No parents are perfect, but some do a better job than others. Some leave their children, others neglect their children, and still others abuse their children. Thankfully, many parents discipline, teach, care for, and love their children.

Leave It to Beaver, The Waltons, and Little House on the Prairie are all television shows of yesteryear that come to mind when I think of good parents.

Additionally, some children have good parents and turn out bad while others have bad parents and turn out good. And parenting doesn’t stop when our children leave the nest. We parent until we die.

Of all the model parents, none can compare with the parenting skills of our heavenly Father.

He Helps Us Grow Up

“You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food” (Hebrews 5:12 NLT).

Life had taken a sad turn. My job of six years had vanished. Searching for a job became a discouraging challenge. Months went by before a call finally came from a school district forty miles away wanting to know if I’d be interested in working as a teacher’s assistant.

At this point, I was willing to try anything. Little did I know the children I’d be working with were autistic. Their bodies were the normal size for their age, but their actions weren’t. Only one could go to the bathroom by himself—and that only with assistance. The others wore diapers.

At their age, they should have been talking, but all they could do was make sounds. When other kids were watching movies and playing video games, they were watching Barney the purple dinosaur. Normal children their age could feed themselves, but these children had to be spoon fed like babies.

The recipients of this letter had been believers for many years. So long, in fact, that they should have known God’s Word well enough to teach others. But they didn’t. They were still babies. They needed children’s Bible stories when they should have been teaching others the meat portions of God’s Word. They needed bottle feeding instead of spoon feeding.

Although growing up is fun, it is also challenging and difficult. Many times I’ve wished I could return to the younger years when Mom and Dad took care of everything. Growing up in Christ is no different. Physical growth happens naturally; spiritual growth takes effort. I won’t grow if I don’t try.

Growing up requires that I be countercultural. I can’t stand with the grain because according to Jesus most of the grains are going in the wrong direction. Through spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible study, meditation, and fellowship with like-minded believers, I train my conscience to be sensitive to the pricking of God’s Spirit. This takes time, but the reward is that I’ll grow up in Christ and be used in ways I wouldn’t have had I remained a babe. No longer will I be blown about by every new teaching that comes along. Neither will I find myself continually falling to the temptations of Satan. I will have matured. And God will help us as we make these efforts to grow.

A part of being a good parent is cutting the apron strings so your child can grow into maturity and responsibility and change the world. God also allows us to make mistakes through the maturing process, but he’s always there to pick us up when we fall.

He Teaches the Basics But Doesn’t Chain Us to Them

“So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding” (Hebrews 6:1 NLT).

How much would any believers grow if their pastors only preached salvation message every time he or she preached?

Country music artist, Waylon Jennings, sang about getting back to the basics of love. Christian group, 4 Him, sang about getting back to the basics of life.

The importance of basics depends on what the basics are. If I choose a basic virus protection package for my computer, I give up full protection. If I choose the basics for my television satellite provider, I won’t be able to view some channels.

The basics are the bare minimum. Whether having only the basics is enough merits further consideration. Basics carry disadvantages but are necessary to enjoy the frills. I can’t watch ESPN if I don’t at least have satellite or cable. I can’t enjoy full virus protection if I don’t at least have the virus program. I can’t get back to the basics of love if I don’t have love to begin with.

When the writer says to leave the basics of Christianity and get on with mature spiritual living, he doesn’t mean the basics are dispensable or unimportant. I can’t grow up in Christ if I don’t have Christ. While these early believers didn’t need to continually rehash the basics, the basics were imperative.

The basics of the biblical message concern God’s love and humanity’s problem. God calls the problem sin, and he cannot associate with it because of his holy nature. Either I or someone else must pay. Because of his enormous and matchless love, God decided to allow his Son to pay the debt. He did so by dying on an old rugged cross on a hill called Calvary.

In some unfathomable way, God placed the world’s sins on his Son, thereby freeing all persons who choose to accept his gift. Through faith in Christ and belief in his resurrection, I can be reconciled to God, enjoy an abundant life presently, and look forward to a wonderful eternity.

I can’t leave the basics out, but once I’ve accepted them I must grow in my understanding of how to apply to life what I’ve received.

There are basics to building a house, but unless I add to them I won’t have a house—just a foundation and maybe a framework. Parents teach children the basics of life, but life experiences help us to flesh out those basics and know how to apply them to life. God does the same with us.

His Grace Keeps Us from Going Too Far

“It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again” (Hebrews 6:6 NLT).

Christmas season had arrived. My wife and I were living almost three hours away from our families, but were eagerly anticipating the drive home to frolic with them and our friends. Since my wife had been an avid shopper that season, the presents soon overtook our luggage.

We opened presents at my family’s home first, and then it was off to my in-law’s to repeat the process. As we did, my wife noticed her nephew and niece had no gifts from us. She had bought an entire box full, but where were they?

“Did you get the box from the top of the closet,” she asked. I hadn’t, but we had gone too far to go back and retrieve them.

At some point, too far is too far. This hotly-debated verse has witnessed several interpretations. Among them that the writer was warning against apostasy, that the listeners weren’t true believers, that the listeners were superficial believers, or that he was merely posing a hypothetical scenario. Regardless of what it could mean, a scarlet thread runs through all the possibilities: unbelief.

Unbelief is dangerous and has the potential to take us beyond the too-far point. When God gives more privileges, more responsibilities follow. Those who’ve heard the Gospel but don’t respond will be held to a greater level of accountability than those who’ve never heard.

Since God doesn’t give second chances after death, it’s essential that I make necessary decisions now—deciding to trust Christ being the most important. When I continue to ignore God’s call to salvation, my heart hardens. Hearing demands action, and my actions demonstrate I’ve heard.

The good news is that as long as we’re alive and in our right minds, we haven’t gone too far. We can respond to God’s call—most importantly to the call to salvation but also to various areas of service. No matter how far you are, God allows turn arounds.

Parents attempt to keep children from going too far—or even in the wrong direction—through discipline. God does the same. He woos unbelievers through the convicting power of the Spirit, and he does the same for his children—adding discipline when we stubbornly refuse to get back on track.

He Encourages

“We are confident that you are meant for better things, things that come with salvation” (Hebrews 6:9 NLT).

Our friendship is twelve years old. I met him when things in my life had taken a turn south. He was my middle brother’s pastor and had been a pastor to my parents. In spite of how bleak my future appeared, he continued to say, “God’s not through with you. He has a plan.”

My wife and I eventually joined the church he pastored where we continued to build our friendship with him and his family. At the end of one year, the youth pastor resigned, and my encouraging friend asked if I’d like the position of Associate Pastor. I accepted, and for two years we worked together. During that time, he continued to remind me God had a plan. He was convinced greater things were in store and told me so often. God awarded me the gift of a pick-me-up…not in the form of medicine but in the person of a good friend.

Turning my back on God is possible but unfathomable. These early Christians had been warned of the dangers of doing so, but the author doesn’t think they will. Better things are in store for them. He picks them up by speaking optimism and encouragement into their lives.

My friend was a healer of my spirit. His words brought peace to my soul. Hearing someone speak hope into my future was enough to get me through another night and day. When I do this for others, the same occurs. By encouraging them, I’m encouraged.

Life is filled with disappointments, but their appearance doesn’t mean God has forgotten us. Through the tough times, he weaves his plan and accomplishes his purpose: forming us into the likeness of Christ. The trials wart off laziness because it takes hard emotional and spiritual effort to pattern the various threads of life.

I’m a product of my past—the tough times included—but I choose not to be a prisoner. They’re a part of my baggage God uses to encourage others that a brighter future lies ahead.