Raising Kingdom Minded Kids

Parenting is hard. Being responsible for shaping future generations is a huge responsibility and oftentimes feels like an overwhelming task. So many things in our culture pull at our children, and as parents, we find ourselves simply trying to keep our heads above water and do our best.

Through the years I have had many conversations with other parents in regard to raising children, and it seems that we all struggle with the same basic questions: How do we get our children to be good kids when they are growing up in a godless society? How do we keep them in church? How do we get them to read their Bibles and pray? How do we get them to make right choices when they are faced with the pull of this world? How do we get them to walk with God?

The answer is, we don’t.

Now some of you may start preaching the biblical standards for training up a child and quoting the “spare the rod, spoil the child” scripture, but before you do, let me tell you where I’m coming from. I absolutely believe that the discipline and correction of our children is biblical and necessary. When they are young, it is imperative that they learn right from wrong, boundaries, and good manners and receive all the behavioral training that little ones need. I believe we should start teaching these principles early and be consistent with them. I’ve raised four little ones, so I know how it goes. However, once our children get to a certain age, and are able to make moral judgments for themselves, we need to start focusing less on their behavior and more on their hearts. If the hearts of our children are set toward the Lord, then their behavior will follow.

As a mom of teens, at times I find myself trying to control my kids’ decisions, actions, and responses rather than focusing on shaping their hearts. In doing this I encounter resistance and frustration from my children. This is not necessarily because they want to be rebellious, which is what we may naturally think, but because they are learning to walk out their lives independently with the Lord, and I am getting in the way! If our children are going to live in true and lasting relationships with Jesus, we have to step back and let the Holy Spirit convict and teach them—just as He convicts and teaches us. Our kids should not live to please us, their parents; instead they should live to please God. Out of love for Him should flow their obedience, respect, and honor for us.

Now I’m not suggesting that parenting will always be a bed of roses and we will somehow grow perfect children! Will our kids make mistakes? Yes. Will they cop an attitude now and again? Absolutely! Will they get discouraged? Yes. Will they make unwise choices that get them into trouble? Of course. Might they walk away from the Lord for a time? Maybe. But doesn’t this also describe us? There comes a point in time when our role is to disciple our children’s hearts and choices, not dictate their behavior. Our children’s relationship with the Lord is theirs, not ours, and it may look different than what we expected. Their lives may be led in a different way than we desired, and this is where we have to be reminded once again that we are raising arrows in order to release them. An arrow kept in the quiver has no use and will never be effective.

If our children are going to develop solid, real, and lasting relationships with Christ, we have to get out of the way. Our responsibility is to be quiet and allow God to speak so our kids can hear Him. If our children don’t learn to recognize the voice of God when they are young, then they will always be looking to others for direction and will likely be misled.

So instead of telling our children how to live, we need to show them by example. I recently read a quote by author and preacher Charles Spurgeon that says, “Train up a child in the way he should go—but be sure you go that way yourself.” How can we pass on something we don’t possess? Our children will look to us when they are young and become like us as they grow. We can’t expect them to become spiritual giants if we live lives contrary to the one we are telling them they should live.

We should pray with our kids! When they have a question, or when an issue arises in our homes, we shouldn’t preach at them; we should go with them to the Word. We need to let God’s truth speak to their hearts and allow the Holy Spirit to bring change. He is on His own timetable, not ours!

Lord, help us shape our children into that which You have called them to be by getting out of Your way and trusting that You will guide, direct, and speak to them. May we find joy in the relationships our children develop with You. Give us Your grace to walk alongside them day by day! Amen.

Be This Mom

In the United States, Mother’s Day is just around the corner. To some this is a blessed and happy day—a day when we celebrate being mothers and spoil our own mothers. To others it is a painful reminder of broken and lost relationships or of mothers who are no longer on this earth. There are also those who long to be mothers but for some reason have not been able to have children of their own. Regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in, one thing I know for sure is that the role of motherhood, be it physical or spiritual, is dear to God’s heart and vital in our world today.

Unfortunately, in our culture the role of the mother is oftentimes cheapened and devalued. Women are deciding that they don’t want to be mothers and disposing of their babies because they are a “mistake” or an inconvenience. However, God holds the role of mother in high esteem. Behind every great man and woman who has walked this earth, most of the time you will find mothers who have prayed, encouraged, supported, and sacrificed for them, often without the recognition they so rightly deserve.

One such mother is Jochebed. Have you ever heard of her? I hadn’t either, until my dad (who was also my pastor) mentioned her in a sermon a few years back. Since then I have had the utmost admiration and respect for her. She is mentioned by name just twice in the Bible, and only in genealogies (see Exod. 6:20; Num. 26:59). Even so, Jochebed gave birth to one of the greatest men in history—a man who changed the world and was a hero of the faith: Moses.

Most of us are familiar with the story of Moses, right? The little baby that was placed in a basket in the river and saved by the Pharaoh’s daughter. We’ve heard it over and over. But what do we know about the woman who was responsible for placing him in the river in the first place?

First, Jochebed was aware of what was going on in her culture. She knew that Pharaoh had decreed that all Hebrew baby boys should be killed at birth. Knowing this, she took action by hiding Moses after he was born. When it comes to things happening in our society, how often have I said things like, “Oh, I’m a Christian; that doesn’t apply to me,” or, “I homeschool, so my kids aren’t at risk”? Unfortunately, we can no longer put our heads in the sand and ignore the culture. People are seeking to dispose of our children, and we need to be proactive in protecting them.

Second, Jochebed was brave. She risked her life by hiding Moses. Can you imagine the stress of trying to quiet a screaming baby in the middle of the night, knowing that if you are discovered, that baby will be killed? Jochebed did what she needed to do, and when she could no longer keep her baby a secret, she was, like any mom would be, resourceful and came up with a plan.

Third, Jochebed trusted God and let go of her son. This part of the story just makes my stomach turn. Can you imagine putting your child in a basket on the water and letting him go, not knowing what the outcome would be? But Jochebed did it. Hebrews 11:23 says, “They [Moses’ parents] saw he [Moses] was no ordinary child” (NIV). Jochebed knew her baby was special, so she trusted God with his life. How often do we hold on to our children when God is calling us to give them and their futures to Him? It was no easy task, but Jochebed released control and put the future of her son completely in God’s hands.

Last, God blessed her sacrifice and gave Jochebed’s son back to her. Jochebed was not only asked to nurse and care for Moses by the Pharaoh’s daughter, but she was paid to do so! We will never be able to out-give God. If we are willing to release our children into His hands, He will always honor our giving. Because of the decision Jochebed made as a mom, her son was spared and raised up to eventually lead the Israelites to freedom. Do you think Jochebed knew what Moses’ future would look like? I highly doubt it. But she knew her God!

Ladies, we have so much to learn from Jochebed. God loves our children more than we ever could. Just think, we may be raising giants who one day will change history; we may be raising future moms and dads who will reshape the culture and bring it back to where it should be; we may be raising missionaries who will win countries for Jesus; and while some of us may not have been able to have children of our own, we all have the opportunity to be spiritual mothers to others whom God has placed in our lives. Whatever the case, we can rejoice in the opportunities we have. Just like Jochebed, we may never be lauded or acknowledged publically, but our reward is in heaven, and we will one day hear from God Himself, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matt. 25:23, NIV).

Raising Boys Amidst the War on Men

To My Sons,

As I sit here writing this to you, you are in the midst of a cultural war against manhood. The message that is being shouted into our society is not one I want you to hear or listen to. What I want you to hear is this message from me: you were created in God’s image. He has a purpose for you. You were born to lead, provide, love, and serve. That is how your dad and I have raised you. So walk forward and grow to be men, my sons, and don’t be ashamed of who God has designed you to be.

Go ahead and blaze the trail through the woods with your machete, my sons. Because one day you may lead a nation.

Go ahead and learn to responsibly and respectfully use that gun, my sons. Because one day you may need to protect your own families.

Go ahead and love your country and those who have served for your freedom, my sons. Because one day you might have to fight for them.

Go ahead and climb that tree, my sons. Because one day you may need to rescue your daughter’s kitty or save your son’s kite.

Go ahead and hunt those deer and snag those fish, my sons. Because one day you may need to provide food for your families.

Go ahead and learn how to build a fire, my sons. Because one day your own children will learn that sometimes they need to go back to basics and be content with simple entertainment.

Go ahead and knock down that bully, my sons. Because one day you may have to defend the weak and helpless.

Go ahead and dig in the dirt, my sons. Because one day you might have to toil to make ends meet.

Go ahead and lift those weights, my sons. Because one day you might carry someone to safety.

Go ahead and love others, my sons. Because one day you will have to show the world that real men can be kind and compassionate.

Go ahead and dive into God’s Word and get to know Jesus well, my sons. Because one day the world will look to you for the answer to its problems.

Go ahead, my sons. Be real men, my sons. Your world needs you.

Love,
Mom xxxxxx

The Power of Your Words

In our home just lately, we have been talking a lot about the power of words. Having a house full of teens, we tend to have a lot of joking, teasing, and, might I say, “trash talk” between them all. Oftentimes this back and forth is done in good fun and with seemingly no ill intentions. However, at times it can become, in my opinion, cutting and negative; I would even go as far as to say it can be hurtful and disrespectful.

As parents of teens, my husband and I no longer send our kids to their rooms for being mean or disobedient. Those days are long gone. I am thankful that we are at a stage in our lives with our children that instead we are able to sit down, open God’s Word, and see what it has to say about any issue we might have to address. You see, if our children don’t hear from the Lord Himself, then our words of correction can become repetitive and mute. If we don’t show them why they shouldn’t do a certain thing or act a certain way, then they will never truly understand their place in God’s kingdom and their personal responsibility to live Christlike lives.

In our discussions over the past few days, I have realized that it isn’t only my children who need to learn about the power of the tongue. As a mom, I need to realize the power my own words have. They can bring life to my kids’ spirits, or they can bring death. Before I deal with my children, I need to deal with my own heart.

Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (NIV). The Good News translation put it like this: “What you say can preserve life or destroy it; so you must accept the consequences of your words.” Personally, at times I become so run by my emotions or moods that my tongue becomes unhinged and I forget that there are consequences to the words I speak. Whether I offend, cut down, or crush a little part of my child’s spirit, the result is broken relationship and broken trust. If I can’t control my tongue, I cannot be effective in communicating the love and mercy of Christ to others, especially my own children.

I have seen over and over a breakdown in communication between children and their parents, husbands and wives, all because a harsh word caused hurt that in turn led to resentment, anger, and ultimately a strained or non-existent relationship. We sometimes forget the bigger picture. The devil’s plan is to divide and destroy relationships, because without unity the church cannot be effective. If the church is not effective, then God’s kingdom can not be advanced. See the plan?

There are 137 verses in the Bible that talk about the tongue. Obviously, how we use our tongue is of great importance to God. In Scripture the tongue is often referred to as a sharp, divisive weapon, used to cut and tear down. But is also called wise, soothing, and able to bring healing. It can be used to alienate, but it can also unite and lift up. The choice as to how we use our tongues is ours.

So how do we in times of frustration and irritation pour out honey instead of acid? How do we lead our children by example? Because remember, to expect something of them that we are unwilling to do is hypocrisy. The answer is in daily surrender. Daily surrender to the One who is able to change our hearts and convict us of our need for Him every moment of every day. It’s in realizing that what comes out of our mouths is in direct relation to what is in our hearts. We cannot control our words in our own efforts. Like those New Year’s resolutions, we start strong and ultimately fail. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to die to our flesh and become the people, the moms, the parents that God has called us to be.

In those times when we want to respond in a way that is contrary to the nature of God, may we be willing to stop, take a step back, and ask, “Does this bring life or death?” We should be thankful when the right response comes, but we must be willing to humble ourselves and ask forgiveness when our flesh and our tongues supersede the Spirit! I challenge you to step out and ask God for help. He is faithful and will meet you right where you are.

“Lord, help us to use our tongues to advance Your kingdom. I pray that when we speak, we would speak life and truth. May our words build up, encourage, love, and correct in a way that is pleasing to You. I pray that we would be examples of God’s character to our children and deal with them how You deal with us—patiently, justly, and graciously—and that we can say to them, ‘Follow me, as I follow Christ.’ Amen.”

Sacrificing Families on the Altar of Feminism

I’ve often lamented that I should have been a young mom in the 1940s and 1950s—back in the day when it was the norm for women to relish staying home to raise their children, when women took pride in keeping the home and providing a home-cooked meal at the end of every day, when families sat down around the dinner table to discuss whatever the topic of conversation might be.

Unfortunately, in our day this way of life is more of a dream than a reality. Instead of being the norm, those of us who have chosen this lifestyle are now in the minority and oftentimes looked down upon. The reason? I believe it’s feminism. I’m not talking about the raging protesters who wear body-part costumes and take to the streets. I’m talking about a subtle movement that has taken root in the church, in those of us who are discontented with life as God designed it to be. In those of us who desire to see our identity in more than who we are in Christ.

You see, in our quest for more money, stuff, identity, we have ultimately ended up with less. Less of what matters. Gone are the days when we were satisfied with simple. Feminism has crept in subtly over the decades. Like a seed that’s planted, the more it has been fed and watered, the bigger and stronger it has grown, until one day it will be a giant tree that isn’t going anywhere unless it’s cut down.

Society has taught us, and in turn we are teaching our children, that success is measured by what we have, how big our houses are, how new our cars are, what brand of clothes and shoes we wear. That somehow if we are only mere homemakers then we are repressed, and not reaching our potential.  Because we are under a barrage of feminist ideas that inundate us every day, we are conditioned to think we are somehow advancing, making strides as women—and maybe we are on a personal level. But take a look at the generation we are raising.

Anti-depressant usage is up 65 percent over the last fifteen years, and women are being treated for it at twice the rate men are. ADD drugs are being administered to children at an alarming rate. Children are disrespectful, ungrateful, overindulged. One in three children are overweight or obese—a condition we have seen accelerate dramatically in the last thirty years. We often throw blame for this at the introduction of convenience food or the drive through. But I have to ask, why is there a demand for such food? As women we either no longer have time to cook real meals, or we are so tired that it’s much easier to grab a “4 for $4” and call it good. Divorce is now at an all-time high; 50 percent of marriages now end in divorce. Pornography addiction is out of control, and for that we blame the ease of access to it. Things are a mess, people!

Might I suggest that if we who are women spent more time cultivating and feeding our homes and marriages instead of our careers, these statistics may not be quite as dramatic?

Women were designed beautifully to cultivate and nurture, to cultivate our homes and nurture our families—not to conquer the world, corporate or otherwise. There, I said it! I know it won’t be popular, but I said it anyway. Proverbs 31 is familiar to many of us, and we often use it as justification for work outside the home. I believe we are to be workers; we are to put our hands to things that will benefit our families. But not at the expense of our families.

We have somehow believed that if we are not breadwinners, we are less than. Proverbs 31 clearly describes a woman who is respected and revered, a woman who is looked to for wisdom and advice, a woman whose children bless and praise her. She is also a woman who cooks for her family, who opens her home for ministry and her arms to the poor. Just because a woman’s “job” is different from that of a man does not make her less than, just different from.

I understand that some women have no choice but to work. I believe many that do would rather be home. Scripture tells us that God looks at the heart, and sometimes our situation, in spite of our best effort, is beyond our control. As mothers, we do what we have to for our children. You may be the only source of provision for your family, and if that’s the case, may God bless you and provide abundantly!

I believe that as a result of our striving to be seen as equals, we have lost our uniqueness as women. Good men are becoming afraid to pay a woman a polite compliment. Many no longer give up their seats or open doors for women because their motives may be questioned. It’s a sad state of affairs. I am raising my boys to become real men. Godly men. Men who see being providers, protectors, leaders in their homes as a true calling. I am raising my daughter to value her femininity and future womanhood. Real “girl power” comes when we recognize the amazing opportunity we have as women to fulfill a calling that only we can fulfill: to raise our children and nurture our marriages as only we can.

Lord, let true feminism be alive and well in our homes and families. Help our focus to be where it needs to be—on the eternal and not the temporal. Forgive us for buying into the lie that we need to be more than what You’ve intended us to be. Thank You for womanhood and the tremendous blessing it is. Help us to be different from the culture around us! Amen.

When Our Children Are No Longer Safe

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The events over the weekend have been tragic. Two church shootings on the same day in different parts of the country—the widely reported one in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and another in Fresno, California . Twelve of the twenty-six victims of the Sutherland Springs church shooting were children, the youngest being just eighteen months old. As I read the list of victims and look at pictures of their faces, I can’t help but weep. There but for the grace of God go I. We are not safe anywhere. These people were gathered to worship, just like I am with my family every Sunday.

Precious lives, lives that had hardly begun, snuffed out in seconds. The lives of those left behind forever changed.

As parents, one of our main responsibilities is to keep our children safe. We spend months child proofing the house before the baby arrives. We exhaust ourselves moving furniture and following our kids around the house so they can avoid some of the bumps and bruises that inevitably come with learning to walk. We make sure the car seat is installed correctly so they are safe in our vehicles. As they grow, we become their advocates, standing up to their bullies and encouraging them when they fail. We do our best to protect their hearts from the harsh realities of the world we live in. There is nothing more powerful than a mother’s love for her children. We would lay down our lives for them without question.

These tragic events were once again a reminder to me that we can longer keep our children safe in the way we used to. Our society has become one of unpredictability and pure evil, where even the most sacred places are no longer off limits. The day we live in demands that we surrender the lives of our children into God’s hands. We have no other choice but to give back to Him what He has entrusted to us. It’s time for us to grasp the fact that our children do not belong to us—they are His.

We can spend a lot of time talking about security outside churches, gun control, and mental health. Our humanness demands a solution to the problem. What can we do to prevent this from happening again? Truth is, we have no control over people’s hearts, so we are forced to once again acknowledge that God is in control. Nothing happens without His permission: “A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed” (Job 14:5, NIV).

God’s plan is so much bigger than ours; He can see what we cannot. It’s easy to say that He is good in times of blessing, but can we say the same in times of tragedy too? I believe we can. In times of devastating trial, God’s Word comes alive, and His Holy Spirit is evident. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18, NIV).

Scripture tells us that in the last days, men will be brutal, abusive, without self-control (see 2 Timothy 3). We have a sin problem in this world that will not be made right until Jesus comes back and puts it right. Until then, we live every day trusting God for our futures and the futures of our children.

Moms, bring your children close. Love them, teach them, pray for them, fight for them—but hold them loosely and trust the Lord with them. He is able, and He is good.

As a mother of four, the events of this weekend hit my heart deeply. I cannot imagine the pain these families are going through, but I know the One who is able, in some way, to bring beauty from ashes. May it be so.

Lord, help us trust You with the precious gifts You’ve given us charge over. Help us hold them close but hold them lightly, because they belong to You. Help us in the midst of tragedy to say, “It is well with my soul.” We know that You love our children much more than we could ever love them ourselves. Father, bring peace to the communities of Sutherland Springs and Fresno and the families who have suffered such great loss. Be their comfort and peace. Amen.

Dear Christian Parents…..

Dear Christian Parents,

I am writing to you today as someone who was raised by Christian parents. I actually grew up a Preachers Kid or PK as we are often affectionately called. My home life was loving, adventurous, strict, but kind. I was in church whenever the doors were open, and I was introduced to some of the best people on the planet. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being in church, the people became family, and for that I am truely grateful. I am now a Christian parent myself, and I feel compelled to address some things that we may have never considered, purely because we are ‘Christian Parents’.

One of the greatest tragedies in the church today is that parents make way too many assumptions about their children. You assume that because you have raised them in church; because you taught them Bible verses, and how to sing Jesus Loves Me; because you taught them right from wrong, that somehow they are all good. “They are Christians, they are going to heaven.” “Of course they love Jesus!” you say. But are they? Do they?

So, while I do give you credit for doing the right thing, for raising your children in the knowledge of God and His Word, I’m sorry to tell you that all you may have accomplished, is successfully Christianizing your children.

This all sounds a little harsh you say. Well, yes, it is. However, I come to you from a place of experience. You see I was a ‘Christianized’ kid. I knew all the right things to say and do. I knew how to act in church. My parents did all the right things. Even so, I was exactly the person the Lord addressed in Isaiah 29:13 “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” It wasn’t until I was confronted with the fact that I wasn’t going to heaven on my parents coat tails, and was faced with the truth of being a sinner who needed a Savior, that I finally reached out to the Lord for myself, and started to grow my OWN relationship with Christ. You see if your child’s relationship is not his or her own, it has no value.

Unfortunately, kids that were raised in church are leaving at an alarming rate when they reach their teen years and into adulthood. Young people are engaging in ungodly behavior and living like the world. Why? Because their relationship with God is just a bunch of head knowledge. As parents it is imperative that we see our children as lost souls. Souls that need Jesus. Please do not assume that because you have ‘good’ kids that they are ‘saved’ kids.

I pray for my children every day. I disciple them, I teach them, I speak into them the truth from God’s Word. However, I understand that the choice to follow Christ has to come from their own decision, and their walk has to belong to them. That is out of our control.

As the culture seeks to pull at our kids, WE have to make the choice as parents to live a called out life. To have families that are different from the norm. Our children need to see us as ‘set apart’. They will follow our example more than our instruction.

It starts with YOU, with ME. Do our own hearts line up with the words we speak? Are we speaking truth into our children, and living that truth out before them? As a ‘Christian parent’ I pray that I would be able to live in reality. No longer assuming that all is well. That we would raise world changers, not lukewarm pew warmers. That we would see the revival we so desperately need in our churches and in the lives of the people in them. May it start with me and my family.

“Lord, help us as parents to see our children as lives needing you. Not just as heads to fill with knowledge, but hearts to speak into and lives to shape. Help us to be honest with them about their need for You. I pray we would be examples of people that desire You in every area of our lives. Thank you for blessing us with children. May we raise them well.” – Amen