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Redeemer Bible Church
Unreserved Accountability to Christ. Undeserved Acceptance from Christ.
The Christian Home, Lecture Sixteen: The Goal of Parenting Selected Scriptures Introduction Last time we were together, we began our discussion of Christian parenting with an examination of the nature of sin. The reason why we spent an entire lecture developing the doctrine of sin has to do with the fact that when we take home that bundle of joy from the hospital, we are in reality also taking home with us a person who is a sinner by virtue of his or her connection with Adam in the fall. This is the kind of person that God commands us to “bring up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). More than that, we noted that it is not enough for us simply to acknowledge that the wicked go astray from the womb, but that we must understand the nature of this wickedness in order to follow the Lord’s command. We need to know more fully the condition of our children if we as parents are to be effective instruments for reversing it. In this vain, we developed two main points: first, that sin is an issue of the heart. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.” And we learn in Matt 12:34 that the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. At the very least this means that the task of Christian parenting is to help our children see their hearts, to see why it is they behave the way they do, so that we can show them their helplessness and point them to the savior of sinners, Jesus Christ. The second point is this: at its essence, sin is idolatry. In our sinful condition, we are not neutral. To be born in sin is to be born idolaters. We are worshipping creatures. We either worship the true and living God or we worship idols. We exchange the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures (Rom 1:25). In this connection, we suggested last time that at the very least this means that the task of Christian parenting is to help our children to see how their behaviors represent offerings on the altars of the false gods of their own imaginations, so that we can show them just how vile and how vain such devotion is in light of the majesty and power of the true and living God who mercifully calls them to repentance. After developing the doctrine of sin along these lines, I also mentioned that the truth about sin ought to inform the goals and the methods of our parenting. We have seen so far that it will mean that we help our children to see their hearts before God—their sinful idolatrous hearts—so that we can point them to Christ. And although this begins somewhat

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to get at a clearer explanation of those goals and methods, this morning, I’d like to begin today to make them more explicit. The Ultimate Goal Turn with me in your Bibles to Eph 6:4: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Here is our duty as parents set forth in summary fashion. We are to bring up our kids in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Our job as parents is to bring our children to the place where they are in subjection to the Lord. The idea is that they would yield to his discipline and heed his instruction, that they would submit to his training, and take seriously his warnings. I would put it like this: we need to bring our children to the place where they love the discipline and instruction of the Lord because they love the Lord who disciplines and instructs them. Now although I’m sure you’re wondering what the discipline and instruction of the Lord looks like for our children, for now I want you to focus on the overarching aim; namely, that parents have been given the responsibility to bring their children to the point that they willingly yield themselves to the Lord’s discipline and joyfully heed the Lord’s instruction. At this point, then, let’s pause to ask a question: what kind of person willingly yields him- or herself to the discipline of the Lord and heeds the Lord’s instruction? Well, to answer it, let’s back up to the idea that in their sin, our children are irresistibly inclined toward idolatry rather than the worship of the Christian God. This being the case, Eph 6:4 is saying that we are to direct our children away from the altars of false gods to the posture of accepting the discipline and instruction of the God they currently hate. Very basically, then, it seems fair to say that the only kind of person who would be willing to accept the Christian God’s discipline and instruction is the person who is a true worshipper of that God. Idolaters by definition are those who resist the restraining influences and sober warnings of gods other than their own. So then, our calling as parents is to turn our children from the worship of other gods to the worship of the true and living God. Psalm 78:5-7 puts it this way,
For He established a testimony in Jacob And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers That they should teach them to their children, That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, That they may arise and tell them to their children, That they should put their confidence in God And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments.

Only if our children are worshippers of the true and living God will they at all be inclined to subject themselves to the discipline and to give attention to the instruction of the Lord. The goal of our parenting is to bring our children into a vital relationship of worship with God the Father through his Son in the power of his Spirit.

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How, now, do we go about this task? First, we begin by acknowledging that we cannot perform such a miracle. Last time I said that although parents are the main instruments the Lord uses to bring their kids to the worship of God, God himself and God alone can change the leopard’s spots, can remove and replace stony hearts with fleshy ones, can open blind eyes, can raise the spiritually dead. Only God can make true worshippers of false ones. Turn over to John 4:20-24:
Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." 21 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 "You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

Notice especially v 23: the Father seeks such people (true worshippers) to be his worshippers. The verb translated seeks is a present tense verb, indicating the continual nature of the father’s seeking. The idea is that the father is constantly seeking true (or genuine) worshippers. Now this should not be understood to mean that that there are people who already worship God truly. What this means is that God seeks people in order to make them true worshippers. For to God, to seek is to save. Luke 19:10 involves the son on this seeking mission, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” And from the perspective of John’s gospel, it is always and only God who takes the initiative in our salvation.1 All this is to say that there is absolutely nothing in us as parents that can change the hearts of our children. Ultimately, they are in the Lord’s hands. And yet, rather than give us a defeatist attitude toward parenting task, this knowledge instead ought to strengthen our resolve to perform it to the glory of God. In other words, we cannot forget that though God alone can make anyone a true worshipper, he has chosen us parents as his primary instruments for bringing this to pass in the life of our children. So the logic runs something like this: Only God can change our children’s hearts. God has chosen to use us as his tools for changing our children’s hearts. Therefore we can be confident that if our children are to be changed, it will come about through God’s appointed means. So the first thing we need to recognize is that only God can bring about the change of heart our children need in order to be his true worshippers. At the same time, he has ordained Christian parents as the prime instruments for bringing about such a change. What, then, is our role in this process? The answer to this question is the second part of the answer to our question about how we fulfill the task of Eph 6:4. Seeing the Lord If worship of the true and living God is the goal of our parenting, then it seems fair that we parents need faithfully to let our children see Jesus Christ as he really is. We need
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See 3:16; 6:37, 39, 44, 65; 15:16.

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to be parents who ooze and bleed Jesus in every way. I say this because once a person sees Jesus, I mean, really sees him, that person cannot help but be drawn to him in worship. Jesus is so spectacular that he makes every idol pale in comparison. Turn with me in your Bibles to 1 Kgs 18:20-39.
So Ahab sent a message among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah came near to all the people and said, "How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him." But the people did not answer him a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, "I alone am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baal's prophets are 450 men. 23 "Now let them give us two oxen; and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other ox and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire under it. 24 "Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, He is God." And all the people said, "That is a good idea." 25 So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, "Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it." 26 Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, "O Baal, answer us." But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made. 27 It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, "Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened." 28 So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. 29 When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention. 30 Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come near to me." So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD which had been torn down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, "Israel shall be your name." 32 So with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he made a trench around the altar, large enough to hold two measures of seed. 33 Then he arranged the wood and cut the ox in pieces and laid it on the wood. 34 And he said, "Fill four pitchers with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood." And he said, "Do it a second time," and they did it a second time. And he said, "Do it a third time," and they did it a third time. 35 The water flowed around the altar and he also filled the trench with water. 36 At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, "O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. 37 "Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again." 38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, "The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God."

Does this need much explanation? Do you have goose bumps? I know I do. Now then, if Jesus is right in saying that he who has seen him has seen the father (John 14:9)— and, of course, he is—then how much more than seeing the events of 1 Kings 18 will seeing
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Jesus bring our children to their faces in worship of the true and living God? How much more will seeing Jesus drive them away from the idols of their hearts and toward himself in ceaseless praise? I hasten to add here that, as you know, even after we become Christians we continue to battle the idols of our hearts, struggling to be like Moses who considered the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt and who refused to continue in the passing pleasures of sin in favor of God’s reward. So the goal of our parenting must never be to see our kids “saved.” If you think that because your son or daughter prayed for Jesus to save him or her one evening before bed, your task is over, think again! Consider your own condition. Has entering into a saving relationship with God through Christ meant the end of the need for the cultivation of your heart for worship? Of course, not. As believers, as those who have been “saved” we need to encourage one another daily so that we do not become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. The same is true for our children. They need to see Jesus not simply so as to get “saved,” but so as to worship Jesus all their days. And they need their parents to help them to see that Jesus is better than anything or anyone else. Jesus is better. Now then, how do we do this? How do we help our children to see that Jesus is indeed better? Well, we begin with ourselves. Christian mom and dad, do you see yourself as still inclined toward idolatry? Maybe you don’t think you are. If you don’t think so, you could have one of two problems: first, you could be deceived; for the Bible says that “if we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). You are deceiving yourself if you do not see yourself as a transformed idolater who struggles daily with offering his or her worship to the God who truly deserves it. Second, maybe you don’t think of yourself as still inclined toward idolatry in the sense that you can’t pin down precisely what your idols are. This condition, though problematic, is certainly much better than the first; for at least it acknowledges the reality that you fall in and out of idolatry. How, then, do you begin the process of excavating the idols of your heart? Without going into too much detail here,2 let me offer you this advice. Pray that the Lord would give you insight into your various idolatries. He does not want you bowing down to anything or anyone other than himself, so you can know that as you earnestly seek his face in this matter, he will give you the insight you need in order to dash those idols to pieces. In addition, I would call on you to ask yourselves two questions in the presence of God. First, What must I have so much that I am willing to sin to get it? Is it a good reputation, is it acclaim, is it approval, is it affirmation, is it comfort, is it the appreciation of others, is it a certain kind of spouse? There are so many possibilities. Nevertheless, our answers to this question can help us to unearth what we are exchanging for the glory of God.

I have developed this in much more detail in a sermon entitled, “The Superiority of Yahweh, Part Three” (2004). It is available through the media ministry of Redeemer Bible Church.

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The second question is this: “What gives me greater joy than God himself?” Though this is closely related to the first question, it works in tandem with the first to ferret out whatever it is we are raising up in place of God in our hearts. In addition to asking ourselves these questions, we must remember that the only way of truly overcoming idolatry is to see God as he really is. So along with probing questions, we need to spend time in prayer and meditation on God’s word so that we can see more and more of the excellence of the savior. The more of him we see, the less inclined toward idolatry we will become. Furthermore, the more of the Lord our children see in us the less inclined toward idolatry they will become. This is why leading our children away from their idolatry and toward the Lord involves first a heart of devotion to the Lord on the part of us parents. So then, we need to show our kids just how great God really is, how deserving he is of our worship, and how the promises of the idols are utterly vain. And although we begin doing this by cultivating in ourselves a heart of worship, we must also be proactive in communicating it to our children explicitly in words and deeds. Seeing the Lord in the Word of God To do this, we need to be sure that work diligently to wash our children’s minds with the word of God. Turn to Deut 6:4-7.
Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5 "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons 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 up.

If we are going to love the Lord with all our heart and all our soul and all our might, then we need to be careful to observe his ordinances, his commands. His commands need to be on our hearts (this is what I have said so far), but more than that we need to follow the command of v 7: You shall teach them diligently to your sons 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 up. Now when we think about diligently teaching our children the commandments of the Lord, we may be tempted to imagine a classroom complete with blackboard (or whiteboard), desks, pens, pencils, and Bibles. But the idea here in Deuteronomy 6 does not abstract this kind of diligent teaching from the context of a vibrant relationship with our children. In order to be commanded to teach the statutes of the Lord to our sons when we sit in our houses and when we walk by the way and when we lie down and when we rise up necessitates that we have times with our children in which we sit and talk and walk and talk and lie down and talk and rise up and talk. Such a command assumes that these
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commandments will be conferred upon the next generation not in some cold and academic way, but in the warm and loving context of life in the home. Many people ask me, “What do you and your wife, Gayle, do with your kids?” as if to look for a formula for their religious instruction. Now although it is true that there are settings in which our children receive formal religious instruction both in the home and in the church, this does not represent the bulk of how we are working to show them the God of Scripture. The way our children are going to receive the word of God, and therefore are going to move from God-haters to God-lovers is to have the truth imparted in real-life situations and other natural family contexts. And the Lord is faithful to provide all of us with many, many windows of opportunity to teach our children about the Lord that never could be planned. But please don’t take this to mean that we should not have any formal times of instruction; Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6 seem to suggest that we should. At our house we engage in three main formal times of instruction. First, we daily read and explain the Bible to our kids, something we have done since our oldest was very small. Second, in the evening after mealtime, we work through various kinds of children’s catechisms in order to give them a framework for understanding the Scriptures they are ingesting on a daily basis. And third, every Saturday night, we have what we call “Family Worship” in which we have a mini worship service to prepare our kids for the Lord’s Day. During Family Worship, we also take turns praying that the Lord would soften our hearts and allow us genuinely to engage with him on Sunday. I cannot begin to tell you how many awesome conversations with our children have developed from these formal times of worship and instruction. Here are a few examples. But before I share them I’d like to say two things. First, these do not represent all our interactions with our children. Like you, we have dropped the ball numerous times. Second, please do not speak to our children about these conversations, as we would not want either to see them embarrassed or puffed up with pride. Well, one Saturday night we had finished singing the lyrics “I need you precious Jesus, for I am full of sin” during family worship. Zoë repeated the lyrics to herself out loud. And then the tears came and the confession of some pent up guilt.
“I’m scared mom, because the other day I opened the scissors near my face and cut my hair.” “What are you talking about Zoë? Did you cut yourself or something?” “It was an accident. I cut my hair.” Then I said, “No, I don’t think so, Zoë? If that were so, why would you be crying like this? Were you being sneaky? Are you lying about it being an accident?” The tears and loud sobbing burst out again. “Yes, I’m lying. I feel so guilty!” she wailed. “Well, your guilt over your sneakiness doesn’t make you happy, does it, Zoë?” “No!” she continued to sob.

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“Were you trying sneakily to cut your hair because you knew it was disobedient?” “Yes,” she whimpered. “Did you confess your sins to the Lord?” “Yes, I did right away.” “Well then, it’s all over now. You are forgiven by the Lord and we forgive you. Do see how lying and hiding your sin will only bring you misery and guilt. Sneakiness can be like a little seed of wickedness in your heart that can grow and grow to be an ugly monster. And the more you lie, the less it will bother you. Now you feel so burdened by your sin, but if you continue to practice hiding it and deceive us, after a while your heart will become hardened to it. You keep putting off your lying, sweetheart. And remember we love you very much.”

A second example comes from the time when we were reading through Leviticus to our children. This we found to be very influential on our kids. At one point we were reading about how God required utensils and dishes to be made of gold to be used only for the temple service. The items were to be holy to the Lord. So we talked of the details and layout of the traveling temple and the priests garments. And then came Noah’s words of amazement, “Boy, the Lord really is holy, isn’t he?” My final example is from around the summer of 2002, before we moved here to Minnesota. Gayle was struggling to keep my two-and-a-half year old daughter with Noah and Zoë during the reading time since she was little and sometimes difficult to keep quiet and still. We had finished reading in the Old Testament about how God had told the Hebrews to kill all of the inhabitants of a certain city—even the babies. Then Joy asked very seriously, “Is Jesus going to kill me?” All that time we had been thinking that perhaps she wasn’t getting much out of the Bible reading time except exercise in self control, but we learned that she was listening and engaging the Scriptures, even though her conclusion was wrong. And yet with all the benefits of reading and singing and praying together formally, as I’ve suggested, this represents the tip of the iceberg when it comes to imparting the truth of God to our children. If this is all we do, the truth easily becomes a monstrosity, a dead, cold, concept or philosophical framework that can be divorced entirely from the stuff of real life. Opportunities to teach the whole counsel of God to our children come from conflicts they have with mom and dad, conflicts with their siblings, conflicts at church, conflicts at school. Opportunities come from their disappointments both individual and familial. Opportunities come from family adventures, activities and events, reading books and poems, watching movies and television, and visiting museums. One night, for example, Noah was talking with his mom about all sorts of things. And when he gets talking, he can talk up a storm. Gayle was concerned that he would get to bed too late if he didn’t quiet down and go to sleep, but she was also concerned not to give him the impression that she was not interested in his world. So she decided to keep listening as he talked when suddenly an opportunity for instruction presented itself.

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“Mom, something made me upset to day.” He began to well up and talk softly and hurriedly. “It was buddy day. We got third grade buddies. I felt like my buddy didn’t like getting me--like he was mad that he got me. He asked me if I was nervous or something. I just felt upset. I wish I didn’t go to school because then I wouldn’t feel upset.” “Did he say he was mad?” I asked him. “No.” “Well, then, maybe it wasn’t that the boy didn’t like you. Maybe he was nervous himself. I get nervous when I first meet people and I don’t know what to talk about with them. Who knows? Maybe he just had a bad day, or maybe his parents are divorced and he’s real sad.” “Oh, I hope I didn’t make him feel like I didn’t like him. I would never want anyone to feel like I didn’t like them.” “Maybe you can try to be a blessing to him and think about encouraging him and maybe even being a friend. Then you won’t be so nervous about how he feels about you.” “Yeah, I just hope I didn’t make him feel like I didn’t like him. Maybe his Dad doesn’t talk to him a lot like my Dad does.” “Do you want to pray for him, Noah?” “Yeah.”

Opportunities like this abound. We need to remember that because the Lord is the Lord of everything, and that he is the sovereign of every situation, there is not a single event or time or place that can ever be legitimately divorced from the one on whom such events and times and places depends, the living and risen son of God. Opportunities for instruction are everywhere. Seeing the Lord in the Church And in addition to the instruction about the Lord that comes from our mouths is the instruction that comes from our church. Parents should take advantage of the gifts of the believing community. He has provided our congregation with gifted teachers of children, men and women who love kids and imparting God’s word to them. Be faithful to enroll your children in Sunday School and involve them in Awana. And though things like Sunday School and Awana should never be seen as substitutes for the religious education that ought to be given by parents, they should be seen for what they are: awesome supplements to what you’re doing at home. I also strongly encourage you to be faithful to have your children, even your young ones worship with you on Wednesdays and Sundays. At prayer meeting our children have been praying with us since they were around five years old. I cannot even begin to estimate the value of having my son and daughters pray with other godly men and women along with their parents on a weekly basis. And don’t be afraid to bring your kids into our 10:30 fellowship of worship. Don’t think that they will not gain anything from the service because it is not geared to them. And I tell you not to think this for two reasons: first, there are aspects of our service that are geared to children.

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Though it is common in our circles to hear complaints about singing simple songs during the public worship, what of the many kids, age four and older, who participate in our worship? Is it theologically superficial to sing “I Love You, Lord”? I think not. In addition, I routinely include answers to catechism questions and other tidbits in my sermons just for my kiddies. I should also add that when we are faithful to instruct our children at home in formal and informal ways, the messages begin to make more and more sense to them. I recall not to long ago my oldest telling me with much excitement that he was beginning to understand what I say in the sermons more and more. Now the second reason I tell you not to think that your kids gain anything of value from the service because it is not by and large geared toward them is because what they gain from attending public worship with their parents is much more than the content of the service itself. They observe you offering worship to your God—they see your joy or ebullience or enthusiasm or sadness or gratitude or love—they see it all. And when they see that, they see how much your God means to you. Can the benefits of this be measured? And just as the formal instruction of home pales in comparison to the informal instruction of the home, the informal instruction of the believing community is the same. Our kids have the opportunity to have ten times as many brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers and grandfathers and grandmothers. When I see Noah or Zoë or Joy talking with such seasoned saints as Jim and Betty “Grandma” Cooper, Pastor Doug and Ann, or Pastor Don and Marlene, or Lowell and Audrey Frost, what are they learning? Perhaps a better question is, What aren’t they learning? Can we estimate the benefit of having our children know what its like to walk with Christ for 30 or 40 or 50 years and still be filled with zeal and love and gratitude for the Savior’s love? Or how about visiting missionaries, the testimonies of candidates for baptism, videos depicting the plight of the poor receiving aid from organizations like Union Gospel Mission? In fact, right after seeing the DVD from Union Gospel Mission, Noah told my wife that instead of being a comic book artist perhaps he could be involved in work like they do at UGM. I could go on and on. The church is the only institution of God that has been given the keys of the kingdom of heaven and our kids need to be active participants in it. The church is the household of God, the pillar and support of the truth. The more we expose our kids to the truth on display in the church, the more they will see just how great Jesus is and how worthy and deserving he is of our worship. So then, the point here has been that if we are going to show our children Jesus Christ, we need to be sure to wash their minds in the word of God, which needs to take place both formally and informally in the family and in the church. Next time, we will continue our discussion with other ways in which we may show Jesus to our children.

Redeemer Bible Church
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16205 Highway 7 Minnetonka, MN 55345 Office: 952.935.2425 Fax: 952.938.8299 info@redeemerbiblechurch.com www.redeemerbiblechurch.com www.solidfood.net

The Christian Home, Lecture 16: The Goal of Parenting

© 2004 by R W Glenn

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