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8th May 2016
Being a parent is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I started out thinking I was going to be the best parent ever, but the older my four boys get, the more I realise my need of God’s grace. My children reveal my character, my flaws and my sin.
Parenting can be a huge area for comparison and condemnation. Most of us are on a journey, and we need real wisdom when we make changes to our parenting.
This subject is hugely important because there are 18.6 million families in the UK today (12.5 million of them were married couples). 3.7 million children were living below the poverty line (nine in every 30). It is estimated that there were 36,000 sexual offences against children in the UK last year and 50,000 children have been identified as needing protection from abuse.
In Ephesians 6:1-4, it starts with the words: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” It’s very simple, but very challenging.
The first side of this coin is that this instruction is clearly addressed to children – the apostle Paul is saying that children are to take off disobedience and put on obedience, in the same way as God’s people are called to take off and put on various other kinds of behaviour. This is not a moral code. It’s for those who follow Jesus, in order that they might reflect Him.
Obedience can sound like a cold word, but it’s very much part of the New Covenant. All Christians – adults and children – are called to obey Christ. Jesus is the ultimate example of obedience. He clearly linked love and obedience, saying: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” (John 15:10)
Obedience is not a dirty word, but one that needs to be rediscovered, because there is freedom in obedience.
But if that is one side of the coin, the other is that parents require obedience from their children. Children aren’t supposed to just obey their teachers, the police, the flight attendant, etc. The Bible says that children are to obey their parents, which means that parents are to require obedience from their children.
Parents play the critical role in discipling their children. If your children do not learn how to obey you, they will not learn to obey anyone else’s instructions. It says in Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
In Roman and Jewish culture, fathers had the ultimate responsibility for raising their children.
Fathers, what a high calling we have. We have this unique role to bring understanding and shape the behaviour of our children.
We have this amazing opportunity to reflect the Father’s love to our children in how we act, talk and behave. Your example is more powerful than your words. You are always training them.
As parents this is our most important assignment. We have various seasons of life with our children but they are limited in time. Invest your time, energy and emotion into your children.
Here are 10 keys that I’ve picked up:
1. You should lovingly require obedience – this develops as they grow, but starts from the youngest years.
2. Parents you are not helpless at your toddlers tantrums and disobedience. You are bigger than them and assigned by God to be their chief discipler!
3. Requiring obedience takes time and effort, which parents do not always feel they have! But it is so important to invest – it will produce a good harvest.
4. Require obedience in small un-important things in private, so that they will respond positively to big things in public.
5. Although it's right to require obedience, we mustn't provoke our children to anger by being harsh, demanding, or overly picky.
6. Parent from neither passivity or anger: there is a middle road. Don’t parent as a reaction to how your parents were to you. Don’t explode with anger; don’t sit back and do nothing; parent in partnership and walk the middle road.
7. Remember 1 Corinthians 13 – that’s where we parent from. Be patient and kind, but require obedience.
8. Remember that to a small child you represent God as a parent. Your parenting will affect how they view God as Father. It's an honoured position.
9. Children whose parents require obedience are happier. Who wants to be around a demanding, moody, selfish person?
10. Goal of parenting is to equip them to live adult life well and point them towards Jesus.
As children, the primary way we honour our parents is with obedience, but what does it look like to honour our parents when we are adults?
Firstly, we honour them with our words. Our words are powerful. I decided to thank God for my dad, who died five years ago, remembering all of his strengths and how God had made him. He wasn’t perfect, but there was a lot to thank God for about him.
Secondly, we respect them, which can involve time and listening. Thirdly, we care for them. As a follower of Jesus, we should look to provide all the help that is possible. There is a blessing that we receive as we honour those who are our parents.
God is aware of broken families and He is aware of broken parents. In actual fact, every parent is broken, and in Matthew 7 when Jesus described parents he called them evil by comparison to God.
The first step in honouring is forgiveness. It is impossible to honour if you haven’t yet forgiven. God can give you grace to forgive.
Posted by Paul Mann
20th September 2015
What does a disciple of Jesus look like? There are five particular characteristics of Jesus that we would like to give ourselves – individually and as a church collectively – to growing in.
The first is that Jesus’ disciples are courageous. We read in 1 John 4:18 that perfect love casts out fear. When we know we are loved and secure, we become more courageous. We are not called to play it safe. Courage comes as a by-product of being filled with the Holy Spirit.
We are called to be a people who step out in courage despite fear – when we feel fear, it’s an opportunity to be courageous because we know God won’t reject us but is we are secure in Him. When we know we’re loved, it gives us the freedom to take a risk and go for it.
Disciples are also joyful. We’re a people who enjoy God, enjoy His salvation and enjoy the Church as well. We learn to rejoice in all circumstances – we can be happy in God even when everything is going wrong. It’s not about pretending everything is fine, but it’s accessing the things that God has given us.
We rejoice in the hope and glory of God. We read in Galatians 5:22 that there is a connection between being filled with the Spirit and being joyful. Even when going through severe tests of affliction and extreme poverty, an abundance of joy and generosity can flow out. That’s how the gospel works: it’s supernatural – two bad things go in but two great things come out (see 2 Cor. 8:1-2).
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, but rejoicing is an act of the will. The most joyful people are those who spend the most time rejoicing. Rejoicing can be seen and heard. How good are you at rejoicing? How much time do you spend doing it? If you think you’re just not wired that way, read the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians – it’s a master-class in joy.
Thirdly, disciples are authentic. We are called to shine with integrity and purity. Our inside private world matches our outside public word. We don’t try to live to please people, but to please our Father in heaven. There’s something genuine about Jesus’ disciples – the world needs a Church that doesn’t put on a façade but shines with truth and integrity.
We need to have genuine, open and transparent relationships with others, where we open up our hearts to a few people who are part of this church family, and share with them our highs and our lows. Prioritise connecting with people in a godly and real way.
Disciples grow in honour – this is about where we place value and giving value to what God gives value to. We honour men and women on the basis of the fact that they have been created in the likeness of God. Honour is only truly seen in disagreement. It’s easy to honour people we like and people who agree with us.
Finally, as disciples who follow Jesus, we overflow with generosity – we are too be generous with time, emotion, money, energy, and all that we are and have. We are called to live generous lives.
Our communities are looking for a Church that is different from them. These characteristics aren’t for Sundays or for mid-week meetings. Courage, joy, authenticity, honour and generosity should pour out from us, because we have received so much from God and He is with us.
Posted by Paul Mann
14th September 2014
I've been on a journey over the last few months, since God spoke to me back in April from one verse in the Bible: "'Honour 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' (Ephesians 6:2-3).
We live in a society that has lost its ability to honour. We pull apart politicians, parents, police... everyone. The media builds up, only to pull down. This culture of dishonour has seeped into our lives; it's just how we operate. We live in a world that seeks to obtain honour, but doesn't look to confer it.
Honour is about finding something of value. It's about recognising the worth of something. Honour is the correct recognition of glory in another. It means raising someone else up. Honour is to celebrate what God is doing in someone's life; it's to celebrate the God-work that we see in someone else.
The Bible says we should "outdo one another in showing honour" (Romans 12:10). In fact, honour is mentioned nearly 200 times in the Bible. The first person we are called to honour is God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is so worthy of honour and praise, because of who He is, His qualities, He is Creator, Sustainer and Saviour – He is eternally worthy of glory.
When we don't give God the honour due to Him, we become futile in our thinking (Romans 1:21). When we moan and complain and don't give thanks to God, we don't honour Him. But when we rejoice with thanksgiving and pray without ceasing, we honour God (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
We're also created to honour people – ourselves and others. We can tear ourselves apart, as well as other people. We can speak so many lies over ourselves that we end up with a very low view of ourselves. Every human being has honour. We are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). We have been crowned with glory and honour (Psalm 8:5). Each human life is a masterpiece of unique and irreplaceable value. Our value comes from our God-likeness, not from our abilities. Our dignity and significance come from the fact that we are created in the image of God, not from what we do. This is true of every single human being.
We are flawed, and we may even be a little damaged, but each person is a masterpiece to be treasured and restored, not thrown away. Whether you feel this is true or not, it is! It is what the Bible says. Even if the whole of society makes judgment calls in a different way, we look to the firm foundation of the Bible. God has made you valuable. That is the truth. And it's true for everyone you encounter.
Value is defined by what someone is willing to pay for something: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). God sent Jesus to die to save us, which leaves us with no doubt about our value to Him.
The Bible is full of people we should honour: parents (Eph. 6:2), widows (1 Tim. 5:3), women (1 Peter 3:7), masters (employers, 1 Timothy 6:1), the marriage bed (Heb. 3:4), elders (1 Tim. 5:17), the poor (James 2), the Government and those in authority (1 Peter 2:17). We are called to honour everyone, but particularly those who are most difficult to honour.
So how do we honour? It has a lot to do with what we see – what we choose to focus on. It says in 2 Corinthians 4:7 that "we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us". So we need to ask ourselves whether we are focusing on the treasure within or on the damaged clay. When we begin to honour people as we should, we will see the environments around us begin to change – our families, our workplaces, etc.
Don't spend so long looking at the clay pot that you miss "the surpassing power" of what God is doing in your life and in the lives of others.
To listen to the sermon on 'Honour', click here.
Image: 'Honey jar' by Nic McPhee
Posted by Paul Mann