Home on the Range I must confess to you this morning that I feel very inadequate to preach this sermon. I have struggled all week to find a metaphor to describe how I feel.

Maybe it is a little like an alcoholic lecturing on why you shouldn’t drink alcohol.
Maybe it is like a man who has no arms lecturing about how to handle explosives.

Most parents feel a little like the story I heard about a young student of child behavior who frequently delivered a lecture called “Ten Commandments for Parents.” He married and became a father. The title of the lecture was altered to “Ten Hints for Parents.” Another child arrived. The lecture became ‘Some Suggestions for Parents.” A third child was born. The lecturer – so the story goes – stopped lecturing. [Paul Lee Tan. Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations. (Rockville: Maryland: Assurance Pub., 1979. # 635]

What you need to know is that I am not pretending to be an expert on parenting. I do not have all the answers.

I used to think I was really funny when I would make comments to parent’s of teens like, “ My kids are going to be teen-agers soon. I hope you get your book written so I can read it.” It was a real scream watching their faces. They sort of had that frozen smile look. The deer in the headlights look. The one you plaster on your face when inside you’re ready to scream and fall on the floor in a fetal position. That used to be so funny. I would really crack myself up.

Now I just walk around with that “deer in the headlights feeling.” Sometimes a fetal position seems really appealing.

I want to be real with you today. I don’t want to be a poser.

So here it goes. . . Hi, my name is Wes and I’m a parent. I have been one, more or less for the last sixteen years. I am here this morning because I want to learn something that will help me with this monkey I wrestle with called parenting.

Now you know I am not an expert so let’s try to learn together.

1. There are some Biblical Requirements For Christian Parenting.

A. God commanded his people to have children.

Humans were commanded by God to multiply and bring children into the world. Having children is a God thing. There are times when individuals cannot have children because of physical challenges. There are times when adults should not have children because they are not grown up themselves yet. Regardless, it was and is the plan of God that we have children and families.

B. Jesus commanded us to be kind to children and protect them from harm.

Mark 10:13-16
People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

The important thing is, if you do have kids, love them and communicate it.

A teacher and her class of first-graders were discussing a picture of a family. A little boy in the picture had a different hair color from the other members of the family. One child suggested that maybe the boy was adopted. A little girl raised her hand and said, "I know all about adoption, because I was adopted."The teacher asked, "Can you tell the class what adoption means?" The little girl smiled and explained, "Adoption means that you grew in your mommy's heart instead of her tummy." That's a pretty good definition.

C. The Bible commands us to raise our children to know the Lord. THIS IS OUR MISSION!

Deuteronomy 6:5-9
“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon 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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Proverbs 22:6
“Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

People will do some strange things with their children.

When we lose sight of our purpose or where we are supposed to going in the mission of parenting we begin to substitute any number of approaches to parenting. The following was adapted from Bruce Wilkinson.

1. Ostrich Approach --- Wilkinson calls this the close-your-eyes-and-hope-for-the-best-parent. Just take care of basic needs, shuttle them around, feed them keep clothes on their backs and look the other way… it will all work out in the end.

2. Delegator Approach--- Believing that good leadership always means delegation, this parent uses others to raise his or her children: childcare, day care, schools, camps, counselors, scouts, coaches, church and anyone else out there they can delegate parental responsibility to raise their children.3.Neiman Marcus Approach --- This parent believes that if he or she just provides the child with the best of everything then all the child’s needs will be met. Nothing but the best for my child – clothes, toys, schools, a car.

4. Warden Approach --- This parent runs a tight ship like the Von Trapp father in Sound of Music. These drill instructor parents focus on keeping all external behaviors in line with a detailed set of rules. Their kids would describe them as rigid, critical, meddling and angry.

5. Busy Bee Approach --- Kids need to learn how to program mom and dad’s palm pilot just to get time with them. This parent’s focus is career advancement not kids. (And it is often justified because of the kids).

6. Church Mouse Approach --- This parent believes that the more time the kid spends in church, Sunday school and youth group, the better off they will turn out. There is some truth to that but sometimes church is used like punishment. You and I must teach our kids at home to be respectful and have a heart for God.

7. Taxi Cab Approach --- Parenting is simply a transportation problem. They believe that lining up a full calendar of events and activities are what make a successful family: (Sports, music, drama, dance, cooking, woodworking, karate, youth group. These worn out parents aren’t purpose driven, they are activity driven --- driving theirs kids anywhere and everywhere.We can all see a little bit of ourselves in some of these. But underlying these are truth-deficient approaches to parenting often lurks a sinful compromise: slothfulness, self-centeredness, greed, materialism, fear, legalism and irresponsibility. (Bruce Wilkinson, Experiencing Spiritual BreakThroughs, 204)

Some years ago the city of Houston Texas waged an ad campaign to deter juvenile crime, the Houston Police Department came up with:

Twelve Rules for Raising Juvenile Delinquent Children.

1. Begin with infancy to give the child everything he wants. In this way he will grow up to believe the world owes him a living.

2. When he picks up bad words, laugh at him. This will make him think that it is cute.

3. Never give him any spiritual training. Wait until he is twenty-one and then let him “decide for himself.’

4. Avoid use of the word “wrong.” It may develop a guilt complex. This will condition him to believe later, when he is arrested for stealing a car, that society is against him and he is being persecuted.

5. Pick up everything he leaves lying around. Do everything for him so that he will be experienced in throwing all responsibility on others.

6. Let him read any printed matter he can get his hands on. Be careful, that the silverware and drinking glasses are sterilized, but let his mind feast on garbage.

7. Quarrel frequently in the presence of your children. In this way they won’t be shocked when the home is broken up later.

8. Give a child all the spending money he wants. Never let him earn his own.

9. Satisfy his every craving for food, drink and comfort. See that every sensual desire is gratified.

10. Take his part against neighbors, teachers and policemen. They are all prejudiced against your child.

11. When he gets into real trouble, apologize for yourself by saying, “I never could do anything with him.

12. Prepare for a life of grief. You will likely have it. Quoted by Charles Swindoll. You and Your Child. (Nashville, Nelson Pub., 1977) pp. 63-64.]

2. There are some Responsibilities in Christian Parenting.

Luke 14:28
Jesus says, "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?"

If that's the instructions for wood, brick and mortar, how much more should we consider the responsibility of shaping and training a child into the image of Jesus Christ?

Many couples think if they have a baby, it'll solve marriage problems and bring them closer together. That is poor logic, and simply exacerbates relationship problems. It also brings an innocent child into a home that may be shattered or shaky at best.

Don't be foolish and selfish and bring a child into this world where they'll be exposed to abuse and conflict.

Recently I heard about a plague given to a lady who worked in a children's ministry. It said, "100 years from now it won't matter what kind of a car you drove, or house you lived in, but it will matter if you've made a difference in the life of a child."

Let's be honest. Nobody's ever completely ready to become a parent. But are you willing to dive into the responsibilities and grow in your parenting?

Some parents try to shirk those responsibilities.

Parents need to learn to communicate with one another. Too often, one does all the discipline, while the other just sits back, or one does all the care, while the other does nothing. Parenting is to be a shared responsibility. In some marriages, emotional damage occurs to the children when one parent is invisible in their responsibilities.

Back in the 1960's, there was a star baseball player on track to win another MVP award. One day in the summer he had an off day and had just became a father to a baby son, so he invited the media to come over to his house to interview him.As they were preparing to start, his wife said to him, "Honey, your son needs his diaper changed," and the arrogant ball player said, in a haughty voice, "Mr. Baseball doesn't do diapers."

His wife said, "All right Mr. Baseball, let me teach you in a way that you can understand. Here's what you do, Mr. Baseball. You take a cloth diaper and you spread it like a baseball diamond. You take home plate and you fold it onto second base. You put the baby's bottom on the pitcher's mound. You take a pin and take first base, second base and third base and connect them. And Mr. Baseball, if it at any point in the process, it begins to rain, the game isn't over. You go get another diaper and start all over again!"

If you're a single parent, then it makes it more difficult. If your prayer list is running short, add some single parents to your list, and buddy up with them to lighten their load. Try to be a source of encouragement, a role model. Take a personal interest. Single parents—you've got to protect your personal relationship with the Lord for in a very real sense you're partnering with him to raise your children. So as you try to wear all of these different hats, don't shortchange your time with God for it's through his spirit that you'll be able to make it. It's just the two of you.

If you share the custody of your children with an ex-spouse, try to get them to reinforce the things you're working on. It's not easy because some of those situations can be adversarial. That means you must pour God's word into them and solid teaching with the times you do have with them.

Consider the strain on your time and resources if you're to have children. It's a huge responsibility.

When Jesus says to count the cost of discipleship and to realize that you'll have to take up your cross daily, he isn't discouraging people from being Christians. He's just making certain that you understand the commitment involved so you won't naively follow, and then change your mind or have a miserable attitude.

He's saying you can expect ridicule, a cross to bear, and incredible joy throughout and in the end.

Ten Steps To Raising Children who will be Christ Followers

1. Love the Lord With All Your Heart --- “powerful teaching is not about, ultimately, about the teacher’s techniques; it’s about the teacher’s heart.” (Wilkinson) Our children will be impacted by the things we truly devote our lives to… the things we love. More will be caught then taught.

2. Know and Obey God’s Word Yourself …. Deut 6:6-9 Right after telling parents they must start by loving God, Moses then tells them they must love God’s word…His commandments… His scriptures.

3. Involve your children in prayer … bring Christ into the picture… “lets pray about it” Pray for and with your children.

4. Tell Your Children about how God is working in your life. (Psa 78:3-4) “…what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. {4} We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. 7 Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.”

5. Teach Your Children the Word of God. (Deut. 6 [authentic living], Eph 6, 2 Tim 3:15 (NIV) “… from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus…” Never too young…. Reading, talking… sharing… using…

6. Lead Them To Accept Jesus As Their Savior (don’t force it, …) help them to understand the simple truths of the Gospel… and who Jesus is and what He ahs done for them… choose this gift for yourself… (pray with them…)

7. Teach them the assurance they have once they trust in Christ … Saved only once…

8. Encourage and Train them to Love and Serve the Lord… first priority and everything else is part of it. Involve God in different aspects of their lives… fellowship / community / friends…

9. Listen to their heart… modeling His grace, His forgiveness and His love

10. Never, never, never give up. Parenting is a life long process that changes over time. Even when we are old we teach some of life’s most valuable lessons. Don’t meddle in their lives but still be their in their lives.

3. There are some Rewards in Christian Parenting.

Psalm 127:3-5a
Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.

3 John 1:4
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

That's what we need to communicate to our children. Whether you're a teacher, an uncle, a parent, or a grandmother, try to go out of your way to make a little one know that they're valuable. They're not a burden. They're a blessing.

And parents, next to your relationship with the Lord and with each other, this is to be our highest priority. To view it as a sidelight is a slap in the face to anyone who wants children but cannot have them, and it's an affront to God—the one who gave you this life, in whose image your child has been created.

As we work with them, let’s pour ourselves into their lives—the joy of seeing their first step, their first hit in a baseball game, the day they get baptized into Jesus Christ. The night when they give you an unexpected hug and say I love you. Or that walk through the airport when your teenage daughter lets you hold her hand. Or the phone call at curfew that says, "Don't worry I'm about five minutes away but rather than driving fast I'm going to be a few minutes late. Is that okay?" 'You take your time."

There will be tense times but if we’re serious about pouring God's word into their lives, we’ll be rewarded with many fulfilling experiences. Anyone who chooses to be a parent is going to experience some heartache, but the potential for joys and blessings makes the risk well worth it. There is risk when a ship leaves a harbor, but that's what a ship is for.

Sometimes our society looks down upon children or having several, and you'll hear people joke and say, "Are they trying to have their own basketball team?" Or, "Don't they know what causes that?" But the truth is, it's an honor to be a parent. In 1958, when May Roper Coker was chosen as Mother of the Year, upon receiving the award she commented, "I never thought that you should be rewarded for the greatest privilege of life."

I read an article recently about a Christian mom, who has quadruplets, and 2 other children. All six are under six. She said a woman passed her in a grocery store and said, "Boy am I glad it's you and not me." And the Christian mom replied, "So am I."
The song said, "I believe that children are our future, teach them well and they will show the way." Children are our future. And most importantly, they are souls that can be influenced to follow Christ or to reject him, and we therefore influence an eternal decision.

“In the days of the wild and wooly West, a lone cowboy went riding through a valley and came unexpectedly upon an Indian lying motionless on the road. His right ear was pressed to the ground, and he was muttering soberly to himself. “Ummmm,” he said. “Stagecoach! Three people inside. Two men, one woman. Four horses. Three dapple gray, one black. Stagecoach moving west. Ummmm.” The cowboy was amazed and said, “That’s incredible, partner! You can tell all that just by listening to the ground? The Indian replied, “Ummmmm, No! Stagecoach run over me thirty minutes ago!” (Parenting Isn’t for Cowards, Dr. James Dobson, pg. 19)

Some of you feel just like that today. Parenting for you has made you feel as though you’ve been run over.

Let me remind you that you are doing the most important work in all the world. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t compromise. You’re going to make it.

I took a piece of plastic clay and idly fashioned it one day,
And as my fingers pressed it still, it moved and yielded to my will.
I came again when the days were past, the bit of clay was hard at last,
The form I gave it still it bore…but I could change that form no more.
But I took a piece of living clay and gently formed it day by day,
And molded with my power and art, a young child's soft and yielding heart.
I came again when the days were gone; it was a man I looked upon.
The form I gave it still it bore—but I could change it never more."

Parts of this message were developed from an original sermon by Dave Stone at www.preachingplus.com

2003/05/04