When Your Kids Won’t Bow to Your Idols

I believe there is a great deal of truth in this article. It was a good reminder that if we are not careful, all we may end up doing with our children is turning them away from Christ instead of pointing them to Christ. I recommend all true believing parents to read the blogpost found here by Jennifer Phillips.

How Necessary is Experience?

We live in a society where people won’t receive advice from those who haven’t “walked in their shoes.” The older I get, the more I realize that experience is not always necessary.

Whether I have been married or not, I know how husbands and wives are to treat each other. Whether or not I ever have children, I know a few things about what works and what doesn’t work in raising children. I also realize that all children are different, so what works for one may not work for another. Basic principles can be the same though.

The Bible has clear guidelines as to how a person is to live. It really doesn’t matter what I would do if I were going through your circumstances. There is still a right way to handle a situation and a wrong way.

I believe part of the reason people get defensive is that they do not want to be judged for bad decisions they are making. If you are living in any way contrary to the Word of God, you are judged already. No one should be unwilling to receive input, regardless of the source.

advice

For many years, I have periodically counseled people on marriage, parenting, and other issues. I often felt unqualified, but people needed help so I prayed and asked God for wisdom. Between Scripture and things I have learned from reading, praying, and watching others, I believe God used me during those times.

Too many times, people use excuses to do what they want to do. They are not interested in what the Bible says; they want to do what feels good in the moment. Because of this, children are hurt by parents divorcing. Selfishness reigns so that there is constant heartache and strife. God gave instructions for a reason. He loves His children and desires them to live a peaceful, holy life that He can bless. There is a reason that he condemns greed, envy, unforgiveness, hatred, etc. Those things cause us to do things that we will live to regret … if we live long enough.

Maybe I haven’t gone through what you are going through, but I know we serve a loving God. I know that His plan for you is good and not evil … IF you follow His ways.

Encouragement in Parenting – Part 4

We begin with the words of Deuteronomy 6:5-9, and we will consider it in detail later in the article. “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Parents, we have addressed some major concerns that are facing our homes and my prayer is that those who read will give serious and prayerful consideration to what was commanded of the children of Israel. It is in these words that we will find an answer to how we may correct what is missing in our own homes. As I share these thoughts, I address them from my own personal perspective as well as from the problems we have sought to deal with in our home in the raising of our children.

Reading these words it may seem that we have managed to figure out all the answers. You may wonder how we managed to raise five almost perfect children who obeyed us every single time the first time we asked them to do something. You may even be astounded that all five of our children always obeyed us with a heart full of gratitude for parents who loved them enough to raise them to joyfully accept responsibilities no matter how long it took for them to achieve those household chores.

Before you stop reading, let me hasten to assure you this was most definitely NOT a picture of our home. We are not and never were perfect parents. We do not and never have had a perfect home. Further, I can testify that we are the proud parents of five fallible and loveable children; however, they are also five children who were each born with a totally depraved sinful nature. What this means to us is that we are still a work in progress as we learn to depend more and more through the process known as progressive sanctification. What this means to you is that you can hopefully learn from our mistakes as we have had to learn from the lives of others who have gone before us.

My wife and I have been blessed with three boys since conception and two girls that were born in our hearts but that we were not able to add to our home until they were around 2½ years old. Our oldest is now almost 23, married and has a two year old son of his own. He is having to learn to be a parent and he is making mistakes just like his dad did, and his grandfather did before him, all the way back to Adam.

One of my biggest concerns as a young father was whether I would be a good dad to whatever children the Lord gave to our family. Over time that concern became much more than whether I had the ability to provide clothes, food, and whatever wants their little depraved hearts may have desired. My concern turned into something that only became a poignant reminder of the depravity of my own heart when our grandson was born a little over two years ago.

All of a sudden, my role as a parent became far more important than the biological implications. For years I had hoped and prayed that I would learn from my own mistakes and sins before God. I had changed in so many areas, and had learned even from the times of being made to humble myself to the Most High and toward my children when I had been wrong or had handled areas of discipline very wrongly.

Now that I was a grandparent to a very handsome grandson (must take after his grandpa!), I began to realize how much I had actually missed when raising my grandson’s dad – my son.

You see, while I was raising my son and making mistakes, I was also doing something else that I could not truly begin to comprehend until he got married, left home, and started his own family. I had spent almost 20 years training him to be both a husband and a father. It was impossible to go back in time and redo what I should have done from the time he first entered our lives as a cell that then split into two.

Today, I have to watch my son making his own set of mistakes as he raises our grandson. Through this time of watching from afar, due to the distance of where they have made their home as he proudly serves in the United States Air Force, I have learned more and suffered pain in my heart as I recognize over and over how much I let down my grown sons. You see, I had failed to wholeheartedly learn the truths found in the Deuteronomy 6 passage.

Now I am left to wonder if the results of my role as a father will come home to be a blessing in the life of my grandchildren. Or, will the results of the times of my selfishness be a burden to my son as he struggles to learn the things I failed to teach him? Yes, there are many things I taught him. I played ball, helped homeschool him, took him to church, made him sit still as I preached another message, helped instill discipline through the use of chores, but is that all I taught him?

While my son is responsible for his own actions, I also am responsible as his dad to continue to be a godly example and correct areas that are or were lacking my own life. Only when I have been brought to the point where I learn these truths am I now able to not only make things right with him, but also to help encourage him to be the kind of dad that God wants my son to be.

Fathers and husbands, it is at this point that we must rightly consider the words written by Moses through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who alone can guide us into all truth and the truths in this passage will help us to be what we should be. If we fail in our responsibility of being a godly husband and a godly father, then we will have failed most miserably in the most important task we have been given as a parent. If I have only taught my son how to be a man, but failed to teach him how to be a godly man, then I have sinned before God and against my child.

We have mentioned Acts 17:28 where the apostle Paul tells the people at the Aeropagus in Athens that “it is in God that we live, and move, and have our being.” This must be what drives each parent, and especially those of us who are blessed with the privilege and awesome responsibility of being a father. Paul was reiterating much what he had most definitely learned as a child growing up in a religious Jewish home and all that he had learned as a prelude to becoming a Pharisee of Pharisees.

With his forward progress arrested by Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, he learned the hard way that “in God we live, and move, and have our being” is much, much more than mere philosophical words. These words became a reality of great spiritual import. Jesus Christ was real and for Paul to be what God required of him, he would have to put these words into practice.

A little over one thousand years prior to Paul learning a valuable lesson and passing it on to his listeners, the wise king Solomon noted in Ecclesiastes 12:13, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” If the whole duty of man is to fear God and keep his commandments, then we must spend the time necessary to learn how to obey this duty.

Moses knew that it would not be easy following and obeying God, but he also knew what it would take in the home in order for families to head in the right direction. First, it must be noted that he directs the attention of his words to the man, the husband, the father of the home. From the creation of Adam and Eve, God had instituted both marriage and the home. The man is to be the spiritual leader of each home, not because he is the brightest or smartest, but because this is what God has ordained.

The divine order is vitally important as we will see throughout our consideration of Deuteronomy 6. Woe to the husband who fails to live up to the expectations that God places on him to be a leader to the lady of the house, the woman God has entrusted to his care. Woe to the father who fails in the role and responsibility given to him by God to train and teach his children the ways of a holy, righteous God.

However, there is great joy that comes when we disregard the poor examples the world seeks to conjure up. Men, as husbands and fathers, we must learn to accept that God has made us to be men. We must learn to take a stand as true believers who are called to true manliness, a manliness that says, “God will be the ultimate head of this home, and I, as the husband and dad, will learn to be to my wife and children an example of Jesus Christ to you.”

Let’s break this passage down further to see how we can do this. But as we do, we must learn to accept that we will not do it perfectly because we are sinful creatures. We can only respond in a way that glorifies God when we are willing to take up this challenge.

Parenting – Biological or Biblical? – Part 1

father-and-daughter-11291665285sopOne of my little enjoyments is sitting in a public location watching the faces of those who are around me. A person’s face often reveals a great deal about them. Are they sad, angry, glad, ecstatic, overwhelmed, discouraged, in love, or merely contemplating the world at large?

Many times, they can be so wrapped up in their own thoughts or their own little world that they probably do not even realize they are portraying a part of their soul for others to see.

In studying the faces of others, there is one factor missing – the personal factor. Most of those I see, I do not know. Are they sad because they have lost a loved one or a pet? Are they discouraged because of a job loss that same morning and they wonder how they will pay the bills? Are they overwhelmed because of all the turmoil in the world? If they show love to the person they are with, is it a true picture of what is in their heart or merely a façade? Do any of these people pretend to be something they are not in order to cover up what is deep inside?

As I observe evangelical Christianity today, there are many faces being portrayed to the world. A vast majority of the faces shown to the world seem to merely be a cover-up. We are reminded in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that when God changes us we become a brand new creation. All the old things pass away and we are in the process of having all things made new.

Sadly, much of what we observe today does not reflect a new creation. It reflects the cares of the world and a strong desire to look more and more like the world around us. The world does not look at most who claim the name of Christ and say of us, “They have been with Jesus!” More times than not, it seems that they look at us and are asking, “Why should we want what they offer since they are not any different than us?”

One of the areas that is a growing concern is the role of parenting. For far too long, the church has portrayed a face to the world that says all is well in our homes and with our children. The reality of what goes on behind closed doors is both shocking and overwhelming in its bleak outlook.

How could we become so blind in the West? Is it possible that we could not have seen this coming, or did we see it coming and just didn’t care enough to implement the procedures necessary to prevent it?

Let’s consider this problem a little deeper, first of all as it pertains to the local church. We start here because this, for all true believers, should be the first area of concern as it pertains to the public aspects of our own lives and that of our children.

Little Johnny and Susie give their parents nice little cards and gifts on the appropriate holidays like: Wedding Anniversary, Christmas, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. The niceties of the card’s poetry is sweet but it often means little as the young people during the rest of the year disrespect their parents in just about every way imaginable. The face they are painting to the world is that they love the rebellion and depravity of their heart more than they love God and their parents. If our children truly loved us, they would be learning to respect our authority and learning how to be in submission as to the Lord.

But maybe this is part of the bigger picture. In our hurry to correct the problem, we want to “help” the young people put on a good face and often fail to realize the deeper problems that are at stake. Many of the children in our churches are hurting because of the attention they receive from their parents. Or, maybe we should say because of the lack of attention or the type of attention they receive from their parents.

For parents, the Scriptures are clear in Psalm 127:3, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward.” The face that many parents are putting on in front of others in their local congregations is one of bravado. They may indicate that all is well but beneath the surface, the waters are roiling as though it were a little paper sailboat caught in a typhoon.

Here is the average picture that seems to be prevalent in far too many churches no matter where we have ministered throughout both England and the USA.

Families do not worship together in a corporate setting on the Lord’s Day because there has been no true worship of God during the week. The family gets up late on a Sunday after spending hours the previous evening filling their heads with the rubbish of the world and stumble into church late more than they are on time.

Sunday mornings, instead of being a calm assurance of the wonder of being able to worship with other believers, is hectic and full of chaos. The ride to church is often a reflection of the worship of self rather than of God. The parents argue and bicker while the children do the same in the back seat.

I often remember an illustration used by Dr. Jim Berg about a smoker coming on the Bob Jones University campus which is smoke-free. The smoker would go into a restroom and take a few quick puffs. Within a few minutes, everybody in the building knew that a cigarette had been lit, but the smoker would not even notice the smell of the smoke. Why? Because they had been smoking for years and had grown immune to the smell.

The same is true within the lives of many parents and children. They are like the smoker and can no longer smell the “smoke” of their selfish lives. Instead of parents even noticing the smoke of their children, they are all arguing over what brand of flesh they are going to smoke. Parents want their way apart from Christ and the children learn from the parents.

On any given Sunday, families rush into church with fake plastic smiles, the words to beautiful hymns and choruses are barely mumbled because hearts are not in what is on the page. Most are hoping the pastor does not call on them to offer a prayer of thanksgiving, read a Scripture, or serve in some other capacity.

Many want to rush the children off to fun, games, and a wee little Bible story because it is too “difficult” to have them sit all the way through a service that the parents often do not even want to be in. The main reason there is little to no desire to train the children in the ways of worshiping and praising God in a corporate setting is because there is little to no desire to train them in these areas at home.

Prayer meetings and additional Bible studies are normally attended by less than 10% of most churches. Rarely will a child be seen in either one and the excuses will often include statements like, “Well, it is a school night and we need to get them in bed early.” What is amazing is that parents manage to say this with a straight face as their children merrily watch television, play electronic games, or surf the internet until well after the prayer meetings or Bible studies have concluded.

So, our children start in the nursery then spend time playing games and eating cookies at church from age 3-10. By the time they are ten or eleven, they are normally involved in all kinds of sports or various extracurricular activities. In a few short years, they become teenagers and they quickly want nothing to do with church anymore.

Now, Dad and Mom have to make a decision. Capitulate to the children and let them stay home, or insist that, as long as they are “in our home,” they will attend?

To insist they go, though, requires that parents not seem like hypocrites. In other words, why should they show respect and go to church when they can often see the charade put on for the benefit of others? They know when parents only go to church as a social event on the calendar and provided nothing else is more important.

Teenagers know when parents have a true desire to worship God because they will see our love for one another and for being together with other true believers, but when they see more love for the world, for the television, for sports activities, and for gathering excuses one more time to miss a prayer meeting or Bible study, then parents should not expect anything other than rebellion to our authority.

The problem is compounded then when the children grow up and begin to get in trouble. Johnny gets arrested or is involved with drugs. Susie is sleeping around and comes home pregnant one night. Then, the scene changes and parents go weeping to friends for support and wanting prayers to be offered for their wayward children, all the while wondering, “What happened? We don’t understand because they were raised in a good Christian home.”

What happened?

The answer is actually quite simple. Parenting has been relegated more times than not to a mere biological process instead of a Biblical one. The parents raise their children by providing food, clothing, a roof over their head but have little to no desire to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
While they gladly meet the medical, educational, and personal needs and wants of their offspring, they have failed in the area that is the most important. Paul said in Acts 17:28, “For in Him (God), we live and move and have our being.”

Parents, if you fail to teach AND show this Biblical truth to your children, you will have failed as far as God is concerned. The children of Israel were commanded to teach their children every day of the law of God. It will not matter if your child grows up to be another Bill Gates or General of the Army or President of the USA or Prime Minister of the UK.

If they do not know the Lord, you are the one God will hold accountable for your words and actions. To do less than honor God by only keeping Him prominent and not pre-eminent, you are practicing idolatry. Yet, God is clear that His glory and honor He will NOT give to another.

The eyes of many parents have been blinded to the truth and the reality of what is transpiring because they have been smoking so long that they are immune to the smoke, that is, until it appears in a different format in the lives of their children. When they see it, instead of confessing their own sin, the end result becomes a battle of the wills. In the end, everybody still smokes and simply agrees to disagree over which brand they will each smoke.

Parents, there is an answer to the problem, but it will not be an easy fix. If you are in any of the situations I have described, the first step to change is to humble yourself before God. Confess your sin and repent before Him. Then, make the time to humble yourself before your children. Parents, your children already see your failures but will gain respect for you if you will humble yourself in this way. Admit your sin to them and ask for their forgiveness where you have failed in your God-given responsibility to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Lord willing, in future articles, we will consider other areas where we are called to be parents who serve the Lord and we’ll evaluate what we can do to change our focus. We will also consider how we can make a difference in our homes and in our churches.

Connecticut – What will we learn?

Today, another shooting has taken the lives of at least 27 individuals. According to news reports, twenty of these are little children mostly from one class or section of an elementary school in Connecticut. There is an unspeakable horror that fills the heart to think that tonight some children will no longer be preparing with their families for the Christmas season. Little children just starting out in life have had their young lives snuffed out before they really even began.

While many blogs and news items will focus on things like “Where was God?” or “Gun control” or whatever else will be the hot topic for the next days and weeks, my purpose for writing my personal thoughts are completely different.

This is not to belittle the nightmare the parents, children, teachers, and extended family and friends are going through, but it is an attempt to recognize something that only a tragedy can bring to light.

As I hugged my two little 6 year old girls earlier, tears came to my eyes thinking how short life can be. I realized that unlike the parents of those little children who are lying lifeless in pools of blood tonight, I still have the privilege of holding my little ones. Some parents may have lost their only child today, while other parents were able to go home and hug those siblings who remain and try to explain why their little brother or sister will never come home.

Yet, I wonder how many found themselves in situations, maybe even this morning, that are replicated in so many homes. Namely, we often take our children for granted until it is too late. Our children can be taken in so many ways, and when they are gone, there is nothing that we as parents can do to reverse the situation. In the grand scheme of things, the numbers of children who will die at the hands of a crazed gunman in America each year is slim. Many might assume that the answer to protecting our children from such tragedies is to homeschool them, but attacks around the world have shown that those who are bent on displaying the depths of their depravity have no rules about protecting the lives of any particular age group.

Sometimes our children are taken by the medium of time. The clock keeps ticking while our lives become entrapped with life, jobs, television, games, and many other things that keep from us from seeing how quickly their little lives are slipping away.

I cannot help but wonder how I would feel if it was my children who were lying on a cold floor waiting for a visit from a funeral director. I would probably deeply regret any words that I may have spoken in haste or maybe a harsh word that should have been curtailed realizing that children are not only imperfect but that I, as the father, am also imperfect and need to be changed by the grace of God.

Today is definitely a tragedy and will remain so. Words will never replace the lives of those who are gone from this life. But I wonder if we will actually learn from tragedies such as this shooting in Connecticut, or will life soon return to normal for each of us who did not lose any precious treasures. Yet, will we fail to remember that we are losing them one way or the other? Death and time are no respecter of persons.

Tonight, I have hugged my little ones, but I have also regretted the tragedy that took place because I allowed time to slip by me when my boys were little. They are now all adults and no longer in our home and I cannot retrace my steps. I cannot take back the harsh or careless words. I cannot reverse time and wish I had spent more time with them. If I fail to learn from my mistakes, they will be repeated.

The heart of mankind is wicked, and without the grace of God affecting a change from being dead into a new creation in Christ, tragedies will take place over and over. My prayer is that it will not take another shooting for us to realize what we have right now. Treasures have been placed in our care – treasures that are an heritage from the Lord. May we be reminded not just tonight, but every night that today may be our last or the last of our children.

We do not want to close the day regretting what we cannot change. May our lives not only reflect our love for and to our children, but may they reflect that Christ rules in every aspect of our life. To do otherwise would be an even greater tragedy – a tragedy that will never make the news, but would be a tragedy nonetheless.

Losing a child (at any age) is never easy.

The following excerpt is from a blog called 1st Timothy 4:12.

I sincerely hope it is a help and an encouragement to those who have gone (or are currently going) through such a loss.

“No matter whether you have known about the baby only for a day, or if he or she has been born and is a beautiful, mischievous toddler or even older, losing a child is one of the hardest and most heartbreaking experiences for someone to go through. It is one of the experiences that feels most fundamentally unfair in this world. It is like having a piece of your heart ripped out, leaving a hole that will never be filled. For a woman to find out she is pregnant, whether the baby is “wanted” or not, is a huge emotional roller coaster. To suddenly have that taken away, to have only that emptiness where a child once lived, is something no woman can ever forget. You might say ‘who are you to say what it feels like to lose a child? What could you possibly know?’ I don’t pretend to know what it feels like to lose a newborn, a toddler or a teen. I don’t even say I know what it feels like to lose a baby later on in pregnancy. But I do know what it feels like to see those two little pink lines on a pregnancy test, then to see them disappear and soon later to know without a shadow of a doubt that the baby no longer lives.”

You can read the entire article here here.

Help and encouragement for those with critical spirits.

Below are links to parts one and two of Teri Maxwell’s article on how we can so easily become negative and critical, the ramifications of being negative and critical, and how we can overcome being negative and critical.

I highly recommend these two articles, and especially part two for parents.

Part One: Are you normally a positive or negative person?

Part Two: How to overcome a critical spirit.