Skip to main content

On this episode, I share my personal experience as a homeschool parent, reflecting on the importance of not losing sight of the big picture in the day-to-day of parenting. We’ll look at some key gospel principles that we may have forgotten in the midst of the busyness of raising our children. I highlight the importance of making discipleship the true goal of homeschooling and of finding our identity and significance in Christ. Even if you don’t homeschool, but you’re in the middle of your parenting years, I think that you will find this information immediately applicable.


Episode Transcript

I’m Chap Bettis, and you’re listening to The Disciple-Making Parent, where we seek to equip parents and churches to pass the gospel to their children. Have you heard of the phrase, “losing the forest for the trees?” Well, as parents, it’s easy to lose the big picture in the day-to-day. In this episode, we’re going to be reminding ourselves of some important gospel principles that you may have forgotten in the day to day.

Hi, my name is Chap Bettis, and I’m the author of The Disciple-Making Parent. And with this podcast, we kick off our new season. I’m excited for some of the episodes that will be coming your way. But in this episode particularly, I’m thinking about how busy Sharon and I were as we were raising our children. You know, we tried to keep our commitments simple, and yet, sometimes…

Well, when that happens, it’s easy to lose sight of some basic gospel truths. We know them, but we just forget them, and that’s why Peter in his letter said that he wants to teach, establish, and remind his audience of gospel truths. So for some of you these truths may be new, but for most of you I’ll simply be reminding and applying some of these gospel truths to your parenting.

This episode was a keynote talk that I recently gave at a homeschool conference in Canada. And if you’re currently homeschooling, then I think it will immediately apply to you. But even if you don’t homeschool but you’re in the middle of your parenting years, I think that you will find this information immediately applicable.

Well, before we start, though, I also want to remind you that we have a second podcast, my audio blog. It’s a short form podcast, maybe five, six, seven minutes where I read my blog posts in audio format for your convenience. So think about it: you can consume good content in a short format while on the go or doing chores: you don’t have to go back and read my blog posts. So simply search and subscribe to The Disciple-Making Parent audio blog.  Or you can go to our website and find it there. But for now, let’s think about gospel secrets that parents, and particularly homeschool parents, can easily forget.

Well, let’s spend some time thinking about gospel secrets that we forget. Let’s pray. Father in heaven, as we meet now, we open up your word. Thank you for the refreshment of sleep, a new day, and we desire to hear from you to be encouraged, to be challenged. So would you speak to us now? We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

Well, I remember 1997. That’s when we began our homeschool journey. And I remember the anxiety I felt. Which curriculum should we choose? Which activity should we prioritize? Today our children are 31, 29, 27, and 25. We have finished the homeschool journey, and that’s what it is. It’s a journey. It’s an adventure. It’s a quest. And like quests of old, it requires courage. It requires fortitude. It has great highs and great lows. Sometimes it can be exhausting, and in the middle of that, you may be asking yourself, Why am I doing this again? So I know that it’s possible in the day-to-day to become so busy educating our children that we forget why we’re doing it. And actually, we can forget what I would call gospel truths.

So this seminar is going to be different from the typical ones you hear and the ones you’ll hear the rest of the day, perhaps. It’s not going to be tips on raising our children or how to homeschool, and those things are important, and we need those. And thank you for the different seminar speakers who will be presenting those. And it won’t even be a summary of the book, The Disciple-Making Parent, which I presented last night. Instead, what I want to do is present gospel truths to bear on the most important part of your homeschooling, which is your heart. I want to just take gospel truths, identify common temptations that we as Christians face, and apply them. So in some ways you might not hear anything new, but I hope you’ll hear it in a new way.

Like I said, we homeschooled from 1997-2015, 18 years. Elementary through high school. That’s a long time. Job changes. Health issues. Our youngest son had a brain tumor at eight years old. Church tensions. There were numerous storms during those 18 years. But no matter what, Sharon and I wanted to build our home school on the gospel and that that’s the fruit that would stand. So I don’t even want to take that for granted, even in a group like this, that you understand the gospel.

This morning, I had a chance to quickly watch King Charles installed. Who is our true king? King Jesus. King Jesus was installed in heaven after he came to earth to rescue sinners, died an atoning death on the cross, was raised to new life, and is seated and ruling in heaven right now. And King Charles is under him. So I just want to encourage you, if you have never come into his kingdom, to do that today. It’s an invisible kingdom with fullness and joy, even amidst the pain. It’s now and not yet. One day the kingdom will come in fullness.

I’m assuming that you’ve trusted Christ, so here’s some truths that go along with the gospel that we believe. But sometimes, as it said in Galatians, we’re not living in line with them. So let me suggest some different gospel truths that we’re going to look at. So number one, it’s easy to forget that discipleship is the true goal of homeschooling. I talked about this last night, but I want to reiterate it this morning for those who were not here. I would suggest the foundational parenting verse for us is not Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6, as important as they are, but it’s Matthew 28:18-20 where Jesus said that we are to go and make disciples of all nations across the waters, across the street, and across our dining room table. That God gives you the precious gift of little disciples. And you get to influence this eternal soul that’s going to live forever.

And so that’s the North Star. That’s where we’re aiming. That’s when we get tossed to and fro and we’re in the storm and we’re saying, “Wait, where am I aiming?” It’s the Great Commission, the gospel. That’s that’s where I’m aiming. We parent want to based on eternity, and that’s even more important than whether we got through the spelling lesson today. So every day we make decisions about what’s important and what’s best. And every day we evaluate, was it a good day? But against what criteria? And what I want to suggest is that criteria is the gospel. What is best? There’s plenty of options in the vendor hall. I encourage you to go and support them.

But we can only have one first priority. I’ve summarized it by this way, saying, all of us have to decide whether it’s more important that our child get into heaven or Harvard. And we all have Harvards. Maybe it’s a sports Harvard. Maybe it’s an educational Harvard. And I’m not against a good education or giving our children lots of experiences. We did that, absolutely. But there can only be one first priority. In 3 John 4, John says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” So I believe that you homeschool parents might be some of God’s hardest working and most effective disciple makers. So it’s easy to forget the truth that the true goal of homeschooling is to make disciples.

What’s another? What’s another truth that I would suggest that we forget? It’s easy to forget that our identity and significance are found in Christ, not my children. In Jeremiah 9 23 the Lord says, “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom. Let not the mighty man boast in his might. Let not the rich man boast in his riches.” Let not the homeschool parent- No, sorry, “but let him who boasts boast in this: that he understands and knows me.” Though homeschooling is becoming somewhat more accepted, at least in the states, perhaps up here as well, it’s easy to feel insecurity in what we are doing. And then I think all parents, homeschool or not, we can be tempted to use our children to both bolster our own self-worth and significance.

It seems to me, especially as a younger generation, the temptation is to to breathe the air of performance-oriented parenting. If they turn out well, hey, then my life is a success. If they turn out poorly, we’re in the dumps. But tying your sense of self-worth to your child’s achievement is going to be a rocky ride. It’s going to be a rocky ride. We do not find our identity in our children. That’s actually the opposite of the gospel. We find our identity in Christ. So what do you find yourself feeling good about or insecure about? Over and over again, Paul says that we’re to boast in Christ alone. And what’s our boast? Boasting is when two sports teams are playing each other and you’re feeling unsure, is my team going to win? And you say, “Well, we have…” And then you name your sports figure. We have him. We’re going to do well. Our boast is in Christ.

One indicator might be that I’m feeling insecure about myself. A second is, I have an unusually hard time letting go. Now, I can tell you, it is hard to let go. And in fact, if I want to encourage you to have conversations, I saw someone tweet recently, which is really helpful, which goes back to the Donut Date Journal, 90 % of the conversations I’m going to have with my child are from 0 to 18. The rest of their life, I’m only going to speak 10%. And those of us who are older parents know that. It’s like, wait, we used to talk around the table and now they’re scattered in a good way. Because Psalm 27 tells us like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. We’re supposed to shoot them out. That’s God’s plan. But if our significance is in our children, we’ll have an unhealthy emotional attachment to them.

At this point, almost seven years ago, we were at a church party with some good friends who had homeschooled their children with us. And at that party, as we were having a good time as a church, their fourth born, their 13-year-old dropped dead. No cause, surrounded by parents, grandparents, friends. It was devastating. But our friends, even to this day, though grieving, still are doing remarkably well. Why? Because they held, they’re holding their children with an open hand.

On a lighter note, Sharon and I are enjoying our empty nest years. So you make your own decisions about your family, but when a couple of our sons came home and wanted to live for a year, we encouraged them to live, pay off some debt. And I basically said to them, “Mom and I are doing really well. So for you to come back, that’s actually a favor we’re doing you. Just want you to know that.” So that’s the goal. That’s the goal. That we shoot them out. So it’s easy to forget the gospel truth that our identity and significance is in Christ and not our children. Brother or sister, are you finding your identity and worth in Christ or in your children?

A third gospel truth is we cannot homeschool in the flesh, but only by the Spirit. I think that was referenced this morning is our time of worship. Let me just read a few scriptures. I know you know these if you’re a follower of Christ. And yet often what we have is my family life and then the Bible over here and we don’t connect these two. So I as I read these, I want you to think about your homeschooling. God says, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Am I keeping in step as I homeschool? Jesus said in John 15, “If you abide in me, you will bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing.” Apart from me, you cannot homeschool. “If you abide in me, you will bear much fruit.” When Jesus told us to make disciples, right beneath that is a promise. “I will be with you always.” Are we calling upon the spirit? Paul said, “I have been crucified with the flesh. I no longer live, but Christ lives within me.” Is it Christ in me who is seeking to educate my children? Paul said, “It’s by the grace of God I am what I am. I work harder than any of the other apostles. But it’s not me. It’s the grace of God in me.” Am I weak enough to see my need of grace? We don’t live by the flesh, but by the Spirit.  Some people say God will not give you more than you can handle. That’s not true. He will give you enough so that you will come to the end of your strength and then say, “Oh God, help me.” 2 Corinthians 1, “So that I will learn to rely on the Lord.”

Why do I keep emphasizing these scriptures? Because it’s so easy to forget that If God has called us to this, this is actually the Lord’s work we’re doing. He’s working through us. Why? Because He wants the glory in our lives. So when they come, and last night I pictured it, and you can think of it as a stage. Some of you are over here, and your children are young and in grammar school. And then you get over here, and I’m probably, I don’t know, I may be over there, but I think I’m about right here. And you’ve got the 31, 25, it’ll come sooner than you think. Someone says the days are long, but the years are short. And when you look and you at this point, what God wants, even in our heart is to say, God gets the glory. I messed up so many times. Praise God if there’s any fruit in their lives.

In 2001, I had just gone through a particularly hard time as a pastor. Our second church plant had not been successful. There was embarrassment and a big public mistake that hurt some people. And even as I was crying out to the Lord, a good friend put a book in my hand, The Making of a Leader by Robert Clinton. And he’d studied hundreds of godly leaders. And what he found throughout church history and in the Bible is all of them had to come to the point of brokenness where they stopped working for God and started working with God.

Do you know the difference? Sharon and I would regularly sit down, pray  on our coffee date and say, “Lord help us. Are we trying to homeschool in our own strength? Are we calling out to you? Have we been praying about this problem?” You know, if you’re not consulting our Bible and you’re not praying, is it really Christian parenting? Is it really Christian homeschooling? Non-Christians can homeschool. We need to call out to the Lord and rely on His strength. So, brother or sister, don’t put aside the resources that God has for you in the Holy Spirit and in His Word. So, don’t forget that you can’t homeschool in the flesh, but only by the Spirit. Have you been trying?

A fourth truth it’s easy to forget, especially maybe for moms. You need to hear this. You can’t do everything, but you can do what Jesus wants you to do. John 17:4 says, “On his final night, Jesus prayed this. I have brought you glory by completing the work you gave me to do.” You bring glory to the father as you complete the work he gives you to do. So our tasks have a vertical component and we’re to seek him for guidance, but that doesn’t mean that we have to do everything. Had Jesus spoken the gospel to the whole world? No. Was every leper healed? No. At the end of the day, he had done what his father wanted him to do.

Let me ask you this. Are there going to be gaps in your kids education? Were there gaps in yours? Yeah. Did you stop learning at 18? There’s going to be gaps. There’s going to be things where they go, “Oh, we never had time. I never had time to learn the guitar.” I wanted to learn the guitar. I never had time. I survived. There will be things where you just go, “Oh man, we wanted to do it. We just couldn’t do that.” There are opportunities you can’t take advantage of. You’re only one person, but you can complete the ministry assignments that the Lord gives you. You have enough time to do everything that God wants you to do.

If you study the life of Jesus, you get the sense that he balanced his time perfectly. He was purposeful with his goals and yet left margin to be interrupted. He was never hurried. Every person in front of him felt like the most important person in the world. He was perfectly at peace whether he was teaching or eating dinner at someone’s house. He’s always present and not preoccupied. Never on his phone. He was there, present. Wherever you are, be there. He kept communion with his Heavenly Father by withdrawing prayer. In other words, he he accepted his limits.

If you’re harried and bothered, you may be doing more than the Lord wants you to do. Or you may be doing it sooner than He wants you to do. Or you may be doing it in your own strength. You may be overcommitted because of your desire to just genuinely meet a need, or because you want to please people. But as a missionary friend told me, “A need does not constitute a call.” It may, or it may not. We can’t meet every need. We need to do what Jesus wants us to do. So we need to stop comparing ourselves with others. Paul says when we compare ourselves with others, we’re foolish. So, we may get good ideas, but we shouldn’t compare.

When Sharon and I were homeschooling, we were surrounded by very competent, high-achieving families. My best friend, we didn’t do this together, but we kind of tracked kids. We all had our kids right around the same time. And then all of a sudden his four children were playing the violin, all the Suzuki method. So he’s got four children and one’s right there and they’re playing the violin. And I’m like, “Are my kids falling behind? Am I a bad dad? Are we leaving our children out?” That’s that wrench, right? You feel that? And I had to remind myself and remind Sharon that it’s okay. We’re gonna be the best Bettis family we can be. And maybe there are some 5-talent families out there. We’re the 2-talent family, okay? The 2-talent guy, all he had to do was reproduce 2 talents. So we’re just gonna be faithful, 2 talents to 2 talents. You go for it if you’re a 5-talent family. Praise the Lord for you. We’re just going to be the best Bettis family we can be. So, don’t forget that you can’t do everything you want to do, but you can do what Jesus wants you to do. Am I trying to do more than he wants me to do?

A fifth truth that’s easy to forget, especially as homeschoolers, is that sin is first a problem on the inside, not the outside. As homeschoolers, we’re always asked, “What about socialization?” And indeed, we want our children to grow up knowing how to play with other children, talk with other children, enjoy. But often our response is, “Well, socialization is exactly why we’re homeschooling. We want to protect our vulnerable young children from the influences of society.”

I know of one family who started homeschooling when their 5th grader came home talking about hardcore pornography that he had seen on a fellow 5th grader’s smartphone. So I 100% agree with this concern. And yet, we need to remember that biblically, the most dangerous enemy your child faces is their own sinful heart. Each one of our children is born with a birth defect, a bad heart that’s been away from God. And while we rightly desire to protect our children from some of those corrupting influences of the world, biblically we have to accept that the first cause of sin is their sinful heart.

G. K. Chesterton was once asked to write an essay on what’s wrong with the world. A number of prominent people wrote what’s wrong with the world. And his response was “Dear sirs, I am. Sincerely, GK Chesterton.” So you were sinners by birth and by choice.

Now this can come up in really cute ways. So for example, before I like really got hold of this, even though I knew this theologically. . . So we have four children and we’re enjoying each other, doing the homeschool thing. And one day I was downstairs and I heard my third-born, who sings. And she’s upstairs, she’s small and she’s singing- I think she’s singing- “Holy, Holy, Holy.” I’m like, “Oh, I’ve got this down. I’ve got this family discipleship thing down. What’s the big deal?” So I walk up, because it’s definitely the tune of “Holy, Holy, Holy.” And I’m like, “Oh, I want to see this.” So it was before smartphones or I would have been videoing, and I look around the corner, and there she is in her mother’s high heels. Little thing in her slip and in her hands, she has fistfuls of play money. She’s not singing “Holy, Holy, Holy.” She’s singing “Money, money, money.”

Who taught her that? I didn’t teach her that. Yeah, it came from her. Similarly, my new daughter-in-law tells a story about how as a little girl, she knew she wasn’t supposed to write on the wall. Pastors, here’s a sermon illustration for you. She knew she wasn’t supposed to write on the wall. So what she did was she took down a picture, wrote on the wall, and covered it up. And she’s so proud of herself, she went and told her mom.

So what’s the point? My point is… It is funny, and it is hilarious, and it is sin. And so, let’s remember that it’s first a problem on the inside, not the outside. So, our children, related to this,  are self centered. They see themselves as the center of the universe. Jesus commands us to love God and to love others. And Augustine said, “Sin causes us to curve in on ourselves.” And our job as parents is to keep reorienting our children from being self-focused to love God and love others. We train them that way.

And you can see this. Think about the day after Christmas or day after a birthday party. What should that day be like? “Mom, I am so thankful for all the work that you put into that. I can’t believe people took time out of their schedule to come and spent their hard earned money to buy me presents. You’ve been working so hard, I’m going to give you some time by yourself, and I’m just going to go in the other room and play by myself. In fact, I’ll also write thank you notes.” Why are those days sometimes the hardest? Because yesterday, the universe was the way it should have been. Everybody was here for me. There were presents for me. All the attention was focused on me. What is that?

Augustine says “Sin causes us to curve in on ourselves.” And it’s funny. It’s cute. It’s part of parenting, but we need to realize that our children, just because of the sin nature, they’re disorganized and undisciplined without self-control. And that part of what God has called us to do is to bring control and organization. When they’re older, their room easily falls into chaos. Left by themselves, all they would eat is dessert. That’s why we get paid the big bucks as parents. I’ve said it in every session, and we’ll try and repeat it, but I think that a good way to think about things is that parenting is about affection and authority.

And as the younger generation, you guys are nailing the affection part, but you need to remember the authority part. We represent God’s authority. So our job is to bring routine, organization, discipline into their lives. Children love it, but they don’t naturally bring it that way. So yes, properly, we should have filters on computers and phones. We should be intentional about the books we read. Absolutely, absolutely. We want to have them and us think on things that are good and noble and lovely. But at the end of the day, we need to remember that our children have to get a new heart from Jesus. So don’t forget that sin is first a problem on the inside and not the outside.

A sixth truth here to remember is that we walk by faith and not fear. God has not given us 2 Timothy 1:7. “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a power and of love and of sound mind.” One of the most common commands of scripture is “fear not.” And God doesn’t roar that command. He speaks it gently over and over. Fear not. Fear not. And I want to suggest that sometimes if we dig beneath many of the actions and attitudes of us as homeschoolers, it can be fear- fear of the world’s influence, fear of lack of success, fear of what others think, fear that we’re not doing enough for my children. Am I doing enough? I don’t think I’m doing enough. I need to do more. And in many cases, fear can drive us. Outwardly we can look at peace, but inwardly fear can be like this virus on the computer, this running in the background, creating anxiety, robbing us of joy. Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble, but take heart. I have overcome the world.” We need not fear because our loving Father is in control. You can double-check your Bible, but the last time I looked, Romans 8:28 is in the Bible. That God is working all things for good. We walk by faith and not by sight. The Christian walk is by faith and not by sight. Parenting is by faith and not by sight. Homeschooling is by faith and, and not by sight. It’s easy to forget this.

Let me just stop here. One of the things that I also try and include, and if you were here last night or another seminar, you’ve heard this, but one, I feel like all the disciple-making parent is, is putting together what you and I know about the Bible with our parenting. I have this box where I think about parenting, and this box where I think about what the Bible says. So, forgive me if you were here last night or you’ve heard this before, but let me ask you, if you’re a mom, because I think this is worth the price of the whole conference here.

Ready? If you’re a mom, are you afraid of messing up your kids? Biblically, they come messed up already. So you don’t have to fear. You don’t have to fear that self-centeredness that came on the hard drive of their heart. So you did not mess them up.

Well, let’s look at a seventh truth here. We tend to forget that while you’re raising your children to maturity, God is raising you to maturity. James 1: “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds because the testing of your faith develops perseverance and perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete.” In many ways, child training is a misnomer. It’s really parent training. God gives us little ones to expose the selfishness and self righteousness of our own heart.

They’re like little sanctification machines that cause us to die to ourselves. You know, they’re shining a floodlight on just like I’m under this floodlight here. They’re shining a floodlight saying, “Mom, Dad, look at all the imperfections in your heart you didn’t know that you had.” I’ve written a resource, Parenting with Patience: Overcoming Anger in the Home. You might check it out for a friend, because I’ve met a lot of people who said, “I thought I was a pretty patient person until I started having kids.” See, those imperfections were in our heart. We just didn’t realize it. But in this process, as you’re raising them, God is saying, I’ve got more maturing for you to do. You teach them, you get taught. I want you to grow to be like my Son. And I am going to put this iron-sharpens-iron in your family together. That means a lot of repentance on your part. That means living out the gospel at home. The first and hardest place to live out the gospel is in our homes. Our spouse, if you’re married, is our nearest neighbor, and then our children.

I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve had to, after some intense fellowship with my wife, or another time, where I’ve had to look and say, “Lord, you said love is patient. Was I patient? No. Love is kind. Was I kind? No, I wasn’t kind. Love is not easily angered. Was I easily angered? Yes.” So God can work in us to mold and shape us into his image.

But one of the objections we can have in our heart is to say, “Well, I know God commands us in Ephesians 6 that our children are to honor me, but how can I expect my children to honor me since I’m also a sinner?” Honoring us is not our idea, but God’s idea. He’s the one that speaks to our children and commands them to honor us. We’re teaching what God commands. In fact, this idea is so important God enshrined it. He had ten commandments and he used one to say “Honor your parents.” We live in a day and age where that is not on anybody’s screen. We’re living in a child-centered culture. And so it’s helpful if Mom, if Dad teaches the children to honor Mom, and Mom is teaching the children to honor Dad.

And so we do this because we are a representative, an authority of God in our child’s life. We hold the office of parent. It’s an office. It’s a calling, but it’s an office. We are God’s representative.I didn’t hear this on Air Canada, but I know on airlines that are flying in the United States because of the whole, because a lot of the argument about masks, the pilot has started saying this. When he comes on and he welcomes everybody and then he says, “The flight attendants are my representatives, and follow their instructions.” And so now it’s not just a flight attendant. It is the pilot saying these things. We aren’t God, we are God’s representative in our children’s life.

And so third, God tells us under this, that as we teach them to honor us, that it will go well with them. So even as we train them to honor and obey us, it doesn’t mean that we never apologize. There are plenty of times that we do sin and rightly should apologize. And nevertheless, we want to grow, teach our children to honor us, and we too want to accept the assignments from the Lord, the trials that God’s allowed in your life as part of His plan to grow you into maturity.

And I know you’ve seen this because, if you think about the people you most respect as they get older, the people you say, “There is a weight to them. I want to be like them,” often they’ve had to go through deep storms and they’ve become like Christ. So remember, as you’re raising your children to maturity, God is raising you.

An eighth truth here is we tend to forget we can’t do it alone. And that can go both ways. One is, I appreciate and heartily endorse just the encouragement to connect with OCHEC. But in this specific application, I’m thinking about for many years, homeschoolers have had a tense relationship with the local church. But the Bible is explicit. We can’t do it alone. We need to be part of a healthy church with healthy shepherds. We need to hear the word preached. We need to be part of a worshiping community and your children do. Maybe you’re a better parent than I was, but I’m going tell you there’s sometimes around the teen years that my kids looked at me and went, I think my parents are weird. I’m not sure I want to be part of this family. But you know what? If you’re in a community with other people who are weird, it’s just kind of part of, this is what we do and they can go talk to those mentors and you have a community where they realize they’re part of something bigger. So I can’t tell you how thankful I am for spiritual aunts and uncles that helped us disciple our children. And we had input into their kids’ lives as well. So we tend to forget that we can’t do it alone.

A ninth truth here is also, we tend to forget that after the Lord, your marriage comes first. This is very important. When did you start your family? Biblically, you started your family when you got married. You didn’t start your family when you had a child. In the garden, God puts Adam and Eve, not Adam and Eve and children. Children are a welcome and temporary addition to our family. Therefore, my priority must be the Lord first, and then my spouse, and then my children. What’s hard is we’re surrounded, we live in a culture where we have child-centered families. At least in the States, everything is about the kids. Sacrificing everything about the kids. But let me tell you what’s happening. It’s like a house where there’s no maintenance along the way. Sharon and I bought a house,  or moved two years ago, and as we were looking at houses, what we realized, there are a lot of houses with deferred maintenance. In a similar way, we can defer some maintenance on our relationship for a little while, but not long. Our relationship needs continual work. And that’s why so many adults divorce after their children are in high school or grown. What happened? Well, in the busyness of young children, Mom and Dad neglected each other, focused on the children. And then when the children are gone, that’s what was the glue that was holding them together. They look at each other and go, “I’m not sure I like you. I’m not sure I want to spend the next 20 or 30 years with you.” So we need to make sure that we are keeping our marriage first. Homeschooling will test your marriage.

One of the things that we did, and I’m pretty sure we got this from a homeschool conference that really saved our marriage, was going out regularly on Mondays for a coffee date. And that pulled me in as a dad to say, “How’s my family doing? I’m leading. I’ve got demands at work. I’ve got other things going on. But I want to lead this family. How’s my family doing? What are the stresses my wife is feeling?” And that gave her a chance to remind herself she’s not alone. And we would often come out, we often would pray before we went into the coffee date. And then we would often talk about what are the stresses. We’d come out perhaps with a new character chart. And then sometimes just some family administration. When is our vacation. Now you may have one or two children and you don’t need to do that, but I’m going to tell you, as I’ve told another crowd, we had four children, one every two years. I didn’t figure out my quiver was full at three until we had the fourth. And so we were just a little crazy. And so that saved our marriage in terms of coming and talking together.

Let me just say a word here to single parents. I don’t know how you got in this situation, but the Lord does, and he has his eye on you. Just last night we looked at Timothy. Timothy grew up in a less-than-ideal home. His mother and grandmother had faith, his father was definitely not a believer. And yet, the Lord was using him as a church planter and apostolic assistant. So I just encourage you, if you’re a single parent… Watch out for the special temptation to find your adult companionship in your children. That’s a special temptation and then also easily easy to spoil them because you feel guilty. So just get around support where there’s the church or OCHEC.

A couple more.

We tend to forget character training is not in opposition to the gospel. In Proverbs 22:6, a verse that was used for family discipleship for many years is “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” One of the reasons I think in some ways that verse has fallen out of favor is because it suggests a mechanistic view of salvation. That if my Children are not walking with the Lord, I must have done something wrong. And the Bible doesn’t teach that. But having said that, that’s still a very important verse. And it goes back to the affection and authority. It realized as parents, I need to be training my children. Train, train, and retrain. Fathers are to bring up their children in the training and instruction of the word. Training is not words. Training is action. I don’t know if you’ve been influenced up here, but definitely in the States, there’s  the sense of, “I want to be a gospel parent.” And I appreciate that. We want to talk and make clear the gospel of Christ. We want to treat our children with grace and yet that doesn’t negate training them.

We want to train them again. Sharon and I did not do everything perfectly, but we want to build muscle memory. So we train them, for example, things like to stand and sing in church, to sit and color quietly during church, to greet adults with a handshake while while looking them in the eye, to sit at the dinner table with some semblance of manners. Okay, so think about it. If you don’t train them, it’s now you can’t start too early. I understand that. But if you don’t train them, for example, to say hello and shake hands with somebody, what age are you going to start? Is it 10? Is it 12? Is it 14? So, one of the ideas, God has put us in their lives to train them. And that’s not against the gospel.

One of the blessings of growing up in a Christian home is, I have been trained to go to church on Sunday. It never enters my mind. Like, I never wake up Sunday morning and think, “I wonder if I’m going to go to church today.” You just go to church. That’s what we do on Sunday morning. That’s the idea. God has given children that we inculcate their habits. That’s not in opposition to the gospel. We don’t wait for a child to profess Christ before shaping the will. So it shapes their character in a godly direction before the sin naturally shapes it in another direction.

Believe me, sin is there. It’s going to shape it in another direction. So we want to shape it towards the Lord. How much better the hope to give the Holy Spirit a character pointed in the right direction. So in your gospel parenting, don’t forget to train the character. Those are not in opposition.


Two more. We also tend to forget parenting is a marathon and not a sprint. It’s a marathon. “Therefore, since we’re surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight in the sin which clings so closely and let us run with endurance the race that’s set before us looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.”

Several years ago my daughter participated in the New York City Marathon and she introduced me to New York Marathon culture. I’d never been a part of that. So Sharon and I went down to New York City and cheered her on. But I was surprised by all the culture. First of all, just think about 26. 2 miles or 41 kilometers. Like, you’re running the whole way. All five boroughs of New York City, their hills, bridges, streets, parks. The race is set out for them and the race is set out for you. Here’s where the analogy is, some breaks down because your race is unique. God doesn’t call everybody to the same thing. So some may have a race that has many hills and valleys. Other may have a race that’s flat, just by the ocean. And you’re like, Why does she get to run on the bike path? And I have the hills and valleys? The Lord has set out your race for you. Take heart.

But not only that, running with others gives you strength. So there’s this mass of people. Some people are running in teams. And what was really cool is people had their names on the front of their whatever they were wearing. And complete strangers are yelling out encouragement. “Go Joe, you got it!” They don’t know Joe, but they’re encouraging him. So you’re running with others who need encouragement. You need encouragement. I’ll give you a tip. You want to know how you can tell if a person needs encouragement? They’re breathing. Every one of us needs encouragement. Well, the second part, just thinking about that marathon, you’re not competing with others. I’ve already mentioned this before. But except for the few people at the beginning, you’re there to do your best. Homeschooling is not a competitive sport, and yet so often we are comparing ourselves with others.

The truth is, God calls you to do your best. So let the example of others inspire you, not condemn you. I don’t have this in my notes, but one of the most moving things about that marathon was that the rest of the day- So  after you’re done with the marathon, you get a warmup or a cool down jacket, something like that. A jacket that’s part of your registration fee. And on the back it’s bright blue. It’s very prominent in that part of New York City. And on the back it says “Finisher.” So whether it’s homeschooling or just the Christian life, brother and sister, keep pressing on. We’re going to get a jacket like that. Finisher. Nobody cares the time they ran, but you and I are going to get a jacket. This is a finisher.

And lastly, related to that, don’t forget,  Christ’s power is made perfect in our weakness. Paul said of Jesus’ words to him, “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness.” I believe as homeschoolers, we need a better-developed theology of weakness. Our biggest enemy of parenting is not our weakness, but it’s our perceived strength. I can do this. I got this. No. When I’m weak, then I’m strong. When we feel our weakness, just realize there’s Christ in us who is our strength. I don’t know what your brokenness or your thorn or your frustration is, but I know you have one. All of us do. All of us are affected by sin. And that’s what a family is. One sinner marries another sinner and then has a bunch of other little sinners running around. Our own family had a number of trials throughout the 18 years of homeschooling. So we had church tension, some doctrinal issues, my youngest when he was 8 had a brain tumor. I remember my wife calling me and saying, “They sent me right to the hospital.” Thankfully after a couple of brain surgeries- there’s no such thing as a simple brain surgery, but, thankfully God blessed us that way. He’s fine. Job layoff. My wife and I had to work hard on our relationship.

I tell you all these things because sometimes I feel like the speakers on the platform project an image of perfection. And we are to aim high, but saturating the New Testament is teachings of suffering. That’s normal for the Christian life. You don’t sell a lot of books talking about weakness, talking about suffering, but I think you please Christ. So if you’re feeling weak today, you’re in a good place. And in that weakness, we can cry out to the Lord.

I want to tell you about my friend Greg, who is weak. Five children, homeschooled, beautiful wife. They have the normal struggles of a one-income homeschooling family until a few years ago. A few years ago, my friend, in a horrific accident, he backed his riding lawnmower over his son’s legs. His son is a double amputee. They’re weak. But as I’ve talked to him, they’re also strong. Their weakness has caused them to draw closer to the Lord. So if you’re in a time of weakness, don’t feel discouraged. Don’t compare yourself to others. Your path has been chosen by the Lord. When I’m weak, when I’m weak, then I’m strong.

So, remember, discipleship is the true goal of homeschooling. Your significance is found in Christ, not your children. You can’t homeschool in the flesh, but by the Spirit. You can’t do everything you want to do, but you can do what Jesus wants you to do. Sin is first a problem on the inside, not the outside. We walk by faith and not fear. God is raising you, even as you’re raising your kids. You can’t do it alone. Your marriage comes first. Keep training their character, and it’s a marathon. And finally, Christ’s power is made perfect in your weakness. It’s a great and glorious calling, but the gospel truths and the promises must be foundational to your walk.

So go today, learn skills, be encouraged. How do I do this. But know and rely on gospel truths. So, the pastor in me just wants to pray. Can we just pray, and ask God’s blessing. Father, thank you for the great and glorious gospel. And yet, as you point out in Galatians, it’s easy not to walk in line with that great and glorious gospel. And so, no doubt there are many needs in this group. And so, today, we come for a day of encouragement. May your spirit pour out encouragement and hope. And joy and skill, and challenge and exhortation for the rest of this day. Would your spirit rest upon us? We need you and we’re thankful for you. In Jesus’ name, amen.

You’ve been listening to The Disciple-Making Parent Podcast. For more information about the book, The Disciple-Making Parent visit