June 2014 Posts

Children Come With a Job Description: Part 3


As I said in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I believe all children come into this world with one primary job description: “To figure out how God designed life to work.” And He puts them into the arms of parents to help them fulfill that job description.

Consider this passage:

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

There are two imperatives in this single verse. The first is “do not provoke.” The second is “bring them up.” There are three key words and phrases in this command statement. The first is the imperative, or command, to “bring them up.” The second is “the discipline…of the Lord.”

The Greek words used here for discipline and instruction both speak of education and teaching, but by different means.

The Discipline…of the Lord

The Greek word for discipline that Paul uses is the idea of educating, teaching or instructing – with actions. We might call this modeling or training in a skill today. We are being told that one of the means of bringing up a child is to show them and get them involved in living life by God’s design.

Our actions and words need to be consistent or it will confuse children. Old joking statements by parents such as, “Do what I say and not what I do” are not part of God’s design. In Philippians 3:7-11, Paul talks about how he has given up everything to follow Christ. Then in verse 17 he says, “join in following my example….”[1] He is essentially saying, “follow me as I follow Christ.”

That is a great admonition for parents. We should desire and grow as disciples of Jesus so that we can say to our children, “Follow my example of following Christ.”

So what does the “discipline…of the Lord” look like in practical terms?

Nothing more than being a model, an example of how God intended life to be lived. That’s all.

But whoa. That’s pretty overwhelming.

And the more we understand our role as parents the more it ought to humble the knees of our heart before God until we say, “God we can’t do this on our own. We need your help!”

This whole set of instructions speaks more to parents than it ever does to our children. We so often focus on the kids and wonder how they are going to turn out, but here God is saying to us, “Look at your own life.”

Are you living and growing as a disciple of Jesus? Are you continuing to follow Jesus with the goal and desire to become like Him? God put us in our children’s lives to “show them” (the word for discipline here) who God is and what He is like, as they observe our lives.

You have to ask yourself:

  • “Is your heart increasingly Humbly Submitted to Jesus as the Lord of your life?”
  • “Is your mind being increasingly Biblically Formed by His Scriptures?”
  • “Are you becoming increasingly Sacrificially Generous in your choices?”
  • “Are you becoming increasingly Morally Discerning in your choices?”
  • “Are you becoming increasingly Relationally Healthy in your choices?”
  • “Are you increasingly being an Intentional Blessing in your compassions?”
  • “Are you increasingly being Culturally Engaged in your compassions?”
  • “Are you increasingly practicing Inclusive Community in your compassions?”


A number of years ago a famous basketball star, Charles Barkley, made a short black and white Nike commercial. He bounces the ball a couple of times, looks into the camera and states, “I am not a role model.”

There was such an outrage by the public that Nike pulled the commercial in just a couple of weeks. The next month Sports Illustrated had an editorial response to the commercial by another famous player, Karl Malone, a friend of Barkley. In his comments to Barkley, he said, “Charles, you can deny being a role model all you want, but I don’t think it’s your decision to make. We don’t choose to be role models, we are chosen. Our only choice is whether to be a good role model or a bad one.”[2]

So it is with us. And it never stops.

When my son Eric was 28, living away from home and pursuing his new career, he called me. He kept asking a lot of questions about me, how I was feeling, how I was handling certain things. Finally, I had to ask him, “Eric, what are you doing? Why the 64 questions about me?” Eric simply said, “Dad, you’re my dad. I just want to learn how to live life when I’m your age. I’m watching you.”

Now he’s 37, and just the other day he texted me and talked about looking forward to being a granddad. Then he asked, “Got any tips?”


To be continued…




[1] Philippians 3:17

[2] http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1138690/

Children Come With a Job Description: Part 2


As I said in Part 1, I believe all children come into this world with one primary job description: “To figure out how God designed life to work.” And He puts them into the arms of parents to help them fulfill that job description.

Consider the following passage:

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

There are two imperatives in this single verse. The first is “do not provoke.” The second is “bring them up.” There are three key words and phrases in this command statement. The first is the imperative, or command, to “bring them up.”

Bring Them Up

Paul is passing on God’s instructions to parents, telling us that we need to take responsibility to move our children from being babies to becoming adults. It is that whole process of grooming them for a future world where they will be adults, without us.

That means parenting has to be a progression of giving them more responsibility over time and us exercising as little control as possible.

I have met parents who are just as controlling of their children when they’re 16 years old as when they were 16 months old. Everything has to be run through the parents. The parents make all the rules, enforce the rules, and tell their teenager what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and implement the consequences when they don’t do it.

The problem is that it won’t be long before that 16 year old will be out of the house without their parents around. Will they be prepared to do all those things on their own that the parent has been deciding for them? From my experience, the answer is no. The child will feel freedom from the parents’ control, but have no idea how to control their own life. They have never had to learn self-discipline since the parents always decided the rules, the consequences and the discipline.

How can we move them from dependent children to independent adults?

When each of our children turned five years old and began preschool, we inaugurated the event with more responsibility. As they got up that first morning to get ready to go to school for the first time, they went into the bathroom to brush their teeth and the like.

When they came back to their room, there were three sets of clothes sitting on their bed. Judy said, “Choose what you want to wear to school today.” It was not a big deal on its own, but we were saying to them, “You are old enough to choose your own clothes. So here is this new responsibility for you.” It didn’t take long before we would not put the clothes out in the morning, but instead let them get the clothes out of their drawers and closet. By the age of seven, they were responsible for washing, drying and putting their clothes away.

At that same age, we explained to them that from then on, they were responsible for making their bed each day. If they did, we would pay them 25 cents. If they didn’t, that was their choice, but they would owe Mom 25 cents for maid service. They had to make a monthly chart of accounts, and at the end of the month we would settle up. It only took one month that they owed us money and they never did that again.

We never paid our children an allowance. We were trying to help them discover how God designed life. From our perspective He never intended for us to get paid to live. We got paid for work. So we gave our children opportunities to make money, but also told them early on that we were not going to buy them toys anymore except for birthdays and Christmas. If they wanted any other toys, they were going to have to make enough money to buy them on their own.

Against the advice I had given him, yet letting him choose on his own, Eric bought a toy one day that was clearly cheaply made, and within a week that toy broke. I came home and saw it in a million pieces on the floor of his room. He was really mad about it, and it was sad. But guess what? Eric learned to be much more discerning about what he spent his money on. I’d rather Eric learn that at 8 years old with a $16 toy than at 28 with a $16,000 car. That was part of helping him move from being a boy to a man.

Judy and I will never forget our daughter Kelly coming home when she was 16. It was late one Friday afternoon and as she walked in the door, she said, “Hi Mom and Dad. By the way, if anyone calls this weekend, I’m grounded. I’ve gotten behind in my schoolwork and I just need to ground myself and catch up this weekend.” She didn’t need us to do it for her. She was ready for the world without us.

To be continued…


Children Come With a Job Description: Part 1


I believe all children come into this world with one primary job description: to figure out how God designed life to work. And He puts those children into the arms of parents to help them fulfill that job description.

Consider the following passage:

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

It’s a simple sentence that is packed with subtle meanings and life-changing truths.

Notice first of all that Paul is addressing Fathers. Not because they are the only parent that matters. Not at all. But they are ultimately responsible for the upbringing of the family. When Judy and I were raising our children, it was easy to think of her as the primary parent to our children since she had more time with them, but the reality was, God would hold me, the Dad, responsible for how our children were raised.

As Paul moves into how God wants us to raise children, he starts with what is not to happen. We are not to provoke our children to anger. Sounds simple enough. Now let’s move on…

Not so fast.

Do we really know what is involved with not provoking our children to anger?

Anger, as used in the New Testament of the Bible in particular, is a natural, God-given emotion meant to respond to injustice – when we perceive there is an injustice. But that last part is tricky. It means I perceive there is an injustice, but I often do not know there is an injustice, and I need to investigate further.

When our son Bryan was in about second grade, I walked into a room and saw him doing something that we forbade in our family. I can’t remember what it was now, but what I do recall is I perceived that it was seriously wrong, went over and immediately swatted him on the behind. He burst into tears and ran up the stairs to his room.

Then Judy said, “Rick, I don’t think you had all the facts before you swatted Bryan. He did nothing wrong.” She went on to explain what I should have found out before I reacted with a swat. I had gotten angry at something I perceived was wrong, as God designed, but I didn’t follow through and check out what I perceived to be an injustice before I acted.

That is one way we can provoke our children to anger: not listening, jumping to conclusions, not checking out what we perceive to be an injustice on their part.

But the verse says we shouldn’t provoke them to anger. What’s that all about?

As a father, a parent, I shouldn’t put my children into a position where they have no reasonable alternative but to be angry. In other words, I need to be careful not to put them into a position where the only natural response is to be angry. That’s what I did with Bryan when I swatted him unjustifiably, without all the facts.

There are other ways we can provoke our children to anger as well, including the extremes of over controlling them or abandoning them. Our children come into this world totally dependent on us, but designed to grow and eventually become arrows in the hand of us as warrior parents, where we then launch them out into a future world that we will not see (Psalm 127:3-4).

When we as parents continue to treat our growing children like they are babies, with us doing everything for them – including making every decision for them, telling them what to do, when to do it, how to do it – then we are over controlling them.

If we abuse our responsibilities to our children by over controlling them, we are putting them into a position of either fighting for their freedom or fleeing to get out from under our thumbs. Both scenarios will justifiably move them to anger.

But we can also fall into the trap of abandoning our children, either literally leaving them, or by never being there for them and just letting them live and learn all on their own.

If we abdicate our responsibilities by abandoning them, we are forcing them to learn about life somewhere else, and our actions will provoke them to anger, because that too is unjust.

To be continued…


The Learning Curve

Basic CMYK

I fancy myself a bit of a craftsman, and I like to do projects at home, particularly projects with wood. Right now I’m building a pergola, a shade structure, on the back of our home. It is now June and I have been working on this on and off since last October.

There are many stages and aspects to building this structure the way I want. Like most projects of this type, about the time I finally figure out how to make the cuts just right is when I’m just finishing up the project. Then I don’t need that skill again for a few years and I have to go through that same learning curve all over again later. Sound familiar?

The same can be said about living life. Often we will be forced to learn a skill or work on a character area, and just about the time we start to get it, we find that it is not an issue for a long time, and then at some point in the future, the learning curve starts all over again.

The Scriptures are given to us as a guide for life. We can use the Bible like an encyclopedia to look up issues as we face them and see what the Bible has to say. Nothing wrong with that, but that is really not the intention of the Bible by design.

The Bible is a far better guide for living life when we spend regular time in it. I have found that as the teaching of the Bible has become more familiar to me, more a part of my life, the less the learning curve each time I face that next issue or decision.

The Bible is designed to be a daily reminder of who God is, who we are and how life was designed. The truths and principles that it imparts, along with the empowering Holy Spirit, can guide us as we have to make choices and will eventually shape our compassions to be more like His. But it is meant to be ongoing, not just when we feel we need it.

If we wait until we feel we need it, we are usually too late. God wants us to always be prepared for life and ministry, no matter what the circumstances, the issues or the timing. This takes ongoing and growing familiarity with His words of life in His Word of Life.

King David said, “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”[1]

Life is like a project and can become quite frustrating if we have to keep paying the dumb tax of the learning curve over and again. But regular, daily time in His Word will forestall much of that, especially over time.

Can I encourage you to spend regular time in His Word – reading, thinking and praying about what you are reading? Just a few verses or a chapter a day would be a great start for some. Read it two or three times. Think about what those verses are saying. And then pray that God would give you understanding and wisdom in whatever area of life these verses touch on. You might be surprised how often that nugget of truth will come in handy, even that same day.


[1] Psalm 119:105