I had the pleasure of watching The Grace Card on video a few months back.  It was a great movie, but the whole “card” bit as mentioned in the title was lost until the very end.  When presented at the end, however, it became a touching moment.

There is another “card” that is frequently played among the masses.  It’s called the Fair Card, or better said, The (It’s Not) Fair Card.  You know what I’m talking about.  I don’t think a week goes by without hearing the phrase “It’s not fair” at least a few times in my home.  If you have more than one child, you know what I’m saying.  One child gets two cookies.  The other gets one.  One child goes to bed earlier, the other child goes to bed later.  One child gets to play on a video game longer.  The other does not get as much time.  One child has more popcorn in their bowl.  The other has less.  One child gets to drink beer with dad, the other doesn’t.  OK. I’m joking with the last one.

When such perceived unfairness comes about, out comes the (It’s Not) Fair Card.  “No fair! He got to have more than me!”  or “Why does he get to have more than me?!”  We parents typically respond one of two ways.  We either hear their plea and make things even or fair, or we say something along the lines of, “Life’s not fair (Deal with it).”  As parents, I believe we try to do what we can to make things fair, while taking age and maturity into factor as well in parenting decisions.

Sometimes we forget that we are also children (of God) who sometimes give the same complaints to our heavenly Father.  “Daddy, It’s not fair!  They have more than me!” “Dad, I get disciplined for what I do, how come they get away with their bad behavior?!” “Dad, I’ve been good.  How come I can’t have what I deserve for my good behavior?”  Can you hear these words echo through the chambers of your heart?  They are the cries of a child that call out for fairness, justice, and equality in a world that is broken.  They are the cries of a child who has a hope that their world would become safe and good.  They are also the cries of a child who lacks the perspective of an eternal, holy and just Father.

Our perspectives are often askew when we simply consider our small world versus the eternal and entire kingdom of God.  When we consider God’s eternal plan, His love for us and Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us, can we really ask such questions?  Our heavenly Father will not answer us in the trite ways we answer our children by giving them more or by telling them to suck it up.  No, our Heavenly Father, in His wisdom, has already answered such cries.  Listen to how He responds:

Me:Daddy It’s not fair!  They have more than me!”

Father: “I have blessed you in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. chose you in Christ before the creation of the world. I’ve adopted you as sons through Christ. I have given you redemption through Christ’s blood, and I have forgiven you your sins” (Eph 1:3-7).  You have my love. I have given you eternal life (Jn 3:16).  

Me:  “Dad, I get disciplined for what I do, how come they get away with their bad behavior?!”

Father:  “I have given mercy to everyone who has been disobedient.  Even to you when you were disobedient” (Rom 11:32).  “I have also set a day when I will judge the world with justice by the man I have appointed (Christ). I have given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). 

Me:  “Dad, I’ve been good.  How come I can’t have what I deserve for my good behavior?” 

Father:  “All your good deeds and righteous acts are like dirty rags (Is 64:6).  You have sinned and fallen short of my glory (Rom 3:23).  The wages of sin is death.  Because of your disobedience, you deserve death…eternal separation from me.  But because I love you, I am giving you a free gift: eternal life with me (Rom 6:23) through faith in Christ (Eph 2:8).”  

How can we play The (It’s not) Fair Card with God?  God, in His love and wisdom, chose not to be fair to us.  If He was fair, he would have given us what we deserve-eternal separation from a relationship with Him in hell.  This would have been fair.  Thank God that He is not fair.

The Foundations of a Godly Parent: The Heart of Parenting

Ah, parenting.  The opportunity God gives us to stretch our faith, learn selflessness, and how to 1) control anger, 2) pray, 3) let go, 4) trust, 5) love unconditionally, 6) teach, 7) act,  and 8) be a kid (my favorite part).   When I first got married, I realized that I was actually pretty self-centered.  When my wife and I had kids (2 in 1 shot! how efficient my wife is), then my eyes were opened all the more about my self-centeredness.  I once thought that I could get out of changing diapers, but when God gave us twins, I knew that was impossible.

Being a parent and a counselor, I’ve had an opportunity to read a lot of Christian parenting books.  After each one, I’ve felt convicted in some areas, challenged in some areas, and in other areas, felt actually good about myself…until I read the next parenting book.  My favorites are The Age of Opportunity by Paul Tripp and Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp.  These two books focused on one critical factor in parenting:  The heart.  What we say when we parent, what we do as parents, when we do it, and how we say or do it – all flow from the overflow of our hearts.   Often times, what I want from my children is conveyed to my children simply by how I respond to them….If I am in my own little world thinking of work or other things, I convey this to my children when I do not listen to them, or look at them when they are speaking to me, or ask them follow up questions.  I do not mean to convey that they are unimportant or not to bother me, but that is what occurs when my mind is not on them at the moment.

Frequently we have our own desires that are our main focus (sometimes spoken, sometimes not).  We often forget to focus on other important matters like raising godly children.  When we do remember, we often look to change our children’s behaviors to be more acceptable (behavior modification), and often do not focus on what drives their behaviors: the heart.  What is it that they are seeking?  What is it that they fear?  What is the driving force behind their actions?  Though we can work hard at changing our children’s behaviors, we must understand and focus closer on the heart.  After all, isn’t this what God looks at most?

Scriptures are not silent when addressing the hearts.  We could simply say that “God said don’t do that,” but that does not change the behaviors or the heart.  How does the heart change?  First, we must identify what is in the heart (ours and our kid’s hearts).  Then we must compare the heart motive with what the Scriptures teach about God in His Word (we will fall short).  Third, we must acknowledge our sin and need for a Savior and finally, acknowledge God’s forgiveness.   Only then can we move forward with repentant hearts towards change.

Keeping the cross central in our children’s lives (and ours!)  is essential in parenting.  There is nothing that is more important than Christ.  Not sports, music, ballet, scouts, video games, work, or any other thing. Let us keep our focus on our hearts, our children’s hearts, and on Christ.  He is the only one who can change our hearts (and our children’s hearts) to grow and to be like His.

This blog has been adapted from the Parenting Seminar: The Foundations of a Godly Parent.  For more information about this seminar, please contact us at 570-402-5088.