POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monagha

Books I enjoyed in 2015

The Bible says that of "the making of many books there is no end and much study is a weariness of the flesh." (Ecclesiastes 12:12) In other words, there are many words not worth reading. Certainly the words of the wise and the Words of God are the guides of life and there are many books not worth the bits and bytes they are produced in. Yet there are some good ones to read. Here are a few of the books where I found some joy this past year.

The Bible

I've been reading and teaching in a few main biblical texts in the most of 2015

My continued love of history and creative Non Fiction dominated my audiobook reading again this year and continues to be my favorite genre of music to listen to ;-). The following were fantastic reads in 2015. All my car, exercise and yard work time is occupied with these sorts of friends...and a few podcasts.

In terms of explicitly Christian market books I enjoyed the following...

Power of Change in 2016

Friends, 

As many of you may be aware, Kasey and I will be transitioning with our family out of New Jersey in the summer of 2016. We thank the Lord for all he has used us for in the Garden State and the Northeast during the last seven or so years. You can read the letter we shared with our church to catch you up to date here. We are thankful for our Jacob's Well  family and are so looking forward to all they will do in service of our King in New Jersey. We are thankful to continue to serve and remain connected with both Jacob's Well and The Acts 29 Network in fruitful partnership for many years to come.

As we look towards the future there are some changes coming to Power of Change. Beginning in 1996 Power of Change (POC) was the name of our newsletter to our supporters of our ministry with Athletes in Action. POC then became the domain and name of our web site when powerofchange.org rolled out. It morphed into a blog format and will soon undergo its most significant change yet. Power of Change will be birthed as a ministry to impact and influence the coming generation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Over the first half of 2016 we will be working on incorporating and relocating our family to Blacksburg, VA which was our home from 1998-2004. We will base our ministry there as we move forward in God's calling. It is our hope to serve in some specific ways in the years ahead should God give grace.  Blacksburg is a university town which is home to Virginia Tech and will also allow me to base close to family as I serve broadly in ministry. 

We are currently in the midst of work to brand, incorporate, file for 501c3 status and build the proper systems to support the ministry. We are also praying and dreaming about how the Lord may use us in days ahead.  Check on the branding work my good friend Weylon Smith has already completed for us. Pretty sweet.

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Colors and Application

Colors and Application

We are also quite exhausted as we finish up our 20th year of full time ministry together. We need to rest and refresh a bit and that is one of our objectives for late 2016 as we get things moving with Power of Change. Much more to come in terms of details and vision for sure but we are thankful for God's grace, humbled by his call and looking forward to the journey ahead. The power of change lies with the power of God and we are still hung up on he who is the truth and his Kingdom that is to come. 

If you are interested in being on our mailing list, supporting the work and keeping in touch, drop us a note here and I'll add you to the email list.

Much love and grace in Christ

Reid, on behalf of the Monaghan Home Team

 

Walking with the Little Ones - Parenting in the Toddler Years Part 3 - Presence

Part 3 - Presence

Photo by Photodisc/Photodisc / Getty Images

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series we’ve taken a look at why both “discipline” and “instruction” are essential to leading little ones. At a young age discipline needs to be established so that children understand boundaries, basic household rules and the order of good authority that God has placed in the home. We don’t discipline to punish, we discipline to shape, guide and create an environment for discipleship. When our homes have order, not fear or a punitive culture, the possibility to teach and instruct becomes a wonderful opportunity.

At the start of this series we used an acronym to make it memorable DTPL (G) – which pretty much means nothing other than Discipline, Teaching, Presence and Love (Grace). In Part 3 I want us to look at the third letter, P, which stands for “presence.”

In the Bible we find God revealed to us as “Father” and us his daughters and sons by faith in Jesus. The Holy Spirit forms the fellowship of the church which is one big family of families with God himself being our head and leader. One of the things we find in both the Old and New Testaments, and throughout church history, is that God is present with his people. Consider this short smattering of verses to simply serve as a small illustration of the massive biblical theme of the presence of God:

Old Testament

  • God with our first parents in the garden (Genesis 1-2)
  • Sin as separation from God (Genesis 3)
  • Pillar of Fire, Cloud – God with and leading his people (Exodus 13, 14)
  • The ancient tabernacle – the presence of God among the people in the camp (Exodus 26)
  • Moses’ confidence was only if the presence of God went with the people (Exodus 33:12-16)
  • Promise of presence – I will be their God, they shall be my people (Ezekiel 37:15-28)
  • The Temple – where God’s presence dwelled (2 Chronicles 5)

New Testament

  • Jesus was called Emmanuel – God with us (Matthew 1)
  • The Word became Flesh – The Son of God dwelling/tabernacling with humanity as one of us (John 1:1-3, 14)
  • Jesus the New Temple (Mark 11)
  • The Church as a place of presence (Ephesians 2:11-22, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
  • The Communion Table as a place of presence and fellowship (1 Corinthians 10:14-22, Revelation 3:20)
  • He is with us in his mission (Matthew 28:18-20)
  • He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:4, 5)
  • The Kingdom of Heaven – The dwelling place of God in man (Revelation 21:3)

The promises of God are that he will be with us!!! His presence leads us, His presence assures us, His presence shows us love and grace, His presence guides us, His presence disciplines us, His presence convicts us and His presence allows us to trust his heart when we don’t understand our present circumstances.

I say all this to make one central point about parenting. The Fatherhood of God is an up close and personal reality for the believer. Parenting should be an up close, personal reality for families with kids.

Our kids need to know their Mom and Dad as they are discipled and taught. Parents should desire to win the hearts of their children when they are young, not lose them because we are always scurrying around for anything and everything. What I want to say next I want to say clearly but gently. Our culture has also bought into a stupid idea that if we can get “quality time” together then our families will be close, connected and fruitful. The problem is in our definition. The truth is that quality time IS quantity time. To know their Mommy and Daddy, children need to be with you and not simply for half an hour a week. If your kids don’t know your hearts, you will not have quality “forced quick time” with them. In fact, without time given to your kids, they will not want to be with you. As they get older, they will find better things to do than “quality time” with ole Mom and Dad. Fathers, be with your kids often and intentionally from the time they are young. I have two kids who are now in middle school and we are very close. Why? Because we have been since day one. I’ve made sure that I’m around for them.

We live in a world where we must work and work hard in the hustle and bustle of the east coast. Moms and Dads both are running hard and fast to juggle work, kids activities, schooling options and serving others in ministry and mission. Finding time to listen to kids, be into what they are into, to give focus to their faces and not to our phones is a huge challenge. DO IT! Without presence our voices grow small, our kids’ opinions of us weaken and our opportunity to be guides who give wisdom are diminished over time. A few quick ideas to close.

Finding a Place with Your Kids

Expose them to your Loves – when your kids are young do things that you love with them. Expose them to your heart, your hobbies and the quirkiness of what is uniquely you. It’s no coincidence that our kids like sports, reading books, audiobooks, country music (wife did that), marvel comic universe (not DC haters but it is superior), asking questions, sci-fi and fantasy movies.

Follow their Loves Fully – Your kids will take up interests of their own that you never cared for or wouldn’t choose yourself. Follow those interests any way. Play with LEGOS, ponies, trains named Thomas and cuties from the littlest pet shop. Read about dinosaurs and clone wars and talk about whether Yoda can really beat Vader. Listen to the musical instruments, listen to stories about fish caught with Grandpa and hear about the books you wouldn’t read and delight in their delight in these things. You might even learn to love something you previously hated…like soccer. ;-)

Listen, Listen, Listen – My daughters have more words than I could ever imagine. I’m there to listen to anything and everything. Yes, it takes patience and focus and sometimes it’s just hard for the old man to keep up, but I want to hear what’s going on with the kiddos. My son wants to talk about what dinosaur is the toughest and who would win in T-Rex vs Raptor fights. I’m in – I’m in to listen. This does mean putting down the phone and unplugging from work and social media to hear the hearts of your kids. If you are present, you can listen.

Do Stuff with them – We go to practices, school plays, movies, meals out together and all sorts of activities. Just this summer I’ve ridden roller coasters until I’m green with one and laid around and chilled with another just to spend some time together.

Apologize and Repent – Kids need to know you are sorry when you mess up and see your own repentance and faith in life. If you are distracted, working too much, ignoring your kids and simply there but not there with them…apologize, repent, do different. I’ve found that husbands and wives can help one another in seeing that one or the other needs time with the kids or a particular kid. You are not perfect, you’ll have your face in the phone too much. Just own it and move forward together. 

Debrief Life in the Moments God Supplies – There are moments in life where God gives time with the little ones to debrief, teach and exhort and encourage. After an emotional disappointment, after a disagreement with a sibling or another kid, after they’ve been told no about something, before a game or heading home from first day in school. There are precious moments that are teachable.

Being present with your kids early and often in life means that you have been through the ups and downs of the world of KIDdom so that you are a trusted and wise voice. Later on your little ones will hit many life transitions. They will go to school, hit puberty, transitions to middle, high school and college, deal with the drama of “dating”, choosing a spouse and maybe having their own kids. If you’ve been present in the game from the start you’ll have the potential of a relationship with them through it.

When my oldest hit her teen years we had a very clear re-definition of our relationship. I told her my role is shifting to being a guide as she makes more and more of her own choices. We have watched a lot of Bear Grylls’ Man vs Wild over the years so I gave her this metaphor. Life is like Bear hanging on a tree limb going down a white water rapid filled river. Because he is wise he knows the water flow that shows a boulder is under the surface or where deep swirling undertow currents reside. Life is like heading down that river. I’m just going to point things out to you as you are making your way. There’s a big rock coming up, watch out for that swirling eddy! You will make choices, I’m here to help as a guide who loves you. Trust my voice, I will trust yours. Let’s do this.

Be present my friends. God is here for us. He has placed us here for the little ones. Love them well.

Part four will focus on the L(G) or the Love/Grace function. The most important parenting principles of all. Until next time…stay in the game with your kids.

Jupiter Hammon - A First Among Poets

JUPITER HAMMON (1711-1806)

GOING FIRST

To say someone was one of the first to do something is a pretty big deal. To say someone was the first American of African descent to do something in our country is a really big deal. Many times those who are the first in this way are said to break a color barrier as African Americans were required to play by different rules, subject to different laws and under extreme prejudice and injustice for centuries on this continent. In preparing this brief biographical sketch on a man from the earliest days of America I was saddened that I knew more about Jackie Robinson than Jupiter Hammon. If you know not either Jackie or Jupiter, I’m happy you are taking the time to hear of Mr. Hammon first. 

BASIC BIOGRAPHY

Jupiter Hammon lived his life as the owned property of other human beings. He lived through the era of imperial rule in the Americas, through the revolutionary days into the earliest dawn of the United States.  He lived not far from us here in New Jersey growing up and living most of his life on Long Island, NY. He lived his entire life as a slave in the service of the Lloyd family. The Lloyds were a wealthy household and Hammon served as a tutor to children as well as a business clerk and bookkeeper. 1 Hammon was educated by Harvard graduate Nehemiah Bull and a missionary named Daniel Denton. 2 Though a slave in the temporal and natural sense of the word he was, however, possessed by another master as he saw his life ultimately belonging to Jesus Christ. His dedication to the Lord was demonstrated by his taking on extra work simply to earn money to purchase his own Bible. It was this book that occupied so much of his thought, heart and devotion and it is reflected throughout his work.The Lord he loved inspired him to write poetry. His work was so compelling that he became one of the first published African American authors in North America in 1769.4  

HAMMON’S WORKS 

Hammon’s best known works are An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ, with Penitential Cries 5 and his Address to the Negroes in the State of New York. The former was the poem which was his first published work in 1769. The latter as it was his most enduring and wide read address. An Evening Thought is a clear and resounding work of gospel clarity and devotion. Hammon was a convert to Jesus through the spiritual awakenings in the colonies in the 1730s and 1740s. 7 In a day when black people were seen by many as inferior to their European masters, Hammon’s thoughts drew his readers up to our common creator, judge and savior Jesus Christ. Hammon wrote in such a way that people were apparently doubtful that his work was the product of a slave. Even his printers included a disclaimer which was published as a header to his most famous work “An address to the Negroes in the State of New York.” The disclaimer read as follows in the original. 

hammon_disclaimer.PNG
As this address is wrote in a better style than could be expected from a slave, so maybe ready to doubt the genuineness of the production. The author, as he informs in the title page, is a servant of Mr. Lloyd, and has been remarkable for his Fidelity and abstinence from those vices, which he warns his brother in against. The manuscript wrote in his own hand, is in our possession. We have made no material alterations in it, except in the spelling, which we found needed considerable correction. 8 

HAMMON ON SLAVERY 

Hammon’s views of slavery may sound strange for some of us to understand. In his address to his fellow African Americans in New York, he shared that his desire was to remain as a servant to his masters. He expressed he had no desire to be free though he encouraged others towards freedom if they could gain it honestly.9 This however must be coupled with a few observations. First, Hammon apparently had a good relationship and situation with the Lloyd family of Long Island. It seemed they both viewed and treated him as a trusted part of their household and family. Furthermore, he seemed to have held two truths in tension. First, how slaves should relate to their earthly masters and second, whether or not people were morally right in taking others as slaves. He viewed the latter as morally evil while encouraging those who were slaves to show honor and obedience to their masters. For example, in his “Address to the Negroes” we read the following doubt of the institution’s morality, while affirming the honoring of masters.  He wrote:

 “Now whether it is right, and lawful in the sight of God, for them to make slaves of us or not, I am certain that while we are slaves it is our duty to obey our masters, in all their lawful commands, and mind them unless we are bid to do what we know to be sin, or forbidden in God’s word.” 10  

Finally, a more recently discovered manuscript makes it resoundingly clear that Hammon viewed slavery as “a manmade evil.” 11 Many of his works were also published by the Quakers a group firmly on the side of the full abolition of the institute of slavery in America. 

THINGS I LEARNED

In reading Hammon’s work I learned a few things and was impacted in several ways.  First, Hammon was a realist about the fallenness of this word astutely observing that “I have had more experience in the world than most of you, and I have seen a great deal of the vanity, and wickedness of it.” 12 Second, even though he existed under a system of utter injustice and slavery he did not see that as a reason to sin and disobey God. It seems he understood the Lord Jesus who taught us to love our neighbors and even our enemies. He even gave fellow slaves counsel on how following the Lord, doing right and honoring others, and not stealing would be of more benefit to them than sinning against a harsh master. He condemned theft and being unfaithful to others in the strongest of terms.13 Third, he put the honor of God and God’s name above all.  His exhortation against swearing or taking God’s name in vain was unambiguous. He even dissuaded those who would use the example of swearing white masters as an excuse for their language. He reminded them that there is a higher authority always with each of us: “God is greater than all other beings, and him we are bound to obey. To him we will give an account for every idle word we speak.”14  Finally, though he desired freedom for the coming generation of black people in America, he continued to point to the great reality of spiritual and eternal freedom as the greatest concern.  I think he just dropped the mic after this one: “We cannot be happy if we are ever to so free, or ever so rich, while we are servants of sin and slaves to Satan.”15

It is clear from reading Hammon’s poetry and addresses that he was first and foremost concerned with the Kingdom of God and people coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. He even encouraged freed blacks in his day to use their new freedom for the study of the Bible and to promote of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To the freedmen he said plainly “You have more time to read God’s holy word, and to take care of the salvation of your souls. Let me beg of you to spend your time in this way, or it will be better for you, if you had always been slaves.” Whether this was said as hyperbole or simply from a strong set of eternal values, Hammon saw the preeminence of Christ and his Kingdom.  This comes through pointedly in his first published poem which begins with these words:

SALVATION comes by Jesus Christ alone, 
The only Son of God; 
Redemption now to every one, 
That love his holy Word. 
Dear Jesus we would fly to Thee, 
And leave off every Sin, 
Thy tender Mercy well agree; 
Salvation from our King. 
Salvation comes now from the Lord, 
Our victorious King; 
His holy Name be well ador'd, 
Salvation surely bring. 
Dear Jesus give thy Spirit now, 
Thy Grace to every Nation, 
That han't the Lord to whom we bow, 
The Author of Salvation.
Dear Jesus unto Thee we cry, 
Give us thy Preparation; 
Turn not away thy tender Eye; 
We seek thy true Salvation.

We do seek the same King today that he so strongly pointed his world to in America’s early days. 

Lord, do Give us thy preparation,
Reid S. Monaghan

Notes

  1. Nancy I. Sanders, America’s Black Founders, Revolutionary Heroes and Early Leaders, 26. 
  2. Henry Louis Gates Jr, African American Lives, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), Kindle edition, location 18342.
  3. Sanders, 26.
  4. Gates, kindle edition, location 18396.
  5. Jupiter Hammon, An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ, with Penitential Cries, Available online at http://xtf.lib.virginia.edu/xtf/view?docId=chadwyck_aap/uvaGenText/tei/chaap_D046.xml
  6. Jupiter Hammon, Address to the Negroes in the State of New York. 1787. Sabin Americana, Print Editions 1500-1926.
  7. Gates, kindle edition, 18360.
  8. Preface to Hammon, Address to the Negroes in the State of New York. 1787.
  9. Hammon, 13.
  10. Hammon, 7.
  11. Bridget Lewis “UT ARLINGTON PROFESSOR, GRADUATE STUDENT DISCOVER POEM WRITTEN BY 18TH CENTURY SLAVE FROM NEW YORK”, http://www.uta.edu/news/releases/2013/02/Jupiter%20Hammon%20poem.php. Published on Feb 5, 2013. Accessed Feb 25, 2013.
  12. Hammon, 7.
  13. Hammon, 8, 9.
  14. Hammon, 12.
  15. Hammon, 19. 
  16. An Evening Thought

Guardians of the Galaxy and a Mirror to our World

This review and commentary first appeared in the November 2014 issue of Well Thought. The thought journal of Jacob's Well in North Brunswick, NJ. It was a collaborative writing project between myself and the inimitable Simon P. Clark

This summer, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy became a box office smash, grossing more than $650 million worldwide as of September 2014 – and all this despite the relatively obscure fictional universe that Guardian of the Galaxy is based on. While DC Comics’ Batman and Superman are household names and Marvel’s string of Avengers movies brings together a string of already beloved heroes, Guardians of the Galaxy is, for all intents and purposes, an enigma. How did a movie with no widely established international fan base, whose heroes include a genetically modified talking raccoon and a tree get so big so quickly? The answer may lie in what it says about our own culture, rather than those of other worlds.

First, let’s make one thing clear – we are both huge fans of this movie (and Reid can boast that he was a fan of the comics long before the leap to screen). It’s a space epic that relies just as much on witty and engaging characters as it does on a complex, high-stakes plot. It’s also a movie that, despite being based on comic books  (or perhaps because of it) deals with some decidedly PG-13 stuff. Guardians of the Galaxy has it all: explosions, danger, snappy dialogue and relatable characters. More than anything, it’s a movie that speaks about one thing: being human.

Guardians of Humanity

Who doesn’t want to be a hero? We all dream, as kids and as adults, of being special, being placed in a situation that demands something extra and stepping up to save the day. This isn’t anything new. What do Star Wars, Star Trek, Spider-Man, Iron Man – in fact most action movies – have in common? Family and friends are in danger, there is fracture and loss, a mission to overcome a threat, and the promise of a newer, safer community as a reward. Guardians gives us all of this while managing never to lose the characters’ individual human touches – something with which many great movies struggle. Groot, a sentient tree, has time to give a single flower to a child as a simple act of kindness in a world that’s falling into chaos. Gamora, adopted daughter of Thanos (which is, let’s not forget, Greek for ‘death’), turns her back on a life of cruelty and subjugation in search of freedom and heroism. They may be aliens, but they’re aliens that audiences can relate to and root for. It’s this relation – between audiences and the characters of Guardians – that’s the true secret to the movie’s phenomenal success. Guardians’ heroes, you see, are far from perfect. Instead, they’re just what people want most in the 21st Century: murderers, assassins, thieves, and bandits ... with good, even noble, hearts.

Guardians of the West

‘Be good ... but not too good’ is, arguably, one of the most prevalent messages in our culture today. The rebel with a cause – the gentleman thief – seems to speak to something in modern Western civilization that’s never quite been here before. When did it become a bad thing to be too good? At Guardian’s heart is its protagonist, Star-Lord – a thief with a conscience, who has no problem breaking rules. That’s why Guardians works: it’s managed to present its main character in the perfect sweet spot between do gooders and baddies. We’re told increasingly by society that the best place to be, morally, legally, and even spiritually, is in the middle: rebels who act nicely, but are happy to break the law. We’re told to be our own persons, as long as we temper our bad sides with a little charity every now and then. Guardians exemplifies and glorifies this world view (and does a fantastic job of it). The movie ends with perhaps the most succinct summation of this philosophy: Star-Lord defending himself in the face of his obvious flaws, explains that while he “may be” difficult, he’s “not 100%” selfish. Well, he uses some language that is a bit more salty than this. Is that a good thing? Is it better to openly be a bit of both, good and bad, than to strive to follow a path that is good, right and true? In the Guardians universe, the answer’s a resounding yes. In our universe, things aren’t so clear.

Conclusion

Towards the end of the film, after clear acts of heroism and virtue, some of Guardians main characters engage in some witty and fun dialogue. Speaking to a police officer-type, Rocket Raccoon asks about a new moral dilemma he faces: "If I see something someone else has, and I want it really bad, can I just take it?" The cop, of course, answers that no, that would be stealing. Rocket, stuck on this line of thought alone, goes further: "But what if I want it really bad and much more than them?"

Similarly, Drax – one of the more muscled fighters of the Guardians – asks: "If someone says something irksome, can I rip out his spine?" The answer? "No, that would be … murder." It's all goes to show us that now that the characters are good, they really don't want to be that good.

Years ago, the French philosopher Simone Weil made an astute observation. In her book Gravity and Grace she wrote the following:

Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.”

                                                                                                         ― Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace, 120.

What she wants us to see is that while evil in the fictional world can be exciting and fun, in the real world it is terrible and inhumane. Too much goodness in our books and movies gets boring, while our world is greatly starved of bold, courageous virtue.

Guardians of the Galaxy is just a movie, of course, so we don’t have to worry about the victims of the thieves and the assassins we’re told to love. There’s nothing wrong with that, either. You can love Indiana Jones without worrying that he doesn’t follow international treaties for the removal of antiquities. You can love this movie without worrying that it glorifies violence and law breaking. It’s worth thinking about, though, how different things in the real world might be if, in place of self-justifying rebellion, sacrificial love were the basis for community. This is what we strive for in the church: clear and compelling love and an embrace of truth and goodness. In fact, this sort of sacrificial love and goodness is what forms our rebellious guardians into an actual family on a mission.

We see Drax thanking his friends for forgiving him his many blunders. We see Groot have his only line in the film, "I am Groot," turn into "we are Groot” precisely at the moment where he is giving up his life for his friends. In Guardians of the Galaxy we see a group of misfits and losers formed into a new family -  one that lives out a bold mission. How does this happen? It is not through selfish, rebellious and evil-doing behavior. It is sacrificial love that forms their community.

One of the rallying scenes towards the end of the film shows the Guardians coming together to undertake an impossible task: deciding why they should give their lives to save the universe. Star-Lord, going beyond his earlier reasoning that they should save the galaxy because they are part of it, says this: “I look around and see losers. Life has given us a chance to give a #^&*...” His friends know that his call to action may very well mean a call to die. Drax’s reply is simple: "You are asking us to die? I would gladly die among my friends.”

Such sacrificial love, and real communities of friends built upon it, aren’t hard to find in this world. Jesus himself said there was no greater love than to lay life down for his friends. In Jesus we see exciting goodness, clear truth and compelling beauty. In his leadership and sacrificial love, we see a new community emerge with a glorious mission and hope.  Jesus’ call to us is to die to ourselves as we live out his mission among friends. In fact, he already died for his friends and showed himself to be the greatest leader this world has known.

We have been called to be guardians of the galaxy, in a sense, because we have indeed received good news. No misfit is too far away or too far gone to receive forgiveness and grace from God. The good news is that Jesus takes a bunch of screw ups, puts them together as a new family, calls them to give their lives for others so that many will be saved and join the team of redemption throughout the world.

In our world today following after God in true righteousness might just be the greatest rebellion there can be. Is it possible that we can be bold and bad by truly joining a revolution for good? The late British journalist and literary critic GK Chesterton says this so well:

In the upper world hell once rebelled against heaven. But in this world heaven is rebelling against hell. For the Orthodox there can always be a revolution; for a revolution is a restoration.

The Guardians of the Galaxy, a rabble band of misfits from various backgrounds, stories, skin colors, sizes and shapes sought to restore peace to a war-troubled universe. We bring a higher call to the table as we seek to see people restored to peace with God and one another. This is the precise reason that Jesus has a people.

Walking with the Little Ones - Parenting in the Toddler Years Part 2 - Teaching

I earlier began a discussion of walking with little ones in the years between toddling and beginning more formal schooling in the flow and setting of your choosing. I gave our discussion a little structure by giving it a cool acronym to make it memorable DTPL(G) – which pretty much means nothing other than Discipline, Teaching, Presence and Love (Grace).

Photo by Andreas Rodriguez/iStock / Getty Images

The first focus was given to setting up a structure of discipline in the lives of our families so that kids learn to listen to right authority and respond well to their parents. That essay can be found here on the blog as well.

The reasons we discipline are many but the one of the main reasons isn’t so little people do the random commands of what big people say. Discipline allows proper respect and honor for God and one another so that we might follow his purposes as a family. Disciplined kids are actually teachable kids and one of the clear mandates parents have is to be good teachers of their children.

Much can be said on the role of teaching and the wheres and whys our instruction. Some of what I’m sharing here I’ve taught and shared in other contexts. For my purposes here I want to focus on the biblical call to teach our kids and then learning to do that in a rhythm that connects to our culture and the age of our kids.

The Biblical Call

It is a great shame today that teaching and education is unhinged from ultimate reality and the fountain of true knowledge. Truth can be taught about all manner of subjects without it being connected to God. We do not want our kids to think that knowledge and learning are disconnected from God and faith in Christ. With our kids I’ve prayed and worked towards the following goals in teaching them things.

  1. I want them to be humble in all their learning
  2. I want them to love truth and the process of learning
  3. I want them to understand that they have been given minds to honor and glorify Father, Son and Holy Spirit and serve for the good of other human beings.

So with my kids we have used a phrase, derived from Biblical truth, to posture ourselves in a life for learning. The phrase is simple and a bit over the top but I’ve done this with my kids very early in the toddler years once basic language abilities have formed. The phrase is: The Bifurcation of Knowledge. It’s a goofy big word sort of phrase but I hope you will see why this is a foundational starting point for us teaching our kids. It flows forth from a passage in the Old Testament law:

Deuteronomy 29:29 - The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

Knowing this passage of Scripture gives us great humility. It shows us that we are finite, we do not know and cannot know all that God knows. Yet it also gives great hope that knowledge is possible and attainable and that extreme skepticism about learning is unwarranted. We must believe that all learning is not a wasted spinning of the brain. Humility and awe for God and a love for learning; this is the goal. It is my prayer that my kids have the idea of learning very much connected to God who created them to do just that.

For parents, the Scriptures teach us our responsibility to be teachers in Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6. These passages give clarity to this calling upon our lives. We will look at these in turn.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

As God was giving his law through Moses, he was calling his people to a certain way of life as a unique covenant community. This text begins with what is known as the Shema, which is Hebrew for “Hear!” It means, listen up, pay attention, what I’m about to command you is of big time importance. What follows the call to hear is a central truth about God and what Jesus would call the greatest commandment (See Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34). Truth about God: the Lord is one. The greatest command: love God with all that you are. It is in this context that the community is challenged in the way it should impart the commands of God to their children.

[4] “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. [5] You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. [6] And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. [7] 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. [8] You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. [9] You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV

Parents have the unique, God-given charge to teach the truth diligently to their children. In the course of daily life, the Word of God should be taught by parents to their kids. To do something diligently means to be steady at it, giving focused energy towards the task. God’s people are to be teachers in family as the family engages gospel life and mission together. The locus of this teaching is quite literally, “everywhere.” This text tells us to talk of the Word of God while sitting in the house, walk by the way, when you lie down and when rise in the morning. The Word of God should dwell in us constantly and be a part of the environment in which we live. To rewrite this for a contemporary setting we might say we should talk of the Word when we chill at the house, walk to the park, work out, drive to practices, at bed time and at the breakfast table.

At this point some of you will think this means to set up a classroom setting for you to lecture the kiddos on the things of God at certain points every day. I think what we need to stress is that the teaching of the gospel should happen regularly, in the day to day flow of your life. God gives opportunities to teach as we live with him, have our steps ordered by him and pass through this life with him. We’ll talk more practical at the end of this post but I want you to “HEAR” the call of God – love him first, then teach his truth and his ways to your kids.

Ephesians 6:1-4

The New Testament re-articulates this ancient command and has particular instruction for the relationships in a Christian household. The children and parents are both instructed and a specific, and very important, command is given to the Father. Ephesians chapter six begins as follows:

[6:1] Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. [2] “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), [3] “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” [4] Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Ephesians 6:1-4 ESV

This passage is actually the second expansion on an earlier command given in Ephesians 5:18-21. We are to be filled with the Spirit by addressing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, by giving thanks and by submitting to one another in reverence for Jesus. This aspect of submitting to one another is unpacked in the realm of three household relationships: husbands/wives, parents/children and masters/servants. The harmony and duty of various members of the household are in view. Children are to obey their parents. This is only fitting and it is part of the Ten Commandments. Mom and Dad should be honored as the children follow God. In this context Fathers are also called to a specific role – to raise their kids in the discipline and instruction of God. Even servants and masters had their roles changed and shaped by the gospel.

The word here for discipline is paideia. It refers to the holistic training and education of children in a systematic way, correcting and teaching them in the fear of the Lord. It involves verbal teaching, modeling and correction. Combined with the word instruction, it is clear that Fathers are to exhort their kids to learn the ways of God and to be responsible for their holistic education. Whether this means home school, Christian school, private school or utilizing public school will be left to conscience of the reader but it does mean that Dad is responsible before God. You cannot outsource this responsibility though church, schools and other families can be instrumental in the process. You must take the lead here men and you will answer to God for it. It’s also a great privilege to shape these little lives.

Practical Challenges

One of the central things we must embrace about being parents is the constant responsibility for others. Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 7 that a married man has concerns of a worldly nature as he must provide for his wife and her concerns. This includes the needs of the family. We must embrace and rejoice in this responsibility and not punk out on it. We have other concerns than job and your entertainments. Embrace family life and responsibility. Additionally, the needs of the office and the church will always be calling out to you. People will want to own your schedule and ask you to meet with them at all hours and at their convenience. Our culture has also bought into a stupid idea that if we can get “quality time” together then our families will be close, connected and fruitful. The problem is in our definition. The truth is that quality time IS quantity time. To know their Mom and Dad, children need to be with you and not simply for half an hour a week. If your kids don’t know your heart, you will not have quality “forced quick time” with them. In fact, without time given to your kids, they may not want to be with you. As they get older, they will find better things to do than “quality time” with Mom and Dad. Parents give time to be with your kids often and intentionally from the time they are young.

My oldest is a teenager now and we are still close. Why? Because we have been since day one. I’ve made sure that I’m around for them. What follows are few things we’ve put into practice to make sure of this and to follow God’s command to bring them up in the gospel.

Home Team Practices

What I want to give you here are a few things we have done as a family that have helped us disciple and train our kids in the gospel. Additionally, they have helped my kids know me well in the midst of the bustle of work, church and other activities.

Win 2 out of 3

In our contemporary life and culture there are three great times when you have an opportunity to invest in your family spiritually and relationally: morning, dinner hour, and bed time. I encourage you to try to “win 2 of 3” each day. For some, morning breakfast is a great time to connect to pray, read and discuss Scripture. For others the dinner hour works much better. Additionally, bed time is a sacred moment for young children in connecting with them. For my family, dinner and bed time work well for us while the morning can be a chaotic rush to school. Nevertheless we have found praying in the mornings a helpful way to start our day if we wrangle in the chaos.

We work hard to connect at dinner and we put our kids to bed almost every night. You can see the doc I’ve put together on family worship if you want more but the following are descriptions of things we have done to connect with our kids.

  • Morning Prayer – before leaving the house, we hold hands and sing a short song based on Lamentations 3:23, 24 and I pray for the family as we head into the day.
  • Family Prayer – we usually do this at dinner time...not every night but often. Each person in our family will share something positive they are thankful for as well as something hard/difficult/negative/suffering oriented. Then in response to 1 Thessalonians 5 and the command to give thanks in all things, we thank God for all of the stuff we wrote down. The good, the bad and the ugly.
  • Dinner discussions – we have used books by Starr Meade, topics from science, theology, etc. just to talk about things of substance at the dinner table. I love our kids to ask questions so we go with it.
  • Bed time creativity – I tell stories at night and try to engage the kid’s imagination and moral development. My two oldest (my daughters) also like to ask questions at bed time as they milk trying to stay up late. I go along for a bit because the discussions are usually quite rich.

Form a flow (a culture)

I’m a firm believe that the daily rhythms of the home form a flow or a culture. This perhaps shapes our kids more than anything. They will see how Mom and Dad relate, how you respond to your sins and the sins of others and what you do with your time when you are home. Here are a few things that shape the flow of our family.

To shape our culture I have a rotation of Daddy Dates and Buddy Days (for my son) with my kids. I regularly take them to do things. Whether it’s going to a park, out to eat, to a movie, to walk around the mall, or special birthday trips just do things with them. My kids know “who is up next in the rotation.” I forget so they tell me who is up next. They are also thinking creatively about what they want to do with Dad. They know they are important to us as we give them time.

As kids grow they find various interests and things they are into. As this happens, we work to get into their world and help out with their projects. We have coached soccer and go to countless soccer games (I was not a soccer person growing up...in fact...hated it). We have built and played with Legos and tried to “transform” robots into trucks many times failing badly. My wife and I have done school projects volcanoes, worms, computers, the Civil War and even helped one kid start on online business to make money for charity. We help with homework and watch kids do cartwheels and try to do handstands. The constant call of “Mom, Dad watch me, Daddy, Mommy watch” can become overwhelming, but we always try to pause and give attention to a little princess or a budding ninja. We want them to have our attention so that we trust one another. After all, those little girls will seek attention elsewhere if their Dad and Mom never has their eye on them. The young idiot teenage boys are coming! As a Dad, I’m going to be there first.

Finally, we try to repent of sin and confess it with our kids. When I get impatient or harsh with them I apologize. When I am negative or unnecessarily critical of something I repent. I want the kids to know we need Jesus and the gospel and that we are Christian believers. Living a life of repentance and faith before watching little eyes is one of the best sermons you will ever give.

Conclusion

Teaching kids is constant and believe or not there are times they don’t listen or seem interested ;-). Yet stay in the game of teaching about life and faith in God with your kids. Don’t trade your life as a parent for a bowl of busy porridge. Be present, sacrifice selfishness and receive the blessings of God that come with being a Mom or a Dad. It’s worth it in the end.