Previous article in this series: January 1, 2021, p. 156.
In our previous consideration of parents being tools in the hand of the Master Builder, we looked at the knowledge we have and the comfort we derive from knowing that it is God who builds our covenant homes and families. He establishes His covenant with His chosen people and peculiar treasure, and is pleased to continue His covenant in the line of continued generations with believers and their seed.
We also acknowledged and were humbled by the fact that the divine Builder is pleased to employ the use of parental tools in His work of establishing these Christian homes and families. In response to the God-given calling to raise our children within the sphere of the covenant, we as parents are in duty bound to see that all the children we receive from the Lord are instructed and brought up in the nurture and admonition of His Name. Through prayer and supplication, the Lord supplies us with all that is necessary to perform our parental duties. And it is our prayer that it might please Him to use us in the raising up of another generation that grows in love for Him and walks in His ways.
Who, O Lord, with Thee abiding, in thy house shall be Thy guest? Who, his feet to Zion turning, in Thy holy hill shall rest? He that ever walks uprightly, does the right without a fear, when he speaks, he speaks not lightly, but with truth and love sincere.
He that slanders not his brother, does no evil to a friend; to reproaches of another he refuses to attend. Wicked men win not his favor, but the good who fear the Lord; from his vow he will not waver, tho’ it bring him sad reward.
Freely to the needy lending, no excess he asks again; and the innocent befriending, he desires not praise of men. Doing this, and evil spurning, he shall nevermore be moved: This the man with Thee sojourning, this the man by Thee approved (Psalter #24).
This Psalter number is based on Psalm 15 and is entitled, “Tests of Christian Character.” With whom will the Lord abide? And to whom will He grant true peace and rest? The answer is clear—to those who walk uprightly. And this is our desire for our children. This is the goal of our parenting. That we, by the guiding hand of the Master Builder, might raise our children to be those of Christian character—those of whom the Lord approves. We desire to see in our children a love for the neighbor—willing to befriend the lonely and lend a hand to those who are in need; to be those who neither slander nor backbite, but rather speak the truth in love. For there is no greater joy for us as parents than to see our young people walking in truth and living as children of light in a world of darkness. Yet, we know that to raise such an offspring is no easy task. In fact, it is quite impossible of our own accord. And neither does it simply happen by chance. Rather, the instituting of a covenant home and family is done by the Master, who in His work of building is pleased to employ the use of parents as tools. Thank God that He makes us both willing and able to perform that which He commands of us. The very fact that we are godly parents in the church, seeking to raise a godly seed, is in the end the work of the Master Himself. All that we are we owe to Him. And any work that we accomplish is established by Him.
God brings us and our children into His covenant. And “whereas in all covenants there are contained two parts…” therefore, are we by God given a part (Baptism Form). What does the Lord require of us? “To do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:8). This is covenant family living. We and our children walking worthy of—and humbly with—the Lord. And this walk involves all of life. Not just some, but each and every thought, word, and deed must bring honor and glory to His Name. And in instructing our children to do so, it is important that they see us walking in the way that we desire them to go. It is of prime importance that we do so, for we are the examples that our children see each day.
Dear reader, we live in the last days. Our Lord is coming! The signs are all around us. And it could well be that, if not we ourselves, our children and/or grandchildren live during a time of great tribulation, and experience persecution like none other before for the sake of our Lord and Savior whom we worship and serve. And to think that the Lord has entrusted their instruction and preparation to us! He entrusts His children to us! The very thought is humbling indeed. Do we dare deem ourselves worthy of being used of the Lord in such a way? Are we even equipped to do so? Worthy? No. But by God’s grace—and only by His grace—we are equipped to do so.
As we instruct our children to walk in the ways of the Lord, they need to see in us what we desire to see in them. We want them to love the things we love and to care about the things we care about. And, therefore, the instruction of our children is aimed at their hearts. In adherence to the vows we take at baptism until the time they make public confession of their faith and beyond, all of our instruction is focused on or aimed at their hearts—their inner spiritual being. They need to learn who God is and what He has done. They need to learn to love and trust Him with all their heart, mind, soul and strength; to forsake the world, and crucify their old nature. They need to acknowledge the doctrine contained in the Old and New Testaments and in the Articles of the Christian faith to be the true and complete doctrine of salvation, to reject all heresies repugnant thereto, and to lead a new, godly life (Baptism Form and Questions for Public Confession of Faith). This is what they need to hear and see in us. Do we show ourselves as being the godly examples and proper role models we are called to be? Pray God that we do.
Instructing our sons we gladly record the praises, the works, the might of the Lord, for He hath commanded that what He hath done be passed in tradition from father to son (Psalter #213, stanza 2).
Building a covenant home and family involves just that—covenant family life. We find that most often the life of a covenant family is grounded in a marriage based on oneness of faith that the couple has and shares in the living God. God is first and foremost in their lives. Children need to see the love of Christ shining in and through the lives of their parents and in the relationship they have with each other and the Lord. God continues His covenant in the line of continued generations. History testifies to this fact. Many, if not most of us now active in the role of parents, have received godly instruction and upbringing ourselves, and the generations before us as well. And our homes must continue to exhibit a godly atmosphere today. This atmosphere includes all of life within the home—the conversations we have, the books we read, the music that we listen to and sing, where we look to and go to for entertainment, and so forth. Our young people are watching. Are they seeing in us what we desire to see in them? Our dinner time and family devotions ought not suffer at the hands of entertainment, work, or sports. Our homes ought to be places where our young people wish to be and often like to bring their friends. We need to be aware of where our young people go and with whom they keep company. They need to be reminded of who they are and to whom they belong. And that their friends and entertainment should be that of which their Lord and Master would approve.
Of what then does this instruction consist? I do not profess in any way to be an expert on the raising of children. Yet when we talk of covenantal instruction and the building of a covenant home, I do believe there are some basic guidelines that must be followed. We have readily available to us the only handbook needed in the Word that the Builder Himself provides. The Scripture gives an abundance of guidance to godly parents, and I share with you what I believe to be some of the fundamentals found therein. All these basics should be evident in our homes. Yet, there are Christian liberties and freedoms to be found in all these spheres, so that as parents rear their children in a way that is best suited for their family life, the application of these fundamentals may vary from one household to the next.
Discipline—“Withhold not correction from the child” (Prov. 23:13).
As much as parents desire and strive for peace and unity within the family, we know that this is not always the case. We and our children are sinners and often times stand in need of correction. Therefore, it is important that father and mother are in agreement that the instruction of their children includes discipline. Discipline must be administered in every Christian home, and that discipline should always mirror the discipline that our heavenly Father renders to His children: that is, rendering correction in love. For that is what Christian discipline is—love. And though this is true, the form of discipline that is necessary for some children might not be needed or as effective for others. For some children, discipline might come in the form of a simple but firm rebuke; for others, it might be a rebuke accompanied by the rod of correction administered to their backside; while yet for older children, the taking away of their car keys or revoking of some other privilege might be the most effective method. The simple truth of the matter is, our children need and must receive discipline.
Prayer—“But the prayer of the upright is his delight” (Prov. 15:8).
Parents must not only pray daily, but many times each day. They pray not only for the grace, guidance, and patience needed to rear their children, but they also pray for their children (starting while they are yet in the womb) and they pray with their children, bringing their needs and the needs of the whole family before God’s throne of grace. The responsibility of family prayer and devotions falls primarily upon the father. As head of the home, it is his calling to lead in family worship— both in prayer and the reading of Scripture.
Although my husband and I are well on in years, our table is still graced with children, but now only a few, and young adults at that. Sharing dinner and dinner time devotions with older children can be joyful and beneficial to all those present. In our reading of Scripture, all of us at one time or another have made the comment, “I don’t remember hearing (or reading) that before,” which can often then lead us to further discussion on the passage being read. Older children may also be given the opportunity to lead in family devotions and prayer as well. And it is very humbling as parents to hear and witness our children growing in a life of prayer.
Reading—“Blessed is he that readeth” (Rev. 1:3).
We need to encourage our young people to read good books. And we need to remember: they need to see in us what we desire to see in them. Parents, encourage your young people to read by sharing and discussing with them some of things you happen to come across in your reading. At our table, we have added discussing Rev. Cory Griess’ devotional book Preparing for Dating and Marriage to our Sunday morning devotions. I would love to encourage others with older children to do this also—if not this, then some other book or pamphlet. It is a humble encouragement for parents to hear and see their young people freely discussing their thoughts on dating, marriage, and all that this involves—marriage as God’s creation; who and what to look for in a spouse; and the importance of remaining chaste and pure—both in single life and in married life. These are topics that should and need to be discussed in our homes with our young people. We need to be encouraging them, with our words and by example, to read good, Reformed literature—including, but not limited to, RFPA books, the Standard Bearer, and Beacon Lights—being ready and willing to discuss these also, when opportunities arise.
Singing—“I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever” (Ps. 89:1).
We ought never stop singing with our children. We ought not only be singing when we are happy, but also when we are sad. Sing the songs of Zion. No matter what our lot in life may be, the Psalms (Psalter) can often speak to us in such a way that a song may arise in our hearts and soon spring forth from our lips. Singing can also be a way to pray without ceasing. Many of our children who are given the privilege to attend our own Christian schools, learn what is known as a “Song of the Week,” which has them singing both at home and at school—and possibly committing to memory—many Psalter numbers throughout the year. What a blessing we have in our schools! And our schools have a need for teachers. Are we encouraging our young people to consider this calling?
Worship—“I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord” (Ps. 122:1).
Sunday is a day set aside for worship; a day that finds the family worshiping in the Lord’s house together. Our children—young and old—belong there with us. We need to sit under the preaching together to hear and heed the instruction of our Father. He instructs, admonishes, rebukes, encourages, and strengthens us through the faithful preaching of His Word. What a blessing we have in the provision of the faithful undershepherds He has given! And there is a need for more ministers of His Word. A great need. Are we encouraging our young men to consider the call to the ministry, and to examine themselves as to whether or not they exhibit the gifts needed?
Under the lively preaching of the Word, catechetical instruction, godly rearing in the home, and the Spirit working in their hearts, our children come to spiritual knowledge and assurance of their faith prior to confessing it publicly before God and His church. Instruction, however, does not end here. All the fundamentals of instruction found in our homes must also be observed in congregational life. The church is our family. We worship together; we pray together; we read and sing together; and when need be, we admonish and rebuke one another in love. This is covenantal living. Our young people need to grow in love for God’s church and the communion of the saints. They need to learn, by word and example, to be active in the life of the congregation— to visit the elderly and shut-ins, to participate in Bible society life, and lovingly and cheerfully to give to the causes of God’s kingdom with their time and abilities as well as their monetary gifts.
As parenting tools, we need to be faithful in our work. Children and young people learn by word and example. They need to see that God and His kingdom come first in their lives. And oh, what joy for us when we see this in them—when we hear and see them making public confession of their faith—confessing His truth and vowing to lead new, godly lives. They are the future church—the church of tomorrow. What joy then—pure joy—to have them walk in truth, confess their faith, and take their place alongside us in God’s church. Joyful, yet humbling, too. The Lord is using us. We are His tools. Truly, He uses weak means. Pray that He finds us faithful in our work. Not perfect, mind you (for that can never be) but faithful—striving in every way to do that which He has commanded of us. And pray that as He continues to build, preserve, and gather His church, it might please Him to bless our work with the fruit of a godly seed.