A Christian Home
I am blessed to have been brought up in a Christian home by my parents. Both my parents are Christians, and from a very early age, they brought me to church. While I was raised in a small Christian and Missionary Alliance church in Toronto and even being immersed upon profession of faith at that church, I was born in a Baptist hospital in Hong Kong and my parents also dedicated me to the Lord in a small Baptist church in Hong Kong. Hence, you could say that I was predestined to become a Baptist again since I was born one (LOL–jk–more could be said here, but that’s for another blog post!)!
The interesting thing about my spiritual pilgrimage is that my dad never forced me to believe in his God. He never coerced to confess sins or to put my faith in Jesus; nor did he ever push his flavor of religion down my throat or punish me for not reading my Bible. All he did was consistently bring me to church and served the Lord in the capacity which He had gifted in for. I do not remember not being a Christian, but I do recall that it was a personal journey of faith to trust Christ as my own Lord and Savior when I was about 14. I realized that it was God who sought and found me when I turned and followed him. However, such would not have been possible if it were not for the dedication of my earthly father to bring me up in a God-saturated home and a gospel-centered church. For this, I am eternally grateful! Without my dad’s nurture and support, I would not be here at Southern Seminary pursuing my calling to be a minister of the gospel.
A Faithful Father
My spiritual journey was not always rosey though. In High School, I did not like my parents that much, nor did I look up to my dad much. In fact, from the fist-shaped holes in the walls at home and the counseling conversations I had with my pastor, there were many moments during my teen years in which I hated my parents, and reticently disliked my dad. But somehow and for some unknown reason, God decided to change that and transform my heart during my college years. I decided to stay home and commute downtown for university, and that decision to stay in town for school made all the difference for my relationship with my parents, and especially with my dad. I talked to my parents more, and they fought with each other less (well, this was probably a very slow progress if you ask my sister!). It has taken about 10 years since I was first in High School, but my relationship with my parents has changed dramatically.
I do not think my mom and my dad have changed much in these 10 years. In order for the relationship between my dad and I to heal, it was not him who needed to change, but rather it was me: I needed to change my view of my Heavenly Father, and I needed to change how I treated my dad. My earthly father is not perfect, but still I need to respect and honor him. My Heavenly Father is not just a strict judge who is vengeful for all the times I have messed up; he is also gracious and slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Despite the human flesh that covers my earthly father’s exterior, I needed to see him as an image of my Heavenly Father. I needed to respect and honor my dad as I honored my Heavenly Father. It took me almost 10 years to figure this out, but I would not be the Christian I am today without the covenant love of the LORD and I would not be the man I am today without the perseverance of my dad to be patient with Christ’s sanctifying work in me. (I am further thankful that my dad is growing in a Reformed understanding of God’s saving grace, even as I have grown in the doctrines of grace🙂 )
A Father to the Fatherless
What prompted me to write this today is my reminiscing over the fact that many you, my friends, did not grow up with an earthly father. Some because of divorce; others because your dad has passed away; and others might even have a Christian mom but an unbelieving dad. For whatever reason, God chose to raise you up in a home without a dad as the head of the house and spiritual leader, mom in turn filled that void, and you needed to help pick up the slack. I do not know exactly how that feels, but I know that this void should be filled, and God will fill it. It is not ideal, but nevertheless, we all need an earthly father figure to bring us up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
From firsthand personal experience, I am convinced that far too many of us underestimate the effect our earthly fathers have on our lives. Without the nurture and discipline of a father in our lives, our mindsets about people are detrimentally affected, often leading to incorrect and confusing beliefs about relationships, which results in inexplicable and hurtful ways of treating those we love and care about. Be that as it may, God is your Father and desires you to have spiritual a father who will nurture you in the Lord. To those who have earthly fathers and to those who are fatherless, God beckons us to seek older and wiser men who will disciple and discipline you. If you don’t have a father-figure who is deeply involved in your spiritual upbringing, I would encourage you to seek one out.
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
In Ephesians 6:1, Paul calls on children to a lifestyle of obedience to their parents. In verse 4, we would expect Paul to turn the tables around and write to the parents, but instead he writes to Fathers about how they are to treat their children. In the family that God has put us in, he desires that the father take primary responsibility in raising children. Mothers also have a responsibility in this, but as Paul under the Spirit’s inspiration focuses on fathers, we thus must understand that fathers bear the leading responsibility in ensuring the the children are brought up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
This to me is the challenge: I must make sure I am disciplined in my walk with the Lord, and seeking to follow the Lord’s instructions. If I want to pass on a spiritual heritage of faithful service to Christ — and if I want my children and grandchildren to inherit a genuine Baptist tradition — I must ensure that I am prepared to lead my children in the LORD, in his Word, in the church, for his glory. Let us then be ever thankful for the faith of our fathers, but let us also be filled with an ardor to pass on that tradition to future generations.