Time magazine ran an issue called The Fatherhood: The Guilt, The Joy, The Fear and The Fun. They interviewed a little 8-year-old girl named Megan and the interview went like this:
I don't have a dad, says Megan. She was a tiny blonde child with a pixie nose and she gazes up at the visitor who interviews her with some real hunger. Well I do have a dad, she goes on to say, but I dont know his name. Well I do know his first name; I just don't know his last name. His names Bill.
The interviewer says, Well just what is it that fathers do. Well they love you, she says, they kiss you and they hug you and they're there when you need them. I had my moms boyfriend for a while but they broke up. Now its just me and my mom and my older brother. The interviewer says, Well what would you like to do with your dad?
I'd want him to talk to me. Shes hurting now. I wish I had someone to talk to. Shes eight years old. Its not fair, if two people made you, then you should still be with those two people. And now shes sad and she looks down at her feet and she goes, I'm not so special because I don't have two people.
The interview goes on and she comes back toward the end and says she thinks that her father is in the Navy. She sticks out her chest and she says, One day, when I get older, I'm going back to Alabama and I'm going to try and find him.
I am not sure if you totally understand the reason for this series but let me try to explain. Its about trying to grow up as a church until we don't follow the patterns of the world around us in our marriages, families and relationships. It is about understanding our roles as men and women especially when it comes to marriage and family.
We do realize that not everyone is married nor does everyone have kids but like any other subject we might choose to teach or preach about rarely does it cover everyone or find everyone at the same level of need.
What kind of families is God looking for? We have said that it all begins with a marriage covenant. It starts with men stepping up and loving their wives as Christ loved the church. We said that men and women both should provide, protect and nurture from the grace of God that is within them. And now we are going to turn our attention to children.
How do we become the kind of parents that kids need? We start by understanding Gods view of children. We find that in Psalm 127.
Gods View of Children
3 Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. 4 Children born to a young man
are like arrows in a warriors hands. 5 How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!
He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates. Psalm 127:3-5 NLT
Kids are a gift and they are a reward. Its Gods way of saying, I want to enrich your relationship and deepen your marriage by giving you a reward. This scripture says that children are not only a gift but that they are a reward. Verse 5 says, How joyful (blessed) is the man whose quiver is full of them. God gives us a metaphor for children. Whats an arrow for? It is a weapon that is used for protection.
When you understand the biblical cycle of how God created family, you come to understand that when you teach your children responsibility when they are young and take care of them, they have a moral responsibility to take care of you when you get older, but if they dont understand or learn that it wont happen. What is an arrow? What do you do with it? First you prepare an arrow, second you aim an arrow and third you release an arrow. And you just don't shoot it in the air; you shoot it to a very specific target. Your children are an arrow entrusted to you that is a gift, a reward and a blessing. And when you begin to think of your kids like that, they'll get treated differently. They'll grow up differently. Their lives will be changed and your life will be changed. You many wonder how in the world that happens?
Gods Instructions to Parents
1 Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do.
2 Honor your father and mother. This is the first commandment with a promise:
3 If you honor your father and mother, things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth. 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4 NLT
We are going to spend a couple of weeks trying to understand these four verses in Ephesian 6. Next week we will talk about the how to but today we are going to focus on bringing them up. We are to bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.
Parents, its a sacred stewardship. And whats always true about a stewardship? It means you don't own the kids. They're not yours, they're Gods. They're on loan to you and you will give an account before the Holy God of all creation, of what you do with this precious gift called children. And this account that you will give will not only be an eternal one later, but depending on how you handle this sacred stewardship, you will either reap tremendous reward in this life as they get older, or they will break your heart and they will bring you pain like nothing else in the world.
Now you know and I know that you have no control over the psyche or the mind or the will of your children and as they grow up. You can do everything as best you know how and may make some very terrible decisions but you know its different knowing you've given it your best shot, you've done it Gods way and as best you know, your priorities were in order even if they make some bad decisions. Its another thing to know your priorities were out of whack, that you neglected them, you didn't give them time and you didn't know in your heart what you knew was right and then to live the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years with the pain and the sorrow of a fractured family and a fractured relationship.
The Question: What does a godly parent look like?
Four principles of godly parenting:
I am not talking about making sure they have breakfast on Monday morning and that they get to school on time. I am not even talking about should they watch that movie or go out with those friends. Those are things you are going to do whether you have focus or not. the question is, week in and week out, are you making decisions, prioritizing your time and scheduling what goes into your kids life or what doesnt, based on a crystal clear picture, a target, a positive clear-cut objective. And you can never be a Godly parent until its clear in your mind, what are you trying to produce? We figure that out by reading Ephesians 6:4:
4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to
anger (over correct)by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up
with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 NLT
Bring them up means bring them to their full potential spiritually, emotionally, and physically. You will never do that unless you are clear on what you are trying to achieve.
The Principle of Focus: This means that you are clear on what you are trying to teach our children.
In my experience in our day with all the violence and all the drugs and all the problems and all the meltdowns, is that many parents, especially Christian parents, don't parent out of focus, we parent out of fear. Find yourself doing that?
Don't go here honey, dont do that, watch this, watch this. And were scared to death and we think the goal is how in the world do I take my child through this landmine of moral chaos and danger and dangerous relationships and so were afraid. We can become over protective or non-focused or we get in a little cul-de-sac community mindset and were going to get our kids and were going to keep them away from that big bad terrible world out there. I have news, theyre going to get it sooner or later. And parenting out of fear is a very dysfunctional way to go. God wants you to parent out of focus, to have clear-cut objectives.
Gods Dream vs. The American Dream For Your Child God has a dream for your children.
His number one priority is not whether your child is a missionary or a doctor; its not whether they're an artist or a pianist or whether they're a great athlete or a scholar. Gods number one agenda for your child is that the life and character of Jesus would be developed in their heart and that when she or he grows up, and they get to be 16, 18, 20, 24, 28, they know how to love God and pattern their life after Him.
I think were real uptight about what vocation our kids go into and I think God is really not all that concerned about it. I think He wants Godly doctors and if theyre gifted and have a passion to be a doctor, great, be a doctor. I think he wants Godly construction workers, and factory workers and Godly secretaries. I think he wants Godly plumbers and Godly IT people.
I dont think God is merely concerned about what they do as He is about who they are. And Hell show you what to do but most parents energy is going into all the vocational issues. That means they have to prepare them for this and we have extra time for this and bone up on the SAT and do this over here and get exposure, you have to have exposure to all the things here and be involved in all this over here because the American dream is so subtle. The American dream is that your kids will be successful.
The American dream written into the fabric of our culture is your kids need to be upwardly mobile. If you have a bachelors degree, they need a masters, if you have a masters, they need a PhD. If you went to high school, they have to go to college. If you made X amount of money, they need to make more. They need to have a great self-concept. They need to look in the mirror and really like themselves. They need to be happy, happy, happy. No pain seems to be the goal of many parents.
See ultimately the American dream is about happiness and Gods dream is about holiness and you cant accomplish both you can do one and result in the other but if you focus on happiness you will never get holiness. If you focus on them being happy, they will rarely become Holy. And if you focus on them becoming Holy, they will always end up happy.
Chuck Swindoll, years ago wrote down his clear-cut objectives to pass on to his children. I think these are great. Its interesting; none of them revolve around their career. They all revolve around character. When he looked at his kids, he decided this is what he wanted to pass on.
First was determination. He wanted his kids to grow up and stick with it regardless. The second was honesty. He wanted them to speak and live the truth always. The third was responsibility. He tried to raise his kids so they would be dependable, trustworthy, actually follow though and do what they say. The fourth was thoughtfulness. He actually raised his kids thinking that there would come a time where they would unconsciously think of others as more important than themselves.
Confidentiality was a fifth one for him and it was the idea of not telling secrets and sealing their lips, being able to hold a confidence. I really like the next one, punctuality, he actually thought his kids should learn that other peoples time is as valuable so you get someplace on time or a little early, lest you be arrogant and assume that what youre doing is so important and that 10 or 15 or 20 minutes late doesnt matter. The next one was self-control meaning that under stress he wanted his kids to learn to stay calm. Or how about this one, can you imagine if it was your goal that your kids would learn to be patient? That they would fight irritability and be willing to wait, willing to wait in the grocery line? Willing to wait to drive a car? Willing to wait and not interrupt people and let you finish your conversation? Its a character quality. He wanted them to be pure, to reject anything that lowers their standards. He wanted kids that grew up that had compassion so that when they saw the hurt of another, they felt it and cared. And finally he wanted them to be diligent, to learn how to work hard and tough it out.
Now you know what, if those characteristics were a part of our kids lives, I don't know if we really need to be all that concerned whether theyre a doctor, an astronaut, a construction worker or a software developer. I want them to do what Gods called them and gifted them to do, but what I'm saying parents is this, unless you have a target on the wall, a crystal clear objective that revolves around character instead of career, around holiness instead of happiness, you will find yourself when they get to be mid 20s and mid 30s with a boatload of heartache.
The apostle Paul wrote something very interesting to the church in Corinth. As I read this think about it as an application for parenting.
14 I am not writing these things to shame you, but to warn you as my beloved children. 15 For even if you had ten thousand others to teach you about Christ, you have only one spiritual father. For I became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the Good News to you. 16 So I urge you to imitate me. 1 Corinthians 4:14-16 NLT
The apostle Paul says to this church, Pray how I pray. Study Gods Word how I study Gods Word. Handle your temper the way I handle my temper. Go through adverse circumstances the way you've watched me go through adverse circumstances. Imitate me.
Are you ready to say that to your kids? Are you ready to say to your kid, Look Im your parent so tell you what, heres the educational model were going to use. You just watch whatever I do and you do the same thing and youre going to come out great.
Its called the principle of modeling.
The Principle of Modeling
The single most powerful shaper of behavior in socialization is modeling. Your kids will never be what you tell them to be. They will become what you are. Is that scary or what? You cant impart what you dont possess.
In fact this is biblical, remember what Jesus said in Luke 6:40? Every student or every disciple, every learner, when he is fully trained will be just like his teacher.
This is scary stuff, this is like, You mean my little girl, my little boy? You mean my teenager, despite what they say, is in all likelihood going to come out a lot, I mean a bunch like me? And the answer is yes.
How many of you, and Ill just say 35 and older can still remember the time at some point where you said, Ill tell you one thing, I don't know what Im going to be and I don't know how Im going to act, but Im never going to be like my dad or mom. And then about 35, 36 you do this bizarre thing with your kids and you go do-do do-do, do-do do-do.
Its ingrained. Dont miss this okay? For some of you, you have a heart and you say, I want to be a good parent. I mean I really want to raise good kids. I have some real fears about it. I want to do a good job. Let me tell you something. The best thing many of you will leave here with is not a to-do list about all the activities you need to do with your kids, or about how youre going to change your family devotions.
If you are not the person you want your kids to become, the greatest gift and the greatest stewardship you could become right now is to look in the mirror and say, If theres anything in my life that I wouldnt want my kids to imitate, oh God, lets go to work on that together right now.
Let me play it out differently for you because I think as parents we should do this. Imagine if you will about 10 years ago, I go into my living room or family room, and heres the couch? Im asking my kids to walk into the room and sit down across from me. Ten years ago they would have been thirteen and fifteen. I get them lined up and I am sitting in front of them Im the parent; Im the father. .
I sit in a chair right across from them and I look them in the eye and I say, Okay, Im your parent. I believe youre a gift from God and I believe probably the biggest job I have on this planet is this sacred stewardship. So are you ready?
However you see me drive, thats how I want you to drive. However you see me use my money, thats how I want you to use your money. I want you to give like I give. I want you to save like I save and I want you to make wise purchases the way you see me do it. Whenever you see me get cut off in traffic or something that really offends me, I want you to respond in the same way that I respond with my anger. I want you to spend the same kind of time in the Bible that you see me, in my time in the Bible. I want you to have the same passion for Christ and care for our neighbors that you see in me. I want you to never put anything in your mind that you dont see me put in my mind and the things that I say I dont want to watch or look at, I dont want you to either. Imitate me and if you do, your life will go well.
And parents, Im going to tell you something straight up. If you cant say that, you better address it because you dont have to have that talk.
They will imitate you and theyll imitate not just your actions but your attitudes, your faith, whats in your heart, your motives and thats why the target has to get on the wall and then you need to understand the teacher primarily is you and the teaching is not what you say. Its primarily who you really are and what you do. Its as simple as that!
More Is Caught Than Taught
You've heard me use that phrase more than once. It is never truer than within the home. Its not what you say that matters its who you are.
We find a model for this in 1 Thessalonians 2. Paul is writing and using mothers and fathers as a metaphor for how he is taking care of the church. In it we can infer how parenting should happen especially when it comes to bonding with our kids.
The kids had talked Mom into getting a hamster. They
promised to take care of their pet, whom they named Danny. Within two
months, though, Mom was taking care of Danny. One day Mom decided enough
was enough; Danny would be given to a new owner. She called the kids
together to tell them. One child said, Ill miss him. Hes been around
here a long time. The other child remarked, Maybe he could stay if he
ate less and wasnt so messy. Mom was firm, It is time to take Danny
to a new home.
Danny? the kids wailed, We thought you said Daddy. SOURCE: Positive Living, Sept/Oct 1995, p 39.
7 As apostles of Christ we certainly had a right to make some demands of you, but instead we were like children among you. Or we were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children. 8 We loved you so much that we shared with you not only Gods Good News but our own lives, too. 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 NLT
Paul says, We were gentle among you, how? Like a mother caring for her little children. Literally that's too light. Its literally the word nursing. This is a picture of a mother bringing that baby to her chest and in love and gentleness nursing her child. And he goes on to say, We loved you so much that we shared with you not only Gods Good News but our own lives, too.
So you want to build relationships that bond and part of the relationship network is how a mother loves with tenderness, not just with the rules. Paul says, We didn't come and just give the message, it wasn't just the gospel (Jesus died for your sin, rose from the dead.)
He said, No we came and we gave our lives, we opened our heart, we were real, we were authentic, we were vulnerable, we went through it together. We had these deep passionate feelings of concern that God gave us just like a mom has for her children. But these relationships that bond aren't just ooey-gooey feelings. He says, There's also a kind of relationship that a father has for his kids. Look at verses 11 and 12, For you know how we dealt with each one of you. Well how Paul? As a father deals with his own children.
And you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children. 12 We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 NLT
Now I read that and I think wow, how should a father deal with his own children? Circle these three words, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God who calls you into his kingdom and glory. Guys, did you notice that there is a target there? Very clear-cut objective, what is it? To live lives worthy of Gods Glory. What is how could we say that? Its Christs likeness; its character isn't it?
A man, a father does three things, these are interesting words. Lets do a quick word study on each one. The word encouraging; dad is the cheerleader, the affirmer, You can do it son. You can do it honey. Take another step. Come on, way to go, way to go! Oh I know you can, go ahead and try out for the team. No its okay, you know what you'll make it, its all right.
See its a dad who instills that confidence. The second one is comforting. Its a little soft translation. It can mean consoling but it also is translated elsewhere, admonish in places. This is the idea where you go from the positive affirming cheerleader to, Hey, you can do it and you know what? Ill walk with you but you really need to do it. Hey Im here for you and I know it was really hard but get back up, its your responsibility. You have to get back in there.
This is a word where a father by his words and comfort and affirmation, hes comforting and there's the soft side of love but the harder side of love is, You know what? Were going to learn responsibility here and you don't feel like doing it, guess what? None of us feel like doing whats right sometimes, you're going to do it anyway. And then the last word, urging, very strong word, this is the father who says, I do understand you don't want to do it. I do understand all the reasons you gave me. I understand that everyone's parents everywhere allows them to do this and do that. You are not doing it here. In fact, when that happens here, these consequences will happen here. I love you, I care about you, this is the end of the discussion.
It is a strong word and so relationships that bond, there's clear-cut objectives, there's modeling and there's this balance in the home. That's why by the way Gods ideal is a mom and a dad. Because naturally the mother will be more nurturing and naturally the father will provide more of the discipline and the tough love and the consequences that give kids what they need, not just what they want.
Eight Keys that build bonding relationships:
Unconditional Love, Schedule Time, Focused Attention, Eye-contact, Meaningful touch, Ongoing communication, Have fun together, Pray with them,
4. Godly parenting requires constant repair and ongoing maintenance
But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 1 John 1:9 NLT
The Principle of Process 5 Magic Words: Its Never Too Late!
I'm Sorry Please Forgive me.