March 2010


Four and five year olds are great. I typically do not teach that age group in our church’s Sunday morning children’s program, in large part because I’m not smart enough. To explain something to a four year old seems much more challenging than explaining it to a forty year old. It’s as if you have to translate your words on the spot into a language they can better understand, complete with exciting voice inflection and tangible illustrations. I can’t even liven up the discussion with my dry sense of humor either – at best, it’s over their heads; at worst, it scares them. All that to say that my hat is off to anyone who teaches this age group – you are geniuses.

So even though I’m terrible at teaching preschoolers, I had a last minute opportunity to do so this past Sunday. The subject matter was Palm Sunday and Good Friday, and the main point was “Christ died for you” from Romans 5:8. Of course, the logical question on such a matter is, “Why?” I’m not sure preschoolers ask that “why” question, but simply knowing the fact of Jesus’ death and that it was “for me” is not sufficient. So at that point I tried to introduce the reality of sin – that we have all rebelled against God and are his enemies. This would lead to the fact that God’s wrath is justly on us, and we deserve the judgment of God on our sins, which is death. The hope then is to point them to the cross as the place where Jesus died in our place, taking the penalty for sin so that we might be saved from God’s wrath through faith in Christ. Of course, I need to explain all of this in a way that a child can understand.

So I began with the question, “Have you ever done anything wrong?” If you’ve never asked a room full of preschoolers that question, you have to try it. I’m not sure if they fall into a herd-mentality and just follow the lead of one individual or if they all truly agree, but the vast majority of children sitting crossed leg in that classroom said they had never done anything wrong. Nothing. I tried to press them a little because I have a three-year-old: “Maybe you’ve disobeyed your parents or been mean to your brother or sister….” One girl raised her hand – finally, a child who understands. “My brother is mean to me sometimes.” “Are you ever mean to him?” I asked. She shook her head no. I love preschoolers.

I love them, but the lesson, in many ways, was over. I continued to talk about who Jesus was and the fact that he had died on the cross, but the crucifixion makes little sense apart from the reality of being a sinner under God’s wrath. I can teach that Jesus was the ultimate example of love, giving his life for us so that we would follow him laying down our lives for others, all of which is true. And I can lay the ground work for them to understand the depth of the message of the cross as they grow in wisdom and knowledge. But unless I talk of Christ as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, “Christ died for us” loses its true depth of meaning. His death becomes unnecessary when it is infinitely necessary if we are to be rescued and restored.

I hope this doesn’t sound like a rant against teaching preschoolers about the death and resurrection of Jesus or anything deep. I talk to my own daughter about these things, and I firmly believe that God can open the mind and heart of a child to receive the truth of the gospel and be transformed by it. But that class was a reminder to me that a deep understanding of our sin before God is absolutely necessary for a correct understanding of the cross. To hold onto any self-righteousness is to not fully embrace salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. So my prayer, in love, is that God continues to open the eyes of these beautiful children to understand how sinful they are, so that they might fully and clearly see the depth of God’s love and the beauty of the cross. To see sin for what it really is, beyond just a mistake or a character flaw, is a work of God, and to then embrace the foolishness of the cross is a work of the Spirit – at any age.

The most significant relationships in my life are my relationship with my wife and the relationships I have with each of my children. They are significant because of their depth, but also because of the God-given responsibility tied to each of them. As a husband, I am called to love my wife as Christ has loved His Bride and to wash her with the water of the Word, so that I might present her to Christ as pure and spotless (Eph. 5:25-27). And as a father, I am called to bring my children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4); to put before them the mighty deeds of God and point them to Jesus. Beyond my own personal responsibility to my family, as a pastor I am called to be a godly example in these realms and to call husbands and fathers to rise to the challenge given us in Scripture. There is joy but also soberness tied to all of these roles in my life, and I am constantly seeking to grow in my understanding of God’s calling on my life as a man.

I recently read through Mark Driscoll’s
Pastor Dad with a member of our church and found it to be a good resource in reminding me of these responsibilities I have been given, calling me to something beyond “surviving” fatherhood. For those familiar with Driscoll’s preaching style, the book follows the same vein of blunt and pithy commentary centered on God’s Word, which makes sense, given that it is the edited transcript of a message he preached at his church. The way he teaches is not for everyone, but I usually appreciate a timely bare-knuckled gut check, and Driscoll consistently delivers that. His almost patented rebuke of young men is also present and needed. And while he leaves little room for argument, his words provide significant fodder for discussion and much encouragement towards godly fatherhood.

As I reflect on Pastor Dad, which can easily be read in one or two sittings, certain encouragements that I needed come immediately to mind:

  • Focus on the future. Scripture points us as fathers to think beyond on own children to our grandchildren, and calls us to be an example in the present so that future generations will worship the God we do. My focus is often on getting through each day, or maybe the week, but I am called to consider how what I do now will cause my grandchildren to love Jesus.
  • Read and Memorize the Proverbs. Of the Scriptures cited in this small book, I’d estimate that 90% of them are from the book of Proverbs, and there is so much wisdom to be found there! I am encouraged afresh to read and memorize portions of this book of wisdom.
  • Delight in and Enjoy Your Kids. This is the lesson that rings most clearly in my ears. Before I can correct, protect, or lead my children, I must first find joy in them. I learned during the summer that I was a camp counselor that my personality will most often err on the side of discipline rather than grace. There is certainly a place for correction, and the book is clear on that, but I recognized in reading this book that I need to intentionally enjoy the time I spend with my kids. They are a blessing, not a burden, and I need to cultivate a spirit of joy and laughter in my home.
  • Bear the Name of Father Well. Driscoll sums this up well: “One of the highest compliments anyone has ever paid me came from my daughter Ashley, who at the age of four told me, ‘I’m very lucky to have two daddies. You are my daddy and God is my daddy.’ When she said that, I was struck by the incredible privilege of sharing the very honorable title of ‘father’ with God in the mind of my little girl. When God shares his name with us, it is a sacred matter that we must take very seriously.”

So read it online or print the pdf or order a copy and be challenged by this short book. May we fathers who name the name of Christ represent our heavenly Father well in the way we lead our families.