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Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it. Proverbs 22:6
leaderI’d known him for years yet we rarely got below the surface on life itself. Normally I just thought of him as being an angry old man willing to explode at any moment. When Jack (not his real name) was around it was always best to walk on eggshells.

One day, however, there was a crack in his armor. It had always amazed me how angry he’d get when talking about one of his sons who’d gone to college, gotten a business degree and has a great paying job in a distant city. At the same time, he talked proudly of his other son who went right to work out of high school and, while successful, was working at a dead end job.

The day the armor broke was shortly after the death of his mother – a mutual friend. He told me how he’d never forgiven her for forcing him to go to a particular college for a particular degree, right out of high school. He has his career plans set on a job that would have paid nicely in the agricultural area he lived in. Not a fantastic income, but a steady income doing something he loved. As we talked I realized his entire life was spent doing what he hated, missing what he loved, and all because he was ‘directed down a path’ that didn’t fit him.

Another friend of mine, I’ll call him David, was having coffee with me one day. He was very concerned, even upset with the path his daughter was taking. She was a bright kid with lots to offer. Yet her career choice was to be a tattoo artist! David, like me, grew up in a time when tattoos were only worn by people of ill repute. He was struggling with that and how to minister to his daughter.

One day, several months later, his world came crashing down. His daughter was forced to drop out of school and enter treatment. As the family worked through the treatment program, lots of painful things came to light. Like most situations, no one was completely innocent of the issues and everyone was guilty to some extent.

As David and I sat over a cup of coffee he told me how his daughter was making great progress. Then he smiled and said, “And look at this!”

He pulled up the sleeve of his shirt and displayed…HIS NEW TATTOO! David and his daughter got matching tattoos as part of the restoration process.

The two stories should help us to realize that as parents we have a huge responsibility to make sure we take into consideration our kids giftedness and dreams as we raise them. For those of us that are parents, we know there are no guarantees in life. But the odds are better if we build the foundation and let the kids build the walls of the house.

We need to teach our kids the basics of God’s Word while at the same time letting them spread their wings and let them fall a few times. Our children need to know that we love them, and God loves them and both of us will be there to help them back up after the fall. Rather than tell them about God’s love and grace, show them!

PRAYER: Father God. I confess that I’ve failed many times as a parent. I praise you for always helping me back up when I’ve failed. Help me to know the best way to show my children your love, faithfulness, patience and grace. Amen.

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. Ephesians 6:4 (NLT)

Sometimes it’s important to remember that the chapter numbers and verse numbers in the Bible are fairly recent additions. Before that there were no divisions to the books and letters of the Bible. The reader would understand the change in thought processes of the author by wording and grammatical changes much as we do in a novel or other piece of journalism.

When the Apostle Paul was writing to the church in Ephesus he was writing about practical living as Christ followers. The particular section our verse comes from today is a whole section on family living that begins with “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (5:21). Then Paul goes on to give examples to wives, husbands, parents, children and bosses and employees on how to be submissive to each other because of Jesus Christ and our desire to follow Him.

When Paul addresses fathers in Ephesians 6:4 he’s not really telling the rest of us to stop listening. The lesson he is teaching fathers is one each of us should learn to follow. The lesson is basically this. Our actions towards others should never intentionally cause them to be angry.

Discipline has gotten a bad rap in our society because it is often linked with or confused with punishment. The root word of ‘discipline’ is disciple, a word that implies a follower or a set of rules or a person. It is not a ‘forced event’ but a voluntary one. Punishment on the other hand is something that is forced upon a person.

  • Punishment can be done in anger and cause permanent damage.
    • Discipline is never done in anger and while it can be painful, the pain is temporary.
  • Punishment can cause hatred or frustration on the part of the receiver.
    • Discipline may cause temporary misunderstanding but eventually the receiver see the value of the ‘rules’.
  • Punishment can often be an act of aggression and frustration on the part of the deliverer of the punishment.
    • Discipline is done in patience and love.
  • Punishment can be administered to protect the person who does the punishment to ‘protect himself’.
    • Discipline is always done for the benefit of the receiver, perhaps even at some cost to the person doing the discipling.
  • Punishment degrades both parties in the ‘situation’.
    • Discipline elevates both parties in the ‘situation’.
  • Punishment forces the individual being punished into a mold that may not be in his/her best interest.
    • Discipline shapes a person’s character in a way that best fulfills his/her gifts and abilities.
  • Punishment changes behavior.
    • Discipline grows character.
  • Punishment is quick and effective.
    • Discipline is time consuming and eternal.

Each of us, no matter what role we play in life will, at some time, be in a position where we are training others for life’s journey. The best way we can do that is to disciple those around us by:

  • allowing them to grow at their own pace.
  • showing them the way of true life through Jesus Christ.
  • Praying that Jesus will change their minds towards Him.
  • Patiently determining to love them regardless of the choices they make.

PRAYER: Holy Father. I am a victim of punishment done with good intent but with painful results. As I’ve grown older I’ve tended to follow the same patterns I learned as I grew up. Empower me through your Holy Spirit to love as Jesus loved, disciple as He disciple and help those around me to grow in character as a result of what they see in me. Forgive me for the pain I’ve caused. Heal the scars of my past. Amen.

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