Tag Archives: positive support

20. Advice from the crowd: Reaching a wayward son

The father’s #1 goal was to reach his wayward son. Children are more important than rules. Raising our children takes priority over adhering to rules so we look good.

“The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

A Son Goes Missing

The son had come of age, and he left for a distant country. His father longed to reach his wayward son and give him positive support, but there was no communication between them. Oh, how the father missed his son!

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, `Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

“When he came to his senses, he said, `How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, `Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, `Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'”

–Luke 15:11-24,28-30

A Crowd Starts Meddling

There must have been a lot of noise among the crowd as they surmised what was going on in the “Prodigal” household. Young Joe Prodigal most likely had been a wayward son for quite some time to have made such a request. No doubt there was plenty of free, unsolicited advice for Mr. Prodigal as he was rearing this son upon whom the world had such a hold.

No one really knew all the circumstances in the Prodigal household. But everyone surely had an opinion of what Mr. Prodigal needed to do to get young Joe in line.

Have you ever wondered why Mr. Prodigal gave in to this son’s request and handed him the inheritance he requested at such an early age? If we had been there, we might have joined the crowd and cried, “Mistake! Mistake!” But as our Lord told this story, he did not indicate in any way that what the father did was wrong.

Many people will have opinions on how we should raise our children. But only one opinion matters. We must look to our Heavenly Father and ask him for wisdom.

There are many absolute answers. For example the Bible says, “Thou shalt not steal,” and it is always wrong to steal.

But the question of whether to give a son the inheritance is not so absolute. For one son the right thing may be to do this. In another household, it be right to refuse to give the inheritance at such a young age.

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

–Mark 2:23-27

God’s laws are always right. But many times man adds his wisdom to God’s law. God had said:

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.

For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

–Exodus 20:8-11

When our Lord and his disciples were hungry and plucked enough grain to meet their immediate needs, man said they were breaking the law. Yet our Lord himself is the one who wrote the law! They had added their own ridiculous interpretations.

A Father Watches Mindfully

Mr. Prodigal must have faced many episodes of humiliation. The world as well as his Christian comrades were probably quick to judge his household. But Mr. Prodigal knew that it sometimes takes a lot of cultivating and pruning if the rosebush is to bear fruit. He knew that the world might only see a thorn bush before the roses bloom.

Mr. Prodigal kept his eyes off the crowd and on the end of the pathway. Why? Because Mr. Prodigal knew that he had done what God told him to do, and he lived in anticipation of the day that God would bring his boy home!

Application

Today, many good and well-meaning people will tell us what we need to do differently in the rearing of our children. We must not cast this advice aside lightly. God may indeed speak to us through those he sends our way. We may need to wake up and save our household.

But we must also keep in mind that only God knows what we should do in each particular situation. If we have several choices that are not contrary to his Word, we must seek His will. The world will have its ideas. Other Christians may help us with the answers, but ultimately we must look to God.

Sometimes the easiest thing to do is insist that our children obey the rules that make us look good in everyone else’s eyes. But Jesus said, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.” God would say to us today, “The rules are made for your children, and not your children for the rules.” Raising our children must always take priority over adhering to rules.

Today we may be discouraged. It may seem we have done all God said, yet our child is living with the swine. It may seem God has let us down. What if….

We will never know how much lower our wayward children may have fallen without our restraining presence. We can find peace in leaving the finalities to God. He is the God of all justice. He is the God of incomprehensible love. Job said, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him” (Job 13:15).

Thought for Today

As we look toward the end of the pathway, there is good news: The prodigal son did come home!

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Questions for Discussion

  1. How do we answer the advice from the crowd?
  2. What’s more important, the rule or the child?
  3. What if….

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Scripture taken from New International Version unless otherwise noted

06. Positive support: Praising right choices

Praising right choices our children make reinforces them. Even in wrong choices, we can praise the right desires we’ve planted in our children from God’s Word.

I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life (1 Samuel 1:11).

An Irrevocable Vow

As Christian parents we must say with Hannah of all our children, “I will give him (or her) to the Lord for all the days of his (or her) life.” Hannah made a special promise called a Nazarite vow.

And she made a vow, saying, “O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.

“So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.” And he worshiped the LORD there.

–1 Samuel 1:11, 28

Hannah’s Nazarite vow (“and no razor will ever be used on his head”) is not applicable to our day. However the principle of dedication of our children is not only appropriate, but mandatory if we would bring our children up to honor the Lord.

An Unremitting Reminder

We must tell our children from a young age that they are being raised for the Lord. We must remind them of this over and over. We must make sure they understand that we have embedded this goal in their life. We must let them know as they mature that this responsibility to live for the Lord is being shifted to their shoulders. We must remind them that the teaching we have given them puts an extra burden of responsibility upon them before the Lord to live by God’s principles. We must let them know that this is what we expect. We must always be positive in our teaching. Our children have a choice. They will learn that soon enough. But we must always reinforce the right choices.

An Expressed Positiveness

Even when they seem to be going in the wrong direction, we can know what we have sown in our children’s hearts, and we can affirm them:

“I know you want to do the right thing, because you love the Lord. Let me pray with you that he will help you make the right choice.”

“You did the wrong thing. But I know your desire now is to do what God wants. I know you are going to follow what God shows you to do about this.”

“God is going to remind you of all the things we’ve talked about. I just know God is going to do great things in your life!”

We must take every opportunity we can to let our children know how proud we are of the right choices they make. Even in the midst of their wrong choices, we can praise the right desires we know we’ve planted inside them.

We should praise our children’s obedience before they rebel. If our children display a hint of rebellion, we must renew our praise for their obedience before the leaven of rebellion has a chance to rise. Even if the rebellious attitude had to be squelched by our firmness, even if the child really did not want to obey, we can inspire our children to squelch the rebellion themselves next time:

“I was so proud of you tonight. You started to argue with me about going out with your friends. But when I told you ‘No, this is how it will be,’ you accepted that. I’ve seen a lot of kids be very disrespectful of their moms in situations like that. But you did what I told you, even though you really didn’t want to. You’ve always respected what I’ve told you, and I want you to know how much I appreciate that.”

Then we can reel in the catch by praising this child to another adult in the child’s presence at the first opportunity:

“He (or she) is a good kid. He respects me, and he obeys me, and he really wants to do the right thing. I couldn’t be more proud of him!”

Next time he starts to disobey, he will be so compelled to live up to the standard Mom has set that it will most likely take only a gentle “You’re not obeying me” to turn the tide.

An Unrelenting Love

We must let our children know that we are always praying for them. We must teach them that to depart from God’s principles is to walk on our prayers and to walk on God’s love. But we must also let them know that they can never do anything to depart from our love or God’s love. We must teach them about God’s love with our love. We must prove to our children over and over that no matter what they do we always love them.

When our children fall short of the principles we teach them, we must be there to support and help them back to the right way–never to criticize. We must respond to them as God responds to us.

An Endearing Discipline

We must love them enough to discipline when necessary. Here are some of the things the Bible teaches about discipline:

Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.

The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother….
Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord

Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

–Proverbs 19:18; 22:15; 29:15,17; Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21

A mother must discipline her children from an early age. Sometimes parents disagree on the discipline of their children. When the father’s ideas of discipline differs from the mother’s, a mother may not be given the opportunity to discipline her children as she would like. But a mother must always love her children enough to demand their respect.

A mother must never, never allow her children to speak disrespectfully to her. She must love them so purely that with only a glance she inspires their admiration of her integrity and sacrificial love. She must love them so firmly that with only a word she employs their desire for her approval and fellowship to produce a reverential respect for her authority. She must demand nothing less than utmost respect from her children.

“Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 5:16).

An Adept Example

The Apostle Paul was a master at incorporating the above principles into his ministry. To him, the churches he had established and nurtured were his children. In 2 Thessalonians 2:7-11 (quoted in the next session), Paul shows us his father heart. He compares his ministry to that of parent to child.

In almost all of his epistles (letters) to the churches, he began with affirmation and commendation.

The Philippian church was his most well-behaved “child,” the child after his own heart. He told the Philippian church he was praying for them, and expecting great things from them. He did not overlook the dissention between two women who were apparently disputing. However, he did not labor the point. He let them know that he loved them, and that he expected unity.

Corinth was a wicked city, and the church at Corinth tried Paul’s patience at times. This was the child who had never grown up. This child was prone to be rebellious, to follow the world. He had to be firm with this child.

The first letter to the Corinthians displays something of Paul’s firmness–still mingled with love and positive hope, but abounding with discipline. He is reminding them that they have been “trained up” in the way they should go, and that he will not accept their departing from that way now.

The second letter reveals more of Paul’s heart. Even for Paul, the master at balancing discipline with affirmation, it was hard to know how to handle this child. He did not want to be overpowering in his discipline, yet he could not approve the evil in them.

He “disciplined” them in his first letter, but after they had both had an opportunity to think and pray about the situation, he took the initiative to write to them again. He didn’t apologize for his discipline, but he made sure they understood the spirit with which he gave it. And he did indicate that some of the things he had led them to do in his previous letter needed to be amended at this time. He admonished them in love to live up to the positive things he was expecting of them now.

Application

Our children need both our positive support and our consistent discipline. When we are angry or disappointed with our children, or when our children are angry because of our discipline, we can’t really “finish” the job. We haven’t finished until we go back to that child after things have settled.

We must not apologize for our discipline if it was merited, but we must apologize if we have displayed any misbehavior toward our child. We must make sure our child understands the heart and spirit of our discipline, and the reason for it. We must then let our child know that we already feel proud of the way we expect him to behave in the future.

Our children are looking for someone to believe in them. As mothers, we must be that someone!

Thought to Remember

We must take every opportunity we can to let our children know how proud we are of the right choices they make. Even in the midst of their wrong choices, we can praise the right desires we know we’ve planted inside them.

Questions for Discussion

  1. This sounds good. But HOW do I pull it off? I need some PRACTICAL advice.
  2. What do we do when our children rebel?

Nazarite Scriptures

Nazarite Vow Requirement for Hair:
Numbers 6:5 “`During the entire period of his vow of separation no razor may be used on his head. He must be holy until the period of his separation to the LORD is over; he must let the hair of his head grow long.

Sampson:
Judges 13:5 because you will conceive and give birth to a son. No razor may be used on his head, because the boy is to be a Nazirite, set apart to God from birth, and he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”

Samuel:
1 Samuel 1:11 And she made a vow, saying, “O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

John the Baptist (Compare Luke 1:15 with Numbers 6:3):
Luke 1:15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.

Numbers 6:3 he must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or from other fermented drink. He must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins.

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Scripture taken from New International Version unless otherwise noted