Sunday, November 05, 2006

Matt's Messages - The Family Dance

“The Family Dance”
November 5, 2006
Ephesians 6:1-4

Last week, I announced that this Sunday begins Church Family Appreciation Month. Last month was Pastor Appreciation. This month, we get to appreciate you!

Today, I want to begin by appreciating how you take care of your pastor’s family. We feel very loved and cared for. Not only do you pay us a good salary and provide benefits for us like time off, hospitalization, study week, and conference expenses, but many of you are always on the lookout for what you can do give grace to our family. Thank you.

One practical expression of this, that came to mind this week, was the first Saturday in February 2002. All day Friday, Heather had been putting our things in boxes. In the morning, we woke up in our home in Bigler and started getting ready for the day. Robin was one and a half. Drew was two months old.

At about 9am, the LEFC Swat-Team came swooping down on our home. 15 pick-up trucks (literally!) showed up and carted off all of our stuff to the new home we’d had built in Lanse. Blair Murray rode in the back of a pick-up truck with our old blakc piano hanging over the end with almost nothing holding it in.

I was the last to leave the Bigler house. When I arrived in Lanse, almost all of our stuff was unpacked, in cupboards. Furniture arranged in the living room. Beds and cribs set up in rooms. And Michele Kephart had made everybody lunch at the church. We moved our entire life in 3 hours. Actually, you moved our entire belongings in three hours.

We appreciate you and all that you have done over the last 8.5 years to make us feel at home here and taken care of our family.

Speaking of family, that’s what we’re talking about this Fall with our Home Improvement series. The first half of our series dealt with the primary family relationship–the marriage. And it should be the primary family relationship! If we are growing in the areas that we dealt with in September and October, the rest of the family relationships are going to go so much smoother!

Now starting today, we’re going to begin to talk about the rest of the nuclear family: children and parents together in what I call “The Family Dance.”

I invite you to open your Bibles to the Letter to the Ephesian Church. We’re back to Ephesians this morning. Ephesians chapter 6 (that’s on Pew Bible Page #1159). Ephesians chapter 6, the first 4 verses.

If you remember a few weeks ago, we looked at chapter 5 verses 22 through 33 which is about the primary family relationship–marriage. Now, Paul turns to the rest of the family: children together with their parents, and he gives some vital instruction to both parties.

I call it “The Family Dance.”

I don’t know if your family likes to dance, but ours does. We like to pull back the furniture in the living room, crank up some Steven Curtis Chapman and get silly with dancing together. Well, that is: Robin, Drew, Peter, Isaac, and I do. Sometimes, we have a hard time getting Mommy onto the dance floor!

But we really enjoy grabbing hands and dancing around in a circle and then showing each other our cool moves. It’s a real sight, I’ll tell you. Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you a demonstration!

But it takes more than one person to dance, doesn’t it? Have you ever tried to dance with someone who just stands there? It’s not a lot of fun.

In this passage of Scripture, the Apostle Paul lays out several steps for both parties–children and their parents–to dance together.

The Family Dance, step #1 is for children.


Kids, are you paying attention?

Look down at v.1 of chapter 6. There is one thing commanded of you by God in v.1. What is it? What are children supposed to do in relationship to their parents? Somebody yell it out....

That’s right. OBEY. V.1 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”

Christian children are called by God to obey their parents.

Now, let me ask you a trick question. See how close you are paying attention to the Bible. What do you think are the 3 most important words in v.1? What are the 3 most important words in verse 1? Kids, what do you think?

You might guess that the words, “Obey your parents” are the most important because they tell you WHAT to do and to WHOM. You are to do what Mom and Dad say. When they give you some instructions, you are to carry them out. “Obey your parents.” You know what that means. But those three words (as important as they are as words of God) are not the most important. The three most important words are “in the Lord.” Because “in the Lord” tells us WHY and HOW to obey. That’s the most important thing you can know about this command!

Christian children are called to obey their parents IN THE LORD.

Now, what does that mean? It doesn’t mean that you are only to obey your parents if they are Christians. Some of your parents are probably not Christians. But “in the Lord” does not mean only if they are “in the Lord.”

I think that “in the Lord” means at least 2 things:

First, obey BECAUSE of the Lord. And second, obey LIKE you would the Lord. Obey because of the Lord and obey like you would the Lord.

Does that make sense? Are you still with me, kids?

Who is “the Lord?”

“The Lord” is the Lord Jesus Christ. He wants you to obey your parents. So, if you believe in Jesus BECAUSE of that, you are called to obey your parents.

Now, I can imagine that some of you don’t like to do the dishes or take out the garbage or clean your room or put away your toys or go to bed or limit your phone-time or turn off the television when asked. [Anyone here like that?] But when Mom or Dad says it’s time to do that, God is asking you to remember what He has commanded of you.

If you are “in the Lord,” then He wants you to obey them. Don’t give them a hard time about it. Do it. They are in charge. Not because they are bigger and stronger (or better) but because God has placed them in a position of authority over you. So, obey IN THE LORD.

Second, “in the Lord” means LIKE YOU WOULD the Lord. Imagine if Jesus Himself showed up and asked you to take out the garbage. Would you? I hope so! If you don’t think you would, then you don’t really know who Jesus is yet!

Let’s think for a second about how you would obey the Lord.

You’d do it at least three ways: immediately, completely, and cheerfully.

Anything less is not really obedience.

That’s what it means to obey IN THE LORD. It means to treat your parents like you would treat Jesus: immediately, completely, cheerfully. Is that always easy? No. But God will help you to do it if you remember that you are IN THE LORD.

Kids, notice the last phrase of this verse. God says, “obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.”

To obey is the right thing to do. That’s how God has designed the family.

It’s kind of like an army. Imagine if the Army didn’t have a design and structure. If there were no commanding officers. And so when the soliders are running through the forest with guns nobody is in charge. And one would yell, “Shoot over there!” And someone else would yell back, “No, I don’t want to! Shoot over here!” And somebody else yelled, “No, I don’t want to! Shoot over here!” Do you think they would ever win a battle? Never. They might not even survive!

That’s one of the reasons why God has made families this way. He puts someone in charge of the family so that they can win spiritual battles for Him. And parents are the commanding officers of the family.

So in the family dance, step #1 is for children to obey their parents in the Lord (because of the Lord and like you would the Lord: immediately, completely, and cheerfully).

Now, in vv.2&3, God gives a second step to kids. Really, He’s pointing out that the first command (obedience) is part of a bigger command that God gave way back in the 10 Commandments. Obeying is a part of honoring. And not just young children are called to honor. Children who still live at home are called to obey. All children are called to honor.


“`Honor your father and mother’–which is the first commandment with a promise–`that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’”

This is a quote from Exodus 20:12. To honor someone means to value, to prize, to make someone big, to enlarge their reputation, to give them respect and appreciation and esteem and dignity and status and consideration.

I like to boil honor down to 5 words that I think encapsulate the actions and attitudes that reflect honor.

Honor = Obey + Respect + Thank + Love + Care

We already talked about obey for young children living in their parent’s home.

“Respect” means to recognize your parents’ unique position in your life and treat them with the esteem and value and consideration due them.

It especially comes out in the way that you talk about them to others. Guys, how do you talk about your father to your friends? Are you always complaining? Or talking them up? Ladies, what are you doing to your Mother’s reputation? Are you enhancing it with your friends or poking fun at her and hurting her in their eyes. Respect. In September, my friend Dan Ledford had our Uth honor their parents at Uth night by saying something that they really appreciated about their folks (and vice versa). That was honoring.

“Thank” is obvious. But often overlooked. When was the last time you honored your parents with a “Thank-You” for what they’ve done well?

“Love” means to actively seek their best. Show affection for them. Hug your Dad, he’ll love it! Kiss your Mom, she’ll love it! Tell them about your love for them. And not just “Love ya!” “I love you. Look them in the eye.” They will be honored.

“Care” is when it flips over the other way. You are now stronger, more able to get around, more financially free, but they need you to honor them by taking care of them. Fix what needs done around the house. Mow their lawn!

I’ve seen my mom doing this now with her aging parents, my grandparents. It is a real honor for my grandparents to be cared for by my Mom and her brothers.

God calls us to honor our parents.

And Paul points out that this commandment came with a promise. I love it when God does this. He calls us to honor and then tells us what things are going to happen when we do. And you can sum it up with one word: blessing.


Look at v.3. It’s the promise:

“that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Now, I admit when I read this, I thought of Bill Cosby’s famous line, “Son, I brought you into this world, and I can take you out!” In other words, Paul is saying that your folks won’t kill you if you honor them!

But God isn’t talking so much about how our parents will treat us, as how He will treat us if we obey His commands for us.

God promises quality and (to some extent) quantity of life for those who honor their parents.

Sometimes it’s hard to honor our parents. I know stories about children from dysfunctional families where alcohol and abuse have reigned that have had to overcome great odds to even admit that someone is their father or mother. Maybe your parents have been a disappointment to you in some major way. But God is bigger than those disappointments. They are holding you back, but God is calling you forward–to honor (obey, respect, thank, love, care for) your parents. And when you do, there is blessing on the way.

So, what are you going to do about it?

Kids, how are you going to apply this truth this week?

If you are a kid living in your parents’ home right now, maybe you want to focus on some aspect of obedience that you have been falling down on recently. Your Mom or Dad has been asking you to do...what? And you haven’t or you haven’t quickly and with too many questions or objections. Immediately, completely, cheerfully.

Or maybe your application is going to be about honoring. Maybe you need to change the way you talk about your Dad or your Mom to your friends. Maybe you need to write a Thank-You note today (or every day this week!) to thank them for a job well done. Or maybe there’s something they need done around their home. Or maybe they need a phone call or a listening ear. Or maybe they are gone and their memory needs to be honored in some way (a journal entry, a story told about them to your children, a phone call to their nearest living relative, something like that).

Can I ask you, kids, to write down an application on the back of your bulletin and a prayer for God’s help in doing it, and then rejoice in adavance for the blessing that God has in store for you. “It will go well with you.”

If you do your part of The Family Dance.

Obey and Honor. Those are the submissive commands that God has for children.

But what about parents? What are we who are parents called to by God? V.4

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

Why “Fathers?”

Why does v.4 say “fathers” only and not parents? Paul just used the word for parents in v.1. Why doesn’t he use that word again in v.4? Why does he use the word “Fathers?”


I think he does mean parents in general, but I think [what’s going on here is that] he means fathers in specific. Fathers have a special calling to lead in the home.

Remember, God has designed the family in such a way as to place the Father in the position of authority. More than the mother, the family (especially the family’s spiritual condition) is the leadership responsibility of the father.

We’ve come back to headship. Dads. Exercise headship. God is calling you to lead your family spiritually. No exceptions. Do you see an exception in this verse? No question that moms are important–especially in families that don’t have dads or don’t have Christian dads! But, Dad, God is looking you in the eye and asking you to take responsibility for the spiritual direction of your kids.

It doesn’t matter if your Mom was the spiritual leader in your family. It doesn’t matter if all the other dads are trying to get out of it. You have read this verse. You are called to it. It says, “Fathers.”

Parents in general, but fathers in specific.

Fathers are to take the lead in The Family Dance. Now, verse 4 again.

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children.” Let’s stop there.

The first step for parents is a negative one. Don’t do this.


Don’t exasperate your children. With the authority and power of leadership comes the responsibility of self-control and reasonableness in its use.

“Exasperate” is a big word that means to bother, to disturb, to annoy, to chafe, to irk, to irritate, to vex. The KJV had it right, “Provoke not your children to wrath.” Don’t parent in such a way that you create an angry child.

Dads, this is just as important as your children learning to obey you.

You need to be the kind of dad worth obeying.

What kind of things create an angry child? Let me give you a quick list:

Unreasonable demands. Can they do what you are asking?

Petty rules. Is there really a reason you are asking this of them?

Favoritism. They will know if you like one better than another.

Unrighteous Anger. They will learn it from you.

Unfairness. Did you say one thing and then do another?

Humiliation. Nothing breaks the spirit as much as public shaming.

Abuse. The anger will build and build and then you’ve lost them.

Neglect. You’ve got to pour your time and attention into them so that they won’t grow in anger and resentment.

Does this mean that you are not to cross their will? Does this mean that you are to pussyfoot around your children so that they never get upset with you? No. That would turn the home upside down.

I heard a story once about a boy who was running away from home (had his pack over his back and everything), and a policeman drove by and asked him, “Sonny, what are you doing?” The little boy said, “I’m running away from home.” “Why are you doing that?” “Because Mother and Dad won’t mind me anymore!” was his reply. Unfortunately, there are too many families like that!

No, this doesn’t mean that you never make them mad. It means that you don’t make them mad for no good reason! It doesn’t mean don’t put your foot down so that they are always happy with you. It means put your foot down in a reasonable place with a view towards their long-term good not your short-term comfort!

Don’t exasperate your children.

The second command is the opposite of this. It comes it two parts. We’ll call it 2 commands. V.4 again.

“Instead, [this is how you encourage them instead of exasperate them] bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

The word for “bring up” is the same word for feeding and caring for you body or your wife in v.29 of chapter 5. It means to meet their needs–especially spiritually. Many people only go so far with this. They meet their children’s needs for food, clothing, shelter, education, and security, but they miss the most important one!


Christians parents (especially fathers) are called by God to bring up their children in the training of the Lord.

Just like “in the Lord” was the most important three words of v.1, “of the Lord” is the most important words of v.4. This is all about Jesus.

Dads [and Moms], you are called to bring up your children so that they are trained of the Lord.

That word “trained” is the same word used elsewhere for discipline.

Loving discipline is the chief thing missing from many Christian homes today. There is this idea that discipline isn’t love and that we need to love our children not discipline them–especially spanking.

But God wants us to love our children by disciplining them. And there is no way around it.

Children need discipline. And they love it.

Nobody loves a spanking. But we all love the fruit of spanking–what it produces in disciplined children that eventually have self-discipline are safe in “the circle of blessing.”

The “circle of blessing” is a concept that is explained by Tedd Tripp in his most excellent book (I can’t recommend it enough!) Shepherding a Child’s Heart.”

He says that Ephesians 6:1-3 (the kids’ side of the Family Dance) is obedience and honor of parents that leads to blessing.

“With obedience comes blessing.”

But when our children step outside of the circle of blessing, they are in what? Danger.

With disobedience comes danger.

And discipline, especially the rod or spanking, is a God-given means to help our children back into the circle of blessing.

That’s how Heather and I explain it nearly every time that we have to discipline one of our children.

They need to know that they are under authority and that authority exists for their good.

“Son, what did you do?”

“I disobeyed.”

“What comes with disobedience?”


“Do I want danger for you?”


“What does God tell me that I need to do for you?”

“Spank me.”

“That’s right. And I love you and I will be diligent to do what is best for you.”

And a spanking and a prayer time together.

And a reminder of the Gospel!

Discipline is not vindication and a chance to get out our anger.

It is a Gospel opportunity.

I just learned this the other day from a very good tape on parenting.

To ask this at the end of each discipline experience.

“Do you know why you disobeyed? You disobeyed because you are a sinner that needs a savior. Just like Daddy.”

Remember, this is the discipline of the Lord. We are building our families on the Gospel.

And all discipline is meant to point us to some aspect of the Gospel.

And, of course, there is much more than just corrective discipline to be doing.


Parents (especially fathers) are called by God to meet the spiritual needs of our children with instruction. The idea of instruction emphasizes the use of words. Teaching. Admonishing. Warning. Correcting. Explaining.

Dads, this is your responsibility. Don’t expect the church to do this for you! The Sunday School and Children’s Church and Kids for Christ and ABC Kids and Uth are helpful in coming alongside and enhancing what you are doing at home, but they are woefully inadequate to turn your children into fully loving followers of Jesus like God wants them to be. By God’s grace, that’s your job!

And Moms, that’s your job, too. To follow Dad’s lead in instructing your children in the ways of God. Especially, if there is no Christian father in the picture.

I highly, highly, highly recommend daily family devotions and study time. We have done all kinds of things as a family to do that training together.

We read spiritual books. We the read the Bible. We teach our kids memory verses and Bible memory songs. We pray with them. We teach them questions and answers about Christianity. That’s often called catechizing them. It just means teaching them questions and answers about Christianity.

Robin and Drew have about 40 questions that they know the answers to including most of the beatitudes by number and the 10 commandments by number.

We’ve got to do the Family Dance! Instruct them about the Lord.

Parents, especially fathers, what is your personal application going to be this week?

We’ve just dedicated Ben, Matthew, and Zane to the Lord. These parents have just promised to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

What are you planning to do? What new plans to you need to put into place?

Maybe it starts with repentance.

Repentance for something you’re doing that leads to exasperating your child.

There are very few things more powerful in parenting than apologizing to your child. God is bigger than Daddy’s ego!

Or make an application about bringing them up in the training of the Lord. Are you disciplining like you should? Does your son respect your wife? Dads, it’s your job to train in that respect. Are they running wild? Are they being trained towards godliness, where their will is being shaped by the values of scripture?

Or make an application about bringing them up in the instruction of the Lord. Do you have a family devotion time? Are you using teachable moments? Are you reading the Bible together? Are you praying together? Are you blessing your children? Dads? Are your children in Sunday School? Are you finding out what they are learning in Sunday School and Children’s Church and using that as a spring-board for spiritual instruction in the home? That’s where it’s supposed to happen.

Ask God to reveal where you need to grow, dads and moms, and then write it down with a prayer for help.

Children, Obey and Honor your Parents in the Lord.

Parents (especially fathers), Don’t exasperate, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Families, let’s dance!


I'm concerned when we, as Christians, are not careful with our choices of words when talking about parenting. So often, as I see a hint of in this post we freely interchange the words training=punishment=discipline=spanking.

Mixing up those words (and meanings) in my experience leads us to read into the Bible much of what is normal within our Christian culture, instead of digging into the Word for what it says itself, apart from our assumptions.

Grace and peace,


Thanks for dropping by.

I am all for digging into the Word for what it says itself, apart from our assumptions. Good point.

In my study, the word the NIV translates "training" is rendered "discipline" elsewhere (and is here in most other English versions).

And while I wouldn't use "punishment" as a synonymn, as I've studied what the Bible says about discipline, I believe it includes a careful, loving use of "the rod." (Notice that discipline is seen as "painful" in Hebrews 12 (same word for discipline as in Ephesians 6)).

Those are some of the reasons why I've chosen the words I have.

I hope to post on some web and print resources tomorrow for both the underlying philosophy I'm talking about and some practical ways of going about it.



What do you say to your kids about the fact that you disobey, but you don't get spankings? I have been taught that it's biblical to spank and have read Tripp's book, but I grapple with the fact that my own sin doesn't incur such painfully physical ramifications. It seems so harsh. I'm curious of your take on this.


Thanks for stopping by.

Good question.

A few thoughts:

1. Spankings are training, not punishment, so it would make sense for that training to have an end-point. So, I might point out to my kids that I was spanked when I was a child, but I have now grown out of that.

2. Of course, your question is more about my relationship with God. I think I do receive discipline there, too. Hebrews 12:4-11 addresses that some and seems to assume that some of the painful trials that come our way in this life are, in fact, God's loving discipline--not in a punishing one-for-one sense, but in a refining, training, growing us in righteousness sense.

3. I don't think that spanking, as unpleasant as it is, should be especially harsh. In the long run, it's the rupture in the relationship that is more painful, and spanking is a God-ordained means of restoring that relationship gracefully. Many times, we have found that spanking leads to sweet intimacy with our kids.

Those are off the top of my head.

Thanks again for dropping in.