Top 10 posts of 2016

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When I started this blog I sought to share the revelation that God had been giving me on my journey to sexual wholeness and I wanted to help others on the journey and help parents communicate a godly view of sexuality to their children.  I am so grateful for the many messages from readers who have benefited from my writings and my vulnerability.  Thank you so much and I hope I can continue to bless you in 2017.

So in order from least to most views here are the top ten posts of the year:

10. Discipline vs punishment vs education (godly parenting)

This post spoke of how the word discipline comes from the word disciple and is about training.  It was a calling of parents back to the Hebrew way of showing not telling. (56 views)

9. Destination sickness (godly desire)

The Christian life is a journey not a destination.  This vulnerable post spoke about how our obsession with getting “there” leads us to work harder or give up and not to grace. (57 views)

8. Wired for intimacy part 1 (godly sexuality)

This post looks at how, even from birth, babies are wired to seek faces.  This reflects how we are wired to seek God’s face. (59 views)

7. Redeeming Christmas (Godly Parenting)

A post that helps parents make the Christmas celebration more Christ-centred for their children and themselves. (64 views)

6. Calling out your child’s true identity (godly parenting)

The story of Gideon shows us how God calls out his true identity and this serves as a model for us as parents to call our children into maturity. (78 views)

5.   How to stop looking at women lustfully (godly desire)

Another vulnerable post where I share the difference between worldly solutions to lust with a godly approach which has helped me. (86 views)

4. Trump, Clinton or Christ?

A topical post that sought to counter the political spirit that was/is seeking to break the church’s unity and therefore it’s prophetic voice to the world. (142 views)

3. Nothing is impossible (teach your children godly sexuality part 15)

As parents it’s easy to despair and think all is lost. This post spoke on the reality of our God who is able to redeem all things – not just so we are healed/fixed but so that the mistakes become sources of grace to others. (169 views)

2. An alternative ending to the Orlando shooting

A topical and vulnerable post about the similarities between my life and Omar Mateen’s.  His life ended in tragedy, mine in redemption through expressing my same sex desires to Jesus. (328 views)

1. Immature giftings (Godly Parenting)

This post was aimed at parents to help see that sometimes bad behaviour is actually an immature gifting that needs to be directed to its true purpose.  However, many people found this post as a source of grace for them on the journey to maturity – whereas before they had berated themselves – they actually saw they were stamping on their giftings/callings. (1846 views)

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Redeeming Christmas (Godly Parenting)

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The God of festivals

God loves celebrations, festivals and feasts.  In the Old Testament God proscribes seven annual feasts for the Israelites:
  1. Passover
  2. unleavened bread
  3. firstfruits
  4. weeks (pentacost)
  5. trumpets
  6. Day of Atonement
  7. Tabernacles.

This is in addition to the New Moon feasts, Sabbath year feasts and Jubilee feasts.  Indeed part of their tithe was a saving to celebrate these occasions (funny how Pastors don’t mention that part!).  God loves celebrations as it’s a reminder of His goodness and faithfulness to us in the past and it’s a taster of the heavenly wedding banquet to come.

As Christians who are like our perfect Father, we should also be a people of celebration.  However, Christmas has been taken by society and changed into a consumerist beast.
As a parent I want my children to experience a godly celebration but I don’t want them to get sucked into a selfish mindset and miss the grace that’s available to them.
Here are some ideas which I hope will bless you and your family and enable you to redeem this celebration and put Christ back into Christmas.

St Nicholas

We never wanted to lie to our children about Santa as they may then think we were lying about other aspects of Christmas or Christianity.  However, we also didn’t want them to miss out on this aspect.  So how do we redeem this?

On Christmas Eve we read them the story about St Nicholas about how he gave his money to help the poor (here’s the Amazon link to the book we use but it’s out of print and the prices quoted are just silly).  After reading about it we then do the same as St Nicholas.  We put some money in envelopes†, one for each child and then ask the children to ask the Father to tell us which house number to deliver to and what message he would like to say.  We then go out together and post them and run away giggling.

In addition, we still do stockings at home.  Our children also get to pretend to be St Nicholas to us.  So I give them the presents for my wife’s stocking and they get to wear a beard and put them in her stocking.  She then goes into her room feigning surprise – “who has put presents in my stocking?” and the children giggle.  We then repeat this but this time she gives them presents to put in my stocking.

We then tell them that we will return the favour when they are sleeping.  “Will you wear the beard, daddy?” “Of course” I reply winking.

Who’s birthday is it?

It’s so easy in the excitement of giving and receiving presents that we forget whose birthday it actually is!  So two things that we do to help.  The first is that just like at any other birthday we have a cake and we sing happy birthday to Jesus.

The second is an idea that I read in the excellent testimony from Floyd McClung “Living on the Devil’s Doorstep”:

 As is normal on a birthday, we give presents and tell the recipient how much we love and appreciate him.  But this time it is Christ’s birthday, so we “give gifts to the Lord!”  After a time of prayer and praise, we take turns to bring our presents to Jesus.  It may be a new song, a newly written poem, a personal Scripture, a drawing, painting, or performance of a new drama.  One time a group got together and bought a table-tennis table for the rest of the community.  They figured God would delight in seeing the enjoyment their brothers and sisters got from it!  All of us choose the most personal way we can of expressing our great love for Jesus and our joy at being able to celebrate His birthday.

So typically the children make some craft or put on a show.  I often write a song or poem and my wife creates something beautiful.  It’s a great opportunity to ensure Jesus takes centre stage.

Advent

Personally I love the advent candle that has the names of Jesus on – that we burn at dinner and talk about.  However I saw this picture and thought it was fab:
reverse-advent-calendar

Christmas hampers

Alternatively, we just prepare a Christmas hamper for a local needy family and deliver it to the recipients.  We have an excellent local charity called Besom, who allow us to actually deliver the hampers.  This is so important as I want the children to experience the joy of giving and meeting people whom something we take for granted means so much.

I want to ensure that my children aren’t insulated from the world around them – they need to experience first hand those who have less to balance out media which shows those who have more and fuels the spirit of covetous. To quote one of them after a visit, “why don’t they have any carpet in their house daddy?” – such a precious question to talk about how much we have.

Waifs and strays

Usually we pick up those who are on their own and invite them to stay over Christmas Eve and share Christmas with us.  Jesus’ birth brought in all sorts (shepherd’s renowned for their lies and Pagan astrologers) and Jesus himself was a refugee in Egypt.  God is the friend of the widow, orphan and the foreigner (eg Dt 10:18) and so our celebrations should, just like in the OT, welcome those:
Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Lk 14:12-14)

Giving starts young

It’s easy to think that our children need to be older until they can give gifts – or that we buy it for them to give to their siblings.  But to quote King David “I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” (2 Sam 24:24).
We want our children to experience to cost and joy of giving.  So they might make something or, a common idea in our family, is to give a token that says something they might do for the other.  Such as one of their chores around the home (eg laying the table or washing up) or a game or treat that might do (eg take them to the park to play soccer or play a board game with them for 30 minutes).

Budgets

We have a budget that we won’t exceed (if you’re interested it’s £10 for all of their stocking and £30 for all of their other gifts).  For many years we spent a silly amount of money on stuff that didn’t really bring happiness.  Once we brought in the budget it not only simplified this Festival and removed the covetousness, it also forced us to be creative and thoughtful with our budget (See the tokens idea above).  We let our children know this budget – so when they ask for outrageous things we can simply say that it’s outside our budget but we can give you the £30 cash towards it and you can save up.  This instils the concept of saving and working for reward.  Though often the children realise that just having cash won’t be as much fun.

No lists

This last idea we’ve just started.  Often our children would compile lists of what they want.  But we have found that these are driven by fads, ads and wants.  So we experimented with asking them not to make lists.  This does two things.  First it forces us to think and listen and ask ourselves what would bless them.  It’s so easy to just throw money but not thought.  Secondly, we get to help our children experience a taste of our heavenly Father who knows us intimately and gives us good gifts.  They learn to trust that we love them and know them well enough to choose things that will match the way God has made them (eg one year I bought my eldest son some wood and nails as God has given him such a practical gifting – he then used this to make a skateboard ramp).
I hope that these ideas help you out – if you have any more ideas then please do share them in the comments below to bless other parents.  May you experience God’s love during this season.

† We go for £50 in each envelope as we want people to experience a taster of the lavishness and the overwhelming grace available to us through Jesus and also so the children see that we give away to others more than we spend on each of them.

*Please note that I am an Amazon affiliate which means I receive a small commission if you buy a book after using my link.  This helps me offset the costs of publishing.  It doesn’t influence my recommendations of the books I recommend though.

Parenting with faith or fear (godly parenting)

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A couple of weekends ago I took my son on a dads & lads weekend.  Since the car journey was about 4 hours to get to the activity centre I brought some conversation starter questions with me.

One of them was “what is something I always say to you?”

His reply to me was eye-opening.  Without hesitation he listed off “drink more, you look tired you should go to bed early tonight and get off your electronic devices”.

He spoke the uncomfortable truth.  Now each of these are important to me and it would be so easy for me to justify my nagging:

  • A friend of mine got kidney stones and was in agony.  He warned me to drink more to prevent the same happening to me.
  • At university I stayed up way too late which meant I was too tired to deal with life and as a consequence got into all sorts of problems.
  • I had an addiction to computer games which meant that in the early years of my marriage my wife was a computer widow.

Surely these are legitimate concerns.  But the truth is my nagging doesn’t come out of wanting the best, it comes from a place of fear.  I am concerned/worried/fearful (whatever I choose to call it) about their future and rather embarrassingly I realise that I haven’t taken these issues to God in prayer.

And so this is why this post has been delayed a week.  Sure I could have written what we should all do without actually doing it – Christians have been doing this for centuries – but I thought I would actually taste and see that the LORD is good and then pass that on to you.

Whenever something threatens us or those we love we always have two choices.  We deal with it in our own resources or we go to the place where change actually happens: on our knees (2 Cor 10:4-5).

If we choose the former and take control we will get stressed, we won’t be at peace because the truth is that we have no control over how the future will turn out.  We’ll end up nagging our children (or worse) out of fear.  This will do one of two things: they’ll think we’re over reacting and therefore ignore us and get their guidance from others (who may not have their best interests at heart) or they’ll become captives to fear too.  Neither of these are what we want for our children.

Where do we go from here?

Firstly we need to be honest with ourselves and our Father about our fears.  They need to be expressed to Him not to our children.  We don’t need to play games with Him as He already knows what we need before we ask Him (Mt 6:8).  So why pray at all if He already knows? Because by expressing our fears to Him we deepen intimacy.  We open ourselves up to more of His presence in our lives and that’s when we start to experience His peace and transformation.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7)

 So why don’t we ask God for help?  Or why do we ask for help but still try to keep control of the issue?  Because fundamentally we doubt either His goodness or His power or both.

We don’t have to be anxious as He’s a good father who gives good gifts to his children (Mt 7:11).  He isn’t frightened but laughs at the plans of His enemies (Ps 2:4).  God created Adam and Eve even though Satan had rebelled and would seek to lead them astray.  He wasn’t worried as Christ was slain before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8).  The solution was already available before the problem even arose!  There is no contest between light and dark.

If you’re still struggling with seeing His goodness or power then in Philippians it says:

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things” (Phil 4:8)

Unplug the news and internet clickbait that feeds our fears.  Read testimonies and plug into what God is doing around the world.  As you do, then your hope will rise as you realise that He is good and He is on the throne and He can bring about transformation that you seek.

I’m not writing this as someone who just says these words.  There are two times which stand out in my life where I experienced the “peace of God which passes all understanding”.  The first was when I was friends with my wife-to-be.  I was her teacher and she was my student.  We had both knew from God that we were going to marry, but we also wanted to do things right.  So we were waiting until she left school before we would date.  We were open about this and went to the head of the sixth form to let them know.  However, being careful one of my other students saw us in a car together.  We were worried that they would assume that something sordid was going on and we were so fearful of what would happen despite us doing the right thing.  I remember getting on our knees together and praying.  My wife had a picture of angels surrounding us in protection and I felt that Psalm 34 was for us which was the same message:

I sought the LORD and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.  Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.  This poor man called and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.  The angel of the LORD encamps those who fear him and he delivers them. (Ps 34:4-7)

The peace of God hit us like a wave.  And the outcome?  The student saw us both in the car but was somehow blinded so that they didn’t recognise my wife-to-be even though they knew her very well.  Amen.

The second time was when my wife was rushed into hospital in excruciating pain.  There they discovered that my wife had an ectopic pregnancy and were going to rush her into surgery.  We were devastated.  We didn’t want to have to choose whose life to take and we begged that God would receive Rachael before she went to surgery.  We phoned our church for prayer and I remember in the midst of this maelstrom a peace descending on us – a calmness that we just couldn’t explain given what was happening around us.

The outcome?  My wife had a visit from a kind doctor who said he had watched the surgery via the uplink and showed her images of Rachael who had burst the fallopian tube and had died.  Though it was sad we were so grateful to God.  When we asked to see this doctor again, no-one knew of him.  When we asked if we could have maybe a photo from the uplink video we were told that there was no video taken.  The Father in His infinite goodness sent my wife an angel to give her comfort and let us know that He had answered our desperate prayer.

I won’t pretend it was easy as we walked through our grieving process but I bought worship DVDs that we sat and watched with the volume up so our senses were filled with songs of Him.  We sought out worship songs of lamentation so we had something to sing to Him in this time when we couldn’t sing many other songs.  And He met us there over this time.

We’re nothing special.  The same can happen for you so that you can experience a feast in the presence of our enemies (Ps 23:5).  We can feast on His goodness and provision whilst our fears are looking on.  God loves our children more than we do.  He has better plans for them than we do.

So what happened with my son?

Since prayer I have found myself calmer inside.  Even though I still have boundaries on the time he can spend on his devices I’ve found that it’s coming out of a place of peace and so I’m more flexible and kinder than I was when I was in total control*.  I am operating now out of a place of faith that God has good for my son and am working in light of that rather than out of fear of the worst.  It’s meant that our relationship has improved – there’s more fun – it’s weird that by giving up control I have found more freedom to love.

I’ve also been honest about my failing my son by not trusting God’s working in his life and asked him to pray for me if I start losing it again.  Which he does.  I don’t need to fear this as I’m not the boss, God is.  And my job as a parent is always to point to the true Father than I am a mere shadow of.

May you experience the same freedom as you give your fears to Him.  May you operate out of a place of peace as you trust that He has the ending already known even if the route is not the one we would have chosen.  In Jesus’ precious name.  Amen.

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ But he refused saying ‘people will pretend to be your friends and take advantage of you and you’ll end up losing everything.  Stay at home where you’ll be loved.’  The son did so, as he had no funds to go elsewhere but he always resented it and never learned the true depth of his father’s love for him.”

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like this one where I talk about God renewing all things.

*Please understand that this is not a blind faith that says everything is going to be ok and does nothing to bring about God’s holy will – we are co-workers with Christ we pray “your kingdom come, your will be done”.  The difference is whether we are operating out of faith or fear, out of trust or control.  And that makes a difference to whether we are parenting with grace and the spirit or law and the flesh.

Immature giftings (godly parenting)

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I had a fight last week with one of my daughters who pushed her brother and then wouldn’t own up or apologise.  She was so stubborn that I had to send her to her room whilst I calmed down.

Back track 11 years to when we had her dedication at church. Whilst it was a good celebration my wife and I were a little disappointed to receive only one prophetic word: they saw her standing on a battlefield after everyone else had given up and gone home. It was an image of perseverance.

As I calmed down I realised that her stubbornness was the immature form of her gift of perseverance*.

So when I spoke to her again, I called out† who she was going to be “You know you are going to be someone who keeps on going when everyone else has given up. You are going to do great things for God because of this,” but then guided her from where she currently was, “but you can also use this great gift that God has given you to keep resisting when you should say sorry.” She grinned sheepishly.  The atmosphere had changed, she saw who she was going to be and in light of that apologised.

As parents it’s all too easy to see bad behaviour as just something that needs to be stamped out and by doing so we can then crush the very gifting God has given them.

We need discernment to see if it is an immature form of a godly gift.

We can see Jesus do this with his disciples – they were constantly clamouring for being first (Luke 9:46-48;22:24-26) but Jesus didn’t rebuke their desire for being first, instead he redirected it.  Greatest means being a servant, greatest means welcoming those you see as “less”.  Their desire for being greatest was an immature form of their gift of leadership.

Here’s a summary of some immature forms of a godly gift that I have discovered so far:

  • daring/naughty – apostle
  • bossy/wants to be first – leader
  • speaks out inappropriately/black or white opinions – prophet
  • gives things away carelessly – generosity
  • stubborn – perseverance
  • overly sensitive – compassion
  • unrealistic expectations – faith
  • dreamer, nonconformist – creativity
  • critical or fault finding – discernment
  • fussy, easily put-out, doesn’t like disturbed routine – administration

If you have others to add to this list then I would love to know – please comment below.

Also as parents we shouldn’t despise the days of small beginnings (Zech 4:10) – that is we shouldn’t look down on a fledgling gift.  For example when my eldest son was about 5, he overheard my wife and I discussing that we were short on money.  He went to his piggy bank and brought us some of his pocket money.  It was such a small amount, like 5 pence, and at that time I’m ashamed to say that I thanked him but refused his offer as it would make no difference.  But by doing so I crushed the beginning of his gift of generosity.  As parents need to humble ourselves enough to accept help from our children.  As parents we want our children surpass us – not remain below us.

It’s only by God’s grace that I later recognised his gifting and let him give his pocket money away.  He gave a £1 to a friend’s dad who had lost his job.  He gives money to the homeless.  He buys sweets for his siblings.  He saves up so he can buy Christmas gifts.  By encouraging his gift of generosity I have found that I want to keep up with him and so he has spurred me on in the faith.

Father, open my eyes to see beyond my frustration.  Help me not to crush my children’s immature gifting but give me wisdom to help redirect them towards their calling.  Help me to humble myself to learn from them and be transformed as a result.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

* I am indebted to David Freeman who first opened my eyes to this whole area.
† For more information on how to call out a child see my previous post here.

Speak to the desires of the heart (teach your children godly sexuality)

So one of my boys kept lifting up the skirt of one of my girls to see their knickers.  An excellent opportunity to talk about godly sexuality with them I thought…

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So true to form I followed the principles I give in my workshop and talked about the goodness and the holiness of sexuality with them.  How it’s a good and beautiful part of a lady made by God but it’s also a special part and so we need to treat it with honour.

However he kept on doing it, despite talking about its specialness and despite disciplining him for repeatedly doing it.

I know, I know, I should have called out to God for help sooner – but sometimes we have to get desperate before we find ourselves on our knees actually listening – but He’s so gracious that when I did he gave me the wisdom I needed:

“Speak to the desires of the heart”

You see the trouble was that I was saying all the right things but I was talking to his logical mind rather than his desires.  And if we want to see change then we need to address the desires:

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

But the question is: how do we address desires in a godly way?  In the same way as we teach any other aspect of godly sexuality; we talk about the goodness and the holiness of our desires.

You see God made him a boy and so there is a godly fascination and yearning in him for to complete the whole image of God:

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Mt 19:4-6 emphasis mine)

The holiness is the fact that this fulfillment occurs in a covenantal relationship and this yearning is a shadow of our yearning for Christ (Eph 5:32) who is the “desire of all nations” (Hag 2:7).

Since he was only about 5 at the time, I had to keep things a bit simple, so I began:

“There’s something really interesting about girls, isn’t there?”  He nodded.  “God made girls attractive to us so that we really want to find out more.”  I could see that I now had his full attention.

“And that means that there’s something in us that wants to see their knickers.”

“But God made seeing a girl’s knickers to be something special for marriage just like you only get presents on special days like Christmas.”

Now it’s tempting to stop here, but doing so means that we are expecting them to conquer desires by self-effort which is law not grace. So now we need to offer to pray for them:

“But in the same way it’s hard to not open presents until Christmas day, it’s hard to stop looking at knickers.  So we need Daddy God’s help.  Can I pray with you?”

He nodded and the rest is history.

You see affirming the goodness of our children’s desires speaks to their reality, only then can we begin to steer these desires towards their intended goal.

Wired for intimacy part 1 (godly sexuality)

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Before we had our first miracle baby we read the book “The Social Baby” which shows that even from birth babies are wired to seek faces over other images:

“Within minutes of birth, the baby will turn her head to the sound of someone’s voice, when another sound, even if of the same pitch and intensity, will not attract her attention…the baby is also attracted to faces…Given a choice between looking at a face-shaped pattern, and one with the arrangement of eyes nose and mouth scrambled up, the newborn baby will spend longer looking at the face”

wired for intimacy

Recent research has now identified that the part of the brain used for recognising faces is far more developed in babies and is almost equal to that of adults by even 4 months.

As Christians we don’t believe that this design is merely for survival, we believe that the things made reveal God’s divine nature (Rom 1:20a) for “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps 19:1).

In the same way the physical tabernacle was “a copy and shadow of what is in heaven” (Heb 8:5), this physical realm is a shadow of the spiritual realm.  A baby seeking the face of his/her parents is a shadow of the reality that we as children of God (1 Jn 3:1) are designed to seek the face of our Creator.

“I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters says the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor 6:18)

In the Father’s face we are going to find the love, affirmation and protection that we need.

A baby know this – they take delight in looking at faces.  Children know this as any parent who hears a their child say “look at me!”.  This is why God instructed Aaron to bless the Israelites with the phrase “the LORD make His face shine upon you” (Num 6:23-25).

To have God’s face turn from us is to be cursed and cut off from our hearts desire (eg Ps 27:9; 2 Chr 30:9).  Babies know this – they become distressed if there is no response from a parent’s face (you can see an example in this YouTube video).

We are wired to seek the Father’s face, to have His face shine upon us and to have Him respond to us.  But not just a father’s face but the mother’s face too:

“A babies vision is a little blurry at birth but within a week a baby can focus on objects about 8 to 12 inches from his face which is the distance between a mother and baby’s face during feeding.”

One of the names for God used in the Old Testament is “El Shaddai” which is translated as “God Almighty” in places like Gen 17:1 and Gen 49:25.  Now shaddai could be come from the root “shadad” which means powerful (hence Almighty) or “shad” which means breast.  If it is the latter root then “El Shaddai” could be translated as “many breasted one” (sources: here and here).  Implying that God, like a mother, is our comfort, our sufficiency, our nourisher.

Given the current environment there are parties that sit firmly on both sides, each fiercely arguing that their version is correct translation.  The complementarians will argue that it’s a powerful, strong masculine God, the egalitarians will argue it’s a nurturing, tender, feminine God.

I believe that both are incorrect.  Each side only sees one part when both parts are needed*.  You see we are made male and female in God’s image (Gen 1:27) and only both together represent the fullness of God”†:

“Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam” (Gen 5:2 KJV).

Adam was created in the image of God as one being – both male and female (Gen 2:7).  This is a shadow of the heavenly reality of the Father and the Son being intimately one (Jn 10:30) and indeed his nature of Oneness despite many opposing characteristics (eg grace/mercy vs truth/judgement).

Adam was then separated into two: male and female (Gen 2:22-23 the word rib is literally “side”) as a shadow of the plurality of the nature of God (both in the Trinity and His nature).  But designed to become one again (Gen 2:24).   Hence the fullness of the image of God on earth is male and female together as one.

So babies are wired to look into the face of their parents and receive all the love, affirmation, protection, comfort, nourishment from them.  This is the shadow of the spiritual reality of us as God’s children looking to Him (whose nature includes both masculine and feminine aspects) and receive all that we need from Him, our all-in-all:

No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” (Rev 22:3-4)

* Why then does Jesus say we should call Him father and why is Jesus the Bridegroom if God is both masculine and feminine?  This requires us to understand how sexuality reflects the relationships in the Godhead and between God and man, which will be covered in a later post.

† So does that mean that only married people image God?  Not entirely, because ultimately the one flesh union of a husband and wife is also a shadow of the union of Christ and the Church (Eph 5:31-32).  Perhaps this post might help.  And so if you’re single, you image God by being one with the Body of Christ becoming one with Christ.

Punishment, education or discipline (godly parenting)

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Discipline has got a bad press.  It has become synonymous with punishment and punishment has become synonymous with abuse which society condemns.  It is no surprise that society has swung to the opposite end of the spectrum and is overly permissive, giving their children whatever they want thinking this is loving.  Christians have rightly seen the error of permissiveness but often just counter this by talking about discipline in terms of “firm but fair” punishments.

But no matter how fair the punishment is it’s still missing the point as it assumes that discipline is about punishment!

Discipline comes from the Latin word discipulus which means pupil, from which we got discipina which meant instruction and then the word disciple – a follower, a learner:

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In fact it wasn’t until the thirteenth century that the word became associated with punishment and it was due to a perverted understanding of being a disciple – that the body was bad and so must be punished by scourging.

Principally parents are called to disciple their children in the same way that Jesus discipled the twelve and Paul discipled Timothy and others in the churches he established.

However, once we get this idea the next mistake we make is to confuse discipling primarily with instruction and knowledge.  That if we tell our children what to do, if we give them the right information then they will make the right choices*.  After all the “expert” in the world’s eyes is the one who has studied and got a PhD.

This idea is not Biblical it’s Greek.  It comes from Plato’s dualistic worldview that said the spiritual realm (which included the mind) was good, but the physical realm (which included the body) was bad.  This was one of the reasons why discipline ended up as self-flagellation because the ‘bad’ flesh had to be punished!

The Biblical/Hebraic worldview is holistic.  If you want to teach someone you show it.  Jesus didn’t just give the disciples teaching and knowledge.  The disciples lived with him they saw, for example, how he healed and then Jesus sent them out to do the same.

This is why repeatedly Christ said “follow me” not “listen to me”.

This is why we as parents should not be saying “do what I tell you” or “do as I say (not what I do)” but like Paul we should be saying “imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1 NKJV) and “for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.  Therefore I urge you to imitate me” (1 Cor 4:15b-16).

During a prayer time when I was despairing about one of my children I felt God say “be the change you want to see”.  So like Jesus and like Paul I need to live my life openly in front of my children.  I need to model the life that I want them to emulate because God has designed us for discipleship – for copying others.

For example, I want them to learn how to depend on God so I need to show them my dependency on God.  This is why I don’t use a satnav even though I am hopeless at directions.  It puts me in a position where the children see me calling out to God for help in finding the way.  It puts me in the place where I need others to help with map reading.  It puts in a place where I’m on the edge and have to depend on the Spirit to not get frustrated and call for help and if I mess up then my children will see me apologise to whomever is helping. A comfortable life will never come close to modelling this.

* How many times have parents read “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov 22:6) and thought this is principally about teaching them the bible and sending them to Sunday school.