Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Growing Kids The Right Way

My scripture today is from Luke 2: 41-52 and Growing Kids God’s Way is what I am going to be talking about.  Did you know that the most powerful job in the world is not the president of the United States, the Secretary General of the United Nations, or even Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. The most powerful job in the world is that of a parent, any parent.  Rose Kennedy, mother of President John Kennedy and matriarch of one of the world’s most influential families once said, “Whenever I held my newborn babe in my arms, I used to think what I did and what I said to him would have an influence, not only on him, but on everyone he meets, not for a day, or a year, but for all time and for eternity. What a challenge, what a joy!” Writer E.T. Sullivan observed the same truth from the opposite direction. “When God wants a great work done in the world or a great wrong righted, he goes about it in a very unusual way. He doesn’t stir up his earthquakes or send for this thunderbolts. Instead, he has a helpless baby born, perhaps in a simple home and of obscure [parents]. And then God puts the idea into [a mother or father’s heart and they] put it into the baby’s mind. And then God waits. The greatest forces in the world are not the earthquakes and the thunderbolts. The greatest forces in the world are [young children].”  Parents have an awesome task. I am confident that every parent here felt the weight of that responsibility the first time they held their child. Everyone mother and father—and grandmother and grandfather—knows what I am talking about. If we feel overwhelmed by our task, imagine how Joseph and Mary must have felt when given the responsibility of raising the Christ-child. They knew what was happening. They had both heard the angels’ messages. They believed God was doing something unique and special. But they also knew they had an awesome job ahead of them.  The Bible doesn’t tell us many details about the childhood of Jesus. But what the Bible does tell us about those early years is quite revealing. Let’s look at what we do know and the model it provides for parents. The same principles apply to the youth and children’s ministries of the church. Those of us in this church are not just concerned about our own children. We care about all the kids around us that we can influence for Christ. That’s why many of you have dedicated yourself to teaching Sunday School, working with youth, and befriending children and young people who cross your path. That too is an enormous task. Our text tells us something about what we want for our young and part of what it takes to make that happen. Consider those two areas briefly.  First, note how Jesus grew. That little verse in Luke 2:52 summarizes the childhood years of Jesus in a dozen or so words. Luke tells us, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” The emphasis seems to be on the balance. The four areas of Jesus’ growth provide a blueprint for what every parent and grandparent wants for their young.   Jesus grew in wisdom. That certainly includes growing in knowledge and understanding of the world around him. Jesus had already demonstrated an unusual grasp of spiritual matters. In part of the text that we skipped over, he confounds the learned teachers with his insight and questions. But our text also seems to suggest part of his development was normal and natural. I am sure that Mary and Joseph, just as all parents in this room, wanted their child to learn and grow. We’re proud when our kids do well in school. But that only happens when we encourage, challenge, and make learning and growing a priority.  Wisdom in the Bible, however, means more than book learning. Wisdom means the ability to make smart decisions and tell right from wrong. When it comes to morality and faith, every child is home schooled.  Jesus not only grew in wisdom, he also grew in stature. Physical health matters to God. Our faith is not just a matter of the mind. We teach our kids that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. We all want our kids to develop healthy habits that will serve them well for the rest of their lives. That takes effort and personal discipline on the part of parents and grandparents. The path of least resistance leads to disaster. If you’ve seen, the TV program “Honey, We’re Killing the Kids” you understand the concept. The show is about families trying to undo poor habits that are developing unhealthly lifestyles in their kids. This area matters.  Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and also in favor with God. This is where I stop preaching and go to meddling. I am forever mystified by Christian parents who show amazing concern about the health and education of their children but seem totally indifferent to their spiritual well-being. I have seen parents who would scream bloody murder if their twelve year talked about dropping out of school, but don’t even blink when they want to drop out of church. They wouldn’t think of letting a child decide for themselves what they are going to eat or when they are going to bed, but when it comes to spiritual matters abdicate any responsibility saying, “I’m going to let Johnny or Suzie make up their own minds when they get old enough.” I’ve seen parents who push and prod to get their son to play baseball or their daughter to learn gymnastics, but act like they could care less whether their child learns spiritual discipline or not. I guarantee, the child notices the differences. There is something wrong with that picture. Our Lord grew mentally, physically, and spiritually. Finally, Jesus grew in favor with men as well. We all want our children to grow up to be kind, compassionate, loving human beings. No right thinking parent wants to raise selfish, hateful, mean-tempered kids. If they turn out that way, we know who will hurt the worst.  I think these four phrases provide a prayer list for every parent and every adult who cares about the young of our church. We need to passionately and persistently seek the Lord’s help in growing wise, healthy, loving, spiritually minded kids. Parenting is not easy. But it’s worth the effort. What a joy to see our kids turn into young adults who are taking up the task of building a better future!  That’s how Jesus grew from a child through his teen years to a young man. That’s what we all want for the young around us. But how does it happen? Obviously, Jesus was a special case. How his deity showed through in those early years, we don’t know. But special or otherwise, we can learn some lessons from the parenting of Mary and Joseph. They made God’s Word the center of their family. One theme runs through these verses about Jesus’ childhood. Over and over again, the text tells how Mary and Joseph acted “according to the law of Moses" (v. 22) ... "just as it is written in the law of the Lord" (v. 23) ... "according to what is stated in the law of the Lord" (v. 24). In verses 25-35 we read about Simeon’s prophetic praise of Jesus. This event occurred because the parents of Jesus had brought Jesus to the temple to perform what was customary under the law (v. 27). Verses 39 and 40 serve as a summary for this entire section. "When they had completed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The boy grew up and became strong, filled with wisdom, and God’s grace was on Him." Did you notice the pattern? Jesus’ earthly parents had followed the dictates of Scripture at every point in their nurture of the son God had given them.
They pointed Jesus in the right direction. When Jesus was twelve, Mary and Joseph took him to Jerusalem for the Passover. This was probably a part of the Jewish rite of Bar Mitzvah, as it is called today. Joseph and Mary did everything within their power to see that the Christ child experienced all of the right things as he was growing up under their care. They obviously set an example. Did you notice the emphasis at the beginning of verse 41? "Every year His parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival." This was not an exceptional event, but a customary one. Mary and Joseph had provided a climate in which spiritual development was the norm, not the exception.  Example matters. We all know that. In a study taken in the 1990’s we are shown that if both Mom and Dad attend church regularly, 72% of their children remain faithful. If only Dad, 55% remain faithful. If only Mom, 15%. If neither attended regularly, only 6% remain faithful. The statistics speak for themselves--the example of parents and adults is more important than all the efforts of the church and Sunday School.
I like the story of a little boy who was asked if he believed in God. He answered, “Well, yes I do.” When asked why, he said, “Well, I guess it just runs in the family.” We hope our young have more reason than that for their faith. We want their devotion to God to be personal. But on the other hand, it’s not altogether bad that it runs in the family. I hope it does. I hope you will live long enough to see your kids and grandkids reproduce in their lives the faith, hope, and love that gives your life direction and meaning.  That’s the dream of every parent!

No comments: