Category Archives: Wisdom
By Erik Raymond, Pastor at Emmaus Bible Church, Omaha
There are popular surveys published that say most of the young people in our evangelical churches will walk away from the faith after high school. Further study shows that the numbers that really do are not as high as they state and that many who do walk from the faith, really did not have it in the first place. In this article, Erik does a great job summarizing the climate of a home where the Word of God is lived out and taught in a manner that will help make it stick. There are no guarantees to what your child will do, but you do not want to have regrets as a parent. Erik writes:
“Make sure you shut the door!” This phrase is uttered a few dozen times a day in my home. With the warmer Spring weather we have children coming in and out of the house all the time. We also have a dog. She is an extremely curious, 1 year-old Boxer (fawn) named Bristol, who very much enjoys being outside. If the door is left open, or allowed to close slowly, Bristol will seize her opportunity to run out the door and then she’s off. She runs down the alley, through the neighborhood, off to experience the freedom of self-discovery. We have been told by neighbors that she sometimes just joins their family on their walk or goes into their yard to play. She seizes her opportunity.
However, there are times when she doesn’t run. Actually there is only one time. This is when someone with authority is standing in front of the door or close enough to catch her quickly. In this case she just sits there waiting for us to get distracted or leave our post. She is most certainly restrained by the law and not trained by grace.
As a Dad sometimes I feel like my wife and I are standing by the door. I look at my children (ranging from 2-18) and know what I think is best for them. We try to educate, be transparent, humble, gracious, consistent, and loving with them. We want to build a foundation of thinking and understanding of the world, train them in wisdom, and help them gain understanding. However, as a parent you never feel your work is done, there is always more to do and more you could have done better.
How can we know that once our children graduate high school or head off to college that they won’t simply fly out the door and run from everything we have taught them? How do we know that they won’t abandon the God of their youth? How do we know whether or not they are complying because they have chosen the consequences of submission (blessing) over the consequences of rebellion (discipline)?
On the weekend of our oldest son’s graduation from High School here are some thoughts I have about keeping the kids from “running out the door” and away from God and their family.
1) Reverse Engineer the thing.
Who or what are you trying to make? When I look at my kids I want them to be able to do three things (concerning Christianity): 1) Read / Understand the Bible, 2) Pray, 3) Talk to people about the Bible. How do you do this? I think you have to regularly expose them to the Bible, the Sunday gathering, fellowship in the church, and family Bible reading, and discussions of spiritual things.
2) Be who you want them to be.
Many kids get frustrated with their parents because they hold them to a standard that they themselves cannot keep. Paul could tell churches to imitate him as he imitated Christ. There is some power in that statement. It’s pretty tough to tell you kids to be humble, accept correction, and follow Christ when you don’t do it. It let’s the air out of your argument. Instead, model the faithfulness that the Bible calls you to.
3) Elevate the Bible in the home.
I hope my kids will remember everything that we taught them about the Bible, but if I’m honest, I know it’s unlikely. However, I do think they could get the fact that Mom and Dad read the Bible all the time. We take the Bible seriously and believe it is actually God’s Word. This is an extremely impactful lesson for a kid.
4) Be consistent in discipline.
One sure way to exasperate your children is to change the standard of discipline based upon your feelings. Even worse, change them based upon the child. To the best of your ability, be consistent: what is wrong on Saturday is wrong on Wednesday. Kids will appreciate and be trained by this.
5) Confess your sins.
Another way to exasperate children is to never admit that you are wrong. This is also a sure fire way to show that grace is not real in your life. When you mess up–admit it, confess it, ask forgiveness. This is just normal Christianity. It does not undermine your role as a parent, it actually enhances it with and by grace.
6) Let kids grow up.
As a Dad with 3 girls I regularly fight the challenge to keep them all playing with dolls and polly pockets. I hate the thought of guys noticing them or (worse) them noticing guys. However, by God’s grace I need to let them grow up. I need to shepherd them through these next 10 years in a loving, helpful, careful, and thoughtful way. Just as it is irresponsible to let them go do whatever they want it is irresponsible to lock them up in a tower like Rapunzel.
7) Have real conversations and answer the hard questions.
As strange as it sounds talking is often hard. It often gets shelved with our busy work schedules, life events, and the overall busyness of life. But these conversations are so important in the development of the child in the home. They are also important in the establishment of trust and closeness between the parent and the child. There need to be tough conversations about ethical issues, sexuality, politics, parenting, etc. As parents we want our kids to have an opinion on these topics–don’t we want them to be formed and shape what we believe is right and true?
9) Keep your promises.
Years ago my wife noticed that we often told the kids we were going to do something (get pizza, go to the park, etc) and then something came up and we cancelled it. We decided that in order to train them to keep their word that we would not cancel commitments unless it was absolutely necessary. If we promise to do something then we will, as the Lord wills, do whatever we can to make it happen. This breeds consistency and trust.
10) Show affection.
Affection is the physical expression of love and acceptance. When I hug my kids I am reaffirming my love and acceptance of them. I am telling them that at that moment everything is good between us. I am for them. I love them. This is so important for the ongoing restating of love in a home. In our house we hug and kiss a lot. I believe it is actually more than a habit. I have had a child squeeze me tighter than normal and then ask them how things are going only to get into a discussion about something that was bothering them. The opposite is also true. A casual, formal hug is usually a sign that something is wrong. Affection is a blessing within a family to communicate this love and acceptance. Don’t miss this daily opportunity to say it.
11) Pray a lot.
A few years ago I wrote a post entitled, “Pray like you Can’t save your Kids and Parent like You Can.” Be relentless on your knees for your children. Carry them to the throne of grace daily as you petition the sovereign and good God of the gospel for mercy. This is because parenting is so hard and the stakes are so high. We must pray. This is hard work. It is however, the work of faith, the work of dependence and the work of love. It is gospel work. It is Christian parenting. And I guarantee you will not be wasting your time.
Conclusion: Embrace Your Stewardship
A lot of what is written above takes time and effort. These are two things that we often don’t have. As parents we sacrifice these on the altar of personal convenience and comfort. This is reprehensible when we remember that our children are really not our children. They are the Lord’s children; we are stewards. It is our job to be found faithful as stewards. In this light time and effort are not optional–they are mandatory.
At the same time, I know parents who have done everything talked about on this page (and more) only to have their child walk away from God after they graduate. They were faithful parents but their child chose to walk away. Making disciples is not like making a cake: you don’t just add ingredients and time and then voilia! We rely upon the grace of God to be at work in the lives of people.
When we consider our son graduating from High School this weekend I know we have not done things perfectly. I am a sinner who has been selfish and lazy. However, by God’s grace we have a son who can stand at the door, and we can say that we can walk away. We can let him walk out and do his thing, confident that he has been loved and trained by us and God. This brings me great joy as a parent.
By Andrew Shanks
My 5-year-old daughter is fine with scary stories until she has to go to bed. The trouble starts when she is lying under the covers in her darkened room, separated from her parents not only by the admittedly small distance of a few yards and one wall but also by the infinitely vaster distance of imagination. And the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I can still recall my 11-year-old self, hunkered down with a neighborhood playmate, reading ghost stories (against my parents’ advice) and being certain, in the full light of day, that such ridiculous stories would never affect me. I didn’t sleep for a week.
My daughter, Julienne, is similarly full of confidence during the day and similarly terrified at night. Seemingly innocuous images catalyze this reaction in her 5-year-old mind. Once it was the giant depicted in Mickey and the Beanstalk. We dealt with that one for several nights. Once it was a mildly disturbing character from a children’s magazine, even though that character was clearly intended to come across as impish. There was a dragon from one story or another. The odd witch or two. Julienne has yet to experience such classics as Disney’s Snow White or Cinderella, not because we have anything against those movies, but because we know she won’t be able to handle the villains depicted in them.
I am called into my daughter’s room to reassure her in her moments of fear, what strategy should I adopt to alleviate my child’s fear in her time of need? When Julienne is afraid of a cartoon giant crushing our house or carrying her away, I can respond by saying something like, “Sweetheart, giants aren’t real: they’re just characters in stories. You don’t need to worry about that. Go back to sleep.” Or when she is concerned about the incendiary ramifications of a passing dragon’s exhalations, I can counter, “Dragons don’t really exist, honey. You don’t need to be afraid of dragons.” This is what many parents do in similar circumstances, and it may often be the best course of action.
But is it always? Is it possible we’re actually doing them a disservice in the long run? Here’s what I mean: The “It’s not real” argument may certainly work when used in reference to a dragon, an ogre, a giant, or a witch. But it will not work when used to combat the real fears of pain, loss, heartbreak, loneliness, betrayal, and sin. So would it be valuable for parents of young children, like myself, to consider an alternative strategy for dealing with our children’s current fears, in the hope that it will translate into habitual practice of handling fear throughout their lives?
Here are two biblical ways we can address our children’s current fears and teach them how to handle the other fears that will inevitably emerge from the shadows later on.
Teach them that God is more fearful than our fears.
One of the most awe-inspiring ways God shows himself in Scripture is in what theologians call storm theophanies (for example, Ex. 13:21; 14:19-21; 19:16-19, 1 Sam. 7:10; 1 Kg. 8:10-11; 18:38, 19:11-12, Job 36:24-38:1; Ps. 18:7-15). Perceiving God in the midst of the storm helps us grasp his power and his majesty. But it also helps us remember the only one who ought to cause us to fear: God himself. As Jesus teaches:
I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! (Luke 12:4-5)
How does teaching our children to fear God help them handle their other fears? If we prayerfully employ the Scriptures in our efforts, two responses will follow. First, the fear of God will vastly outweigh other, lesser concerns. And second, the fear of God will give birth to confidence in God. This is what we see happening in the life of David in Psalm 18. After reflecting on the terrifying magnificence of God in verses 7-15, he is led to announce his own salvation by God in verses 16-19.
Teaching our children to tremble before the Lord is a task we must embrace all the time, not just in moments of darkness-inspired fear.
Teach them that God will protect us from what is most fearful.
The second lesson we must instill in our children is the liberating truth that God will protect us from what is most fearful. The challenge here is to find the balance in emphasis between the reassurance that God will protect us and the clarification that God’s protection might include real pain and suffering. Another way of expressing this idea is to say that while God has never promised us that we won’t be cast into the furnace, he has shown us that we won’t go through it alone (see Isa. 43:1-2).
When Julienne calls me into her room out of fear of dragons or giants, I try to remind her of these things. I tell her that God loves her and is more to be feared than any monster. I tell her that Jesus died for her and that even if something bad were to happen, it would only mean that she would be with him that much sooner. I tell her that, while I’m pretty sure all the giants died off a long time ago and that I’ve never seen a dragon in these parts, if one or the other does show up, she can trust me to fight it off for her.
I tell her these things because I know the dragons and giants will morph into their real-life counterparts: the all-consuming destruction of self-love and the brutal ugliness of sin. And when the day of that battle arrives, she needs a sharper sword in her hand than my whispered delusion, “They’re not real.” Such a dull blade will never penetrate dragon scales or giant’s hide. But the monster has yet to be spawned that can withstand the fury of the protective love of the heavenly Father.
These are the truths that calm the night terrors of 5-year-olds in my house. Indeed, these are the truths that calm my own.
My comment: I am seeing a lot of this working back at the Christian School. Parenting from both extremes. Worth a self-check and reminder from Ecclesiastes of the balance living as pilgrims in the world.
By Daniel Darling, VP for Communications at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
My wife and I are in the throes of parenting and are surrounded, in our church and among friends, with other couples in the throes of parenting. So my parenting radar is hot. I’m learning, growing and repenting every day as I ask the Lord to make me a faithful dad.
It’s often easier to learn how to be a better parent by observing and owning our mistakes. So as I’ve observed parenting (my own and others’) and tried to admit and learn from my mistakes, I’ve compiled a list of five tendencies Christian parents have. I hope it helps you think through your own parenting journey.
1. We overexpose our kids to the culture. The Bible doesn’t use the term “culture,” but it does use a very similar word, “world.” This is a loose definition of the prevailing thinking in a given society. Typically the values of the culture run counter to the way of Christ. Not always. Sometimes a culture is shaped by Christian influence.
Today, we parents should be cautious in what we allow our kids to imbibe. We can be passive in allowing them to form ungodly convictions based on what everyone else is thinking and saying. What’s more, there are corrosive images that can hurt their souls. This is why we have to be wise in monitoring the media they consume, the time they spend online, and the time they spend with friends.
2. We underexpose our kids to the culture. This is an equal and opposite danger to overexposure. It is easy to adopt a fortress mentality as parents, sheltering our kids so much from the world that they have no ability to discern truth from error, ugliness from beauty. There is a tendency to overprotect our kids so much so that we fail to prepare them for their mission in this world.
Our kids will one day live as adults and will require the requisite skills, both spiritual and social, to make wise choices. If our only parenting mode is protection, we fail to teach them how to apply the Scriptures to the reality of life in a sinful world. What’s more we rob them of the God-glorifying act of enjoying, consuming, and creating the best of culture: art, beauty and grace as expressed by artists whose talent points to a masterful Creator.
3. We mediate all of their petty disputes. I wonder if there is a more difficult thing to resist than the impulse to dive in and solve all of my kids’ interpersonal problems with their friends. But I’ve found that when I become my child’s defense attorney, all the time, it not only harms my child’s ability to make good choices, it destroys the fragile unity among Christian parents. At times there are issues that are serious that must be addressed and there are times when a parent has to step in if a child is being bullied or abused. I’m not talking about these moments. I’m talking about the everyday squabbles that kids have.
Let’s face it, our kids are sinners in a fallen world. They will, at times, say things and do things that surprise and shock and hurt. They will at times be the recipient of hurtful words and actions. If we step in and take it personally every single time a kid calls our kid a name, we’ll not train them for life in the real world. We’ll damage their ability to work out forgiveness and repentance. And when they grow older and face life in the world, they will be in for a huge, rude awakening.
It is said often in Scripture that we demonstrate our love for God by the way we treat people. So we need to let our kids learn these lessons as they interact with their friends.
4. We focus only on short-term behaviors. I’m learning this lesson as my daughter Grace gets older. She’s eight now, and we’ve given her some liberty to go a few houses down and visit with her friends. These are good families with whom we have relationships. At times, we’ve gotten upset with Grace because she made poor choices, such as going past the boundaries we’ve set because her friends encouraged her, or going into someone else’s house or backyard without our approval.
Sometimes it’s a simple act of disobedience. But there are other times when, frankly, she was presented with quick choices and wasn’t sure how to respond. We’ve often just reprimanded her for not getting our permission, but we have realized that we hadn’t always given her the tools to choose wisely. So we’re sitting her down and running through scenarios, trying to train her how to make wise choices in the moment.
We parents have a tendency to allow the frustration of the moment or just pure laziness to set a pattern of simply punishing behaviors rather than trying to set our kids up with the right information and tools to make good choices. We have to remember that there will be a time in the future when they won’t have us around anymore. So if we make every decision for them, if we give them no space to fail and come back and figure out what they did wrong, if we don’t equip them to discern, they will be helpless when the time comes for them to be on their own. We have to remember that we’re not simply training our children to be good, we’re equipping them for God’s unique mission in their generation. Are we doing this?
5. We overcompensate for our perceived childhood gaps. Every generation tends to react to the mistakes or shortcomings (perceived or real) of the previous generation. You hear it in our talk. “My parents never gave me X, so I want to make sure my kids have Y.”
What we don’t understand is that our parents were doing the same thing, and the imbalance we experienced was likely a reaction to their parents. We want to avoid reactive, seesaw parenting if we can. It’s good to highlight areas where we think our parents might have missed the mark, but let’s be careful of the pendulum.
So if you grew up in a legalistic environment and didn’t like that, your tendency will be toward permissiveness. If you grew up in a loose household, you’ll tend toward legalism, especially if you became a Christian late in life. We are wise to recognize the extremes and avoid them.
Furthermore, let’s let the Scriptures and the influence of the Spirit of God guide us. And let’s resist the temptation to reactionary parenting based on what we experienced in our own childhoods. Because, like our parents, we’re fallen sinners in need of God’s grace.
Our parenting will have huge gaps. And in twenty years it may be our children sitting on someone’s couch, lamenting the failures of their mother and father. So let’s have some humility.
I often get asked, “Which children’s Bible should we buy for our kids?” One of my recommendations for years has been Sally Lloyd Jones’ The Jesus Storybook Bible. Here is an article by Sally about teaching the Bible to your young child.
Do you read the Bible like a rulebook? Do you look at the biblical characters as heroes to emulate? Or do you read Scripture as a Story with one great Hero?
When I go to churches and speak to children, I often start by asking them two questions:
They tentatively raise their hands. I raise my hand along with them.
And second, How many people here sometimes think that if you aren’t good, God will stop loving you?
Almost without fail they raise their hands.
These children think they have to keep the rules or God won’t love them. They think if they mess up God will stop loving them.
These children are in Sunday schools. They know all their Bible stories. And they have missed what the Bible is all about.
They are children like I once was.
Feelings of not enough
Even though I came to faith as a small child, I somehow grew up thinking the Bible was filled with rules you had to keep (or God wouldn’t love you) and with heroes setting examples you had to follow (or God wouldn’t love you).
I tried to be good. I really did. I was quite good at being good and keeping the rules. But however hard I tried, I couldn’t keep the rules all the time, so I knew God must not be pleased with me.
And as far as being a hero: I certainly couldn’t ever be as brave as Daniel.
I remember being tormented by that Sunday school chorus “Dare to Be a Daniel.”
I somehow grew up thinking the Bible was filled with rules you had to keep (or God wouldn’t love you) and with heroes setting examples you had to follow (or God wouldn’t love you).
I remember lying in bed, hiding under the sheets, trying to imagine what I would do if someone threatened to throw me to lions. Would I be brave like Daniel? Would I stand firm? Would I be faithful? Hard as I tried to imagine myself daring to be a Daniel, being thrown to lions and not minding, I knew I wouldn’t be a hero.
I knew I wasn’t nearly brave enough. Or strong enough. Or faithful enough, or anything enough.
I wasn’t doing it right.
How could God ever love me?
I was sure that he couldn’t.
Turning Bible stories into lessons of morality
One Sunday, I was reading “Daniel and the Scary Sleepover” from The Jesus Storybook Bible to some 6-year-olds during Sunday school. One little girl in particular was sitting so close to me she was almost in my lap. Her face was bright and eager as she listened to the story, utterly captivated. She could hardly keep on the ground and kept kneeling up to get closer to the story.
At the end of the story there were no other teachers around, and I panicked and went into autopilot and heard myself—to my horror—asking, “And so what can we learn from Daniel about how God wants us to live?”
And as I said those words it was as if I had literally laid a huge load on that little girl. Like I broke some spell. She crumpled right in front of me, physically slumping and bowing her head. I will never forget it.
The Bible isn’t mainly about us, and what we are supposed to be doing—it’s about God, and what he has done.
It is a picture of what happens to a child when we turn a story into a moral lesson.
When we drill a Bible story down into a moral lesson, we make it about us. But the Bible isn’t mainly about us, and what we are supposed to be doing—it’s about God, and what he has done.
Children don’t need to be told to try harder, believe more, or do it better. That just leaves them in despair. The moral code always leaves us in despair. We can never live up to it.
I knew it as a child—I could never be good enough or brave enough.
Teaching God’s story in the Bible
We don’t need a moral code. We need a rescuer.
That the Bible isn’t mainly about me and what I should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.
That the Bible is most of all a story—the story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.
That—in spite of everything, no matter what, whatever it cost him—God won’t ever stop loving his children . . . with a wonderful, Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.
That the Bible, in short, is a Story—not a Rule Book—and there is only one Hero in the Story.
I wrote The Jesus Storybook Bible so children could meet the Hero in its pages. And become part of His Magnificent Story.
Because rules don’t change you.
But a Story—God’s Story—can.
This is a wonderful example of Deuteronomy 6:5-9 from Pastor Ray Ortlund and gospel-centered parenting (or grandparenting): “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
This is my grandson. He is lost in thought, contemplating a toad. All else has faded away, for a toad is at hand. And, surely, this is why God made toads. For little boys to meditate upon. At this moment in my grandson’s existence, he has no thought but concentration, no feeling but fascination. This is one of the ways God cares for little boys, drawing them into the experience of curiosity and even wonder. Like training wheels on the bicycle that one day will become the Maserati.
What is a toad? I think of it as a frog – already an absurd creature – but with more camo and warts. And it prefers to walk on land. So that little boys can see one in the back yard. And grow up to be men in Christ with hearts alerted to the out-there-ness reality of things infinitely greater than toads, worthy of endless wonder. So thank you, Father, for the toads of this world. For this toad. For this boy. For this moment. For all that it means for the future, including the future of the whole world.
Is there, built into the total creation, an intrinsic necessity for toads? If they were all to disappear, would the universe be diminished? My hunch is, no. But is there, built into the total creation, an intrinsic necessity for little boys? If they were all to disappear, would the universe be diminished? Yes. Little boys can grow up to be mighty men of Christ, to rule majestically over all things under their King and Brother (Psalm 8).
It all starts so humbly, so delightfully, with a toad in the back yard.
In my Sunday school class this past Sunday we took time to talk about wisdom and reaching the child who is living the life of a fool in rebellion. Our bent is to use the book of Proverbs and other sources as tools to modify their behavior and not look to the gospel meaning of God’s Word to reach their heart. To blast them with Scripture will only crush them or harden their heart. Jesus, in speaking to the Jews in John 5: 39, 40 states, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
To help our children in their rebellion, we need to bring to them words and questions that will reach in their heart and help them see how Christ offers himself as the means to fulfill what they are seeking. It is through the gospel of Jesus Christ that we find reconciliation, the forgiveness of sins and the mercy that is available and possible for both you the parent and for your child.
Here are some suggestions on getting to the heart:
- Remember that the power of God is Jesus Christ and the gospel (Romans 1:16, 1 Corinthians 1:18). A deeper understanding of the cross of Christ is the pathway to the heart. What tends to get in the way of the cross is moralism where thinking that if we just change some behavior, it will obtain the favor of God. This is just the opposite of the gospel where God’s favor is found in what Christ has done, not us. The parent’s task is not just to get your child to act right but is to bring the gift of Jesus Christ to them. Another obstacle is whose desires are they pursuing? We all are motivated to go after what we want but your child (and you) will need help to change those desires to God-centered desires and what God wants.
- Avoid the focus in your child’s training on the problem and be helping them see solutions. Problems need to be identified but the gospel brings to us the means of restoration. When solutions are determined, ask your child questions regarding what went right rather than focusing on what went wrong. For example, rather than “How did things go for you?” try “What went well for you today?” If they mention things that did not go well, have them think through some of the solutions they can employ.
- Help your child to learn the necessity of repentance and godly sorrow over sin. For the healthy Christian, this is our daily practice. We get to see the power of the cross when through repentance the obstacle of my sin is taken away. Repentance is a work of the Holy Spirit and though an apology may be part of the work of repentance, it is not the totality of it. Repentance is principally the acknowledgement of my sin, the impact of my sin to God and man, and the commitment to turn away from what is offensive to God and to others and move towards restoration. It is a new pathway and is not always a destination.
Thomas Brooks (1608-1680) in his work, “A Cabinet of Choice Jewels,” wrote, All tears of godly sorrow drop from the eye of faith. Godly sorrow rises and falls – as faith rises and falls. The more a man is able by faith to look upon a pierced Christ – the more his heart will mourn over all the dishonors which he has done to Christ. The more deep and wide the wounds are, which faith shows me in the heart and sides of Christ-the more my heart will be wounded for sinning against Christ.
Wisdom is a gift from God to us as parents that is part of how God has revealed himself to us. It is our responsibility as parents to obtain wisdom and then to pass it to our children. The Scriptures have a lot to say about guidance for our children in this area and warns us about ignoring the responsibility of appealing to them to follow the pathway of wisdom.
We must realize that Jesus Christ is our wisdom as we are rightly related to God through him. We are fallen sinners living in a very complex world that is made up of decisions and relationships and are trying to discover meaning in all of them. The gospel is God’s plan to rightly relate all things and so bring meaning back to order. We do not see the full extent of this right now because it is all confused by sin and the term Proverbs uses to describe this disorder is death. It is through Jesus Christ that life is restored.
As we look at attaining wisdom in Proverbs chapter 4 and bringing it to our children, we find an appeal to take the path of restoration and can see how it points to Christ. The chapter begins by a father’s call to his son to grab on to wisdom and that it is passed on from generation to generation. (1-4)
Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight, for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me,“Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live.
For some of us, we as parents might be first generation Christians who do not have a legacy behind us. However we do stand with great leaders who have taught us. I think of pastors, authors, and great theologians of the past who have shaped me and I offer those to the next generation.
In the next section is a strong appeal to get wisdom. In other words, pursue Christ but know that it will cost you. Jesus never sugar coated the path of wisdom and spoke of losing your life in order to gain it. (5-9)
Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you.The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”
Wisdom through Christ must be our life. To pursue wisdom other ways will only lead us on a journey of frustration, failure and expose us to the path of the wicked. Proverbs explains the Christian life here as a journey on a path which means we travel step by step. The fix for foolishness in my sin is not a quick fix but a day by day repentance as I consider what Jesus has done for me. The hope of the gospel is “like the light of dawn which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” (10-19)
Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many. I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness. When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble. Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life. Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it;turn away from it and pass on. For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong;they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble. For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence. But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.
The final portion of this chapter is an appeal not to get lost in the journey and to pay attention to every step of the way. It is often our lack of awareness of our own sin that gets us lost and so the need to have God’s Word and loving brothers and sisters in Christ around me to insure that I am seeing myself and my attitudes clearly. It is part of your role as a parent to be the same to your children and guide them on he path of Proverbs life. We are all prone to self-deception and the key to clear vision is a heart that is focused on Christ and the gospel. (20-27)
My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.
Last week I dealt with the fool. This week I will address how parents move toward their children and how the children can move to their parents in wisdom.
First of all Proverbs points us to two places that wisdom begins: through the fear of the Lord and by knowledge. By this we can see that wisdom first is the characteristic of someone who is rightly related to God. When we consider the fullness of what foolishness is and what it brings, it is broken relationships. Sin separates us from God. Foolishness breaks the harmony of a relationship with others such as child to parent. The gospel is God’s remedy for brokenness whether it is our sin or eventually the redemption of the creation.
Secondly, if knowledge also is the beginning of wisdom, then wisdom suggests a concern for the way we use our minds. Wisdom is shown by the way our minds and hearts guide our actions. Our goal is to help our children develop a Christian mind that comes through the gospel so that we are “transformed by the renewing of our minds.”
Worldly wisdom or the thinking of the world is condemned to destruction (1 Corinthians 1:18-21) and is contrasted to Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God. When we are in Christ and have union with his life, death, and resurrection, we are enabled to engage in the task of putting things back in their order and place. Our relationship with God is restored because Christ’s merits are credited to us in the eyes of God and order is brought from the chaos of sin.
In John 10:10, Jesus offers life and said we can have it abundantly through him. The gospel that leads us to wisdom is not about what we can give to God through intellect but is about what God has and will do for us.
Tomorrow: Proverbs 4 and grasping wisdom.
The mocker, scoffer, or scorner is the final category of fool and the most severe. We start knowing this fool by their strong dislike of correction that brings on abuse, injury, and hatred to the one correcting (9:7,8; 13:1, 15:12). It is this hardness to correction that blocks any move you make to wisdom. They are a deliberate troublemaker who act with arrogance and their actions impact those around them including impressing some of the lower categories of fools (21:24, 29:8).
The discipline for such a person from Proverbs calls for tough love with the hope that God will do a work on the heart of such a fool. The reasons given in Proverbs for such tough measures are that the simple fool are too easily influenced by the scoffer (19:25, 21:11). They tend to cause division, strife, and quarreling (22:10) and their actions are plain and noted by all, believer or non-believer (24:9)
The reason to bring these categories this week to you is to realize the importance of moving toward your child while they are in the simple and ksil categories of a fool. Too often we see in children some foolish action and take it either too lightly or think that it is cute. Keep it up and one day you may be dealing with today’s category.
The fool of Proverbs represents one who has made a deliberate choice to reject instruction and training. It is not the result of ignorance and so the fool is totally responsible for their actions. Yesterday I posted about the first level of the fool from the Hebrew terms translated as fool. Today I present the next two levels, the “wil” fool and the “nabal” fool.
The “wil” fool comes from the Hebrew that implies weak minded but is usually associated with being strong-willed and determined. The word picture would be bull-headed because they are stubborn in their rebellion. Some characteristics of this fool from Proverbs is that they make up their mind to do something but when asked why they did it, they may say they really did not have a good reason. Other characteristics are quarrelsome, they reveal themselves often by their speech, impatient to advice, and mock sin. (See 12:15-16; 14:9, 17:28, 20:3, 27:3, 29:9).
The third level of fool is the “nabal” fool. You may recognize this word by the name of Abigail’s husband in 1 Samuel 25 and where in verse 25, Abigail in attempting to prevent King David from responding to a fool in a foolish way states, “Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so he is. Nabal is his name and folly is with him.” The word implies being closed-minded or what is known as hard-hearted. This is the dangerous fool of Psalm 53:1 who says in their heart there is no God. In other words, they are functional atheists in their thinking and actions and have placed themselves in arrogance as sovereign in their life.
The danger of a fool at this point is they are near the final type of category of rebellion being the mocker or scoffer. As a fool, the “nabal” fool still falls into the category of hope with the rod of correction.
What we need to consider always with the rod of correction is that we often apply it based upon an outward behavior, but its intention biblically is to reach the heart. The beauty of the gospel is that the rod God had for my sin was placed upon my Savior, Jesus Christ and he absorbed its blows for me. That set me free to find wisdom in him rather than in myself. The hope for the fool is Christ and though you can modify a fool’s behavior, only Christ can change their heart.