First of all, let me apologize to my church and all my teachers throughout the years. After I preached this message about which I was so passionate, my wife told me just before I went to bed that I had made a mistake. In my haste, I referred to King Xerxes (Ahasuerus) when I should have referred to King Artaxerxes. My kings were off by a few years. And since I mentioned that only in passing as background information, I wasn't giving his name a great deal of thought. It makes me thankful to God for a wife who is truly like the Bereans -- she searches the Scriptures for herself (instead of just believing every word that comes out of her husband's quickly-going-senile mouth). So kudos to her for correcting me and shame on anyone else who didn't catch it. We need to all be like the Bereans. (I will be posting a corrected MP3 and MP4 file so that my mistake doesn't live on in perpetuity.)
Several years ago, I was in Chicago visiting a ministry that has helped to promote home education. The director of the curriculum department pulled me aside into a conference room and said, "We want to know how have raised a son like Richard. Home schooling families are doing a good job of raising godly daughters. But it seems like they are failing in raising godly sons." At the time, my son Richard was 15. I really couldn't think of much to tell them other than the fact that the grace of God had made up for a lot of my failures as a Dad. As a homeschooling family we have not been the best at maintaining a regular schedule, always having regular devotionals, or anything else that model familes are supposed to be doing. Yet in spite of all that, my children all know Christ. All are serving Him in the local church. My son Richard is now 23, married to a wonderful young lady, and has a beautiful daughter. He finished college in 22 months at the age of 20. He has been in the work force since graduating high school and now has job as a database expert with a respectable salary and benefits. Additionally, he is teaching the Family Integrated Bible Study at our church. If you listen to his series on the Divided Kingdom or his current series on the Warrior Poet, you will realize that this young man has keen insights into God's Word -- far beyond what the average seminary graduate seems to have. Our pastor and I plan to ordain Richard later this year as he is not a novice -- and has successfully given proof of the fact that he is God-called into the ministry. My eldest daughter is a wonderful wife and mother and married a loyal and godly man. My other children give evidence of a heart for serving Christ. As a Dad, my children are such a blessing, encouragement, and challenge to me. But I have wondered for a long time how they could turn out so well without a more disiciplined or rigorous schedule.
That question continued to nag me until this last week. Six years after I was first asked this question, I believe I have the answer to the question.
There is a 3-legged stool on which effective parenting rests. Knock out any one of the legs and you have a disaster.
The most important thing you will ever teach your children is REVERENCE (fear of the Lord). The fear of the Lord is the beginning of both wisdom and knowledge. If they have those two things, they can handle anything that life throws at them. This audio / video sermon is about this first leg of the stool. When I teach my children reverence, I am ministering to them SPIRITUALLY.
The greatest challenge you will face with your children is the challenge to keep their hearts. I preached extensively about this in the series "Battles of the Soul" which is on this web site. God gave me 5 key areas in this study and five questions to ask a child to ascertain whether you are losing their heart. When I am not traveling, I take a different child out on a date each week. While having a good time and just listening to them, I also use variations of these five questions as a "checkup" to determine if the enemy is trying to damage their soul. When I talk to my children about the things important to them and ask the 5 key questions to look for enemies of their souls, I am ministering to their soul (Greek word 'psuche") or PSYCHOLOGICALLY.
The greatest thing you will ever do for your children is to love them. By loving them, I mean hugging them, playing with them, doing things together with them. In other words, there is no substitute for your physical presence. One of the challenges of my life and ministry has been that I travel a good deal. So I've had to "be there" in other ways sometimes. Recently my 19-year-old daughter Faith was in Taiwan doing mission work. There was no way for me to be physically present. But with Skype on my Kindle and on her PC, we were able to have face-to-face chats for about 2/3 of the days she was there. It was important for her to see her family. Toward the end of her journey, she told me she couldn't wait to just be home and cuddle next to me. I felt the same way. If I'm seated on the couch, there is a child next to me. If I'm walking from the van into a restaurant, I have my arms around at least 2 of my children. Dads, the greatest thing you'll ever do for your kids is to love your wife and love your kids. Hug on them, play with them, wrestle with them in the floor (when appropriate), and just be with them. When I spend time with my children, I am ministering to them PHYSICALLY.
As I look back on the last quarter century of parenting, I can tell you that I wasn't always consistent in family devotionals. I've never been great at enforcing a family schedule. We tend to be incredibly FLEXIBLE but not at all organized. I still want to improve in those areas.
But my children have told me that my wife and I have done a good job at teaching them the fear of the Lord. I showed them the consequences of not obeying God. I've shared my own failures and how those caused me to forfeit blessings. We have also given God credit for all the good in our lives. We stressed to them to honor God, honor His church, dress appropriately for worship. We taught them that the Bible is the most important book in the world and that it should rule every aspect of their lives.
Thanks to the suggestion of my wise and beautiful wife Judy, I have made an INTENTIONAL effort to spend one-on-one time with each of my children. These weekly "dates" with my kids have become the highlight of my life. I have plenty of opportunity to be a good pastor or a worthwhile employee. But I have only one shot at being a good father to each of my children. Keeping their hearts is challenging in today's world. And when daughters get closer to the age of getting married, it is even more difficult. But for the moment I have their hearts. And by God's grace I will keep them.
I go shopping with my daughters. (I almost wish purgatory were real because I'm sure I'd get time off from purgatory every time I went shopping at a non-hardware store just for the purpoes of fellowship. But I still have a payback in what it means to them. I'm not big on shopping, but I love spending time with my daughters.) My youngest son and I work out together with a personal trainer. It is just the 2 of us with our trainer in a small gym. That protects his eyes from the defraudingly dressed women in a regular gym. And it gives him "man-time" with his Dad.
I don't get to spend as much time with my married children. They have lives of their own. But I still cherish seeing my eldest daughter every Tuesday when she comes to our house. And I enjoy going to the gun range or racquetball court with my eldest son. And every Sunday I have the unique privilege of seeing all 10 of my children (the 8 the Lord initially gave us + 2 He has added to our family through marriage) and my 3 grandchildren in church together. It fills my soul with joy on a weekly basis.
Rick Wertz, founder of Faithful Fathering, spoke at our church on the same day as I preached this sermon. Rick's presentation is available as MP3 on (www.sermonaudio.com/rrohlin), passed out a quiz. The quiz gave you an opportunity to rate your fathering heritage. It asked 5 simple questions where you rated your father on a scale of 1 to 5. The questions addressed three characteristics of what Rick says constitutes an effective father:
He is a spiritual leader to his family (cultivates reverence for God)
He is emotionally connected to his family (keeps their hearts)
He is physically present with his family (spends time with them)
Isn't in amazing how he addresses the same three areas as my 3-legged stool?
Let me be the first to acknowledge that the greatest secret of parenting success is that I married the woman God chose for my wife. Without her, my entire life would be a tragic waste. She has enabled me to serve God and others. And she is the world's most amazing Mom. That is no doubt why other mothers call her on a near-daily basis for counsel and advice. Judy is known for her simple advice like this classic on how to deal with hurt feelings: "Love, forgive, go on."
I think it is possible to be a successful parent without fully understanding how to parent. The Holy Spirit of God can lead you to do the right things without being able to articulate it. However, I believe the most effective parents are the ones who are INTENTIONAL in their parenting. When they discover the keys to parenting success they make an intentional effort to build those things into their lives. May God bless you to be an intentional parent.
Begin by teaching your children the fear of God. Then spend time with them. Ask them questions about what is going on in their hearts. Determine if they are facing any of the 5 battles for the soul. Then hug them. Love on them. Dispel anger from your home and your character. Love your spouse and let your kids see that. Quit being snappy and irritable. Demonstrate the patient love of Christ first to your own family.
I can't guarantee that will bring success. Children still have their own will and can still make bad decisions. But I can guarantee that if you don't put the 3-legged stool into action, you are much more likely to fail. God wants your children to not only bless others. He wants you to enjoy your children. He wants you to be blessed by them.
To my children, thank you for being my blessings. You are God's gift to me and your mother. Honor Him all the days of your life. Thank you for letting me be your Dad.