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.

-jason

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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…

So grateful for the @WestpointChurch family and who Jesus is making us to become. Here are some highlights…

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On the night of February 15th, 2004, we sat in a living room here in West Orange County praying for and envisioning and committing to a local church expression committed to being the church, doing life together, and giving ourselves away. We were going to LIVE SENT daily, or at least try to learn and grow in figuring out and living out whatever that means.

On the morning of July 15th, 2012, we gathered in a West Orange County elementary school as Westpoint Church having equipped and sent His church into the daily, in the community, and around the world for over eight years.

Someone commented to me, “This is why Westpoint was started.”

The original vision of Westpoint was five bullet points for which we committed to cultivate, for which we continue to hope:

1 _ to be the church together as we follow Jesus daily and live sent in our in our spheres of influence.

2 _ to equip people with Biblical teaching to be growing up in Jesus most evidenced by love for one another as well as daily making disciples

3 _ to equip families to live out the Deuteronomy 6 command together, nurturing for healthy marriages and parenting

4 _ to serve locally and globally, giving away together what has been given to us

5 _ to multiply what we are doing together in West Orange County into various new and existing expressions both across the city and around the world

This past Sunday morning:

:: we gathered as a people who are following Jesus and being the church together daily.

:: we heard stories of and were equipped to love one another and make disciples.

:: there was ministry going on to kids and to families, and there were present couples whose marriages are being nurtured and are growing through some very difficult times.

:: we highlighted two significant ways we are giving ourselves away together locally and globally via IMPACT Winter Garden and GdE Haiti.

:: we heard from and prayed over Jim and Beth Collins as they are being sent to Las Vegas next month, AND there were present three couples who are seeking out mentoring from Westpoint as they look to cultivate for new expressions of the church right here in Central Florida.

WOW!!! Glory to God!!! Just wanted to celebrate that with you!!! So grateful that Jesus continues to make us to become what He intends for His church!!!

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 1:6 HCSB)

PRAYER
Lord Jesus, You said multiple times that Your followers are to live sent as You were sent to us. Please give us wisdom as to what that means and what You intended. Please help us to surrender to reorient our lives to follow You to those to whom You are sending us. Please grow us in our love for one another and caring for one another and unity with one another around Your beautiful, restorative, gracious mission. And please keep us reminded that we do not have to be LEARNED to go and make disciples, but rather we are to be LEARNERS as we go and make disciples. We are grateful that up have loved us first. Now, may we go as we are compelled to love as You have loved us. Amen.

an important question for pastors – are you actually equipping the church to be who Jesus intended? Read more here…

There is a question I have been asking for some time now, both of myself and of our leadership team with @WestpointChurch. It is a simple yet significant question with profound implications on the energy expenditures of our leadership efforts. Here it is:

am i actually equipping our local church expression to be who Jesus intended together? 

In order to answer this question, I probably need to ask two others. What did Jesus intend and in what ways might I equip them for that?

May I suggest that Jesus intended that we believe that we are loved by the God who sent His one and only Son. May I suggest that Jesus intended that we respond to His loving us first by denying self and loving Him daily with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. May I suggest that Jesus intended that we love our neighbor, taking initiative to love them, just as He loves us. May I suggest that Jesus intended that we live open-handed and free, freely giving to the oppressed and poor and lonely and indulgent as we relate with them where they are, not out of guilt but from a free, loved, forgiven, grace-compelled heart. And may I suggest that Jesus intended that we learn and live His ways and then as we are going learn and live His ways out in the midst of culture among those who feel lost and lonely that they might believe that they are loved by the God who came near, too.

Am I equipping for this, or something else? 

Being a pastor, or an equipper as the New Testament seems to most often describe it, is not a role that is superior to anyone else involved in the life of a local church. It is not a management role. It is not an executive position. It is not a place of declared authority.

Rather, being an equipper is simply the serving part that someone lives as a fellow follower of Jesus in order to resource and encourage every follower of Jesus as they live sent with Jesus into the daily rhythms of life. Rather than managing, equippers release. Rather than leading from a board room, equippers relate. And rather than declaring the authority of self, equippers resource the daily ministry of others.

And we certainly were not intended to just get folks in the door of “a church.” Rather, we were intended to equip folks to be sent out as the church.

So how might we equip for that. Here are three pathways of equipping I would suggest are crucial if we will equip the church to be the church as Jesus intended:

  1. the pathway of personally relating with Jesus.
  2. the pathway of together walking with Jesus.
  3. the pathway of together going near with Jesus.

If we equip along these pathways, cultivate in these ways, I would suggest that we would be equipping the church to be who Jesus intends.

This week, I will unpack those three pathways one at a time and would really value any input and wisdom you would be wiling to share in the comments.

Grateful to be an equipper. Praying for wisdom on how to be one.
-jason