Once upon a time, a man punished his five-year-old daughter for using up the family’s only roll of expensive gold wrapping paper before Christmas. Money was tight, so he became even more upset when on Christmas Eve, he saw that the child had used the expensive gold paper to decorate a large shoebox she had put under the Christmas tree.

Nevertheless, the next morning the little girl, filled with excitement, brought the gift box to her father and said, ‘This is for you, Daddy.’  As he opened the box, the father was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction, now regretting how he had punished her.

But when he opened the shoebox, he found it was empty and again his anger flared. ‘Don’t you know, young lady,’ he said harshly, ‘when you give someone a present there’s supposed to be something inside the package.’

The little girl looked up at him with sad tears rolling from her eyes and whispered, ‘Daddy, it’s not empty. I blew kisses into it until it was all full.’

The father was crushed. He fell on his knees and put his arms around his precious little girl. He begged her to forgive him for his unnecessary anger.

An accident took the life of the child only a short time later.

It is told that the father kept this little gold box by his bed for all the years of his life. Whenever he was discouraged or faced difficult problems, he would open the box, take out an imaginary kiss, and remember the love of this beautiful child who had put it there. 

This story is deeply moving. It pulls at the strings of your heart. Is it a true story? I don’t know. But it sure could be.

Last Sunday we had the rich blessing of witnessing the children of Heartland Vineyard Church on the stage singing Christmas Carols while the story of the first Christmas was read and re-enacted. I was struck by the beauty of our children. Some were singing with all their strength while doing the movements of the songs. Others were shy, not comfortable being in the spotlight. One tiny little girl with a long, stunning purple dress and beautiful blonde hair was enjoying every moment on stage. I saw another little girl with her hands held in front of her eyes in the shape of binoculars looking for her family and a little boy with his arm around his little brother.

Baby JesusI was especially drawn to baby Jesus being cradled in the arms of Ellie Peters, a 6th grader and a wonderful Jesus follower whom I have the honor of being one of her pastors. Many people presumed that Ellie had a doll in her arms because the baby was motionless. But baby Jesus was a real baby. Baby Jesus was Lucy Canady, my eight-week old granddaughter who was completely comfortable playing a baby boy in her first play.

Every one of these kids are a gift from God. They need to be molded by love and taught by gentle hands and hearts. They need to be disciplined but never with anger. I believe the fruit of the spirit outlined in Galatians 6 are mightily useful in raising our children; patience and self-control being foremost.

When Roi Lene and I were raising our kids, sometimes we were the ones who needed to take a time out. Our kids would make us angry. But we learned that if we disciplined out kids in anger we were doing more damage that good. The flip side of that was that if we didn’t discipline our kids at all, we were damaging them even more. There is always a delicate balance parents are living in with their children.

One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is to learn by the magnificent leadership of the Holy Spirit, how to train them up. If you are a parent of a child, give your kids the gift of love. Love them with grace-empowered words of affirmation. Love them by holding them in your arms and letting them feel your love. Love them by disciplining their lives, teaching them with patience and consistency. Let them know that you are for them no matter what and that you are not expecting perfection. Let them know you are proud of them.

You might ask, how do I learn to love my children this way? Simply let God, your Heavenly Father, love you this way. Let Him speak to you words of affirmation from His precious word and through the voice of His Holy Spirit. Let Him hold you in His mighty arms and lovingly discipline you with patience and consistency. Let Him pledge to you that He will never leave you nor will He ever forsake you. The more you receive this kind of love from Him, the more of that love you have to give to your children.

I might add another effective way to learn how to give your kids the gift of love. Find a godly family who display the kind of parenting you want to adopt as your own. Sit down with them and learn. Ask them questions. Watch them interact with their children. Simple relationship with another family can become a profound learning experience.

Finally, I want to personally thank Carrie Metz and Lynn Speed for their devotion to our Children’s Ministry. Your leadership means so much to HVC. I want to thank all of you who serve our children in KidZone and the Garage. I want to thank Michael and Krista Reed for their leadership on our Youth Ministry. I want to thank as well their team of gifted and enthused leaders who minister every week to our Junior and Senior High Students.

Together, let’s be a church that gives our children every opportunity to walk with Jesus and experience His abundance of love and life.