Training the Heart of a Child

There is no doubt that the heart is the heart of the matter for each of us. This is what the Bible teaches and I have mentioned it elsewhere. The Bible teaches that the responses from the heart dictate the issues of each person’s life. If your heart responds with jealousy to others, for example, then jealousy becomes the main issue of your life. If your heart responds with pride then pride becomes the main issue of your life.

Your Child’s Heart

While you may be concerned with your child’s behaviour and how well they will fit in with your hopes and dreams, the main issue and challenge you should attend to is to train the heart of your child.

You can create an academic or a sportsman out of your child. But their career is not the most important issue. You can teach them to be polite and to please your parents, making a good impression wherever they go, but that is not the most important issue.

You can even train them to be well behaved and compliant all the time, but that is not the most important issue.

Your child’s heart is the most important issue.

Discipline and the Human Heart

Some parents will instruct their child, hoping that understanding will cause them to make wise choices. Some parents will set high standards for their child in the hope that when they miss the mark they are still performing above others. Whatever approach the parent takes the most important matter is the heart, not the actual behaviour.

Three children can all do the right thing, but for different reasons. One child might come when the parent calls, because they hope to get some food. The next child comes, only because they are following their sibling. And the third may tag along because they don’t want to be left on their own. All three have come when the parent called, but none of them has any real strength of character or maturity in their heart.

A well trained heart results in a child doing the right thing for the right reasons in heart, even in the face of oppostion. When a child does what they do not wish to do, with a fear of God and desire to please Him, then their heart is in a much better place than others.

Games Don’t Help

Playing games with your child will not help your child’s heart. Placating the upset child will not help the child’s heart. Allowing the child to get away with doing wrong will not help the child’s heart.

What helps the child is reality. A word of reality is worth a day of game playing. Your child needs to be wise, knowing what God requires of them and doing it because they want to please God.

The fun games which can easily be resorted to rob the child of the chance to discipline their heart and do what is right as an act of worship to God.

The Rod of Correction Helps

According to the wisdom of King Solomon your child’s heart is contaminated with foolishness. The only antidote to foolishness in the heart of a child is the ‘rod of correction’, which is not the same thing as the ‘rod of anger’. When a parent loves his child he will discipline the child with the rod of correction and drive the innate foolishness out of the heart of the child. This is a vital part of training the heart of the child.

Any parent who neglects the use of the ‘rod of correction’ is ignoring the wisdom of God and will fail to remove the foolishness that is in their child’s heart.

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

Biblical Wisdom Given to the Child

Children respond to reality very well. Rather than telling your child fancy illusory things, instruct them in God’s wisdom and truth. They need to know that they were created by God, for God’s glory. They need to know that God loves them and has a powerful plan for their life. They need to know about the devil and his devices. They need to know of God’s grace and His ability to restore those who have been damaged by their wrong choices.

Children can comprehend that there is a devil who wants to draw them away from God and that it is up to them to choose to trust God even when it is hard to do so. Children can comprehend that when people have chosen to do something that does not please God they become trapped in that sin and find it hard to break free again. They can understand temptation, discipline and the joy of being forgiven.

Don’t hold back Biblical wisdom from your child.

Lighten Up

I have to add this disclaimer, since I have met some pretty intense dads over the years. Some parents are too heavy in their discussion of spiritual realities. Children can feel completely smothered in the weight of spiritual intensity from their parents.

While I advocate spiritual wisdom being taught to the child I also advocate that the parents lighten up. Don’t bury your child in the intensity of the truths you are teaching them. Remember that God wins out in the end. There is no need for your child to want out of life, or to feel that everything will be one enormous burden. Be sure to celebrate God’s supremacy, Christ’s victory, our liberty and the Holy Spirit’s power.

When we have an accurate view of reality we will not be buried in intensity but dancing in anticipation. If your view of Biblical reality does not make you excited then you do not yet know the whole picture.

Turn the Light toward the Heart

When you are dealing with issues either in your child or impacting your child, be sure to open up the heart issues. Turn the spotlight onto the heart to reveal the heart issues in your child which relate to this issue.

When our children were being troubled by other children we would ask our sons, “What must be going on in the heart of that child that he must annoy you in order to be happy?” Our children quickly realised that these trouble children were in fact troubled children. Our children did not envy them nor wish to be like them.

You can also turn the spotlight onto your child’s heart. If they have been annoying one of their siblings you might ask them, “What makes you feel like you need to make your brother unhappy? Are you jealous of your brother?”

Your child is aware of their own heart. Your interrogation or investigation will resonate with their own perception and give them the emotional intelligence to be aware of their own heart.

Train the Human Heart

Once the child has a chance to see their own heart you are able to direct them to respond properly to the issues springing up in their heart.

As they learn to repent and forgive, their heart will be strengthened and they will move away from compromise to clarity and purity of response.

In all that you do as a parent, be sure to train the heart of your child.

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.”

Benjamin Keach Punished for Preaching the Truth

This is the day that … Benjamin Keach was arrested for publishing a children’s book!

It was 1664, in Aylesbury, England. Keach was a 24 year-old non-conformist – that is, he refused to conform to the teachings of the state church. He was a Baptist.

In those days religious toleration was at a low ebb – non-existent might be a better word.

Such was the antagonism toward religious non-conformists that the judge tried to find a way to impose the death sentence. When the jury found Benjamin guilty only of misquoting a single verse of Scripture, Judge Hyde bullied the jurors into finding the defendant guilty of other charges.

Two years earlier 2000 ministers were ejected from their living because of their refusal – among other things – to submit to bishops and use the Prayer Book.

Parliament had passed a law (the Act of Uniformity) designed to bring all Christians under the banner of Anglicanism.

Benjamin Keach was actually preaching when the soldiers arrived … “violently laid hold of him, tied him and threw him to the ground. Then they declared their intention of killing him by riding their horses over him. As the men spurred their horses forward, an officer appeared and at the last moment saved the preacher from a horrible death” (B. Keach, by R. Dix, page 11).

He was charged with printing “a seditious and venomous book” entitled The Child’s Instructor – a book that taught doctrines contrary to the Book of Common Prayer.

Especially noted were his views on the baptism of believers (rather than infants), and that “it is the gift of God that makes a minister of the gospel and not learning from universities or human schools.”

Keach was sentenced to a fortnight in prison, two hours in the pillory, fined 20 pounds Sterling (a small fortune in those days) and his book was publicly burned.

While in the stocks in the public square he preached to the people and they looked upon him as a hero. Rather than pelt him with rotten vegetables they respected him. Keach’s preaching was so effective that the sheriff threatened to gag him. When a Church of England minister spoke out against Keach the crowd responded by scorning the minister for his godless life.

Like thousands of others, Benjamin Keach suffered – more than once – because of his faith in Jesus Christ and because he believed a man’s religion is not bound by the state – but by the Word of God (ibid, page 15). In this Keach was recognising the higher government of God over our lives than the governments imposed by men. Just as the early apostles declared that they must obey God and not man.

Sixty books came from his pen, he introduced hymn-singing into Baptist services, and for many years preached to large congregations … even up to 1000 people.

By the time of his death in 1704 (at the age of 64) he was one of the best-known Baptists in all England.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.