With every centimeter of progress heralded by the hallway growth chart, my panic and trepidation become more deeply rooted in the reality that someday — long before I am ready, yet long after my nerves have fragmented — the circus that is my home will send its performers out into the wide open spaces of adulthood.
I have to prepare them, these four daughters of mine, to follow Jesus without my daily coaching, to discern His call to serve Him in vocations that light up their faces with an understanding of how they fit into His plan, to think critically and effectively communicate God’s heart through their actions and words.
As if this task isn’t daunting enough, I get to navigate the funhouse of potty training, bedtime (why won’t they sleep?!), sibling squabbles, schoolwork, table manners, and housework.
Of course, my newsfeed and Google are always faithfully standing by, ready to identify all that I am doing wrong, how I can do it better, and the multitude of must-have life skills and experiences that are in grave danger of slipping through the cracks.
In the midst of this whirlwind of information (and misinformation), it is easy to lose sight of the fact that the One who held the knowledge of the world in His fingerprints discipled those entrusted to Him with a message, methodology, and motivation of remarkable simplicity.
Modern Christendom has a tendency to reduce the gospel — Jesus’ good news — to “believe [in Jesus] and receive [eternal life]” and then spin off a thousand dizzying Christian principles for living. However, the cohesive theme in Jesus’ teaching was of the good news of the kingdom of God. Kingdom (Greek: basileia) refers to two things: the realm and the rule of a king.
Realm refers to the ownership of the world. The world is God’s realm. Psalm 89:11 proclaims, “The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it” (NIV). It is not Satan’s realm. Satan does not own creation; God does. So my children chant with me, “The Lord our God is the greatest King. He’s the Creator of everything.”
The battle between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan occurs in the area of ruling. While Satan does not own the realm, he does have the power to rule “in the hearts of the people and in the life of the world
. . .” through those he rules.1
When Jesus proclaimed His kingdom, He was calling people to turn the rule of every area of their lives over to God. He was saying, “The ruler of the universe has come to rule in your life. Turn away from all other demands for ownership of your life. Enter into my reign. Let me rule in the life of the world through my rule in you.”2
This is the gospel invitation to even our youngest children: Will you let Jesus be your King? Will you let Jesus teach you the ways of His kingdom in every area of your life?
We need look no further than Jesus’ teachings and the prophets’ descriptions of Jesus’ millennial reign to see a vivid vision of a life free from the influence of Satan: joy, peace, holiness, comfort, justice, knowledge, healing, freedom from oppression, the Holy Spirit poured out.
We know that we must presently suffer for the kingdom (2 Thessalonians 1:5), but Jesus taught His disciples to live in such a way that they would be evidence of God’s future kingdom.
Jesus viewed the message of the kingdom of God as being so important that after His resurrection, when He appeared to His disciples over those forty days, all we are told is that He spoke to them about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).
The kingdom of God is a gift — not just to the princess-obsessed daughters of the twenty-first century but to all of us. Let’s embrace Jesus as the embodiment of this kingdom and champion His gospel of the kingdom in our homes.
Having been a rabbi, Jesus can empathize with mothers of children who are constantly at our heels asking questions. It is a key feature central to both vocations. In fact, Jesus was likely being followed most closely by twelve teenage boys between the ages of 14 and 21.
While Jesus held formal teaching sessions with His students, much of what we observe in the Gospels shows Him as a living, breathing manifestation of Deuteronomy 6:7: “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (ESV).
Jesus’ days were not about checking off a “Pinterest-perfect” to-do list of discipleship activities. He didn’t rush from one town to the next when He was summoned. The journeys were just as important to the discipleship process as were the destinations. Every step Jesus took as He walked from one town to the next was a demonstration of the power of the kingdom of God over that corner of the realm. He talked of God’s kingdom when He sat in homes, when He walked from town to town, when He rested, and when He rose.
Even so, as parents who struggle to comprehensively prepare our children for adulthood, we are invited to embrace the journey of demonstrating and expounding upon Christ’s power as we fix breakfast, comb hair, blow noses, wipe bottoms, help with schoolwork, diffuse sibling arguments, soothe hurt feelings, wash dishes, and drag our children to bed each night.
We bring the kingdom of God with us to the library as we interact with the homeless woman by our side who patiently waits for the doors to open so that she has a warm place to sit. We bring it with us to the grocery store, to the soccer field, to the bank.
And when we fail miserably, Christ’s kingdom is made manifest in our humble confessions and His redeeming grace.
Jesus too knew that face-to-face time with His disciples was limited — that it was only a matter of time before they would no longer breathe in the dust from His feet and that their lives and spiritual lungs would soon subsist on the wind of His Spirit.
Jesus poured Himself into His disciples, aware that these men would be responsible for permeating future generations with the gospel. Jesus prepared not only them for this task but also their hearts for the reality that He would not always be with them in the flesh.
These children we are training — they will be the ones to carry the gospel to a generation beyond our time and prepare that generation to carry it to the one beyond theirs. If this is to happen, the kingdom of God cannot remain mere theory that dwells in their minds. They must walk its streets of gold from here into eternity.
That same road runs through our lives under the amazingly loud and colorful big top of parenthood, drawing us past the many intersections of the Information Superhighway, dwarfing its billboards with ones of its own that say, ”Peace, be still” as we focus our eyes on the One we call King.