29 Ways to Affirm Your Children – #1

“By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge the rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures” (Prov 24:3-4).  The wisdom part of building a spiritually healthy home is learning from and teaching God’s Word to our children.  It is developing a faith focus in our family through reading the Bible together and serving Christ together.  It is teaching and demonstrating to our kids biblical principles such as “love supersedes knowledge” and a hundred other counter-cultural ideas found in Scripture.

The understanding component of building our homes comes from paying attention; knowing our children.  It is observing, thinking, being alert to danger, discovering your child’s personality, gifts, and inclinations.  Putting the wisdom and understanding together leads to knowledge that brings the reward of “rare and beautiful treasures.”  These treasures are not measured by financial or academic success, or any worldly benchmark.  These riches are not based on IQ, money, or physical strength or beauty.  These treasures are loving relationships and spiritual growth in our families as we grow up in the Lord together.

And the understanding piece of the parenting challenge thrives best in the soil of an affirming environment in your home.  So let’s take off on our advertised topic of 29 ways to affirm your children.

#1  Create a positive, loving, and secure environment in your home.  This may seem as obvious, generic, and general as Mom, baseball, and apple pie, but there is a specific intentionality to this goal.  It starts with the two important messages we need to convey to our children.  The first is the simple message, “I love you.”  Simple to say; a challenge it put into action.  Your message to your kids needs to be:  “I love you.  I love you more than you will ever know.  You can never lose my love.  You can’t do anything to make me withhold my love.  I would chose you above all others.  I love you.”

Why is this message so critical?  When your children are assured of your love, they have the confidence to give themselves away in service to others.  Think about your own love experience.  My assurance of God’s love and acceptance frees me from being a prisoner to others thoughts and opinions about me.  It frees me to give myself away in loving relationships.  It allows me to unwrap and practice my spiritual gift without being timid.  One of the many ministries of the indwelling Holy Spirit is to assure me of God’s love.  “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom 5:5).  When our children are assured of our love and assured of God’s love, they have a confidence to serve others without looking for love in all the wrong places.

The second message, wrapped in the first, that we need to convey is, “I am in charge.”  Your message:  “I am in charge.  I demonstrate my love by taking charge.  God has put me in charge.  I am in charge because I am the mature one.  I see the big picture, and I am learning from and leaning on the God who sees the eternal picture.”  Children generally focus on the needs and wants of the moment.  They want their desires met now.  They need to know, beyond any doubt, that Mom and Dad are in charge.

Putting it all together, we have two messages we need to convey to our kids:  I love you and I am in charge.  These messages provide the balance between love and control in your home.  And when these messages are lived out, you provide a positive (the power of affirmation), loving (I love you), and secure (I am in charge for your good) environment for relationships to grow.

The Power of Affirmation

I used to view the New Testament as basically a how-to manual for living the Christian life.  But I have since come to realize the message is much deeper.  It is less a to-do list and more an explanation and affirmation of who we are in Christ.  The New Testament writers consistently explain who we are and then launch into, “This is how we are to live in light of our new identity and new power over sin.”

So, how does knowing our new identity affect the life we live?  Let’s start with who we are.  As a believer in Christ, we are citizens of His new kingdom, children of God, joint-heirs with Christ, the dwelling place of God the Holy Spirit, a new creation, holy and beloved, blessed with every spiritual blessing, adopted as sons, God’s own possession, partakers of the divine nature, forgiven our trespasses, the very seed of God, and raised up with resurrection power; just to name a few of our New Testament identifiers.  And each of these phrases are direct quotes from Scripture.

With all this identity affirmation, we are exhorted on the basis of our new identity to live in the moral resemblance to God that we already possess.  This understanding brings a new power to our ministry.  Gone are the days of, “Now, I know you are not going to want to do this, and you will most likely fail at it because you are still basically a sinner covered by Christ’s blood, and it is going to be extremely hard, but put your head down, grit your teeth, and go give this Christian life your best shot.”  No.  No. No.  This is not the New Testament model of ministry.

What is the New Testament model of affirmation?  You were created for good works (Eph 2:10).  You are empowered for moral goodness (II Pet 1:3).  You were rescued to follow Christ’s commands with joy (I Jn 5:3).  His commands are not burdensome because, as a new creation, they fit who you are.  How many of us work in vocations where we say, “Hey, this fits who I am!”?  I enjoy my job because it fits my interests, talents, and bent.  Similarly, if you are a believer, the Christian life fits your interests, talents, and bent.  The Christian life is all about unfolding who you are, not a list of qualities to aspire to.

This approach brings so much joy and affirmation to our ministry.  Instead of feeling like we are pulling teeth (my apologies to dentists), we are inviting our fellow believers to join us in the adventure of faith.

The message of affirmation is also a powerful force for good in your family.  I believe the affirmation approach to parenting is not some pop psychology gibberish, but is built on the foundation of the New Testament model of affirmation.  With that biblical model in mind and based on our own child training ups and downs, we will share over the next several weeks 29 ways to affirm your children.  After talking the list over with some of our kids, we actually came up with a few more.  But we will start with 29 ways to affirm your kids since it is a memorable number (one for each day of the month…if it is February…and if it is a leap year).  Join us for number 1 next time.

Love is the Unifier

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:1-3).  Love is the unifier in the bond of peace.

Pastor Ray Stedman summarized theses verses well in his book, Body Life.  “The church is never told to create unity.  There is a unity that exists in the church by virtue of the simple fact that the church exists.  It can only be produced by the Spirit of God.  But once produced, Christians are responsible to maintain it.  And maintain this unity through Christlike love.”

All the “one anothers” of the New Testament are most effectively carried out under the overarching umbrella of “love one another”.  In fact, I would suggest, they cannot even happen without the power of love.  Bearing one another’s burdens only happens well when we love.  We will be motivated to pray for one another more often when we love.  Can we honestly forgive another person without love?  Even our efforts to admonish one another will only have a positive effect on the other person when they know we love them.  Love is the answer to every question of unity in the church.

“And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against any one; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.  And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (Col 3:12-14).  Love is the unifier.