Welcome to the message of the week from Shepherd’s Hill. This week I am thinking about the desires and passions that we all have. All of us have something that motivates us or drives us to make certain decisions in life. I pondered on the incidents that inspire us and have wondered what it takes to get people pointed in the right direction. To begin with let’s look at a familiar scripture in Proverbs.
Proverbs 22:6 says to train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. This passage has been used many times in reference to raising children in the ways of God and is usually not thought of otherwise. That’s very sad because I believe that there is a deeper message in it for all of us. You may have heard that the Hebrew word for “train” in that verse means to nurture or to dedicate. You might have even heard that the meaning was the same as the method used by Hebrew midwifes to get babies to eat. It was said that they put olive oil or something on the child’s palate in order to create a hunger for something. The idea behind all of these parallels is to motivate. The point is to make a child hungry for the right things in life and when he is old these things will prove out to be true.
I thought about that for a while and wondered exactly what we, as parents, were looking for. I think it’s safe to say that there is no one thing to do in order to raise our children. We have six children and all six were completely different in what moved them into action. In other words, each person is so unique that there is no fixed way to raise a child that fits all the other children. There are standards, of course. But as far as inspiring them to do good in life we must find that special spark that sets them aflame.
I watched a father and son in a store last night and felt sad for them both. The father strutted by with tattoos on his arm and his ear was pierced. The son, about five years old, followed close behind and he also had an ear pierced. If you had asked the man if he was a good father I have no doubt that he would have said
“yes”. No man feels like he is a bad father. No man. And yet there are many bad fathers in the world. Consequently, ask any mother if she is doing a good job in raising her children and she will most likely say that she is. It’s like asking someone if they are good drivers. Everyone believes in their hearts that they are. And yet, drive through the city and see the truth for yourself.
I’m sure that by now you are wondering where I’m headed. Well, hang on! First let me say that no five year old should have their ear pierced. I may get some letters that disagree with me on that subject and that’s fine. Children are very impressionable and they take in things like a sponge. If you have a speech impediment your child will more than likely speak with the same mistakes that you do. If you have flaws in your character, they will see that as normal. Now, getting down to our motivations-whatever you love in life will greatly be portrayed in your children. The man who had his ear pierced undoubtedly influenced this little guy into wanting a hole punched in his ear (sounds much worse when you say it that way, doesn’t it?) None of us could persuade a five year old to get a hole punched in his earlobe without a role-model actually doing it first.
Have you ever considered the cuisine variances around the world? Our friends, John and Carol, spent some time with us a while back. John is Polish Carol is Italian. We talked about the distinct foods that each country ate and why. Generally, whatever foods could be grown, or produced in a certain geographic area are what we eat. That doesn’t mean that other food is bad. We just get used to certain foods and stay with that. With the worldwide transportation available we can now get bananas any time we want them. Coconuts (which don’t grow here in Alabama) can be purchased at most grocers here. Our food influences have been widened by the availability. Just as we can get Chinese, Italian and Mexican food (which we love here) we can also get influenced by available media. When styles change many people give up perfectly good clothes to buy new ones; all for the sake of staying in style.
Recently, I became amazed at some changes in our daughters still at home. They have become fired up about plain living and farm life. All of a sudden something has gone off inside them and everything clicked into place about work on the farm being a joy. Don’t misunderstand me-our children have always worked hard around our farm. If I set posts and pulled fence wire they were right beside me. When I had roofing to do two of them were there for every shingle. When we had to build the barn there was a daughter or two always helping. Something different is going on now. The two girls still at home have become dynamos and are awake before I am. When I leave for work they are often in the garden weeding. Olivia gets up and milks the cow every morning and at night without ever being asked. Sarah always makes supper for us and cleans up the dishes without being told. As I said, they have always been responsible children, but there is a maturing that has taken place in that they have become adults and now take joy in life’s labor.
Going back to that passage we find that the training of our children is our responsibility. It is not an automatic thing. The scripture expressly says that we should do it. This tells us that it takes effort. Since we all feel that we are good parents we need to follow a few basic guidelines. Ezekiel 16:44 basically says “Like mother, like daughter”. I have noticed women who disrespected their husbands and talked down about him in front of their children. Later, they could not understand why their children did not respect them. The first guideline is to always act in a way that you want your children to act. Soft spoken women rarely have big-mouthed daughters. Our children closely mimic us until their early teens at which time they begin to mimic their friends. That brings me to rule number two.
Be careful who influences your children. Once a child turns twelve or thirteen they put more stock in peers their own age than they do their parents. My older brother taught me a lot about girls when I was thirteen to fifteen and I thought he was a genius. He was wrong about almost every point! At that age we begin to think we know a lot about life and look more to other young people than we do to adults. If your children are being negatively influenced by other children you need to do something about it. Don’t forget- in any relationship it will only go as high than the weaker of the two people. Your children (just like you) should not be unequally yoked.
I realize that some children don’t have the privilege of being home-schooled and that is sad. I will tell you this-do what it takes to train up your children and stop letting other people do it. Sending them to day-care unless you have no other option is wrong. God told the parents to raise the children. He did not say to pay someone else to do it. By homeschooling or even putting them in a good Christian school you will have a better chance to know who they are influenced by.
Rule three is don’t overlook the obvious influences. Television and the media are full of powerful message-most of them contrary to the Christian walk. While we would never allow a visitor to come into our home and tell dirty jokes we sometimes forget that the television does just that. Have you noticed how your children react after a movie? They probably sing the same songs, recite the lines they thought were funny and sometimes even start acting like the characters they see. When they go through the store they want the toys that go along with the movie and if there is a sequel they absolutely “must see it”! When the movie E.T. came out the main character ate Reeses Pieces. Immediately after the premier the sales jumped for this candy. Even a five second shot in the background is remembered by our sub-conscious. The next time you see a movie watch for the five second advertising. Movies are full of them. In watching this viewers are being told that this behavior is good and normal.
Rule four-Look ahead to the end result of things. Suppose your son wants to get into martial arts. Have you checked to see exactly what these are about? Have you considered the end-result of your child acting out violent aggression? Is this something that Christians should do? By not even questioning the “sport” you are allowing your child to begin a path that may not lead where you think it will. In every decision we make we begin a new journey to somewhere. A violent video game often provokes violence in your child that wasn’t there before. You must always look for the fruit that comes from the seed you are planting.
You may be saying that you have no children or that the children you have are adults now. You might think this doesn’t apply to you but it does. You see, the same influences and inspirations they have are in your life, too. Think about it. Do you have something that you are really interested in right now? What sparked that interest? We rarely have a hobby or activity without being inspired by someone to do it. Do you watch entertainment that you think is benign? It’s not. Just as a Pepsi sign in a movie gets into a child’s sub-conscious it influences you the same way.
There is one more passage that I want you to look at today. It’s Philippians 4:8. Paul wrote a list of things that we need to think on. Consider this a litmus test for your thoughts. I guarantee you that there are things you now allow in your life that go against this test. I encourage you to print this out and post by your televisions and computers. Make the font large enough to see from your viewing area. When something pops us that goes against it, turn it off. You will be surprised at what you’ve considered “normal”.
What do you have an appetite for today? Whatever it is, it came from somewhere. What do your children have an appetite for? It definitely came from outside sources. Are your desires for the Lord and His perfect Word? May the Holy Spirit Bless you as you seek Him today.
Prayer-Father, open our spiritual eyes to what is motivating our lives. Help us all to consider where we are and how we got here. Let us take this time to reevaluate our path so that we might not stray from the road that leads to You. As always, reveal truth to us today.
In Jesus’ Name–Amen
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