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Sermon illustrations

Parenting

The Bible and Christian Parenting Books

Have you ever noticed the severe discrepancy behind the very few verses in the Bible that discuss the “how-to” of parenting and the hundreds of Christian books that confidently proclaim “God’s plan for parenting” (or something similar)?

… The silence of the Bible on the plan for parenting, along with the repetition of the Bible on spiritual growth, could lead us to conclude that God believes the parent’s own spiritual growth is the most essential part of the “how-to” of parenting. In other words, God may be telling us, Grow in me every day—in faith, patience, virtue, love, and worship, and let that faith and growth perfume your house and anoint your children.

Gary L. Thomas, Sacred Parenting: How Raising Children Shapes our Souls, pp. 21-22, Zondervan.

Enduring Our Sinful Behavior

In her book, Feminine Appeal, Carolyn Mahaney pontificates on the relationship between God’s providence and the guilt we often experience as parents who often fall short in our parenting:

We can deduce that if God in his divine wisdom chose to give sinful children to sinful parents, then our children are not so weak that they are unable to endure our sinful behavior . . . Our children are not that fragile. If they were, God would have waited until we were further along in the maturing process before he gave them to us. But he didn’t.

Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003).

Genes on a Razor’s Edge

Most of us have genes that make us as hardy as dandelions: able to take root and survive almost anywhere. A few of us, however, are more like the orchid: fragile and fickle, but capable of blooming spectacularly if given greenhouse care. So holds a provocative new theory of genetics, which asserts that the very genes that give us the most trouble as a species, causing behaviors that are self-destructive and antisocial, also underlie humankind’s phenomenal adaptability and evolutionary success.

With a bad environment and poor parenting, orchid children can end up depressed, drug-addicted, or in jail—but with the right environment and good parenting, they can grow up to be society’s most creative, successful, and happy people.

“The Science of Success”, by David Dobbs. “This article was originally published in The Atlantic and is republished here with The Atlantic’s permission.”

God’s Gifts to Immature People

Children are God’s gifts to immature people to help them grow up. They are also God’s gifts to help parents go deep with God. . . . Parenting is not for anything. It is not a contract with God in which one gives countless hours in order to turn out good children that rise up and call us blessed. It is a covenant experience of belonging in which God meets us and forms us in the nitty-gritty of family life. The big question in the end is not how the kids turn out, but how the parents turn out!

R. Paul Stevens, Marriage Spirituality: Ten Disciplines for Couples Who Love God, InterVarsity.

Helicopter Parents and College Admissions

Marilee Jones is dean of admissions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of the most prestigious schools in the nation. She received a letter from the father of a son who didn’t make the cut: You rejected my son. He’s devastated. See you in court.

Gary L. Thomas, Sacred Parenting: How Raising Children Shapes our Souls, p.29, Zondervan.

The Importance of Family Dinners

We become who we are in the environment of home. We are shaped by our families. Home is formative. Sociologist Cody C. Delistraty explored the most recent scientific literature for Atlantic Monthly and discovered that the single most important element in raising kids who are drug-free, healthy, intelligent, kind human beings is frequent family dinners.

The most important predictor of success for elementary-aged children is frequent family dinners. The primary factor in shaping vocabulary for younger children is frequent family dinners. The key variable most associated with a lower incidence of depressive and suicidal thoughts among eleven- to eighteen-year-olds is frequent family dinners.

Terry A. Smith, The Hospitable Leader: Create Environments Where People and Dreams Flourish. Baker Publishing Group.

Kyle is Struggling…

At three years old, Kyle had never put on his own shoes. He always had help—shoes can be tricky. At four, he had never put together a puzzle all by himself—he’d get frustrated, so Mom or Dad or the babysitter gave him a hand every time. At five, he’d never poured himself a glass of anything or a bowl of cereal…

He still rode with training wheels even when nearing the end of his sixth year. He wasn’t scared, but his parents were afraid he’d fall and get hurt. At seven, Kyle had homework most nights, but had never completed so much as a worksheet without the careful eye of his parents watching every stroke of his number two pencil, just to make sure he was getting it right.

At eight, he was still unable to make his bed, and by nine he was entirely unwilling, so his parents gave up trying to get him to…Twelve-year-old Kyle was still deemed incapable of taking out the trash…At thirteen, his parents cleaned his room for him because they grew tired of reminding him over and over…And at fifteen, his mom got him a paper route, which she did for him most school days so he could sleep longer…

By the time Kyle was an adult, he’d never done a load of laundry, never learned about home finance, never used a map and never scrambled himself an egg. Kyle was, in fact, still a child.

Amy McCready, The Me, Me, Me Epidemic, Penguin Publishing Group.

“Mom, You Shouldn’t Have Children If It is too Hard for You”

In her compelling memoir Still Life, author Gillian Marchenko recounts her struggles with depression. In this excerpt, Marchenko shares a funny but poignant moment as she deals with the challenges of battling depression and raising children:

One morning when Elaina was around three years old, she came into our bedroom and crawled up in between Sergei and me in bed.

“Mom, Zoya’s crying,” she said, placing her little hand on my cheek. Zoya had been fussing and making noise for the last fifteen minutes or so in her crib. “Honey, I know. I’ll get her in a minute.” Elaina quieted down next to me, and I sighed into the pillow. What mother doesn’t relish a few more stolen moments of sleep?

“Mom, you shouldn’t have had children if it is too hard for you.” Sergei and I cried with laughter. But years later I still ask myself, Is motherhood too hard for me? Is that what made me fall apart? Although I realized a dark cloud has always hovered over me since the clinical trial, I also nurse a suspicion that I’m a bad mom. My inability to mother my kids is one of the culprits of my depression.

Taken from Still Life by Gillian Marchenko Copyright (c) 2016, p.58 by Gillian Marchenko. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

More Alike than Different

Here’s the humbling conclusion that God, in His grace led me to: I am more like my children than unlike them—and so are you. The reality is that there are few struggles in the lives of my children that aren’t in my life as well (materialism, relationships, wanting my own way, attraction to the world, subtle idolatries, etc.). This admission transformed my parenting.

Instead of approaching them with self-righteous outrage, I moved toward them as a sinner in need of grace needing to confront a sinner in need of grace. God’s plan is to make his invisible grace visible to children by sending parents of grace to give grace to children who need grace. And parents who know they need grace tend to want to give grace to children who are just like them.

From Paul David Tripp, Parenting, Crossway.

None of Your D**N Business

My wife and I don’t cuss—we were taught not to—-and we taught our children not to. Unfortunately, we taught them by never using cuss words. This more went without being said—literally. While we were missionaries in a remote place in Indonesia, the only people our children knew who spoke English were my wife and me…

When our elder son was five years old, an older, very proper, hair-in-a-bun missionary came to visit us. We introduced our son, who very politely said, “Very nice to meet you. After she commented on how handsome he was, Josh asked his mom, “May I go outside to play?” The missionary asked him, “Where are you going?” Our little angel smiled up at her and said, “None of your d**n business.

Our chins hit the floor. We had never heard him say that word before (or since). The completely shocked look on all our faces told a five-year-old that this was unacceptable. His mom sputtered, “Josh!” before we could say another word, he started crying and ran from the room…When he left, we were in an awkward spot with a missionary leader we had just met. We didn’t even have the luxury of shaking our heads and saying, “The things they learn from their friends!” All of his friends spoke Manadonese.

…We spent weeks wondering how our son could have learned a word he didn’t hear us use. Later we were rewatching a movie— there was no English television but we did have videos—and we heard the line, “Where are you going?” to which the hero replied with the now infamous line. Our son had used it exactly like he heard it. Our son had picked up a turn of phrase by watching a movie, which is one way culture is transmitted. My wife and I had passed along a cultural value by our response that such language is inappropriate, which is another way culture is transmitted.

Taken from Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien Copyright (c) 2012 by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Papa God

In his book, Sacred Parenting, Gary Thomas shares a story from his own parenting life. A story that illustrates this truth: when our children are young, they look at their earthly fathers and assume they are also their Heavenly Father. This “higher power” concept ought to be taken seriously by all parents as they attempt to raise children as followers of Christ:

One day, when our daughter Kelsey was two years old, she started pointing at every family member’s chair around the table. I was gone at the time. “Mommy,” she began, “Allison, Graham, Kelsey—” She then pointed to my empty seat and said, “God.”

“That’s not God, Kelsey,” Lisa, my wife, said. “That’s Papa.” “Jesus,” Kelsey replied with a smile. Three days later, all of us were together in a hotel room when Kelsey did it again. She started pointing to everybody and announcing his or her name. When she got to me, she said, “Jesus.”

“I’m not Jesus, Kelsey,” I said. “I’m Papa.” “You’re Papa God,” Kelsey replied. I was flabbergasted and earnestly tried to talk it out with her, but you parents know what a two-year-old is like. By the time I had made my point, Kelsey had found something vastly more interesting than theology—her little toe, and how it could be made to wiggle in all directions.

Gary L. Thomas, Sacred Parenting, Zondervan, (p. 8). 

Parenting is Like an Airline Emergency

Dr. Kevin Leman once told me that parenting is like an airline emergency. Before takeoff, every plane passenger is instructed that if the oxygen masks come down, parents should put on their own masks first before attending to their kids.

Why? Because in an emergency, kids need their parents to be able to think clearly and act effectively. If we don’t take in oxygen, our thinking will grow fuzzy, and then our kids—dependent on us to get it right—will ultimately suffer.

What’s true in the air physically is equally true on the ground spiritually. If we neglect our own “spiritual oxygen”—our walk with God—our motivations will become polluted. Our ability to discern, empathize, encourage, and confront will waste away. We must see parenting as a process through which God purifies us—the parents—even as he shapes our children.

Gary L. Thomas, Sacred Parenting p.22, Zondervan.

Parenting is Part of My Work

There have been times in my life when I’ve wondered if I have failed to accomplish what God intended for me in my professional life. I have worried that I have not lived up to my potential. I judge myself for not having written more books, preached better sermons, or led more influential institutions.

But, upon reflection, I realize that one of the reasons I have been less productive in my “work” is that I have invested much of my life in the last twenty years in my “fruit,” that is, in my children. I have spent countless hours with them, taking them to the park, reading “chapter books,” advising them with school projects, or just hanging out.

Parenting is not incidental to my primary purpose in life. It isn’t in conflict with my work; rather, it is part of my work. Family life is essential to the measure of my fruitfulness in life.

Taken from Mark D. Roberts, Life for Leaders, a Devotional Resource of the DePree Leadership Center at Fuller Theological Seminary

Sally the Busy Modern Mother

Author and blogger Shontell Brewer offers this fictional, but very realistic bio of a modern Christian mother trying to balance all the activities of a mother today:

Sally is a stay-at-home mom of three kids, ages three, six, and eight. She attends church with her family thirty minutes from her home because the children’s church has “fun” activities for the kids and there is a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group that meets once a week. She is on two church committees except when retreat rolls around—then she is on four. Her daughter is in dance twice a week because she loves it and has a dancer’s build. Her son is on a traveling baseball team because his arm is basically a Louisville Slugger attached at his shoulder. Her three-year-old participates in a neighborhood playgroup and Gymboree so he can socialize.

The family spends one Saturday a month stocking the shelves at a local food pantry, and they host a small group in their home the other three Saturdays. So she can still be involved with her school-age children, Sally volunteers in their classrooms and serves on the PTA board.

Sally is also exhausted. She wakes up at five so she can clean or have some peaceful time in the shower. She leaves the house at seven thirty and does not typically return until it is time to make dinner. She admits she thought they stayed … well … at home. At the end of her day, she is much too tired for her husband, but she is hopeful they will get a vacation soon.

Taken from Missionary Mom: Embracing the Mission Field Right Under Your Roof, © Copyright 2018 by Shontell Brewer. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

What are you going to be when you grow up?

A photographer was snapping pictures of first graders at an elementary school, making small talk to put his subjects at ease.

“What are you going to be when you grow up?” he asked one little girl.

“Tired,” she said.

J. R. Love, Rushton, Louisiana

What is Most Important and Yet Most Absent from Parents

Many, many fathers and mothers carry a particular problem into their parenting, and they don’t know it. It affects the way they think about the task that has been assigned to them. It affects the way they view their children. It shapes their responses in all the hard moments that parents face. It determines what they will say to themselves as they begin their day or as they crumble into bed, exhausted once again. It leaves many parents feeling unprepared, unable, and discouraged. It causes many parents to wish that they could just quit, when they know in fact they can’t.

It tempts people to look over the fence and wish that they could have what other parents seem to have, but what seems to have passed them by. It makes parents give in to the temptation to say and do things that they know in their heart of hearts they shouldn’t say and shouldn’t do. What is this silent but deadly problem that afflicts so many parents? Way too many Christian parents have a great big, trouble-causing gap in their understanding, celebration of, and reliance upon God’s grace.

Let me say it now because it will be a theme that will be, in some way, in every chapter of this book. There is nothing more important to consistent, faithful, patient, loving, and effective parenting than to understand what God has given you in the grace of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

From Paul David Tripp, Parenting, Crossway.

See also Illustrations on AdoptionChildrenMarriage 

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