Thursday, January 28, 2016

Joyful Home- Raising Children with Godly Wisdom

Joyful Home

Raising Children with Godly Wisdom
Virgil Hurt

Many parents today have their hands thrown up in the air or they are pulling out their hair or they are pulling out the hair of their young charges.  They seem completely in the dark when it comes to raising children to be cheerful and well disciplined.  The frustration level seems to be increasing around us and there are few answers, even from the Church.  While I like to think that the situation is somewhat better in Christian Churches and Christian homes, it is amazing to me how little Christian parents know about raising children to be godly, obedient, respectful and cheerful.  There was a time, not very long ago, when this was the cultural expectation for all children. 
We often see exasperated parents and exasperated children. This state of affairs is now so common that it is seen as the norm.  Many of us witness children with out of control behavior in public. We may feel sorry for the exasperated mother.  Instead, we should lay the blame where it is due, on the said mother and her abdicating husband. Our feelings should run in sympathy towards the child but out of control child behavior often causes us to despise the children, instead.  Even the parents of such children end up not liking them very much even though they know that they have to say that they love him a great deal. 
If you are the mother or father of an out of control child, or find yourself regularly exasperated as a parent, my purpose is not to make you feel bad.  On the contrary, my purpose is to give you hope and to point you towards the Biblical answers that can begin to change your situation.   God has great promises in store for you and your children.  In order to see them, you must begin to lay some foundational principles that will give you that hope. The Church, your church, should be helping you along this path.
If you are doing fairly well as a parent and your children are decently behaved, then I hope I can still be of some assistance. Outward conformity is a good start but the goal of godly parenting is that your children love the God, the people and the things that you love. Discipline begins as external discipline but unless it is internalized and the children own it for themselves, then we have not fully discharged our duties as parents.
One of the central responsibilities of the church and her ministers is to hold out the promises of Jesus Christ to you and to your children. Because many pastors, elders and deacons have not believed these promises themselves and have lost their own children to the world, the flesh and the devil, they are no longer in a position to declare these promises to their congregations.  But despite the failures of Christian leadership, God’s promises are to you and to your children. 
            The Lord desires that our children grow up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and that they lovingly and cheerfully embrace the kindness of God in Jesus Christ.  But in order for this to happen in the normal way, we parents must believe God.  We must believe in such a way that it affects the way that we live and move and have our being in Jesus Christ.  Our belief must produce godly fruit.  Here is the great part; all true belief does produce godly fruit. 
            This book is a book about Christian discipline. Of course, it is a book on raising godly children and so it includes the discipline of those children. However, before you can even think about disciplining your children, you have to discipline yourself. No good work is possible without discipline. Discipline is a necessary aspect of all Christian growth. Discipline is for all disciples of Jesus Christ.
            The question is not whether we will apply discipline, but rather, which discipline will we apply? Will we do the things God calls us to do, will we be His disciples, or will we choose to do things our own way, or worse yet, the world’s way?
            God’s ways are not easy, particularly as we live in a world that is increasingly hostile to Biblical practices. The good news is that God’s ways, while not easy, are relatively simple. They can be taught, learned and practiced. Furthermore, when we commit to living according to His standard, we begin to see the tremendous benefits both to us and to our children.
Chapter 1- The Need for Discipline
            In Steven Covey’s famous book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, habit number two is Begin with the End in Mind. That is wise advice. As we think about raising godly children, what end are we aiming at?
            I want us to look at the ultimate end and then walk back to the beginning. Ultimately, we want to raise children that love the Lord Jesus Christ with their whole heart, soul, mind and strength and that love their neighbor as themselves. This is all the law and the prophets.
            We want to produce a Christian adult who is personally self-disciplined and exudes the joy of the Lord. It makes sense that if that is the goal to which we are aiming at the end, then the steps along the way should be conspiring to that end. But we always want to keep in mind that our ultimate goal is not some measure of worldly success, it is real joy in the presence of the Lord.
            If that is what we desire for our adult children, we should hope for and expect the same thing for our teenagers, our pre-teens, our young children, and even our toddlers. We want them to express the joy of the Lord at every stage of their lives. But is this possible? I believe it is and have seen the goodness of this reality in my own and many other children.
            There are three key aspects of realizing this goal. First, you need some sense of what is possible. Can my children really be expected to cheerfully obey me? At what ages? Can we honestly expect them to love the Lord and honor their parents from infancy to adulthood?
Secondly, you need the knowledge to help get you to your goal. What does the Bible teach about establishing a Christian home? What does the Bible teach about marriage? What does the Bible teach about raising godly children? Can I learn the basic concepts? What examples of good marriages and good parenting are available to me? What other resources do I need to raise faithful children?
Thirdly, you need consistent application of knowledge. Will I follow through on my duties as a husband or a wife? Will I commit to being faithful in my role as a parent? Am I willing to consistently do those things that are necessary to raise my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?
You can see by the questions I ask that I believe it is possible to expect your children to be obedient in the Lord from a very early age all the way through adulthood. The primary way to arrive at this goal is faith in Jesus Christ, a strong marriage, and a willingness to consistently do the hard work of parenting.
Although the principles and methods that I describe in this book will work for non-Christians, they are for God’s people. An unbeliever is prone to follow too much the desires of his own heart rather than follow the divinely revealed authority of God’s Word. Even a committed Christian has a difficult time being faithful in the little things. By the little things, I mean, not disciplining in anger and maintaining regular fellowship through confession and forgiveness of sins with one’s spouse and children. This daily personal discipline is paramount in maintaining a godly marriage and establishing peaceful discipline in the home. It takes hard work. It is necessary that God’s Holy Spirit enables and empowers married couples and parents to this work. Without the power of the Holy Spirit, it is presumptuous to expect a godly outcome in marriage and child rearing. But with the power of His Spirit, we should fully expect our children to grow up knowing and loving the Lord and honoring and obeying their parents.
It is my intent to walk through some very practical teaching on both marriage and on child training. Many modern Christians simply never get this teaching in their church. Thus, many parents are starved for help on how to raise their kids. I think I can help. But I want you to be patient. Of course, in order to raise your own children, you have to know what to do. But the real key, is not so much “what to do” But “who is doing it.” Before you start disciplining your children, you have to discipline yourself. Fail to get this first thing first and you run the risk of not reaching your goal of raising adult children who know and love Jesus.
Here is a scary truth, your children will do what you do more than what you say. They observe more than they hear. They are pretty much going to reflect your character as they grow into adulthood. Oh no! Oh, yes. And the sooner you get about to producing faithful godly character in your own life, the easier the job of producing faithful godly character in your children. In fact, if you are faithful, especially in the little things, you can have high expectations of God’s blessing on your work as a parent.
When I say this book is for Christians, exactly whom am I talking about? Let’s start the discipline process with same basic expectations of Christians.

The Authoritative Word- A Christian is one who believes that the Bible is the only ultimate and absolute authority. Of course, there are other authorities, parents, teachers, and pastors, to name a few. But a Christian understands that the Word of God gets to trump all comers. He is willing to submit to the clear teaching of Scripture, NO MATTER WHAT IT SAYS.
Sorry about the ALL CAPS but we live in an age in which even Christians tend to pick and choose what parts of the Bible are for them. This must not be so. If the Bible is the Word of God, and it is, then all of the Bible is for all of God’s people. Furthermore, the secular culture is making more and more claims that bind the conscience. They claim scientific precision even in basic parenting skills like disciplining children. These claims are made strongly in both Christian and non-Christian literature regarding how to discipline and what to discipline. At public schools, in medicine and even at the Christian counseling center, they are competing with the authority of Scripture. But Christians must weigh all of these other authorities against the authority of Scripture in order to know what God expects of them.
Frankly, the trend is to discipline less and less and to simply encourage the children to whatever behavior their desires naturally lead them. The problem with this view is that we are fallen creatures, our desires are broken and naturally lead us into various sinful behaviors. Thus, we must affirm God’s Word against a culture that is systematically growing hostile to truth.
Church Attendance Weekly- A Christian is someone who attends church every week for the rest of his life. Some Christians make a very weak effort at attending church. They go occasionally and any excuse will do to skip. “I stayed up too late last night. I got a sniffle. The pre-game show starts before church lets out. I need a rest. My kid has a soccer game.” Well, the Bible teaches that the Lord’s Day and Lord’s Day Worship is our rest. Furthermore, God made this up. He made the world in six days and rested on the seventh. That is the pattern. In the New Testament, the pattern changed slightly. The saints began to meet on the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day. The Bible tells us not to neglect meeting together. (Heb. 10:25).
Weekly church attendance teaches both you and your children a great discipline. It is both discipline and consistency. Furthermore, we do not do this simply because we must do so to obey God. That certainly is a good reason. But there is more. God’s requirements come with blessings. God requires this of us because we need it. We need to regularly gather with the saints for exhortation, for encouragement, for confession, for forgiveness, for fellowship, for teaching, for communion. The Lord gave us a pattern of regular covenant renewal. To fail to see this is to miss one of the central graces in raising godly children.
If you do not attend church regularly and any excuse will do for you to skip church, do not be surprised to see your children grow up with a very compromised commitment to Jesus. Many modern Christians humor themselves that church is unnecessary and they can pursue a robust spiritual relationship with Jesus on their own apart from the formal gathering of the saints. Your own children are likely to react to sparse church attendance much differently. They will see that their father and mother have a weak commitment to church and are likely to make the connection that mother an father also have a weak commitment to Jesus. If they are astute observers, and most children are, they will also likely see that father and mother are not really fully committed to the authority of the Bible.
As they grow up, they will desire to be more consistent than you. They will either exhort you to be at church all the time in order to shore up your commitment to Jesus, or they will simply drift away from the faith applying what they perceive to be the weak commitment of their parents. Of course, they may also simply grow up with a weak commitment to Christ’s Church like their parents, content with half measures.
If you are an occasional church attender that last option might not disappoint you too much. My kids will go to church occasionally, just like I do. But I can tell you from many years of pastoral experience that occasional church attenders are notoriously weak in their faith in Christ. Furthermore, they are the ones that almost always have some serious family breakdown. There is a direct connection and the sooner you see it and correct it, the more likely you are to grow in your own faith and to raise children who have a steady faithful walk in Jesus.
Tithe- Christians give ten percent of their increase to the Lord. Generally, this amount is given to their local church. The tithe was established by God and was not withdrawn in the New Testament. Some Christians argue that the ten percent tithe is no longer applicable in the New Covenant era. While I think the argument is erroneous, I do not mind when Christians put forth this view. Since we live in age of greater promises with higher expectations both for the blessing of Christians and for the behavior of Christians, we should expect that those who do not believe in the principle of a ten percent tithe, would gladly give MORE than ten percent! Ten percent is the minimum the Bible expects you to give.
Why is this a mark of a Christian? First, God established the tithe. The Bible teaches it and it is therefore a duty. Second, it is a tremendous discipline. When we tithe, we are forced to live below our means. We make one hundred percent and live on ninety percent. This is a tremendous lesson. Third, when we tithe, we acknowledge that all of our blessing is a gift from God. He gives us one hundred percent of our money. It all belongs to Him. A tithe is a token acknowledgment that we belong to the Lord and that He blesses us as He sees fit.
A failure to tithe reveals a lack of faith in God’s provision. Many Christians claim that they will tithe once they have enough money to pay all of their bills. The problem is that as their income rises, so do their bills and they never end up tithing.
Again, from pastoral experience, I have seen it as almost universally true, that those families that do not tithe have a great deal of trouble. There is trouble in their marriage. There is trouble with their children and there is always trouble in their finances. Sure, faithful tithing families can see all of these troubles. Tithing is not a way out of trouble but in my experience, non-tithers a have much higher incidence of various sins bubbling under the surface in their marriage, in their children, in their finances, and in their work and family relationships. It seems that tithing is a great discipline that dramatically disciplines many other areas of life.
What can you do now if your bills are out of control and there is no way for you tithe without paying your bills? I suggest you purchase Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. Start working off some debt. Get a second job, if necessary, until you can reduce your standard of living. Start giving something to your church right away, say one percent of your income. Ask the Lord to bless your giving and work towards giving a full ten percent sometime in the next year or so.
If there is any possible way to give a full ten percent of your increase, I want to encourage you that is the quickest way out of your financial trouble. The Lord will bless your giving and will make provision for you in ways that you never anticipated. The beauty of the tithe is that it puts you in a position to have to trust God. He is faithful.
Consistent behavior in the home- Your children will do what you do. They learn as much by observation as they do by words, perhaps more so. Hypocrisy at home will undermine your good intentions towards raising godly children. Sometimes the hypocrisy is severe and obvious to all. The father is out of control with anger, or is a demanding tyrant to his wife and children. A wife is belligerent and disrespectful to her husband or angry and overly controlling towards her children. When there is anger, tension and an overall lack of humility in the home, the children are learning the lesson well. Don’t be surprised when they act just like you do.

The deep things of God happen to be the simple things: daily confession towards God and your family members, regular forgiveness to all that have offended you, starting and ending your days well with peace in the home. If you do these basic Christian disciplines, you can expect peace in your home and an abundant harvest in your children. If you fail to do them, no amount of church going is likely to make up for the shortfall of godliness.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Forgiveness as True as Sin

We get our sinfulness. Our sins cry out before us. And if they don’t, and we need a reminder, we don’t have to work very hard to convince ourselves we still do sin and need forgiveness. A little introspection reveals sinful thoughts, words and actions.
But it is a bit more difficult to lay hold of the fact of our forgiveness. This must be taken on faith. Sometimes we feel forgiven and sometimes we don’t. We may think God forgives like men who struggle to not hold your sins against you.
But God’s forgiveness is as true as sin. He really does grant full, free and lasting forgiveness. He really does look upon you as He looks upon His only Son. He really does choose to not remember your sins against you. He looks upon you as one in whom He is well pleased.

Hear Him. Believe Him. Believe me when I declare that the penitent sinner is a forgiven sinner. Stand up, breath the healthy air of forgiveness in Jesus and be at peace. Amen.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Start Clean

Today, I will walk us through our liturgy. It is important that we understand why we do what we do. We start our service with a Call to Worship and then proceed directly to Confession of Sin.

Why is this? Because we want to start clean. We come into God’s presence but immediately are confronted with God’s holiness and our own sinfulness. This is a scary situation. Something has to go. Either God has to leave us or we have to shrink away in fear or He has to transform us from fear to boldness.

Thank God for Jesus. In Him, God calls us out of darkness and into His light. He pronounces us clean in His presence through the shed blood of Jesus. He bids us to attend to Him boldly without fear of condemnation and judgment. We are justified in Christ and reckoned as righteous in His eyes.

This is why it is so important to confess sins and seek forgiveness from God. He accomplished our forgiveness on the cross. However, we still sin and are therefore required to regularly confess our sins so that we have confidence of His forgiveness and bold access to our Lord. It is a new year and a new day. Confess your sins. Start clean.

Happy Ending

Our service culminates in Communion. It is the high point of our service. The point of God’s kindness to us in Jesus Christ is to bring us near. And it is a happy ending to our Sunday Worship.

We have talked about the sacrificial system. It was not meant to keep the people of God away from God. It showed the necessity of sacrifice in order to bring God’s people near. However, the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sins. They had to continually sacrifice in order to draw near to God. Of course, it was their faith in God’s kindness to them that was reckoned as righteousness.
But the blood was necessary. 

All are guilty of death and somebody has to pay. Unfortunately, no one was found worthy to pay that price until Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Only in His shed blood was there a full expiation of the bloodguilt.

Now, God’s people are washed clean. Now, their sins are paid in full. Now, they are welcome in His presence. The perfect sacrifice has come and has died once for all. There is no further need to shed blood. We are washed in the blood, dressed in wedding attire, seated at the Lord’s banquet and welcome forever in His presence. That’s a happy ending.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Got What I Wanted

It’s Christmas. Did you get what you wanted? If you did, you know a pleasant and satisfying feeling. Your hopes are fulfilled, the waiting and anticipation paid off.

What did I want at Christmas? Good food. Good wine. My family gathered around the table. Peace and joy. Guess what? I got what I wanted.

And these same gifts are what God offers to us in Jesus Christ. Here we are, gathered at the Table with family. We have the best food and wine, the Lord Jesus offering Himself to us. Our sins are forgiven before God and men. We are at peace. 

We look around and see our brothers and sisters. They, too, partake, and we see that in Jesus, all is right with the world. Joy Noel! Just what we wanted.