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There is a huge difference in trying really hard to be something, and realizing suddenly that you are something. When I first got married, I found myself trying really hard to be the right kind of husband. The same thing happened when I became a father. But the gospel is applicable, here too, and it reminds us that we aren’t trying hard to be something we’re not; we’re trying hard to embrace what God has already made us in Christ.

Brothers, we were made for this:

To work hard and provide for our families.

To bring a sense of calm and peace when we walk into a room.

To teach our children the nature of love and respect and how they fit together.

To give our whole hearts to our wives.

To teach our sons how to treat a lady.

To teach our daughters how to be self-confident and secure.

To deny ourselves material comforts for the sake of our families.

To get up earlier than anyone else in the household.

To make our families feel safe when they are at home.

To know our children well enough to understand and encourage their passions.

To know when our wives aren’t looking for a problem fixer but a listener.

To be secure enough in our identity to say “no” to an opportunity at work if it costs our family.

To eat well and exercise so we can walk our daughters down the aisle someday.

Brothers, we were made for this… and more.

What would you add?

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The other day I asked a friend of mine who also has 3 young children how much time, as a percentage, he spends in disciplining his kids. “85%” was the answer he gave. My response?

“Really? That little?”

As a parent, you have to be engaged in the discipline of your kids in one form or another. Sometimes that discipline is reactionary. They make a bad choice, and you bring the discipline. Sometimes it’s just teaching, disciplining them about how to live in the world. But discipline seems like a very important part of parenting to me. If you need proof, I bet you could ask any childcare worker at your church or the YMCA or the local daycare what is one thing a parent could do to make their job easier, and you’d probably get back, “Play a more active role in disciplining your kids.”

But disicpline isn’t the same thing as punishment. In fact, discipline is a heck of a lot harder than punishment. Here are 3 reasons why:

1. Discipline takes longer. If you are stricly punishing your kids, then just put them in time out. Or spank them. Whatever it is you do in your house.You can do it quickly, and then it’s over and done with. The reason why punishment is quicker is because the goal of punishment is exclusively reactive; they did something bad, and you need to make sure they don’t do it again. But when you discipline, your goal isn’t just behavioral; it’s about the heart. Heart formation takes much longer than behavior modification. That leads us to the second reason why discipline is harder:

2. Discipline requires teaching. If punishment is about behavior modification, then the “why” isn’t really important. All you are doing is trying to create compliant kids. But with discipline, you have to go deeper. You have to (in 5-year-old language) help a child understand not only that what they did was wrong, but why what they did was wrong. It requires you to help them think about their actions not just in terms of consequences, but in terms of motivation. Which leads us to reason 3:

3. The focus of discipline is deeper. Punishment is about behaving; disciplining is about becoming. When you choose the hard, long, thoughtful road of discipline, you are more concerned about the future – the long future. You are seeking not just to break bad habits, but to instill a need for the gospel now in your kids that will form not just their actions but their hearts in the years to come.

For how to discipline rather than punish, we look to the Lord as our Heavenly Father. Indeed, if we spend so much of our time as parents disciplining our kids, then we can’t really talk about God as Father without realizing that He’s engaged in that work of discipline, too. God is committed not to our behavior but our hearts; not just in what we do but to what we are becoming. That’s why He disciplines rather than punishes His kids. God help us to do the same.

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Let’s face it – we as parents are all in the business of discipline. It’s a huge chunk of what we do. I found these suggestions to be very helpful.

From Ruth Simons:

1. You disobey the Lord…and He is the perfect Father.

2. His kindness leads us to repentance.

3. God disciplines those He loves.

4. Your child’s disobedience does not measure your value any more than his obedience showcases your achievement.

5. Your child’s disobedience teaches you dependence on God.

6. And sometimes it’s more than dependence He’s after, it’s complete desperation for Him.

7. Your child is clearly a sinner, and needs to hear the truth of the Gospel, and see it lived out through you.

8. Times of correction serve to remind, or establish within your child, his own sense of need for a Savior.

9. It’s not good behavior you really desire…you want his heart.

10. Your child is a person, not a project.

I also had this thought. If so much of our job as parents involves correction, doesn’t that translate over the Lord as the perfect parent? I tend to pay little heed to the fact that the Lord is in the business of disciplining me. Perhaps He is doing so far more than I would care to acknowledge.

(HT: Z)

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Last weekend, I wrote a post about the beginning of our 5-year-old’s baseball career. It did not start out in a shining way. Joshua hasn’t had alot of practice playing baseball, so he doesn’t yet understand how to field a ground ball, why you “run through” first base, or why you have to hit the cut off man from the outfield.

As a dad (which I think is often the case as a parent), it was very hard watching him out there at a different physical level than many of the rest of the boys. But it has caused some serious evaluations between Jana and I. Here are a few things about parenting, both in and out of sports, that I think the Lord is teaching me through this experience so far.

1. I have an incredible amount of influence over my children, whether I want to or not. I can’t be passive in the process of parenting. If I’m stressed, my son will be stressed. If I’m having fun, he’s going to have fun. And if I’m pressuring him, he’s going to feel pressure. One of the most dangerous things, I think, we can do as parents is fail to realize how much we can really influence our children.

2. Culture will dictate values to our children unless we take an active role in dictating values ourselves. There’s always going to be something to do between sports, music, and school. If we just go with the flow, we’ll never have dinner together again.

3. Kids have longer memories than we wish they would. Joshua got hit on the hand by a pitch the other night. Now he’s “stepping in the bucket” when he swings. And he freely admits it’s because he’s worried about getting hit again. He is now at the age where he’s going to remember. Alot. And the truth is, he’ll remember the bad stuff more than the good. We all do. We must as parents be our children’s biggest fans.

4. Sports, like alot of things, are important… but not that important. Teamwork, hard work, perserverance – you can learn about all these things from sports. But they’re not the beginning or the end of the world. I have to have that firmly in my mind if I want my children to have it in theirs.

5. Just because it’s “my thing” doesn’t mean it will be “their thing.” Everybody’s seen “that parent” on the sports field – the one who obviously was some kind of an athlete in their own day and therefore the expectation is for their child to also be an athlete. I assume the same thing is true about musicians, artists, and other folks. I was a slightly better than average athlete, but that doesn’t mean my kids will be interested in that. I’ve got to check myself to make sure I’m not trying to enforce my passion on them but giving them freedom to be who they were made to be.

6. A good key to a successful practice, game, recital, rehearsal is whether or not you have a smile on your face at the end.

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I was planning on posting a follow-up related to yesterday, but felt like this news takes precedent.

So far, we’ve got the boy. And the girl. Looks like we’re welcoming another boy in January. The scales have tipped, Joshua. Start making a list of manly changes that need to be made around the house… I’ll be polishing up my burping skills…

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From Desiring God:

There are five things that you must know about the children you minister to. These must always be the backdrop to the ministry you provide as an ambassador of Jesus Christ.

1. They were created by God to be revelation receivers.

They were never wired to figure life out on their own. You’ll never ever know the things you need to know by just using the process of human discovery. You have to have supernatural revelation.

2. They are by nature interpreters.

Human beings do not live life based on the facts of our experience. We live life based upon the interpretation of the facts. We’re meaning makers.

3. They are worshipers.

Human experience is not the most essential thing about the human experience. Worship is. It’s what we’re born doing and what we continue to do all of our lives.

4. They are hard-wired to seek glory.

We’re glory oriented. Glory is why we like chocolate mousse cake and great movies and the last quarter of basketball games. And glory is why we exalt ourselves over others around us: we want to get as much as we can for ourselves.

5. They are self-focused and self-obsessed.

Sin causes us to shrink our lives down to the claustrophobic confines of our lives, our wants and our needs. It makes us incapable of loving anyone else.

God Is Writing Our Story, Not Us

Because these 5 things are true of all of us, as God is writing the story of our lives, we’re always inclined to try and take the pen from him so we can write it ourselves.

The Bible is one long story with God’s notes. Ministry to children—or ministry to anyone else—means helping them forsake the urge to write their own story, and accept instead that God is the author. Then their story will be embedded in God’s larger story of redemption, so that in every circumstance they recognize that their life is about and for God.

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