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About this series
Keeping Love Alive - Volume 3
Four Challenges Great Marriages Have in Common
If you could take a step back and really evaluate your marriage… how does it look? Is it just a little out of sync... are there a few areas that need some work... or is your relationship on the verge of completely falling apart? Through his newest volume of “Keeping Love Alive,” Chip reveals a humbling truth… every marriage has its struggles… even the ones that look perfect. In these programs, Chip addresses the 4 challenges great marriages have in common. He exposes how - busyness, temptation, kids, and stagnation - can ruin relationships. Discover from God’s Word how you and your mate can handle these trials together - and become a stronger couple, more effective parents, and create a happier home.More from this series
My job, your job is to help our kids become like Jesus but become like Jesus as they are fulfilling what only they can fulfill. There’s no DNA like your children in anywhere in the world. He has made them uniquely. And your family is unique. And you live in a unique part of the country, in a unique time of history. And it’s not about protecting our kids from this and that, it’s equipping our kids.
You want your kids going, “We are taking, we are taking the world on.” It’s not about, “Am I going to do drugs, or am I going to do alcohol, or what if I do this, or if I get someone pregnant, or what about this?” No. This is what we are doing. We are taking the message of God and the love of God. As a family, we are going on a mission trip, we are building an orphanage, we are going to make a difference. Kids’ self-esteem isn’t because they get a little trophy and everyone tells them they are wonderful. Self-esteem is when you get confidence and you build resistance and you go through things.
How did you learn it? But what they need is tenderness and then an arm around them. Those three words – encouraging means you’re, as a father, you’re the number one cheerleader. Comforting is speaking a bit stronger, because they didn’t quite get it. And the word “urging” is very strong like, “Young man, that behavior happens again, you really don’t know what that’s going to look like. You may be grounded for life.” But it’s this progression of this tenderness and directness.
The principle of relationship. Notice it says the parents’ lifestyles. And what I mean is the values and the beliefs that you hold, not that you say, or that you send them places.
If we could redo church, this is a Chip Ingram, personal opinion. Even all our years, our kids sat with us in church. They went to the youth group too; they sat with us. I wanted my kids to see me and my wife worship. I wanted my kids, from about third grade on, it was like, oh, are they a little bit bored? Yeah, they’ll get over it. But they pick up a lot. And then you have something to talk about.
And then it’s like, “Hey, dad, what’s, how come that lady over there, she’s got her hands raised? And how come mom was, I saw tears? What’s with these little wafers that passing around and everyone is getting really serious about? And that’s not a very big swimming pool. How come it’s so small?” Right?
Instead, you know what we did? We segregated the family and we stuck them in a youth group or a children’s ministry. And then they get to be ready to head off to trade school or college or something, and they have never felt a part of something. And it really became a social group that taught the Bible some and did some good things. And so, but the social part was the major.
So, they go away. Do they jump into a church? Do they jump into a ministry? Sixty-nine percent of them, five years after they leave high school, from evangelical teaching churches, abandon the faith.
I don’t know about you, but someone ought to say, “What we are doing doesn’t work.” Success is not: Does my kid go to the youth group or are they just going to a Christian church or school?
What you need to understand is the moral responsibility for your child’s spiritual development is yours. Hope the church can help. If there’s a school or some other way, great. But you are the teacher. And whether they get it or don’t get it is not the church’s responsibility or the pastor’s responsibility or the youth group or the children’s minister. All those people are just little helpers.
Do you realize how many cultures have come and gone? How many people groups in the thousands of years of history that no one has ever heard of? And have you ever wondered why some guy name Abraham started a little family clan and they are still intact today? You know what Jews own? The education of their young. They don’t outsource it.
Orthodox Jews, we teach our kids, the Father – what? Right? Deuteronomy 6, the great Shema. Bar mitzvah, this is when you become a man; these are your responsibilities. You can agree, disagree, but those cultures that own the education of their kids.
How do you transfer the values that you have, that you actually live out, into your child? And here’s the axiom. The stronger your relationship, and I mean heart connection with your kids, the greater the possibility that your values and your faith get transferred over this relationship bridge to your children.
By contrast, the weaker your relationship, your heart connection with your kids, the lower the possibility that they will embrace your faith and your values.
Third axiom would be tension, tests, and difficulties are normal for your kids to grow and develop. They have got to test the limits, they have got to say, “I don’t know if I buy into all this and all that,” but here’s the deal, you are going to have some troubled waters – those parents that have built relationships that bond, when there is the difficulty and the pain and the challenges, it’s that bond that can carry the weight of the difficulty.
One of my sons was a very rebellious young man and my prayer for him was, God, will You please not let him just end his whole life in the ditch? And we had about four and a half years where his words to me were, “Dad, I kind of like you as a guy, I just don’t like that you’re a Christian. I want to do what I want whenever I want, go wherever I want, come in whenever I want.” I said, “Well, as long as you live in this house, that’s not happening. So, here are the two guardrails, son. You can never get me to stop loving you and you can never have your own selfish way.”
But it was hell on earth in our home, at times. And he is really smart, and he knew how to push all of our buttons. So, when he would have wrestling practice and it would go late and he wouldn’t be there for dinner, it was like it was such a – I felt so guilty, because it was so much better. It was so nice not to have…and he and I, looking back now, both of us would say I was way too hard on him. I didn’t understand. He’s an artist. I’m not. I’m driven, clear, type A. He’s melancholy, artistic, musical.
And I remember him sitting in front of our house and it got to where it was killing the rest of our family. And I remember tears streaming down, sitting right in the car, and I said, “Son, I have tried to help you as much as I can, and if you’re ready to make all your own decisions and,” I think he was a senior in high school or near the end, and I just said, “this can’t continue. You’ve got forty-eight hours.” And he’s a tough kid. Oh my gosh.
I watched him in a wrestling match, one, the guy had a broken hand; he just taped it and went ahead and won his division. That attitude for good is really good. But when it’s in your face, it’s really bad.
We struggled with it and I said, “You’ve got forty-eight hours. You can either – you don’t have to believe in God, you don’t have to have my values, but you’re not going to wreck our home. You’re going to come here, have a good attitude, and you’re going to treat your mom with respect, and your brothers. And you’ve got forty-eight hours to pray about it or you need to move out. We are done.”
And I’m fearful of what the implications would be. And it was like, I’m sure we remember it different, but all I can remember is he went to his bedroom for two days. And he told me later, this is the point of this, he told me later, he said, “Dad, I knew I was rebelling and I knew you and I had our issues, so I liked getting at you.”
And, honestly, he’s very astute, he goes, “I wanted to see how far I could really push you.” He found out. And then he said, he said, “I went back to: do I really believe in God or not or…?”
And he said, “I went back all the way those two days and I just asked God, all I know is you weren’t yelling at me. The tears were flowing down your face in the car.” And he said, “All I could think of was, you’re the same at home as at church. And this is so real to you and mom. I asked God, Would You make it that real to me? And something happened back in that bedroom.”
And he walked out, and because he was so manipulative he said, “I’m good. I’m ready to…” And I thought, Sure. I mean, it’s just like, I was just kind of waiting for the next round of jacking me around.
And it was, the word is in, the Bible word would be he repented. He had a change of mind that led to a change of action. My prayer was, Oh God, do whatever You need to do in this velvet vise of discipline. Be as gentle as You can, but do whatever You need to do to preserve him. And He did.
And when I look at that bridge, I think there were, even during that time we would go out to breakfast and he’d roll his eyes. I said, “Son, we are going to spend time together. We are going to hang out. You don’t have to love me; you don’t have to even like it. But I love you.”
Now, I didn’t feel that inside. I’d come back and Theresa would, “Well, how did it go?” “I got nothing. Just wasting my time.”
But love isn’t emotions. It’s behavior. And so, what you do is you do what is right when you feel like it, and you do what’s right especially when you don’t feel like it.
You have been brought up in a world that is just so, everything has been put into psychological terms instead of biblical and spiritual terms. And I got degrees in this stuff, so I understand the value of psychology and learning stuff and all the jazz. But here’s what I’m going to tell you. Is that – God… God loves us. And you have to listen to your behavior, not just to words.
You know what you believe? Whatever you genuinely believe, it’s how you live, it’s what you say, it’s what you actually do. And we have lived in a psychological world that is all about emotion and experience. And you know what? That’s, there’s valid parts, but I remember the day I realized Jesus emotionally did not want to die for me and He didn’t want to die for you. You ever think about that?
When we say, “Jesus loves me, this I know,” we get this warm, ooey-gooey feeling. It wasn’t a warm, ooey-gooey feeling. It was, He understood that there would be this break between Him and God the Father and He understood what was going to happen physically, and He was going to be humiliated. And He said, “If there’s a plan B,” this is my translation, “if there’s any way around going to the cross, nevertheless, not My will but Yours be done.”
He emotionally did not want to go to the cross. He chose to go to the cross when it felt excruciating and rejection by people and by the Father and in that moment and window of time, your sin and my sin – when He says it was finished – your sin and my sin and the just wrath of God on all sin was poured on Him. And He became a sin offering.
Everything that you deserve and every human being ever deserved, tchoo, it went on Him, and He absorbed it. And so, when I think about loving, I think our greatest acts of love are when I don’t want to do it, I don’t feel like doing it, and I choose to do it. Because love is fundamentally volitional.
I like it when emotions are there, but love is choosing to do what needs to be done and giving another person what they need the most when they don’t deserve it, at great personal cost.
Here’s eight ways to build these bonds.
Unconditional love. Even my older boys, they are in their forties now, they still end conversations, of course, my daughter, she is, “I love you, Dad.” You need to verbalize that. And you need to love them when they do good, love them when they do bad.
Scheduled time. They have to be in your schedule. It’s regular. Having dinner together, having specific times; calendar them in. They matter.
Focused attention. Cornell University did a study on fathers. They put microphones on them and then after they got used to it, they found that the average father had thirty-seven seconds of meaningful conversation with their children. Thirty-seven seconds. I mean, other than, “Do this,” or, “Get that,” or, “Help your mom with this,” or, “Set the table.” Thirty-seven seconds of eye contact, connection, “You matter,” “How are we doing?” The TV is not on; it’s focused. You’re not doing something else.
Eye contact, looking your kids in the eye. All the research – it matters. There’s something about when our eyes connect with our kids.
Consistent communication. Bedtime, dinner table, shared experiences.
Meaningful touching. Dads, this is, I talk more to dads, because I’m a dad. I get it, okay? Especially when your daughters are just hitting puberty, man, they need meaningful, non-sexual touching from dad.
And by the way, when they start developing, it gets a little awkward, or it can feel that way. And that’s when they need it the most, because if they don’t feel secure and learn there’s a powerful, loving, male figure that is non-sexual, they will go out and look for love in all the places that you do not want to see happen.
Girls learn to be feminine by how their dads treat them, how their dads talk to them, and it’s really important. When your kids are small, wrestle with them, hug them, wrestle with them.
When we were, I would be hugging your mom and Annie would come between us and she goes, “Oh, I want to do a sandwich,” and she wanted to be between us, right?
Have fun together. It’s really, you hear me, all this intensity and seriousness. Your house needs to be where the fun is. Have fun, play together, do games together.
Monday through Friday, or Monday through Thursday, or Sunday through Thursday, whenever school was the next day, we didn’t watch TV during the week. And we didn’t have a bunch of screens and stuff. And after you get really bored, you play the guitar, you lift weights in the garage, you play one-on-one, you play games together. Those kind of things are what happens.
And what’s easy is you’re tired and go watch this or go do that. And I’m not saying that you need to do this every night but have fun together and then pray together.
The last one is effective parents require consistent repair and ongoing maintenance.
I don’t know that there is anything in the entire world that I have felt more as a failure than as a parent. The hardest thing I have ever tried to be is a dad, a good parent.
But I think this one, constant repair and ongoing maintenance. I finally got to where the only perfect parent is the Father. And the only perfect person is Jesus. And He lives in me and He lives in you, I pray, and this promise from 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” And this is the principle of process.
And for me, these were five powerful words and that I said to my kids at all different ages, and to this day, “I’m sorry, and please forgive me.” I think sometimes as a parent you feel like you have to be right or you can’t admit it. And you mess up. And so, your soul gets all messed up. And it seems to me that when we mess up with our kids, just do for them what we want them to do for us.
There are few things more precious than when one of our kids, over time, they kind of mature. And they do something they know is wrong, and before you catch them, they come to you and they say, “Dad, you probably would find out about this sooner or later, but this is what I did. And I’m…” And tears streaming down their, “I’m sorry.”
And what do you do? You hug them is what you do, right? And I think just sometimes rather than trying to be some perfect parent, man, this has to be such a high priority.
But then, “Love covers a multitude of sins.”
“And please forgive me.” And kids are very resilient.
Lord, just going over these things reminds me of how much pressure I know that we felt as parents, how uncertain, at times fearful, as things changed and as our kids went through, looking back, pretty normal ups and downs.
God, I would pray for these moms and these dads, that, yes, they would take their parenting really seriously. It’ll be the hardest and most rewarding job ever.
Give them a clear target in their mind and their heart. And help them to, if they are not practicing what they preach, help them just to talk to You and start practicing what they preach. And would You help them in the midst of all this bombardment of technology and busyness and to take time to build relationships that bond? Storms are going to come; it’s normal, it’s natural. Help them to build bridges where their heart and their kids’ hearts are deeply, deeply connected.
And then, God, would You give them the grace to not be so hard on themselves and not think that every little decision or if they have blown it here or blown it there or somehow think – it’s never too late. Our kids are so desirous of our approval.
And we just confess we need Your help.