Jack Graham - A Song for the Family - Part 2
We're back in Psalm 127 today so take your Bible and turn to 127th Psalm. As a reminder from the past message in Psalm 127, this is known as a song of ascent. There is a collection in the Psaltery the book of Psalms of these songs where the children of Israel and their families, their clans, their groups, their neighborhoods would travel together for the great festivals in Jerusalem. And these songs were composed under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that they would sing them and share them together. And God preserved in this hymnbook of faith, the book of Psalms, these kinds of songs for the people. Songs of the people. And today's song again is a song for the family. Because you would expect with families traveling together, worshiping together, that there would be a focus on the family.
So Psalm 127 speaks of the Lord building the house and the watchman over the city. But then he says in verse 3: "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gates". Now it's clear in this psalm, in these verses that this is a battle song; it is a battle cry in effect. And just as a soldier is to prepared for battle and is prepared for warfare, we must prepare our children "like arrows in the hand of a mighty man are the children of thy youth".
Arrows are not just to be collected; arrows are to be projected. And so, how are we to prepare them so that we may propel them? How are we to raise our children so that we can release them into the world? Three simple ideas today, and you should write these down, fathers: One of the big problems we have in our culture is drop-out dads! The absence of fathers in the home; and even when they're there, some of them are absent. Absenteeism! AWOL in this spiritual battle! And the statistics prove it without question that when dad is not present in a child's life, so often the results, drugs, alcohol, emotional disturbances, depression of all kinds, suicide rates are higher than ever among teenagers, pornography, immorality - you name it! It all skyrockets without the protection and the presence of a father in the home! And so fathers and mothers, pay attention. We are to be strong parents, accounted for.
Dads, men, who love their children by first loving their wives; who are involved in influencing their children spiritually, not turning over the spiritual training of the kids just to mom or the church or somebody else! But guys, this is on us, to own it, because our boys and our girls are looking to dad to show some spiritual leadership, some faithful fortitude in your life! Not to be a carnal Christian, living for yourself; or a casual Christian, lukewarm and indifferent to the things of God! But like a mighty man, a strong man, a powerful warrior that you, dad, would lead your children and love them well. Every child deserves a dad who loves God and loves their mom and loves them. Fathers and mothers, it starts with us. We cannot expect someone else to raise our children if we expect to release our children into the world. It begins with us. School and teachers and leaders and coaches and Sunday school teachers and Bible fellowship leaders and student ministries and children's ministries, all of these are here to assist us and to help us but dads its on you and me, moms its on we, this is what God has called us to do above and beyond anything else.
Secondly, what I'm going to call fundamentals. Now I don't know much about shooting an arrow. I know, I used to shoot the ones with the little rubber tip, that's about it; that's my experience. But I'm sure like any sport there are certain basics and fundamentals. I can talk to you about hitting a baseball. And although hitting a baseball is complicated, and I've read and I think it's true, that the hardest athletic feat in the world is hitting a baseball. Think about a baseball thrown at that speed, moving and targeting it, and so on, and hitting a round ball with a round bat thrown 90 miles an hour. That's hard, folks. And so you can have all kinds of techniques and today, you know, we've got hitting coaches and you got moves and you're learning. But there's some basics, there's some fundamentals about hitting a baseball, and they're not all that complicated. The way you hold the bat, the way you set up your stance, and mainly keeping your eye on the ball. Pretty simple. It really is.
And so when it comes to parenting, being that dad, that mom in your family, preparing and propelling your children into the world for the kingdom of God, there are certain basics, it's just a few fundamentals. It's parenting 101. When you think about it there's not that much discussion, dialogue, doctrine, teaching specifically about how to be a parent in the Bible. There really isn't. You've got Deuteronomy 6, the Shema where Hebrew dads are told to teach their family diligently when they wake up, when they lie down, when they're sitting at the table. There's that. There's verses in Proverbs, the book of wisdom that help us. "Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he's old, he'll not depart from it". Others, in Proverbs, a few.
And then skip over to the New Testament. There's some stories about Jesus when He was a boy, but not much about how Mary and Joseph raised Him specifically. And then in Ephesians when Paul in the context of spiritual warfare is talking about raising our family. There's some instructions for husbands and wives and dads. Says don't exasperate your children. That is, don't anger your children by being too hard on them. Don't push them, don't pressure them but nurture them in the training and "the admonition of the Lord". Disciplining in the commandments of God. There's that, but not much else. So what do we have? So today we've got lots of books about being parents, Christian books and otherwise.
Deb and I even wrote a book called Courageous Parenting, where we presented our ideas as I'm doing this morning about being parents. But you know, we write all these books and we're reading books, and there are seminars and there are classes. And, of course, the secular world's weighing in on how to be a parent and social engineering, and all the rest; sociologists, psychologists. And some of these things can be helpful if they are in alignment with God's truth and God's Word! But there's just so much information! And frankly, I believe we're way over thinking it! Way over thinking it! Because if we would practice the fundamentals, the basics of Christian living in our homes, we would know how to parent.
Now, for example, let me give you a testimony. My parents, Tom and Emogene Graham, you wouldn't have expected that they would have been great parents. In fact, you wouldn't have expected for them to get married. Small town in Arkansas. My dad literally lived by the railroad tracks, on the other side of the tracks. A very blue-collar working home. My mother, seven years his junior, grew up in a white-collar home. My grandfather initially was (her dad) a horse and buggy doctor, delivering babies, and so on. And he was out so much he decided for his family, he had young kids, to change professions and he began working at the local bank there. So he was a white-color guy. I never saw my grandfather, even after he retired, without a white shirt and a tie on. He's a white-collar guy, married.
And so my mother when she was in high school runs off with my dad and gets married. And they hid it from her dad because they knew that that wasn't going to work. But they had to tell it when a year later she, well, I guess before a year, but she delivers a baby, my brother thirteen years my senior. And then later, 1950, I came along, 13 years later. And my parents, Tom and Emogene, they came through toward the end of the Depression, the Second World War, and then there were the fifties, and they got a young family, two boys. You wouldn't expect that they would have been all that successful. I'm certain they never read a book on being a parent. And in those days you didn't hear preachers talking much about the home and family. Just wasn't a subject discussed.
Think about it, if you were there. Maybe you're... I shouldn't say that. Started to say if you were there, you might not remember it. But anyway, I did say it! But my parents were great parents. And I thank God for the legacy. Both of their sons ended up being preachers and taking the Gospel of Christ and shepherding churches. So what did they do? What was their secret sauce? If you were to ask them, they wouldn't have a clue. I'll tell you some of things they did. They loved us unconditionally. They provided security, safety in our home. Always knowing that we were welcomed there. My dad worked hard at a job all day long. He owned a little business. My mother was there when I left for school once I started school; she was there when I got back.
There was discipline, though not heavy-handed discipline. My parents didn't take me to church, drop me off, and go do something else. They were there with me and some of the happiest memories of my childhood are sitting in church with my parents, or going to church with my parents, my mother teaching me in the little sunbeams class in our Baptist church. Being there! Being involved in our lives! They were real! I belonged! My parents were consistent in what they believed. They set standards. They valued me and made me feel special, helped me to believe that I could do something with my life. There was no alcohol or drugs in our family, in our household. There was no profanities, but faithful, beautiful lives. That was my parents.
I understand not everyone had the privilege of growing up in a home like that. But I'm just telling you now as I look back on it and as I'm trying to talk to us about how to raise our children, if you will just do some of those fundamental, basic things. And you say, "Well, what are those things"? Well, one, lead your children to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as soon as possible. It's your privilege to bring up your children to know Christ! And I shouldn't assume in a culture, and we have many guests, and some of you come from religious backgrounds that are different than this church; maybe where children we sort of taken into the church as infants, but every child needs to come to the place of personal decision, receiving Christ into their lives! And you, parent, have the responsibility to so live and so give the Gospel of Christ that they will soon and very soon trust Christ as Savior. Their eternal destiny is at stake!
Bring your children to Jesus! Secondly, teach them a biblical world view. Now that sounds pretty austere, a biblical world view, but really I'm saying just teach them the simple truths of the Bible so that when they begin to see the world, they see it through the lens of Scripture. Whether you're just taking their little small faces in your hands and teaching them to sing "Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so". Karl Barth, the noted theologian was once asked what is the greatest, most profound theological, philosophical truth that has ever entered your mind? What is is Dr. Barth? And he said, "Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so". Teach your children that great truth! Help them to grow up learning the Ten Commandments, knowing the Sermon on the Mount, learning the principles of the Bible!
Now this takes time, and this takes your presence and your involvement! We have so many tools and techniques. There's an App for that! But it takes YOU teaching them, training them! Again, your church will take responsibility in helping you with that. Our Christian school is designed, and one of the focuses of a Christian school, our Christian school is teaching biblical world view. It's good! And they go deep with the things of God, and our students get propelled into the world with spiritual truth. But then, train your children to obey. You know, a soldier if they're going to be in a battle learn to obey the commander officers. And one of the most, we're going to camp here for a minute, all right? One of the most important things you can teach your children is obedience; submission to authority. Obeying God and obeying God-ordained authorities in their lives, starting with parents.
Boys and girls, teenagers, your Bible says "Honor your father and mother". This is the first commandment with a promise. "Honor your father and your mother". Ephesians 6:1, "Obey your parents," the Scripture says, "for this is right"! You say, "Well, my parents aren't always right"! Well, I know you're a lot smarter than your parents now, but it doesn't say obey your parents because they are right; it says "Obey your parents for THIS is right" in the sight of God. So obey your parents, and that begins with an attitude as well as actions. But parents, we must teach our children to obey because they don't naturally obey. In fact, children, every baby is bent. Arrows are not arrows; they were once sticks. And our children, before they become arrows were sticks, and crooked sticks, at that. The default setting of a human being, including your precious little child or grandchild, the default setting, the human nature that is born in all of us is to rebel.
We are as the Scripture says, and so are your precious little ones "sons of disobedience"! They're all little devils when they're born! It's true! The Bible says, "They go forth from their mother's wombs, speaking lies"! That's why you don't have to teach a child to lie; you have to teach a child NOT to lie! You don't teach a child how to steal; you have to teach a child not to steal. When I was a little boy... Now boys and girls, just close your ears right now, but when I was about 5 or 6 I was collecting baseball cards and a friend of mine had some cards I wanted. He wouldn't trade them so what did I do? I just took them when he wasn't looking. Nobody taught me to do that; I did it naturally. I was born that way; I was born a rebel! And so are your children, and even those grandchildren that I know we all think are perfect.
But see, this is the opposite of what society tells us, our culture is saying this. This is not what the social engineers are saying. The idea is that everyone is basically good. Just give them a good start, give them a good education, give them the right tools and they'll be fine. Or many would say, no we are morally neutral; that we have no fault either way. We're just neutral. We're like silly putty. You just shape it one way or the other for good, for evil. We are not born morally neutral! We go forth from our mother's womb, we were conceived in sin! Not the act of conception is sin, but conceived and that produces sinners! The children of Adam! It's genetic! Your children got it from you! And you got it from your parents. And so something has to be done.
If you have the attitude, I've heard parents say, "Well, you know what? I'm not going to force my religion on my kids. I'm just going to back off and let them choose whatever they choose, and let them go in whatever direction they feel led to go". I can tell you which way they will led to go if you don't lead them, and it's not God's way. They're born going the wrong way. Everybody's born with their back towards God! This is why we need a Savior! This is why your child needs a Savior! This is why Jesus died on the cross and rose again, so that we can not only be born, but be born again, and then to learn to obey God. Parents, that's our responsibility to shape them. Just like you whittle a stick and make it into an arrow. It takes discipline and sometimes it's costly. You know, if you're shaping a stick there is some cutting involved. Children need to learn that even through suffering we grow and we trust the Lord, to be courageous and confident.
Some of the best lessons our children learn is when we go through difficult times and dark times in our lives and they see how we handle it and how we're going through. Because you know we're kind of in a generation where, you know, if you just, you know, show up and participate you get a trophy. But life's not like that. If your kids think they get a trophy just because they showed up here, you're going to find them living in disobedience rather than obedience! The best lessons we learn are through losses and overcoming them. Another thing, teach your children purity and modesty. Now this is against the grain culturally, but it's your responsibility, dads and moms, to make sure that your children are speaking their languages appropriate, that their dress is appropriate, that their behaviors are consistent with the Christian life. That's on us! That's our responsibility! And it's a fight!
I know sometimes when you take the daughter down to get a new dress, it's a fight as to what she's going to wear! But who's the parent? Who's in charge here? You are! And so teach them God's way, not their way. Teach them biblical principles that will help them make good decisions. Cover your children in prayer. That's another thing. I know my parents prayed for us. I know my parents always lifted my name up to the Lord every day. Jim Elliot who was the great missionary, he said this: "Grieve not then if your sons seem to desert you. Remember how the psalmist described children. He said that they were a heritage from the Lord and that every man should be happy who had his quiver full of them. And what is a quiver full of arrows? And what are arrows but for to shoot? So with strong arms of prayer, draw the bow string back and let the arrows fly, all of them, straight at the enemy's hosts". Prayer will launch your children, and prayer will put your children at a distinct advantage at school, in the culture, in their future. Be that mighty warrior, men and women, and launch your kids to live for Jesus.