Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Parenting Leaders

My kids and my godly and active 98-year-old grandmother. She still
plays the organ for her church. Talk about a woman who has made a
 difference! I am so thankful for her example and faithfulness to God.
I want to do everything I can to grow a strong family. This is my number one responsibility. If you're in a family, it's yours too. As a believer, I live to bring glory to God by making disciples. If I don't do that at home, what does this mean? I don't want to waste my life and I want my family to make a difference. Darla and I are raising our kids to be world-changers in their own ways, however God wants them to do that. Parenting is a huge challenge and we're not out of the woods yet! I recently told a friend that one probably shouldn't write a book about parenting until one's own kids are adults in order to be able to prove the strategy works. Ultimately, as with all other things, "it is God who works in us..." (Phil. 2:13), so we can't take any credit at all. It is with prayer and fear that I write (and preach) this! God please have mercy and provide grace to lead my family to walk in your ways.

We're currently walking through the gospel of Luke as a church. Of course, Jesus is the subject; and Luke's perspective on him is unique. Among other reasons, he's the only gentile Bible writer. He's also a keenly observant doctor, and a great story teller to boot.
Luke chapter 2 gives us the only inspired look at Jesus' childhood. That's it! Yeah, there are some apocryphal legends written much later…but none are reliable. And yeah, we can make some assumptions (some do)…but it’s conjecture. Here's everything we know about Jesus' childhood:

Luke 2:41-52 (ESV)
41Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44but supposing him to be in the group they went a day's journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” 50And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.
52And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

This passage isn’t so much overlooked, as it is missed in it’s intent. So many times growing up, I heard this story in Sunday school, along with the aid of felt boards and coloring pages. The focus was usually on the point that someone made a mistake. Must have been Mary and Joseph 'cause Jesus didn’t sin. Well, that’s not what it’s about. 

The PRIMARY reason the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to record was to show that Jesus–from age 12–understood who he actually was: the unique, begotten, Son of God. To claim to be God’s Son is to claim to be God. Throughout Jesus' life on earth he insisted he was the Son of God. The Jews understood that this meant Jesus was equating himself with God: "He was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God" (Jn 5:17-18).  This often made the Jews try to kill him, and that’s ultimately why they did. Luke records this in chapter 22 (NASB): 

66the Council of elders of the people assembled…saying, 67“If You are the Christ, tell us.” But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe; & they all said, “Are You the Son of God, then?” & He said to them, “Yes, I am.” 71Then they said, “What further need do we have of testimony? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.”

That's the main thing Luke wanted us to know. Jesus claimed to be God. Because he was. He knew it from at least age 12. When he told Mary that she should've known he'd be in HIS Father's house, he wasn't using a metaphor, as in "God the Father of us all." He used a first-person singular possessive pronoun. "MY Father's house" (emphasis mine). "God really is my very Father and I am his literal Son."

There is a SECONDARY reason we have this story: 
The Temple is significant to God. This is a big deal and it is something that we don’t “get” today. Jesus was drawn to the temple, because the temple was, is (during Jesus' day), and will be important in God’s plan. When Jesus was left behind in Jerusalem, he went to the most logical place—God’s house—the central place of Jerusalem and the very reason they journeyed there for the Passover in the first place. Even more the temple was the center of earth for activity related to God. If one wanted to worship, seek, learn about or interact with God, this was the place to be. The temple pointed forward to Christ, it was the center of much of his ministry activity, and it's where he will return one day. There's more that I mentioned in the sermon and you can hear it here if you want. We will see more of the temple's role as we continue in Luke.

There is a TERTIARY (a third priority) reason I believe God revealed this story, and it happens to be the point that many feel is the most practical–and that's why I'm posting about it. It's what got the most discussion after the services. Several people asked for me to make it available. Here it is.

The home is key in the formation of a leader. We get a very honest snapshot of the family in which Jesus grew up. There are seven observations I made from Jesus’ family that I want to incorporate in my own family, and I encourage you to do so too. 

1. Devotion. Jesus was a part of a devout family that didn’t miss the passover and other customs of the faith. They made worship & religious observance a priority.
• Is your family marked by spiritual devotion? Is this your priority/identity? 

2. Community. Jesus’ family was well connected in their community of family, friends, and neighbors. All of this was faith-centric. So much so that Mary and Joseph assumed Jesus was in the band of them traveling together back to Nazareth. 
Are you committed to building deep friendships and relationships with people who are positive influences? Where do you go for that? This doesn’t just happen. Relationships must be pursued. This is hard for Americans—we must see the importance of community and take initiative. Small groups, MANday Night, Engage, and many more opportunities exist at Providence.

3. Trust. There was apparently a lot of trust and freedom. Jesus was probably always in the right place and they didn’t become alarmed until a day after leaving Jerusalem. Now, all ended up ok, no one was at fault. If anyone, the parents should have made sure to check on him! He did the right thing by going to the one place they should known he’d be. Observation: they had a trust in him that resulted in freedom. 
• Trust begets freedom which begets more trust… This goes both ways. Kids, show yourselves honest and trustworthy, and parents will give more freedom. Parents, trust but verify and reward with freedom. Your job is to make disciples of your kids, unleashing them into the world to make a difference. That means parenting is in many ways the act of releasing. Catch them doing good. Sometimes let them fail. Point it out in love. Give them the privilege of consequences. Praise like crazy when they show character, honesty, trustworthiness. We brag & nag way too much about performance, not character!

4. Understanding Scripture. He was amazingly well-versed spiritually and engaging even as a pre-teen. No doubt his home was Bible-CENTERED. This is something a kid must have a hunger for themselves. And you can kindle the fire.
• Demonstrate a sincere love for the Bible. 
-Let them see you read it. -Let them hear you quote it -Let them see you live it out.
-When they’re young, read it to them. Discuss its meaning. (Jesus Storybook Bible)
-When they’re older take them to get their OWN Bible. (We spend hundreds on phones/games/clothes, let’s spend dozens on the greatest book..that changes lives.) 
-Encourage time alone with God. But NEVER force-feed or make this negative. 
-Don’t let someone else be the primary source for their Bible training. If they go to private school, let them teach you—you learn with them!
-Always talk about having a biblical worldview. And demonstrate having it. 

5. Learn from Mistakes. His parents didn’t communicate or check on him as they should have. They panicked, worried, and fretted as most parents do. They seem to shift the blame on him a bit. But Mary obviously “got it” later. She told Luke about it. She treasured it!
You’re going to make mistakes. Utilize them! Don’t over-react or think you’ve doomed your kids. God has grace! He used imperfect parents to sharpen his Son, he will use you. Get over your mistakes and laugh about them later!

6. Obedience. After this episode, Jesus was submissive to his earthly parents. And his parents (Mary at least) told Luke about his full and complete obedience, in spite of the fact that he was God's son (read: "God in the flesh"). Imagine parenting THAT kid! 
Like Jesus, submit to your parents! Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. " Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), "that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land" (Eph 6:1–2). Until you’re independent, you’re under God’s command to submit. Unless they ask you to do something that God has forbidden, you only need to obey. You never get too old for this principle. The kind of submission may change, but you are always their child. Honor them! There are exceptions, but in virtually all cases, no one loves you more! This principle of obedience to parents has been ignored by our culture. 
Parents, it is important for you to be strong early. Kids need parents! You’ll have opportunities to be friends later (and much more so if your kids learn obedience).

7. Continued growth. You never finish growing. You never arrive. You can always be a better parent, just as you can be a better person. Your family isn't static. It's either getting healthier or growing toward dysfunction. Your kids aren't stuck in place, they're growing closer to Christ or running from him. 
• Never stop learning! Never quit. Never take a break. Always make things better. Always ask God to help you do your best. He will. Even the bad times will be used for his glory and your good.

The home is totally under attack in so many ways big and small. Fight for it. This is where leaders are made. Once again, there are no accidents with God. He wanted his Son raised in a spiritually-devout, community-connected, trust-based, Bible-centered-and-literate, authority-honoring, continually challenging/improving family, preferably with a mom & a dad. He went to great lengths to make this happen. Mary & Joseph were normal people who had challenges but had to make it work. You are too. You can too. Don’t buy the world’s lies about today’s new definition of family. In Jesus’ home there were important supports for spiritual growth. These are things that you can have in your home. This is how leaders are formed. This is how world-changers are forged.

Hear the whole message here from January 3, 2016 entitled, The Truth of Jesus' Childhood.

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