Monthly Archives: June 2012

A Prayer about Child-likeness and Jesus’ Love for Children

By Scotty Smith, Founding Pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, TN

People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:15-17 

Dear Lord Jesus, this story is a blinking neon-sign of grace, gloriously declaring what a wonderful, merciful Savior you are. No one is so welcoming, kind-hearted or caring as you. It’s also a Scripture that underscores that, of all the ways we love children, the most important way we love them is by constantly bringing them to you. Whether they’re babies, teenagers, or adults themselves, it makes no difference. At every stage of life, our kids need you, Jesus, more than air, water and a tomorrow.

For our children who’ve yet to find life in you, have mercy on them and bring them to a saving knowledge of yourself, Jesus. They don’t just need to “grow up” and be responsible. They don’t need religion or a mature spirituality. They don’t need moral reform and a haircut. They need the gospel of your grace—they need you. Show them how much they need you, and show them how much you love them. Keep them restless until they rest in your complete forgiveness and perfect righteousness. More than we want Harvard for our children, we want heaven.

Jesus, some of us grieve the ways we’ve made the gospel less than beautiful and believable to our children. Forgive us, and show yourself to be the God who is limited by nothing, including parental self-righteousness. Transcend the ways we’ve blown it. But also grant us humility and grace to repent, first before you and then to them. Free us to give our children the gift of our repentance.

For our children who know you but currently seem to have waning or zero interest in you, or even ambivalence or antipathy toward you, hear our cry. Restore to them the joy of your salvation. Our confidence is in the our Father’s promise to bring to completion the good work he’s begun in each of us, but Jesus, we cannot afford to be either presumptuous or passive. Work powerfully. Work presently. Work persistently, we ask for your name’s sake. Give us patience with their doubts. Give us forbearance in their struggles. Give us grace to welcome prodigals home.

Lastly, Jesus, we ask you to restore us to the childlikeness of our early days of knowing you. Free us from childishness, indeed, but renew our hearts in childlike joy, playfulness, gratefulness, and simplicity. Our bodies and minds are getting older, but cause our hearts to dance, once again, in the utter and matchless delight of being loved by you. So very Amen we pray, in your tender and glorious name.

IN THE DISCIPLINE AND INSTRUCTION OF THE LORD

Have you ever gone on a short-term mission trip? During these trips there is a quick window of opportunity that you grab and encourage people with the gospel of Jesus Christ knowing that you will be gone in a few days or weeks. Each day has focus and the minutes count.

My children are well into their 30s now and raising them seemed as short as my trips to Peru and Mexico. Paul’s exhortation just before Ephesians 6:4 is, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” (5:15-16)

In bringing your children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord is to approach each day like a short-term mission trip. You need to see yourself as a missionary whose goal is that your children will one day become your brother or sister in Christ. The greatest wisdom I can give my children is not how to be successful in life, but is the wisdom of the cross that gives eternal life.

The gospel’s message is that my child’s greatest need is not that they conform morally but that their hearts are changed by the power of God through the gospel. So what is it to discipline and instruct them in the Lord? Paul gives us a clue in his prayer to the church in Ephesians 3, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV)

Fathers, may your children know such love and glory through your teaching and example.

Happy Fathers Day!

BUT BRING THEM UP

I was meditating on the 4 words of Ephesians 6:4 “but bring them up” for fathers today. First “but” means what follows will be in contrast to what was just said, “Do not provoke your children to anger.” The emotion of anger is one that expresses destruction. When anger is used righteously, it focuses on destroying unrighteousness. When anger is unrighteous, it usually destroys the person directed to and yourself. Provoking a child to anger only leads to destruction. The call in Ephesians 6:4 is to not contribute to such a situation “but bring them up.”

This phrase “bring them up” is also used in Exodus 3:8 and note the parallels for us as fathers, “and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.” (Exodus 3:8 ESV)

Do you see that God came down to the Israelites to deliver them and to bring them up and out of their slavery. God took initiative and moved to them in order to bring them up. That tells me as a father, to bring up my children, I need to first move towards them. It is as if I bend over and swoop them up in my arms and take them to a good and broad land that is flowing with milk and honey. But even in such a good land, there are perils that need to be prepared for; the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites of the world. However, they are being brought there and I am to discipline and instruct them with the Word of God.

As we move towards Father’s Day, let us come down to our children and by our presence in their lives and strong outstretched arms, bring them up.

FATHERS: WHAT WE MUST NOT DO ACCORDING TO EPHESIANS 6:4 Part 2

Continuing from Lou Priolo’s book “The Heart of Anger” (Calvary Press), twenty-five conditions or behaviors are identified that represent common ways that parents tend to provoke their children to anger. The command from Ephesians 6:4 is that fathers are not to contribute to the situation and to whatever degree I as a father may be contributing, I must stop it!

Here are the last 12 conditions or behaviors. For a thorough teaching on the topic, please read Lou Priolo’s excellent book. You might want to keep the towel in your mouth to bite on because the pain from the first 13 only gets worse!

14. Not Making Time “Just to Talk”James 1:1; Eccl 3:7

Relationships are impossible to build without communication. If you do not build a good relationship through communication with your child, they will seek it elsewhere which could be dangerous. Watch the pressures and “pleasures of life” do not rob you of time with your children to talk.

15. Not Praising or Encouraging Your Child Rev 2:2-4

Accurate evaluation is necessary for all of us, including self-assessments. It helps us know what we need to correct in our lives. Too often parents focus on only what is wrong and the child may incorrectly evaluate themselves in the same light. Keep your child regularly bathed in a solution of praise, especially to those things that are pleasing to God in their life so when reproof comes, they see it is an element of biblical love. It is looking for evidences of grace in their lives when they are living out Galatians 5:22-23.

16. Failing to Keep Your Promises Matt 5:37; Ps 15:4-5; Col 3:9

Promises and commitments are usually made with every intention to keep them and not to deceive. However, when they are not consistently kept, regardless of the reason, disappointment can turn into anger. A string of broken promises may have a child begin to see the parent as undependable, unreliable, and deceitful. If we need to break a commitment we should go to the child and let them know as soon as possible or if we did break a commitment, we need to seek forgiveness for we have sinned against our child.

17. Chastening in Front of Others – Matt 18:15

The Lord’s instructions for discipline apply to the home and should be followed by parents and spouses. The circle of confession and correction should only be as large as the circle of offense. If your child sins in front of others, he may in certain cases be verbally corrected (not physically) in front of them. If the sin is not public, the discipline should not be either.

18. Not Allowing Enough FreedomJames 3:17; Luke 12:48

Children earn freedom by demonstrating faithfulness. Faithfulness is demonstrating to God and others that you can be trusted with increasing freedom based upon two things: the successful fulfillment of specific responsibilities and the successful competence to make wise biblical decisions. Some parents withhold freedom due to insecurity, overprotective, unbiblical standards, concern about what others think.

19. Allowing Too Much Freedom – Prov 29:15; Gal 4:1,2; Heb 12:6-9

When children are allowed to (1) practice sinful behavior (2) participate in non-sinful activities before demonstrating the appropriate level of responsibility and maturity to handle it (money) (3) live an undisciplined life – other problems develop. Parents will suffer along with their children. Children who grow up in homes where discipline lacks, will quickly conclude that they are not loved.

20. Mocking Your Child Job 17:1-2; Ex 4:11

There are 2 main categories of teasing our children that can be provoking: Making fun of inadequacies about which they can do nothing about (intelligence, athletics, physical features, motor coordination.) These are not sinful and God takes responsibility for them. The other is making fun of things that are sinful. Sinful behavior in children is not a laughing matter to God and should not be for us.

21. Abusing Them Physically – I Tim 3:3; Num 22:27-29

The story of Balaam is similar to a parent out of control

1. He struck the donkey in haste before he collected the relevant data. Jumping to hasty and unfounded conclusions and disciplining our children for the wrong reasons.

2. Balaam struck the donkey because he was embarrassed – making sure our motives for discipline are biblical – to not is to be vindictive and abusive.

3. Balaam was out of control – if he could have, he would have killed his donkey. Do not discipline when you are out of control.

22. Ridiculing or Name Calling – Eph 4:29

There are proper biblical categories to call different behaviors. Use biblical language to your child so the behavior or attitude are properly isolated. Names are to be tools for teaching and motivation to change, not weapons. When a weapon, it embarrasses, shames and antagonizes the child.

23. Unrealistic Expectations – I Cor 13:11

We should not impose on our children standards or expectations that they developmentally are incapable of achieving. Our emphasis is to always be character and not achievement (academics, sports, music)

24. Practicing Favoritism – Luke 15:25-30

Every child is different and should be treated as individuals. The standard however is that they are to be evaluated and responded to the same. When a child perceives that the treatment of a sibling is different, you need to assure them that they will be treated the same way if they are in similar circumstances.

25. Child Training with Worldly Methodologies, Inconsistent with God’s WordEph 6:4

In Eph 6:4, notice the word “but” and the “instruction of the Lord.” A contrast is being stated that there is a right way and a wrong way. One way will provoke anger and the other will not. Using behavior modification therapy techniques will prove temporary results but will eventually frustrate the process. You cannot replace Christ and the Scriptures with worldly wisdom.

FATHERS: WHAT WE MUST NOT DO ACCORDING TO EPHESIANS 6:4

In Lou Priolo’s book “The Heart of Anger” (Calvary Press) he identifies twenty-five conditions or behaviors that represent common ways that parents tend to provoke their children to anger. It is important to realize that a child or anyone who is angry cannot blame their anger on someone else. Anger is a chosen response and anyone who is angry is totally responsible for that anger. The command from Ephesians 6:4 is that fathers are not to contribute to the situation and to whatever degree I as a father may be contributing, I must stop it!

Today I will post the first 13 and tomorrow the last 12. For a thorough teaching on the topic, please read Lou Priolo’s excellent book. You might want to put a towel in your mouth to bite on because this is going to hurt!

1. Lack of Marital Harmony  Gen 2:24; Heb. 12:15 

Perhaps the greatest provocation of anger in children is parents who do not live with each other in harmony that the Scriptures prescribe. When there is bitterness, it has effects on others and children can acquire this as well.

2. Establishing and Maintaining a Child-Centered Home  Prov. 29:15  (The book gives outstanding instruction in this area that too many homes are guilty of these days!)                                                                                                             

Children start to see themselves as equal to their parents in status. It will bring expectations that their wants and desires will be placed on an equal status as the parents. Results will be frustrations and anger.

3. Modeling  Sinful Anger  Prov. 22:24, 25

If you are displaying anger, your children can be learning your ways. It is manifested in the tone of voice or in the lack of self-control/ignoring actions – fight or flight. Teaches a child that there is no such thing as problem solving but the only solution is to win – get your way.

4. Habitually Disciplining While Angry  Ps 38:1; Eph. 4:26, 27; James 1:19, 20

When we are angry, it is easy to over discipline. The emphasis of our thinking and of subsequent discipline is to be on what the child has done by sinning against the Lord, not on how their actions have caused us some personal discomfort, trouble or embarrassment. Over discipline can be perceived by a child as a personal attack.

5. Scolding  Eph. 4:29; Mark 14:3-5

It is the expression of a bad spirit. As much as possible, all discipline should be done with as normal tone of voice as possible with carefully measured words.

6. Being Inconsistent with Discipline  2 Cor. 1:17,18; Eccl 8:11

Common in 2 ways: First having different standards by each parent. Second is vacillating from day to day on what behavior is disciplined and how severe correction will be. The inconsistencies can come from different philosophies or methods of child rearing. One parent may struggle with emotions, spiritually, or physically. There also may the lack of wanting to put the time in.

7. Having Double Standards  Phil 4:9

Being a hypocrite. Calling for biblical standards in your children and then not willing to live by biblical standards yourself.

8. Legalism  Matt 15:8-9

Defined as elevating man-made rules to the same level of culpability as the commands given by God in Scripture. Need to divide out in a home biblically directed rules and biblically derived rules or God’s rules and house rules. Directed rules or God’s rules are those which all obligated to obey because God commands them. Derived rules or house rules are based on biblical principles and the obligation to obey is based upon God-ordained authority. House rules may be appealed but God’s rules cannot be.

9. Not Admitting You Are Wrong and Not Asking for Forgiveness  Matt 5:23, 24; James 5:16

A parent’s failure to acknowledge offenses to their children discourages the child from practicing open biblical communication.

10. Constantly Finding Fault  Job 32:2-3; Prov. 19:11

A parent is to point out sinful behavior and character problems but is not to be critical, condemning, accusing, or have a judgmental attitude. It is a spirit where the child begins to question whether they can do anything right. The safeguard is to purpose to praise, commend and acknowledge biblical achievement with greater frequency than reproving. Don’t turn every situation to reprove into a sermon.

11. Parents Reversing God-Given Roles  Eph. 5:22-24

A home where God’s order is violated will be a home that is frustrated. It presents confusion to the child on God’s plan for authority, leadership and submission.

12. Not Listening to Your Child’s Opinion or Taking His or Her “Side of the Story” Seriously  Prov. 18:3; 18:17

You may not agree always with your child’s reasoning, conclusions and opinions, but if you are going to lead them into truth, you need to understand their perspective. By not doing do, you may be communicating sinful attitudes such as arrogance, impatience, or a lack of love. To listen is to help your child learn how to receive a reproof biblically.

13. Comparing Them to Others  2 Cor. 10:12

Every child has unique gifts and abilities given by God. Proper comparing should be made two ways: forward looking – by comparing where the child is today to the biblical standards of maturity or backward looking – comparing the child’s maturity today to other various points in the past.