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About this series
Effective Parenting in a Defective World
How to Raise Kids Who Stand Out from the Crowd
Raising children is a tough challenge in today's world. Peers and pop culture exert a never-ending pressure on kids. Parents often feel helpless, as every godly principle they teach their children seems to be contradicted by the corrupt principles of this defective world. But the good news is, God has a plan for effectively raising your children and you can learn from it. Packed with practical advice, this series will give struggling parents a vision for their children's future and life-changing help for today.More from this series
Let me give you some ways to teach your children how to handle money so they will be faithful in the little things.
One, teach your children the three purposes for money, okay? And, again, since I’m going fast, there is longer material – small group. But for today, here are just thumbnail sketch.
When my children were small, there are only three purposes for money, actually, only five things you can ever do with money. But three purposes is you can give money, you can save money, you can spend money. Actually, you can invest money and you can pay taxes with money. But I think for a three to five-year-old, let’s just go with the first three.
And so we took, you know those mason jars? All my kids, on their dresser, by the time they were even about two years old, they would have a jar and printed really clearly, “giving,” jar number one. Next jar, “saving,” jar number two. “Spending,” jar number three.
And they would make their little bed and help out with this and do that and, okay, You’re a part of the family, the house is God’s, everything is God’s, we are a team together, thank you. And so here’s ten dimes. And they would put a dime in the giving, “Well, why do we do that one, Daddy?” “Because everything belongs to Him. But we, as humans, we forget that. We start thinking it’s ours. So we give the very first and the best of your ten dimes to Him, just to remind us. And then we are going to use that to help people.”
Okay. “This dime goes into savings.” “Well, why do we do that?” “Well, because you don’t know what the future holds. And so God says to always save because life goes up and down and you always need to have a back stop.”
“And we get eight of these?” “Yeah.” “Well, what is that for?” “Well, just, God loves you so much, you spend that and He loves you; enjoy it!” “Oh, okay.”
Well, then they get a little older and it’s a dollar, a dollar, and eight. And then they get a little older, it’s ten and ten and eighty. And then… Now, can you imagine what would happen to your kids, in terms of a mind, a worldview of stewardship if, from the time they were small, up through about twenty-five years old, they did that?
If you don’t suffer well, your kids won’t. If you don’t work unto the Lord, they won’t. If you don’t manage your life wisely, they won’t.” Can you imagine, I don’t know your situation, but I know the statistics.
If just, let’s say, at age fifteen to where you’re at right now, if you didn’t do anything with your financial planner except those three things, and ten percent of anything you earned, you gave to God to align your priorities; and ten percent you saved, with all the bubbles and ups and downs and layoffs, and you have lived on eighty percent and didn’t go into debt for anything other than, say, maybe the mortgage on a home, do you realize where you’d be right now? Do you realize where you’d be, financially? You’d be super well-off. It would just take a lot of time.
But, see, the world says you’ve got to have it now and the way to get it now is you put it on this credit. You do this, you do that.
And, see, when you do it like that, you don’t have much. I was pastor of a little church, we didn’t have hardly any money, but by the time my kids were thirteen, fourteen years old, I never had to put a car on time. I had saved, and even though I didn’t have a lot, you save for six, eight, nine years, I paid for the car. And then as soon as I paid for that car, I started saving and eight, nine years, I paid for the next car.
You know what happens when you don’t have any debt and no bills other than your house? You actually end up pretty well-off, financially. It’s just slow. That’s what you want for your kids – to manage their finances wisely.
The message is: Your life is a sacred stewardship. Not just your stuff. Your life is a sacred stewardship.
By the way, it got very quiet after that last point. Are you all doing okay, here? I wish you could have seen you guys, it was like, Oh, no, shut up, please! Please! You told me way too late! It’s never too late.
In fact, the last one we are going to talk about is a grace-filled life. You know how God treats people who make really stupid decisions, even selfish decisions, even sinful mistakes, and totally mess up their lives? The moment they say, “Oh, man, why did I do that? Will You please help me?” You know what God does? “Come. I long to help you. We can turn things around.” Yeah, there’s some stuff to work out of and some consequences, maybe a little restitution, but, wow, God is loving. He’s good! You want your kids to learn that.
The fourth thing you want them to learn is: teach them to make wise choices. Write this one in. Teach them to make wise choices. Now, the way you do that is by helping them learn to discern the difference between good and evil. We are living in a day where good is called evil, and evil is called good.
You want your kids to make wise decisions. Now, you understand you make a decision and my good, Marine dad would say, “Son, let me tell you something. You make a decision and then they make you.” And they do.
You make a decision, I’m going to go out with this guy and get involved in this relationship and it makes me. I make a decision about my money, I make a decision about where I’m going to go to school, I make a decision about how I’m going to respond to someone who hurt me, I make a decision about whether I’ll forgive someone or not. You make a decision, and the decisions make you.
When kids understand life is difficult, but I am going to walk with God, and suffer well; when I have learned that working isn’t bad, I’m actually going to discover what I am made to do and work; and when I begin to manage and realize God owns everything and the only pressure is just to be a good steward, and then you start making wise decisions, do you understand how this blesses them?
This is like marriages that work and relationships that work and decisions that are good. But the key behind wise decisions is a theology of holiness. A theology of holiness – God is holy. He is totally – He is separate, He is totally other, He is different. He is not like an enlarged, ideal, perfect picture of the best human you have ever known.
In heaven, at this moment, the angels are crying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. Heaven and earth are full of Your glory.” And they are doing that, covering their eyes. He is unapproachable light. He is absolutely unmitigated, pure love, and pure holiness, and just and kind and sovereign and all-knowing and all-powerful.
And words just come out of His mouth and galaxies come into being. He is awesome. You want your kids to know He is holy.
As Tozer says, the great and amazing conflict with God is that we are to fear Him, because of His greatness and His holiness, and yet not to be afraid because He is the most loving being and He invites us to be His friend.
The theology of holiness is not only is He holy, but God is absolute truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.” God’s Word defines absolute truth.
He says it’s not relative, it’s not: This is right today and wrong tomorrow. It’s not what the culture says. Jesus prayed on the very last night, “Father, sanctify them, or, set them apart by Your truth; Your Word is true.” So your kids need to learn that.
God’s laws or morals are for our protection. In other words, when God says, “Don’t have sex before marriage,” when God says, “Don’t go into major debt,” when God says, “Here’s how you make a decision,” when He has rules and laws, it’s not like this angry God trying to take your fun. It’s like, “These are guardrails.” The Old Testament calls it, “The high way of holiness.”
And He says, “You know what? I long for you, I love you, I created you, My Son died for you. I want you to get the very best. So here are the guardrails. Don’t do that, because that takes you over a cliff. Don’t do that, that destroys relationships. Don’t do that, that will destroy your body. Don’t do that, that will destroy your soul.”
That’s why David would say, “His law is my delight. If Your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.” David loved the law of the Lord – why? Because he knew, These are boundaries from a good God that, as I stay in between them, I get the highest and the best. And that’s what God wants for you and for your kids.
God’s ultimate aim is to make us holy. But don’t think holy as in some of those pictures in our mind like holy is big, black robes; there’s a candle over here; people wear hoods and sing funny songs, “Holy, holy.” Or it’s “holy” is a very big, black Bible, a “Praise the Lord!” sticker, and a self-righteous attitude. That’s not holy, that’s stupid.
Holy is pure, blameless, winsome, kind, patient, sexually pure, pure in your thoughts, motives that aren’t manipulative. Holy, write this in there, is Christlikeness. He is working every circumstance, every relationship, every issue, every school, every heartbreak for the good of them who love Him, in order to conform your son, your daughter, me, and you to the image of Christ. That’s God’s agenda.
The Old Testament roots we find Moses. And there’s a bush that is burning, but it’s not consumed. And out of curiosity, he gets close. And do you remember what God says out of the bush? “Moses, you’re on holy ground; take off your shoes.” And he bows down. And he gives His personal name, “I AM THAT I AM.” He reveals Himself.
You want your kids to understand the fear of the Lord without being afraid. New Testament-wise, 1 Peter would say to a group that had been through all kinds of, the world that they lived in was so immoral, it was just so crass, so corrupt in the Roman Empire. And they were being persecuted.
And he would write in 1 Peter, “As obedient children, do not be conformed any longer to the former lusts that were yours in your ignorance, but like the holy One who called you, be holy in all your behavior” – why? “Be holy for I am holy.”
Now here’s the application I want you to get; this is so encouraging for me. Is that, you want your child to learn to think biblically and critically to develop personal convictions and character. You want them to make great decisions, but you want them to watch TV and watch a movie and watch a situation and friends who are going through a difficult time – you want them to learn to think biblically, to discern evil from good. What is right? What is best?
And what you really want, you want them to build convictions. As a parent, the issue is not, Well, I got them to go to youth group every week and I made them do this and I made them do that. What you want is you want, from the inside out, you want them to catch a heart for God because they see it in you. And then you want them to see it’s not like, “Oh, gosh, what a prudish God. No sex before marriage and all my friends are having it?” “Well, yeah, honey, but here’s what you need to understand. This is what happens to them.”
“And all my friends are living together, why can’t I?” “Well, this is what happens to them. God loves you so much, this is what He wants for you.” And, by the way, we now have the research, empirically, from secular sources that basically says, “God’s way.” God’s way in all those areas is what works.
Let me give you a couple ways to maybe develop this. One is, start when they are little. Give them a really high view of God. Get on your knees when you pray with your little kids. Read to them. Read Bible stories early, read the Chronicles of Narnia, just introduce great, rich literature.
All the bombardment that they get, we have kids living in a video culture. More and more kids are ADD now because the brain actually gets changed when all they get are video images.
The third thing you need to do is monitor what goes into their mind, monitor how much time on the screens, monitor the movies, monitor their friends. What goes into their minds and the people they hang out with will be the biggest factors of how they are going to live and the decisions they are going to make.
And so they need to see your example, God’s Word, great things in their minds. And, by the way, when I say, “monitor,” this isn’t like, Oh, I’ll never expose them to anything! There are times where you need to sit down and watch things together. “What’s wrong with this?”
Don’t be afraid of the world. Empower your son or your daughter to make a difference in the world and help them to see through it. Help them to see, They are just trying to sucker you into this. That’s not true. Does that work?
But do you know what all this takes? It takes intentionality, it takes focus. And it’s easy to say, “Oh, I’m going to put my kid in this and I’ll put him in school here and someone else will learn here and we’re really busy and we can’t eat together and we don’t have time to really pray together and I’d really like to and I want to, but I hope everything will be okay.
And then they get involved in a relationship and, “Oh, I hope it’s just a phase.” You know what all that’s called? Denial, denial, denial, denial, denial. The hardest job you will ever get, the most important job you’ll ever have is being a mom or a dad!
So you think it’s going to be easy? And, by the way, if you do “everything right,” here’s the deal, there are still no guarantees. They have these little things inside their souls called “choosers,” right? Right? So they get to be fifteen, fourteen, thirteen, sixteen, eighteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-nine and you can say, “We created this, we modeled this, we did this, we did this, we did this.” You know what they say? “Great.”
But guess what, you’re not held responsible for the outcomes. You’re held responsible for, Did I model for my kids what I wanted them to become? And did I do what I knew to create this kind of environment?
And then if you’re starting to feel, Oh my, I didn’t do it perfectly. No one has! Ever! See, part of what you model is, What do you do when you mess up? so they understand they can be forgiven like you.
Love covers a multitude of sins. And so, finally, the life message is: Obedience is the only way to get God’s best. Obedience is the only way to get God’s best. You want them to make decisions and as they get older, here’s the question as they get older and older, “What do you think God wants you to do? What do you think God wants you to do?”
Don’t make it all a power play. Force them to process where they start making decisions on their own while they are with you.
Final one, and I think it’s the most encouraging, because I don’t know about you, those first four are hard to pull off.
Stone number five is: Teach them to live grace-filled lives. A theology of grace. Grace is one of those words that is slippery. Grace. It’s a nice girl’s name. Hi, Grace. But what does it really mean? Let me give you a quick theology of grace.
Grace is the unmerited, unconditional love of God toward us. Unmerited, you can’t earn it. Unconditional, God doesn’t love you or your child if they do this or because they did that. Grace is the opposite of performance mentality. It’s the opposite of earning.
Second, grace is free to us, but costly to God. The Scripture clearly says, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells within you, that you have been bought with a price?” Christ’s blood is the cost for your salvation and your children’s.
The cross is God’s greatest act of grace. When you look at the cross, God says that, “God demonstrated” or, “proved His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” or in our place.
Salvation is a free gift from God. Scripture says it’s, “…not by works of righteousness, what we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” It’s free. It’s grace. But it needs to be received by faith.
If you have ever watched an NFL game, what is in the back of the end zone? John 3:16. “For God so loved the world He gave,” grace, “that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.”
God the Son lived a perfect life, He died upon a cross to pay for the sins of all people of all time. It’s like everyone’s ticket is paid, for a relationship with a Holy God through what Christ has done. And God says, “I invite you to be My son or My daughter. But I won’t force you. If you want to stiff-arm Me, if you want to be the captain of your own ship, if you want to say, ‘I don’t want the Creator or God or anybody else telling me what to do,’” God says to you, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “Well, thy will be done.”
God doesn’t force, how can there be love if He just dictated, “You must love Me.” But what He says is, “I have provided a way that whosoever would come and humble yourself, turn from your sin, and with the empty hands of faith say, ‘Will You forgive me for all that I have done? And would You come into my life? Make me Your son, make me Your daughter. I want to follow You.’”
One hundred percent of the time, He promises to answer that prayer and forgive you. Not if. Not because. But because of what Christ has done. Every “ism,” every religion can be two letters: Do, do, do. You name the religion, you need to do, do, do. Different religion: do, do, do. “Ism:” do, do, do. Do, do, do, pray, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do. Christianity isn’t even a religion. It’s four letters. Done. D-O-N-E.
God has done for you what I can’t, you can’t do for yourself. Your sins are forgiven. And the moment you turn to Christ, you receive Him, His Spirit comes to live inside of you, and it’s a relationship. And His Spirit will then take His Word in the context of this community and He will create the very love and life of Christ and His presence within you.
That’s what it means to be a follower or a Christ-one. And it’s grace. Grace produces gratitude toward God and love toward others. It’s just not some ooey-gooey feeling. When you have that inside of you, I will tell you what, you will start acting the way Jesus acted toward people. You will be thankful; you will love them.
The Old Testament roots are Genesis chapter 3, when the first sin occurred, a free gift, blood was shed, prefiguring Jesus, skins covered our first parents. The word is they atoned for.
In the New Testament, it’s Ephesians 2:8 and 9, “For by grace you are saved through faith and this is not of yourselves,” it’s not a result of your works or performance, “it’s the gift of God, lest any man should boast.” It’s powerful. It’s amazing.
Help your children realize that failure is never final with God. Can I say that again? Help your child realize failure is never final with God. The world is telling them, when they fail, they are done. It is final. You’re a loser. There is no hope. You didn’t even make the traveling team! You messed up at the recital. You can’t dance worth a flip. You can’t get in college. Your SAT scores didn’t measure up. You got yourself pregnant. I don’t want to have anything to do with you.
Son of mine, what are you doing logging on that Internet stuff? Okay? You wanted to marry that non-Christian? You go ahead and marry them. And now your life is messed up, two and a half years he leaves you? Well good luck.
That’s what the world tells them. You screwed up? You live with it. God says, “You mess up and you find yourself in a ten-foot hole, there is an eleven-foot rope coming down if you repent and say, ‘I need help; will You forgive me?’”
And there’s a little loop at the bottom of the rope and you put your little foot in the loop and then you hang on and He will pull you up. If you have a hundred-foot hole, because you think, Oh, man, ten foot. I’ve got two abortions, two marriages, I haven’t quite killed someone, but I tried. Man, I’m in a hundred-foot hole. There’s no hope for me.
Oh, no, no, no. You’ve got to understand. Here’s grace. A hundred-and-one-foot rope goes down. It has a loop on it. You stick your foot in and He brings you up. Are there consequences? Of course. Is there stuff to deal with? Yes. Maybe restitution. But He will heal you. He will change you.
And you say, A hundred feet? That’s not even close. You have no idea. I can’t even believe why I’m even here. I have blasphemed God. I have said things about Christians. I am so far away from God. There is absolutely no way. I’m in a thousand-foot hole!
A rope is going to be lowered that will be one thousand and… Your kids need to know that. And you know how they learn it? They learn it by getting grace from you. They learn that not just with your word, saying the right things, you say, “Oh, that’s okay, son.” And the body language is, My lands, you couldn’t hit a ball if I stuck it on a stool.
“Oh, yeah, that’s okay, honey.” I mean, for a loser, non-academic like you. We send a lot of messages that are non-verbal that say to our kids, You don’t measure up. And then they perform pretty well and it’s, “Oh! Oh my lands!” And then we tell all of our friends and, “Here’s their scores,” and here’s this and here’s that and here’s that.
And you know what the kid says? Oh, I’m loved when I do good. But I’m not loved when I don’t measure up. That’s called “non-grace.” You want your kids to understand their behavior is one thing, their value is something else, and nothing changes the value. Nothing changes the value. You love them no matter what. And not just with your words, but with your action.
How to do that: Be a safe place for your kids where they can come for help. Let them know, verbalize it early on and then model it the best you can. And when you don’t, own it, make it right.
When my son was a senior in high school, I mean, sometimes you hear me saying these things and by God’s amazing grace, I have four grown kids that, despite ups and downs, rebellion here and problems there, they all walk with God. And you talk about wealth, the greatest wealth I have on the earth. Not even close.
But you hear someone talk and sort of this, Oh yeah, you’re a pastor. It probably was pretty easy. You never really messed up. Pfff. Senior in high school, third son, he – something pops up on the Internet. He has a year-long private, secret addiction to pornography. I find out about it. Pastor in the church. My son is hooked on pornography. He’s leading worship on Sunday morning in the high school group. He has led four of his volleyball players to Christ. He has a Bible study in my house every Wednesday night and he’s hooked on pornography.
And he denied it for about twelve seconds. And then he fell into tears in repentance, “God, Dad, I’m so sorry. I’m so glad you finally found out. I have been a prisoner.”
And we were preparing, he’s a pastor now and he was helping a group of young people deal with this issue. And I heard him say something that, as a dad, I’m – most of us – we’re probably a little hard on ourselves. I’m pretty hard on me.
But now and then you hear a little window of, “You know, I think I did something right, yay!” And I heard him share with a group. He said, “You know what? The reason I was able to break the pattern when I got confronted was since the time I was a little boy, I remember my dad saying, ‘No matter what you do, it can’t change my love for you.’” And he said, “I messed up as a little boy lots of times and there were consequences, but I knew my dad loved me. And when that big thing happened, I knew it was safe.” And we went through it together. Do your kids know that?
Are you a safe place to come to when they really fail? When there is an addiction, when they went through rehab and they have relapsed, when they have run off and done something that just breaks your heart?
Now, does it mean there are not boundaries and consequences? No. But it means that they know you love them and nothing can change that.
One of the ways they learn that is they need to see you repent, right? How do people learn to get forgiveness from God? They need to see you get forgiveness from God.
And I remember when, actually, the same son was very, very small. And we were visiting my parents. And my dad – a great, great guy – but he was a Marine’s Marine. You know?
And so my son did something and it was really trite and I blew up and yelled, “Ryan! What are you doing?” Like that. And I started to walk away. And have you ever, as a parent, just realized the person who needs help is me, not my kid?
And the Spirit convicted me. And I thought, Oh that was, man, that’s about the worst dad. And so I went over and he’s four years old or something. And I said, “Come here, Ryan.” I said, “I’m sorry, son. And that was wrong. Okay? I don’t have any excuse. Will you forgive me?”
My little son puts his, “Sure, Dad.” He runs off, right? My dad, the Marine, “What in the heck are you doing?” I said, “Well, what do you mean?” “You’re the parent! You don’t ask your kids for forgiveness! Where did you learn that stuff?”
And I said, “Well, Dad, I want my kids to understand that when they mess up, when your heart is broken over it, and you come to your heavenly Father, you get forgiven. And I figured they will never know how to do that unless they see me do it.”
And I appreciate him, he kind of looked at me and he goes, he was a pretty young Christian then, “Hmm. All right.”
Could I ask you something? Can you impart grace because you have received it? Is there something in your life that you just, it’s like, Wow, man, it’s, whoo. I hope nobody finds out, but you just need to come to God this morning and say, I can’t be a gracious parent, because so much of my value is how my kids do this or that, I just need forgiveness so that I could give it.
And I just wouldn’t be at all surprised if there was not at least a handful or more of people who, the fact is, you came for whatever reason and you realize, I have never received grace for the first time. I’m not a follower of Jesus. This is kind of new to me. But if there is a place to be forgiven and have new life and eternal life, I really want it, but I’m not sure how. Then I would tell you that the offer is, if you will believe, if you will turn from your sin and raise the empty hands of faith, the God who made all that there is will forgive you and cleanse you, His Spirit will come inside your life, and He will give you a new beginning.
And, by the way, it won’t all be roses. You probably won’t get a Mercedes or a Cadillac in the mail tomorrow. Everything is not going to…
But you’ll never be alone. You will be certainly on your way to heaven. And the very power of the living God will live inside of you in the Person of Jesus, and He will make you like Him. And I cannot think of anything your kids need more than a mom or a dad who is a lot like Jesus.