Tag Archives: Parents

A Lasting Conversation

Last night I was driving home and my four-year-old son was the only person in the car with me. As we chatted about various biblical things my son said, “Dad, when I get in trouble I pray to God for forgiveness, just like you say in your sermons.” Now I am smiling, because I know the heart of that young boy and have no doubt that what he is saying is the truth.

However, his next words brought tears to my eyes. He said: “But Dad, you always do good, so you don’t have to do that anymore, do you?” If only he knew. We spent the next few minutes talking about the fact that, even though Dad wants to do right and tries to do right, there are still times where he does things wrong and has to ask both God and others for forgiveness. We talked about the fact that nobody is perfect (except God, he reminded me) and we all have times where we need to ask for forgiveness.

My son’s words had a very deep impact with me last night, one that I am sure will last for a long time to come. For, you see, he will soon enough come to realize that Dad is not perfect; he makes mistakes, reacts incorrectly, has lapses in judgment, and at times falls flat on his face in failure. Nevertheless, I pray that he always sees me trying to do good.

One of the greatest things that should give us pause in our decision-making is asking ourselves the question, “What if my children saw/heard me doing this?” What would I be teaching them and what would they see in me? Part of my responsibility as a father is to bring my children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). However, that requires my willingness to do far more than just tell them what they should do; I must show them the right path by the life that I lead. They have to see their father striving to do good, as well as see him take responsibility for his mistakes and be willing to repent when he does wrong.

Parents, never forget to whom your young children look as a standard of righteousness. Realize that, even though the time will come where they will understand your flaws and shortcomings, in those early years, in their young minds, you are the greatest servant God has ever had. Use that time of influence to teach them, talk to them seriously about God, his Word, and the responsibilities that come with it. Most important of all: let them see you live it. You will never do so perfectly and that is okay. Let them see you try your best, take responsibility for your worst, and in your successes and failures let them see you give God the glory of your praise and service.

Finally, as a daily prayer, let us say: “Father, help me to be the parent my children think I am, the spouse my other half needs me to be, and the child that you want me to be.”

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When God Loses a Child

I have six children; three that I am blessed to be able to hold today, two that were lost in the womb, and one I look forward to holding in November. I have experienced some of the joys and sorrows of being a parent, and I’m sure I will experience many more as the years pass.

This morning, it was through watery eyes that I read of a family who lost their infant child last night because of health complications with his heart. The sorrow and pain they are enduring cannot be described nor explained with mere words, but at the same time there is also hope in the opportunity in eternity to see that child again.

As I was contemplating these things this morning, another thought entered the mix: we are made in the image of God. Mankind was created with a soul, with cognitive abilities and emotional spectrums similar to our Creator. He has given us reason and logic, love, anger, compassion, desire, and many other processes that are similar in nature to his own. That being the case, I believe we often overlook the means by which we can see how God feels when he loses a child.

When we lose a child, someone we created, someone we loved and cherished, for whom we sought to provide and care, who we would give anything to protect, even if it meant our own lives, what does it do to us? It causes grief and agony, sorrow and tears. The same holds true for God. We often consider God to be all love or all anger, all fire and brimstone or all cuddles and warm fuzzy feelings.

The truth is that God is full of love for mankind. He is our Creator, he has sought to protect us, care for us, lead and direct us, save us from our own foolishness, and provide for our eternal wellbeing: even to the point of sacrificing his own life for our sins. However, it has often been the case that God has lost his children, not because of failure on his part, but because of failure on ours. When that happens, we see the anguish of God as he struggles to bring his people back, to convince them of the error of their ways, and to show them the truth. Often they will not listen. Jesus said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Mat. 23:37).

When we lose a child, we have hope to see that child again, but imagine the pain it causes God when he loses a child and will never be able to be reunited with that soul. That is why God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). He does not want anyone to be lost, but many will choose to be, and his righteousness and justice will not allow him to bend the rules for those who have refused him (Rom. 2:11; 11:22).

Alternately, we can also understand the anger of God with those unrighteous individuals who try to pull others away from him to destruction.  Jesus stated, “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Mat. 18:6 ESV). Imagine for a moment that you see an individual who is trying to lure one of your children away from your side so that he can kill that child, forever removing him from your love and influence; what would you do? How would you react to such wicked and cruel intentions? This is exactly what the individual who seeks to cause another to sin is doing, and it brings God’s anger fully to bear on the individual responsible. There will be no mercy for such an individual without full repentance.

When we lose a child, the sorrow and pain can seem overwhelming, but it can be overcome by the love of God and the understanding of his word. Nevertheless, these tragedies also give us a glimpse into the feelings and emotions of God toward his creation, his children, and how our lives and actions affect him. Let us encourage others, both outside of Christ and separated from Christ, to understand God’s love and care for them; and let us never forget what happens to God when he loses a child.

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“Train up a Child”

The wise man Solomon wrote, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Pro. 22:6). Parents have heard this verse and bestowed it upon their children for generations. However, the more I have studied and contemplated this passage of Scripture, the more I believe that we do not really understand the wisdom Solomon was presenting. Let us examine each section of this verse and understand the implications of it.

Train up a child

Most parents consider the word “train” to mean teach or prepare, but that is not the meaning of the word used here. The Hebrew word is chanak and it means, “to initiate, dedicate, discipline, or train up” (Strong). Of the five times it is used in the Old Testament, every other occurrence is translated “dedicate” or “dedication.” The emphasis of “train” is far more than simple teaching, it is a dedicated regimen that directs, regulates, and impresses upon the child, in every manner of life, the path to be taken.

The word for “child” in this verse is the Hebrew word na’ar and it defines a child as a boy or girl from infancy through adolescence. This training is not intended to start at age 5, 10, or 13, but instead from the moment the child leaves the womb. It is the same form of reference to a child that Paul makes concerning Timothy in Second Timothy 3:15. Therefore, this dedication is to begin at birth and continue to adulthood.

In the way he should go:

The term, “the way” is defined as a road or the path of a journey. It is not a simple direction toward which to be pointed, but a specific path to be chosen. This goes against the grain of many parents’ philosophy whereby they point their children in the general direction and then allow them to “choose their own path.” The manner of direction Solomon dictates is a singular devotion to a particular path of life, thereby removing all others.

Additionally, the phrase “he should go” is an interesting one. Of the more than 500 times the Hebrew word peh is used in the Old Testament, this is the only time it is translated with this phrase. The word carries with it the basic meaning of “the mouth” or “the instruction of the mouth.” In other words, Solomon is not stating that parents are to point their children in the direction they want them to go and let them be on their way; rather, they are to take them down the path instruction dictates they must go.

And when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Parents have often argued from examples of children who were raised in “Christian” homes and did not follow the path of their parents that this is not a one-size-fits-all statement, and that it would be more proper to state “and when he is old, he SHOULD not depart from it.” The only problem with that is, the statement is emphatic in the Hebrew, without exception or exemption. Also remember the statement is given by the inspiration of God; therefore, man should not be trying to change the validity or intention of the statement as given. Solomon’s statement is absolute; thus, if a child does not turn out as he should, the problem lies not with the truthfulness of the statement of Solomon, but with the application of the parents in enacting the instructions. God is emphatic that if we enact this principle, our children will follow the path dictated.

Applying the Proverb

What is Solomon, by inspiration, telling us? Let us put all the facts together. Parents need to dedicate their children to the path instructed from the time they are infants. This dedication means to focus on this singular path above all else, and if any part of life leaves that path, that part of life is left behind. Dedication requires full devotion to the path selected.

Is this what we do with our children? Unfortunately, for most parents, it is not. They take their children, point them in a direction and hope they do not get distracted, meanwhile they bombard them with every distraction and side-track imaginable that could veer them off the pointed direction. Parents state they want their children to be Christians, but then constantly place before them athletics, school activities, entertainment, worldly fashion, peer-pressure, and all other forms of distraction that pull them away from the stated goal; then the parents wonder what went wrong when the child follows those things instead of following God.

As parents, our responsibility is not to “point them in the right direction,” but from their earliest moments on this earth to place them on the proper path, by means of example, instruction, and guidance, and to ensure that there is never any deviation from that path as they are growing up. This does not mean no accessory activities can be a part of life; but from the beginning it must be understood that when those activities leave the path of service to God, those activities are left behind.

The instruction must be absolute, unwavering, and unapologetic. The parent’s responsibility is not, as most in today’s society believe, to allow the child to try everything and see what they like; instead it is to give them constant doses of the right thing so that everything else is in perspective. It also means the parents must live a life of example before their children. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can be allowed to stand between the parent and God. God must come first in all things. For the parent cannot direct the child down a path the parent is not walking. When the parent veers off the path, he gives the child cause to do so as well. For this dedication to be complete, it must be absolute both in the parents and the children.

This method of child-rearing is not popular, nor is it fashionable, but it is godly, authorized, and acceptable. God has told us that if we fully and completely dedicate our children to the path of service to him, without deviation or dilution, the outcome will be faithful servants of God. Are we willing to take God at his word?

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When Pain and Thanksgiving are Simultaneous

Yesterday I found out about a friend from years gone by who had been pregnant with twin daughters and lost both of them. Having had two miscarriages ourselves, my wife and I both fought back tears and said some prayers for that family. The number of people who deal with miscarriages and stillbirths is far higher than most would think, but at the same time it is something that is often left in the shadows, without discussion or contemplation except in the exact moment of loss. Yet for the parents of those children who have their faith in God, the feelings with which they struggle are among the strongest and most polarizing of any in life.

For mothers, the pain is both physical and mental. Though miscarriages and stillbirths do not have the exact same characteristics, in each there are physical issues that have to be overcome and take time to heal. Though the physical pain and trouble is bad enough, oftentimes the emotional and mental toll is even worse. The sorrow at not being able to tend and care for the child, the strain of muted expectation, and the feeling that somehow this is her fault and she is a failure are all rather common emotional struggles for the mother.

Fathers are not immune from the struggle with such events either. Though from the physical perspective there is nothing that has happened to them, the emotional strain is often as strong on them as it is on the mother. The father also has that muted expectation of getting to play with, care for, and love on the child that was coming. But there is also the emotion of helplessness. Fathers generally feel (and rightfully so) that it is their responsibility to protect and watch out for their wives and children, when events such as these occur the father has to deal with the pain that there was nothing he could do, no action he could have taken, to change the outcome. Such a thing is sometimes a hard task for men to overcome.

Yet even with the measures of pain both parents feel at the loss of a child, there are also great measures of thankfulness when the parents have their faith centered in God as they should. There is the thankfulness that the child is safe in peace with the people of God. There are many passages of Scripture that show the recognition of the soul in an unborn child (Jer. 1:5; Psa. 139:14-17; Isa. 49:1; Luke 1:13-15, 41). But the Bible also shows that children do not come into this world with sin held to their charge (1 John 3:4; Eze. 18:20; 2 Cor. 5:10), therefore the child lost in this way has nothing to fear and nothing for which to give an account, the child is safe and secure in every way before the Father.

There is also the thankfulness that the child will not have to endure the temptations, pain, and hardship of life on this earth. There are millions of children who will enter Heaven’s gates never having to have seen the ugly, hateful, and sinful lives of people on this earth. Though there is no greater blessing than the life of a child to parents who love and serve God, there is also the greatest level of worry, care, and concern for that child’s life, future, and spiritual welfare. There can be great thankfulness that no such worry is necessary for the child lost in the womb.

There is comfort for the grieving parents who have lost a child in such a manner. There should also be a renewed sense of urgency to ensure that they live their lives in faithful service to God, so that they might once again be reunited with their child. There is strength in the comfort of God’s Word and in the recognition that we serve a God who understands how it feels to lose a child.

May we ever comfort, strengthen, and encourage those who deal with these emotional and trying times; showing godly love, compassion and guidance with both concern for the souls of the parents and thankfulness for the goodness of the God we serve.

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