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Welcome to the show; I’m so glad to be here with you.
Now, if you’re just joining us or you haven’t heard every part of this series in order, I’m going to suggest you stop and make sure you’ve heard all the others before listening today.
Joining us today would be akin to reading the last chapter of a Christian living book and thinking you’re all set to break all of your bad habits, build valuable relationships, and experience never-ending spiritual success.
I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t have happened had you read the whole book, but it definitely won’t happen reading only the last part.
Still, I am glad you joined us. My name is Aaron Michael Brewster. My family has been living in the United States of America for over 400 years. We came over on the Mayflower. That’s right, I’m a pilgrim descendent, and I want to share with you one of the misconceptions about why the pilgrims came here.
Most people would say that they were escaping England to pursue religious liberty. And, yes, that’s why they left England, but that’s not why they went to America.
When the pilgrims left England they went to Holland. Holland offered so much religious liberty that the pilgrims could worship God exactly how He wanted them to worship Him. However, after living there for about a decade, the pilgrims realized what was happening to their people.
Back in England they were persecuted for their beliefs, and that kind of persecution has a purging effect on a body of believers. But with the lack of persecution in Holland and the increased influence of secular thinking, many of the pilgrims and — to a greater degree — their children were giving in to the temptation of their secular neighbors and were walking away from the Scriptures.
The pilgrims hazarded the open ocean and life in an undeveloped country because they realized that in order to have the best chances of being strong disciples of Christ, they needed to remove themselves from the constant negative influences of the world.
And so, though over 500 pilgrims fled from England, fewer than 40 traveled to the New World.
Now, I’m not suggesting that if you are surrounded by sinful influences that you need to sign up to be the first colonists of Mars. But I am reemphasizing the fact that disciples of Christ must guard their hearts because the days are evil.
We need to carefully manage our influences. We need to exhibit a stronger gravitational pull on the world than it pulls on us.
We will not grow in our worship of God if we start worshipping the way the world does for the reasons the world does.
How far are you willing to go to live a pure, undefiled life for God?
Well, if you’re willing to do whatever it takes to grow your worship, then let’s dive in to today’s discussion.
And don’t forget that other study aids, episodes notes, and the like are linked in today’s description.
Now, last time we discussed that belief is not the same as knowledge. In fact, misunderstandings in three key areas have caused much confusion when it comes to the subject of faith in Christianity.
One of those key areas is the fact that some things in life just require knowledge but many more require knowledge and faith. Not understanding the unique mix and distinctions can get us into trouble.
The second key area concerning belief is that it requires an object about which we know something, and yet this concept is dissimilar from “knowing something.”
And the third key area is that there are three kinds of faith. There’s Dead Faith, Living Faith, and Didactic Faith.
Understanding all of these concepts will equip us to grow in Truth and love.
So, today I want to start by addressing one objection I encounter from time to time.
Some people suggest that — biblical speaking — faith can’t be The Merest Christianity. They cite passages that they think undermine the point I’m making that belief is the most seminal reason we do what we do.
Here’s the objection I’ve heard from time to time. After unfolding faith/belief/trust as the most seminal component of our relationship with God, some people have argued that love is actually the most basic of the Christian virtues.
They say this because I Corinthians 13:13 reads, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Obviously we need to understand what God is saying here.
Paul has just finished unfolding the most beautiful and detailed picture of biblical love, and he ends by telling us that faith, hope, and love are the three most important parts of the Christian life. But then he tells us that love is the greatest of the three. So, that kinda sounds like it might undo everything I’ve claimed over the past two episodes.
But here’s what’s going on.
First, it’s important to note that all three of those character traits are dependent on the others. You cannot possess one of them without the other two being present. You won’t trust God if you don’t love Him, you won’t hope in something you don’t believe will happen, you won’t love God if you don’t believe in Him, and our hope partially motivates our love. So, we need to see that ultimately faith is required to have genuine love and hope.
Second, the nature of faith and hope demand that they will one day cease to exist. In the future (when Christ returns) we’ll no longer have any need for hope or faith. Both of them will be done away with when we see God face-to-face.
Why is that? Well, hope will disappear because I will finally have received that for which I hoped. And faith too will no longer be necessary because my faith will become sight. I will experientially know it all to be true, and faith will become obsolete.
But love for my great God will last for the rest of eternity.
Now, love is not the greatest because it’s more important than faith. Love is a choice (which is an action) that’s motivated by desire that grows out of our faith in God. As I already mentioned, we won’t love God if we don’t believe He exists.
So, the reason love is considered the “greatest” virtue is that love will last forever even when faith is no longer necessary. Love is eternal, but faith is temporal.
But since we all are currently living in the pre-eternal state . . . faith is EXTREMELY important and foundational to everything we say and do, including the way we love.
Alright, now let’s move on to our discussion about the absolutely vital nature of learning, understanding, and trusting as we seek to grow our faith.
I actually want to discuss the importance of knowledge as it applies to our faith. That may sound contradictory considering what I’ve said about belief and knowledge being different things, but it is not. So here we go.
Knowledge is to belief what dirt is to tree roots. They’re not at all the same thing, but the roots won’t be able to soak up nutrients or water without being in contact with the dirt. If a tree is ripped out of the ground, it won’t matter how much sunlight it gets, the roots will wither and the tree is going to die.
So, in our tree metaphor we said that the roots of our trees are our belief. We do what we do, say what we say and feel what we feel — that’s our fruit — because we want what we want. Our desires can be compared to the trunk of our tree. But we want what we want because we believe what we believe about God, His Word, and ourselves. Our faith is the very root system of our lives, but the soil around those roots represents the knowledge we have about God, His Word, and ourselves.
So, how does this affect our answer to the question, “Why do we believe what we believe?”
We don’t believe what we believe because we know what we know. We can know things and not believe them; we do that all of the time.
We believe what we believe simply because we choose to trust that what we know is true. Why do we believe what we believe? We believe what we believe because we choose to believe it.
However, that doesn’t mean that what we know isn’t important.
Now, unlike the roots of a real tree which are programed by God to soak up the available nutrients and water, we choose how to respond to the Truth we encounter. Our roots have the ability to reject the nutrients of God’s Truth. We can call Him a liar, we can believe we know best, and subsequently we can desire our own way and, therefore act accordingly. Faith is a choice that’s not dependent upon anything but the grace of God and our will.
So, if my roots are covered by God’s truth, I can choose to accept or reject that truth. But, what if our roots are not in contact with the soil at all.
Well, we wouldn’t be able to soak up the nutrients no matter what. We couldn’t choose to believe the truth about God because we would be completely ignorant of the information. And you can’t believe what you don’t know.
So, picture this. Romans 1 tells us that, “ [God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So [we] are without excuse” when it comes to believing that there is a higher power.
And Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
We know that God has worked into His creation something we call General Revelation. Back in Romans 1 we’re told that a man has to fight his natural understanding of God in order to claim that God doesn’t exist. But men do just that all of the time, and — of course — they receive the consequences of their self-worship.
So, in a sense, all of us are born with our roots dipped into a certain amount of Truth about God. We have everything we need to believe that God exists.
However, there’s not enough information within creation for man to have Living Faith — specifically, Saving Faith. That takes what we call Special Revelation, and that revelation only comes through God’s Word. In the Bible we learn about the specifics of God, sin, Christ’s substitutionary atonement, salvation, sanctification, body life, and so on.
So, the more of God’s Truth we know, the more nutrient-filled, water-filled dirt we have around our roots, the better
Hopefully we can see that even though knowledge isn’t the same as belief or even the thing that creates belief, it is a prerequisite to belief.
This is even true for false religions. Muhammed had to dream up Allah before he could believe he existed. The same goes for the false god of the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hindus, and even the false views of God that Christians often have.
That’s right. Christians do this as well.
Anytime we believe something about God that’s not true, we’re creating a false god in our mind.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say that I believe that God is okay with homosexuals if they “truly love” each other. I could never come to that conclusion by reading the Bible. Unless I thought it up or had someone else tell me about it, I would never believe that about God.
The point is, I had to have the knowledge before I could believe it.
Now, imagine your tree and your fellow disciple’s trees. They may be your kids or congregations or students or counselees or friends. Now picture the tips of their roots just barely dipped into the General Revelation of creation. What might they be able to believe about God?
Now imagine that there’s a little more soil thrown down there: you all now have a solid layer of Gospel. You have the basic seven flannel-graph Bible stories that get recirculated every year. You all have some token verses that you memorized in kid’s club, and you have the things authorities have told you about how the world works.
If you believed all of that perfectly, what would you have?
Well, based off an adequate understanding of the Gospel, if you truly believed it . . . you’d be saved. You’d have Saving Faith.
And — of course — you’d believe in some key truths about man and God in the accounts of Daniel and the lions den, Noah, the Christmas story, Easter, Shadrach/Meshach/Abednego, Joseph, and some important events in Jesus’ life. You know, the main Sunday school lessons most kids learn. Belief in these would substantiate some basic trust in God’s power, love, and sovereignty.
And if you believed everything you’d been told from a spiritual authority about how the world works and everything you’ve been told was biblical, then you’d have a decent handle on the value of work, respect, obedience, relationships, and the like.
And that’s not too shabby, right?
I’d agree that’s a good start. But, my friends, it’s only a start. There’s so much more that disciples of Christ must believe in order to mature in their worship of God. Our Sanctifying Faith will need to mature much more if we’re going to move away from self-worship to God worship.
Now, based off that little bit of dirt scattered around your counselee/student/child’s roots, he won’t be able to believe what God says about human sexuality . . . because it wasn’t included. He was never given that information from the Scriptures.
What about evangelism? What about the reality that true obedience must be grounded in God’s glory? How are your kids to navigate being sinned against, managing their money to the glory of God, or fear of the unknown? Your church body won’t be able to believe the stunning intricacies of Heaven or have vibrant relationships within the church because they don’t know those things even exist. What about the importance of progressive sanctification to your counselees — you know, the reality that anything that’s not growing is dead? How will your students be able to believe what God has to say about Satan and his continual effort to eat them alive?
You see where I’m going? If we want to believe God more, and we want our disciplees to believe God more, we need to learn about God.
Of course, we understand that knowing God’s Truth won’t guarantee our disciplees’ believe, but we also know that they won’t be able to believe it if they don’t first have the information.
But is knowing enough?
Well, I don’t want to muddy the waters at all, and I do plan to do a series about what I call The Circle of Worship.
Suffice it to say, knowledge isn’t the end all to end all. We know that.
In order to trust God, we need to know about Him, but we also have to grow in our understanding of Him. The more we know and understand about God, the more we can trust those truths about God.
So, let’s use the remainder of our time discussing the key categories of Truth we and our disciplees need to know, understand, trust.
Now, before we dive in, I just want you to know that today’s episode notes will be very robust. I’m not only going to talk about the various categories of information in the Bible you and your disciplees need to know, I’m going to provide a bunch of verses for the first seven of those categories.
Listen, I can’t be doing all the work!
But I’ll also give you some awesome resources that should help you out with the remaining categories.
And one last thing before I unveil theses categories. We need to understand that the Bible wasn’t written just for adults. There’s no kids’ version of the Bible. The entire Bible is not only free-game for children and adults, but the whole Bible is an absolutely necessity for everyone.
So, with that said, I’m going to share a couple resources that make the info we’re talking about a little more accessible to younger people, but honestly, I’ve always preferred to shoot pretty straight with my kiddos and call them up to a higher plane of maturity. I definitely spend a ton of my time defining terms and giving a minivan full of illustrations as I teach these deep truths, but I don’t shelter them from the big concepts in Scripture.
And now — without any further ado — here are the things we need to know, understand, and trust about God.
When you study the Bible, you’ll find that it’s not set up like a textbook with chapters dedicated to certain themes. And though some of us may have liked that format, God — in His infinite wisdom — knew that wasn’t best.
However, many many many wise and godly men have taken the opportunity to collect the truths of Scripture into study aids designed to assist us in the study of certain commands, principles, and the like.
These books are absolutely not a substitute for the Bible, but they help us out by showing us all the verses that deal with a specific subject. This is beneficial because it would take a looooong time for us to scour the whole of the Scriptures to come to a cohesive understanding of even one concept in It. And, though the practice would be awesomely valuable, there are a lot of other things in a day to which God has tasked the average Christian. We have to know, understand, and believe in those things too.
So, the study aids with which I’m suggesting we and our fellow disciples become very comfortable are called Systematic Theologies.
“Theology” is the study of God, and whether you believe it or not, everyone is a theologian. We all believe something about God.
The term “systematic” is exactly what it sounds like; these book categorize — systematize — the biblical teachings on various subjects into chapters for ease of study.
The subjects you find in your average systematic theology are called doctrines. They’re the foundation stones of God’s revealed Truth.
Now, again, please understand that it’s extremely important for us to study and understand the grand unfolding of the Scriptures as it progresses from book to book. However, when we and our disciplees have questions, we need to be able to understand the broader truth instead of the simple Sunday School lessons.
Generally speaking most systematic theology books contain ten major doctrines. What I want to do is give you a big picture of the types of things we can learn from the Bible with the help of a systematic theology. And don’t forget the main goal in all of this. All followers of Christ should want to deepen our worship of the Lord. We should want to plunge our roots deeper and deeper into His Truth so we can better worship Him and stop worshipping ourselves.
So, what’s the first doctrine with which most systematic theologies start?
As you might have guessed, the Bible is a great place to learn about God. Theologians refer to the study of God the Father as “Theology Proper.”
Consider this: The Bible never attempts to prove God exists. It assumes that He exists (Genesis 1:1).
Acts 17:25-28 teaches us that God is knowable.
The Father also has these things called incommunicable attributes like Self-existence (Exodus 3:14), Infinity (I Kings 8:27; Genesis 21:33), Perfection (Matthew 5:48), Omnipotence (Genesis 17:1), Omniscience (Psalms 139:1-4), Omnipresence (Psalms 139:7-12), Immutability (Malachi 3:6), and Incomprehensibility (Romans 11:33).
But He also has communicable attributes which include: Holiness (Leviticus 11:44-45; Psalms 99:4-9), Truth (Psalms 31:5; I Thessalonians 1:9), Love (I John 4:8), Righteousness (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalms 145:17), Faithfulness (Psalms 36:5), Mercy (II Corinthians 1:3; Eph 2:4), and Grace (Ephesians 1:7; I Peter 5:10). And the Bible also teaches us that God’s holiness governs His attributes.
Before I continue, if you download today’s episode notes, you will find at least one passage cited for each of the claims about God that I just made.
But here’s the thing, we and our disciplees need to believe that God is self-existent. He’s the only being in the entire universe that doesn’t need anything. It’s actually really important for us to understand that God doesn’t need us. Instead, it’s because of His communicable attribute of love that He created us, sustains us, and desires to have a relationship with us.
We can’t take the time to discuss even one of these elements in any kind of depth. As Frederick Lehman wrote, “Could we with ink the ocean fill, And were the skies of parchment made, Were every stalk on earth a quill, And every man a scribe by trade; To write the love of God above Would drain the ocean dry; Nor could the scroll contain the whole, Though stretched from sky to sky.”
But, please note four things about every Truth we’re going to discuss today
Now, let’s move on to “Christology,” which you can guess is about Jesus.
There are numerous scriptures that teach us He is fully God. (Colossians 2:9; John 1:18, 20:28; Romans 9:5; Hebrews 1:8). And this is the last time I’ll remind you that today’s episode notes and transcript will have ton of Bible references for you.
But Jesus is also fully human (I Timothy 2:5).
That may seem to be a hard concept to communicate to a child . . . it’s hard for adults! But the Bible teaches it, so if we are to be faithful stewards of God’s Word and the younger generation, we need to explain it to them.
The Bible also teaches us that Christ appeased God’s wrath against sinners who believe on Him by dying on the cross (I John 2:2; Romans 1:32; Hebrews 2:2), and that He rose from the dead and conquered death and hell (Luke 24:36-43; I Corinthians 15:3-4).
Be we can’t stop there. We also need to have a right understanding about The Holy Spirit.
The study of the Holy Spirit is called “Pneumatology.”
First, it’s vital to acknowledge that He’s fully God (Hebrews 10:14-16; cf. Jeremiah 31:33; Acts 28:25; cf. Isaiah 6:1-13; Isaiah 63:10; II Samual 23:2-3; I Corinthians 3:16).
And since the Holy Spirit is Himself God (Acts 5:3-4), He possesses all the essential characteristics of personality such as life (Romans 8:2), intelligence (I Corinthians 2:10-11), freedom (II Corinthians 3:7), emotion (Ephesians 4:30), self-consciousness (I Corinthians 2;11), and purpose (I Corinthians 12:11), He must be a person (John 16:7-14) and not a force, energy, or abstract power (Zechariah 4:6).
It’s also vital for us to know, understand, and trust that the Holy Spirit operates in the world today by restraining sin and enabling the positive accomplishment of civic righteousness and good among all men which we call Common Grace (Genesis 6:3; II Thessalonians 2:6-8; Luke 6:33), convicting men of sin, judgment, and righteousness by the Word of God (John 16:8-11, 3:20), and regenerating those who believe (Deuteronomy 5:29; Ephesians 4:18 cf. Psalm 116:10; Titus 3:5; John 3:3, 5-8).
Also, if you and your fellow disciples are saved, you are indwellt by the Holy Spirit Himself. Do you all understand what that means for your life and godliness?
Too often I believe the ministry of the Holy Spirit is either completely ignored or overemphasized to the detriment of a balanced view of God.
Now, as we move past the “ologies” which teach about God, we encounter another infinitely important study called “Bibliology.”
Do you and your counselees, students, children, and friends know that every word of Scripture is perfectly inspired (I Corinthians 2:13; Matthew 5:18)? Do you believe that inspiration is the supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit by which the writers were divinely supervised in their production of Scripture and by Whom were restrained from error, guided in their choice of words, and given Divine trustworthiness while remaining consistent with the different personalities and styles?
Do they know the Bible is a clear, finished, and complete revelation entirely sufficient for Its divinely intended purpose to instruct (Psalm 119:105, 130) the believer in all matters regarding the faith, godliness, and spiritual welfare (II Timothy 2:15)?
Ignorance or disbelief in the doctrine of the Bible will completely undermine your ability to believe anything else about God. In fact, if the people God has entrusted to your care believe that even one word in the Bible is inaccurate or imperfect, there’s absolutely no reason to trust any of it.
And then there are three doctrines that apply to mankind specifically. “Anthropology” teaches us about ourselves.
Man's composition consists of a unity of both a material and an immaterial (Matthew 10:28; James 2:26). This is important to know and believe when it comes to death and eternity.
Adam’s disobedience in the garden brought spiritual, physical, and subsequently eternal death upon himself and the entire human race (Genesis 2:17; Romans 5:12-19; Revelation 20:15). Because of that, all men are sinners by state, disposition, and choice (Psalm 51:5; Jeremiah 17:9; I John 1:8; Ephesians 2:1-3). Therefore, men are alienated from God, spiritually dead, and under the penalty of eternal condemnation (John 3:18; Revelation 20:15; and Romans 5:18).
And — speaking of sin — we call the study of sin “Hamartiology.”
And as we study it with our fellow disciples — and we must study it with them — we learn that sin is any lack of conformity to the moral law and character of God, either in act, disposition or state (Romans 5:13-14, 7:22; James 4:11-12). Sin is any being, action, or disposition that is unlike God, and the commission of sin deserves eternal death in Hell (Romans 6:23).
Let me pause here to say that children — in particular — can understand this, and they must understand it. If they do not know about sin and hell and judgement, they won’t be able to believe God’s Truth about it.
Of course, a study of man and sin must inexorably lead to the study of “Soteriology,” which is the doctrine of salvation.
Do your fellow disciples understand that salvation is wholly of grace, a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9), and cannot be merited by any virtue or work of man? They must believe that the gift of salvation must be personally accepted through repentant faith, which is also a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8; Acts 11:18; II Timothy 2:25), and that it’s the only way a human can have a relationship with God (both temporal and eternal).
And though time has already failed us, I must mention the glorious truths of “Ecclesiology” (the study of the church), “Eschatology” (the doctrine of future events), and “Angelology” (the study of angelic beings — good and demonic).
To be able to believe these truths we must start by knowing them and deepening our understanding of them.
And to know them, we must study God’s Word. Every word we read in the Bible tells us something new about our God. From the historical account of Creation, through the genealogies, into the church letters, and all the way to the new Heaven and Earth, the entire Scriptures is the revelation of God.
If you want your counselees, students, friends, congregation, and children to know and believe God better — and therefore, worship Him better — you need to guide them in reading and understanding the Bible. No one can believe what they do not know.
To this point, Romans 10:14 asks these probing questions, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”
This is not an admonition for you to task your pastor with the sole responsibility of instructing your disciplees in spiritual things. This is call for us all to preach the Truth of God’s beautiful Word to the people in our lives.
Now, before I finish up today, I’d like to point you to some resources that will help you in the task of exposing your younger disciplees to the study of God.
Even if you don’t have any kids in your life, stick around for my closing comments.
If there are kids in your life, and you want to disciple them for Christ, of course you can totally pick up a systematic theology textbook and start there.
It may be a little heady for children, but it’d be awesome for you.
So, if you’re going to go that route, I recommend the theology books written by John MacArthur, Louis Berkhoff, John Frame, Millard Erickson, Charles Ryrie, and Paul Enns.
I’ll include this list in today’s episode notes. There are others as well, but you absolutely must be very picky about this. The Bible is perfect, but people have said many false things about it. You need a Systematic Theology that’s not going to lie to you about what the Bible says.
But I also want to make you aware of some amazing resources designed to teach the deep truths of God to little minds.
Natasha Crain wrote a book called “Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 conversations to help them build a lasting faith.” I highly suggest you start there. There’s so much fodder for amazing conversations with the kids in your life just in that one book. Of course, the book isn’t exhaustive on any one topic, which is why she wrote “Talking with Your Kids about God” and “Talking with Your Kids about Jesus.”
There’s also this great book called “The Ology.” My kids and I enjoyed working through that book.
Now — again — I’ve taken a lot of your time, and I need to wrap up, so let me direct you to a link in the description.
It’s called “Apologetic Parenting,” and it will take you to TruthLoveParent.com’s parenting books resource page. There you’ll be able to see all of the children’s systematic theology books that we endorse.
Now, in conclusion of our Grow Your Worship Series, I want to encourage you to take this seriously.
You are a sinner. You don’t perfectly worship God every moment of every day the way you should. In order to grow in your worship of God, you need to stop worshipping self in your actions, words, and the interpretation of your feelings.
You also need to stop worshipping self with your thoughts and desires.
And — as we learned — that means you need to address your beliefs. Instead of calling God a liar and believing lies, you need to trust God and believe what He says about Himself, His Word, and yourself.
But in order to do that, you absolutely need to expose your roots to more and more truth about God. You will never be able to believe what you don’t know.
That means that in order to worship God better, you need to believe Him more, but that means you need to know more about Him and understand more about Him so that you can believe more about Him.
This will require intense study. We can dedicate our entire lives to the study of God and never learn everything about Him. But everything new we learn and understand is something we can choose to trust. And as we have faith in it, it will impact our desires and our fruit, and we will end up worshipping God more and self less.
I pray this series has been valuable to you. I hope you’ll revisit it from time to time, and I really hope you’ll share it with your fellow disciplees.
And if the Truth.Love.Counselors can ever be of any service to you as you seek to better know, understand, and trust God, please don’t hesitate to contact them at counselor@TruthLoveParent.com or call (828) 423-0894.
I love you, and I look forward to continuing our ongoing discussion about how we can Celebrate God all year long.
To that end, on our next episode we’ll be discussing what it looks like to worship God in December.
I’ll see you then.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.