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Raising Disciples

As a parent, God has entrusted you with a tremendous privilege and responsibility. The Bible speaks frequently to parents offering encouragement, wisdom and instruction. Before Shannon and I had kids I remember having a conversation about how we would be different than our friends who were letting their kids drive the family’s schedule and priorities. We vowed to be different, that was until we actually had our first kid.

Click to tweet: Parents have to work hard to build a Christ-centered home and not a kid-centered home. @mattyblackwell @verge_family

We realized very quickly that there is an inertia that drives parents towards having a kid-centered home. Their noise, needs, desires, activities, homework, etc. require parents to diligently avoid being consumed by the tyranny of the urgent.

Parents have to work hard to build a Christ-centered home and not a kid-centered home, because a kid-centered home produces self-centered adults. Parents have to constantly strive to take their kids out of the center of the family and remind them that Christ is the center.

Mom and dad, you are the leaders in your home and as such you are uniquely positioned to keep your eyes fixed on God and your finger on the pulse of the family. The kids that God has entrusted to you are your primary disciples. And as their mom and dad you have the privilege, joy and responsibility to lead them.

Click to tweet: The kids that God has entrusted to you are your primary disciples. @mattyblackwell @verge_family

Check out what the bible tells parents in Deuteronomy 6:5-9,

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

Here are a few observations about disciple making for parents from these verses:

 Step 1 – “On your hearts”

Let the Word of God and the love of God be on your heart. The best discipler is a disciple. The best leader is first a follower. Your primary call as a disciple maker is to know the Word, love it, and live it. How are you doing in the areas of prayer, sharing your faith, and reading your Bible? If you don’t have a Bible reading plan click here for a free online bible reading plan. As a parent your first step in making disciples of your kids is to be a disciple.

Click to tweet: As a parent your first step in making disciples of your kids is to be a disciple. @mattyblackwell @verge_family

Step 2 – “Impress them on your children”

Parents can impress the things of God on their children through discipline and delight.


The greatest context for teaching kids comes through consistent discipline. One of the things that I’ve realized is that while I waver in my consistency in leading family devotions, our kids never waver in their need to be disciplined. The bible speaks of disciplining kids often:

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4 “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.” Proverbs 23:13–14

The purpose of discipline is to gain a hearing. Most of the time our kids are running around so fast that they don’t stop long enough to really hear what we are saying. The goal of discipline isn’t just behavioral modification but heart transformation. Through discipline we slow them down and create the opportunity to teach them the truths of repentance, grace, forgiveness, and kindness.

Click to tweet: The goal of discipline isn’t just behavioral modification but heart transformation. @mattyblackwell @verge_family

A parent’s role, especially a Father, is not to crush his children but to cultivate them. Through discipline, parents should seek to cultivate their kids so that they become self-disciplined and not continually need a wooden spoon or a timeout or jail cell to have them live rightly.


Our role as leaders in the home is to equally delight and discipline. It is not loving to delight in your kids without correcting them, just as it is not loving to discipline them without delighting in them. The bible reminds us of the joy of having kids:

“The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.” Proverbs 23:24–25 “…the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” Proverbs 3:11–12 “Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.” Proverbs 29:17 “Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the childrenof one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” Psalm 127:3-5

Parents, you are to rejoice in and delight in the blessing of your kids today, not in some future version of them. Before any parent disciplines their children, they are commanded to delight in them. This means that most of your time is spent enjoying your children, encouraging them, laughing with them, being affectionate with them, and enjoying them so that there is a deep bond of love and joy between your children and their mom and their dad. The backdrop of your discipline is delight.

Click to tweet: The backdrop of your discipline is delight. @mattyblackwell @verge_family

Step 3 – “talk about them…”

Finally mom and dad, make disciples as you go. Look for opportunities as you drive to practice, play at the park, or put the kids down to bed. Don’t let discipleship be isolated to Sundays, but let it be a natural part of your day. It’s not weird for your kids to hear you talk about what you love and are passionate about. So talk about what God is teaching you and ask them what God is teaching them.

You can’t delegate discipleship. You take the lead and look for opportunities to “talk about these things” as you go. Try to create places where your kids ask questions. Use family devotion times, serving together, going to church together and asking them what they learned as ways to have some conversations. And be patient, because most of those conversations will be short and fruitless, but there will be one every so often that is powerful and transformative.

This is the way of discipleship: patient obedience over the course of years builds a firmly rooted disciple who will bear much fruit. And that is what we are praying that our kids to become. Mom and dad, keep your heart engaged in the Word of God, delight in your kids, correct them when necessary, and look for opportunities to have fruitful conversations that lead them to Jesus.

What Does It Mean For A Husband To Love And Lead Like Jesus?

This 13 min video elaborating on Ephesians  5 provides some powerful insight into how men can lead according to God’s word.

It’s a massive call to live up to but one that is a tremendous privilege, I could not recommend strongly enough take the time to watch this video.



How Far Are You Prepared To Go To Change Lives?

Sometimes problems can seem so big that we feel we could not make any impact. The video below shows one area where God is working, and how He may be calling you to join that mission.


So what can you do to make a change?

The Aussie Challenge

Cycling 400km per day for 35 days straight around Australia to assist children in poverty. This is what the Aussie Challenge is and it starts on the 9th March. It certainly won’t be easy for Reid Anderton the rider, but he is going to give it a go!

The event is an attempt to break the record for the fastest solo supported cycle around Australia. The goal of the event is to raise funds and awareness for Eagles Wings, a small Christian aid development organisation which assists vulnerable children throughout Southern Africa, but particularly Zambia.

How can you help – go to the website [NOW CLOSED!] and consider what support you can give. Together we can achieve something significant.

One idea you may like to consider is the Simplicity Box for the 35 days of the ride live simply and save $12 per day. Perhaps you may go without a coffee or perhaps have simpler meals as a family.

Most of the kids in Eagles Wings are very happy to get 2 meals per day. Ried will be riding 400km per day let that sink in for a while that is 16hrs of riding every day!

Whist Reid does not like to have a title it may help you to know he is the Australian Director of Eagles Wings If he can put up with 35 days on the bike then perhaps it’s not too big an ask for us to skip a few luxuries for that time.



Christmas In A Cold Prison


Dietrich Bonhoeffer awoke December 25, 1943 on a hard wooden bed. It was the first of two Christmases he would spend sequestered in a Nazi prison.

This first Christmas would be celebrated in a lonely prison cell in a place called Tegel. He had been there for nine months, and he would be there for nine more until he was transferred to his final home, a Nazi concentration camp.

Bonhoeffer had hoped to be released for the holiday, but that was contingent on his personal lawyer who proved unreliable. His hope of spending Christmas with his family quickly evaporated into the cold silence, and his only connection with his parents would come through letters.

Inside Tegel

In the Tegel prison, Bonhoeffer and his 700 fellow inmates were treated as criminals irrespective of trials and verdicts. The men were underfed and verbally harassed, and frequently the warden refused to turn the lights on, adding to the dark and depressive spirit of the place. Bonhoeffer was assigned to a cell surrounded by prisoners awaiting execution. He writes about often being kept awake at night by the clanking chains of the cots as the unsettled, condemned men tossed and turned.1

But it was within this suffocating suffering that Christmas seemed to take a deeper meaning for the 37-year-old pastor-scholar. “A prison cell like this is a good analogy for Advent,” he wrote to a friend. “One waits, hopes, does this or that — ultimately negligible things — the door is locked and can only be opened from the outside.”2

Two Sides to Christmas

For Bonhoeffer, there are two sides to Christmas. There is a hopeless precursor side to Advent. Until God arrives, we have no hope for release from this imprisonment of our own sin. We are stuck and condemned, and the door is locked from the outside. We depend completely on Someone from the outside to free us.

And yet on the other side of Christmas, on the other side of the birth of Christ the King, we find suffering remains. We find freedom and hope, but the suffering is not washed away. As Martin Luther says, “God can be found only in suffering and the cross.”3 It is in the suffering of the Son of God that we find God.

From his birth in a despised manger, to his death on the cross, the Son of God suffered. Christ was acquainted with pain (Isaiah 53:3). And because Christ was familiar with it, we too are made familiar with suffering (2 Corinthians 1:5, 1 Peter 4:13).

The wisdom of God in the suffering of his Son baffles us. Christ became weak and vulnerable in order to suffer for us in his full payment of our sin (Philippians 3:9). What this means is that the child of God suffers, but not because God has withdrawn from him, but because God has drawn close. We are united to Christ and we share in his sufferings (Philippians 3:10).

A Christmas More Meaningful and Authentic

Which brings me to Bonheoffer’s Christmas letter from the Tegel prison to his parents Karl and Paula Bonhoeffer on December 17, 1943. In it he asks that they not worry or fret about their separation. He will find joy in their enjoyment of the holiday. They will feast together, and he will feast on the memories of precious Christmases past.

At one point, Bonhoeffer writes this:

Viewed from a Christian perspective, Christmas in a prison cell can, of course, hardly be considered particularly problematic. Most likely many of those here in this building will celebrate a more meaningful and authentic Christmas than in places where it is celebrated in name only.

That misery, sorrow, poverty, loneliness, helplessness, and guilt mean something quite different in the eyes of God than according to human judgment; that God turns toward the very places from which humans turn away; that Christ was born in a stable because there was no room for him in the inn — a prisoner grasps this better than others, and for him this is truly good news.

And to the extent he believes it, he knows that he has been placed within the Christian community that goes beyond the scope of all spatial and temporal limits, and the prison walls lose their significance. . . .

With great gratitude and love,

Your Dietrich4

Suffering Brings Meaning to Christmas

Ironically, we can miss this meaning of Christmas if our celebration is only wrapped up in comfortable warm fires and the fellowship of friends and family. We can miss the memory of our desperation that required the Son of God to suffer for us. We can miss the personal desperation met in the manger. And we can miss out on the fellowship of his sufferings.

As we have recently explored, Christmas and suffering are deeply interwoven themes in Scripture. Personal suffering brings deeper meaning to Christmas. And in a season of suffering, the child of God discovers that he suffers not because God has drawn away, but because God has drawn close to us convicts, drawn close through a manger, drawn closer to us than the hard prison cell walls of a cold Nazi prison.

by Tony Reinke | December 20, 2012

1 Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 8, Letters and Papers from Prison (Fortress, 2010), 343–347.
2 Ibid., 188.
3 Luther’s Works (Fortress, 1957), 31:53.
4 Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 8, Letters and Papers from Prison (Fortress, 2010), 224–226.

Daddy Dates

I take Charisse, my three year old little girl, on a date just about every Saturday morning with few exceptions. I’ve been doing this since she was about five months old and plan on doing it until Jesus takes me off of this planet.

WHY DID I START DOING IT? Two main reasons…

I desire to be a major influence in my daughter’s life.

I want her to feel like she can talk with me, even though I know there are times she will choose not to. I want for her to feel connected, loved, and special to me and the only way I can do that is by investing as much time into her as I can right now. I want her to reach her teenage years and be able to look back and see that I’ve always desired to spend quality time with her and no matter how crazy/hectic our lives were, I always made time to spend with just her.

I want to serve my wife.

Let me be very clear about this. Being a full time mother is exhausting! One of the things I see in full time mothers is that they’re almost always tired. Their job never ends, they don’t get to punch a clock and go home, they hardly ever have time to themselves, they hardly ever get to sleep in, and they hardly ever have any time to relax. Lucretia, my wife, has told me on numerous occasions that me making “daddy date day” a priority communicates to her that I love her and I value our family. Saturday morning is her morning to sleep in and to relax, read, and go to the gym.

HOW DO YOU DO IT? Before I share my hows, let me be clear that this is something that has been in the process of developing over three years. You may learn from this list, but you really need to dive in and see what works best for you and your son/daughter.

I make the time a priority. I alluded to this earlier, but dads, if you are not intentional about it then it will never happen. No father accidentally spends time with their kids. Charisse is three and a half years old right now and it is just now getting to where it isn’t really weird. Seriously dads, it is awkward to sit with a one year old at Chick-Fil-A and watch them eat. You have no idea what to talk about, you have no idea what is going on in their minds, you can’t discuss current events with them. It’s weird. But it’s really worth pushing through it because one day, when they are able to have conversations, you won’t be a stranger because you’ve always been there. I do not allow ministry conversations with others to take place. When Charisse and I are out and about and spending time together I do not allow people to corner me and begin to talk to me about the church. Let me be very clear: I am a soldier when it comes to protecting the time with my daughter and I do not ever want her to feel second place to the church (that is how pastor’s kids wind up resenting the church). I have literally had to tell people that I would love to chat with them about their question, but that this isn’t the time because I am spending time with my little girl. Does that seem rude? I’m sure it does, but I’m either going to appear rude to the people with questions or rude to my daughter. I’m way more willing to offend others than offend her! One more thing on this…we always speak to people on our date if they chat with us. Charisse loves meeting new people and even loves hearing stories about what Jesus is doing in their lives.

I do not talk on my cell phone. Dads, sitting in a restaurant booth with your kid and talking on a cell phone with someone else is not spending time with them! I let her pick the place (and the people). I will ask her where she wants to eat and if she picks it, at least 90% of the time we eat there. Sometimes we ask people to come along, but that is her decision as well. Usually, it is one of her friends with their daddy, or it is some friends of the family whom she absolutely loves. Once again, I do not schedule ministry meetings and somehow believe because I had her trapped at a restaurant while I discuss an upcoming event for two hours qualifies as time well spent. I do not play DVD’s in the car while we are on the way to our destination…we listen to the radio and sing together or we just talk.We do use the DVD player on long trips, but never to medicate ourselves by producing silence in our kid so we don’t have to strive to fulfill Deuteronomy 6:4-7! Those are just a few of the why’s and how’s that have worked for me.

I am no where near being the perfect dad; on most days I struggle in my mind with whether or not I am doing a good job. But God’s call on my life is to be a follower of him, Lucretia’s husband, Charisse’s dad, and the senior pastor of NewSpring Church – in that order. Dads – don’t waste those early years with your kids – sieze them!

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