Sunday, March 28, 2010

Stuff I've Been Thinking About, Part 2

Discipling your children. HOW?
It is not easy.
In fact, it is exhausting.
It requires being fully surrendered.
It requires putting yourself last. Dead last. Rick Warren was not kidding when he said, “It’s not about you.”
It requires sacrificial parenting -- At a minimum, 18 years worth – at the very least. And that is per child.
It requires focus on the goal – with the goal being godly kids/raising up worshippers for His Name.
It sometimes requires redefining everything. Do you want your kids to be happy or do you want them to be holy? Do you want your kids to be successful, or do you want them to be godly.

When the Bible states to TRAIN UP a child…I think of when I learned how to ride a bike. When I was 9, they only made one size bicycle—adult. I didn’t get it the first time. I had to be trained to balance, trained to pedal, trained to do them both at the same time, trained not to panic, trained to use the brakes instead of jumping off. It didn’t’ happen for me overnight. My Mom claims she ran hundreds of miles behind that bike holding it steady during this difficult time in my life...It took days of training and practicing to finally get it.

Discipling, and training – we’re in it for the long haul.

I just spent time at my daughter's, helping with baby Leala who just arrived into the world. Kari has Titus, who is three, Eliana, who is 20 months, and a newborn. But I watched them patiently train their kids in different areas while I was there. Titus is very compliant, mostly. Elli is just a mess, though. And not for lack of training. She doesn’t like to eat, and she doesn’t like to take naps. She’s just one of those unique little strong willed things. Because of her diagnosis, her parents are careful to keep her healthy and on track physically because of the unknowns. However, at 18 months, she weighed only 18 pounds. They do everything “right”, and she just some days decides not to eat. They say, “One more bite” and she (very cutely, I might add), throws her hands over her mouth. Well, she’s not doing it to be funny, it’s just defiance. So Danny takes her to the back room, away from the table, and “trains “ her. Titus looks at me and says matter-of-factly, “Anya (his pronunciation of Eliana) isn’t obeying, is she Nanna?” But because they love Elli, and Elli needs to eat, and more than that, Elli needs to obey – Elli gets trained.

Are they tired? Yes. Are they exhausted? Yes. But they cannot quit training for the physical and spiritual health of their children. (A child’s job is to obey his parents…we must train our kids to obey.)

THREE MAIN THINGS about discipling your kids that I want to leave with you.
It totally starts with here with you. Immerse yourself in it. Know it, live it, obey it, read it. Hide it in your heart. Meditate on it. Draw strength from it. Make it a priority. Do you have a plan for that?

a. Bathe your kids in scripture. God commands parents, “These words I have given you shall be in your heart. Teach them to your children as you”….wake and sleep and walk by the way, and play catch in the backyard and drive through the take out window at Chick Fil A. The Israelites incorporated God into every aspect of life. So, use scripture as a part of your everyday life and language. Let your kids see you reading the Bible, loving the Word, and it making a difference in your life. Read the Bible out loud as you rock your child in the morning and have a few quiet minutes together. Post it in your house and on your walls. Post a verse a week on your refrigerator or car dashboard to memorize together. Put a Bible in bed with them, so when they wake up it is the first thing they see. Read scripture over your children as they sleep.

b. Recognize the POWER in the word of God. Use scripture so it is a part of your every day life and language. Use it to encourage not to be punitive. My favorite scripture always was “Do all things without murmuring and complaining.” But instead of beating them over the head with it, you guide with it – “The Bible instructs us to do all things without murmuring and complaining. Do you understand what that means?" After discussing, you then say, “In five minutes it will be time to pick up the toys.” Then encourage them rightly by pointing out how God helped them obey.

c. Pray the Word. (nothing gets the attention of the Father faster than when He hears His word repeated back to Him.)

Father, the Bible says we should pray and not give up. (Luke 18:1) Help Nathan to persevere as he practices baseball and learns how to catch fly balls.

Father, your word says that “Our love must not be just words and talk, but true love which shows itself in action." Thank you for Emily, who showed true love to me by helping me feed and walk the dog.

Children are a blessing of the Lord. Thank you Father that Luke obeyed today and ate his lunch. Luke is a blessing to us.

The catch – you must know scripture, to be able to teach your kids to pray scripture. HIDE IT IN YOUR HEART. You have to be purposeful. Teach it when they rise up and when they lie down. Teach it when they walk in the way.

2. TEACH DOCTRINE and biblical truth to your children daily, so that it penetrates to the core of their being and the very fiber of their heart. Teach it daily, so it becomes a part of who they are and what they believe so deeply that in times of testing their theology is sure and cannot be shaken.
You have to know what you believe and want to teach about God in order to disciple your children. And better to have this hammered out now, so that your theology doesn’t have to be hammered out years later in hospital waiting rooms or funeral homes. Better to fix your hope now on “God is good” than to have to conjure it up when you scarcely can breathe for the pain.

Start with one of two of these and repeat them throughout your day… as you wake and sleep and lie down and break bread together and walk in the park. Or pick another doctrine that you hold fast to, and start there.
a. God made everything. (Easy conversation when you see a rainbow or a sunset, or a dog or a baby or a bug, etc.)
b. God is good. Easy conversation when you are helping your child get dressed and say “God gave us clothes to wear. God is good. “ or when daddy leaves for work, “God gave daddy a job he loves. God is good.”
c. We can talk to God. (Pray without ceasing along with your kids. We can talk to God any time, any where.)
d. God is in charge of everything. If rain interrupts a trip to the park, explain that it’s o.k. because God is in charge of everything and the flowers need the rain to grow. Or if a friend cannot come over to play, explain that it’s o.k. because God is in charge of everything and has a better plan for the afternoon. When you read Bible stories, such as Noah, repeat that God is in charge of everything, and He had a plan for Noah and his family

Children learn to worship by watching their parents worship. They learn to pray by watching their parents pray. They learn to give by watching their parents give, and they learn to serve by watching their parents serve. When worship is an obvious joy to parents, it will be to their children as well. Weave it into every aspect of living – a morning prayer time every morning. Or a family worship before bedtime – read a Children’s Bible story book, chapter at a time.

I said earlier that this requires sacrifice and surrender and a change of focus.. And it does. But it doesn’t have to be hard. Just begin by falling in love with Jesus. Your kids will notice. (I told Titus how kind his Dad was by cleaning up the kitchen one night and he answered, “My Daddy loves Jesus.” At age three, he just knew it -- it was natural. )

And walk with God. Be astonished at His greatness and ability to teach you to raise your children in His Nurture and Admonition. Afterall, we are called to raise up worshippers to His Name. and everything I learned about parenting , I learned from how He parents me.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Stuff I've Been Thinking About

I was asked to speak at our MOMs (Mothers of Many Seasons) group at church and this is what came out... My topic was supposed to be "age appropriate Bible teaching for children." It morphed into "Discipling your children." Sort of the same thing, isn't it?

In the book, Sacred Parenting, Gary L. Thomas states “the best reason for having children is so simple that it may not seem very profound: God commanded us to have children (Genesis 1:28). It’s his desire that we ‘be fruitful and increase in number,’ and this fruitfulness includes raising spiritually sensitive children who will serve God and work for the glory of His kingdom on earth.”

God’s first commission to man was to “be fruitful and multiply”. Jesus last commission to His followers was to “Go and make disciples”. Think about the commonality of those. Side by side, the Old Testament command of be fruitful and multiply and the New Testament command to make disciples almost have the same ring to them. Dr. Leiderback, a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, teaches in his Ethics of Marriage and Family course, that parents have a calling to fulfill these commandments and to raise up worshippers for His Name.

How is that working for you?

Teaching the Bible to children has been the calling of my life since I was 28 years old, when on April 1 1982 – unbeknownst to me-- the Lord called me into preschool ministry. I thought I was just doing something because no one else would take on the recently vacated “nursery coordinator” position in our little church, and my best friend looked at me and said -- “I’ll do it, if you’ll do it!” So we started down an incredible path 28 years ago sort of clueless like the disciples who left everything to follow Him when Jesus said, "Follow me and I will make you to become…" Would they have done it if they fully understood the cost, or the path He called them to? They had no idea at the time, what following Jesus meant—but still began an interesting journey.

I can draw a parallel there. Especially the clueless part.

Not long after that, the Lord gave me Romans 11:29 –" the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." And in the days when I have been more than ready to pack it up and leave it behind, (and there have been many), this Truth has literally riveted me to His calling…and I cannot go. After all, what could be more important than teaching the Bible to children on their level of development? What could be more important than introducing them to their Creator and Savior?

So not long after THAT, the Lord gave me the purpose statement of preschool ministry - -Isaiah 54:13 ..."and all your children will be taught of the Lord, and great will be the peace of your children." But enough about me.

Voddie Baucham, a local pastor, revealed a startling statistic a few years ago when he stated that by the end of their freshman year in college, 77% of church kids have deserted their faith. If that is true, i submit to you that something is broken.

We are all over age- appropriate Bible teaching at church. We do a good job. But one hour a week on Sunday morning obviously just doesn’t get the job done. Church was not meant to take on the spiritual training of children, but to supplement the spiritual teaching of the home.
Because for children, the home is at the very center of biblical instruction. There is very little scriptural evidence of children being taught primarily in the tabernacle, synagogue or temple. The home was the school of faith. The churches of those times supported the work of the home, not the other way around. No amount of Christian school, Sunday School, or church influenced childcare and weekday education can replace the primary impact of the home on a child’s spiritual development.

I have begun to see that this is where the system is broken. Because many parents either do not understand their responsibility, or have given it over to the church. I, in fact, did the same thing.

One day when my girls were little, I was driving to a Bible Study at church, or maybe it was a hand bell or ensemble practice, or maybe a preschool committee meeting or a fellowship. (We were always in the car on the way to church, it seemed.) The girls were working on learning our street address at the time, so I asked, “Where do you live?” Kari, about 4 at the time, replied point blank, in her little four year old voice, “At chuch.” I laughed and tickled her tummy and called her silly, but the truth of what she just said pierced me.

Never again in all my life would I have the opportunity to disciple someone like I had the opportunity to disciple those two little lives buckled into the back seat. Never in my life would I again have the time to invest in another person like these two little ones God had put in my own backyard. Was I spending so much time away from them for MY OWN spiritual growth or connection or other events that I was squandering/neglecting the very ministry (motherhood) that the Lord had called me to? Was I depending on the teachers at church to raise them “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? Was I really leaving their learning to someone else so much so that my daughter would think she lived “at chuch”? I immediately made some lifestyle changes for my family and my children.

I was an education major, and teaching was natural for me. I was always leaning towards using the child development i studied in college and thinking up developmentally appropriate activities for us to do at home. (My kids told their friends that they knew how to scrub a bathroom before they were 7, and it probably was true!) Some things required radical adjustments on our part, though.

I was influenced and intrigued greatly at that time by Anne Ortlund’s book, Children are Wet Cement – the first book I had ever come across that advocated discipling your children. And more recently by Raising Kids for True Greatness by Dr. Tim Kimmel, and Teaching Kids Authentic Worship by Kathleen Chapman.

That's all for now. But stay tuned for part 2.