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Is There a Parent in the House?, Part 2

From the series House or Home - Parenting Edition

Raising children is the most difficult and rewarding experience you will ever go through. Do you believe that? The fact is most of us can relate to the “difficult” part pretty well and we’re hoping to stumble across the “rewarding” part soon! In this message, Chip shares some biblical insight on how to raise kids who know how to love God, love others, and love you.

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Message Transcript

Second timeless principle is godly parenting demands we practice what we preach. We practice what we preach.

Sounds pretty basic. The apostle Paul writes to a church that he’s very close to and they had a few struggles and he talks about his relationship with them like a parent - a father speaking to his children.

We pick up the story in I Corinthians 4:14 through 16. He says, “I’m not writing this to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ you do not have many fathers. For in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.”

So what he’s saying is, “A lot of people tell you what to do, a lot of people will give you advice, look, I’m your father in the gospel. I care. I led you to Christ. I care.”

Notice his application. Very small, little application. It starts with the word “therefore.” “Therefore, I urge you to imitate me.” Circle the word “imitate” and right above it write, “M-I-M-I-C.” You now know a new Greek word. Mimic. Oh, that’s an English word, isn’t it? No, that is the word.

You know what he says? Mimic me. “Mimic me. Pray like I pray. Worship like I worship. Spend your money like I spend my money. Respond to evil the way you watch me respond to evil. Have a work ethic the way you see me do it, the way I work with tents.”

See, here’s the deal. It’s the principle of modeling. We must be what we want our children to become.

You cannot impart, as my favorite professor used to say, what you do not possess.

Guess what? More is caught than taught. Sending them to Sunday school, sending them to a Christian school, telling them now and then that that’s really important, all those have value. But my background in graduate and undergraduate work was in psychology and if you’ve been around any of the research, the name Bandura will ring a bell. And Bandura’s work was in modeling. The most powerful socialization factor in human behavior is modeling.

Drive in a way you want your kids to drive. Speak to one another the way you want them to speak to their mate. Spend your money and be generous the way you want them to spend their money. Be sexually pure the way you want them to be sexually pure. Watch the kind of television shows and the kind of movies that you want them to watch. Express your anger and difficulty in life exactly how you want them to express their anger and difficulty in life. Be as materialistic or as frugal as you want them to be. Because here’s the deal. They will be.

And if you want a great picture, imagine, if you would, sort of the nice, big sofa. If you only have a couple kids it could be a loveseat.

If you have a lot of kids, I met someone tonight that has seven. And so you, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. There’s this long couch.

And I want you to go through this thing where you bend over and you look into the eyes of all your children and we’ll put them right here on this invisible couch. And say, “Since I know this is true, here is what? I want you to tell the truth exactly like you see Mommy or Daddy tell the truth. I want you to drive the car just the way. Like when the law says, you know, with the phone and all that? You just do it the way I do it. If I text, you text. Okay? I want you to be as generous with your money and obey God’s word exactly like I do.

When I get really upset and angry and you hear me scream or yell or be passive or withdraw, I want you to do it exactly like that.” And here, parents, here’s the deal. And this may be worth our entire time coming together. The biggest thing you’ll ever do is not something you do with your kids. It’s who you are.

And maybe God will speak, first and foremost, because I don’t know about you but I’ve had times in my life I don’t want them to respond with their anger the way I was at that point in my life. I don’t want them to spend the time the way I was spending my time as a workaholic working eighty and ninety hours a week. I don’t want them to do that.

I don’t want them to be as self-focused as I was. And one of the greatest things that happened, at least in my parenting journey, was just to look that in the mirror and say, “I need to practice what I preach. Because I will beget after my own kind.” Fish have little fish. And you will reproduce little you’s.

And that’s, I can’t give you more sound parenting advice. What did the apostle Paul say? “I’m your father. Imitate. Mimic me.” But here’s what they’ll do, too, as my kids have told me later. You know, when they were little and get up and go to the bathroom? And we had small kids and it’s tough to be a mom when you have small kids.

And they catch my wife reading her Bible, on her knees, next to the couch, praying at five o’clock or five fifteen, they learn something. You know, when I was in the back bedroom and, you know, when you got a bunch of kids and not very many bathrooms, everyone is doing this all the time.

And they kind of catch me in the bedroom sitting on the ground reading my Bible. When they see you come to them and apologize and say, “You know, what you did was wrong but how I responded was wrong too.” And with tears in your eyes you ask one of your kids to forgive you, you know what they’ll learn? They’ll learn you don’t have to be perfect but you gotta own your stuff, and you go ask for forgiveness, and you restore relationships.

Principle number one is the target. You’ve gotta have clear-cut objectives and the objective is:  I want my kids - God can determine and I’ll thank Him for it, I’m glad if they can be good, and my kids play different sports, and music, and all the rest but - my mission was, I want them to be Christlike.

Second, I need to practice what I preach.

Third, now that we have the target and we know who the most important teacher is, it happens in an environment. Godly parents build relationships that bond. They build relationships that bond.

It’s not enough. This isn’t mechanical. Like, there’s the target. I want you like Christ. And, by the way, follow me as I follow Christ. You gotta create this environment. This environment of love. This environment where they feel cared for.

So how do you build relationships that bond? I Thessalonians chapter 2, look at verse 7. “But we were gentle among you like a mother,” circle “mother,” “caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you, not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well because you had become so dear to us.”

Now what’s a mother do? Underline the word they’re gentle. “Gentle,” “caring for,” (verse 8) “loved you,” to “share with,” you became “dear” to us. Do you hear the nurture? Do you hear the concern? We were like a mother.

We created that safe place where you mattered. We didn’t do the right things. We shared our very lives, we loved, we cared, we delighted in you.

Now notice he says, skipping down to verse 11 and 12, he says, “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father,” you might circle “father,” “deals with his own children.”

Well how does a father deal with his children? “Encouraging, comforting, and urging.” You can underline those three words. “Fathers encourage, comforting, and urging,” notice the goal. “Encouraging and urging you to live lives worthy of God.” Does that sound like a clear-cut target?

Does that sound like I want you to be holy? Does that sound like I want to bring you up to fulfill all God designed and made you to fulfill His agenda on the earth?

He says, “We encouraged you, comforted you, and urged you to live lives worthy of God who calls you into His kingdom in glory.”

The first word “encouraging” here? Has the idea of being their cheerleader.

This is the dad and your words are so powerful. There is so much research on the power of fathers. Couple things. Number one, the sexual identity of sons and daughters are most heavily influenced by the father.

Second, the moral development of a child is most heavily influenced by the father. And the self-image is about fifty-fifty, mom and dad. There is this powerful role when a son or a daughter hears, “Way to go. I’m for you. Great job.”

Every son, every daughter wants to hear, “I’m proud of you.” And that’s why when you compliment your kids you need to focus on their character and not just their performance and their accomplishment.

The next word is comforting but it’s an interesting word. This same word is also translated “admonish,” “challenge.” In the, you know, the translators here made it “comforting.”

It’s the idea of spurring your child on to right behavior and so sometimes when they’re a little hurting it’s the -  Dad: you put your arm around them and say, “Hey, honey, you can do better than that. I’m for you, I love you.”

And when they’re goofing off it’s the – Dad: who says, “Hey, get back up there right now or we’re going to have problems as soon as we get home.” Same word.

But do you understand? That’s the father who’s stepping in. And guess what? You know what kids need? Kids need that strong, healthy, fear, loving affirmation with that nurturing caring … and then that mother and that father working together. Build relationships that really bond.

The principle of relationship, you’ll notice the picture on your notes. On the left side you have values and beliefs. Notice underneath of it it says, “Your values and beliefs of your lifestyle.” This is not, please, please. This isn’t what you say. This is not what they hear at church, or in a Bible study, okay? This is how you actually live.

Notice there’s a bridge. And the bridge is the strength of relationship. The stronger the relationship with your child, the more likely they’ll embrace your values and your beliefs. Take it to the bank.

The stronger your relationship with your child. I mean, there’s a bond. There’s a connection. There’s a caring. The higher the probability, no guarantee, but the higher the probability. The converse of this is the weaker the relationship you have with your child the higher the probability they’ll reject your values.

Third little axiom under this, not only the stronger your relationship, the stronger the probability. The weaker the relationship, the less likely. But tensions and tests and difficulties are normal so it’s a not a matter of if it’s just a matter of when. You’re going to have struggles with your kids. And it doesn’t mean anything is wrong. It means you’re normal, it means they’re going to pull away.

But here’s the deal. What you want to do is you want to be building a bridge of bond and relationship and connection so that when their friends start pulling them away, when they go through that puberty moment and there’s times where some of our kids are like this wonderful kid on Tuesday and, like, Wednesday and Thursday and Friday I guess they went through puberty or something and we’re not really sure.

And then they come out Friday and you think, “What happened?” I mean, it’s like a chamber. You know? And all of a sudden they’re, you know, doing stuff and then you have this conflict in your hands.

Well, what you can’t do is you can’t let that, you gotta stay working on the relationship side of it. You may have to have consequences. Real strong boundaries. But what you can do all along the way is you want to build relationships that bond from the heart.

Let me give you eight specific ways that researchers and the Bible tells us will build those kind of bonds. Eight keys to building relationships that bond. And some of these are kind of like common sense. But this is so common sense I watch people not do them.

Number one is unconditional love. Verbalize it. I mean, I have grown sons. I mean, I’ve got grown sons in their mid-thirties and a daughter who is twenty-three. And when we get off the phone yet after all these years with my grown sons, “I love you, son.” And I’ll hear from them, “I love you, Dad.” Tell them they love you.

Number two. Scheduled time. I mean, schedule in actual times with your kids that carry the same weight as your business meetings or your Bible study meetings. Have them on there.

Every Sunday morning for I can’t know how many years I had breakfast with my daughter. It was a scheduled time. Have scheduled times with your kids. It communicates they matter, they’re on your radar.

Third is focused attention. This means that there’s not media on. This means the paper’s not up. And this means that even though you’re looking at them your mind is not figuring out something at work or what you’re going to cook later or this problem with one of your friends.

Put the stupid smart phone down. Turn it off. Set it down. And when you pick up your kid, you know what? If it buzzes, it buzzes. I told you the greatest joys, the greatest sorrows, the greatest gift, and the greatest responsibility you’re going to have on this planet, I’m telling you, is not coming through that phone. It’s the person sitting next to you that you just picked up from school. Or driving back from the ballgame. Or is in tears because they broke up with their first love.

You gotta be there. Focused attention.

Number four. Eye contact. Powerful research. Look them in the eye. If you need to get on their level but look them in the eye. It communicates love.

Number five, meaningful touching. This is why your kids want to wrestle, especially dads. Meaningful touching. Wrestle with them, hold them in non-sexual ways. And for fathers when your daughters kind of begin to bloom and they become young women? As dads it’s kind of like, “You know, I’m really attracted to my wife and gosh my daughter is becoming a beautiful woman.”

And what happens to men is you just unconsciously start to back away. Your daughter has hunger in her heart for a non-sexual, loving, secure, strong, masculine embrace. That’s you. So you need to hug her like never before. You need to hold her close and let her know men can be safe. Men won’t use you. Meaningful touching. It’s powerful.

Ongoing communication. And that’s the dinner table, bedtime stories, shared experiences. But you have to build in time that’s structured. Where you’re together and communicating. Talking and sharing and meals are just, I don’t know where you’re at but start with maybe two a week. Then move to three a week.

You gotta have something that everyone comes together. There is a reason why, what’s the last thing Jesus did with his disciples? Oh yeah. They ate. What did Jesus do when he wanted to reinstate Peter? Oh yeah. They ate. When we get to heaven what are we going to do? Eat. You think there’s something going on here?

Now, something happens when you break bread and then you push the plates to the middle. How’d it go? And, yes, they’re going to roll their eyes. Let them roll their eyes. Roll your eyes again? Now, tell me, how’s it really going? What did you learn today? What have you been reading? What have you been thinking? Create a culture where that happens.

Have fun together is number seven. That may not sound spiritual. It’s super spiritual. I played more one on one games, and been in the emergency room with my kids, and laughed like crazy, and sat in a pool of sweat and looked up at the sky, and had some of the most meaningful prayer times with my boys of anything in the world.

I’ve sung crazy songs in the car with my daughter, and danced at weddings until I embarrassed my entire family, they just, have fun! Life’s fun! I mean, it’s hard but have fun. Don’t be serious all the time.

And then, finally, pray. Pray together. Pray in the car. Pray along the way. Pray before a meal. Pray when you hear a siren. Pray short prayers. Pray long prayers. Join hands and pray about tough stuff. But pray.

Finally, the last one is very brief, but very important is: godly parenting requires, are you ready for this, constant repair and ongoing maintenance. You never get it right. You never get it down.

And the passage here, I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins He’s faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

And I call this the principle of process. Just, it’s a journey. It’s a process. You’re not perfect. They’re not perfect. It’s messy. It’s okay. Your heavenly Father cares more about your kids than you do. He’s working in all of this.

And so here’s five magic words. Not as in occult magic. Just sort of like five sort of magic words that I’ve had to use more than I ever want to admit. The first two are, “I’m sorry.” The last three are, “Please forgive me.” Some kids never hear that from their mom or dad. I mean, what they did may have been wrong but how I’ve responded to it so many times.

And sometimes, are you ready? We do things wrong. Your kids see through all that. Don’t fake it. Being a great parent, you know, imitate, you know what, you want them to imitate you when you blow it. Guess what? They see the failures. They see the hypocrisy. Just step up and say, “Guess what? I blew it. I’ve said this, this is how I’ve been living, I’ve asked God to forgive me.” And then you just look them in the eye, “I’m sorry.”

And don’t let it go with, “Okay.” No, no, no. “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” And what you want to hear is, “Yes, I forgive you.”

And then you pray with them the way you pray with them when you discipline them. And you know what they learn? They learn they don’t have to be perfect. They learn that failure is never final, that God is a God of grace.

The target, clear-cut objectives, the teacher is you, you practice what you preach, you do it in an environment of relationships that bond. And the final thing is constant repair. You never are done with the journey.