This week, in prep for our “Family Conversation” Sat night, let’s consider five contrasts between parenting from grace versus parenting for moralism.

This week, I wanted to share five posts, one each day from today through Saturday, containing thoughts that swirl in my head and heart regarding “grace based parenting.” It is in preparation for our Westpoint Church “Family Conversation” this coming Saturday night @ the Roper YMCA in Winter Garden, FL at 6pm.

It has been inspired by such resources as:

:: Grace Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel
:: Give Them Grace by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson
:: Gospel-Centered Parenting by Rick Thomas
:: Gospel-Centered Family by Tim Chester

For those planning on being there, please consider reading these five posts I will post this week prior to coming Saturday, as they will certainly enrich our learning conversation together. For those who can’t make it, I hope they encourage and sharpen you in your parenting.

Hopeful for more “on earth as it is in heaven” in our homes and kids’ lives.



contrast 1 _ parenting with the Gospel versus parenting for moralism

Let me begin by stating the obvious – my wife and I may have six kids but that doesn’t mean we are good parents. In fact, we are very aware of our mistakes, and we try to be confessional about them with the Lord and with each other.

Furthermore, may I suggest that God did not intend for the goal of your parenting to be GOOD. By that I mean the Scriptures never seem to call us to focus on our own goodness and improvement, measuring our performance while expecting perfect results. This is a sure fire formula for severe disappointment, both in ourselves and our kids.

Notice what Moses commanded the Hebrews in Deuteronomy 6:

Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. When the Lord your God brings you into the land He swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that He would give you-a [land with] large and beautiful cities that you did not build, houses full of every good thing that you did not fill [them with], wells dug that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant-and when you eat and are satisfied, be careful not to forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.
(Deuteronomy 6:4-12 HCSB)

Among the many things one could say about this Scripture, notice that Moses challenged them to remember who God is and what He had said and what He was doing and that He wanted to be as close to them as in their heart, involved in the everyday rhythms of their lives. Also, notice that Moses challenged them to be cautious when they got into the land not to reflect on their own goodness and accomplishments forgetting the goodness and nearness of God. God’s goodness was to be highlighted so that their kids would know Him above all else.

It’s almost like Moses expected them to forget God gave them what they had. It’s almost like Moses anticipated their pride and their tendency toward making themselves the idol as well as making for themselves an idol. After all, he had quite a history with them that demonstrated this pattern.

We are prone to wander, too. Prone as people to forget the God who so loved the world instead living like we, the world, need to perform perfectly to earn His love. Prone as parents to try to be good enough so that our kids will turn out good instead of remembering that even our best efforts still won’t guarantee our kids make the best choices. Prone as families to create cultures within our homes filled with expectations that kids maintain a certain image, modifying their behavior with self-improvement tactics instead of living lives eager to confess when mistakes are made, highlighting a Savior who invited us to deny self and follow Him daily.

May we never forget all that God does in and through us in spite of our stubbornness and in the midst of our mistakes.

Moses never challenged the people to be GOOD parents. Maybe because God wants us to trust that His goodness is enough rather than trying to be good enough?

Does God want us to parent our kids on a foundation of grace or from a foundation of self-improvement?

Let’s consider the purpose of marriage. Is it to grow in oneness with the Father together as a couple while growing toward intimate oneness that leads to being fruitful and multiplying in many ways, including dying to self in order to give life into one another as well as into the next generation? The Garden story seems to declare this.

Let’s consider the purpose of parenting. Is it to love God with all of our heart and soul and strength, learning and living His ways together as a family and emphasizing His teachings in our everyday rhythms such that our children get to know and never forget this God who has come near and invites them along with Him? Deuteronomy 6 seems to declare this.

Let’s consider the pragmatism of parenting. What will cultivate for our kids living a Jesus-centered life? Will it be raising kids in an environment that demands moral perfection creating kids so clean and tidy they never think of even needing the Gospel? Or will it be raising kids in an environment of gracious relationship where wrongs are confronted with opportunities for confession and rights are encouraged with grateful affirmation? It must be an environment where selfishness is challenged at all costs. And all kinds of selfishness – both the self-indulgent kind as well as the self-righteous kind.

My prayer is that our children will grow into adults who recognize knowing Jesus as a desperate need rather than an opportunity for improvement and advancement?

The goal of our parenting may need to be adjusted from our kids having good behavior to our kids believing in and understanding their desperate need for God’s goodness. What are we doing to help them realize how good He is rather than realizing a personal goodness?

Paul declared that perfect rule keeping simply isn’t enough. In fact, he declared it as contrary to the cross of Christ.

19 What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. 20 Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule- keeping, peer- pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule- keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.
(Galatians 2:19-21, MSG)

Wow. So, how does that change my parenting philosophy and approach? Hopefully we can continue to learn along that pathway of thinking together on Saturday night.

Meanwhile, why do we parent our kids as though they shouldn’t make mistakes? Lets look at that tomorrow…

Here is a great post from Randy Woodbury on his blog about what it was like to be a visitor to Sunday worship gatherings for the first time in his life. Many of us who serve as leaders or might be called to a new church family to pastor don’t get to experience this much. Some of us may have been part of a church family for a long time and never really thought about the visitor perspective much. May this post help us all to be more sensitive and more hospitable to first time guests in our Sunday worship gatherings. :-)

Thanks Randy for sharing…

Randy Woodbury

For the duration of my life on this Earth thus far (37 years), I have been involved with only two churches.  For the first 18 years of my existence, I was involved with the church of my parents in Waterloo, IA.  The church where I was born, raised, put my faith in Christ’s loving sacrifice as payment for my sins, was baptized by immersion…and then I headed off to college.  While in college, I joined a fellowship of believers in Ames, IA that had been part of my siblings’ lives, and enjoyed 19 years of ministry there, dedicated my life to Christ, found a wife, started a family, became a leader, saved a marriage and learned a thousand different things (likely a blog post for another time).  However, in each church situation, I had never truly been a visitor – I had pre-existing relationships that drew me to those churches. …

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Cultivating Daily for Unity: is unity among local churches in the city where u live a priority? For @JonTyson & @CityCollective it is.

The call for unity among local churches in a city is not some warm-fuzzy initiative that certain radical leaders are undertaking. It is, rather, an endeavor that is very dear to the heart of Jesus, one for which He even labored over in prayer the night before He died on the cross to reconcile all of us self-absorbed people.

Well, that reconciliation playing out among those who follow Him is the secret ingredient to the rise of the work of God in the cities where we live. Jesus taught what the work of God was in John 6:29, and then He prayed fervently and specifically for it to happen in John 17:18-23. And how will it happen? Through the maturity of the oneness of His followers.

In Manhattan, Jon Tyson and Billy Patterson and others who lead with Trinity Grace Church are cultivating daily for unity in the city where they live. Check out the powerful video below that introduces what they are up to. Then, read more about it at

You can also read more about thinking and living beyond MY church at

Check out Hoping to encourage readers toward cultivating the Gospel in our daily rhythms.

Do you approach life like it’s construction or like it’s cultivation?

What do I mean? Well, by “construction” I mean like you have a blueprint, you will plan out the work, it is going to go as you hoped for, and you will end up with the pre-designed, expected result. By “cultivation” I mean you have seeds, you plow the ground, you plant the seeds, you water them, and you hope for the best but press on knowing you have little control over what is reaped. Life is a lot more like the latter metaphor isn’t it?

If that’s the case, then what is it that we are cultivating? At the risk of sounding like a simpleton, I would suggest what we must cultivate is the Gospel – that good news that God took the initiative before we said we were sorry to come near to us and make clear His before-creation, all-forgiving, enduringly-patient, selfishness-wrecking, relationship-restoring, daily-mission-compelling, eternally-together love for us. He is so good and so gracious, and His message sent through His Son reminds us of our brokenness but doesn’t leave us there. He is so intentional and compassionate, and His performance trumps ours unconditionally, calling to do more than just live FOR Him but rather to live WITH Him. His love wrecks us in our self-absorption, restores us into daily love relationship, and now compels us to give away what has been given unto us.

This is what we must cultivate. Into our homes, our neighborhood, the marketplace, and our world. And we must cultivate the Gospel with the same presence and power as the One who came near to us and now resides in us, being patient when there is little result, being steadfast when there seems like there’s no growth. Why? Because we do not control the reaping. We only partake in the sowing.

Thus, the name of this blog and the focus of the posts herein. On Mondays, be looking for posts on cultivating the Gospel into our families. On Tuesdays, be looking for posts on cultivating the Gospel into our neighbors and communities. On Wednesdays, be looking for posts on cultivating the Gospel into the people of the marketplace around the cities where we live. On Thursdays, be looking for posts on cultivating the Gospel into the nations. And on Fridays, be looking for posts on cultivating for unity around the mission of the Gospel with other followers of Jesus in the community where you live.

The Sent One now sends us to plant and water and love, and when we do, we will truly live as He intended.

May we be cultivating daily.

PS _ be looking for the posts to begin next week, Dec 5th.

How important is unity among followers to the work of God happening in ur city? I would suggest that it is crucial & critical. Here’s why…

How important is unity among followers of Jesus when it comes to the work of God happening in the city where you live? I would suggest it is both crucial and critical. 

I say “crucial” because I think Jesus intended for unity among His followers to be a foundation on which love and reconciliation can be both on display as well as available for anyone and everyone to experience. I say “critical” because it seems that Jesus understood it to be a deal-breaker when it came to the Gospel being on full display for all to see who live in the community around you. And this is not just for one individual local church expression. This is for every local church expression in a city.

I am grateful that New Hope Publishers was willing to publish a new book I wrote entitled “beyond MY church.” It unpacks Jesus’ prayer from John 17 in which He prayed for the maturity of our oneness so that the world would believe in the One who was sent. It also offers practical stories of that oneness on display and suggestions as to how you can cultivate for that unity in the city where you live.

I would suggest that our prayers for “awakening” and “revival” will only be taken seriously when we take the prayer Jesus already prayed seriously. 

Lord, make us one with the Father and one with each other. Help us to think and live with that kind of selflessness and Kingdom-mindedness, so that the world will know and believe in the One who was sent. May our love for one another be more than just talk, even if it wrecks the system in which we are all comfortable here in America. And may we live sent lives unified to love our cities in hopes of seeing “on earth as it is in heaven” there.

This is certainly no “95 Theses” like Luther’s was on this day so many years ago. But I will say that it is the most ignored and yet most important issue facing the American church today. If we don’t give serious attention here, then we are not serious about the work of God happening in the cities where we live.

Lord have mercy on us for not taking Your prayer seriously. May that not be so from today forward.


four very specific “NEXT STEPS” together for the @WestpointChurch family…

Yesterday in gathering, Tommy Novak led our teaching time through Acts 20:17-38. It was an encouraging and challenging time, encouraging in the sense that we all have a valuable part in serving together as His church and challenging in the sense that we all have a valuable part in serving together as His church.

The Sunday before, we were in verses 8 to 10 of Acts 19, and I shared with our church family the desire of our pastoral team and vision team as a whole to see us commit to some very practical next steps together as a church family. We shared the WESTPOINT acronym that we had come up with that is intended to be nothing more than a reminder of who we are as a church family together. May we:

be Worshippers
get Equipped
live Sent
grow Together
POINT neighbors and nations to Jesus

Two verses stood out to me these last two Sundays. One from Acts 19 and one from Acts 20.

10 And this went on for two years, so that all the inhabitants of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the message about the Lord.
(Acts 19:10, HCSB)

24 But that matters little. What matters most to me is to finish what God started: the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God.
(Acts 20:24, the Message)

It seems to me that if we desire to see the first we must be committed to the second.

Remember, Paul did not say in verse 24 of Acts 20 that there was one specific way that he let everyone he met “know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God.” And why? Because there are many different ways, but all of them are compelled by the Gospel of a God who came near because He so loved the world. The “how” may be via long-term, loving relationship or via immediate-prompted, loving conversation, and in either case notice the central modifier to be love.

Do you want to see all the inhabitants of West Orange County hear the message of the Lord? Are you willing to let everyone you meet know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God? The former won’t happen without the latter. And none of it will happen, at least as I would suggest to you, without two very, very important factors.

One, a love relationship with Jesus lived out in surrender and obedience as we listen and respond to the living presence of the Holy Spirit in the everyday rhythms of our lives. And two, loving relationship with one another as a church family. We cannot live sent apart from the One sent to us. And we cannot live on “mission TO” without living on “mission TOGETHER.”

So, how does your pastoral team and vision team propose that we do that? It’s actually very simple, but it actually may cause a bit of re-prioritizing and reorienting for all of us. Much like Acts 2:42 declares, we must take seriously our communication with God (prayer), our immersion into and obedience to the Scriptures (the Apostles’ teachings), our love for one another through thick and thin (fellowship), and our life together unified around the Gospel message and Gospel mission (the breaking of bread together). Here’s specifically how we propose to live this out together:

:: take the initiative to connect with 3 to 5 families within the Westpoint family to be family with, committing to passionately pray for one another and to deeply love each other through thick and thin.[you may already be walking closely with several families. that’s great! if you are but you are not walking with a “sent” purpose, would you be willing to be more purposeful and intentional in your friendships?]

:: study the Scriptures together as a group of families for more than just greater Biblical knowledge, but rather in order to simply ask the question, “If this is true, how must we individually and together surrender to the Holy Spirit that adjustments might be made in our lives based upon the teachings of this Scripture?”

:: encourage each other and hold each other accountable to engage the lost in the pathways of our lives, praying for the lost together, being patient in the long-term of the friendship and journey, and proactively loving them first and caring for them in specific ways, welcoming them into relationship with us like they are family, too.

:: then, let’s come together as a “BIG Family” frequently to celebrate what God is doing and to learn from each other as we gather on Sundays, as we connect during “together” events, and as several SENT Groups connect for meals and celebrations and to serve together.

This is not “in addition” to all the other church stuff we are doing. This is it. This is being the church together and living sent daily. This is loving each other walking in deep fellowship together through thick and thin. Is this what Jesus intended? Will we see “on earth as it is in heaven” if we reorient our understanding of church and our lives on mission to this simple of a commitment? Will every inhabitant of West Orange County hear the message of the Lord as a result?

Let’s try it and see.

Meantime, be praying and PLEASE COME NEXT SUNDAY MORNING IF YOU WANT TO Q & A ABOUT THIS. We will take the teaching time to dialogue further about this, to pray together, and to leave together to live sent.

Jen and I love you all so much and are so grateful for this very sobering but exciting journey together as His church.