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Raising Our Children -- the Way God Raises His
by David A. DePra
One of the earmarks of this lawless age, is the disintegration of the family. We might expect this from the world. But it is also the case with the church. Christians by the thousands today have no hesitation when it comes to violating scripture with regard to marriage and divorce, raising children, and the home structure. The body of Christ has become conformed to this world. The condition of our families prove it.
God has given His Word, which reveals His mind about our family relationships, and all other relationships. If we would open ourselves to His Words, and begin to obey Him, we would not only avoid much heartbreak and tragedy, but we would experience a world of relationship which we cannot imagine.
Life is about relationships. It is always going to be. Eternally, we will have relationships with others. First among our relationships is the one we have with God. That will govern every other one we have.
Naturally, when one begins to discuss a topic such as marriage or child raising from scripture, the audience will include many who have made many devastating mistakes. But the Redemption of Jesus Christ is available to those who will embrace it. God may not change the history of our lives. But He can change what history has done to us spiritually, morally, and internally. He can bring healing to any family. Yet none of this is going to happen unless we turn and hand over to Him our past, present, and future.
All sin is forgiven in Christ. God can build a city on itís own rubble, and bring redemption to anything. Thus, for those who have suffered a divorce, or who has contributed to difficulties in the lives of their children, Godís word is to confess and surrender. And above all, move on living under the power of the Truth. We may not be able to change history. But we can allow God to use it to help us and others.
In the New Testament, God lays down a number of qualifications for church leadership. (see I Timothy 3 and Titus 1) Prominent among these is the personís relationship with those closest to him: His immediate family. The marriage relationship is mentioned, as is the character and conduct of the children in the prospective leaderís family. Why is this important?
It is important for the reason God says it is important. He says, "If a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?" The character of a leader is best seen at home, where no outsider is watching. It is seen Ė not only in his relationship to his family Ė but it is seen IN his family.
Get that. It is one thing to talk about how you interact with you wife or husband or children. But in the final analysis, there is something more important going on: What your life is doing TO them, and what your life is doing IN them. How is the person you are affecting your family? What are you causing them to become Ė emotionally, morally, and spiritually? What values are being ingrained?
Anyone can sit a child down and teach them things. But they will likely forget most of it. The way you really teach a child is by example. They learn through the attitudes they see YOU have. They learn by your tone of voice Ė how you respond to life. They learn by seeing how you treat them and how you treat your spouse, and others. THAT is how they learn the most.
Actually, this way of learning is not limited to kids. Adults learn that way too. Your spouse does not grow to know you because you sit down and tell them about yourself. No. They learn about you by experiencing you Ė by your relationship with them and others.
This is precisely why the immediate family is mentioned by God when it comes to leaders. Only the immediate family lives with that person everyday. The product that is turned out there, at home, is reflective of what the person is really like. The spiritual environment at home produces fruit like no other place can.
Obviously, leaders arenít the only ones with families. ALL Christians are producing fruit at home, and that fruit is the result of LIVES being lived, either in the will of God, out of it, or somewhere in between. Thus, the principle still applies, leader or not: We affect other people Ė drastically. We affect them in ways that can last a lifetime. We certainly affect our families like we affect no one else. Doesnít it seem as if we ought to take it seriously, and seek Godís will and pattern for families?
Well, God is going to hold us personally responsible for the lives we affect. We had better get that straight. Especially the lives of those who presently have no ability to defend themselves, such as children. Jesus said:
Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receives me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. (Matt. 18:3-6)
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou may live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (Eph. 5:21 Ė 6:4)
Watch any sitcom today, and the blueprint for the family is the same. The husband is usually a fool. The wife is the one who is in charge. The kids are smarter than the parents. They openly defy their parents, get away with it, and end up being proven right. And all of this, is, of course, "funny."
This may sound hard, but God doesnít think it is funny. And it is certain that where such a pattern is practiced in a CHRISTIAN home, God doesnít think it is funny. What it does is grieve God. He knows that it is destructive in every way.
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Prov. 22:6)
We mentioned earlier that God is going to hold us personally responsible for how we affect the lives of others. Especially how we affect the lives of our children. When our children are born, they know nothing about life. Most of what they learn about life, God, relationships, and attitudes, they get from US.
A parent cannot SAVE the child. The child must eventually place personal faith in Jesus Christ. But the parent can make it harder, or easier, for the child to be willing to embrace the Truth about Christ. We can either equip our children with tools to help them make a choice to follow Christ, or we can saddle them with excess baggage.
The home is the classroom in which parents teach their children. There are a number of ways in which we teach kids, whether we realize it or not:
1. By word Ė direct teaching and instruction. About life and about God. We can, and should, read and teach our children from the Bible. We should take life and apply the Bible to it, as they encounter problems and blessings. It is best to start this at an early age, establishing a respect for Godís Word. But donít use the Bible as a "whip." The children will only learn to resent it later. Apply Godís Word in a way that makes it seem like a really good idea. After all, it IS!
2. By deeds Ė by what the child sees the parent doing and saying. Children learn more from what they see and hear when you are not "in the teaching mode," than they do when you are. Your kids are continually exposed to YOU. What you are is going to rub off on them. Take time to observe just how much your kids sound like you. It may shock you.
3. By attitude Ė by how the parent reacts towards things. Your attitude towards things, as much as what you say, is adopted by your kids. Bias, anger, bitterness Ė all these things are contagious. They are in a church. How much more in a home. But so are the good things. Always be aware of the attitudes you are showing your kids. If you are having a bad day, they donít need to know about it.
4. By relationships Ė by who you allow into your life. Children learn tons by how the parents treat people, each other, and the kids themselves. Do we understand that young children always think their parents are right? They donít say that in words, but WE are all they know. They love and trust us. What we allow into our lives, we allow into THEIR lives! And they think it is right and good. At best, later when they find out it was not right, you will lose their respect. We are the doorkeepers to the home. We invite into that home, not only people, but values and spiritual forces. We do this through the television, computer, people, toys, games, and friends.
The Five Biggest Mistakes Parents Make
We are talking about raising our kids the way God raises His Ė His people. The tragic irony is, that most of the mistakes parents make result from the opposite: We raise our children the way we Ė in our unbelief and rebellion against God Ė wish that God would raise us. In effect, we allow in our kids what we want God to allow in us. Or, we demand in our kids something that is a reaction to what we believe God requires from us. In fact, all of our relationships in life, at home, at work, and at church, are reflections of our personal relationship with God. The VERTICAL relationship always Ė and I do mean ALWAYS Ė filters down and is seen in our HORIZONTAL relationships with other people, especially with our kids. It may be a direct reaction to God, or a counter reaction. But it is going to be there.
A common manifestation of this is that many parents think that to disciple their child is MEAN. But some only think that because they think that Godís discipline of them is MEAN. Likewise, parents allow their children to do wrong and get away with it because THEY are doing wrong and want to get away with it. Some parents are also just plain LAZY. They are lazy in their relationship with God, so when it comes to doing what is necessary as a parent, they donít make the effort.The SOLUTION is for the parent to walk with Jesus Christ in Truth Ė as a "disciple" Ė which means "disciplined one." This means faith and practical obedience to God. Then they will be equipped to raise their kids. In effect, give yourself to God. You will then know how to raise your kids.
This brings us to the FIVE biggest mistakes parents make:
THE 5 BIGGEST MISTAKES CHRISTIAN PARENTS MAKE
1. Refusing to discipline their children Ė and calling it "love."This is a deception which is everywhere today, especially in the church. To require standards of anyone is considered mean and unloving. There is no accountability in churches, and less and less at home. The reality is, you are required to "raise your child" in Godís ways. It isnít optional. And at times, this will require loving disciple.
2. Neglecting to teach their children, in the name of "giving them freedom to make their own decisions." Again, such a position is probably the outcome of the parent wanting to walk outside of Godís will. Otherwise, why would we be so totally deceived into thinking this is right? It is also likely the outcome of being lazy. It takes attention and work to teach kids. Some parents have trouble making any kind of sacrifice for even their own children.
3. Buying into the lie that Biblical teaching is outdated or wrong. This is inexcusable for a Christian, but is happening more and more. It is the result of making Godís Truth fit ME, and my agenda for life, instead of allow God to mold me to fit the Truth. As mentioned earlier, we will reap what we sow. Ignore Godís Word and you get life WITHOUT it. Unfortunately, the kids are the innocent victims. We will answer to God for that.
4. Caring more about what their kids think of them than what God thinks of them. Our children are not our friends. They are our children. Too often parents are afraid that the children will resent them if they require discipline. But they will not if it is done within the framework of an otherwise good spiritual home. They will really end up respecting you for it.
5. Thinking that if they do not get their own life right with God that it will not affect their children. This is the biggest lie of all, and the gravest mistake. Your children will spend a lifetime UNLEARNING the error you have taught them by your life if it is not right with God.
In this day of liberal religion, there is ONE slogan: I will be bound by no law except my own. And if you mess with it, you are unloving." But that is the very spirit of Satan. May God deliver us from coming under itís influence, especially in our homes.
LOVE Ė as defined by God Ė is to govern all of our relationships. Things really donít get anymore complicated than that. But of course, this leaves us with a big problem if we have no concept as to what love is. So what IS love?
Love is doing what is best for the one loved. But again, what if we donít know what "the best" is?
What we see from all of this is that we really do need an eternal standard. Otherwise everyone is left to define "love" for themselves, and we end up with no love at all. Fortunately, God is the standard, because God IS love. So we can expand our definition of love to place Him at the center. Here is how we might define LOVE:
The love of God is to be unconditionally committed to Godís highest for the One loved, regardless of personal cost to them, or to us.
This definition of love defines the best: It is Godís will. And it is in keeping with other descriptions of Godís love in scripture:
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
Here we see that true love does whatever is necessary to see to it that the one loved is placed in the hands of God. This is true even if that person hates you for it! Sometimes kids do resent their parents Ė even if the parent does the right thing by them.
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. (I John 5:2-3)
What God is saying here is that if I love someone, I am going to keep the commandments with regard to them. This only makes sense. If I love someone, I wonít steal from them. I wonít commit adultery against them OR with them. True love Ė the love of God Ė always finds itís practical outworking through the keeping of the commandments, in deed, word, and intention.
This gives us a key to raising our kids the way God raises His: We must DO and we must BE whatever is necessary to help them experience Godís highest. That is the cost we must be willing to pay Ė in time, attention, and energy.
Some Doís and Doníts
When we talk about the doís and donít of raising kids, we are guided by what God does and doesnít do in raising us.
1. DONíT lose a battle of wills. It is NEVER love to give in to a child when you know you are right. It is NEVER love to give in to stop a temper tantrum. Stop the temper tantrum by REFUSING to give in. It wonít take long before the child recognizes that this such outbursts will not work. Be willing to endure that time. It will pay off in the end.
2. DONíT argue with the child. Tell them twice at most. Then take action. They must learn that what you say ALWAYS matters. They must learn that disobedience results in consequences.
3. DONíT "bribe" your kids into obeying. "Just because you say so" is reason enough for them to obey. It is ok and necessary to explain. But never defend or justify.
4. DONíT make your children do things to simply "throw your weight around," or "show them who is boss." This is childish and they will disrespect you for it.
5. DONíT give up if the child wonít listen. You must not let them off the hook. If you constantly give up, this will teach them they can get their way if they wear you down. And you WILL be exhausted and frustrated. This is YOUR fault.
6. DONíT react in uncontrolled anger. Even if you are upset, react in the best interest of the child, not to blow off steam.
7. DONíT belittle the child. Correction points out the wrong and shows the right. It is never love to make the child feel worthless.
8. DONíT argue, as parents, with each about anything in front of the children. The words and atmosphere WILL affect them even if they do not understand what is happening. More than anything, they will tend to become contentious themselves.
9. DONíT ever criticize the other parent to the child Ė even if the other parent was wrong about something. Explain in a way that is redemptive.
10. DONíT affirm any wrong your child does Ė by financing it, agreeing with it, or by being passive about it. Donít become a party to their sin or irresponsibility.
11. DONíT force Jesus Christ down the throat of your children. Teach by word and deed a great respect for God and the Bible. Live the life.
12. DONíT break promises to your children. If unforeseen circumstances arise, explain this to them. Your children need to know they can count on you.
1. DO always mean what you say. And then back it up if it is ignored or disobeyed.
2. DO explain and teach WHY Ė when the child is old enough to understand. This is NOT to validate your authority. It is so they can learn right and wrong.
3. DO always be honest. If you make an obvious mistake, admitting it to your children will be a way of teaching them through your mistake.
4. DO teach your children to trust you. They will learn this Ė not by your words. They will learn whether you are honest by living with you.
5. DO teach your children that you are always there for them Ė not to affirm WRONG Ė but to help them out of it. To show them the right way.
6. DO always forgive your children. This means that when you know the matter is settled, you put it behind you and move on. Turn it into a positive lesson.
7. DO what is best for the child in the eyes of God. This is your responsibility to both KNOW what is right, and to implement it.
8. DO make sure children clearly understand the RULES you have established. Have them repeat them back to you. Eye contact.
9. DO make sure children clearly understand why they are being punished. Have them repeat those reasons back to you.
10. DO make sure children clearly understand why they are being commended or rewarded. Have them repeat those reasons back to you.
11. DO keep you life before God in faith and obedience. Otherwise you will make it harder for your children to come to Christ.
12. DO commend and praise your kids for doing right.
If only Christian parents would realize what a responsibility we have before God. We are setting innocent lives on a course which will affect generations. May God give us the wisdom and sobriety to seek His will in these things.
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