Backward Parenting

In my personal study the other day, I came across a passage that I've read many times before and it continually challenges me in my role as a parent.  The passage is Deuteronomy 6:4-8 and I'd encourage you to open up your Bible and take a peek in order for the rest of this blog post to make sense.  The passage is sometimes called the "Shema" because the first word in verse 4 in Hebrew is Shema which means "Hear".  This verse was central in early Jewish life and was even worn in something called phylacteries, a practice that dates back to second century BC in Jewish tradition. 

I've read this verse many times but I was struck by v. 6 in a fresh way.  Moses writes, "These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart."  I realized how I often get things backward in my own parenting.  The rest of this passage instructs the people of Israel to essentially set up visible reminders of God's instruction throughout their homes.  Thanks to the craftiness of my beautiful bride, our home is filled with original artwork, most of which carries Scriptural exhortation.  It's hard to find a room in our home where there isn't a visible representation of the Bible in some form.  However, the part that struck me as I read v. 6 is that all of that is worthless if the word isn't first in my own heart.  I don't want my kids to get the impression that the Bible is only for adorning our walls and not our lives.  The order of this passage is that the Word would first be in my heart and then the rest of the passage seems to be a naturally overflow of the it being central in my own life.  If the Bible is plastered on the walls but it isn't etched on my heart, then I'm missing the mark as a parent.  So here are my simple exhortations to parents related to Deuteronomy 6 and your parenting:

  1. Don't neglect personal study of the Scriptures- Make your own devotional life of first importance.  Study, read, memorize, and pray so that the Word of God dwells richly in you.  Don't just have Bible verses plastered on your walls but make sure the Scriptures are etched upon your heart and mind.
  2. Talk about what you are learning with your kids.  The model set forth in Deuteronomy 6 is much higher than once a day family worship time.  It sets forth a family life where discussion about the Scriptures is continually ongoing.  Let your kids know what you are reading and how God is teaching you through the Word.  Ask them questions about certain verses and engage them in discussion about the truths of the Bible.  Make it your ambition that your legacy would be, "Dad was always talking about the Bible".
  3. Consider using a catechism to systematically work your way through important doctrines.  I've never used Catechisms until this year and it's been amazing to see my kids pick up truths from systematically working our way through a Catechism.  New City Catechism is what we have been using recently and we've found the additional songs and resources helpful for instructing our kids (and ourselves).

Don't let things get backward in your parenting.  Let the Word of God dwell richly in your heart and overflow from you into the hearts of your children as you instruct them in the ways of the Lord. 

"Theology? Give me something practical!"

For many in the Christian Church, Theology is something that is reserved for pastors and seminary professors but not something of interest for your "average" Christian.  As a matter of fact, you could describe many Christians as atheological, meaning they are actually against theology.  You've probably heard the phrases before and maybe even uttered them yourself:

  • "Doctrine Divides"
  • "Cold, Dead, Orthodoxy"
  • "Enough with the theology, just give me something practical that applies to my life"

Doctrine certainly does divide.  Jesus himself acted in ways that led to division among families.  In Matthew 10:35, Jesus said, "For I came to turn a man against his father, a daughter against his mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man's enemies will be the members of his own household."  But that's not the Jesus we like to imagine is it?  We prefer the long-haired, flowy, white-dress wearing Jesus who unites all people everywhere and floats around the world petting baby lambs.  Make no mistake! The claims Jesus made during his life divided households and they still do today.  One day Jesus will divide all of humanity based on Christology, their understanding and faith (or lack of faith) in his person and work (Matthew 25:31-34). Our culture has a tendency to elevate unity over truth, but a unity that isn't centered on truth is a false and fleeting unity.  

The phrase ,"Cold, Dead, Orthodoxy" is really a misnomer.  Theology brings life.  True theology which focuses upon God and his attributes and how he has interacted to redeem lost humanity, does not lead to cold, dead hearts.  It leads to hearts that are filled with worship and praise due to the greatness of our God.  If a person's heart seems to be spiritually cold and dead, you can rest assured that isn't because they are focusing too much on theology, but rather too little.  

Yet another argument is that theology isn't practical to our everyday life.  I'm not sure where that idea comes from because every doctrine of theology I've ever wrestled through has had immense practical application to my own life.  Just yesterday, I was working through question #5 from the New City Catechism and was struck by profound personal applications.  

"Question: What else did God create? Answer: God created all things by his powerful word, and all his creation was very good; everything flourished under his loving rule."

It seems so elementary to say something like God created all things yet this doctrine of God as the creator of all things has significant implications for our lives.  When I begin to think of the immensity of the universe which God has created, it led me to think of the greatness and power of God that he could create such a massively large universe with his spoken word.  From there, I was incredibly humbled to think that a God so great would set forth a plan of redemption to restore me in a relationship with himself.  Thoughts of his power and greatness helped put difficulties in my life in a proper perspective.  All of a sudden, problems that seem great and insurmountable seem small and insignificant.  God's powerful word that created the universe strengthens me with hope because he is powerful to work in my life by his word.  Theology is clearly not disconnected from our practical, everyday lives but should greatly impact us personally.  If your study of theology seems disconnected and leaves you feeling dead, then you're doing it wrong.  So here is my humble plea to think slow, long, and hard about matters of theology and let it bring new life and vitality to your walk with Christ.