Monday, February 29, 2016

Deep Family Relationships

Ephesians 6:1-4

Introduction
We were made for deep relationships.  A deep relationship is a profound, caring connection of mutual support, cooperation, and trust.  Deep relationships can be with family, friends, someone we date, a spouse, or a co-worker.  However we find them, our souls yearn for deep relationships.  Today, I want to offer some advice to deepen family relationships. 

Ephesians 6:1-4
Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.”

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.

Advice for Children
Writing about how deep family relationships should function, the Apostle Paul offers his advice in two parts.  The first part is for children and the second part is for parents.  Let’s look at Paul's advice for children first.
Recalling the Ten Commandments all the way back from the Old Testament, the Apostle Paul said, “Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. Honor your father and mother.””
What does it mean to honor your parents?  To honor them means to treat them as very important people.  When we are young, we sometime start to think nothing important happened before we came along. We might think we are younger, smarter, and more in touch with what is going on in the world.  How can our parents know more than we do?  It can give us a careless attitude about those who are older.  We feel they just don’t understand.
But God says it is not good to have an attitude like that. He knows our parents have earned a lot of wisdom through their life experience. It is in our own interest to listen to them, to respect their opinions and wisdom, to honor them as important people who have helped us very much and who still have a lot to offer. We must fight the tendency to think our parents are too old and out of touch.  We must honor them, because they deserve it and it is in our own best interest.  God promised to give us a long life if we honor our parents.
 

Here are five practical ways you can honor your parents:
 
First of all, spend time with your parents.  Time is one of the most precious gifts you can give.  Your parents gave a tremendous amount of time to raise you.  Now it’s your turn to honor them with your time.

Second, be patient with your parents.  Do you realize your parents needed great patience to care for you?  When you were teenager, you sometime broke their hearts with mean words.  When you were a toddler, you threw temper tantrums and embarrassed them.  When you were an infant, they changed your dirty diapers.  (Once I took my son to a movie and he got sick and vomited on me in the theater.  I didn’t have any clothes to change into.  It took 20 minutes to drive home before I could change.  Then I had to take care of him all night.)
Your parents have done many things like this for you. With God’s help, mothers and fathers do it with patience because we love our children.  They have been patient with you.  Now you can honor them by being patient with them even if you feel they don’t deserve it.

Third, be respectful.  When you disagree with your parents, do it respectfully.  If they make you mad, be gentle.  Refuse to look down on them.  Don’t speak negatively of them.  Don’t do anything that would shame them.  Deliberate speak well of them to others. Protect their dignity and defend their honor.

Fourth, help your parents.  Go with them to the doctor or to get groceries.  Help them clean the house or cook dinner for them.  As you get older, you might even help pay some of their bills.  There are many ways you can help your parents.  Look for ways to do favors for them as an expression of your honor for them.

Fifth, celebrate your parents.  As a pastor, I often go to funerals.  And people pay tribute to all the best qualities of their parents.  Why wait until the funeral to pay tribute to your parents?  You can do it now.   

Advice for Parents
         Paul said, “Fathers, [and what he says applies to mothers as well as fathers] do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.”
As a parent, I can tell you it is quite impossible to never provoke your children to anger.  Sometimes kids are just going to be angry with their parents.  But what I think Paul means here is: don't let anger be the prevailing attitude in your home.  Instead, create a healthy home where your children can thrive and become all God wants them to be.  

Here are five practical ways to raise your kids well:
First, spend a lot more time appreciating your kids than you do criticizing or disciplining them.  Of course, parents have to set rules and discipline their kids when they go astray (and all kids do).  However, don’t let that be the only interaction you have with your children.  Encourage them.  Let them know you love them.  Let them know how proud you are of them.  And since we know we will have to discipline our kids, we should make sure we spend lots and lots of time appreciating them. Hear are seven things every kid needs to hear:   
   1.  I Love You
   2.  I’m Proud of You
   3.  I’m Sorry
   4.  I Forgive You
   5.  I’m Listening
   6.  This is Your Responsibility
   7.  You’ve Got What It Takes
 
Second, talk to your kids.  Practice by talking about the little things--like what they did at school, what they like, etc.  Abigail and I went to Red Lobster on Friday and she had a great idea for conversation.  Maybe it will work for you.  We had a personal life quiz.  She would ask me one question about her life and then I would ask her one question about mine.  So she would ask me something like:  What are the names of her closest friends?  And then I would ask her a question like:  What is my favorite hobby? Sometimes I would ask her questions about herself:  what was her earliest memory?  We had a great time going back and forth and we learned a lot about each other.  When you practice talking about the little things, your children will feel more comfortable talking to you about the big things like the struggles they are having at school or with their friends, etc.

Third, your kids need to know you are 100% committed to them.  You let them know you are committed by your actions.  You need to be there for them.  Spend time with your kids.  Find ways to play and have fun together.  Pray together.  Eat together.  Go to church together.  Take a family vacation.  If you can’t afford a vacation or can’t take the time off work, then take a short trip or outing together.  It can be as simple as hiking at Fort Mountain or taking a walk in your neighborhood.  The point is to do stuff together--just you and your kids.  There is nothing more precious that you can give you kids than your time.  And nothing shows you are committed to them better than when you share your time with them.

Fourth, discipline your children and hold them accountable.  This is very important.  Remember, your primary job is not to be your child’s best friend.  A parent's primary job is to train their child to be a well adjusted adult.  This includes teaching them integrity, responsibility, self-discipline, and good morals.  Believe it or not, children are happier when they have clear rules to follow and consistent consequences when they violate the rules.  By holding your children accountable to right behavior, you are training them the be happy, successful human beings.

Fifth, love your spouse.  That might seem counterintuitive, but it’s very true.  Your kids need stability and nothing reinforces their sense of stability than when they know their mom and dad’s marriage is rock solid.  Furthermore, you will be a better parent if your marriage is strong.  I see marriages get into trouble a lot because parents make the mistake of focusing too much time, energy, and resources on their kids at the expense of the marriage relationship.  I understand why it happens.  At an immediate level, your kid’s needs often must come first.  But in the long run, you will soon find your marriage in trouble if you always put your kids before your marriage; consequently, your kids will suffer too.  Remember, your kids will be in the home only 18 or so years, but your husband or wife is for life.  If you truly love your kids, you better love your spouse more.  If you want more advice on how to strengthen yourmarriage, you can look back at my blog from last Sunday.  Or, perhaps you would like to make an appointment to come talk with me.

Conclusion
God created you to have deep relationships.  The most natural of these relationships is with the people in your own family.  However, that doesn’t mean having deep relationships with your family comes naturally.  It takes effort and I encourage you to put in the effort; it is worth it.  What our world needs is strong, godly families.  That could change our nation.
As with all the other types of deep relationships in your life, your deep family relationships will suffer if your relationship with God is not right.  The sin in our life impairs our relationship with God, but the Good News is there is forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  When we we ask forgiveness and let Jesus take control of our lives, we will find our relationship with God growing stronger and all our other relationships--including with our family--begins to grow stronger too.  I invite you to get your heart right with God today.