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Home Improvement: Encouraging Words For Parents And Children

Ephesians 6:1-4

Back in the seventeenth century, John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester, made this rather astute observation, “Before I got married, I had six theories about bringing up children. Now I have six children and no theories!”

I understand the feeling. After rearing three children in our family, Trisha and I are not long on theories. However, we are convinced that there are some very basic principles which apply to those seeking to build solid relationships between parents and children. In order to highlight those principles, I would like for us to focus today on an incident which took place in the life of Jesus. Now it’s fascinating, when you stop to think about it, that Jesus is the most talked about, the most investigated, the most researched, the most studied figure in all of human history, and yet we have only one recorded incident from his childhood. Today, I want us to focus on that single incident.

Mary and Joseph and their 12 year-old son, Jesus, together with some other friends and relatives left Nazareth and journeyed to Jerusalem for the religious festival known as the Passover. When the festival ended, they began the return trip home to Nazareth. Now it is important to understand that, as was the custom in that day, women and children in the party would leave first, early in the morning. The men, able to walk at a more rapid pace, would depart later in the day, carrying with them the luggage and supplies. Toward the end of the day, the men would catch up with the women and the children and they would then spend the night together, continuing their journey in the same fashion on the next day. Consequently that was the way Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the others started out from Jerusalem headed home to Nazareth after the Passover. Mary was aware of the fact that Jesus was not with her and the other women and children, but Jesus was now 12 years old. The Bible specifically informs us of that fact, and in ancient Judaism when you were 12 years old, you were considered to be a man. So Mary, noting Jesus’ absence, simply assumed that since He had reached the age of manhood, He would be traveling with Joseph and the other men and would be along later. Joseph, on the other hand, realized that Jesus was not with him, and therefore, assumed that because Jesus was still quite young and because the journey would be quite long, he had, more than likely, gone ahead with the women as had been His habit up to that point. So, you see, Mary assumed that Jesus was with Joseph, and Joseph assumed that Jesus was with Mary. In fact, He was with neither of them. When Mary and Joseph realized that inadvertently they had left Jesus behind in Jerusalem, they immediately turned around and headed back to the city, searching for Him with a growing sense of desperation. At last, they found Him in the temple and Jesus said to them, “Why were you worried about me? Did you not know I would be in my Father’s house?” Then, we are told that Jesus rejoined His parents and returned home to Nazareth and there He was obedient to them. The whole story ends with this wonderful line, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men.” In other words, Jesus grew strong and wise, and He was loved by God and by other people, as well.

Isn’t that beautiful? I want to suggest that that is the ideal all of us want for our children and our grandchildren. We want them to grow as Jesus did. We want them to be like Jesus—to grow both strong and wise and to be loved by God and by other people, as well. Of course, I have to tell you, as a parent, and now as grandparent, that is not easy. It takes extraordinary commitment and perseverance to create a satisfying, fulfilling home and family life, to create the kind of place where children can grow to become everything God means for them to be. Therefore, I want to offer you—those of you who are parents, those of you who are grandparents, or those of you who think you might be—I want to offer you, not some theories for rearing children, but some guidance for creating the kinds of relationships between parents and children where the children can grow as Jesus grew: strong, wise, loved by God, and loved by other people. I call these principles:

Edington’s construction tips for building a Christian home.

  1. When no one is watching, live as if someone is. That means look at the way you are living your life; look at the way you are using alcohol or prescription drugs; look at the way you use profanity; look at the way you may be cutting the corners of what is right financially in order to get ahead; look at the way you are relating to people of another color; look at the way you are living. You may be delivering a bad message to your children or your grandchildren or to the children of this church. Instead, I’m calling you to live in such a way that when your children or grandchildren think of caring, or fairness, or honesty, or integrity, they will think of you. So when no one is watching, live as though someone is.
  2. Listen twice as much as you speak, and pray twice as much as you fret. Create an atmosphere in your home where children will want to talk to you about anything and everything. Be interested in them, and listen to what they say. Be alert to them and to their needs. Sometimes opportunity knocks so softly. So listen, and be alert. I remember years ago when our son, John David, came in asking me a question, and before he was finished with the question, I unloaded on him a ten-minute answer. He sat there patiently, and when I finished he said, “Well, Dad, you answered a question I was not going to ask!” You see, I was lecturing, not listening. Big problem for me. So parents and grandparents, listen to your children and grandchildren. And also, pray like crazy for our kids. Kids today are vulnerable. They can be misled. They are ripe for exploitation. Bathe them in the power of prayer in order to ward off the infectious disease of evil that exists in the society around us. Listen twice as much as you speak, and pray twice as much as you fret.
  3. Remember that the most important things in life are taught, not bought. We must help our children to learn that their sense of self-worth and self-esteem is never dependent upon what they possess. Dear friends, I have never yet seen a hearse with a UHaul trailer hooked to the back of it. You can’t take it with you! Therefore, we must teach our children the joy of living life in the Christian style, living life within limits. Don’t worry yourself sick about not being able to give your kids the best, because what your kids really need in life is not the best but your best. There is no substitute for the simple gift of your presence. The most important things in life are taught, not bought.
  4. Keep your eyes on the heavens, and your feet on the ground. Keep your eyes on the heavens. That means, keep your eyes on God. Make the worship of God the top priority in your family life. Frankly, I will tell you that I believe that up until age 16 church attendance ought to be mandatory in the family. That means, you understand, that church attendance then cannot be just a matter of convenience for the parents. Keep faith in God as the top priority in your family life, and help your children learn how to look up to God in their lives. So we have got to keep our eyes on the heavens, but we need to keep our feet firmly fixed on the ground. That means we need to be realistic. We need to know the adversary. We need to know the kinds of things our children are having to deal with. We need to learn about drugs—their names, their effects, their uses. We need to find out where the trouble spots for kids are in the community in which we are living. We need to learn what it is our children are being taught in school. We need to know where our kids are, who they’re with, and what they’re doing. We need to monitor our children’s television consumption and internet activity. Parents and grandparents, don’t bury your head in the sand. Keep your eyes on the heavens, but keep your feet on the ground.
  5. Don’t worry about who’s right, but decide what’s right. Establish a set of house rules. Do it, if possible, in conjunction with your children so that they not only understand the rules, but understand the reasons behind them. Set curfews. Be awake when your children come home at night. Talk to your kids about peer pressure, and don’t take the easy way out. Some people today are saying that, in response to our kids’ inquiries about sex, we ought to just give them a condom. Rubbish! Does that mean that when they want to go drinking, we’ll just go down and pick up the tab at the local bar? Or when they want to experiment with drugs, we’ll see to it that they have a clean needle and syringe? Or when in some moment of adolescent depression, they hint at suicide, we’ll rush out and buy them a loaded gun? Come on now! You see, the fact of the matter is that our children and grandchildren respond wonderfully to a clear call to righteous living. I cannot tell you how many times young people have said to me, “I just wish my parent would give me a reason to say no.” So don’t worry so much about who’s right, but decide, very clearly, about what’s right.
  6. Never give up on your kids. Miracles happen everyday. Love them—tell them you love them. Never stop telling them that you love them. Remind them over and over again that they are special—special to you and special to the Lord. Never, ever give up on your kids. I remember reading about a mother who was devastated when her little boy’s teacher told her that her boy had been tested and that his IQ was dangerously low. The teacher was impatient and unwilling to listen when the mother began to tell her about all the things that little Michael could do well. The teacher said, “Listen, you need to face the fact that he has a way below average IQ and probably will have struggles all his life long.” Well, his mother made a decision on the spot. She resolved not to believe that diagnosis from the teacher, and consequently, she never told her son about it. Instead, she supported, encouraged, and affirmed her son. As a result today, Dr. Michael Elmore is one of the leading gastroenterologists in this country. He jokes about it all saying, “My parents never told me that I couldn’t be a doctor until after I had graduated from medical school.” So believe in your kids, and let them know it. Be confident and encourage your children. Love them. Care for them. Believe in them. Never give up on them. They are more than worth it.

Well there you have it: Edington’s construction tips for building a Christian home. Let me add just one little finishing touch to this project. It’s a story told by Carl Stigall. It’s the story of two little boys who were enrolled in the first grade of elementary school. The teacher asked the two brothers about their birthdays. The first boy said, “I was born January 1, 1994.” The second brother said, “I was born April 4, 1994.” The teacher was understandably curious—two brothers born three months apart. So she asked, “How can it be that the two of you were born so close together?” One of the brothers spoke up and said, “One of us is adopted.” The teacher then asked, “Well, which one of you is adopted?” One of the brothers then said, “I asked my Dad about that one day. He just leaned down, kissed us both, and said, ‘I forgot which one.’”

Do you understand what that would have done for those two children? More to the point, do you understand what you can do for your children or your grandchildren? Think about that today, will you?

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