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James Merritt - Raising Arrows

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    James Merritt - Raising Arrows
TOPICS: Parenting

So the title of the articles was in big bold print, and it got my attention immediately because there was one word that just jumped out, and this one word always makes me look and focus and it gets my attention, and that one word was help. When I saw this article, I saw that word, I said okay, what is this all about? And then the subtitle got my attention even more because underneath it was this subtitle, Help my Parents are Millennials. I thought okay, that's kind of gonna be interesting, and I thought you know, every generation of parents is different.

My mom and dad were different parents than I was. I'm a different parent than my kids are, and my kids will be different parents than their kids are, and that's just natural 'cause every generation of parents exists in a different time, they live in a different culture, they literally walk and talk and operate in a different world, they have a different mindset, and now you got these Millennials, and if you know what Millennials are, they're 20 and 30-somethings born somewhere between the late '70s and the late '90s, and now they're becoming parents themselves. As a matter fact of fact, there are now in America 22 million Millennial parents, they're having 9000 babies every single day.

And according to this article in Time Magazine, this growing cohort of parents is digitally native. In other words, that means they don't need geeks to tell them what to do. They've got social media down, they've got computers down, they've got all the electronics down, they know it all, they're digitally native, they're ethnically diverse, they're late marrying, latest marrying generation in the history of our country, they're less bound by traditional gender roles than any generation before it. That got my attention, but then there was this paragraph, it gripped me like a vise. The pressure among Millennials to be great parents is fierce, the parenting site quote, babycenter, unquote, released its annual report on modern moms. It surveyed 2700 US mothers ages 18 to 44, and found that nearly 80% of Millennial moms said it is important, now listen to this, to be the perfect mom.

Perfect mom, not a good mom, not a great mom, we want to be the perfect mom. Then I kept reading the article and my heart sank because the article went on to say that the one source most Millennial parents look to for advice is Google, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, apps, trying to learn then to raise kids best. I'm not throwing down on any of those sources, I'm here to tell you the good news is God has a plan in place. God has some advice for parents to give children the best chance to become good and Godly, happy and holy, and spiritually healthy. As a matter of fact, there was a king by the name of Solomon who the scripture itself says was the wisest man who ever lived, and he actually wrote a song about how moms and dads can give themselves the best chance to raise the best children that they can.

And I want you to listen to this song with me. It's in a book called Psalms which is actually songs, and it's found about the middle of your Bible, and I want you to look at Psalm 127, so you've got a Bible, look on. If you're a Millennial, you're gonna look on a phone or a pad, that's okay. But I want you to look in Psalm 127. Now, let me just do something that's very hard for me to do, and it is. And the reason why is because I battle the same thing that you do, and that's pride. And there's been a long time in my ministry, I was just too proud to do what I'm gonna do, but I owe it to you to do it. And I'm doing it just being honest and transparent.

If I could do one area of my life over again, I would give everything I own, and I would do my life over again if I could be a dad all over again. I look back at my life and I really believe that the biggest failure of my life was as a dad. There are things I did, and I don't mean anything bad or nothing like that, but there are things I did as a dad I shouldn't have done, there are things I didn't do as a dad that I wished that I had done. And I'll live with the regret of it, and the sadness of it all of my life. Not the guilt, but the regret and the sadness. About three Christmases ago, maybe it's two or three, our family gets together on Christmas, that's when we exchange gifts, and so everybody kind of got together, and I said to my three sons, I said hey guys, I need to see you down at the basement for just a moment.

So we'd already brought all the gifts upstairs, and so we went downstairs and I'll just tell you I lost it, I just lost it, I just started weeping. And one of my sons said we know, you've written us out of your will. I said no, that's not it. I said I just want to tell you guys I'm sorry for the way I failed you as a dad. Now, to their credit, no, no, no, dad. No, no, no, I did fail you as a dad. I failed you sometimes in the way I spoke to you, sometimes in the way that I disciplined you, I did not do things I should have done, I did things I wish I had not done, and to be honest with you, what I'm doing today, you don't need to listen to me because I was a perfect dad, I was far from a perfect dad. In fact, I wish I had heeded and had heard some of the advice that I'm gonna give to you today. I would have been a better dad.

And hopefully, today's message will help you keep from making some of the mistakes that I made. And so if you're a young parent, and some of you are, and you're just getting started, or you haven't had a family, but you're about to start one, or and you're still parenting to be the best parent that you can be, hopefully this message will help you. And by the way, if you're one of those and you're like me, and you say, well man, my parenting days are over, I can take a break, no you can't, because I promise you these are things you should pass on to your kids, and these are even things you can learn that will help you be a better grandparent if you're like me in that stage of life.

Franklin D. Roosevelt said we may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future. May not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can prepare our children for the future. And being honest, we don't have to consult Google or Facebook or social media, we've got a divine plan from God that enables has to be the parents that are children need and to give our children the guidance that they deserve. And in this little psalm that we're gonna look at, we're just gonna look at three simple things. Let me tell you something about parenting, it is hard, there's not a harder job in the world than to be a mom and to be a dad. As a matter of fact, parenting, somebody said this and it's so true, just about the time you get it figured out, you're out of a job, you really are, you're out of a job.

And by the way if you have two or three kids, let me just say something to that youngest child and to the oldest child as well, the oldest child will always say well, you don't treat the youngest child the way you treated me. That's right, you were the guinea pig. Just being honest with you, you got the brunt of it, okay? It took us one to learn, okay? So forgive us, but that said, there are three things that Solomon says we need to do if we want to be the best parents we can be and give our kids the best chance to be the best kids and adults they can be. We're gonna do this super quick, ready? Number one, lead your children in a spiritual direction. Lead your children in a spiritual direction.

Now, Solomon begins with a statement that let me just tell you up front probably is very controversial. It definitely goes against what you would say in a mixed audience of unbelievers and believers normally, and it's not politically correct, but this is what he said, he said unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. Now Solomon, when he talks about the house, he's not talking about the physical structure of a house, he's not talking architecturally, he's talking about a home, the family structure of a home. And here's what he says we can build a house, but only God can build a home. We can build a structure, but only God can build a family.

And I understand that's not politically correct, and by the way, let me tell you what I don't mean by that statement, I know a lot of unbelievers out there, and so do you, they've got great families. I know a lot of unbelievers out there, they got great marriages, they're happy, they love each other, they're committed, they're bonded, they're close to each other, they really have a super, super family. I want to make that plain. That's not what Solomon is saying. What Solomon is saying is this, only God can build a home that produces Godly children. Only God can do that. May not be your aim, we're gonna talk about that in a moment, but God is indispensable to building a true home for one simple reason, families are God's idea.

The government didn't come up with the idea of families, Hollywood didn't come up with the idea of families, scientists didn't come up with the idea of families, sociologist never came up with the idea of families, God came up with that idea. Go all the way to the beginning of time, go all the way back to the first chapter of Genesis. It was God that said you know what, men and women should be married, and I'm gonna give the first woman to the first man. And then He said I'm gonna give you, the first woman to the first man He said, because I want you to reproduce. So God gave the first child to the first mother. Families are God's idea. So the primary purpose of the home is to make sure literally that God is passed down from generation to generation. Jesus Himself said when He was asked what is the greatest commandment of all, Jesus said that's easy, love the Lord your God with all your mind, all your heart, all your soul and all your strength.

Now if that is the greatest commandment of all, then the greatest, most important thing we can do as our children, is to make sure that they love God with all of their heart, soul and mind and strength. And that's why we have got to lead our children in a spiritual direction. We've got to see our children not just for what they are today, but what they can be in God tomorrow. So he goes on to say this in verse three, children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him. Now let me just tell you something that really interesting. The word there for heritage does not mean what you think it means. In the Hebrew language, what it literally means, it literally means property or it means possession. So if you were to translate this in a very literal way, what he said was children are a property of the Lord, children are a possession of the Lord. In other words, your children were born from below, they were given from above, and they're just on loan.

Now this may be hard for some of you to swallow, but what that really means is that your children are really not your children. They're really not. My children are really not my children. When our boys were growing up, we'd have family devotions at breakfast before they went off to school. And normally, Theresa would take them to school, and we'd always have a prayer time. So we would pray, and then I'd say this to every one of the boys, in fact I say this to our grandkids now sometimes, I would always say to our boys who are you and who do you belong to? And they'd say I'm a Merritt, and I belong to God. And I'd say okay, now you live like it, you remember that, when you go to school, you're a Merritt and you belong to God. I was trying to teach them from the time that there were young, you know boys, I'm your dad, but I'm not your Heavenly Dad. You really don't belong to me, you really belong to God.

And oh, by the way, there's a practical implication for that. If every child belongs to God, if every child is a property of God, and every child is a possession of God, then let me just kind of clear up something right now, okay? There's no such thing as an unwanted child. God wants every child. And there's no such thing as an illegitimate child. I hate that term. I don't care if the parents are married or not married, no child is illegitimate. They're all property of God, they're all possession of God. Children, what Solomon is saying is children are literally handmade, divinely created gifts that God loans to every mom and to every dad. Then he goes on to say that children are a reward.

That is, they're not the result of a one time biological act, they're not just a tax deduction, they're not just another chair at the kitchen table, they are a reward and if you don't think they really are, if you don't really think they're that valuable to be called a reward, think about this, it took God six days to create all of this, it takes nine months to design a child. Think about that. One child is more valuable than every star, every moon, every sun, every planet that's in existence. He is a reward, he is a heritage of the Lord. And then Solomon makes this really interesting comparison. He says in verse four, like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one's youth.

Now, I find that really fascinating. Solomon compares children to arrows. Now let me have you something to add, I don't believe he meant by that they can be a pain in the rear, okay? I don't think that's what he meant, okay? When he was talking about arrows, if you think about it, an arrow must serve two purposes or it's absolutely useless. Number one, an arrow has to be pointed in the right direction. If it's not pointed in the right direction, it'll never do what it's supposed to do, and that's the job of the warrior. His job's to point that arrow, and his job is to point it in the right direction. And we already know that, when children are young, they are most easily pointed in the direction that we want them to go. But not only is it important for the arrow to go in the right direction, the arrow's got to hit the right target.

Now if you've ever been into archery, and you've ever done any target shooting, you know, when you draw that bow back, and you're shooting a arrow at a target, there's a certain place that we call that we want that arrow to hit, what's target called? It's called the bullseye, right? We want that arrow to hit the bullseye. Well, that raises a question. So what is the bullseye in rearing children? How do we know that we have launched our children in the right direction and it's hitting the right target? How do you know that, what's the bullseye? Okay, I'll give it to you, here's the bullseye. It is to make sure that they are launched in a Godly direction and they hit the bullseye of having a true relationship with God. No matter what else you do, no matter how well you do it, mom and dad, if that doesn't happen, you blew it. If that doesn't happen, you did not do what you should have done as a parent. 'Cause think about this, what do the following things have in common, little pop quiz.

What do the following things have in common? A $100 bill, a house, a 401 , a bank account, a car, a boat, and stock portfolio? What do all these things have in common? You can't take them with you, but you can take your children with you. You can't take any of those things with you, but you can take your children with you. Remember, these are called arrows in the hands of a warrior. That raises a question, where did warriors get arrows? 'Cause back in the day, they didn't have arrow shops, okay? They didn't have, you know, they didn't have, you know, sporting good stores, they didn't have places where you could go and buy an arrow. Arrows don't grow on trees but they do come from trees. So what the warrior had to do was he literally had to make an arrow 'cause you know want an arrow was before it was an arrow? It was just a stick, that's all it was, it was just a stick.

So the warrior comes along and he says okay, I want to take this stick and turn it into an arrow. Your children, when they're born, they're just sticks. But it's our job to turn them into arrows. Now you say well, how do you do that? Well, there are three things you got to do to take a stick and turn it into an arrow, right? First of all, it must be must polished, number two, it must be pointed, and number three, it must be propelled. If you're gonna turn a stick into an arrow, polish it, point it, propel it. And what Solomon is saying here is, think about your children as arrows, so what he's saying is mom and dad, from the time your children are born, it is your job to set your children straight, to shoot your children straight, and to shoot straight with your children. That means you lead them straight to God.

I read a quote the other day by a guy named Lionel Kauffman, I thought man, that's just so true. He said children are a great comfort in your old age and they help you reach it faster too. Uh-huh, I'm telling you, I promise you that's true, especially in the early stages, but what Solomon says is this, if you will give your children spiritual direction when they're young, if you'll train up a child in the way that child should go, when you get in your old age, they'll bring you comfort, they'll bring you love, they will bring you honor, and they will even give you Godly grandchildren. So all of this raises a question. So doc, do you have any practical tips that you could give us on how to lead your children in a spiritual direction? Yeah, I'm just gonna give these real quick, just some practical things that will help you, okay? I've learned these from experience by doing them and kind of practicing them, okay?

Number one, beginning when they're young, read Bible stories to them at bedtime, nap time or meal time. By the way, the best tool I've ever found this, there's a tool called old Bible Apps for Kids. How many of you happen to use that, just per chance? Anybody here? You ought to download this one today, it is fantastic. It's Bible Apps for Kids, it has music, they actually read the Bible out loud in stores, you go all the way from creation, all the way to the end of time, and they have graphics, I mean it is really, really, really, really a cool thing. Theresa reads it all the time, all right, now listen, first of all, Bible Apps for Kids, all right? Here's the next one, let them hear you pray for them to know God in their lives. When our kids were growing up, we always constantly prayed for our kids. We pray it now for our grandchildren, that our grandchildren, all but one of them, have come to know the Lord.

And so we play for them to come to know Christ. Here's another one, take them to church, and early on, begin to explain what Jesus Christ did for them. Right now, Connor, my 2 1/2, he'll be three next month, right now, Josh was teaching my grandson, Joshua and Jamie are teaching Connor a verse about how Jesus loves him and died for him. He says his own prayers now, and he'll pray, Lord Jesus, in your name, I mean, so they're not too young to teach them those kind of things. Here's another one, explain to them during Easter and Christmas that one is about the resurrection of Jesus and the other is about the birth of Jesus. In other words, when Easter rolls around, you teach them this is not about the Easter Bunny, I'm not saying don't tell them about him, I don't care about that, I'm not saying, don't write me your emails or letters, okay? I'm not getting into that business, I'm just simply saying Easter is not primarily about the Easter Bunny, it's primarily about the resurrection of Jesus.

And when Christmas comes, I'm not getting into the whole Santa Claus business, that's up to you and Santa Claus, okay? I love Santa Claus, God bless Santa Claus, but Christmas is not about Santa Claus, it's about the virgin birth of Christ, so you teach your kids what this is all about. And then finally, early on, lead them to memorize scripture with you together, okay? Now one of the easiest verses to teach your kids right off the bat is 1 John 4:8, God is love. That's the first one I taught my grandchildren, God is love. Now if you're one of those guys out there, and you say oh, pastor, that's just too hard. Well then do Jesus wept, but do something, all right? Memorize something with your children.

Now remember, you don't have to be perfect, you don't have to be a pastor or priest or a professor, just be purposeful and just be intentional. Just make up your mind I'm going to lead my children in a spiritual direction, all right? These get smaller and quicker, all right? Here's the second one, love your children through personal discipline. Lead your children in a spiritual direction, love your children through personal discipline. Now listen again to verse four, especially the last four words. He says like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children, now listen to this, born in one's youth, all right? Now he's talking about parents, he's not talking about children, now he's talking about parents. What he's talking about, he's talking about that age and stage of life, mom's young, dad's young, the parents are young, and the children are very young. He says okay, this is that time of life when you've got a lot of these little baby arrows running around in your house.

And you know, so what do you do? Everyone knows that for an arrow to fly, number one it's got to have feathers, and then number two, to fly straight, it has to have straight arrows. And then we all know that sometimes the tip of the arrow gets dull, and so you got to sharpen the blunt of that arrow so it will pierce whatever it needs to pierce. What Solomon is saying is this, sometimes, the feathers on your children have to be straightened 'cause they're not going in the right direction. You'll say well, how will I know when their feathers are ruffled? It's when your feathers get ruffled, then you'll know their feathers are ruffled, it ain't hard to figure out, okay? So sometimes they need the blunt of their tip sharpened. Now, at the risk of going against some real expert child-rearing parenting today, and some child psychologist advice today, I want to say this clearly, children must be disciplined.

Now, just in case you think, and I'm not getting into how yet, just in case you think discipline, I don't think kids ought to be disciplined, you know? You know, we're living in that day what, everybody gets a trophy, right? It doesn't matter, everybody gets it, that's the day we live in, right? Well, I just don't think we ought to discipline children or I just don't think I could ever do it. Let me just give you a little advice, the perfect father, the only perfect father who's ever existed is God, and Solomon said this about God to his own son, he said my son, do not despise the Lord's discipline, and do not resent His rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in.

Now this is very important. However you choose to discipline your children, and we're gonna talk about this in a moment, however you choose to discipline your children, always do it in love and always do it out of love. See we get this idea discipline is something we're supposed to do to our children, wrong. Discipline is not something you primarily do to the children, you do it for the children. When you discipline a child, here's what you're saying to that child. I love you too much to let you act this way. I love you too much to let you behave this way. I love you too much to let you talk this way 'cause I know that if you continue to do this, you will never be what you ought to be. Now let me tell you how I've changed over the years, I've come a long way in preaching on this topic. And I am not the first one to realize it's controversial, I'm not the first one to wake up and realize different parents have different ideas about how to discipline their children.

So let me just give you some good news from me, I am not gonna tell you how to discipline your children. I'm not going there, so you can just relax, I know some of you already had that fiery pen out, you're ready to rock and roll. Not to me, 'cause I'm not gonna tell you how to do it. What I'm telling you is you have to do it. However you do it, you have to do it. Now let me tell you why this is true that you do it, and especially when your kids are young. I read this the other day, I'd never heard this before, but I kind of have always wondered. Young children, it's amazing if you've noticed this, they can learn to speak almost any language perfectly when they're young. As a matter of fact, children have this ability, they can learn to speak several different languages when they're young. Russian, Chinese, Spanish, and doesn't matter if they're supposed to it early. If you can teach a young child more than one language, we've learned this now, they won't even have a trace of an accent. They can go from English to Spanish to Russian to Chinese to whatever it is, and it sounds just like that's the language they always knew all of their life.

Now, you'll know this when you get older. When you get in your 20s or 30s, those days are gone. You can't do that anymore. You'll only be able to kind of approximate the sounds made by natives of a particular language, and researches now know why this is true, this really fascinated me. It's explained by a process that's known, you don't need to remember this, it's known as phonemic awareness. I never heard of that, but is the way that it works, when you're young, your larynx is very soft, and it's very malleable and is very shapable, and you can make any sound exactly the way that sound ought to be made when you are young, but you can older, it solidifies and it hardens in certain positions and it makes it impossible or very difficult to make other sounds later in life. In other words, there's this brief opportunity to teach a child linguistically, and then that opportunity is gone. I'll give you a good example, Theresa and I, we've been talking about it, we've got this kit, we ain't got into it yet, we're gonna try to learn to speak Spanish.

Now told her I said I hope they can understand Southern Spanish 'cause that's the only Spanish I'm gonna be able to speak. I mean, listen, I was in New Jersey last weekend, I was speaking at a Bible conference, I flew into Newark airport to preached Friday night, Saturday morning, flew back Saturday afternoon, I'm going to the airport, there's a lady sitting there, you know, it's Newark, New Jersey she's a Yankee, right? And so New Jersey, right? So I'm up there, and I'm going through the line, and I give her my driver's license, I give her my ticket, and you know, I'm a friendly guy, and so I was speaking to her, and she goes where are you from? I said what do you mean? She goes I just love your accent. I said where do you think I'm from? She goes oh, you're from the South. I said how'd you know? She goes hey, can you just say something like y'all come now here? It's just where I am, I'm just stuck in that now.

Now, your child's attitude toward authority is just like that. When your child is young, there's this brief window of opportunity, his heart is soft, his conscience is clean, and that's when you say okay, I want to teach you how to have respect for authority. I want you to understand why it's so important that you learn how to obey. So I want to just now, what I thought I'd do is I want to give you some principles. I'm not gonna tell you how to discipline your children, I'm not going there. The method that you use to do it, that's between you and the Lord, I'm gonna leave that up to you. What I want to do is just very quickly give you some practical tips on, that I've learned both by experience, to be honest with you, and also from my mistakes and studying God's word, all right? Here we go, just real brief, number one, start early. I've already told you that, no need to belabor it, you gotta start early, you do it when they're young, and do it quickly, all right?

Now this one is important, be clear and consistent. Now let me tell you what I mean by that. You have to clearly communicate to your children the conduct that you expect of them. You have to clearly communicate to your children what is right, what is wrong, what are the rules, what are the do's and what are the don'ts. And you have to clearly communicate to them what will happen if they disobey. Now the reason I say about being consistent is this, and this is big time important. Don't ever threaten your child that you are going to punish your child if you're not going to follow through with what you tell them you're going to do, because when you do that, then they'll never know whether you really mean it or not. So never say now if you do this, I'm going to do that, if you know you're not going to do that. And I've had to relearn that with my grandchildren.

Theresa's on me all the time. I'll say to Connor, now Connor, if you do this, Pops gonna put you in time out, and Connor will do it, but I just can't put him in time out, I just can't do it, I told you this the other day, so she says you can't do that, you can't tell Connor you're gonna punish him if you're not gonna punish him. And I thought about it, I said you know what, you're right. So now I will say now Connor, you do that, Nana's gonna punish you. I can't do that, okay? But seriously, you can't do that, you can't. You've got to be consistent. And then here's one I blew all the time, stay calm. I don't know where I got this idea, well now, if I yell at them, that'll make it more effective. If I'll scream or I'll raise my voice, that'll make it more effective. Be disciplined when you discipline.

Now here's the third one, be loving. And what do I mean by that? I already told you any discipline ministered in love and out of love, and the motive is always love. And this is so important. Your child has to understand, if they don't understand anything else, I am not punishing you because I don't love you, I'm punishing you because I do love you. And then remember the goal, this is a big one, this is a big one, remember the goal, the goal is not for you to get your pound of flesh, the goal is not for you to be satisfied, the goal is not for you to kind of satisfy your anger, your goal is to be Godly character and a humble spirit of obedience, and a healthy respect for authority. So you lead your children in a spiritual direction, you love them through personal discipline, and then here's the last one, and we're gonna wrap it up, you lift your child by emotional development. Now, the first thing with an archer does with an arrow is he polishes it, but the second thing he does is he sharpens it.

Now this is really important. If you don't sharpen the arrow, it does matter what else you do to the arrow, it will never do what you intend it to do. You can have the feathers, you can have the feathers straight, and the arrow may fly straight, you can even point it in the right direction, it may even be headed for the bullseye, but if it's not sharpened, it will never ever pierce the target and do what it's supposed to do. That's the same thing that Solomon is saying about developing our children emotionally. 'Cause I want you to list to how he closes this psalm. It's really weird, but when you understand what he was saying, you go man, that is so brilliant. He says blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. Then he says something that is just weird. He says they will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.

Now I mean honestly, that's kind of a double take, I call them double take verses, you're going what? How did you get from raising kids to the courtroom? I mean what does that mean? What are you bringing up a courtroom for? Well, think about it. When you go to court, you're looking for one thing, justice. You're looking for right to prevail and wrong to be punished. So when you go to court, you're looking, I'm looking for justice, I'm looking for what is supposed to be right, and I want it done right. You're looking for truth, it's a place where truth is to be defended. That's why it's not a coincidence, when you go to court you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, because you can't have justice till you know what is right, you can't know what is right till you know what is true.

So you go to this courtroom, and you've got all these things going on, and then Solomon says yeah, by the way, that's exactly what you do with kids, and this is what he meant. What he was saying was you got to raise your children in such a way that they understand the difference between right and wrong, and they understand that only God determines what is right and wrong, that is truth, and then you're always to stand for the truth. So our job is to teach our kids at the end of the day how to recognize what is right and wrong, how to recognize and what is true and false, and then emotionally have the courage to go into a public classroom or to go into the court of public opinion, or to go into a philosophical discussion and at least do two things, know what's right and what's wrong, and be willing to stand for what is right, and stand against what is wrong. And by the way, the word court there literally means gate.

And the reason for that is back in the day, a city gate is where all the business was transacted in a city. It's where lawsuits were kind of settled, it's where disputes were settled. You'd go to the city age and what would happen is down the road, parents would get old, and they could not always defend themselves. So it was up to the children to represent their dad or to represent their mom, and defend their character at the city gate, if their character was ever being attacked. And what Solomon was saying was that's exactly what Godly people ought to do. Godly people ought always ought to be willing to stand up for their Father and to stand up for His truth. One of the things I've tried to teach our kids and I don't know how good a job I did it, but I've really tried to teach our guys, A, to think biblically, and number two, stand on your own two feet.

My dad taught me that, and I will tell you, and this is why we are who we are, and why I am what I am. I've said this to you before, but if you haven't taken any notes, you might want to write this next thing down because I think it's the greatest quote I've ever read outside the Bible, and I think it's probably, when you wrap everything up, if you said to me, if you could only teach your kids one thing, outside of the fact that Jesus is Lord, and that, I get that, outside of the fact, hey, give your life to Christ, live for Jesus, all that, I get that. If you said if you could teach my kids only one thing, and this is not even in my notes, I thought about it this morning, what would you teach my kids? All right, this is my advice to you. It is the greatest quote I've ever read outside of the Bible but it's all in the Bible.

William Penn, the famous Quaker said, right is right even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong even if everyone is for it. If we've ever lived in a day, and I'm talking to the Christian moms and dads, if I ever lived in a day where you better teach your kids that lesson, you better teach it today because it's amazing to be at warp speed things that we said we're right 2000 years ago, and wrong 2000 years ago, have changed overnight. Oh no, it's okay now, it's right now, used to be wrong, not wrong. No. I don't care what the politicians say, I don't care what laws the Supreme Court passes, I don't care what pundits say, and I really couldn't care less what Hollywood thinks.

Right is right even if everyone's against it, wrong is wrong if everyone is for it. And we don't get that call, God makes that call. And we have got to get back to a day where we teach our children you got to learn what's right, learn what is wrong, and be willing stand for both. Now to do that, as we wrap this up, there are two things your children have to have if you're gonna lift them up emotionally, all right? Number one, they gotta have time, and number two, they gotta have love. They gotta have time, they gotta have love. You ought to take time for your children, you gotta make time with your children. That's given, you've heard that before.

However, and I've learned this firsthand. If you don't do anything else relationally with your children, please do I'm about to ask you to do. Your children need to know from their first breath to your last breath, no matter what you, no matter what direction you take, no matter where you go, no matter how you feel, no matter how much you disappoint me, my love for you is unconditional. And I will always be the best friend you've ever had. You could call any one of my three boys today and ask them who's your best friend? They'll tell you, outside their spouse, mom and dad are my best friends. That's exactly the way it ought to be. And you know why? 'Cause that's exactly what our heavenly father does. You know what God does 24/7? Time and love.

Anytime you want to go to your Heavenly Father, He never says could you come back? He never says oops, we just closed. He never says sorry, I'm on the phone. He never says I'm right in the middle of an email. Anytime you come to your Heavenly Father, you know what your Heavenly Father says? He drops everything He's doing and says what do you need? Got all the time in the world. Oh, and when you come to your Heavenly Father and you have failed and you've blown it, and you've messed up again, which we all do every single day, and I'm the first guy that will admit it, every time you come to your Heavenly Father, you know what He says? I love you unconditionally. You can't do anything so bad it makes me love you less than I do, you can't do anything so good it makes me love you more than I do, I love you unconditionally.

You say how do you really know God's like that? Because He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for me when I didn't deserve it. He sent His Son as a way of saying James, I've got all the time in the world for you anytime you want it. And by the way, James, when you come to my presence, you will always find conditional love. And James, my one desire for you, the reason I sent Jesus is so I could point you in the right direction, and so you could hit the bullseye of a relationship with me.

So I close with this, years ago there was an article in the magazine, it was called New Man. And the writer was talking about different issues concerning the family, and he was talking about parenting. And he wrote this paragraph, I thought this is so cool. He said child development professionals categorize kids into two main groups, naturally compliant, intrinsically kind, inherently logical, and your children. But then he went on to say this, all parents help to get the children in category one, but they wind up with the children from category two. And when I read that I wrote at the bottom of that article it doesn't have to be that way, it doesn't.

Now let me just, before I say this last thing, I want you to hear what I'm about to tell you. There's some of you out there right now, and you did your best, you absolutely busted it, you worked your rear end off being the best dad and the best mom you knew how to be, and your kid still went south. I want to help you on something. Don't you let the devil put you on a guilt trip. Don't you let the devil beat you up. Don't you let the devil say well, it's your fault. You should have been a better dad, you should have been a better mom.

Listen, ladies and gentlemen, every one of us who are dads could have been a better dad. I've already told you that. Even the best mom in this room could have been a better mom. But folks, at the end of the day, when you've done your best, there's no guarantee your kids will go the way they ought to go. They have their own mind to make up, they're gonna go their own direction, and I'm just simply saying, what I'm about to say, don't think that I'm trying to put you on a guilt trip and say well, deep down it's your fault, no it's not. You do your best, you try your best, you make your mistakes, sure you do, but you do everything you can. At the end of the day, they've got to make up their own mind.

What I am saying is this, there is a way of raising arrows that follows the only plan that's perfect. And that is the plan of the only perfect parent who ever existed, and it all begins and ends with knowing and loving the Lord and Savior of this universe, whose name is Jesus. So at the end of the day mom and dad, here's my encouragement to you. God does not expect us to be perfect parents 'cause it's not in us to be perfect parents. You can't do it, you will never do. What God does expected us is under the power of the Holy Spirit by my grace, just day by day, do your best. Trust me with the results. At the end of the day, I'll work it out for your good, and I'll work it out for my glory.
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