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Proverbs Maze manuscript parenting week three (2)

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The Way through the Maze:

Parenting ____________________________

Jeff Jones, Senior Pastor

March 5/7, 2010

Welcome to Chase Oaks and this series we are finishing today on the book of Proverbs. The series is called The Way Through the Maze, because life is like a maze. There are so many pathways to go down, and not all of them lead to where we want to go in life. Proverbs is there to give the way of wisdom. God just shows us the way through the maze of life. Today we are talking about parenting, and certainly there are plenty of different perspectives in the maze of life about parenting—but Solomon is going to give some very helpful perspective to help us negotiate that maze.

One of my favorite memories with my two boys was teaching them to ride a bike without training wheels. They were so excited to hit the open road, but we had a few issues to deal with first. They didn’t know how to actually ride yet. So, we got them suited up with helmets and elbow pads, and then set them on the bike. They were ready to go. I held up the bike as they started to pedal, and then I’d run with them for twenty or thirty feet and turn them loose. The first few times, letting go didn’t turn out so well, but each time it seemed to go a little better. They were discouraged some, but still excited to get it, to hit the open road. And after a number of crashes and minor injuries, they eventually got it, and they started taking off. I can still remember the thrill of watching them get it, and seeing them riding around on their own.

That’s the privilege we get as parents, to prepare our children for the open road, for the life God has for them. Solomon says,

Slide: ______________________________ ) Proverbs 15:20

“A wise son brings joy to a father.” (15:20), and he repeats that sentiment multiple times throughout Proverbs, how thrilling it is to help kids grow up, and then to see them get it, to hit the open road and do well. But we all know that’s not automatic, and we aren’t in complete control of which way they will choose to go. But we are the ones who have the privilege of helping them start out well, to run along with them a while and give them the best shot at living a wise life. Solomon is going to give some great wisdom to help us do just that, to give our children what they need to hopefully walk in wisdom later. They may choose not to, but Solomon is going to help us understand what it means to run alongside them for a while to get them ready to ride, and today we are going to look at those.

Now, I know that many of you are not parents, and you are already getting on your i-phones, checking out. Please don’t. The truth is, statistically, most of you will be parents one day, and all of you have kids in your life whether or not you ever have a child yourself. You probably don’t realize how much influence you have, but you do. So, as we go through this, think of a kid or two that God has put in your life.

Now we are ready for some wisdom. Again, all we can do is run alongside them for a while, hoping they will keep pedaling a good direction in life. But to make that more likely, here is what our kids need from us as parents.

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·         Training

Kids don’t come pre-trained. They aren’t born with wisdom. They need parenting. That’s the most basic thing Proverbs is going to say about kids. IF you don’t believe me, then let me show you some evidence that kids might need a little coaching in life:


Those are great, and certainly show our kids need adults who can help them negotiate the maze of life.

Proverbs is all about training a child how to walk in wisdom. That’s actually what the book is. It is a parenting book. Proverbs isn’t just a bunch of thoughts written down. It is a book written by a father to a child, to help him or her learn to do life well. Here’s the way the book starts out, and as you hear this and these following passage, hear the heart of a father who wants to train his children in life, to pass on wisdom.

Slide: ______________________________ ) Proverbs 1:8-9

says, “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck. In

Slide: ______________________________ ) Proverbs 3:1-2

he says, My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.

Slide: ______________________________ ) Proverbs 4:1-6

Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning. Do not forsake my teaching. When I was a boy in my father’s house, still tender and an only child of my mother, he taught me and said, ‘Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.’  There are lots of these passages, but just one more, from

Slide: ______________________________ ) Proverbs 6:20-22

My son, keep your father’s commands and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them on your heart forever; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you are awake, they will speak to you.

Solomon is modeling what it means to be a parent, which means that we are there to help impart wisdom and train our children how to do life well. Life is a maze, and there are so many ways to go. I don’t know how many of you actually like mazes, but I don’t. I hate them. Years ago, I was in a European garden where you stepped into a maze built out of shrubs, and some people really liked that, but I wanted a chain saw. After about two minutes, I just wanted out. I wanted a chain saw. Solomon is saying that’s what wisdom does for us. It’s like a chain saw that cuts through the maze to show us the way out, and that is what our children need from us.

Maybe the most well-known verse about parenting in Proverbs is this one, which is often misunderstood:

Slide: ______________________________ ) Proverbs 22:6

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not turn from it (P 22:6). Again, the basic premise of Proverbs on kids is that they aren’t born knowing the right way to go, the way of wisdom. They aren’t born knowing how to ride a bike into life. So, our job is to teach them, to train them. Solomon says if we do that, then when they grow up they will never turn from it. Here is where a major misunderstanding comes in. The verse sounds like a promise or a formula, a guarantee. If you train them the way they should go, if you do your job as a parent, then they will never depart from it. They will do great. The implication would be if your child does go down a bad pathway then obviously you didn’t train them well…otherwise that wouldn’t have happened. This verse has caused many parents great grief and guilt who see their children reject the way of wisdom as they grow up.

Yet, this is just a misunderstanding of the verse. This is a book of proverbs, not promises, and there is a huge difference. Promises are guaranteed. You do a and b, and as a result c will always happen. A proverb is different. A proverb is a wise saying, something that generally will hold true but not necessarily. It’s the way things typically work. Last week we looked at a number of proverbs about our words, one of which was, “a gentle answer turns away anger.” That’s generally true, but not always true. A few times I’ve made people more mad by staying gentle. Generally, it is true but not always.

So, picture it like this car/cart. What Solomon is saying is that you set the trajectory down a good pathway and the chances are they won’t diverge from it. They certainly can, but some other forces are going to have to be at play to stop the inertia in their lives that was set by your parenting. Like riding a bike, they are much more likely to pedal well and keep going forward if you have run along with them to help them. Not guaranteed, but much more likely.

Training is job one as a parent. How do we do it, though? How do we train our kids to do life well? How do we help them spiritually, relationally, vocationally, morally, and intellectually? How do we impart wisdom? Let’s talk about that some.

The most important way to pass on wisdom is modeling, to show them and not just tell them. Kids learn much more by what they see than by what we say. If you want to help them know what love, wisdom, godliness is, then show them. Be a loving person, make wise decisions, and walk down a godly pathway. When you make mistakes, admit them.

Slide: ______________________________ ) Proverbs 14:26

says, He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.


Slide: ______________________________ ) Proverbs 20:7

says, The righteous man leads a blameless life; blessed are his children after them. Often parents see the biggest issue in parenting is fixing their kids, but he best thing we can do as parents is to fix ourselves, to cultivate the kind of life we want them to live.

As we do so, here are some ways to train, to pass on wisdom:

Slide: ______________________________ )

o       Informally

Deuteronomy 6 talks about this, how we should talk to our kids about life and about God as we get up and go through our day and put them to bed. Conversations about life and God should happen informally, through the day, as we look for opportunities to have significant conversations.

Slide: ______________________________ )

o       Formally

A structured approach might work fine, too, and many parents choose to take their kids through a study of some kind. I’ve started to take my two boys on a study of Acts on Saturday mornings, because I want them to understand the New Testament and the missional way of life that Acts represents. We don’t always do that, but it just seemed to be the right thing to do right now.

Slide: ______________________________ )

o       Milestones

At various milestones in the life of our kids, it makes a whole lot of sense to commemorate those and inject wisdom to guide the next stage of life. A big one for me has been turning 13, as kids go from child to adolescent, I’ve taken them on a short trip, built around three conversations:

Slide: ______________________________ )

1)     How I view them as their dad

meaning the good things I see in their lives, the gifts and abilities God has given them, and expressing my excitement about seeing them live into their destiny.

Slide: ______________________________ )

2)     The way of wisdom

to talk to them about the path of wisdom vs the path of foolishness, and how they will be the ones to choose which road that they go down. I let them know I’ll always love them no matter what path they choose, but I will also only support them down a wise pathway. And

Slide: ______________________________ )

3)     Sex

That’s always a fun one. One of my kids, about five minutes into that conversation, said, “Dad, I think I got it. Let’s talk about something else.” My other son said, “Dad, I think pictures would help. Why don’t you get more prepared and let’s do this again.” Kids are always very different from each other.

A helpful book for me is Robert Lewis’ book,

Slide: ______________________________ ) Raising a Modern Day Knight

for boys and others have suggested,

Slide: ______________________________ ) alskdjfalsdkjf

for girls.

Slide: ______________________________ )

·         Loving limits

Within Proverbs, you have this balance of the love and pleasantness of parenting with the responsibility to bring discipline. So you have this over-the-top, crazy unconditional love one hand, and a willingness to discipline and provide limits on the other. So, within the frame of unconditional love, is the willingness to provide clear boundaries with clear consequences. Multiple times throughout Proverbs, Solomon is going to challenge parents not to just let their kids go down whatever path they choose, because once again, they do not come pre-wired to go the right way.

It might be hard to believe when we are holding our little baby in our arms that he or she could ever do one thing wrong in life. The Bible may say all people have a sin nature, and a bent the wrong direction, but when we hold an innocent little baby, it’s hard to imagine that my baby has a sin nature. Until they become two. Parents of two year olds have no problem understanding the sin nature theology. Selfishness and temper and lack of wisdom show themselves.

One of the ways we help our kids walk in wisdom is to set clear boundaries and clear consequences, to that they learn not to just give into that sin nature but learn what the relational, moral, and ethical boundaries in life are. Solomon is very clear that we are not doing our children any favors if we withhold discipline.

Slide: ______________________________ ) Proverbs 23:13 -14

says, Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die…you will save his soul from death.


Slide: ______________________________ ) Proverbs 13:24

adds, He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.

Good parents understand the responsibility to discipline. At the time, it may feel bad to give a consequence to a boundary but Solomon is saying only a parent who hates his children refuses to do so—because they will go down a bad pathway unless they learn not to. Certainly, parents can blow it on the other side of this, with over-the-top discipline or abuse, and that’s not what Solomon is advocating. Good discipline of kids is characterized by a few descriptions.

Slide: ______________________________ )

o       Good discipline is clear

meaning that there is a clear boundary with a clear consequence, and if it wasn’t clear the first time, then can’t discipline.

Slide: ______________________________ )

o       Good discipline is custom

meaning it fits both the kid and the crime. My two boys are very different when it comes to effective discipline, so that what works really well on one doesn’t work at all for another.

Slide: ______________________________ )

o       Good discipline fits the crime

Not every infraction is a major one, and I don’t think every battle needs to be fought. One more thing about that is discipline is actually for a crime, not for a mistake. Discipline is not for mistakes, but for defiance. There is a clear boundary, and they cross it. You better discipline if you want them to learn that boundary marker. But just making a mistake, like losing something or accidentally breaking something, is not a crime unless it happened because they were breaking some other boundary. Never discipline a kid for an oops, but for a defiant act.

Kids without clear boundaries and clear consequences are kids who are not loved well, and we do them no favors by withholding discipline. That’s one of the things kids need from us. The last I’ll mention from Proverbs probably sounds crazy, but it is:

Slide: ______________________________ )

·         Difficulty

As I was studying Proverbs, I ran across one of them that really knocked me out as a parent, because as a parent I don’t want my kids to experience need or difficulty. I can easily see my job as doing all I can to make life easy for them, to protect them from any harm or difficulty or sense of need. That’s probably natural. One of my most vivid parenting memories was the first time I took Collin to school, to kindergarten at Hughston Elementary in Plano. I wanted to go in with him, make sure teachers treated him right, make sure there were no bullies. I’d be there if someone did bully him. I wouldn’t beat up a bullying kindergartner, but I’d at least scare him a little bit. I wanted to be his bodyguard for other kids, his promoter to the teachers. But I couldn’t. I still remember the feeling I felt when I watched the door close behind him and realize I can’t go and do all those things. Those instincts are natural, but can easily lead us down a bad pathway in parenting, and this particular proverb, has really challenged me as a parent. The proverb simply says this:


Slide: ______________________________ ) Proverbs 16:26 (version?)


 Appetite is an incentive to work; hunger makes you work all the harder.

I didn’t expect this to hit me as I was looking at parenting, but it has. Solomon is saying that hunger and need is not a bad thing. The motivate us to do well in life. If we don’t have needs or potential disappointments, we have very little incentive. Why should a child work hard, if everything is just given to her or him? How is a child going to learn if they have no need or risk or difficulty? I realize I’m a product of a culture in suburban life, where we’ve worked pretty hard to build an environment where kids have all they need, because we want to give them a head start, we want to do all we can to make life easy for them so that they won’t be distracted by difficulty, slowed down by need. We feel like it is our job as parents to give them everything they need. Our kids shouldn’t need anything.

That suburban instinct can be counterproductive. My instinct is counterproductive. You see it in the extreme with trust fund kids. How many trust fund kids end up being highly-productive, responsible, other-focused individuals? Some do, but most do not. They have no hunger, no need, so they never learn the responsibility that comes from hard work. If they are protected from difficulty, they never learn to be people who risk, who learn to rely on God.

I’m not saying that we should never protect our kids or that it is wrong to give them what they need or to help them financially even as adults. But there is balance in that. If we make life too easy, they don’t grow up, and my guess is that we are busy producing a generation of people who really haven’t grown up in some key ways. In fact, a recent Pew Study concluded by looking at a number of factors that the generation currently 18-28 is the least prepared to deal with the reality of adult life, just at a time when adult life is becoming more difficult. I don’t have the big clear answer for this, because I’m just asking the questions myself, but certainly it is something we suburbanites need to think about. What is the difference between providing and over-providing, protecting and over-protecting? I don’t know, but I’m certainly asking those questions right now. It might sound nuts to us, but our kids actually need difficulty. They actually need to experience need.

All of us who are parents certainly want to know the joy of seeing our kids ride into adulthood and do well. As parents, our job is to put on their helmet, and run alongside them a little while and then let them go. There is no guaranteed formula. Yet, we can do all we can do to set them up for the open road, to launch them down a pathway of wisdom.

To do so, our kids need a few things from us. They need training, loving limits, and difficulty. For those who are parents, which of these three are hardest for you to give? Are you giving them well? Which one do you need to focus on right now? Parenting isn’t easy, but there is, as John says in the NT, no greater joy than to see our children doing well.

And of course the greatest thing our kids need from us is unconditional, over-the-top, irrational love. That’s the way the Father loves us. He loves us with a crazy love, an irrational love. Not all of us are parents, but all of us are children. If we have a relationship with God, we are his child. Because of his love for us, he is worthy of all of our love and devotion.

Nobody here had perfect parents. None of us have been perfect parents. But all of us have a perfect parent in God the Father. The truth about you is this: there has never been one moment in your life that you haven’t been loved with the crazy love of the Heavenly Father. The Bible says,

Slide: ______________________________ ) 1 John 3:1


How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1. The Bible teaches that we were actually chosen by God to be his sons and daughters, adopted by him and uniquely loved. Romans 8 lets us know about the strength of that love:

Slide: ______________________________ ) Romans 8:38-39


38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39.

In light of the love of our heavenly father, we want to continue our worship service thanking Him as our Father. Just as kids need parenting, so do we. We need the love of the Father, and we always have it. As we said, regardless of how you and I may feel, there has never been one moment that we were not supremely loved by God the Father.

We are going to thank him by doing communion, which is something Jesus asked us to do in order to remember the love of the Father and the sacrifice of Jesus his son. When we eat the little crackers and drink the juice, it is a reminder of his body and blood that were broken and spilled out for us on that cross. He died to make it possible for you and me to be alive spiritually, for our sins to be forgiven, for us to have a forever relationship with God our Father. As we celebrate communion (instructions)…remember his love for you. Meditate on it. For those of you who are parents, ask him to fill you with similar love for your own children. For all of us, ask him to help us grasp his love. Paul prayed a prayer like that in Ephesians, that they would be able to grasp how wide, how long, how high, and how deep is God’s love. If we ever doubt God’s love for us, all we have to do is remember the cross. As the Bible says:

Slide: ______________________________ ) Romans 5:8


8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8.


Slide: ______________________________ ) 1 John 4:9-10


This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son[a] into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for[b] our sins.


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