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Parenting Young Children

Although today’s data on children of one-parent families prove that Dan Quayle gets the last laugh, hands down, I believe he’s more likely praying than laughing. On the other hand, while Candice Bergen (a.k.a. Murphy Brown) flashes camera-ready laughter to her cheering media and public, I doubt she laughs in the wee hours, living with the fact that she’s been a major player in encouraging the tragedy of the single mom. Kids need a loving mom and dad living in harmony under the authority of Jesus Christ if they are to be nurtured as He intends. I realize that many of you are single parents due to circumstances beyond your control. I’m addressing intact families in this article–more specifically dads.

I get a kick out of the story in Judges 13 where Manoah and his wife have been asking God for a son for years. The Angel of the Lord visited Manoah’s wife and informed her that she was going to bear a son. When she conveyed the message of baby Samson’s eminent arrival to Manoah, his response was, "Go back and ask that Angel what we’re supposed to do with this kid after we get him!" Many of us can identify with Manoah. Anabel and I surely can. As we tenderly carried Pres home, this was the first baby either of us had ever held! Of course, we quickly transferred our insecurity to him which punched his scream button, so while one of us rocked him, the other read Dr. Spock’s "How to be Happy, Happy Parents" book.

Christian parenting is not a conglomeration of precepts or principles, a mass of concepts or successful experiences producing children with positive self-esteem, although such information is important. Christian parenting is essentially passing on to your kids the knowledge of Jesus Christ and the provision that a sovereign God has made for living successfully, victoriously, triumphantly in a world marked by trials, tribulations, distress and frustration. Maybe some of you will experience guilt as you read on because your kids are not walking with the Lord as you’d hoped. Here’s a word of encouragement: God didn’t call us to rear godly children; He called us to be godly parents. God, Himself is a perfect Parent, yet many of His children rebel. Even though we may do a lot more right than wrong in our child-rearing, they may rebel against God’s authority. As a free moral agent, this ultimately becomes their problem. Our role, meanwhile, is to pray for them and agape them.

If you see that you’re parenting technique can use some tweaking and your kids are small, it’s easier to correct course. If they’re adults and you’re convicted about some major mistakes you’ve made, an apology is in order. A lot of tension-laden clouds have been whisked away by the Holy Spirit when a dad or mom apologizes to an adult child after sensing God’s timing by bathing it in prayer. One of the beautiful things about God is that He is the God of new beginnings. What a beautiful sound — new beginnings. Compare that with a false god whose disciples chop the hands off thieves.

The true God has made the well-being and happiness of the family dependent upon our lining up on His divine plan. When we establish this divine order in our home under God’s authority, it creates an atmosphere in which He feels at home. The Holy Spirit is then able to do His work of teaching and leading us in the ways of righteousness, including those of child-rearing.

Here are a couple of important things about child-rearing you’d do well to remember:
1. You cannot follow through on your good resolutions.
2. You cannot accomplish the good child-rearing techniques which you read about in books on parenting–only Christ can do so through you.

Anabel and I do not claim to be child-rearing experts. Jim Dobson with younger kids and Jay Kesler with older ones are two men whom we would highly recommend as experts in their fields. Any success that we’ve experienced in our personal child-rearing has been only as we have realized our own inadequacy, read books by experts, trusting the Holy Spirit’s enabling us to eat the meat and throw away the bones, and trusted Christ as Life through us to rear our kids. When we began to understand the truths of Christ as Life and our identity in Him, our boys were already in place. We then began to slowly, gradually understand how to trust Christ to take over the job.

God is Love (personified). This being true, your child was pre-programmed by God to need unconditional love because if he didn’t need love, he wouldn’t need God. Experiencing a loving, intimate relationship with God is the only way he will ever get this need for unconditional love sated. You must keep this uppermost in your mind and before your child as you pray for and rear your kids. Every baby is born with the Adamic nature to draw an imaginary circle around himself and declare everything in the circle "mine." He is god of his circle or "lord of the ring." Because of his intense need for love, a lord-of-the-ring will dedicate his life to the task of extracting love from others and bestowing love upon himself (self-esteem). Meanwhile, as a parent, you are to be working at allowing Christ to express agape love through you to your child and prayerfully anticipating the time when he will abandon his fleshly ways, learning from you how to rest in his total acceptance in Christ.

As your child matures, your prayer is that he will elevate Christ to the position of being the primary Source for satisfying his need for love. Agape is performance–it means doing the most constructive thing of the moment for a person. Such unconditional love goes far beyond mere feelings of affection. As you make Christ the main Source for satisfying your own need for unconditional love, your child will be more prone to follow your example. If, however, your child sees that you seek a sense of well-being primarily through such things as adult toys, climbing the occupational ladder, an inordinate striving to retain a youthful appearance, etc. you will forfeit your power to influence him toward appropriating Christ as his Life. In this case, he, like so many believers, will be more prone to perceive Christ as a mere ticket to heaven.

The importance of the dad in this equation cannot be overemphasized because God places such emphasis upon his role. Obviously, a mom nurtures, loves, builds character and brings many other positive experiences into the life of the child, but despite the liberals’ opinion, God is a Father. Jesus Christ called Him Father. The Bible says, "I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name" (Eph. 3:14-15). This sends a message about the importance of a father in the family. I am not denigrating the role of mother. I’m dealing with men; God tells men to "love (agape) their wives as Christ loves (agapes) the church (His wife)" (Eph. 5:25).

So, according to God, we’ve got it mixed up. We believe the mom is to be the lover in the home. After all, she’s usually the more expressive, the more touchy-feely of the two. But the Bible says the dad is to be the primary earthly source of agape in the home. He’s to accomplish this by the way he acts toward his family, especially toward his wife.

A dad introduces the child to the Father God concept. And the most important facet of God’s love toward us is that it is not contingent upon our performance. He loved us enough to die for us while we still belonged to the devil (Jn. 8:44; Rom. 5:8) and He continues to agape us now that we’re His through Christ. How about the way Christ treats His wife, the church, of which all who are born-again are very important parts? Is He tender, understanding, compassionate, patient, good, kind, and generous toward us? Of course. And how about our Father’s behavior toward His family? Does He give of Himself to His family? Of course. We’re the apple of His eye, by grace. It’s His very nature to be this way. "I am the Lord of justice and of righteousness whose love is steadfast and I love to be this way" (Jer. 9:24, LB, my emphases). Don’t you love that?

How does a human dad accomplish such love to his family? Number one on your list of priorities must be the realization that you can’t do it. If you’re convinced of this, that’s a great beginning, but it’s only a beginning. Second on your list must be to understand that God doesn’t expect you to do it. He hates independence. But, it’s still not enough simply to understand these things. Since all God ever expected from you was failure, you are to agree with His expectation. However, you must then tap into His glorious plan for your success–Christ in you, your hope of glory! Christ indwells you to parent through you! That’s the part that’s imperative. If a dad/husband strikes out on that part, understanding that God doesn’t expect him to be a successful parent can actually be detrimental because Satan will seek to deceive him into abandoning his family responsibilities in favor of living for self –pure hedonism–often flying under the banner of "freedom in Christ." Baloney. It’s sin.

Such a person invites God’s disciplining hand. "Those whom the Lord loves (agape) He disciplines" (Heb. 12:6). Many parents today naively train their children to be rebellious, rude, cruel, etc. by failing to administer prompt, appropriate discipline for such ungodly acts. By so doing, the child gets the message: I don’t care enough for you to help you become a responsible, likable person. Dad, do you make sure that this disciplinary facet of agape is extended toward your children? Should you fail to do so, you are not considering the long-term consequences. Your children stand a good chance of becoming undisciplined adults. This does not have to be. God says that if a dad will "offer himself as a living (animated) sacrifice unto Him" through whom He can operate, He will do it all for you! The cost to you? You must "take up your cross and follow Christ." There are two crosses in the Bible–Christ’s and yours. The key to being a godly parent demands that you allow Christ to serve your family through you. By losing your life in this manner, you will not only find it, you’ll have a good chance to see it reproduced in your kids.

About the Author

Bill founded Lifetime Guarantee Ministries to encourage people to experience the reality of Christ as life. His transparent, humorous, down-to-earth style and sense of humor made him one of the most effective teachers of his time. He communicated with great clarity the full extent of what God accomplished in Christ and what that means for the Christian identity. Although Bill passed away in June 2011, his messages are timeless and will continue to impact generations to come.