Summary: Raising godly children today is more difficult than ever. We need God's help at every turn. This lesson looks at two passages that point us to some practical wisdom for accomplishing this. My focus is on dads, but moms could use this as well.
What does God Hate?
Text: Proverbs 6:16-19
16 These six things the LORD hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
17 A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
18 A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
19 A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren.
On Wednesday mornings I’m doing a class in the Hamilton County Jail. This week I found a little publication in the chapel that caught my attention. It noted the huge growth in the population of Tennessee prisoners. In June of 1975 the prison population in Tennessee was 5,464, not including jails. In June of 2011 the prison population was 25,518. While there was a 33% general population growth in TN, the prison growth was 467%. In 1978 one out of 782 of the state citizens was in prison. In 2011 one out of 248 are in prison. If you also count those on parole, on probation, doing community corrections, in Jail and on misdemeanor probations the number of Tennessee citizens either locked up or under state or county supervision comes to 196,570 in June of 2011. That is one out of every 32 citizens of this state. That is appalling!
Those are just statistics from this article, but clearly, we have a problem… a growing problem. As the removal of God from our culture and society continues to degrade our country’s moral fiber, the terrible consequences come home to roost.
The last book in the Old Testament gives a sober warning: Malachi 4:5-6
5 “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
The day of the Lord is coming and Malachi warns that it will come with burning judgment on the arrogant and wicked, but with healing and blessing for those who fear the name of the Lord. Then God promises to send Elijah the prophet. His job description is this: to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else…
Or else what? God says, “I will come and strike the land with a curse!” What a way to finish the Old Testament! God wants fathers to turn their hearts to who? Their children! God wants the children to turn their hearts to who? Their fathers! Why? Because if they don’t God will come and strike the land with a curse!
One of the major causes of the escalation of prison population lies right here in these words. Here in Malachi God tells us what will happen if the fathers hearts are not turned to the children and the children’s hearts are not turned toward the fathers. He is describing the family system and connections that will protect the nation from being cursed. And when children grow up without this heart to heart connection, it brings down a curse on us all.
The most stable societies are those with strong family ties. When the family begins to fracture and fall the society fractures and falls. Come on, Dads! We’ve got to hear this message! We’ve got a job to do in our children’s lives that mom and church and school can’t do for us! We have a God given calling to lead our homes with a heart to heart relationship with them all.
How? How can we manage this in the midst of all the work load and business we find ourselves tied into?
First, let’s admit that we easily let every other priority tear away at this one. There are so many important things to do that keep us from the most important people in our lives. What can we do?
I wonder how many of you dads here have texting capability on your cell phones? Imagine texting notes of encouragement or prayer to your kids on your break at work. Imagine praying for them and telling them specifically what you are praying for and asking your children what they would like you to pray about for them. Imagine reading a chapter of Proverbs together regularly and letting those words of wisdom start a conversation.
Brothers, it all starts in the heart. Turning your hearts to your children means thinking about them and being motivated to share your life with them and helping build theirs in Christ.
Second, be aware of the dangers of giving too many things and not enough instruction and discipline. We live in the first generations where the family size among white middle class Americans is two kids. The generation before me was the last generation before birth control received popular use. Four or more kids used to be normal. Today the norm is two. When birth control became the norm it allowed people to amass wealth instead of have children. Do you remember the DINK slogan? “Double income no kids.” With the acquisition of more and more money and things and less children to spend it on… well, you can see today what that has created. We now live in a society that looks down on those who have more than three children.