, at seminary, students can actually become spiritually malnourished as God becomes more of an object to be studied rather than a Person to be loved. Ken served as a great antidote to that disease in my life.
I enjoyed the privilege of getting to know Ken one-on-one and was even allowed to teach some of his classes from time to time. I will always appreciate the time and effort he poured into me. He must have exercised great patience in having this young seminary student trailing behind his every step. But if he did, I never knew it. He was always very gracious and helpful.
After graduation and moving back to Florida, I continued studying under Ken via his audio tapes and books. I have listened to his teaching and read his books over and over again. In fact, I wrote him a few years ago and told him his influence has been felt at every church I have served.
Today I can still keep up with Ken through his website. I can receive daily devotions and prayers, download and listen to his teaching, read many of his articles, etc. And if I want to feel even more like I’m back in one of his studies, I can watch him teach via video.
I haven’t kept up with Ken over the years very well. I have mailed periodic “thank you” cards to him from time to time. But it’s nice to know I can still keep up with him and his teaching. He was, and remains, a very influential mentor in my life. My ministry reveals it as the folks I have been privileged to teach and disciple can easily attest.
Below is an introduction to Ken that I took from his website. If you are interested in spiritual formation, apologetics, or some really good Bible studies, I would encourage you to visit his website and get to know more about him. I am indebted to him and thank God for him.
Grace and Truth,
Kenneth Boa is engaged in a ministry of relational evangelism and discipleship, teaching, writing, and speaking. He holds a B.S. from Case Institute of Technology, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, a Ph.D. from New York University, and a D.Phil. from the University of Oxford in England.
Dr. Boa is the President of Reflections Ministries, an organization that seeks to encourage, teach, and equip people to know Christ, follow Him, become progressively conformed to His image, and reproduce His life in others. He is also President of Trinity House Publishers, a publishing company that is dedicated to the creation of tools that will help people manifest eternal values in a temporal arena by drawing them to intimacy with God and a better understanding of the culture in which they live.
Recent publications by Dr. Boa include Conformed to His Image, 20 Compelling Evidences that God Exists, Face to Face, Augustine to Freud, and Faith Has its Reasons. He is a contributing editor to The Open Bible and The Leadership Bible, and the consulting editor of the Zondervan NASB Study Bible.
Kenneth Boa also writes a free monthly teaching letter called Reflections. If you would like to be on the mailing list, visit http://www.kenboa.org/ or call 800-DRAW NEAR (800-372-9632).
Our local church, Southside United Methodist Church, was born on Easter Sunday, 1950. It was on that day the men and women, boys and girls of Southside assembled together as an official congregation of the Methodist Church to lift their hearts, minds, and voices in worship to God for his grace and goodness in bringing them together. It was also an opportunity for them to commit themselves to the service of Christ and his kingdom.
The men’s ministry, interestingly, was actually born the day before.
It was on the preceding day, Holy Saturday, the men of Southside decided to meet together to get everything ready for the next day’s events. These faithful, servant-hearted brothers also thought it would be a good idea to meet a few hours early for the purpose of cooking breakfast and then enjoying it and fellowship together. Southside men have been meeting every Holy Saturday since then for our annual “Men’s Easter Breakfast.”
I share this bit of history to communicate that this wonderful tradition of Southside men represents how long Southside’s commitment to men has existed. It also shows how far back our men’s commitment to Christ and his local church, Southside UMC, actually goes.
Much of today’s literature that is devoted to men’s ministry is saturated with tales of woe regarding the absence of men in the church at large. Men, they tell us, have been alienated from feeling welcome or comfortable in church settings for a variety of reasons. Perhaps there’s truth to that in some churches.
Yet Southside has been blessed by the men (and, of course, the women) who have stepped up in many ways over the years to be used by God in the building up of his body. From administrative leadership to teaching Sunday school classes to serving the community, Southside men have a rich history of following Christ, which has left an enduring legacy to the Southside men of today.
I give thanks for those men of God who have gone before us. May the men of Southside in each and every generation faithfully pursue our United Methodist Church’s mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Soli Deo Gloria,
(April 14, 2010)
Trying to find a Bible storybook you can read to your young children is often a challenge. Some aren’t much more than “Jesus loves you” messages – page after page – with a few baby cherub pictures thrown in. Then there’s a variety of other versions that add value in different ways. And, of course, it’s hard to beat simply reading a regular version of the Bible to your child. My experience is that a good children’s Bible storybook supplements a regular reading of the Bible in very helpful ways.
A few years ago I came across a set of Bible stories I have read to my children ever since. These stories come in a Ten Volume set, entitled, The Bible Story by Arthur Maxwell. You can learn more about the book and the author by clicking here.
The series covers the entire Bible. No story, (I’m pretty sure), has been left out. Because the purpose of God’s Word is not always to give us every detail of a person’s life (example: Jesus’ childhood), the author respectfully (and I think fairly faithfully) “speculates” about such things. He never makes up things a Bible character said or did. And if he’s just exercising a little “imaginative wonder,” he clearly communicates that.
The pictures are fantastic. Very colorful. My kids love the pictures as well as the stories. We bounce back and forth between an Old Testament volume and then a New Testament volume.
One of the things I like most about the series is it was written in the 1950s. I know there is no golden era of the Christian faith (though the Puritans come in at the top for me). However, I really like the fact that this is not another children’s book trying more to be “relevant” to the child rather than faithful to the text. Who needs that? The author gives a faithful rendering of the story (with bits and pieces of the actual biblical text interspersed throughout the story) in a winsome way that gives my children a real love for the stories and a deep desire to hear them again and again. You just can’t beat that.
Here’s the link again to the website that sells this series. I wasn’t able to find it at Christian Book.com. I didn’t check Amazon.
The Bible Story
More than four hundred stories in ten volumes covering the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation
by Arthur S. Maxwell
I encourage you to buy this series at once and begin reading the stories to your children. You won’t regret it. It’s an impacting and fun way to shepherd your children. And, as I said earlier, you just can’t beat that.
Grace and Truth,
The practice of catechesis is vital for the health of both the church and family. Several years ago I came across the following two articles that do a great job of addressing this topic. Both deal with J.I. Packer’s recent book and his comments about the importance of catechesis, and when Packer talks, we all need to listen.
The first one is found at Christianity Today and is an excerpt from his book, Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way, which he cowrote with Gary A. Parrett. Here’s a snippet from that excerpt…
Historically, the church’s ministry of grounding new believers in the rudiments of Christianity has been known as catechesis—the growing of God’s people in the gospel and its implications for doctrine, devotion, duty, and delight. It is a ministry that has waxed and waned through the centuries. It flourished between the second and fifth centuries in the ancient church. Those who became Christians often moved into the faith from radically different worldviews. The churches rightly sought to ensure that these life-revolutions were processed carefully, prayerfully, and intentionally, with thorough understanding at each stage.
Click here to read the whole piece.
The other column is by Mark Earley at BreakPoint. Here’s an excerpt from it…
There is generally need for three distinct forms of catechetical ministry. They say it’s protocatechesis, which refers to teaching what many today would call “seekers” or what the ancients called “inquirers”; catechesis proper, which refers to the formal work of preparing children or adult converts for baptism or confirmation; and ongoing catechesis, which is the never-ending teaching and formation of believers.
Click here to read the whole column and make sure to see the links at the bottom of it.
Grace and Truth,
Below is an interview with J.I. Packer on the importance and need for catechesis.
I'm blessed to be a part of a great group of men at the church I serve. Each and every week we meet together for the purpose of fellowship, studying God’s Word, and prayer. God has been good to us ever since we first started meeting back in 2001.
My hope and prayer when I first started the men’s ministry was the men of our church would come to know Christ better and to have their minds renewed, their hearts renovated, and their lives transformed… in every sphere of their lives. That means personally, at home with their families, at work, at church, in the community, everywhere. Again, God has been good and I have seen firsthand how this has happened and continues to do so.
I believe one of the best ways we, as Christian men, can extend God’s Kingdom and impact our culture for Christ is by influencing men before they’re men. I think the time to begin discipling, encouraging, and developing Christian men is when they’re still boys. Wouldn’t it be great if generation after generation of boys grew up in our churches where being discipled by their fathers and other godly men was commonplace? What might God do in and through the lives of such boys when they become men?
One of the topics I’m committed to writing about on this blog is shepherding (i.e., loving, caring for, encouraging, leading, discipling, developing, etc.) our sons to become men of God. As a father of three sons I must confess I’m still learning. I still fall flat on my face as a dad. However, it’s my deepest desire for my own sons to become godly boys, then godly young men, and then, one day, godly men who are raising their own sons or daughters to know the Lord Jesus Christ and to live for him in every sphere of life. What could be better?
Grace and Truth,
"Leave me not, O gracious Presence, in such hours as I may today devote to the reading of books. Guide my mind to choose the right books and, having chosen them, to read them in the right way. When I read for profit, grant that all I read may lead me nearer to Thyself. When I read for recreation, grant that what I read may not lead me away from Thee. Let all my reading so refresh my mind that I may the more eagerly seek after whatsoever things are pure and fair and true.” John Baillie
Over the years Suzanne and I have been asked what we are reading to our children. In truth, that happened more when the kids were younger. Now our children read books I can't pronounce. At any rate, I thought I would take this time to share a little with you about what our reading time with the kids used to look like when they were younger.
I started reading to Natalie (who will be 19 in two months) when she was around two. (All the years are beginning to run together. After the requisite children’s books we all read to our children (Little Engine That Could sort of stuff), we embarked on chapter books when she was around three or four. We started reading the Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner. The first book of the series, which is entitled, The Boxcar Children, was first published in 1942. I much prefer reading older books to the children because they are not so saturated in contemporary popular slang. And really, our kids are going to be knee-deep in that stuff sooner than we want, so what’s the rush?
After reading a good number from that series, we started reading The Chronicles of Narnia. Dylan, who was then around three or four, began to join us for these great stories. Now, to be sure, he did not pick up on every little nuance (nor do most adults for that matter), and sometimes he tuned out or even fell asleep, but quite often he tracked along with the story just fine (doing better as he got older). Of course, a quick review at the conclusion of each chapter was essential. It was a way for Dylan, Natalie, and Daddy to discuss what happened in that chapter as well as to talk about the important themes we found there.
For Christmas 2004, Suzanne and the kids gave me a gift of about 11 or 12 Lamplighter children’s books (which I loved as much as the children, by the way). These books were written in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. They are gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, character-building, interesting, exciting, and uplifting stories that have been a hit around our home for both the kids and the parents. There are many, many more to purchase (they are continually finding old books to republish).
At some point during the middle of reading through the Lamplighter series, we took time out to read John Bunyan’s classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress (in modern English). I must say even with the updated English, it was tough terrain. It was hard work to keep the kids tracking with the story. The review after, (and sometimes during), each chapter was absolutely vital for this book. However, it was a huge hit and Natalie recently said it was her favorite book we read. It took us quite a while to complete, but we persevered and it was worth it.
After The Pilgrim’s Progress, we returned to our Lamplighter series. Let me add that these books appeal to both boys and girls alike (If you visit their website you will notice their catalog lists books for younger boys, older boys, younger girls, older girls, etc.). We’ve taken the time to go back and forth between them, and regardless of whether the main character is a boy or girl – the kids still love the stories. Another reason I love this series – (for that matter, all the books we have read which were written decades, even centuries ago) – is not just because they aren’t inundated with contemporary slang. It has more to do with the fact the vocabulary is so rich. These books were written in a more literate culture and there’s not so much lowering of standards as there is trying to lift the standards of the reader. Definitely a plus.
One of my, “I wonder if that was a good idea” books, was Robin Hood. I thought it would be a good swashbuckling, adventurous story. And, in many ways it was. But it doesn’t flow terribly well and we ended up reading chapters from it sporadically.
I miss reading to my children as I used to do when I first wrote this post. They have gotten older. My third grader still loves it, so I'm happy about that. I hope one day I'll be a grandfather so I can start this whole process over again.
Why read to your children? NBC use to show a public service announcement on reading to your children at least 10 times a week. And, what they say is true… it is a great bonding time. Reading together has meant all the world to our family. But Suzanne and I also have these reasons as well…
1.) First and foremost we want to impart a biblical worldview to the hearts, minds, and souls of our children. As parents we have a commandment from God to disciple our children for Christ and this is a fun and effective way to do it. We want to help prepare them to face the world once they leave our care.
2.) We want to pass on a love of reading to our children. I didn’t get excited about reading until much later in my life, and I want to do everything I can (that’s humanly possible) to ignite a fire in my children to love reading as early as possible.
3.) We want to help give our children an eye toward discerning the differences in literature – between the bad, the good, and the best.
4.) We want to magnify their imaginations, creativity, and ability to think. TV is such a passive activity. Reading requires more work…and produces more fruit.
5.) It's just plain FUN!!!
Basically, we are charged with providing a covenant home and raising covenant children. Deuteronomy 6 exhorts covenant parents to raise their children in the faith all throughout the day – when the children rise, as they move throughout the day, as they prepare for bed in the evening. Nurturing your children in the faith doesn’t have to be drudgery. Reading is a wonderful way to show your children how our Christian faith plays out (or should play out) in the real world…even in the context of imagination.
Grace and Truth,