Posts in Family
In the Blood

I’ve written about the positive influence parents can have on their children, giving them a spiritual “leg up” by raising them to think about the things of God. This is God’s intention for parenting, and it is both commanded and exemplified in Scripture (e.g., Deut 6:7; Ps 44:1). But while it is God’s intended order for the family, it is not our society’s norm. In fact, a certain degree of familial dysfunction is expected, and when it’s not apparent in your family, people assume you’re hiding something.

This dysfunction can have terrible consequences on the children living in it. Parents do, after all, have a foundational role to play in their children’s physical, emotional, and spiritual development. We are biological beings, created in the image of God through the invisible, biological union of our parents’ gametes. We are the product of an elaborate genetic process through which our ancestors exhert incredible influence over the color of our hair and skin, the shape of our eyes and face, and our predisposition to certain health risks. Once we enter into the world, our parents’ influence isn’t over; they begin training us to find our place in the world. They teach us to communicate, to stay clean, to do chores, and, hopefully, to be kind and loving.

But what happens if your parents are dysfunctional? Are you destined to be ruled by your “nature and nurture”? Will you one day wake up to realize you are your controlling mother or aloof father?

That’s what John Mayer wonders in his song, “In the Blood.” He asks painful questions like, “How much of my father am I destined to become?/Will I dim the lights inside me just to satisfy someone?”, and, “Does a broken home become another broken family?/Or will we be there for each other, like nobody ever could?”

What hope do you have when you begin to see yourself doing the things you watched your parents do, but swore you would never do yourself? Do you resign yourself to the cruel determinism of your biology, or can you claw your way out of your circumstances through hard work? Mayer gets to that point and asks a startling pair of questions:

“Could I change it if I wanted, can I rise above the flood?/ Will it wash out in the water, or is it always in the blood?”

His questions hold out hope for some kind of salvation: an ark to carry him on the flood that can cleanse him. Perhaps he’s grasping for something that he doesn’t consciously know he wants, or maybe Mayer is exploring Christianity. We don’t know. But what we can say is, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34).

That’s because the prophet Jeremiah looked to the day when God would make a new covenant with his people (Jeremiah 31). Under the terms of this new covenant each person would be responsible for his own sin:

“In those days they will not say again, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ “But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge. (Jeremiah 31:29–30, NASB)

If we want to break the cycle of sin in our dysfunctional families, there’s really only one way to do it. We need a clean break and fresh start. We need a new identity molded and shaped after the image of Jesus. The good news is that the covenant Jeremiah looked toward has been established through the death of Jesus. By faith in him, we come to claim a share in that covenant and experience all its benefits, including the forgiveness of our sins and the presence of his Spirit who enables us to live humbly before him. We’re no longer slaves to our flesh or the sin that claims a foothold there. It does, in a sense, “wash out in the water” (1 Peter 3:18–22; 1 Corinthians 6:11).

Come on in, John, the water’s fine.

Spiritual Upward Mobility?

J.D. Vance’s New York Times bestselling memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, is a hard-hitting and immensely practical book for those of us in pastoral ministry. Vance identifies major sources of the depression, hopelessness, and substance abuse many of the people we're trying to reach are experiencing. If we can read this book without identifying ways to communicate the gospel so that the person—the whole person: body, mind, and spirit—is changed, we’re not carrying out our mission correctly.

Hillbilly Elegy also raises interesting parallels with raising Christian kids. Throughout his story, Vance notes that his experience wasn’t all that unique. Most kids in his community had families plagued by relational instability, drug and alcohol use, incarceration, and nearly inescapable poverty. Where his experience diverged was the influence of his grandparents. He writes, “despite all of the environmental pressures from my neighborhood and community, I received a different message at home. And that just might have saved me” (60). While most kids drowned under the overwhelming brokenness around them, Mamaw and Papaw Vance taught J.D. the value of hard work and determination, which enabled him to succeed in school and life.

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J.D.’s life at home largely inoculated him against the forces at work around him. I wonder if our kids can say the same. The forces at work around them may not be as ominous as those in Middletown, Ohio, (our kids only face pressures toward unbelief, sexual promiscuity and experimentation, or irreverence). But what force is at work in our family? What message are they hearing from us? Do our kids hear about the triumph of the Lord Christ over all his foes, or the defeat of the church by the forces in the world? Is the gospel of Jesus the aroma of the home? Is the Spirit knitting us to them not only with the natural affection appropriate between parent and child, but with the love that only He can produce?

Believe it or not, the message they hear at home largely influences the way our children develop in their faith.1 “Training up a child in the way they should go” generally ensures that “when they are old they won’t depart from it.” They’ll either grow up to be as spiritually impoverished as we are, or building on the spiritual progress they make while at home, grow up to exceed us in their walk with Jesus. Is there such a thing as spiritual upward mobility?


  1. Of course, the uncomfortable reality is that J.D.’s family situation was an exception in his working-class neighborhood. Every kid isn’t born into the ideal spiritual environment either. This is where the men and women of church must become a second family, a home away from home, for children and students in spiritually impoverished homes.  ↩

The Distinctiveness of Christian Parenting

According to John Owen, parents will feel a "natural affection," (i.e., an affection that is part of their nature according to God's creative act) toward their children and work to provide for them. Owen notes that this is not unique to human beings, but they share this inner purpose with the other creatures that bear children. Elephants, frogs, clown fish (I'm looking at you Nemo), and humans all share this instinctual concern for their offspring. It is what he calls the parental "law of operation," or what we might think of as the intrinsic purpose of parenthood. Yet, human parents do have one major difference from their animalian counterparts—they are created in the image of God and are responsible to Him for their actions. Consequently, they are not merely to provide for their children as an instinctual impulse, but as a humble act of submission and obedience to the God who created them.

This turns out to be quite a problem. Since human parents are as "naturally" opposed to the rule of God in their lives as they are "naturally" inclined to care for their children, there are bound to be conflicts. We see it on the news all the time: parents murder their children, mistreat them, neglect them. Even non-Christians are repulsed at these things, it's unnatural! Sin's power is so strong in the unregenerate person that it can overrun something as deeply ingrained as the parent's instinctual impulse to care for his or her children. Owen puts a fine point on it when he writes that indwelling sin so powerfully works to disorder and suppress this instinct that some “deal with their own children as a good man would not be hired with any reward to deal with his dog” (Works of John Owen, VI, 306). 

But we can go beyond Owen's profound insights to simply note one more thing: Christian parents are the only parents who can be parents in the true sense of the word. While non-Christians feel the parental "law of operation" and provide for their children, Christian parents surpass the fulfillment of this basic impulse and see their parenting as part of their own obedience to God. The apostle Paul commands fathers "bring [their children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Eph 6:4). This command is the revealed will of God for all people, but only those who live their lives in obedience to Him can fulfill it. Therefore Christian parents who live in obedience to this command are the only parents on the face of the earth who fulfill, not only the "law of operation" intrinsic to parenthood, but also their responsibility to God as the Creator to Whom they must give an account.  

The Difficulty of Sharing the Gospel With Your Children
We tried to do an Advent devotional with the kids tonight [Em (3), Lew (1)]. Unfortunately, it was WAY over their heads. It would have been easy to give into frustration and wait for next year, in hopes they would then understand. But the truth is, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, they can never understand, no matter how old. So we prayed for wisdom, asked God to bless our efforts, and we improvised by contextualizing the message in order to accommodate them. It went something like this:

Adam and Eve didn’t listen to God. That's sin. Sin is when we don't listen to God. Because they sinned, they deserved a BIG spanking. Now, we all deserve BIG spankings too (even Mommy and Daddy)! But God, because He loves us all, promised to send His Son, Jesus, to take the spanking for them (and us). All they had to do was trust God and wait for Jesus to come.

Waiting is really hard, especially when the One you are waiting for is coming to save the WHOLE world! I want you guys to experience what it was like for them to wait like that. Here are two pieces of candy. You can have one tonight, but you will have to wait until tomorrow before you can eat the other one. That feeling you just had, the one that made you beg, that's what Adam's children felt for a LONG time. But God always tells the truth. He said He would send His Son, and He did. That's what we do when we celebrate Christmas; we celebrate the coming of God's Son. Tonight, we celebrate by waiting.

If we can't muster the courage or words to share the gospel with our children, whom we love, we will never share it with others.

FamilyDavid KakishComment
He Said/She Said Interview: The Ins & Outs of Marriage

Last month, Ash and I had the opportunity to participate in a He Said/She Said interview for our friend, Debbie Fileta, author of True Love Dates (Zondervan, 2013: http://amzn.to/1bU2wfZ). This post originally appeared on her site: http://truelovedates.com/he-saidshe-said-the-ins-outs-of-marriage/ He: David Kakish,  27 year-old male, Louisville, KY. Check out his blog (http://davekakish.wordpress.com). Follow him on Twitter @davekakish

Married to

She: Ashley Kakish, 30-year-old female, Louisville, KY. Follow her on Twitter @kakishwife

How long have you been married?

He & She Said: We’ve been married for four and a half years.

What has been your favorite thing about marriage?

He Said: Sex. Can I say that? No, just kidding. My favorite part about being married is the fact that I am hosting a perpetual slumber party with my best friend. Sometimes we will put the kids down early, pack a stash of our favorite candies and have an all-night marathon watching all the must see shows that we’ve been missing out on.

She Said: One of my favorite things about marriage is that no matter what lies ahead, I know I get to walk through it with my best friend. Some of our best moments and fondest memories have been made by just enjoying each other and enjoying life.

What has been the most unexpected part of marriage?

He Said: The most unexpected part of marriage has been how quickly time goes by. I said “I do,” blinked and it’s almost five years later. Now we have two kids, two less dogs, and we’ve moved three times; where the heck did the time go?

She Said: Everyone says marriage takes a lot of work, but it really does take a lot of work! You have to be very intentional and selfless.

What’s something you didn’t know about marriage going into it, that you wish someone would have told you?

He Said: I wish that someone would have explained to me that sex is only one (small) component of a healthy marriage relationship, and not the sun in our love solar system.

She Said: Sex will not be perfect the first time. Just like every other aspect of marriage, you have to be patient and really work at it for it to be great.

Where do the areas of conflict tend to come from in your marriage? What are your biggest problem areas?  (Meaning, what do you find yourself arguing about or stuck on).

He Said: Family- Which family do we spend Christmas with? Preferences- What if you both like the left side of the bed? And other small and relatively insignificant minutia. One of our biggest arguments was over the order of spells Dumbledore casts when fighting Voldemort in Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix. These tiny squabbles are joy thieves and typically symptoms that indicate a greater unresolved emotional issue.

She Said: Dave and I grew up in very different households. His family talks about everything, and my family is more reserved. Coming from two different backgrounds of communication has caused some conflict, and this is a challenging area for me personally, but Dave has definitely pushed me to be a more open and honest person, and I’m thankful for that.

What is the most challenging thing about being married?

He Said: As a Christian, I made a covenant to my wife on the day that we wed to fulfill my biblical role in our marriage: to love her as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25-31).  This is the most challenging part about being married because it is not a one-and-done kind of thing. “Honey, can you take out the trash?” Yep. Done. But here, I have committed to try and emulate Christ’s love toward my wife until she passes from this world into the next and enters into the loving arms of her true husband, Jesus Christ. Unless, of course, I die first, which is almost impossible because she is older than me. So…awkward…

She Said: You will not always feel like loving your spouse. When you’re engaged, you think the emotions will last forever, but marriage shows you what a sinner you are and how much you need God’s grace to help you choose to actively love and serve the other person, even when you don’t feel like it.

What attracted you to your spouse initially?

He Said: Outside of her infectious laugh and model good looks, the thing that attracted me to my wife was the fact that she was not a habitual dater.

She Said: I’m a sucker for a great beard, and my husband’s is up there with the best of them Once I was able to look past the facial hair, I remember admiring Dave’s leadership and passion for the Lord, and I definitely had a lot of respect for him for a long time, but I always thought he was too serious for me. When I started to see that he had a silly side too, I was really drawn to him.

How did you get to the point of knowing they were “the one”?

He Said: While I understand that many delay marriage until they are certain that she is “the one”, I knew Ash was the one when I decided to marry her. I made her “the one” by choosing to love her everyday of my life.

She Said: When I started to get to know Dave I knew something was different. Even as a friend, he really challenged me to think things through for myself and I liked that. After a few conversations I knew he was someone I could spend my life with. By the time we were officially dating, I was sure that he was the one.

What have you learned about yourself through marriage?

He Said: Through my marriage I have come to realize just how selfish I am.

She Said: I have definitely seen how selfish and prideful I truly am. I never thought pride was really a struggle for me until I got married. I started to notice how defensive I would get over the smallest things and that I never wanted to be wrong. Marriage has been and continues to be one of the greatest tools of refinement in my life.

What have you learned about God through marriage?

He Said: Through my marriage I have come to experience a sincere understanding of Christ’s unconditional and sustaining love for the church. Through my marriage, more specifically my failures in my marriage, I have learned the depth of God’s faithfulness to His people.

She Said: I have learned even more deeply how much God loves and adores us. He cares about the little details of our lives. He cares about who we marry and the struggles we face in marriage. When we face hardship, He cries with us. When we rejoice, He sings over us.

Looking back, is there anything you wish you would have done before you were married?

He Said: Absolutely. Looking back, I wish I would have understood the sanctity of marriage, the purpose of sex, and the futility of assuming that a relationship would satisfy my gnawing insecurities. Ultimately, I wish I would have saved myself for my wife instead of squandering my purity so rashly.

She Said: I wish I would have spent more time cultivating relationships and less time worried about when I would get married.

What advice do you give to singles who are hoping to one day be married?

He Said: Singles, you are in a place now where you live virtually unencumbered. That’s what Paul is talking about when he says, “But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided” (1 Corinthians 7:33-34). The married person has to process every decision through the vantage point of their spouse and children. But as a single, if God calls you to go, you can pick up tomorrow and leave without an afterthought. Please, don’t waste your singleness.

With that being said, I encourage you to trust in the Lord and be anxious about nothing. Find comfort in the fact that it was God who created Adam, gave him vocation, and brought him a spouse. God knows your desires, He created you. Don’t grow weary in waiting, for weariness will only lead to compromise.

She Said: One of my favorite quotes is by Jim Elliot: “Wherever you are, be all there.” You are single for such a short period of your life, and then the rest of it is spent in marriage. Build relationships, serve, learn, be content. Trust in the Lord’s sovereign plan for your life. He knows your heart and your desires, so leave those things in His hands and live the life He has called you to today.

- To see more from Debbie visit her website: http://truelovedates.com

A Month Later: Thoughts of a Grieving Father

[For those unaware, my wife Ashley recently miscarried our third child.] The last month has been incredibly trying. I have experienced this excruciating transformation from a dispassionate robot with the emotional aptitude of a brick, into a blubbering sack of sentiment. I’ve learned a few valuable lessons along the way. Mainly, crying in public is always awkward, no matter what (sorry, to all the patrons of carpe diem).

Truthfully, I started to type out a list of things that I wish people would(n’t) have said to us, but I would much rather you read this post on How to Help Bereaved Parents in Your Church  instead.

Over the course of the last month I have been asked some difficult questions:

  • Where is God in the midst of suffering?
  • Why would God allow this to happen?
  • Why did this happen to your family?
  • Do babies go to heaven?

I could paint in broad biblical strokes, but the response to these questions (at least for me) can be briefly stated in three words: I don’t know.

Typically the answer I don’t know exhibits either ignorance or weakness in one's argument. But, for the believer, ‘I don’t know’ can also be indicative of truth beyond our scope of reasoning. I’ve learned (the hard way) that if there is an infinite God large enough to be mad at for the suffering in the world, then there is also an infinite God big enough to have reasons for it that I cannot think of.[1]

The question therein is this: how can one have peace when the remedy for these crisis questions is ‘I don’t know’? If you’ll allow me, this is a bit from Calvin’s Institutes (1.2.2) that brought me great comfort this morning:

It [the mind of the believer] thus recognizes God because it knows that he governs all things; and trusts that he is its guide and protector, therefore giving itself over completely to trust in him. Because it understands him to be the Author of every good, if anything oppresses, if anything is lacking, immediately it betakes itself to his protection, waiting for help from him. Because it is persuaded that he is good and merciful, it reposes in him with perfect trust, and doubts not that in his loving-kindness a remedy will be provided for all its ills.

I thank the Lord who in His infinite wisdom saw fit to gift John Calvin with the eloquence to succinctly articulate what I've been incapable of putting into words.

Simply put: even when I don't know, I know, because I trust Him and He is good.

[1] Timothy Keller, “The Faith to Doubt Christianity” http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/08/27/the-faith-to-doubt-christianity/, Accessed 9/3/2012.

Why We Dedicate Our Children (Part 3)
ChildDedication_Logo

This is post three on our reasoning behind dedicating our children in the church. If you have missed the previous posts please click (here) for part 1, and (here) for part dos. Week Three: Our Church before Us:

By laying hands on us, our Church is not only commissioning us for the mission of making disciples in our family, but offering to assist us in it.

The last chord has been strummed, the final Amen pronounced, and yet, there is still one more thing that’s about to happen that genuinely excites me: the children get out of nursery. Like a soccer player who scored the winning goal with only seconds left on the clock, one child leads the pack, exploding through the doors with the rest of the team shortly behind him/her.

As we commence the tear down of chairs and stage, I usually find myself wrapping up XLR’s and instrument cables while looking out to see our Church family communing. Amongst the madness I spot one of my daughter leading a charge toward a potentially dangerous situation, and as quickly as the thought pops into her head, I see someone say to her, “Emma, no!” I cannot express to you how much I love that. Why? Because I know that the member who stopped her from getting hurt, even potentially, did so because they love her.

You want to know a little secret? If you want to show someone how much you care for them, love on their children. I think that’s why God has charged us, His people, to be known by our love for one another (John 13:35). By loving each other sacrificially, we not only show the outside world that we are marked by something greater than secular humanism, but we show the Lord how much we love Him by caring for His bride.

All this to say, when our Church family stands before us, as we have made our vows to the Lord in front of them, they say with their words and actions that they will help us to fulfill our vow to the Lord by loving on our children.

They can show their love for our children by:

    • Caring for and protecting our kids as one of their own.
    • Showing our kids Godliness in their words and example.
    • Taking a personal interest in the spiritual well-being of our kids.
    • Giving honest and fair reports of any infractions our little angels may have committed; a testimony we will trust and will discipline accordingly.
    • Interceding on behalf of our children.

This concludes the mini-series of blogs on why we decided to dedicate our children to the Lord. Again, we will be dedicating Lewis, our second child, on Sunday, June 24th, 5:30 PM at The Vineyard. We would love it if you would join us for this special occasion. If you would like directions, please click (here).

Why We Dedicate Our Children (Part 2)
ChildDedication_Logo

This is the second post on our reasoning behind dedicating our children. If you missed last weeks post please click (here) Week Two: Us before our Church.

By making this public declaration before our Church, we are inviting them to hold us accountable to the vows we made to the Lord.

Because we are charged not to neglect the assembly (Hebrews 10:24), it is safe to presume that the local Church is not a chore, but a gift from the Lord to make our stay here as sojourners more enjoyable. One of my favorite things about being a part of a local Church is having a family that is built, not on a genetic legacy, but on the foundation of our mutual love for Jesus Christ. It is because of our partnership in the Gospel that we work together in hopes of seeing lives transformed by the power of the Gospel.

However, teaching others to observe all that we’ve been commanded is not the extent of our calling. We must emulate the example set before us in the Holy Scriptures and continually remind one another of the truth and beauty of the hope that we have in Christ Jesus. And not only this, but push one another to take on the attitude of Christ Jesus in every aspect of our life, even our parenting. While this seems like an abstract thought, the application of this charge can be fleshed out in teaching, encouragement, admonishment, or rebuke.

They can do this by:

  • Raising their children in such a way that would set an example for us to follow (Titus 2:4).
  • Encouraging us when they see that we have managed our household well. As an Elder of a Church, it is not only my Christian duty, but a requirement of my position to show good judgement and be disciplined in the way that I raise the children that God has entrusted us with (1 Timothy 3:4-5).
  • Coming directly to us with any concerns/warnings on any deviations from our vows, and not gossiping about us or our children through the guise of a prayer request (Proverbs 16:28).
  • Rebuking us if we refuse to heed to our brother or sister’s warning. This is not a charge to rebuke us if we hold a differing opinion on a particular methodology, but only if we are clearly neglecting a Biblical command concerning the way we ought to raise our children (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Why We Dedicate Our Children

ImageI was asked to compose a brief post on the reasons behind why we dedicate our children to the Lord. However, I cannot do so without disclosing that there is no clear Biblical mandate which dictates the practice of child dedication. So in a way, to each his own. My hope then in writing this post is not to convince you of anything, but to explain to you our reasoning and intentions in choosing to take part in this sacred tradition. Again, while our rationale is not built so much on a specific Biblical imperative, it is formed around an amalgam of Biblical wisdom and simple pragmatics. What I mean is, after considering all the texts concerning children, dedicating our children is what we have decided was best for our family. The purpose of this divulgation is so that you can (I don’t know why anyone would want to) trace the thought process, foundation, and benefits of our thinking.

The train of thought behind why we decided to dedicate our children is a three-fold process, for from our perspective it involves three parties: God, us, and our Church.

While the timing of this post may appear seemingly random, it is not. On June 24th (4 Sundays from now), we will be dedicating the newest addition to the Kakish clan, Lewis David Kakish. In light of this, I will be explaining one point of our rationalization per week.

Week One: Us before God.

A child dedication is a visible act that symbolizes the reality that this child does not belong to us.

Paul tells the church in Corinth that they are not their own, but were bought at a price. For some reason, we have the tendency to assume that this truth does not apply to our offspring; we claim this ownership of them, ‘that’s my kid.’ The Scriptures tell us that children are not only a gift, but a reward from God (Psalm 127:3). But that does not suggest a transfer of ownership, rather we are stewards of these mini-mes. For us, the act of dedication involves making a vow to the Lord to train up our children in the way that they should go, not the way that we wish we would’ve went. We cannot project our visions of self-grandeur onto our progeny, but we are called to help them find God’s will for their life (even when that includes skipping college, becoming missionaries, or not marrying a doctor).

We do this by:

    • Lovingly disciplining them to show them their actions have consequences (Hebrews 12:7-11).  [for more on this, read my previous post why we spank our kids]
    • Diligently teaching them and reminding them of the truth of Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:4-8).
    • Constantly showing them, through even the mundane things, to see the beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 12:2).
    • Patiently and thoughtfully leading them to hear the voice of God (Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4).
    • Purposefully encouraging them to find their identity in the fact that they bear the image of God and not in self-worth or abilities (Romans 1:25).