Is it possible that Jesus’ plan for your parenting is not what you’ve been lead to believe? Why does God’s Word seem to always disagree with the world’s philosophies? Join AMBrewster as he talks about why the Bible’s wisdom doesn’t come naturally to Christian parents.
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TLP 373: The Counter-Intuitive Nature of Parenting in Christ
TLP 374: The Uncomfortable Neighbors of Parenting in Christ
TLP 375: The Reward of Parenting in Christ
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Why is it parenting doesn’t end up being as easy as we imagined it being before we had kids?
Why is it, despite all the best advice and leading professional studies, modern parents are doing a worse job of rearing their children than families hundreds of years ago?
There are many questions, and the Bible has the answers to each.
And — speaking of the Bible — TeamTLP and I do our best to expertly curate biblical parenting content across all of our social media platforms. Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, or Pinterest, you should like and follow us if you want to redeem your newsfeed with Christ-honoring parenting content designed to actually be useful . . . you know, the exact opposite of those political posts and sports updates you’re used to seeing.
We also produce free episode notes and transcripts with each of our regular podcasts and invite you to check them out at TruthLoveParent.com.
TeamTLP and I are also working hard to update our website so that it will becomes a better and better source of biblical parenting content. If you haven’t checked it out in a while, you should definitely do that.
And, while you’re there, you should consider what kind of relationship you want to have with TLP. You can be a TLP Follower, part of the TLP Family, a TLP Friend, or you can even join TeamTLP. Each of those relationships provides a different connection and various levels of access to Christ-honoring parenting resources. Click on each to learn how you can benefit from being part of the TLP Community.
I hope TLP has been a blessing to you regardless of how long you’ve been with us, and — as we approach our 4th anniversary this fall — I pray we will continue to serve you and your family well.
Now, let’s turn our eyes to the wonderfully counter-intuitive nature of biblical parenting.
So, there’s this group on Twitter called “Biblical Parenting.”
I clicked on their most recent post, “How to Build Cooperation in Your Kids,” and was super discouraged to find that the only Bible verse they cited in the entire article was Ephesians 6:1. The paragraph read, “It’s no accident that part of a child’s job description is to learn to obey. Practicing cooperation is a form of obedience. Ephesians 6:1 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” God has hidden within obedience the skills kids need to be successful in life. Those life-skills are learned at home.”
I agree with the statement, but was discouraged to find that the rest of the article was primarily low-hanging fruit that could have come from the lips of most secular parenting authorities.
I don’t doubt the author’s love for God, I don’t disagree with most of what he espoused in the article, and I’m not criticizing the style of the article . . . my only critique is that an organization that calls itself “Biblical Parenting” had better use the Bible to help dads and moms parent.
And I’m also very wary of Christian advice that seems nearly indistinguishable from secular thought.
Yes, it’s true that God bestows His common grace on everyone and that unbelievers are frequently able to deduce biblical realities. Praise God for His abundant grace!
For example: I used to be a regional training manager for Panera Bread company. I loved that company for tons of reasons, but one of the things I really appreciated was that their training materials could really preach. In most cases, I had no idea who wrote the material, and I never could say one way or another whether the author was born again, but so much of that for which Panera stood — their business philosophy, their customer service, and the like — was clearly rooted in deeper biblical realities.
Of course, none of the material cited any verses or even paraphrased any biblical principles . . . I’m simply explaining that I understand that not all secular philosophy and advice is completely devoid of value. I easily acknowledge that just because an author doesn’t put Bible verses in their footnotes doesn’t mean their content is completely inaccurate.
However, I want to add a word or two of caution before we continue. When genuinely good advice doesn’t tie itself back to the Bible, we can fall into a couple traps.
1. It’s way too easy for humans to fall into personality worship.
We find a guy who knows a thing, that thing works in our lives, and we become an avid disciple.
But when a guy clearly states that he’s teaching a Bible thing, and it’s obvious that the counsel is working because it’s rooted in God, we become better disciples of God than we do the man. The man was just a conduit. And that’s how it should be.
2. Just because some of it is right, doesn’t mean all of it is right.
Without clear biblical grounding, we’re left to determine which parts of the instruction we’re receiving is actually from God and which are convenient conclusions derived by a noble author.
It’s like talking to Job’s friends. Some of their observations about life and God were 100% accurate, but much of what they said was not, and at the end of the book, God condemned them and had Job offer a sacrifice on their behalf.
There are a panoply of books out there that contain marvelous, biblical Truth. I review a lot of those books, but — unfortunately — most of the books I read I cannot support.
I was reading one such book, and a couple chapters in I was loving it. The material was so incredibly biblical and helpful. I was already formulating on what an interview with this author might focus. And then I arrived at chapter 4, and from there on out, there were fewer Scripture passages and far more worldly thinking and conclusions.
It was discouraging, but to someone with a less-discerning eye, it would have been easy to deduce that the conclusions drawn later in the book were just as valuable as the ones laid in the beginning.
And that is very dangerous.
In fact, I believe that’s why the vast majority of parenting books on the market are there. They mention God here or there, but cater to our desires by telling us what we want to hear, and we praise the book for being so insightful.
Now, I’m not an advocate for only reading perfect books. The Bible is the only one that falls into that category, and no one would every read any of my stuff if that’s how people were to approach their reading. But I do believe in reading everything with your Bible open.
What do I mean by that? Everything we encounter in life must be compared to the reality outlined in the Bible. We know that Satan, the World, and the Flesh are constantly lying to us about how life works. Therefore, we can’t believe anything they have to say.
We need to get in the habit of carefully discerning Truth.
In Ezekiel 44, the prophet is laying out the ordinances for the Levites, and he says in verse 23, “they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.”
How were they to do that? They were to use the Scriptures that had been entrusted to them. They didn’t need to do any fancy mental gymnastics or sublet manipulation; the Scriptures had already made it clear what was unclean and clean. And since the average Jew didn’t have a copy of the Scriptures, it was the priests job to open the Law and teach the people.
Anyway, I guess that’s all preface. But it’s important.
We’re about to see that following Christ is anything but intuitive. It flies in the face of the conclusions to which natural man will come.
If we’re parenting according to conventional wisdom, or we’re mixing secular thought with holy writ, we’re inviting trouble right into our homes.
So, let’s take a look at John 21.
At this stage of the book, Jesus has died, raised from the dead, and the disciples have seen him on a number of occasions. In fact, right before this, Thomas has proclaimed Jesus to be his Lord and his God.
Shortly after that time, some of the disciples decided to go fishing. Now, whether or not it was a good idea for them to devote their time to such endeavors is beyond the scope of our discussion, but — suffice it to say — Jesus was going to use this occasion to remind them of an important lesson they learned all the way back at the beginning of His ministry — approximately three years prior.
According to verse 3, they fished all night long, but they caught nothing.
Now, remember, these weren’t a bunch of hacks. These men were seasoned fishermen. Fishing was in their blood. It was their life occupation before Jesus taught them to fish for men. They knew everything there was to know — at the time — about how to fish in the sea of Galilee.
These men were also hard workers — they fished all night long. This wasn’t a pleasure cruise or a beer-sipping float. They were exercising all of their skill, training, experience, and effort on one thing and one thing only.
And yet, their nets were empty.
Have you ever felt that way in your parenting? This is a common feeling for a school teacher who can wrangle a classroom of 4th graders but can’t seem to get her two children to listen.
Parents sometimes feel this way when they do an admirable job raising children 1, 2, and 3, but all of a sudden they find their expertise is failing them with child 4.
Men and women who — for years — were amazing communicators in their fields, but who can’t seem to get their kids to understand even basic concepts struggle in the same way the fisherman did.
How many parents are there who read secular parenting books and attend the conferences, and yet they just don’t seem to make a dent in their family crisis.
How does all of that expertise and knowledge fail us?
I believe this passage teaches us 3 reasons.
1. God’s plan is rarely our plan.
We have to grapple with the fact that God’s plan likely has nothing to do with ours. We’re going to see that Jesus wasn’t interested in their fishing endeavors. He likely didn’t care if they were hoping to sell the fish or dry them in the hot Judaean sun. He wanted to accomplish something far more important.
Is it possible that Jesus’ plan for your life and parenting is not what you’ve been lead to believe?
2. God’s method is rarely our method.
When it comes to fishing, Jesus is the guy you want in the boat. He not only tosses out all conventional wisdom, He basically tells the fish what to do.
When it comes to our parenting, we need to acknowledge that Jesus’ methods are going to be supernatural. They’re going to be different than anything the world can conjure. Jesus’ ways are likely going to look strange or foolish to the “professionals” because they defy worldly reason.
3. God’s goal is rarely our goal.
The reason God’s plan and method contradicts our own is that God is trying to accomplish something very different than we are.
I’m going to get back into the John 21 passage in a minute, but I want you to know that today’s episode is the first of three. Today we’re addressing the counter-intuitive nature of parenting in Christ. Next time I hope to address the uncomfortable neighbors that come as a result of parenting in Christ. And then I want to wrap it up with a discussion about the reward of parenting in Christ.
However, if you don’t even know what I mean when I say “parenting in Christ,” I would encourage you to listen to our series by the same name. God desires that all human dads and moms parent in Christ, and those of us who are born again are commanded to parent in Christ.
It’s absolutely necessary that we know what it means, what it looks like, and what it produces.
But I can tell you this for sure, parenting in Christ is going to involve a different plan, method, and goal than you would ever imagine on your own.
So, back to John 21, starting in verse 4, “But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 So Jesus *said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.” 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.”
Please understand that Jesus’ words are absolutely ludicrous from a human perspective. When it came to the methods and actual logistics of fishing, it wouldn’t matter in the slightest from which side of the boat you cast your nets.
So, why did the disciples even entertain the idea?
Well, I think they started to remember a key event in a few of their lives. In Luke 5 we witness one of Jesus’ first interactions with Peter, James, and John. Verses 1-10 read, “Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; 2 and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. 3 And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. 4 When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ 5 Simon answered and said, ‘Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.’”
I believe Peter did this out of respect to the teacher sitting in his boat — not because he expected anything to happen. We don’t know exactly what Jesus was teaching while He sat in Peter’s boat or for how long He was there, but likely Peter was already stirred in His soul that something about Jesus was different and trustworthy.
So, Peter obeys.
“6 When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; 7 so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, ‘Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ 9 For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.’ 11 When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.”
This was probably the only time in his life that someone suggested he would catch more fish by simply tossing his nets on the other side, and it changed the entire course of Peter’s life.
So, now, about three years later, they’ve again toiled all night and caught nothing, and a stranger on the beach suggests that they cast their nets on the other side.
Even though it defied all conventional, secular thought concerning fishing, the disciples did as they were instructed.
Think for a moment what may have happened if they refused? It’s interesting to conjecture.
Back to John 21:6, we read, “So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved [referring to John] *said to Peter, ’It is the Lord.’ So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish. 9 So when they got out on the land, they *saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread. 10 Jesus *said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.” 11 Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.”
Not only were Jesus’ methods strange, they were also supernatural. That many fish of that size should have torn their nets. The thinking of the time would have told you it was impossible to catch that many fish in that kind of net from that kind of boat by those kinds of men at the time of day.
But the thinking of the time is also the thinking that crucified Jesus because He called them to think differently.
Jesus’ plan was different. The disciples wanted to catch fish on their terms, but Jesus wanted them to catch fish on His.
All the disciples could do was employ the skills and techniques they knew, but without Jesus there to provide the right method and the supernatural power to make His seemingly-ridiculous method actually work, the disciples were in an exercise of futility.
Can we admit that trying something supernatural without the supernatural empowerment would have been impossible and asinine?
And — as we mentioned before — though the disciples’ goal was to catch fish that they could eat and potentially sell, we have no idea what ever became of the fish.
We know some were eaten by the disciples for breakfast, but we’re told that after breakfast Jesus confronts Peter about his love for Christ, and the narration continues.
I can’t go into it all now, but this passage is so incredibly powerful. We deal with it some in our “Four Family Loves” series, but — suffice it to say — I believe this interaction between Jesus and Peter resulted in Peter’s conversion.
That’s right, I believe there are many evidences that though Peter followed Christ for all those years, I don’t believe he was truly born again until this moment.
So, here, now, when Peter would have normally been cleaning the fish and repairing his nets, he’s finally — truly — submitting his life to Christ, and Jesus is giving him marching orders. He tells him — like he had three years earlier — to “Follow me.”
Jesus’ goal was that this scenario would change Peter for all eternity. Jesus’ goal was that this one experience of trusting Jesus’ absurd-sounding fishing advice would result in redeeming a man who He could use to turn the world upside down.
So, what’s the application for us?
Well, for nearly 400 episodes TeamTLP and I have tried to unpack God’s will for our parenting. And, when you compare that teaching to the world’s thinking on the subject, it likely seems ridiculous and bound for failure.
But God makes it clear in His Word that His followers must trust and obey. If God teaches that the single most important thing we can do for our kids is teach them His Word . . . then that’s what we do.
If God tells us that consequences are necessary, we would be fools to avoid them.
If God tells us that shame is a good thing when used properly, we have to deny the world’s claims to the contrary.
God’s parenting advice may seem counter-intuitive and uncomfortable, it may appear foolish and maybe even harmful to the darkened mind, but in I Corinthians 1:18-25 Paul tells us, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.’ 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
And later in chapter 2:12-16 we find, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. 14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.”
And I Corinthians 3:18-20 says, “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, ‘He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness’; 20 and again, ‘The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.’”
From the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus proclaims, “You have heard it said, but I say to you,” to the conquering king allowing Himself to be killed by His chosen people and the Romans when His chosen people expected Him to conquer the Romans . . . we shouldn’t have been surprised because in Isaiah 55:8-11 God clearly prepared us for the counter-intuitive nature of being in Christ when He said, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. 9 ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. 10 ‘For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 11 So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.’”
My friends, that perfectly describes the scene in John 21. God has a better plan, method and purpose, and He accomplished exactly what He set out to do.
So, what should be our response?
Let’s be informed by our friend, Peter.
The first time Jesus performed the fishing miracle, Peter withdrew from Christ. He asked Jesus to go away from him, but the second time it happens, Peter hurls himself at Christ. He grabs his cloak and jumps into the sea. He swims to shore faster than the boats could get there because there was nothing more important than being with Christ.
How about you?
You may be trying to exercise all the conventional wisdom you can to parent you children, but things are getting worse and worse.
You may even be trying your hardest to parent the way God commands, and yet you’re not getting the outcome you desire.
Do this. Just stop. Leave your expectations and desires and wishes and goals. Leave your plans and intentions and methods and systems.
Run to Christ, swim to Christ, crawl to Christ. He has the answers in His Word. He will share His plans and His methods and His goals if we will but sit next to Him and listen.
Like Mary chose the better part as she fixed herself at the foot of the Savior while Martha ran ragged preparing food for the Sovereign King, maybe you need to stop doing what you think is best and let God tell you what truly is best.
So, how do we run to Christ?
Spend time in His Word. In John 17, Jesus is talking to the Father, and He asks that the Father sanctify the disciples.
Sanctification is the process of making a born again follower of Christ more holy. And what method did Jesus ask the Father to use to sanctify the disciples? Listen to His words in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”
I want to close with a personal testimony from one of our TLP Family. I received this email the same day I sat down to write the notes for this episode. It perfectly illustrates how our entire outlook can be changed when we not only turn to the Scriptures, but we also take seriously God’s admonition to “study to show ourselves approved unto God” (II Timothy 2:15) like the Bereans “examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11)
The email read, “I’m excited to share with you! I’ve been up since about 3:30 . . . just felt so burdened for my husband and my kids. While still in bed I tried to pray for them, but my praying was continually derailed as my mind would drift to school or things around the house or other distractions!!! I knew I needed the Word. I tried pulling any verses I knew from memory, but I just kept knowing that I needed the Word. So I got up and opened my Bible and decided I would work on memorizing Psalm 51:12, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit.”
“I love that it starts out with RESTORE, because that reminded me that I was gifted with absolute joy once I trusted that Jesus was my Savior — I have had it before, and I can have it back. God never retracted His offer of joy; why am I not accepting it just because my circumstances may not be picture perfect at times?!?
“I also realized that this really requires faith and action — and my faith requires knowing enough about God to know that he is proven to be trustworthy. I need to step out in that faith and act like I’m free to have joy, even if I don’t FEEL it at the moment.
“However, I got a little stuck on the ‘And sustain me with a willing spirit’ part. So I did the most logical thing – I googled ‘what does willing spirit mean from Psalm 51?’ I came across a message from a pastor that was centered around Psalm 51:12. He reminded his audience of what Peter said when he showed that God HAS given us the power to break free of such things.“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3)
“The pastor brought the attention to the ‘willing spirit’ part in Psalm 51 and pointed out how David acted on his belief as opposed to just sitting there and waiting for a ‘feeling’ of power to come over him. David believed that he did have the power to overcome the situation he was in because he had faith (he understood God’s character well enough to know God was trustworthy) and then he trusted in God enough to ask for a restoration of the joy he had through the power of Christ! Wow!
“Sooooo . . . I can choose to be a ‘helpless victim’ and excuse away my sin of not being joyful even in tribulation (which would do pretty much nothing for the Kingdom of God in the minds and hearts of my family, though it is quite tempting to me to just give in to that ’woe is me’ mentality) OR I can accept the ‘way out’ that God provides. (I’m seeing the connection from I Corinthians 10:13 that I memorized earlier!!!) and be willing to be set free by Christ’s divine power! I can be sustained and grab ahold of the rest of the Psalm.
“I’m in tears as I read verse 13. “THEN I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.”
“That’s it! That’s what I’ve been praying for my family!!! I can’t effectively be salt and light to my family until I fully comprehend and live in the joy that Jesus’ salvation provides to me!!! Oh, Lord grant me understanding of this and a willing spirit to sustain me!!!
“Welcome to my quiet time with God this morning. I’m feeling very blessed by this but also a bit . . . timid maybe? I feel like a “baby believer.” Interpreting Scripture and applying it to my life is a new(er) practice for me, and I still feel inadequate to do so correctly. I know God gives me the ability to understand His Word, but I also know that He provides knowledgeable mentors and counselors to help me if I should steer off course.”
My eyes are getting warm. I’m not crying; you’re crying.
Let me tell you, those kind of emails are so incredibly precious. We rejoice with the people who send those emails, and we praise God for His goodness, and we’re reminded that this ministry really is doing a powerful work for God.
Well, the process she outlined right there is the kind of thing to which I’m calling all of us today.
From the world’s standards the Bible is not an acceptable parenting book. Some may even call it damaging and dangerous. They may say that anyone who would parent according to biblical principles are hurting their children. But no one will ever parent successfully without it.
God’s plan for our parenting isn’t going to feel natural or normal. It’s going to challenge us and break us and build us back up again as God uses it to revolutionize our kids.
It’s counter-intuitive to our Flesh . . . but with the all-loving and all-powerful and all-knowing God of the universe on our side . . . it actually makes all the sense in the world.
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And if you’d be interested in getting specialize, biblical help for you and your family, please write us at Counselor@TruthLoveParent.com or give us a call at (828) 423-0894.
Remember, if we want our children to grow up into Christ, we must parent in truth and love. We’re only ever going to discover that Truth in Scripture, and we’re only ever going to find that the Love is counter-intuitive to the way we would choose to show our affection.
To that end, join us next time as we look at “The Uncomfortable Neighbors of Parenting in Christ” and discuss some counter-intuitive Truth that will help us parent our children to God’s honor and glory.
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