“Our father in heaven …” Matthew 6:9 (NIV)
"If God likes me and I like me, but you don't like me, what's your problem?"
The number one problem kids have growing up is insecurity. Our society is trained to compete and compare instead of co-operate. So from the moment a child is born, he or she is taught to compare everything – appearance, achievement, affluence, even athletic ability (remember gym class?).
What we need to teach children from an early age, even before they get into school, is: God is my father, he loves me unconditionally, and he will never stop loving me.
If our children can understand and absorb that truth then, when they are confronted with someone who wants to diminish their self-worth, they can have the confidence to say, “If God likes me and I like me, but you don’t like me, what’s your problem?”
Unfortunately, most kids don’t grow up with that kind of confidence. They grow up under the cloud of comparison, constantly asking, “What does everybody else think of me?”
That’s why it is important to teach children that God is their ultimate, heavenly Father. And they need to understand that God is not like some earthly dads they may have encountered.
So what kind of Father is God? He’s …
- Caring. God is a caring Father who loves you and will never stop loving you. Some dads don’t care, but your heavenly Father cares about you all the time.
- Close. God is a close Father. Some dads are distant, but your heavenly Father has promised, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you” (Hebrews 13:5 NLT).
- Consistent. God is a consistent Father. Some dads are fickle and moody, but your heavenly Father is never changing.
- Capable. God is a capable Father. Some dads are like Homer Simpson; they can’t do anything. But your heavenly Father is capable, able to do all things.
When you teach your children that God is their Father and they choose to become his children, then the issue of insecurity is settled because they will understand that they are loved by the person who controls the universe. And that puts everything else, even dodge ball, into perspective.
“…hallowed be your name …” Matthew 6:9 (NIV)
I grew up in a family where we were not allowed to use God's name in vain, but we also we weren't allowed to use the subtle derivatives that are so common – gosh, jeez.
In biblical times, your name represented your character. And, as you study the Bible, you’ll see that God has many names, each representing a benefit of what God promises to do you in your life.
For instance, Jehovah Jireh
means “God will provide everything I need.” Jehovah Shalom
means “God will be my peace.” AndJehovah Tsidkenu
means “God will be my righteousness.”
Over and over in scripture, every name for God represents a basic problem, threat, or emotional illness you have in your life that God can take care of. He is omniscient (all-knowing) and omnipotent (all-powerful) and is “worthy to receive all glory and honor”
(Revelation 4:11 NIV).
But one of the most violated commandments in our society today is number four: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain”
(Exodus 20:7 NKJV). Our society constantly takes the name of the Lord in vain. We hear it so often it doesn’t even offend us anymore. But it should! It bothers God.
I grew up in a family where we were not allowed to use God’s name in vain, but we also we weren’t allowed to use the subtle derivatives that are so common – gosh, jeez. I bet you didn’t even realize those are derivatives of God and Jesus. But my parents were firm that we not take God’s name in vain and that we wouldn’t even get close to it because they knew how serious it was to disrespect God in that way.
If we teach our children that God is able to meet all of our needs, then shouldn’t we also be teaching them to honor and respect him? His name included? He not only commands it, he deserves it.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10 NIV)
When you set boundaries with your children, they may push back, but they will also feel secure when those boundaries stand firm.
Study any psychological test and they’ll tell you the most insecure place for a kid to be is at the center of his or her family – controlling all the strings, getting their way in everything.
Kids instinctively know they do not belong in the center of the family; it creates great insecurity in their lives. Where kids find stability and security is in having boundaries. This is true from the moment they are born. We take little babies and wrap them up tightly. It’s called swaddling and being tightly bound gives the baby a feeling of security.
When you set boundaries with your children, they may push back, but they will also feel secure when those boundaries stand firm. They learn that you really do care about them. It’s when children don’t have those boundaries, and feel they can get away with anything, that they begin to question their parents’ love.
In the same way children need to know God’s purpose for their life is part of God’s larger plan. This creates boundaries of identity for them. It let’s them know that life is not all about them.
And in understanding God’s plan, they are able to find the answers to the basic questions of life: who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? Where did I come from? Does my life have meaning? What is my purpose and how should I live it out? Why is this happening to me?
When you teach a child, “thy kingdom come, they will be done”
you are teaching them that God has a master plan for history, but he also has a specific plan for their lives.
“Give us today our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11 NIV)
Praying for our "daily bread" includes everything we worry about on a daily basis – our health, our finances, our schedule, our future, all the things we have to deal with.
In today’s society, our children have a lot to worry about. So it’s our duty to teach them how God can replace their worry with his provision.
Now our normal reaction to worry is to find a way to control the situation. That’s just our nature. We figure if we can control everything, then we’ll never have to worry. But when we try that approach, the opposite happens. We find out that we can’t control everything, so we end up worrying.
The real way to deal with worry is to pray, “Give us today our daily bread.”
Praying for our “daily bread” includes everything we worry about on a daily basis – our health, our finances, our schedule, our future, all the things we have to deal with. God says, “If you want less stress in your life, then you have to relax in me and let me give you your daily bread.”
It’s important that we teach our children that it’s daily bread, not weekly or monthly. We want God to give us everything we need for the next five years, just put it in a bank account so we can see it’s there and not worry. But God doesn’t do it that way. He gives us just what we need one day at a time because he wants us to live in a daily relationship of trust in him.
So we need to teach our children three basic truths about God’s provision:
- God can meet every need you’ll ever have because he’s God.
- God wants to meet our needs, not our greeds, because he’s a loving father.
- God will meet our needs as we trust in him moment-by-moment, day-by-day.
And remember parents, you need to practice what you preach!
“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12 NIV)
We never want to see our children get hurt, but in those moments we can teach them to forgive others.
As a loving parent, you want to protect your kids and do as much for them as you can. But no matter what you do, you can’t prevent your kids from being hurt by others.
Our kids will be hurt by others because the world is full of imperfect human beings. And, as much as we don’t like it, we won’t be able to prevent our kids from hurting other people because they’re imperfect human beings as well.
Jesus has the answer: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors”
(Matthew 6:12 NIV).
Notice there are two sides to this. First, “forgive us our debts.” No one is perfect, all of us sin, all of us have gone down a wrong path, made wrong choices, and, as a result, we live with guilt. We’ve disappointed ourselves, and we know we’ve disappointed God.
So how do we deal with guilt? We need to teach our children that the way to deal with guilt is to recognize the forgiveness that God gives us through Jesus Christ. We can confess our sins and know that he is faithful to forgive us.
Then we need to deal with the fact that other people have hurt us, which can leave us with feelings of resentment. God’s answer to that is to replace it with his peace – and that comes from forgiving others, just as God forgave us.
We never want to see our children get hurt, but in those moments we can teach them to forgive others. We can help them understand that, if they hold onto that resentment, it will eat away at their lives like an acid. So teach them to ask for God’s peace and to offer forgiveness to the person who hurt them.
“And lead us not into temptation ...” (Matthew 6:13 NIV)
God wants us to love the people of this world, no matter who they are, what they've done, or what they believe. But He does not want us to love the world's value system.
It seems that oftentimes we think that God only makes requirements of us without giving us the ability or power to enable us to do it. But that’s not what the Bible says.
The Bible says that God will always give us a way to do the right thing when we are tempted to do the wrong thing. And it is so important that our children learn how to tap into God’s strength and power so they don’t go through life trying to change things by their willpower. Willpower works for the short-term, but God’s power works for the long-term.
“Lead us not into temptation …”
(Matthew 6:13 NIV). Your kids are going to be tempted with the same temptations you had, do have, will have. The Bible says they are common to man; we all go through the same temptations – the lust of the flesh (pleasure), the lust of the eyes (possessions), and the pride of life.
You need to teach your children about these three basic temptations, because they are the foundation for everything our secular society builds on. I would encourage you and your children to memorize this verse: “Don’t love this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you don’t really have the love of the father in you”
(1 John 2:15).
God is not saying, “Don’t love people.” He wants us to love the people of this world, no matter who they are, what they’ve done, or what they believe. But he does not want us to love the world’s value system. And that value system is this, “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving or everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world”
(1 John 2:16 NLT).
So how do we teach our kids to resist temptation after they identify it? Here is God’s way out, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. And when you are tempted he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it”
(1 Corinthians 10:13 GNT).
So when your kids say, “Dad, Mom, I just couldn’t help it,” you can teach them that God will help them do what’s right if they will trust him.
“… but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:13 NIV)
But the things that are out of your control are not out of God's control. So pray!
There is no doubt that this world is becoming increasing unsafe for our children. It is less safe for my grandkids than it was for my kids. And it was less safe for my kids than it was for me when I was growing up. And it was less safe for me than it was for my parents when they were growing up. Remember when you could go outside and play without parental supervision? Ride your bike to the park by yourself?
There are all kinds of problems, sins … wackos, and weirdos out there. And there are all kinds of ways that evil can get to your child in your own home through the Internet, television, and things on their phones like sexting.
So how do you protect your children from evil? Well, unfortunately, you can’t always control everything that happens to your kids because they’re not in your sight all the time, and they won’t be.
But the things that are out of your control are not out of God’s control. So pray! That’s why prayer is so important. You need to pray for your children every day. You need to pray with them before they go to prom and you need to pray with them before the first day of school. You need to pray,“deliver us from evil,”
because God’s answer to our fear is his power. He can deliver.