The Heart of Your Child

It is vital that you train the heart of your children. However it is popular to ignore this essential process and give in to shallow alternatives. Since many young parents have not thought these issues through I am penning these notes as a guide to parents.

The Heart of the Matter

The most important part of your child’s development is the training of their heart. While we may not be aware of what is going on inside other people, including our children, the Bible tells us that God looks on the heart.

“But the LORD said to Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1Samuel 16:7

God’s prophet, Samuel, did what people naturally do. He looked on external things. God accurately accused men of taking notice of external things – “man looks on the outward appearance”. That is why people have to take ‘first impressions’ seriously and why image is such a big deal for worldly people. It should not be so for those who love and follow God, but sadly appearance and image is a major focus of some churches today.

Since God looks on your child’s heart it is essential that you make it a key focus on your attention.

The Heart of Your Child is Exposed by What Comes Out

Jesus had much to say about what comes out of the heart. He said that we are defiled by what comes out of us. He then listed a bunch of things that find their source in the human heart.

“The words which come out of the mouth come from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” Jesus Christ, Matthew 15:18-19

Jesus is pointing here to both the words people speak and the motivations that lead them to do evil things. So wise parents will be attentive to the spontaneous expressions from their children and also from the behaviour patterns the children display.

A winning smile on the face of a child can be deceptive. Sweet words of promise and nicety may be a cover for wrong intentions. In the same way that adults can be expert at this level of deception, some children know how to play up to their parents’ expectations.

Key Lessons For the Heart

The heart is troubled by the presence of foolishness, which Solomon warns us is bound in the heart of every child (Proverbs 22:15). So it is important for each parent to respect the particular process that God prescribes for removing that foolishness. The prescribed process is to use the rod of correction on the child.

Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” Solomon, Proverbs 22:15

Obedience is a key test of the child’s heart. If a child refuses to obey then they have foolishness. So getting the child to promptly obey the parent is a key heart training process. This involves them submitting to the parent’s authority. In that process they learn to fear the Lord, giving respect to God’s requirement that they obey their parents.

Games and Tricks Don’t Train the Heart

Some parents think that they are doing quite well if they get the desired action from the child. But it is not the action that is the most important. What is important, as we saw earlier, is the heart of the child. God does not look on the outward evidence but on the heart.

If you instruct a child to eat their food and the child is reluctant to obey, then a matter of the heart has been exposed. The child’s rebellious or independent attitude is a more serious matter than the nutritional value of the meal.

Many parents, however, become distracted with the external element, getting the food into the child. They can completely miss the much more serious issue of the child’s heart. Clever parents can resort to games to get the child to eat. “Let’s pretend that the spoon is a train and your mouth is a tunnel. Let the train into the tunnel.”

Such games may be fun, but they set the parent and child up for future pain. The child’s heart is left in a rebellious state, even though all the food is eaten.

The same is true when a parent tricks a child into doing the right thing, or fitting in with the parent’s plans. Games and fun, cute as they may be in the hands of clever parents, have no place in testing or training the child’s heart.

The most mature and complete heart training is evident when there is every reason to disobey or to get away with doing wrong, and yet the person insists and persists in doing what is right.

Tough Choices Make for Strong Character

When parents rescue their children from tough choices they undermine the child’s character. Tough choices make for strong character.

The child who must stand by his post, while others get to do fun things, or taunt him, or who is otherwise suffering in order to be there, will develop much stronger character than the child who is given every opportunity to cheat on their character.

False compassion can prompt some parents to remove the tough choices and hard situations from their child’s life. Such emotion is called ‘false’ compassion because it is not true love at all. It masquerades as compassion but it harms the child, so it cannot be real love.

You are Allowed to Play Games

Please note that I am not saying every moment of your child’s life should be a tough moment with tough choices. There is plenty of room for fun, games and play. You are welcome to play ‘aeroplanes’ and fly the food into your child’s mouth or to make cleaning up the room into a fun race against the clock.

The tough choices are made at strategic moments and are then built upon. But once the tough moment is past it is time for celebration and enjoyment of life. The problem will come when your child is never challenged to learn and their heart is not trained.

Insist that they Learn

Parents, be diligent to ensure that each of your children has learned to obey you, to submit to authority and to fear God. You will need to remain attentive to their heart, through what they say and how that is backed up by the attitudes and actions.

Insist that they learn the lessons. Don’t give in, just because they are crying, or complaining. There is much more at stake than their temporary responses.

The Children’s Bread

Citizens of any nation have a special status, based on their inherited right, or chosen right for those who take on citizenship. Jesus Christ celebrated that special status, so it is enshrined in political reality. Sadly we are seeing an erosion of this special status, so it is timely to investigate our God-endorsed rights.

Children

Jesus Christ spoke of the natural national citizens as “children”.

On one occasion Peter made a mistake in his encounter with the administrators of his day. Peter was approached and asked if his master paid tribute money. Peter unwisely said that he did. Jesus then challenged Peter about Peter’s thinking on this matter.

“When they came to Capernaum those that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Does not your master pay tribute? He said, Yes. And when he came into the house Jesus detained him, saying, What do you think, Simon? Who do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute from? Is it from their own children, or from strangers? Peter said to him, From strangers. Jesus said to him, Then the children are free. However, so we don’t offend them, go to the sea and cast an hook, and take up the first fish that comes up; and when you open his mouth, you will find a piece of money: take that, and give to them for me and you.” Matthew 17:24-27

Why Children

Every citizen is a ‘child’ of the cultural family to which he or she belongs. That is significant and I will probably discuss that point in more depth at some other time.

Suffice it to say right now that what starts as a ‘family’ really should stay as a family. However, what tends to happen is that our leaders stop being ‘fathers’ to us and become greedy brothers and sisters who sell out the ‘family’ for personal status and reward.

Good government does not penalise its own family, but rewards it. Good government creates a wonderful environment for its own children. Good government then taxes the foreigners (“strangers” in the words of Jesus) for using the resources that really belong to the children.

Oh that it were so in our nations today!

In many western nations today the foreign entities can operate within the country with great tax advantages and privileges, while the children are heavily taxed to pay for the borrowings of their leaders (their ‘fathers’?) who have placed them in an unhappy place of national penalty.

Hmmmm…..

The Children’s Bread is for the Children

Jesus spoke of ‘children’ in a political sense on another occasion. He spoke to a foreigner who was seeking His power for a family need. In that conversation with the Syrophenician woman Jesus affirmed His personal calling to the nation of Israel. His power, miracles and grace were intended for the nation of Israel.

Israel was by that time a nation that had existed for more than a millennium. It is easy to forget, after such a long time, that the nation is really a ‘family’. The original children of Israel were the literal children of a man named Israel. As the families grew over successive generations the ‘children’ grew in number to be a national entity in their own right. But they were still ‘children’ of Israel.

In political terms this foreigner was not a member of the family of Israel. Rather than being a child in the family she was something else, like a family pet. Jesus pointed this out by saying that it was not right for Him to take what belonged to the children and to give it to the dog.

While Jesus’ comments sound offensive to our ears it is important to note two things. The woman was not upset. She recognised that His statement was true. She was outside the Kingdom and had no right to the things she requested. She was not a child of Abraham or a descendent of Jacob (Israel). Jesus’ words were not an insult, but a statement of truth acknowledged by the woman herself.

Further to that, Jesus was happy to hear her appeal and expression of faith and to grant her what she asked.

She said (in essence), “It is true that I am a dog, but even the dogs get to eat the crumbs which are dropped by the children. Since not all of your blessings will be enjoyed by the children you can spare one of the crumbs for me.”

“a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet: The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she begged him that he would cast the devil out of her daughter. But Jesus said to her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not right to take the children’s bread, and cast it to the dogs. And she answered and said to him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs. And he said to her, For this saying go your way; the devil is gone out of your daughter. And when she came to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.” Matthew 7:25-30

Your Bread

We have seen that Jesus used the notion of ‘children’ to speak of both political realities (paying tribute) and spiritual realities (claiming the blessings belonging to God’s people).

You too are a child and have your own bread. So, what is your bread? What is it to which you have political and spiritual right?

As a citizen of your nation and culture you are entitled to the freedoms and protections afforded to you. You should not be abused by the fathers of your culture and nation. They should be providing you the special blessings which you are entitled to as a member of the family.

As a child of God you are entitled to an amazing range of spiritual and practical blessings reserved for the ‘children’. In fact, you have the right to walk and live in a state that is described as ‘glorious liberty’ (wonderful freedom), as God’s child.

“Creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Romans 8:21

I encourage you to enjoy the bread that is yours, both politically and spiritually. You are fully entitled to those blessings and it is your responsibility to protect and preserve them so that your own children can enjoy them as well.

Little One 3

Here is another “Daddy Dialogue” to a little child. Parents may wish to offer something like this to their children.

“Sweetheart, you are such a precious gift into this home. God loves us SO much that He has given YOU to us, to make us so very happy. You are special and precious and mummy and I thank God for giving you to us as our little child.

You know that we love you and that God wants us to train you so you will be everything He wants you to be. But there’s something else I want to tell you about too.

There is a naughty angel who ran away from God. That bad angel wants to help people do the wrong thing, so that God’s heart will be sad. And one of the things that bad angel does is tell God that good people are bad.

That bad angel has already been talking to God about you. He says that you really aren’t a nice person at all. He says that you will do bad things and disobey your mummy and daddy. He says you will be greedy and selfish and that you will try to get your way when you can.

God laughs at the devil’s lies. God knows that He created you to be a wonderful person who loves God and does what is right.

So that’s why I am telling you about this now. Every time you do something wrong the devil will jump up and down and clap his hands. He will laugh at God and say, “See, I told you so!” And God will be sad.

But God knows that even when you do wrong things you can always ask Him to forgive you. He is always happy to forgive you if you are sad about what you have done. When God forgives you it is as if you never ever did the wrong thing at all.

God knows that you will do some wrong things so He is not worried about what the devil says. God wants you to learn how to be strong and He also wants mummy and me to train you.

Mummy and daddy have to train you by punishing you when you do something wrong. We do that because we love you and want to take any foolish ideas out of your heart, so it will be easier and easier for you to make God happy.

Let’s pray together now and tell God that we are not going to do the bad things the devil wants us to do.

“Lord God, thank You that You love us. We know that the devil doesn’t like us and he wants us to do bad things. But we make up our mind that we will only do right things. If we fail and do something that we should not do we will ask You to forgive us. We will ask for Your strength so we can resist all those evil things.

Thank You for loving us and helping us be good people who are happy and free. We ask this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Baby in the Womb

A lovely young couple are currently expecting their first child. I recently felt to encourage the young dad to speak to his unborn baby. I asked if he spoke to the baby in the womb. He replied that his wife spoke to the baby at times, but he didn’t do it.

That prompted me to reflect on how we respond to the baby in the womb, especially the first one coming along.

New Relationship

Each new baby opens up for us a new relationship. With the first child we open up a whole new level of relationship. And like all new things we often face them with no real preparation. Often we don’t know that we have left things undone until many years later.

I have seven children and I have a unique relationship with each one of them. I can’t say that I have built the most exemplary relationships with them. In fact, at first, I assumed that relationship would just happen automatically. As a consequence the relationships are not as sweet or deep as they could have been.

Learning to Relate

I stumbled into relationship with my children. Because I didn’t have a concept of building relationship I ended up having to maintain relationship as a reaction to what went wrong, rather than as one building correctly from day one. My relationships grew out of the upsets, the good times and the bad times along the way. I thought that was the normal way to build relationships.

Many people do not have strong relationship skills. We usually have weaknesses in our ability, based on our own past failed relationships.

It is important to learn to relate to the child, as a conscious skill development. The new relationship is very important and needs to be pursued with intention. For those who are about to enter into relationship with a child about to be born it is important to promote the relationship rather than to just let it happen.

How to Build Relationship

Here are some suggestions for getting started on a good relationship, even whieh the baby is in the womb.

Value the relationship. Good relationships with children are incredibly valuable. Just ask anyone who lives with a broken or poor relationship with their child. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t be too casual about it. Be determined to build relationship and to so connect with your child that you are closely bonded for the rest of your lives.

Speak to your baby. There are lovely testimonies of people who have been strongly influenced by what they heard before they were born. One testimony speaks of a newborn baby in distress who settled immediately on hearing their father’s voice in the hospital ward. The baby had heard the father read the Bible to it each day as it formed in the womb. That baby knew its father’s voice from the womb and felt security from it once it was born.

Speak comfortably to your child. Over the years and from an early start, tell your child how valuable and special they are in your life. Speak of your love for them and your commitment to them. You are your child’s champion and hero, so speak into that role and encourage your child to walk in confidence because of your commitment and support.

Cast Godly vision for your child. Speak often to your child about your vision of their on-going place in your life and your on-going place in their life. Talk to them about how you are going to introduce them to God and often take them into God’s presence with you. Talk about how you are going to help them find God’s wisdom in the many challenges they will face through their childhood and youth. Speak about the times you will hug them and comfort them in the future and wipe away their tears.

If you have a daughter you can cast the vision of walking her down the aisle on her wedding day, to marry a young man who you have tested out to be suited for her. If you have a son you can cast the vision of them walking into their own areas of responsibility with the skills which you have taught them over the years and with your active support.

Love Your Child

The new relationship you will enjoy with the baby about to be born will be a relationship of love. You will have a new person to love for the rest of your life.

If you are casual about the relationship then it may never become a healthy and happy relationship. A love relationship requires that you love the child and encourage them to love you in return.

Don’t see this child as just a ‘baby’ or ‘another mouth to feed’. This child is potentially the most special person in your life. While the marriage union is always to be held above relationship with the child, yet the bond and delight that can come from the child can be incredibly enriching to your life.

Alternatively you can raise a child who despises you, cannot relate to you and who brings great pain and trouble into your life.

Get Started Now

Don’t wait until your child is old enough to help you in the kitchen or workshop. Don’t wait until they are adult. Don’t wait until they have gotten past their childish ways.

Get started now. Start building close and intimate bonds with your child from the moment they are conceived. Build it for life, not for a temporary moment.

If you are a new parent please take it from me as an older dad, that you need to take the relationship seriously, not for granted.

You have no guarantee of the child’s affection for you. If you send them to pre-school and school they will be sorely tempted to bond with their peers and not with you. When you let them down, or they feel like you have – even if you haven’t – they will pull back from you.

Make a priority of building special relationship, right from the start. Get connected with that baby in the womb.

Of Fathers and Sons

We live in a Fatherless World, as I explained in a recent post. So, how do fathers and sons work together to create this fatherless situation? That’s the question I want to explain in this update posting.

Fatherless-ness Defined

Fatherless-ness is the condition of being without the true fathering which God intended. Fathering is a divine calling and privilege. Yet in today’s world men think they can make of it what they want. So they become the kind of fathers that they choose to become, without regard for their divine calling. Most people today have lost sight of the foundations for their lives, so they follow the crowd. If other fathers do things a certain way then that social norm becomes the reference point for most fathers. Then, in the absence of truth to guide fathers to their real calling, they function as something less than a father. That creates a situation of fatherless-ness.

When a child is raised without the high level of spiritual responsibility and guidance that a real father is meant to bring to the child, then the child is fatherless, even if that child has a very present, very pleasant dad in their life.

Dad doesn’t create fathering. God created fathering and calls men to fulfil that mandate. Sadly, most men are either ignorant or irresponsible. They go about providing what they choose to provide in their role as dads. So their children are fatherless.

How Dads Create Fatherless-ness

When a dad is absent the child clearly is fatherless. With immorality rampant many children are born without fathers and not able to determine who their real father is. I spoke recently with a woman who was told by her mum that her dad would have been one of two men who the mum was not married to. Without DNA testing the daughter cannot be certain which of the men is her real dad. But she is at least lucky enough to narrow it down to two.

So the absentee father is one cause of fatherless-ness, but it is not the greatest cause of this problem from the dad’s side of the equation.

The more insidious fatherless-ness occurs when there is the appearance of a father, but the absence or true fathering, as I described earlier. When ever a man fails to be the man that God has called him to be or the father that God has called him to be, then he creates fatherless-ness.

I once worked with a family where the father had virtually no manhood. He acted much like his own children, but he had less intelligence than they did. He held down a menial job and left the running of the home to his wife and her father, who provided the mature male role in the home. The man’s children mocked him openly. He was a joke to them, and yet he thought such a situation was normal and reasonable. Such a man creates fatherless-ness, because he is not functioning as a father in that home.

When a dad lives for himself and raises his children as it suits him, he makes his children fatherless. When a dad ignores God’s authority over him and through him to his children, he makes his children fatherless. When a man abdicates from his manhood and leaves the home to his wife to run, he makes his children fatherless.

Dads create fatherless culture by their failure to be the fathers God created them to be in their child’s life.

How Children Create Fatherless-ness

Children also create fatherless-ness. They do it by rejecting their fathers. When children rebel against the instructions of their father, they make themselves ‘fatherless’. Just as refusing to drive a car, even when you have one in the garage, makes you effectively ‘car-less’, so refusing to honour your father, even though you have one in your home, makes you effectively ‘father-less’.

Children choose to become fatherless when they find that their dad frustrates their will. When the child decides to go against the father’s instructions or pull against his limitations, the child removes their self from being ‘fathered’. So the child becomes fatherless.

When children spend much of their life under the influence of their peers (as is the almost universal experience of western children) it is to be expected that the children will value the peer culture above their parent’s values. The child will be sorely tempted to side with the peers rather than the parents when these cultures conflict. When the child chooses to side with the peers that child replaces the father with the peer culture. The child is then fatherless.

Since the child will likely be determining his or her values from social norms, rather than from Biblical truth or some other external and unchanging reference point, the child will be encouraged to think that their fight for independence from parental control is normal and reasonable. They will have no idea that they have permanently damaged themselves and contributed to the fatherless world in which they live.

God the Father

Among the various responses that can be suggested in this fatherless world, the most powerful one is to firmly set God as Father in our lives. God is a father, as Jesus pointed out when He taught us to pray, “Our Father in Heaven…” That truth was already given in the Old Testament Scriptures.

“But now, O LORD, You are our father; we are the clay, and you our potter; and we all are the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

“For whom the LORD loves he corrects; even as a father the son in whom he delights.” Proverbs 3:12

“Like as a father pities his children, so the LORD pities them that fear him.” Psalm 103:13

God is not only a father, He is the most perfect and complete, fully functioning father that could ever be imagined. Having God as our father brings into our lives all that our natural fathers were incapable of binging to us. So it is more than a nice idea to have God as our Father. It is an extremely powerful reality that will impact who we are more than just about anything else we could do.

I encourage you to overturn fatherless-ness in your life, but entering into intimate relationship with God as your Heavenly Father.