Nurture Your Children

Nurture Your Children

(Audio transcription below)

Today we’re going to talk about our connection to our children. If you don’t have any children, or even if you do, I think there are a lot of parallels here just as leaders leading other people. If there’s anybody in your down line at your business, there’s a lot of overlay here, how you as a boss work with employees or how you as a dad are with your sons and daughters.

I’m going to use two videos on opposite ends of the spectrum. A bad example of a Dad and a good example of a Dad. One is from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and one is of an Olympic runner. They’re about the power and presence of a Dad and the influence he has over his son. The first one is about the importance that what you say as a dad is what you do. If that’s all you can do as a dad, that’s a pretty big lift. Just that you’re consistent with what you say. You’re going to do what you promise. It affects your child if you’re not consistent in what you do.

To be wanted, that never goes away. When I was four, my dad died in an airplane accident and I would say for the rest of my life I was looking for that replacement. I didn’t always know that’s what I was doing, but there was some hunger for something and whether you’re four or 20 or 60, that doesn’t go away. There’s a super deep need that’s embedded in us, it’s not something you can manufacture. One question that I want you to ask at the beginning of your group is in a word or a phrase, to describe your relationship with your dad. Then just briefly, tell why you chose that word or phrase.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9

In Ephesians 5 and 6, Paul lays out a series about how we’re supposed to live relationally in the Christian life. He talks about husbands and wives, he talks about parents and children, he talks about bosses and co-workers.

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.’ Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4

There’s one verse about fathers, no verse about moms. There are other verses about moms, but it’s just interesting that dad’s set the temperature in their house.

Several years ago, I was out camping on Masonboro Island with my son, he was maybe 3 or 4 years old. We had a tent and made a fire. I had the flashlight and when it got dark we headed towards the beach to go check on the boat. I had the flashlight and as we were walking back and he said, “Hey, can I be the Dad now?” It was him asking, can I lead the way, can I have the flashlight? I told him, “Yes, you be the Dad now.” He’s walking and I picked up a sea oat. While he’s walking ahead of me, I took the sea oat and touched it to his foot. He about jumped out of his pants and he gave me the flashlight back, saying “You be the dad now.”

You’ve got to be the dad. It’s not my son’s role, it’s not somebody else’s role. It’s your role. You’re only going to have one dad. You can have a step-dad. You can have a coach. You can have a mentor. You can have all kinds of other things, but there’s only one dad. So you be the dad now.

Parents, if you think about this verse in Ephesians 6 written today in our culture it would say, “Parents obey your children for this is right. Children, do not provoke your parents to become angry.” Why do I say this? Our culture has turned into a very child-centric culture. When a child comes into a family, they become the center of the family. As nice as that seems, it’s a terrible plan because it starts teaching your child something that’s going to have to be worked back out. They’re not the center of the world. If you make them the center of the world and then you introduce them to Jesus and say, “You’ve got to decrease so he can increase.” How will they respond? “No, I don’t feel like decreasing. I’ve spent my whole 18 years being in the center.” If we bring our children up in the right environment where adults are in charge, then they’ve got to adapt to where we are. Then there’s some hope that they will realize they have to relinquish control. Like I did at 4 years old to my dad, I’m going to have to relinquish control one day to my heavenly father.

God created earthly fathers and put children in the crucible of a home where the most important principles of the Christian life are learned.

The Image the Father Provides

In Ephesians 5:1, Paul says “be imitators of God.” How does a son or daughter begin to learn about God. There are lots of ways. You can learn about God from creation. You can learn about God from his word. But he’s given a visual representation in a Dad, everyday. That’s the role you have, whether you like it or not. Whether you’re good at it or not. Whether you’re even trying to do it or not. Every child puts that on their dad. He can fix everything, he’s in control, he’s larger than life. That’s what every child does to a dad. And so we get a chance to have a very profound affect on our children. It’s interesting that in the life of a child, who should exercise the most authority? A parent should. In the life of a child, who should exercise the most amount of love toward a child? A parent should. When you have those two things working together, you have a picture of the Lord. He’s got maximum authority but he has maximum unconditional love. Just you operating in a certain way helps them see who God really is in their life. So often we think of authority and love as concepts that don’t fit together, but you can model that. As your child understands your absolute authority in their life and sees it coupled with unconditional love, this begins to provide a picture of God’s authority and love for his children.

When my son Zachary was younger, he didn’t like to go to bed. So we had a routine, you brush your teeth, we read, sing a song and then you go to bed. I’m in a rocking chair rocking and singing a song and he starts to walk out of the door. “Hey bud, we’re not walking out of the door tonight.” I mean he could, I was very kind about it. But if he did, there would be consequences. You can see in the three year old brain the struggle – Door or Dad? I wake up and experience that same thing today. Am I going to do what my dad wants me to do or go out the door and live how I want. It’s no different. Zachary knew there was a wooden spoon that had his name on it. But he also knew I loved him so sometimes he made the right choice. That picture is a picture of your Heavenly Father, you’re showing your children what He’s like.

In Ephesians 6, there are things you’re not supposed to do and things you are supposed to do. Do not provoke your children to anger. Do bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Don’t provoke your child

The word here is “to flatten.” Don’t flatten your child, don’t make them two dimensional. I had a lot of opportunity to be with high school guys in my Young Life career and we’d spend a week or weekend away at camp. You learn a lot about a kid when you’ve got to sleep with him for a week in a cabin. We were going around the room sharing and this guy who was pretty popular at New Hanover High School, on the tennis team, had a nice car, a girlfriend, started crying and said his Dad had never said, “Son, I love you.” He gave him stuff, but that’s not very satisfactory. He was flattened. He looked like he had a life, but his dad was emotionally incapable of communicating love verbally and so he flattened his child.

There are lots of ways to flatten people, but especially our children. Here are three that I thought of:

  1. Inconsistency: Saying one thing but doing another, making promises that you don’t keep. Of course, that’s going to happen at some point, but is it a pattern?
  2. Poor control over our child: Sometimes it’s micro managing or over-controlling your child. Helicopter or Bulldozer parenting. These parents get out in front and make everything smooth. Their child has no hardship which is a terrible thing for a child. They have no freedom to fail or express their individuality. Sometimes it’s under-control. Children simply no longer respond to your authority because they know you don’t have any hard boundaries. In 1 Samuel 3, the Lord spoke to Samuel about Eli and Eli’s sons: “For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible and he failed to restrain them.” Something is going to happen now in this family because the leader saw something and he didn’t try to enter in and change the direction.
  3. Lack of encouragement: Colossians 3:21 – “Do not provoke your children to anger or they will become discouraged.” I’ve never met anyone who said “I’m tired of encouragement. I don’t need any more encouragement today.” The encouragement bucket has a hole in it, it’s always pouring out and children constantly need more encouragement. I wonder if you’re able to celebrate what your child has done or do you mostly just make observations and correct? You want to do that, but you probably have a tendency to notice the things that aren’t right. Don’t flatten your child, be an encouragement.

Do bring them up in a positive environment

‘Bring them up’ has two meanings. One is to nourish and help flourish. I’m bringing up my children by nourishing them and providing an environment they can flourish in. I was reading about a bulb that gets planted in the winter and comes up in the spring.

Different bulb species require different periods of chilling. It is during this chilling period that the bulb grows roots in preparation for the emergence of foliage and flowers in the spring. Bulbs cannot be forced to bloom if they are not well rooted. Once you have chilled the bulbs for at least the minimal amount of time required, they can be brought into a warm light environment to begin the actual forcing. If all has gone well your bulbs will take 3-4 weeks to flower, given the right conditions.

You can’t force a bulb, it’s got to have a certain period of chilling to grow roots. Every child has to have a certain environment where he or she can grow roots. When they go out into the world, they bloom because they are well rooted. They were given the right conditions.

A second meaning is to stiffen or strengthen the base. If you think about a plant in a green house, you’re trying to give them the best environment so that they’re well rooted and can flourish when they go out in the world into a difficult environment. To strengthen the base of the Twin Towers to go 110 stories in the air, they had to dig seven stories down. In order for something that tall to flourish, it has to have a big, strong base. Dads, you’re providing that for your child.

Bring them up in Instruction & Discipline

Instruction – Do what I say. Verbal communication. I’m giving good instruction. I’m practicing Deuteronomy 6 as we walk along the way. “Hey, this is the way the wise person would think, this is the way the foolish person would think.”

Discipline – Not just giving instruction, but putting your hands on the person. Not just do what I say, but do what I do. Let me show you how to do it, let me put my hands on you and say, “No, it’s not this way, it’s that way.”

My daughter was a ballet dancer and there was big mirror and an instructor in front of the class. There are different positions that the dancers would try to get in. First position, second position, etc. They’re looking at the instructor and in the mirror but they can’t quite get it right when they’re four or five years old. So the instructor would pause and come out to put her hand on the child and say, “No, your wrist is supposed to be this way.” It’s this, not that. We’re saying things, but we also have our hands on our children.

In this last video, there’s a runner who has trained for the Olympics. He’s going for the gold when he pulls a ham string. You’ll see his Dad come help him cross the finish line.

The Dad gets the gold medal. Don’t you wish you could hear what he said to the official? We all need a Dad like that. Dad’s are going to fail us miserably, even if they’re good dads, which is why we need a heavenly father. Keep that in mind. But you have a real responsibility as a Dad or a boss, to be somebody who comes along not to flatten people but to encourage them and help them cross the finish line.


  1. In a word or phrase – describe your relationship with your father. Why did you choose that word/phrase?
  2. “Do not” provoke – Don’t flatten your child. Talk about the home environment you grew up in or (if you are a father) the home environment you hope to provide. Are you over/under controlling? Inconsistent? Encouraging/Discouraging? Did the home environment provide a place to flourish or get flattened?
  1. “Do” give Instruction & Discipline: Discuss the instruction and discipline you received from your father or that you provide as a father. Do your words match your actions? What kind of hands on training did you receive/provide?

Iron Leadership Materials:

IL Handout – 5-3-24

The Daily Office 5-3-24


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