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A Christian author was interviewing some students on college campuses and he met one particular young man and this young man had a tremendous relationship with Christ. He was winsome and was the kind of person that everyone wanted their kids to grow up to be like.  

And so this interviewer asked him, So what do you want to do when you grow up, when you graduate?  He says, Oh I want to be like my dad.  The student was in engineering school so the interviewer said, Oh, you want to be an engineer like your dad.  He said, No, no, my dads not an engineer.  He said, I want to be a Christian like my dad.  He said, My dad is the greatest Christian Ive ever met.  And this interviewer,  who was an author and had written several books just put his stuff down and got out a sheet of paper and said, Tell me about your dad would you?  He did that because he had kids at home.

I'm going to tell you today what God expects from parents and if you happen to be a child in here today don't forget that next week I am going to tell you what God expects you to be for your parents! 

There are no cookie cutter formulas to raising kids that will grow up to love God and you and that you will enjoy a great relationship with them when they become adults. 

What does it take to raise kids that love God and love you when they are grown?

Its a great question that deserves an answer. The Apostle Paul answers it for us in Ephesians 6:4. 

The Answer: 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 6:4 

You will notice that in this verse that there are four key words or phrases that we need to define today. 

Key Words:

1. Don't provoke:  Don't provoke has the idea of over correcting, being harsh, fault finding, perfectionistic, majoring on minors, the kind of things that just push your kids buttons.  They have enough struggles of doing whats right without you figuring out other stuff and no matter what they do, you keep raising the bar.  Parents; don't do that.  

Positively however, were to bring them up

2.  Bring up:  is a very interesting phrase.  It means to nurture, to rear tenderly, to develop them in the sphere of character and principles.

John Calvin said, Its to treat your children with a fond affection.  Its the idea of learning to cherish your kids.  Its loving them, its concern, its what comes out of a moms heart and a dads heart on your very best day.  And so you don't provoke them to anger but you're to bring them up in the presence of the Lord. How do you do it? We find the answer to that in the next two words from this verse. 

The first one is: 

3.  Discipline:  nurture (KJV), chastise (RV), training (2 Tim. 3:16) Its what is done to the child. Here's the key to the word. Its what is done to the child through your actions. You as a parent are modifying their behavior, their thoughts and their attitudes in the presence of God so that without provoking them you are shaping them to be the kind of young men and women God wants. 

4.   Instruction:  Instruction by contrast can be translated; warn, admonish, correct, reprove, and implore.  This same word is translated throughout the New Testament in all those ways.  But the essence of the word is its what is said to the child.  And so if you wanted to summarize this one little peephole text, parents, here''s what it is:   

Summary: We are to parent with LOVE and LIMITS. 

Raise your kids with love and with limits. Its really not that hard. You love them, love them, love them, love them and set limits, limits, limits.  Love, they're valuable, they're significant, they're cared for.  Limits, they're secure, they cant have their own way, you wont let them go to sinful, selfish events that will hurt themselves or hurt others.  

Before we look at the practical side let me give you a bit of secular research from the Reuben Hill Minnesota report about parents.  This information was originally in a quadrant but let me attempt to just give you the results. 

Secular Researchs Affirmation:   4 Kinds of Parents: Reuben Hill Minnesota Report

1. Permissive Parent:  high love, low discipline. Love, love, love, no boundaries, do whatever you want.  Fearful parenting. Many parents never discipline their kids because they are afraid of rejection by them. Kids raised with no or very little discipline grew up with a low self-image and deep feelings of inferiority. 

2. Neglectful Parent: low love, low discipline. This is means the parent is not caring, loving or available and they are low on discipline. The result is no intimacy, no bonding, and literal estrangement from parents. These are parents that truly don't care. 

3. Authoritarian Parent:  low love, high discipline. This is sort of the Adolph Hitler approach to parenting. Very high on discipline but really low on love. Lots of rules, dos and donts. Children raised in this way will be very prone to rebellion and often get very angry. They cant wait to get out of the house and often reject both their parents and God.

4. Authoritative Parent: high love, high discipline. This is a fellowshipping style if you will. Very high on relationship building within the home. There is a huge amount of support and love. Research showed this produced kids with high self-image, excellent coping skills and positive long-term relationships with their family.  So think this through, high love, high discipline, where have we heard that before?  Love and limits, Ephesians 6:4, that's exactly what the Bible taught 2,000 years ago and now sociological research says, Wait, we have a brand new answer.  If parents are very strong in discipline and very loving, amazing, good things happen to their kids.


The fundamental question is how do you do that?  How do you play that out in your home with a 3 year old, a 13 year old, an 18 year old, a 2 year old?  How you do it with a blended family?  How do you do it as a single parent?


Hebrews 12 gives us a really clear picture of what God thinks about child rearing. 


Gods Prescription for Child Development:

After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. 

5 And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, My child, don't make light of the Lords discipline, and don't give up when he corrects you.
6 For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.

7 As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? 8 If God doesn't discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all.  The writer than illustrates the point with these words. 

 9 Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn't we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?

10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But Gods discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening its painful!  And of course every kid in the room agrees with that. (Last paddling I got at home.) 

 But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.  Hebrews 12:4-11 NLT

Discipline is teaching obedience to God and His Word through consistent consequences (actions) and clear instructions (words) in an atmosphere of love.

The necessity of discipline is to deter destruction.       


After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.   Hebrews 12:4 NLT


Take your pen or pencil and circle the word struggle. He understands that as a human being, you love God but you struggle against temptation even as a believer and so He brings discipline in your life as a believer to defer and deter you from destruction.  

What does sin do?  It ruins your relationship with God, it ruins your relationship with people and depending on what the sins are, it ruins your body.  It will destroy your life.  God loves every believer in this room so much, that when you get off the path or close to getting off the path, He will bring about circumstances, or  people, or Hell take something that is precious to you.  Whatever He needs to do, He will put you in this vice of discipline to get you back on the path.  

It's like driving a race car around winding mountain roads and there's this beautiful chalet and you can see it at the top and its filled with everything you ever wanted.  And you want to get there and you want to get there fast. There are guardrails on this highway and you're in this fast little red sports car.   A lot of us live life that way and what we see is these big guardrails and we think the guardrails are a pain in the neck and we nick one here and we nick one there.  

Those guardrails are Gods commands and what He does as you're going through life and you get that car going a little too fast, Hell have you bump into this one and give you a dent here.  Hell cause the transmission to go out if He needs to.  Hell give you a flat tire.  Hell do whatever He needs to do because here's what He knows, if you break through those guardrails, there's about a 1,000-foot drop and you become a pancake.  And God loves you so much; He will set limits to keep you on the path for your benefit.  

Parents we are to discipline our kids to keep them from destruction. We are all born with the desire and know how to sin. Not one of us in this room had to sit our kids down and teach them how to sin. They all learn about two years of age to say no. They all know how to be selfish and talk back. 


The means of discipline is your actions and your words 

5 And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, My child, dont make light of the Lords discipline, and don't give up when he corrects you.  Hebrews 12:5  

Put a circle around, Don't make light of the Lords discipline and dont give up when He corrects you. When you study those two unique Hebrew words, you will find that they align  with Ephesians 6:4.  This word discipline has the word of consistent actions to bring about behavioral change and the word correct/rebuke means clear instruction and warning to bring about behavior change.  

So quoting from the Old Testament, the writer of Hebrews says, The means of helping your kids, the guardrails are, consistent actions and clear instruction to keep your child the way God keeps you on this winding highway of life so that you land well, so your life turns out well, so you enjoy and inherit and share His Holiness for your good. 


The motive in discipline is to express your love     

6 For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.7 As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? 8 If God doesn't discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. 9 Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn't we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?     Hebrews 12:6-9 NLT

We discipline our children because we love them. That's the bottom line.  Love is giving people what they need to become all that they need to become that it may be good for them.  Sometimes that is tough love and sometimes it is tender love and a parent is to provide both.  The issue is not what do your kids want, but what do my kids need to live as God intended them to live. 

Discipline is not fun. Many times it really takes a lot out of the parents, especially as your kids get older. Sometimes its letting them fail or even fall and that is so hard but we do it because we love them and we want them to learn. 


The goal of discipline is to teach obedience       

Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn't we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?     Hebrews 12:9 NLT

Did you notice how much more we should submit?  We learn from human fathers to submit or obey, the goal of discipline is to obey.  The first thing you child needs to learn is to be under the voice of their parents.  When you speak, they obey.  In fact, what did Jesus say when He talked about being a true follower?  He who hears my words and obeys them, he it is who loves me.  And so obedience is the goal of discipline.  Its learning to do what God says.  

And if you have young kids you need to really listen and hear this. Especially when they're small, if your kids cant learn to obey your voice and they can see you, how do you think they're ever going to learn to obey an invisible God that they cant see?  The goal is submission or obedience. 


The result of discipline is short term pain and long term gain   

10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But Gods discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening, its painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. Hebrews 12:10-11 NLT

This is so tough for parents to hear and learn but raising kids is not all that much fun. When they are little and they are learning to walk and talk, that's fun. When they are learning to ride a bike or roller skate or swing a bat and hit a ball, that's fun. When they are learning to read and ride, that's fun.  

When they get a little older and start pushing back, that's not fun. When you tell them no and they tell you everyone else's parents are so much cooler than you, that not fun. When they go off to their room and shut or slam the door, that's not so much fun. When they make you feel like the worlds worst parent on a daily basis, that's not so much fun. 

You know that you love them and yet they are acting like you are a monster with three heads or that you are so dumb, that's not much fun. Let them cry, let them go to their room and shut the door.  Someday when they realize what you have saved them from in their youth they may come back to you and be thankful for your corrective love.  

By the way this is not always about being negative. Sometimes it is about helping your kids get stronger by exercising with them, working out with them, playing in the backyard with them. It could be the discipline of helping them do their homework every night for a while until they learn the discipline of doing it on their own. 

How does this play out? It gets really complicated. We have a vast number of people in blended families, in single families and some of you have a 4 year old and you're listening with a set of ears and some of you have an 11 or 12 year old, you got a different set of ears and some of you have a 16 year old and you're saying, Hey, I get the principles but Im dying here how do I do this? 


How to Parent With Love and Limits:  

Actions: Consistent Consequences  

24 Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them. Proverbs 13:24 NLT


15 A youngsters heart is filled with foolishness, but physical discipline will drive it far away. Proverbs 22:15 NLT

Be consistent no matter how tired you are so that your kids learn that when you speak they are to obey or there will be consequences. To get that in their heads you have to do what you say you are going to do. We have all had to fight this because after a while you just get tired of it but don't quit. Keep correcting and punishing until they get it. (IF you do that one more time. . .) 

When they get older you are teaching responsibility. By the time your kids are in high school they should be taking on more and more personal responsibility. Its not too much for them to have their own alarm and wake themselves up; to do some of their own laundry; to clean their room and keep it clean; They will not learn these things unless you teach them and let the take on the responsibility. 

I hear parents say, What am I going to do, Ive got this 16 year old and I mean its just horrible.  We have no idea what to do.  And I say just some simple stuff like, Whose house are they sleeping in right now?  Whose car are they driving?  Who's paying for the gas?  Who's paying for the insurance?  Who's food are they eating?   You may need to get a written contract with your kids and then stick to it so that they learn responsibility. 

(Actions) 

Words: Clear Instruction   

The issue with small children's instruction is  the who.  You want to instruct when your kids are small, who is God and what is He like?  That Hes kind, that Hes Holy, that Hes loving, that Hes a creator.  

The content.  What should you be teaching your kids?  You don't teach them systematic theology.  You want to teach those little ones, God is Good, God is Holy, Old Testament stories, use the little storybooks and lots about Jesus, Jesus is your friend.  Jesus rescues Peter out of the boat.  And how do you do it?  Bedtime is golden when they're small.  Read them stories.  Talk, tell stories of your life and pray with them.

When they get to be preteens, the focus is the what.    What is right?  What is wrong?  What is true?  Whats not true?  And these are the years now, 6 -12,  and their minds are like wet cement.  You want to have scripture memory going.  Teach them books of the Bible.  Teach them the basic doctrines of who Christ is, the deity of Christ, memorizing passages.  They cant think conceptionally too much but this is the time to put the content and truth, what is right, what is wrong.  

By the time they get to be teenagers, you know the question don't you?   Why?   I mean you're disciplining around choices so why should I believe that God created the world instead of evolution?  That's what my teacher says.  Why should I believe that sex before marriage is wrong?  No one else thinks it is.  Why should I believe that submission to authority is something that I should do?  Why should I believe that God has my best interest in mind?  Why? Why? Why?

These are the years where you get to teach your kids how to think. This is where you give them a world view. I was never worried about having family devotions all the time but I wanted my kids to discover and have their own devotions and personal relationship with Christ.  Books played a big role in my own spiritual growth as a teenager and I have watched the same thing happen in my kids. (books versus movies)   

Listen to me very carefully. Sometimes your kids are going to fall and fail. We try so hard to protect our kids from ever making a mistake. Sometimes you just have to let them fail while they are home where you can walk them through it and allow them to learn. I sure don't need them doing that while they are away college or trying to be an adult. 


Let me give you a few practical tips for parenting: 


  • Have a few clear responsibilities and rules.  Keep it simple and enforce them.


 A little girl had been trying for months to learn the art of tying her shoes. She finally grasped the knack and was able to do it by herself. Her parents expected the child to be delighted, but were surprised by her disappointment. Her father asked why she was crying.
She sobbed, "I just learned how to tie my shoes."
He said, "That's wonderful, Honey, but why are you crying?"
She replied, "Because now Ill have to do it all by myself for the rest of my life."


  • Develop written contracts.  Charts when they are young. 
  • Negotiate consequences.  Let your child write down what it would take to make them stop or start doing something. 
  • Be consistent:  Don't let you moods determine how you discipline. Parenting is hard work so knuckle down and do it. 
  • The older they get have less rules. If you have been successful in the early years you will be able to relax some of the early rules. Feed them responsibility and feed them some freedom. 
  • Train them to be on their own while they are home. (money, time, cars, etc)          


Well parenting is a challenge but if you can love your kids like God loves us you will be just fine. 


The 1989 Armenian earthquake needed only four minutes to flatten the nation and kill thirty thousand people. Moments after that deadly tremor ceased, a father raced to an elementary school to save his son. When he arrived, he saw that the building had been leveled. Looking at the mass of stones and rubble, he remembered a promise he had made to his child: No matter what happens, Ill always be there for you. Driven by his own promise, he found the area closest to his sons room and began to pull back the rocks. Other parents arrived and began sobbing for their children. Its too late, they told the man. You know they are dead. You cant help. Even a police officer encouraged him to give up.

But the father refused. For eight hours, then sixteen, then thirty-two, thirty-six hours he dug. His hands were raw and his energy gone, but he refused to quit. Finally, after thirty-eight wrenching hours, he pulled back a boulder and heard his sons voice. He called his boys name, Arman! Arman! And a voice answered him, Dad, its me! Then the boy added these priceless words, I told the other kids not to worry. I told them if you were alive, you'd save me, and when you saved me, they'd be saved, too. Because you promised, No matter what, Ill always be there for you.