Give Me Your HeartNovember 10, 2010
Are your children starved for your attention? Rick Phillips encourages fathers to nurture the hearts of their children and tells what types of behavior undermines a strong relationship between a father and his kids.
Are your children starved for your attention? Rick Phillips encourages fathers to nurture the hearts of their children and tells what types of behavior undermines a strong relationship between a father and his kids.
Give Me Your Heart
Bob: Fathers play a strategic and a critical role in the spiritual training of their sons and daughters. Here is Pastor Rick Phillips.
Rick: When I hear these statistics of huge percentages of evangelicals youths abandoning the faith I wonder what faith they saw lived in the home. I don’t want to be judgmental, but I wonder if it was not really Christianity that they abandoned at all?
Bob: This is FamilyLIfe Today for Wednesday, November 10th, our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey and I am Bob Lepine. God has given you as a father the assignment to spiritually train your children and a big part of that assignment is what you model for them.
Welcome to the FamilyLife Today thanks for joining us. Okay, so I am trying to get the gardening stuff down here.
Dennis: Well, it kind of feels a bit like a broken record, Bob. Work and keep! Work and keep! Work and keep…
Bob: Work and Keep! Just over and over again.
Dennis: Over and over again.
Bob: Tend the garden
Dennis: That is what it means to be a man, “Work and Keep.”
Bob: And that comes from Genesis 2:15, but it also comes from Rick Phillips, right?
Dennis: It does! Rick, welcome back!
Rick: I am afraid it only comes ‘through’ fortunately it doesn’t come ‘From’ Rick Phillips.
Dennis: Okay! So we have it on a little higher authority. Man’s mandate – if he wants to be a masculine man is to ‘Work and Keep.’
Rick: That is correct! He builds up and he keeps safe.
Dennis: And you are the pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina; not Greenville, North Carolina.
Bob: We have already established you went to the wrong place.
Dennis: I went to the wrong place for a wedding. Only eight hours away was Greenville, North Carolina where the wedding was. I was in your city… in South Carolina.
Rick: It is a great city!
Dennis: It is a great city! We had a great time all weekend. We never made it to the wedding.
Bob: You didn’t have anything else to do, did you?
Dennis: We didn’t! We didn’t! Rick is also the daddy to 5 children; ages 14 to 6. He is in the thick of it about to move into the teenage years. Let’s talk about these two concepts and commands for a man to really be God’s man he needs to ‘work and keep.’ How do those apply to being a father?
Rick: Let me take them backwards because I think one of the good achievements that has happened in the Evangelical world ; organizations like yours or Focus on the Family; most evangelical Christians have been persuaded that we need to discipline our children. So, biblical models of spanking and just discipline… and I find that most seasoned Evangelicals know it is their duty to discipline their children. And that is part of the ‘Keeping’.
We need to protect our children from their own sin and we need to protect them from the dangers of the world. Anybody who puts an internet connection in their child’s room should be arrested. I mean that is just criminal neglect of ‘Keeping.’
I do think, though, that there is a significant issue of our children that we have learned to discipline them, but we have lost the ‘DISCIPLING’ of our children. We have, as it were, out-sourced the spiritual nurturing of our children to the youth group and the youth pastor.
I saw a spoof, one time, of a youth pastor who was suing for the right for the parental rights of the parents, because the parents weren’t doing anything and he was the one who knew them and knew their problems and was teaching them the Bible. And it was a spoof, but there was too much truth to it.
So, you know you have all these stories of families who sent their kids to Christian school, they are in youth group their whole lives, they went to a Christian college, but then they walked away from the Lord. You say, “What happened?” Part of the answer, but every story is different, but part of the answer is we are personally, as parents, and especially as Fathers, to disciple our children. We keep them safe, but we nurture their hearts.
It is out of the bond of the discipling relationship that we have the influence. God gives us the authority, but we are to have influence. That comes out of a discipling bond of love.
Bob: When you are talking about a child giving his father his heart, what does that mean? What is it that is my goal? When I say, “Son, give me your heart,” how do I know when I have his heart?
Rick: Well, that is a great question. I am not sure we ever answer it in a final and ending way. We are to have an influence in our children so that they desire…. And they are sinners and they are young, and young people are immature because they are not mature that and we need to know that.
But I remember growing up I had a desire for my father to think highly of me. It meant a lot to me for my father to say, “You know Ricky, I am proud of you.” And you know he did say that.
As a pastor, I hear people say my father never told me he loved me. Now, that absolutely blows my mind! What does it say about a relationship? A discipling relationship is the exact opposite of emotional distance; that they feel and experience the fact that I delight in them. I like to use that word. A lot of people will say, “I love you. I do things for you. I sent you to college. I have loved you.” I delighted in you.
You can feel the joy that I was taking as I was your father. Honestly, when I grew up, I felt the joy that my father had in me. I wanted him to think highly of me. God gives us authority, but by the time they are 16, 17, or 18, the authority is not that powerful and they can read a clock just as well as we can.
Dennis: Yes, and I will add one thing to what you just said about what it means for a child to give his father his heart. I think at the core it’s talking about teachability. I think it’s talking about being spiritually receptive as C. S. Lewis called it. It’s being spiritually receptive to the truth about God and a father’s experience of God and for the son to soak in what the father was teaching him about life. I think the interplay between a father and a son is as you were talking about but I also think it has to do with a father calling his son out to maintain cutting edge sense of spiritual growth by listening to what his father passes on to him.
Bob: For that to happen there has to be a relational connection between the dad and the kids that takes time to cultivate, right?
Rick: This is way things like anger and abusive speech are the enemy of fatherhood. I’ve certainly acted in anger to my children. I’ve gone to my children and asked their forgiveness because I’ve spoken to them in a way I shouldn’t have. That really undermines the relationship. So we need to treat our children with respect and politeness even. It’s the giving of yourself. They know when you are doing it. When you are interested in them and involving them in our lives.
One of my precious childhood memories is of my father coming home after having had our little dog put to sleep. I met him at the door and he began weeping and held his arms out to me and we wept together over our little doggie. He was my dad and I was his boy. That’s what we have to have.
Now going back to what Dennis was saying I do think that like our Christian forefathers they have to see that we have a lived faith. We have to call them to that faith.
Rick: There is no substitute for a boy and girl hearing the word of God from the lips of their father and to hear the prayers of their fathers. Not just rote exercises. I know a lot of people need help with that and we need to help them but the passion of our hearts as we pray to the Lord for and with our children and ask them to pray for us. Things happen like when we moved from Florida we had to sell our house. It wasn’t exactly a seller’s market. It was going badly and the prices were dropping and my wife was wearing out.
I got my children together and said boys and girls we are going to start praying the prayer of faith as a family and I’m calling on you to pray. I am not embellishing. God sent the buyer the next day.
Our children were not saying look at what daddy did they were saying look at the spiritual experience we had as a family of the faithfulness and power of God. So we bring our children into those things.
Bob: I think our generation grew up in an era where fathers tended to be distant. Provider was the primary goal. As long as I’m providing and doing some protecting then I’m fulfilling my role. Relationship wasn’t a big deal. I think a lot of us grew up saying I’m going to be more relationally connected with my kids. Yes, I’ll assume the provide and protect responsibility but I’m also going to be relationally connected. I just wonder if we are still missing it?
Even if we provide, protect, and are relationally connected there is a step beyond that that is this intentional training, nurturing, discipling that you are talking about. You can go to all the games. You can cheer them on. You can be there for them and say affirming things but there is an intentionality that may be missing from what a lot of dad’s are doing?
Rick: We need to personally lead the hearts of our boys and girls to the Savior, Jesus. The father is the prime evangelist in the home. That comes through the word of God and prayer and an authentic Christianity. That commends it to them.
When I hear these statistics of huge percentages of evangelicals youths abandoning the faith I wonder what faith they saw lived in the home. I don’t want to be judgmental, but I wonder if it was not really Christianity that they abandoned at all?
Dennis: Yes, and there are some parents who are listening to us who are parents of adult children and their hearts are breaking over some of those spiritual defections that have occurred.
While we are talking about relating to adult children after they have grown and left the home let’s talk about what it looks like for a man to be the worker and the keeper of his kids after they become adults.
I can confess here that I’ve now had six children grow up under my leadership in the home and Barbara’s leadership in the home and I’d have to say that one of the biggest surprises, much more than raising toddlers or going through the challenges of the teenage years, was learning an appropriate role by me in my adult children’s lives.
In your book you talk about how a dad must move from being an authority to being an influence. Talk about what that looks like practically for a man to be an influence with his adult children.
Rick: I do want to preface it by saying if you had children who grew up and did not follow Christ it is not necessarily an indictment on your parenting. They stand or fall before the Lord. They are called upon to believe in Him. I’m trying to give biblical counsel to those who are still in it. Not to accuse those who may be through it. We are relying on the grace of God. None of us are going to do it well enough.
To be an influence in their lives is a different relationship. When you have little children you are giving them directions. It’s the proverbial one way conversation. There is a note of authority and there should be. But as they grow older we transfer the authority to them and with that comes decision making power. We don’t criticize as much. We wait for opportunities.
I think with adult children the maintenance of the bond of love is so important particularly if you have a child who has walked away from the Lord. They know their father still loves them and is still praying for them and still delights in them even if he is disappointed in ways. I think that changes in those ways.
Bob: I heard a guy express it in this way. He said, when you kids are little you are the cop. You go around and enforce the law and say no, you are not going to do that. As they get older you move from cop to coach. You start to do a little more coaching and say that is going to be your decision. Here is what I would recommend. Here is what I would say. You have to make up your own mind.
When they get to be adult children you move from coach to counselor. That counselor role is a role that sometimes you wait until they call the counselor and say we’d like some help.
Dennis: There you go.
Bob: Sometimes you may interject.
Dennis: May, may.
Bob: But you better do that sparingly, right?
Dennis: That’s a silver bullet.
Bob: That is a silver bullet.
Dennis: The Lone Ranger only had so many silver bullets.
Rick: But nobody is keeping you from praying, right?
Dennis: No, nobody is. The one thing I would add to your illustration of moving from the cop to coach to counselor. I’d add a fourth one. I think you ultimately become their cheerleader.
They are doing life just like you did with your spouse just like you did years and years ago when you were just starting out with your family. You didn’t know what you were doing. You thought you did at points but you were stumbling along and failing. Our kids as adults are not necessarily looking for our approval but I think that somebody they know and trust who has corrected and has stepped into their lives when they were younger now say “atta boy.”
Rick: The world is kicking them around. They need the encouragement. How many people feel like failures? We need to encourage.
Dennis: Especially in this economy. There are not many young men today in this economy who feel like they are winners. They need dads to come alongside them and say you know, when we first started out we made about $560 a month. It wasn’t a lot of money. Now it is a different day today but we know what it was like to be living pretty tight days and having to really watch your pennies. To come alongside them and say I’m really impressed.
In fact, I had a conversation with one of my children the other day. I said I want you to know I’m impressed with how you are doing managing your money and handling things. It’s really remarkable.
Rick: What we are also doing is we are redefining success biblically for them. One of the things that I hope The Masculine Mandate will do is to say to men whoever you are you may have a big position in the world or you may not. What really matters is your faithfulness in the relationships God has given you.
If you are working and you are keeping. If you are nurturing, building up, cultivating, and causing things to grow you have a great significance in the eyes of God. You are doing something very meaningful.
Maybe you are struggling. Here is how God would have you go forward as a man and he will bless it. In Matthew 25 when Jesus calls the sheep to him he does not praise them by saying you built a skyscraper, you made a million dollars, you translated the Bible into some language. It’s day to day acts of faithfulness and love.
Men today are striving and seeking significance and meaning because the world telling them they are losers. The Bible says you be a faithful man. You build up and you keep safe. God is going to use you and bless you and leave a legacy through you.
Bob: You spent 13 years in the army, is that right?
Bob: And you were a tank what?
Rick: I was a Major.
Dennis: That was when he was ten years old. His dad put him in a tank. He didn’t get to fire a tank when he got to be in the army himself.
Rick: No, actually I did.
Dennis: Did you?
Rick: I was an Armored Cavalry Major.
Bob: That is what I was asking. An Armored Cavalry Major. What does that guy do?
Rick: He commands combat soldiers who use tanks.
Bob: I’m trying to take a guy who spends a lot of years doing that and now he has a14 year old daughter and he has to start to let go and let her make her own decisions. Is that hard?
Rick: Well, we’ll find out won’t we?
Dennis: That is a good answer by the way. You need to be careful how you answer it because four years are yet ahead.
Rick: I don’t fear the teenage years of my children. I really give God the praise for this. My wife and I have been working hard at connecting with them and having a bonded relationship with them. My 14 year old daughter is a pretty strong Christian. Obviously there is a maturing process and we are in a dangerous world and we should have a healthy respect for it. Let’s have some confidence in the Holy Spirit and let’s do what God has called us to do.
Let me give you a quick four word way of connecting with and bonding with your children. Read, pray, work, play. Read the Bible with and to your children. Pray for and with your children. Work with them. Be involved in their work and let them into your work.
Because I’m not very good at housework and painting it’s a chore I just want to get it done. So one of the hardest things for me is to look at it and say to myself your son wants to work with his daddy. Engage and work together and then play with them. Do things together as a family. Play games. I didn’t really care about baseball. As a boy I followed it but then I kind of dropped it. But when my boys got a little older I started following the Red Sox again so we could do it together.
If we read, pray, work, and play and have a bonded relationship where we are leading them to the Lord through his word and then keeping them safe I will trust the Lord that he will bless them.
That’s all I can do. Be faithful to the masculine mandate and then trust the Lord to bless it.
Dennis: Over and over this week we have talked with you about what that masculine mandate looks like. I’m going to give you the toughest assignment you’ve been given. I want for you to define biblically what it means to be a man and not a woman.
Rick: God calls men to exercise authority in a way that he does not call women. God calls women to exercise authority under the headship of a man. I know the world hates that but we are Christian people and the Bible teaches that that is good and wholesome. That is not putting women down at all. He made the woman to be a helper suitable to the man. So womanhood is going to be responsive and to be directed toward the relationship. God calls the man to bear authority, to be in charge, to be responsible and then to use that authority to build up and to keep safe. To work and to keep. A lord in the garden under the sovereign Lord, our God. A lord with a trowel in one hand causes things to grow and with a sword in the other he keeps them safe.
Dennis: A man who is locked in on the cross of Christ becoming a follower of Jesus Christ. He has learned the spiritual discipline of denying himself and taking up his cross and following Christ on a daily basis.
Bob: Yes the authority that God has given him is an authority that has weight to it.
Dennis: That’s right.
Bob: Not that it has privilege to it. It is a cultivating authority and an authority with responsibility.
Rick: First Peter 3:7, the last thing Peter says to husbands is “so that your prayers are not hindered.”
Rick: Guys say to me it sounds like God is going to hold me accountable. Yes, it does sound like that. We answer to a sovereign God but Dennis you said it. Once we realize what God has called us to do it is great to have clarity. Now I need power and that comes at the cross of Jesus Christ where I yield to myself to my Sovereign and my Lord and he sends me the Holy Spirit.
Dennis: Frankly, if I didn’t have the Savior, if I didn’t have the Bible, if I didn’t have the Holy Spirit what you just described would be impossible.
Rick: And you wouldn’t want to.
Dennis: I’m way too selfish and preoccupied with my own needs. I would never nourish and cherish my wife as God has commanded me to do it if I didn’t have him guiding, correcting, and showing me the way and empowering me to do it.
Rick, you are a good man. I’m glad you’ve written this book. I hope a lot of our listeners will get this. I hope a lot of men will start some Bible studies and maybe sit down with their sons and walk their sons through this and talk about what it means to be a worker and a keeper. That is a great idea.
Bob: Yes, I have been talking about this group that I am in where we are getting together about every other week and going through Rick’s book and a lot of the men who are coming are bringing their teenage sons with them Last time we had about 25 guys in the room all around a big table just exploring some of the themes of the book, read through a couple of chapters and talk about it together.
It has been great for us to be thinking together as men about what the scriptures say and encouraging one another. Exploring these themes, but not doing it in a vacuum; doing it with other guys.
I’m with you I hope there will be a lot of men who will get together with some other guys or with their sons and go through The Masculine Mandate, by Rick Phillips which we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to request a copy of the book.
Again, it is FamilyLifeToday.com or call toll-free; 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800 F as in ‘Family’; L as in ‘Life’; and then the word ‘TODAY’ and ask about the Masculine Mandate by Rick Phillips or again, if it is easier, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and order a copy online.
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