Ruled by Discipline without Emotion

“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

Lynette’s father was a tyrant, according to her childhood friends. She was not allowed to eat with other children in the dining room but was banished without reason to the kitchen. She got the silent treatment often from her father. He disliked her intensely. “Her father’s treatment scarred her badly,” an old friend said. When Lynette was 16 she was kicked out of the family home. Charles Manson found her crying in the street and offered to look after her. Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme later attempted to assassinate President Ford.

Parenting kids by discipline without emotion is not the way to go. Strict disciplinary parenting without emotion tends to raise angry children who stop trying to please their parents because there is no point in trying. Parenting by discipline without emotion means we use the word “no” more often than we would like. Parenting is not something we can run away from. And we don’t want kids who have no emotional attachment. Kids that don’t smile, who scowl, and are ruled by a ruler. No one wants to be the type of parent who is not engaged emotionally, who lacks passion, and who is content to raise robot kids. This doesn’t work and is inhumane.

When thinking about this I came to the conclusion that there is a difference between being strict and being restrictive. What is the difference? Strictness is more of an attitude than an action. As an attitude, being strict, or discipline without emotion can be a limit to love. Being restrictive means the parent provides the needed guidance to do right and enough protection to avoid wrong. When parents have more rules than love, they lose. When they have rules inspired by love, they win. Overly strict parents are often resented while parents who live genuinely and love generously will rarely be resented. 

This means I must give time to my children. This means I must listen to my children. And yes, sometimes this does mean giving restrictions to my children. So, the question is not really, how strict should I be, but rather, how should I be strict. There is a fine balance as we talked about in this week’s message.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you define strictness?
  2. Do our kids think we are fair and do they understand us?
  3. Is there a right way to parent? Why do you believe that?
  4. How much time do you spend each day talking to your kids about anything serious in your life or in their lives?

In Character

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” —Galatians 5:22-23.

If you’re like me, your greatest desire for your children is that they will love Jesus, love people, and be on a mission for His kingdom. While there are many traits and attributes we would like to see in our kids, those three will always be the priority. 

Instilling those desires in our kids is not easy. Parenting is tough, and being the type of parent God wants you to be is even tougher. We live in a culture that tells parents “anything goes” when it comes to raising kids. In order to raise home run kids, we will have to lean heavily on the Lord for His wisdom and grace. We can’t assume they will be home run kids because they attend church every Sunday and have a Bible on all their electronic devices.  It takes more than that. It takes loving God, character and it takes self-control. Good character will not do us much good if we are not building our character around Jesus Christ and His principles for our lives. Jesus is the foundation of our character.

The good news is that the Bible gives us the blueprint for raising home run kids. The challenge is to take children — step-by-step — from selfishness to selflessness. That is why it is important to begin with the ending in mind. Parenting is strategic, not just tactical. And it begins with us as parents.

If we want to be a good example to our children, we’ve got to get our belief system right on the inside so that our “outside modeling behavior” can be effective. Otherwise, we’ll be going around saying, “Do as I say, not as I do,” and there isn’t a kid alive who will respect that, or will want to learn from it. Remember, good character is caught more than it is taught. That means, as you live out godly character before your kids, they’ll naturally get it more than if you just tell them what it’s supposed to look like. Discipleship is not just about what you do, but what you are–how you follow Christ, walk daily with Him, serve others in His name, and “seek first His kingdom” through personal ministry. Before you discipline, you’re a disciple.

It includes developing your child’s character by helping them understand the goodness of God and learning to desire that good. Our goal is not to indoctrinate your child with Biblical truth, but rather to give your child the will and skill to learn, and the desire to keep learning about God.

There is no fail safe “formula” for building home run character. It is really just a process of teaching them to love God and to love themselves. Bringing your children into your daily faith-life with Christ is what will define and shape their character.   

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever been through a hard time that made your character better?
  2. Would your children understand that character that came from God produces hope, and a character that you developed on your own is hopeless?
  3. How has your parenting approach focused on character building so far? Are there other areas that are taking time away from opportunities to build character? If so, what are they?
  4. What did you learn this week about character? What can you do to apply it to your life? 

The Children Of Today Are The Future Of Tomorrow

“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.” – Psalms 127:3.

Yes, children are a gift from the Lord, but sometimes you wonder if that gift should have some money back return policy. Sometimes you wonder if being a parent is all its cracked up to be. 

It begins before the child is born, it continues through infancy when we wake up in the middle of the night to ensure our kids are still breathing. Then the toddler stage where they learn how to use their appendages and suddenly, every outlet has a cover on it. Then comes communication as they start stringing together curiously odd sentences out of words they probably shouldn’t be repeating. And then puberty hits.

Is it worth it? Absolutely. Our daughters look up to us like we could bring them the moon in a pretty pink box, tied up with a little red ribbon and bow. Our sons think we are the strongest people to have ever walked the Earth, as we hoist them onto our shoulders for a better view. We are truly blessed. And it is the most important thing we will ever do because we are raising the children today who will be the future of the church tomorrow. 

There is a story in Luke 9 of the disciples arguing about which of them was the greatest. Jesus knew their thoughts and brings a child to his side and says: “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.”

That wasn’t the answer they were looking for, and it caught them by surprise. Children weren’t very important in that culture. They had no rights, no status, and no economic value until they could work. Sometimes parents would leave an unwanted newborn out in the elements to die; it wasn’t a crime. While boys could be educated, girls never were. Distinguished rabbis wouldn’t think of wasting time teaching children. That’s why on another occasion, when mothers brought children to Jesus, the disciples turned them away. Jesus was an important person. He couldn’t be wasting his time with children when there were so many adults waiting to see him. But on that occasion and this one, Jesus changes the rules. Both times, he brought those children to the front of the line. Both times, he said: These are the most important people in the crowd, and unless you become like one of them, you will not enter my kingdom.

Is it worth it? Yes, it will be all worth it in the end. We will never be perfect parents. In fact, probably far from it. But I’ve learned that God loves me and loves my children and the best life we can hope for is following Him. Spending time, talking and imparting truths are critical to raising our kids. Your kids will love you for it in the end.  And when they yell, stomp, scream –  just fix your eyes on the prize and know that parenting is not about pleasing the one you parent, it’s about pleasing the One who made you a parent to begin with.  Set out to please Him and you’ll raise Home Run Kids in the process.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the worst thing about being a parent?  What is the best thing?
  2. Do you believe parenting is the most important thing you do in life? Why or why not?
  3. What can we do this week to be a better parent?

Give Your Children A Good Talking To

“Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” – Deuteronomy 11:19

Carroll Bryant is quoted as saying: ”No matter how many plans you make or how much in control you are, life is always winging it.” Life is much like that and so is parenting. Parenting is often being prepared for the unexpected. You must often be prepared to enforce a command, intervene in an argument, confront a wrong, hold out for a better way, remind someone of a truth, restore peace, maintain discipline, give a hug of love, laugh in the face of adversity, mediate an argument, and all in a moment’s notice. The best way to prepare for the unexpected is to have some idea of what may be coming next. And the only way to gauge or guess what is coming next is to talk to our children on a regular basis. 

Not only should we talk about what is going on in their lives but we should also look for opportunities to talk to our children about God, answer any questions they may have and prepare them for the future. Find a way to connect to your child every single day, even if just for a short time. Find some time to hear the highlights of their day, and to talk to them about the things you want to address. You may have to be creative, as kids will rarely volunteer too much information. 

Find some time to talk to them about God’s love and His word. Maybe it is at dinner and or maybe it means less time for the kids on their computers or video games. You have to be thoughtful and creative because kids won’t want to stick around if the conversation is not interesting. And we must walk the talk as parents.

If we look at a child and say, “God is the most important thing in my wife, but you are not far behind,” that won’t have much impact if we are at work all the time. We can talk about tithing, but if we don’t tithe it will have little effect. We have to ask ourselves, what message are we sending to our children?    

Discussion Questions:

  1. How much time do you spend talking to your children each day?
  2. How much of that conversation is spontaneous and how much of it is more strategic?
  3. Do you have a set time each day to talk to your children?
  4. What can we do this week to be more successful in talking with our children? 

Making Time For God

Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. Later Simon and the others went out to find him. When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.” So he traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons.” – Mark1 :35-39 

In the above passage, Jesus gets up early and finds a place to pray before He begins his busy day.  The disciples went looking for Him because they did not understand the importance He placed on spending time with God. Our children need to learn the lesson of spending time with God. In order to learn to spend time with God, we as parents must be spend time with our children to invest in their lives and in their eternity. 

Because of the hectic lives so many parents are living today, children can be deprived of the one thing they need the most—quality and quantity time with their parents. It is easy to view being a successful parent because we are providing our kids with more things. But scripture reveals that the main thing they need from us . . . is us.  In Deuteronomy 6:5-9, we find some amazing verses that emphasize the importance of investing spiritually in the lives of our children. In these verses, we are taught that the most important thing we can give our children is the proper understanding of who God is and how they can know Him through His Son, Jesus Christ.

But this text reveals that this is a lengthy process, and it requires us to be proactive. Notice what the text says about how we should do this: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children…”

“Talk about them when you are at home.

And when you are on the road.

When you are going to bed.

And when you are getting up.

Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.

Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

These simple phrases provide us with an understanding that raising Home Run Kids is not a Sunday event. We have to spend time every day living our faith and teaching our faith, if we want our children to grow up to be men and women of God. It all depends on spending intentional time. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. How much time do our kids need? How did you calculate that number?
  2. Our schedules are stretched pretty thin. How can we create more time for our kids?
  3. Parenting is being a role model, counselor, and coach. Agree or disagree?
  4. If the goal is to raise Home Run Kids, how can we use our time more wisely?

What Do You Want For Your Kids?

“Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord,[a] for this is the right thing to do.  “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.” – Ephesians 6:1-3

When I ask parents what do you want for your kids, you get a variety of responses such as: happy, well-adjusted, smart, and successful. We want all those things for our kids. But we as followers of jesus also want to be parents who raise children that love God with all their heart, soul, and strength. The challenge is how to do that. That is the purpose of the Raising Home Run Kids series. 

Psalm 127 lays out some marching orders for parents. The Psalmist reminds us that “unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. As the architect of life, we know it is God’s design and desire for us to pattern our lives according to His blueprints.  As many of us have probably discovered, parenting children is no small challenge.  Psalm 127:4 describes parents as warriors:“Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.” 

Being a parent is not easy. Our children will be told the highest aim in life is to gratify themselves, and do whatever feels right to them. But God has called us to be more than this, knowing that our wildest imaginations cannot fathom the plans He has for us. C.S. Lewis sums it up  when he writes, “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

We want children who know God. We desire for our children to have a love and passion for God that overflows in a love for mankind. Christian parents have the essential task to teach their children to love and obey God, believe His Word, and trust His promises. By teaching their children to love God, parents build a strong, spiritual foundation for their children. Parents who teach their children to love God leave them an inheritance that will enable them to triumph over tragedy.

Our goals for our children must go far beyond what we can do in our own strength. There are many voices telling us how to parent, but the majority of them reject God’s purpose for our children. Raising home run kids will not happen by accident. We need to be intentional. We need to be intentional in the time we spend with our children. It takes intentional dialogue. We need to talk to our kids in an intentional way that will answer those questions and point them to God.  And we must instruct them in God’s truths. Take the time to talk to your children about the truths and promises in the Bible.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What do you want for your children?
  2. Is there a right way to parent? Why do you believe that?
  3. Why is it important to be intentional with our children? What prevents you from being intentional in time, talk and truth?
  4. How do you communicate the love of God to your children?

What is a Home Run Life For Our Kids

“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” —Proverbs 22:6.

One of the most frequent questions that pastors are asked is, “How can I raise godly children?”  Most parents are hoping against hope that there is a previously undiscovered formula that they can follow so that children who love and respect the Lord will be the end result. I wish there was  a formula, but in reality it takes a great deal of wisdom harvested from biblical principles. The Raising Home Run Kids series is not a formula or an all inclusive parenting manual.  Rather, it is look at what the Bible teaches about raising godly children. 

Raising children is one of the most awesome responsibilities any human being can face. Our goal as parents must be to raise godly children. But how do we do this?  Fortunately, God’s word tells us the principles we should follow. God’s Word is full of instruction about training children. It is the standard that we are to use to raise children that will lead a home run life. To successfully raise godly children, we must understand and practice Biblical principles for raising children.

In Deuteronomy 6:5-9, God instructs parents: “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

God commands parents to diligently teach their children (v. 7). He first instructs them to passionately love Him (vv. 5-6).  Perhaps one of the most overlooked, yet necessary keys to raising God honoring children, is teaching them to love God.  The most vital aspect of this teaching is a thorough understanding of who God is and that God first loved them. If we plan our training of our children based on God’s word, then our children will learn to plan their lives on the basis of God’s word. If we always act in love for our children, then our children will learn to act in love for everyone around them.

What does home run life look like for our kids? It means being connected to God, it begins and ends with Him. It means having our children secure in who they are because they are secure in Him. It means raising spiritually alive kids that love God first.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you define a home run life for your kids?
  2. What does it mean to love God?  What does it mean for children to love God?
  3. Do you believe home run children will turn into home run adults? Why?

An Unusual Game Plan

“Early the next morning the army of Judah went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. On the way Jehoshaphat stopped and said, “Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in his prophets, and you will succeed.” After consulting the people, the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang: “Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!” At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves. 23 The armies of Moab and Ammon turned against their allies from Mount Seir and killed every one of them. After they had destroyed the army of Seir, they began attacking each other.” – 2 Chronicles 20:20-23

The first story I think about when I am overwhelmed or facing a seemingly impossible situation is the story of King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20. Three nations were coming to conquer Israel. The King was afraid. In that moment of fear he sought the Lord and then gathered his people together to seek the Lord. In his prayer in verse 12, he said these words: “O our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.”

King Jehoshaphat was not going to be victorious by conventional means, by some new strategy or secret weapon. He needed the impossible. He needed God. God made it clear to them that the battle belonged to Him. They just needed to stand still and watch. The king “appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang: “Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!”  (2 Chronicles 20:21) So against all odds in a strategy that made no sense by earthly understanding, they positioned themselves on the front line singing, praising God and watching. God created in their enemies’ mass confusion among the warring tribes and the different tribes began to fight with each other, losing the war.

It’s easy to read this story and miss what a great thing it was for Jehoshaphat to call the nation to prayer over this crisis. It would have been very human to panic. He could have trusted in his army. He could have looked for diplomatic answers, but he didn’t. He also could have felt angry toward God. It would have been easy for Jehoshaphat to have said, “What’s the deal, God? I tried to bring the nation back to You. I taught them to put away their idols and follow You because You’re worthy to be trusted. And now we’re facing annihilation. I don’t get it.”   

It is easy to feel that way when we have tried to follow God and then get hit with difficult trials. We complain, “God, this isn’t fair! I am trying to follow You, but I have all kinds of trouble, while non-believers I know are enjoying the good life.” But Jehoshaphat didn’t fall into that trap of blaming God. He did what we should all do when we are overwhelmed in a crisis: He prayed.

He put prayer first. He realized that he could do some things after he had prayed, but he could not do anything worthwhile before he prayed. Prayer was his strongest weapon. So he resisted all the other natural urges.  He recognized his great need, so he prayed. So should we, remembering that with God there is no impossible.

Corrie Ten Boom, author of The Hiding Place and survivor of the German concentration camps, used to have people come up to her and say, “Corrie, my, what a great faith you have!” She would smile and reply, “No, it’s what a great God I have!”

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you believe it was the right thing for Jehoshaphat to pray?
  2. What is your motivation for praying? How has your motivation changed over the years? Why?
  3. How does the story of Jehoshaphat motivate us to pray? How might it influence how we pray?
  4. If you could ask God to do something significant in your life today and knew that He would grant your request, what would your request be?

The Power In Powerlessness

“Although he was crucified in weakness, he now lives by the power of God. We, too, are weak, just as Christ was, but when we deal with you we will be alive with him and will have God’s power.” – 2 Corinthians 13:4

We live in a culture that admires and promotes the powerful. The business world is built upon the premise that more power is better and the one with the most power wins. While the world caters to the powerful, for many of us much of life involves trying to cope with the times when we are powerless, overwhelmed and looking for answers.

That was the position King Jehoshaphat found himself in and it is sometimes the reality for each of us as well. It is tough to have a problem without a solution. No one wants to be weak, at least not if they have a choice. We all want to be physically and emotionally strong, rich and competent. And good looking wouldn’t hurt either. And like Walter Mitty, we sometimes dream about being such a person.

But like King Jehoshaphat, we often find ourselves lacking the ability to deal with our circumstances when we get overwhelmed. We often find ourselves powerless. Though the world looks at these times of being powerless as the ultimate failure, scripture sees it as an opportunity to receive a blessing from God. “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

God is our strength. There are days when I am overwhelmed. He empowers me to handle it. There are days when I wonder if the money will be there when the bills come. Somehow He provides a way and the bills are paid. There are days when I doubt His presence. But then He is there. There are days when temptations seem too strong for me to resist. Somehow He provides a way of escape or strength to resist. There are days when I feel almost worthless. Somehow He reminds me of the price that has been paid for me. There are days when when I am weak. Somehow He makes me strong.

Chances are good that sometime in your life you will find yourself faced with a situation that you cannot control. It may be a business deal, it may be a relationship, or it may be a family crisis. You are totally and absolutely powerless to fix it, change it, undo it, or improve it. It may be the result of your own actions, or it may not be. Regardless, you are powerless.

Being powerless may feel wrong and unfair at the time, but you may be in the best situation of your life to experience the grace and power of God. Though it appears hopeless, you can recover if you will allow God to come to you in your powerless state and do what only He can do: “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Discussion Questions:

  1. In what way(s) have you found being powerless difficult or easy?
  2. What are the things only God can do? What are the things only you can do? Do you find yourself trying to do the things only God can do?
  3. In what ways do you need God to be strong in your weakness at this time in your life?
  4. What do you think needs to change in your life so that you can regularly experience God’s love for yourself? And what do you have the power to change?

Heaven Help Me

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” – Hebrews 4:15-15. 

This week we looked at the story of King Jehoshaphat, who trusted God and won a God sized victory over his enemies. The story is found in 2 Chronicles 20. In the Old Testament, God took the people of Israel through miraculous event after miraculous event. In the New Testament, those who watched the ministry of Jesus were seized with amazement at the miracles He performed. (Luke 5:25) And the apostles in the early church regularly performed signs and wonders among the people (Acts 5:12).  Today, however, such miraculous events seem rare. God is not helping us fight the armies that are aligned against us as He did with Jehoshaphat.

At the very least, we feel there’s something different about the way God worked in the Old and New Testament periods and the way He works today.

Even if we don’t frequently see extraordinary miraculous events, God is active. He is active in the regular (natural) processes we see every day. He is miraculously calling people to himself as His church grows and expands. He is active in miraculous ways among people we don’t know around the world. God has intervened repeatedly in miraculous ways in my life, but there have also been struggles in my life.

But through it all, I have learned that God’s help is always available. It may not be the help we wanted, but it will always be the help we need. More often than not, the help we are looking for is to remedy the problem, just as God did with Jehoshaphat. God may be using conflicts and my efforts to work through them in order to help make me a better husband or parent or maturing Christian. 

Our prayer may be, “God, change this person’s perspective…change my spouse/child. boss, etc.”  Instead, God wants to change us. We may want to hold a grudge and pray that the person who wronged us see the error of their way. God on the other hand wants to help us forgive. As we let go of demanding that God help us our way, you will begin to see amazing changes God has worked in our heart and in our lives.

Because when we remember that God’s ways are above our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), our perspective changes. We stop expecting God to help in ways we prescribe and we will begin to lose that “God isn’t helping me” feeling. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. In what ways have you experienced God’s help in your life?
  2. How do you react when God does not answer your prayers in the manner you want Him to?
  3. Do we need God’s help more in changing others or changing ourselves?