Parenting by Paul Tripp

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“Children are God’s possessions (see Ps.127:3) for his purpose.” (p.14)

One of my biggest fears in life is someone else raising my kids. It’s my nightmare. So facing the idea that my kids are not actually mine, but God’s is kind of weird. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to raise them but they belong to God and that is also a blessing, because if I were to completely plan and coordinate their life, I’d probably screw it up. But there are no screw-ups with Christ, so I can only pray that he makes them his own. 

“The word that the Bible uses for this intermediary position is ambassador. It really is the perfect word for what God has called parents to be and to do.” (p.14)

This is the theme of Tripp’s book. Parents should approach parenting as ambassadors of Jesus Christ to their kids. We’re called to make disciples and raising kids to follow Christ is literally doing that. 

“parenting is not first about what we want for our children or from our children, but about what God has planned to do through us in our children.” (p.15)

This is tough because I want so much for my kids. I have plans and goals for their lives. I don’t think that’s bad for parents to have hopes for their kids but we have to keep in mind that it is ultimately God’s plan that will work out. 

“the New Testament never assumes this tension. It never warns you that if you have family and you’re called to ministry that you will find yourself in a value catch-22 again and again” (p.27)

Tripp keeps cutting directly to my heart. If I don’t follow through with going into full time ministry I think it will be because of the toll it takes on my family. I’ve heard that if God is calling you, He will call you family as well. I don’t know how true that is but it makes sense. It is something to consider.  

“You could argue that the chief reason God put parents in children’s lives is so that they would know him.” (p.30)

“When your child questions the rules, don’t puff up your chest and tell him he better obey or else; talk to him about a loving Redeemer, who not only created him but shed his blood for him so that he could know and do what is right.” (p.31)

This might seem like a heavy conversation to have with your kids but honestly I can’t wait for talks like this. Kids are more resilient than people think. They can handle conversations about death and God. It’s parents that get squeamish because they don’t know jack and don’t have any real answers. 

“This grace is yours for the taking when you’re walking down the hallway and you know that you’ve just blown it.” (p.35)

Keeping God’s grace in mind is crucial as there are so many times when I just blow it. This line shows Tripp knows exactly what he’s talking about. Only parents can get this detailed about what it’s like raising kids. I’m going to mess up (hopefully not too bad). I can’t beat myself up about it every time. I do have a responsibility to do well as a parent but I also have God’s grace when (not if) I blow it. 

“God’s plan is to make his invisible grace visible to children by sending parents of grace to give grace to children who need grace. And parents who know they need grace tend to want to give grace to children who are just like them.” (p.39)

“your  children will get to know the real you. They will come to see your spiritual and character weaknesses, and if you deny these, you will embitter your children.” (p.40). 

This is kind of terrifying. It shouldn’t be surprising though, I know a lot (maybe too much) about my parents. I want to be transparent with my kids and lead by example the best I can. But this means they’ll see the real me. That’s huge motivation towards sanctification. 

“Could it be that in important parenting moments your tendency to take offense causes you to stand against your children rather than to stand with them in their struggle with sin?” (p.83)

“Here’s what parenting is: it’s unfinished people (we parents) being used of God as agents of transformation in the lives of unfinished people…he [Jesus] was willing to leave his work to unfinished people (see John 16:12-15).” (p.92)

“We’re often mad at our children, not because they have broken God’s law, but because they have gotten in the way of the law of our peace and comfort.” (p.94)

Totally guilty of this one. I find that when I’m annoyed with the kids, it’s not because they’re doing anything outright sinful, they’re just annoying me. But they’re just being babies and I can’t hold that against them. The worst part of this is that I distort “honor your father and mother” under the “sin” of annoying your father and mother. It’s not the same thing. Telling Nolan to stop doing something because it annoys me, partly includes me in the problem. Maybe I shouldn’t be so easily annoyed. Making up rules like that is provoking my child to anger. Eph. 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” It says “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” not the discipline and instruction of me. Sometimes kids are annoying, I need to just get over it. 

“Your attention needs to be not only on the behavior of your child, but more fundamentally on the condition that produces that behavior.” (p.100). 

It’s weird to me when parents are completely shocked and surprised by their children’s constant bad behavior, like they’re an entirely different person and they don’t know where this behavior is coming from. But children are exactly how parents shape them to be. Yes, they’re their own human beings but just barely. They’re a reflection of us and what we teach them and what we allow them to do. It’s trained behavior. 

“There is no greater danger in their lives than the danger they are to themselves. Why? Because they are lost, and in being lost they carry around inside them something that pulls them away from the care and protection that God has designed for them and that makes them think they can live more independently than any human being was designed to live.” (p.104) 

It’s hard for parents to see their children as lost little sinners in need of a savior. There’s a lot of denial. But it’s so important to see this truth because you need to hear the bad news for the good news to be good. Kids are dangerous to themselves in their natural sinful state. There’s an insane idea that children are born innocent and it’s the world that corrupts them and things like hate and greed are taught to them. This doesn’t make sense because it’s people who are corrupting the “innocent” little children, people who were supposedly also born innocent but then were corrupted…by other people that came before them. So where does it start? Was the a crop of people born bad and they just corrupted the next innocent generation? Anyone who promotes the “innocence of youth” has obviously never met a 2 year-old. 

“It’s important to always keep in mind that as a parent you are never just dealing with the words and actions of your children. You are always also dealing with the thing that shapes, directs, and control the behavior of your children: the heart.” (p.113).

Matthew 5 says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” This is to show the severity of sin, but there’s something else in these verses that often goes overlooked. Your eye and hand don’t cause you to sin, your heart does. And that’s what’s removed and replaced. Our children may be sinning with their eyes and their hands but it’s their heart that needs to be plucked out and transformed. 

“Your daughter is not just resisting peas; she is fighting against the exercise of authority. She is fighting being told what to do. She is buying into the destructive delusion of self-rule.” (p.113).

Nolan’s been saying this thing when he wants to do something. He’ll ask for a cookie, I’ll say now and then he’ll say, “Because I want one.” No one asked him “why?” But he’s giving reasons based on his own desires. And he’s sincere in his reasoning, because he wants it. That’s it. The delusion of self-rule tells him that if he wants something, he should get it, because he wants it. He’s God and he makes the rules. His desires shall be fulfilled. Everyone does this, only less explicitly. 

“You have not been given the right and power to exercise authority in the lives your children any way you want; the opposite is true. The authority that you have is ambassadorial authority…He [Jesus] has authority only because he represents a king who has authority.” (p116).

 “You should never let your exercise of authority be dictated by your mood.” (p.116).

“Parenting is about the heart, and parenting the heart means recognizing and dealing with the foolishness that is in the hearts of all our children.” (p.135).

“Will the heart of your child be controlled by love for the Creator (worship) or by craving something in the creation (idolatry)?…You see, a desire for even a good thing really does become a bad thing when it becomes a ruling thing.” (p.142). 

“They need you to do more than announce failure, instill guilt, attach a consequence, and walk away. If you can’t have a conversation that makes these important heart/worship connections, schedule it later. But capture these opportunities.” (p.143).

This is a goal. I don’t just want to get on to my kids and never teach them anything. Discipline moments are literally teaching moments. I hate the phrase, “because I said so.” Pretty much only God can say this. What parents usually mean when they say that is either “I don’t know why, you’re just not supposed to do it.” or “I don’t want to take the time to explain why you’re not supposed to do it.” I like when my kids ask “why.” I know right now it’s not so much a curiosity thing but rather a back-talk thing. But when they get older I still want them to ask why because as Christians we have answers to the hard questions like “Why are we here? What’s the meaning of life? What happens when we die?”

“Your kids were made for God. They weren’t just made for a good education, a good job, a good house, a good marriage, and good citizenship. These things have value, but they must not be our ultimate goals as parents. Our children were made to find life, hope, identity, and meaning in God.” (p.157). 

Speaking of asking why, Christian parents have the ultimate “why” regarding raising kids. For the glory of God. They’re his and at the same time they are a blessing to us. We get the privilege of raising these kids but they ultimately belong to God, as we all do. Having kids is literally making disciples. We’re not just trying to preserve the species, love is not just a chemical reaction in the brain that keeps the human beings procreating. It means more. 

“Every September a sad thing happens. Thousands of supposedly Christian students go off to resident universities and begin the process of forsaking the faith.” (p.163). 

Our goal for our kids is to homeschool and then college (local) by 16. Hopefully this will enable us to fortify a set of values that lasts. Ultimately God will preserve their faith. We might lose our grip but he won’t lose his. Luckily he’s holding onto us and not the other way around. 

“It’s not enough to say that your children sin. You and they must come to recognize that they are sinners.” (p.176). 

“Your job is to do everything within your power, as an instrument in the hands of the Redeemer who has employed you, to woo, encourage, call and training your children to willingly and joyfully live as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (p.184). 

“Your God-given task is not just to raise children who know what God says is right and what he says is wrong, but who also are prepared to think and live biblically. Teaching your children to think in a way that is distinctively biblical is right at the center of what God has called you to.” (p.192). 

“Don’t let a day go by without your children somehow, someway hearing the beautiful truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ once again.” (p.203). 

A good way to  do this is to read the bible and pray as a family every night. From day one, while they’re screaming and not paying attention and can’t even understand if they could pay attention, read to them and pray with them. If you do it from day one it will instill the habit for when God does open their eyes and ears. Make it so they don’t know anything different. Make it weird if the family doesn’t go to church on Sunday. Make them expect to pray before dinner. It’s up to parents to steward these little humans for the glory of God. We get the blessing and privilege. Don’t waste it.

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