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I was recently looking for some good audio resources for a friend and ran across some good comments and suggestions from Pastor John Piper on another topic. The entire text of this sermon can be found here at the Desiring God website.
We were just discussing this morning at our elder’s meeting the importance of parents encouraging parents, and especially older parents helping the younger parents, in learning how to train their children. We were particularly discussing the difficulty (or awkwardness) some young parents may have with bringing their little ones to home fellowship or other church meetings. Much of the struggle may be caused by the fact that children must be trained to sit still and not be distracting, and we may not know how to do it effectively. I am convinced that we often need to see an example of it being done well before we will best be able to do it well ourselves (I know this was true in our family).
I offer these encouragements from John Piper because they are helpful, but realize these comments are only scratching the surface. I hope it inspires you young parents to develop solid relationships with older parents to learn from them, and that it motivates you more experienced parents to seek out the younger ones in order to minister to them the help and instruction they need. At the end of the quote I offer some more advice and a list of some good books to consider reading.
Here are his comments, in response to a common objection:
“My children won’t sit still long enough to listen to a Bible passage or receive instruction.” This is a real problem in the church today. In visiting other places, Noël and I see it again and again. Many parents seem to have lost their bearings when it comes to handling the disobedience of their children. It is a strange irony that intelligent parents who have strong and good convictions in most areas often seem to be nonplussed as to what to do when their children disobey. It seems as if many Christian parents have absorbed the notion that you can’t really (or shouldn’t) expect obedience from a child. So, if the children don’t do what you say, you try to humor them or bribe them or pen them up.
I believe God’s word to this situation is that we parents need to recover the expectation that our children obey us, and that in all love and humility we administer firm and just discipline to secure that obedience. Nothing has changed in the nature of children to make the Word of God from Proverbs unwise. Proverbs 13:24: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Proverbs 19:18a: “Discipline your son while there is hope; do not set your heart on his destruction.” Proverbs 22:15, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it from him.” Proverbs 23:13, 14: “Do not withhold discipline from your child; if you strike him with the rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.” Proverbs 29:15, 17, “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother . . . Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.”
As soon as a child is old enough to understand your command and has the physical ability to do it, he should be taught what is right to do and then punished for not doing it until he will obey at home and in public. If I thought that I was talking to a group of child abusers, I would say many other things. Hugging and kissing, and tumbling, loving, forgiving, and spending time with your children are all just as important as spanking. I may be wrong, but my pastoral judgment is that among Christian parents in their 20s and 30s the tendency is to have expectations of obedience that are too low and too late, and discipline that lacks firmness and rigor and consistency. I am no expert in child psychology. I speak from my understanding of Scripture, my experience with three sons, and my observation of others.
That is good biblical advice, and helpful practical admonition. If you want to learn more, let me suggest a couple of helpful books with practical tips.
“The Shaping of a Christian Home,” by Elisabeth Elliot
“Don’t Make Me Count to Three,” by Ginger Plowman
In addition, if you’re a young parent struggling with these issues, MAKE IT A PRIORITY TO ATTEND OUR NEXT PARENTING CLASS – at any cost of time or commitment! We discuss these practical issues in great detail, and build those very relationships that enable us to draw from the wisdom and experience of others when we are at a loss for what to do (or just need encouragement to keep on going).
Blessings to you and your family!
If you’re a regular in Bible Fellowship on Sunday mornings, you probably remember that we have prayed for Samuel Smith.
Samuel Smith is a 14 year old boy from Charlotte, Vermont who needs your fervent prayers.. and when he is a little stronger… he needs a kidney donor. Three of the six Smith children have a rare, genetically-recessive kidney disease, Juvenile Nephronophthisis, and retina pigmentosa, which together are called Senor-Loken Syndrome.
In March of 2007, Samuel was diagnosed with 10-15% kidney function, and was put on dialysis two days later. In Oct. 2007, he received a kidney from his Dad. Two unusual complications during the surgery damaged the new kidney and nearly cost Samuel his life twice during the 9-hour surgery! God’s protection was very evident that day. Samuel had to go back on dialysis, as the new kidney was not functioning. Samuel was hospitalized again from early December 2007 until mid-February 2008.. 75 days! Almost half of those days were spent in the ICU. During the last 3 months that Samuel has been at home, he has not been well.
Now, he is back in the hospital. He is very sick, in a lot of pain, very weak, and discouraged. (The picture above is from his stronger days before his last transplant.)
What can we do?
We can continue to pray for Samuel: physical healing and encouragement in the Lord. We can pray for his family: encouragement in the Lord, strength to keep the family running, effectiveness and perseverance in encouraging Samuel. We can pray for a new kidney for Samuel.
Perhaps you might consider donating a kidney. Obviously that’s a huge decision and one not to be made rashly. But perhaps after getting more information, considering relevant biblical principles, and seeking biblical counsel you will conclude that you are in a place to show such sacrificial love in this way.
For more information
Go to www.smithfamilykidney.blogspot.com for more information on this family and Samuel’s situation. Also, you can email them here: smiths[@]smithfamilyfarmvt.com (take out the brackets though; they are added here to save them from spam email).
In a post on his website, Mark Dever gives five very helpful tips on how to give criticism in a way that both honors God and is easy to receive. As someone who often needs to encourage others through constructive criticism, and who has been on the receiving end of both helpful and painful attempts at the same, I found these simple principles very easy to understand and on the mark. Here are his suggestions.
The Five Points of Criticism
by Mark Dever
In our own service reviews, we talk about trying to model giving godly criticism and receiving godly criticism, giving godly encouragement and receiving godly encouragement. Because of some of my own mistakes, and reflections on them, I offer the following suggestions on how to give godly criticism.
Proverbs 26:27 says “A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin.” I think that Christians, and especially pastors, should have words which reflect hearts of wisdom and love toward those we speak to. And it’s in reference to those obligations and opportunities we have (and out of my own mistakes in doing this well!) that I offer the five points of criticism. Here are several ideas on HOW criticism is best offered:
1. Directly, not indirectly. If you’re anything like me, you might have a temptation to imply something, to presume something, to do anything to avoid a direct confrontation. Be very careful, however, before adopting this pattern, especially in criticism. If you’re not careful, you’ll have people regularly looking at your words and asking themselves what you “really mean.”
2. Seriously, not humorously. Again, I might want to give some piece of advice through a humorous aside, but I probably am giving criticism this way because of my own fear of man. I want them to like me, and so I don’t want to directly confront them. I want to be able to dismiss my own words if their cost proves higher to me than I had estimated. And humor can appear to be a useful vehicle for this. I can disown the words I’ve spoken, explaining them merely as humor if they’re not received well. I should know better. I should know that if something is worth correcting, I should show respect to the other person by taking it seriously. I should never joke about something I’m really concerned about in someone else, without first having spoken seriously to them about it.
3. As if it’s important, not casually. Similar to the previous point, but distinct, is the idea that the other person deserves me to give a certain level of importance to the issue, or I probably shouldn’t be offering them correction at all. Eleazar Savage has a wise section (pp. 487-490) in the book of books (Polity) on minor offenses that we as Christians should simply bear with in each other. Don’t use up the other person’s emotional energy on criticizing them if the matter isn’t really very significant.
4. Privately, not publicly. A remark around other people could have negative effects on other people’s opinion of the one you are offering criticism to. You probably won’t have the opportunity to follow up with all of them about the nature and reasons of your criticism. Your friend will probably only struggle more with fear of man issues, having those confused with the merits of the criticism you have offered. Now your friend may well be left open to the Evil One tempting him to be distracted by what this or that person will think of him. You honor your friend better by offering the criticism in private.
5. Out of love for them, not to express your feeling or frustration. It’s interesting how my “honesty” can sometimes be inspired by my own frustration. Good criticism should not be “my frustration”-driven, but “your need” driven. If I ever offer a friend criticism it should be in the time and manner that will best serve them, not that is most convenient and emotionally satisfying for me. One way we show that love is by sincerly encouraging them (not flattering them) in areas where God’s grace is clear in our friend’s life. The more they can believe that we mean this for their good, that we love them, and see real good in them, the less open they are to pridefully dismissing our criticism.
I hope you find those as helpful as I do. And I pray God will bless our efforts to give (and receive!) criticism in a way that honors Him.