Talk Given at the First Presbyterian Church of Rio Verde

We will covered  2 subjects today. First, we will take a look at some families of the Bible. Second, I will provide some basic and practical principles for mothers, fathers, grandparents and anyone else in charge of caring for children.

Relationships in the family are not always perfect. It is our duty as parents to do everything possible to relate well. It is our duty to teach our children the right way.

Prov. 22: 6 says, Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

Prov. 29:15 states,  A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother.

In a family, you need to set boundaries. Otherwise, you have a real anarchy. It’s like a country. We have to obey the laws of the country. Otherwise, it becomes a real mess.

Sometimes the Proverbs 29 passage is translated as, “spare the rod and spoil the child.” I recently enjoyed hearing an interpretation that says that the rod was the two wooden rods on which the Torah parchment is rolled up. Rod, then, could mean the correction of the word of God. Use the rod, means teach the word of God. The reader uses the rods to open the Torah. Open the Bible and read to your child. Teach the word of God to your child. You are the model for your child. You must be an example on a daily basis. In everything you do you should be an example for your child.

Now let’s look at a few families of the Bible and see their behaviors in reference to the family.

The Bible is without doubt a very realistic book. It does not hide anything, It says everything. So some examples serve as positive examples and others negative.

Adam and Eve
Let ‘s start with the first family. Everything was going well until disobedience entered. Disobedience creates distance and breaks trust. Where there is disobedience, one can expect a bad result. It is in this family that the first crime happens. Cain kills Abel.

Isaac and Rebekah
Let’s move on to Isaac and Rebecca. Rebecca’s story is beautiful. She came from far away to marry a cousin she did not know. I identify with her in that respect. Only after 20 years of marriage did she have children – twins: Esau and Jacob. Esau, in his teens, began to hunt. He put his bow and arrow on his shoulders and went into the bush. He killed an animal and brought it home.

Esau was the “Daddy’s little boy.” Jacob was the “mama’s boy.” Red light: We, the parents, can not have favoritism. Jacob stayed at home so, of course, he helped the mother or the maids in the household chores. He even learned to cook. One day, Jacob had just made lentil soup and Esau came in from hunting. Esau was exhausted and hungry, he said. “My brother, I’m starving, give me some of your soup.”

I understand this. I grew up in a large family and sometimes a brother or sister had something to eat, but only for him or her. Of course, all the others wanted a little. I remember a particular scene. My brother Nenenzinho was very mischievous. If you read Ask. Seek. Knock. A Life Shaped by Prayer, you will recognize the names of all my brothers. One day Nenenzinho was in the yard where he picked an ear of corn and baked it in the stove’s embers. All of us wanted a piece of roasted corn. So he would not have to share it with his brothers, he put it under his arm. (He was shirtless) He even spat on it so he could eat his ear of corn in peace.

Esau wanted soup that Jacob had cooked. Jacob saw an opportunity. He was interested in Esau’s birthright. He bought it from Esau for a bowl of lentil soup. Esau was not being serious when he exchanged his birthright blessing for a bowl of soup.

Much later, when Isaac was very old and wanted to bless Esau and pass him everything he had to his name, Rebecca cunningly and maliciously planned to deceive Isaac and make sure that the blessing was given to Jacob instead of Esau. This sealed the deal that Jacob had done years before. Another red alert: lies, deceit, betrayal, dishonesty can not take place in the family.

Jacob and Rachel
Later, Jacob, in his own family, also showed preference for his son Joseph. His brothers were envious and angry with Joseph.

Eunice and her Greek husband
Now let’s go to the New Testament. Eunice and her Greek husband had a son named Timothy. I looked at the Scriptural references where Timothy is mentioned. What a model son! He was converted in Paul’s first mission trip. In the second trip Paul took him as a helper. Paul had a lot of special affection and care for him and describes him as his beloved son several times. Reading all the verses in which Timothy is mentioned, we find that Timothy was a faithful, sincere, affectionate, energetic, bold, kind, and responsible son. Timothy is a precious example to us all.

Let’s read,
To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. II Timothy 1:2-5

Where did Timothy get all of these qualities and the ability to be a pastor? He was raised by parents who provided him with a religious education based on Jewish, and later Christian, principles. He learned to be a faithful man because of the influence of his family.

Mary and Joseph
There is a scene in Luke 2:41-51 where we see that Jesus caused some trouble for his parents.

Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.

Here’s the best example of family. Mary and Joseph had taught their son, God incarnate, obedience to them.

I taught in two different states in Brazil for many years and frequently told my students that their behavior was a reflection of their family. Children reflect how they were raised in their own behaviors.

Now let’s move on to a practical part. I lived with the Gordon family in Brazil from when I was 16 until I was 25 years old. I learned a lot from them. Here are some principles that Mrs. Gordon used with her children. She loved to pass on these principles so that in the future the children she raised could use them with their children. I did what I could to apply these principles to my two sons.

Here is a list of Mrs. Gordon’s principles with my comments:

  1. Be clear and consistent in your rules and decisions. Once you resolve to implement a rule, do not make exceptions. Do not say, “Today I will let you.” Or, “Ok, but this is the last time.”
  2. Present a united front with your spouse. If there are differences of opinion, discuss the subject away from the child and make an agreement. The child will quickly learn to go the father to the mother and vice versa to get permission for something the other banned. My mother is an example. After answering a question, she did not answer a second time.
  3. Give few orders but insist that each order be obeyed. Inattention to this is one cause of failure in discipline. The child learns: “Oh, my Dad, or Mom give me a consequence, but then they forget and don’t enforce it.” I have also seen parents who have too many rules. They are constantly saying no to one thing or another. Soon the child gets used to them and the parents’ remarks make no difference.
  4. Make very clear and simple instructions. When the child is very small, he will understand the words to the letter. He will not understand complicated language.
  5. Never talk badly about your child. Do not tell her that she is beautiful, intelligent and then criticize or call her names like, you are fat, you are stupid, etc. The child becomes what we believe. Encourage them by saying often how much you love them. This is enough.
  6. Do not let the child give you orders. Never give in to the child’s will if she starts crying. Let the child understand well that crying never gets you what you want. Start early. For example, I would stand at the door and not let my mother-in-law, her husband or the maid come in and get Donald when he was a few days old and cried at bedtime. The child understands very early how to bend the adult to his will. If you do not train the child, she trains you and you will stay well trained.
  7. Distinguish between accidents and disobedience before scolding or punishing a child. For example, breaking a dish while the child is helping wash dishes should not be punished. Now, on the other hand, if the child knows he should not kick a ball in the house and does it anyway. Then, if something gets broken, there should be some discipline.
  8. Do not show irritation or anger when giving discipline.
  9. Never lie to the child. Let your speech be yes or no and mean it.
  10. Get the facts before you scold or punish. Do your best to avoid injustice. When we are unfairly treated we become very angry. The same happens with the child.
  11. Allow the child to calm down before expecting him to give explanations.
  12. Teach children to put away their belongings. There should be a place for everything and everything in its place.
  13. Do not give excessive toys to your children. It is a common but destructive practice. The child will soon despise their toys and always want new ones. Perhaps they will not play with them and prefer to play with Mom’s plastic containers or the lids of pots. I was thinking about how to avoid it if every year we celebrate birthdays and friends and relatives give toys? I came up with a suggestion. Open a savings account for each child and then call and tell relatives and friends that the money that they will spend on toys could, instead, be deposited in the child’s account. This money could be used when the child is in college. Another suggestion I practiced was to hide some toys and after a month or two, swap the hidden ones for others that were in use. My youngest son, David, learned where the toys were, and when he wanted one that was hidden, he took one in use and brought it and asked me to exchange for a toy he wanted. I thought it was fair and always switched as he requested.
  14. Encourage the child to form the habit of helping at home. Starting at 5 years of age give a small task such as empty the trash. Be sure to follow through and make sure that this task is completed so that it will form a habit. As the child grows, the task grows too.
  15. Never show favoritism towards one child over another.
  16. Do not show concern if the child does not eat what is offered at meal times. She soon realizes that you are concerned and discovers that your wanting her to eat can become a game. The more you insist, the more she refuses.
  17. Be careful about making promises and be sure to keep the promises you make.

These rules are difficult to follow. Many parents give up. I think keeping strong in our desire to be good parents would be impossible if it were not for God’s grace. Fortunately we have a divine parent who loves and wants to help us raise our children in obedience and peace. Let us ask God’s help before we start the day and often during the day.

It has been my pleasure to speak with you this morning. I hope that my words and the examples I have provided will give the parents here some inspiration. Parenting is a hard job and we can use all of the help we can get.

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