Thursday, January 15, 2009

Children and Parents read this!

An old friend and my brother's former pastor is now a church planter in the Northeast. He writes these devotions on a regular basis. You can contact him and sign up to get them via e-mail. I thought this one was especially good for my children to read!

FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS, volume 8, number 3, January 15, 2009
Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right, Ephesians 6:1

Obedience and Honor

Ricky was a phenomenal basketball player in Middle School through his sophomore year of High School. He was on his way to a Division I basketball scholarship for sure. Ricky, however, had a hard time obeying his high school coach. He skipped practice from time to time and failed to do his homework. His coach always disciplined him by making him sit out a game or two. Finally, after his sophomore year he had had enough and wanted to transfer to a city school where he could be with his friends. The last I heard Ricky was in jail for selling drugs. I could see it coming. Sadly, it happens far too often.

Statistics for 2003 show that over 2 million Americans are behind bars, and 10.4% of African American men between the ages of 25 and 29 are in jail while 2.4% of Hispanic men and 1.2% of white men in the same age group are in prison. More black men are in jail than in college (791,600 in prison, 603,032 in college). In 1980 143,000 black men were in prison and 463,700 were in college. The number one cause of death among young black men is murder and in 2005 49% of murder victims were black men between the ages of 17 and 29. Ninety-three percent of these were killed by other black people. While the numbers are not as high in the white community they are increasing. In 2006 over 300 young white men were murdered in the U.S. in gang and drug related crimes.

Why so much crime, violence, and death among our young people? It begins with their failure to heed God’s command to obey and honor one’s parents. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Honor your father and mother which is the first commandment with a promise, that it may be well with you, that you may live long on the earth.” This command from the Apostle Paul, taken from the Ten Commandments, applies to all of us; for this refers not simply to children obeying and honoring their parents, but to all of us. We all are to obey those in authority over us, and this begins with obeying and honoring our parents.

The word Paul uses literally means to listen under, to hearken to one’s command, to obey. Proverbs 23:22 catches the meaning of Paul when it says, “Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old.” And Paul’s motivation to obey is simple. He says, “This is right.” By this he does not merely mean that this is the appropriate thing to do, but rather that it is according to God’s word. It is His mind and will on the matter. To honor one’s parents literally means to treat them with respect, dignity, courtesy, deference, and reverence. He promises that honoring one’s parents will mean a long life. The contrary is found in Proverbs 30:17 where disobedient children are warned, “The eye that mocks a father and scorns a mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, and the young eagles will eat it.”

Granted, this is not an absolute promise, for we all know godly children, teens, young men and women who die early. However the general principle holds true. A young man who obeys his parents by staying away from godless peers, will stay out of drugs and gang wars. A young man who decides to work a real job instead of selling drugs, who comes home after work and does not frequent iniquitous dens will stay out of trouble. A teen who obeys the speed limit will have time to stop when a deer runs in front of his car late at night. You get the picture.

So, if you are still living under the authority of your parents, in their house, then do yourself a huge favor and obey them, honor them. I did not say this is always easy because sometimes parents can be insensitive, manipulative, and cruel. Your job, however, is to obey them, to respect them, to be courteous to them, regardless of how they treat you. Where do you get the grace to obey them in difficult circumstances? You must run to Christ for refuge. The Psalmist says, “My father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up,” Psalms 27:10. Not only will the Lord take you up and sustain you, but the Lord Jesus Himself was forsaken by His Father. Jesus said on the cross, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Psalm 22:1, Matthew 27:46. Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross and experienced hell, separation from His Father. He endured hell that you would not need to yourself. If you are in Christ then you have His life, and thus you have the ability to obey your parents, even in the hard times. Look in faith to Jesus for the grace to obey and stay away from evil doers. Run for your life from godless people at school and in your neighborhood. Don’t go there. You may severely regret it.

And parents, demand obedience and respect from your children. You are not their buddy, their best friend. As they get older, as they go out on their own, then your relationship with them will change, especially if they have honored you and the Lord by becoming productive members of society. However you are the parent and they will always be your children and you should expect respect from them. While your children are under your roof you should constantly remind them that slow obedience, half-hearted obedience, inconsistent obedience, outward only obedience, peace at any price obedience is no obedience at all. You must make clear your expectations of them as they grow older; and as they prove their responsiveness to you, then you can prudently “loosen the reigns” on them. However, you must be quick to use God’s ordained means of child discipline. The verbal rebuke, steeped in the words of Scripture (see Proverbs for countless examples and I have a paper entitled Verbal Admonitions to Our Children from Proverbs which you may use to help you in this regard) is foundational but you must also use the rod of correction. “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently,” Proverbs 13:24. “Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death,” Proverbs 19:18. “Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you beat him with the rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell,” Proverbs 23:13, 14. Never in anger are you to use the rod of correction. Cool off before using it, but use it indeed. Verbal rebuke, founded upon Scripture, and the rod of correction; not time out or grounding are God’s appointed means of rearing godly children who will live long on the earth.

FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS is a weekly devotional by Reverend Al Baker, pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.

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