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Pastoral Letter - 22 Apr 18                                                 

Dear Calvarians,        

In the 1980's, Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson co-authored The One Minute Manager, which became one of the bestselling books in history. From it came spin-offs such as The One Minute Mother, The One Minute Father, and others. (I wonder what the parents are doing in the other 59 minutes). I supposed that in our busy-ness, parents look for short-cuts and cookie-cutter solutions to raising children. But I am convinced based on observations that there can be no quality parenting without parents devoting the quantity of time and attention to their children.

 

DINKs

The preparation for parenting begins when a man and a woman decide to get married. In my pre-marital counselling, I often counselled DINKs (Double-Income-No-Kids) to prepare financially and spiritually for parenting. Financially because married couples with no children, and who have adopted a lifestyle that requires both husband and wife to be working full-time may have to switch to a more frugal standard of living when the wife stops working to take care of the children. The adjustment usually is not easy. That is the reason that many mothers with babies continue to work, leaving their children to be cared for by grandparents and domestic helpers, or day-care centres. But is this in the best interests for our children?

 

Spiritually, young married couples who have no children yet must prepare themselves to be - as one author describes it - "intentional parents." Young married couples must lay the foundation and the structure for raising godly children.  It means that husband and wife must be committed to serving and being actively engaged in the work of the church. In other words, parents must set a pattern of life that we want our children to observe and follow. It is like leaving footprints in the snow. If our children walk in the footprints we leave behind, will they end up in, remain with, and be committed to serving in the local church? Simply put, form godly habits before the children come.

 

Sadly, most of the time, it is the birth of a child that acts as a wake-up call to parents that they need to nurture their children spiritually; that they need to pray together, have family devotions, serve in the church. And these "last minute" changes in our lifestyle will be awkward and may even come across as superficial. 

 

Even more tragic is that some parents do not see this need until much later, when their teenage children start to rebel. By then no amount of theological lectures will work. Raising children is easier when parents form godly habits from the very beginning; it is much more difficult to unlearn bad ones.

 

So let me encourage newly married couples to establish a Bible-centred and church-focused lifestyle now, even before the children come. Make the local church an integral part of your life. Attend church together. Join a fellowship or Bible-study group. Serve in a church ministry. Establish a time for family devotions and praying.

 

Children are God's Reward, not Distractions

Before Anna-Joy came into our lives, Rebecca and I had already discussed and decided on some parenting principles. For one, we accepted that Anna-Joy would be our responsibility. We prayed for her. We read to her even before she could understand a single word. Looking back, one of the key points is that we determine that she would not be a hindrance to our ministry. We were convinced that God did not give us a daughter and that she would be a distraction to our service for God. That was even before we went into the full-time ministry. So after the first month of confinement, we brought Anna-Joy to prayer meeting, family worship, Bible-study, fellowship meetings, funeral services, etc.

 

Live out our faith. Parents are our children's perception of who God is. If we are loving and kind and faithful, that will be the impression that our children have of God. I hasten to add the godly fathers are crucial to our children's understanding of God - our heavenly Father.

 

Be committed to the church. Parents are also our children's example of the seriousness of our relationship with God. Our commitment to the Word of God and to the church and its ministries have tremendous impact on our children.

 

Pray for our children. Read the prayer of Hannah - "For this child [Samuel] I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him: Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there" (1 Samuel 1:27-28). That was a godly mother's bold prayer. That is what we should pray for our children - that God will be the centre of their lives.

 

Tell the Gospel Often. Young children have no concept of God's entire redemptive plan. Their understanding of the Gospel is at best fragmentary (as are some grown-ups too). As Isaiah writes: "Whom shall he teach knowledge? And whom shall he make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, And drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; Line upon line, line upon line; Here a little, and there a little" (Isaiah 28:9-10).

 

As parents, our prayer must be that whatever our children can understand about the Gospel, they would embrace it "not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe" (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

 

Teach Obedience by our Example. As our children begin to respond, one of the first lessons they must learn is obedience. The family structure ordained by God is that parents are the authority in the home. Yes, as parents, we are to love our children, protect and provide for them, and we are also to teach them obedience, which is the first step that leads to submission to God. Obedience is best taught by example. When parents learn to submit to other God-ordained authorities in their lives, our children will learn to do the same. This, of course, demands discipline when the occasion calls for it.

 

By the time when our children are able to communicate (toddlers), they are like sponges that soak in everything that they see and hear (including things which they should not hear). This is the time when parents are being "watched." These will be the years when Christian parents must ensure that they are living out their faith. This is also the time when parents begin to teach our children not only what we do as Christians (being involved in the church, worship, service), but also why we do those things (love for God, passion for lost souls, desire to be a blessing to others, etc.).

 

Parenting is easier and even delightful when parents with children of the same ages should connect with one another. The most obvious platform is the Junior Worship and AWANA clubs. It is by interacting with other children, that our own children begin to experience the fellowship of other believers, and develop friendship within the context of the local church. The church, then, becomes a part of their lives.  

Lovingly in Christ,
Pastor Isaac

 

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