Grounded in Christ, Your Children – Part 1

I recently received an interesting e-mail, and with permission we will use it as the beginning for this month’s Dad’s Corner. Following is the first part of the e-mail:

My husband and I attended a recent conference of yours. We were so blessed by it. We wanted to say thank you. My husband decided after listening to Manager of His Home that our children were no longer going to go to youth group on Wednesday nights. He did this because we started noticing changes in our children.

Our children hadn’t gone to youth group for six weeks when the pastor came by and asked us why our children weren’t attending. My husband told him that a big part of it was the secular rock and roll they were playing. Our children were coming home humming it. 🙁 We were told that they believe if your children are firmly grounded in Christ it will not affect them. I couldn’t help but think about our twenty-one-year-old daughter who wound up getting into secular music due to a youth group and her dad and me not having her heart. We didn’t want that for our other children.

Praise the Lord for this dad taking action to protect his children. Ephesians 6:4 tells us, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Dad is the one God holds responsible for discipling the children, and we must evaluate the influences in our children’s lives to make sure they are moving them in the right direction. Anything that may hinder a child’s spiritual growth needs to be evaluated. This dad made a good decision.

However, as a result of the decision to pull the children out of youth group, it caused some pressure in the dad’s life. We dads need to be prepared that it will take strength and courage to follow the Lord as we raise our children. Let’s decide where in our priorities raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord ranks. Once we make the right choice, we can expect pressure to come and test our resolve. A priority means nothing if when tested we cave in. We need to welcome pressure because it proves and refines our determination to follow the Lord obediently.

Since much of this Dad’s Corner series revolves around youth groups, let me give some background comments concerning them. I have met many youth group leaders and pastors over the years, and I have heard them share their deep love and concern for the youth to which they minister. Amen. Generally, they have a sincere desire to reach the kids who aren’t living in a home where they are being discipled. Please don’t feel this Dad’s Corner is a personal criticism of youth group leaders. It isn’t. Instead this Corner addresses flaws in the youth group in regard to our readers who are dads who are discipling their children as the Lord leads.

Now, notice that Ephesians 6:4 is addressed to fathers. It doesn’t say youth pastors. Dad is the one God gives the responsibility to disciple the children, and Dad is the one who will answer to God. What if we want to delegate some of our responsibility to the one in charge of youth group? Certainly, that could be our choice, but there are several things we ought to consider. Since Dad is the one God is holding responsible for how the children are being discipled, how will we be sure they are being influenced consistently with the direction and leading God has called our family to? Unless we are willing to accompany the children to every meeting, we can’t know. Considering there will be multiple children in the group, how likely is it that the discipling in the group is consistent with all the fathers’ direction since seldom will each family be truly like-minded. The above e-mail example showed that the family did not agree with the music played at youth group, and a youth group similar to this one cost them the heart of their oldest daughter. Wisely, the dad did not want that to happen with the younger children and was willing to take a stand.

Let’s consider the statement: “If your children are firmly grounded in Christ, then it will not affect them.” When is a person firmly grounded in Christ, and even if they are, does that mean they won’t be tempted toward evil? Sadly, we have talked to many parents who trusted that their children were spiritually mature enough to stay the course only for the parents to be heartbroken later. “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:17).

One reason youth groups can be so subtly harmful is that many will think since the church is offering it, it must be good. It is possible that youth have spiritually matured to where they can refuse obvious evil, but when it is the church’s activity, the child’s defenses will be let down. They will embrace it because the church is offering it, and Dad and Mom have endorsed it by sending them to the youth group. “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not” (1 Corinthians 10:23). In reality the secular music played during the youth group would not be edifying, and as with this family’s other daughter, it might even pull the heart away from the Lord.

There is also tremendous internal pressure by most children to be accepted by the peers in the group. I’ve heard some say that one of the greatest pressures a person can feel is the need to be accepted. Therefore, peer groups likely exert some of the greatest pressure to conform that any of us will ever experience. Let me share an example with you. Years ago we were in a fairly conservative church. Despite the conservative nature of the church, many of the girls were pushing the limits in their “dress” and definitely lacking modesty standards. Our daughter, who was then eighteen, confided to us that she was feeling turmoil inside because she wanted to fit in with the other girls but didn’t want to do what they were doing. That peer pressure was experienced just by causal associations with the girls at church. Consider the peer pressure that comes from even more involvement in the peer group. Do we really think our children will be stronger than that?

This gets us started on the discussion of the father’s role of spiritual discipleship of his children versus others taking that role. In addition there is much more to be said about the power of peer pressure in a young person’s life. Next month we will continue looking into this, but for now, I encourage you to evaluate whether you have let others disciple your children or whether you are fully undertaking that responsibility. Can you make the hard decisions like this dad has made?

The Heart of Christmas

With Christmas on the horizon, our thoughts usually shift toward what that season means to us personally and to our children. Not growing up in Christian homes, Steve and I have had to develop our own traditions for celebrating the birth of Christ that would reflect the reality of Jesus Christ in our lives.

Knowing that December 25th was likely not the actual day that Jesus was born and realizing the pagan roots of a December 25th celebration, some Christians choose not to celebrate Christmas. If that is the case for you, this would not be a Mom’s Corner for you to continue reading. Our family chooses to celebrate Christmas because it focuses on the magnificent miracle of the birth of our Savior. Plus it is one of two holidays in which even the world expects Christians to participate. Here is a link to an article Steve wrote about why our family celebrates Christmas.

Santa Clause or Not?

After our salvation, one of the first things we eliminated that had to do with Christmas from our childhoods was Santa Claus. We didn’t want our children believing in Santa Claus only to find out later it was a lie. Some would say it is all in fun, but the reality is that it is deceitful. “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds” (Colossians 3:9). We continued putting up Christmas stockings because of my heart attachment to each of the children’s Christmas stockings. Even though Santa Claus was no longer a part of this aspect of our Christmas, a couple of years later we simply wanted to be free of any association with Santa Claus in our Christmas celebration, so we even set aside the stockings.

Many years ago, we also realized that when one entered our home at Christmas time, the Christmas tree was the center of attention. However, we had a desire for the decorating in our house to reflect our worship of the Lord Jesus Christ and draw our hearts more closely to Him during this season.

So we began to cull out of our Christmas decorations any that were not Christ centered and to look for new ones to replace those we were no longer using. We also decided to stop getting a Christmas tree. While we wouldn’t say that Jeremiah 10:3-4 is talking about a Christmas tree directly, there are many similarities that are too powerful to ignore. In addition, I know I sometimes sat and admired the beautiful Christmas tree rather than worshiping my worthy Savior. “For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not” (Jeremiah 10:3-4).

Christmas Shoe Box Outreach

As a family, we like to participate in a shoe box outreach where we purchase small toys and personal items to be placed inside a shoe box and given to a needy child in a third world country. We began doing this when a national ministry started a shoe box Christmas program. In more recent years, two missionaries to Mexico whom we support, have begun their own small-scale shoe box ministry. They collect the shoe boxes and then personally distribute them to children in their towns. That has made the shoe box shopping and giving even more special to our family because we have been able to see photos of our gifts being given to children.

It is a ministry our children have undertaken by financing it, doing the shopping, packing the shoe boxes, and getting them shipped to the missionary. The shoe box outreach affirms our goal of teaching our children the joy of giving. “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

About twenty years ago, I began saving the yearly Christmas letter and family photo that I was sending to others. Each year I would put the letter and photo into a scrapbook. This scrapbook has become a precious treasure summarizing the highlights of each year of our lives and documenting the changes that were occurring as the children grew. It is something I would have liked to have begun in my first year of marriage.

Christmas Caroling

Our family also has chosen Christmas caroling as a special way to share Christ at Christmas. We carol in our neighborhood as a family. The girls spend a great deal of time planning something to bake and give to those homes where we carol. Some years it has been a plate full of homemade cookies, while other times it was fresh baked cinnamon bread or poppy seed loaves. We also include a homemade card with a salvation Scripture. It is our heart’s desire that all of our neighbors would come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Our children love to give gifts to their family members. They group into teams of two or three and invest much time, thought, and prayer into their gift giving. They enjoy their shopping outings and gift-wrapping afternoons while keeping secrets, looking forward to pleasing the recipient of the gift. Through the years, we have monitored the children’s hearts, watching for greediness that focuses on what they get versus what they give. We have observed that the children’s greatest joy is in what they are giving to their siblings and other family members rather than what they will receive.

We have made a tradition of planning an evening near Christmas to take the family out to eat and then to drive around looking at Christmas lights. “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). While we drive, we listen to a powerful, dramatic presentation from Back to the Bible called the Twelve Voices of Christmas. We have done this for the past fifteen years, but we never tire of hearing the Christmas story through the hearts of the characters who were a part of it.

During Christmas week, Steve moves the reading during our family Bible time to the passages of Scripture from the Old Testament that are prophetic of Jesus’ birth and to the chapters in the New Testament that tell the story of God becoming a man. On Christmas night, we have a tradition that has been in place for a little over twenty years. My dad and mom started it for their grandchildren. It is now carried on to include the great grandchildren. My mom has a nativity that she sets aside for use only on Christmas night for our family Christmas program. The program includes reading Christmas-related Scriptures from both the Old and New Testaments plus singing Christmas carols that would relate to each passage of Scripture. My dad would narrate the program, and when he called out a Scripture reference, the person who had been given the slip of paper with those verses would read it. All of the pieces of the nativity set have been wrapped in tissue paper and numbered. At the appropriate place in the program, the little children get to come one by one to receive a part of the nativity set to be unwrapped and placed wherever in the nativity they want it to go. My mom keeps all of the supplies for the Christmas program—nativity, numbered tissues for wrapping the figures, Scripture reference slips of paper, carol word sheets, and the narrator’s paper together in her Christmas supplies. If you are interested in this homemade Christmas program, here is a link.

We have our family Christmas on Christmas Eve day. This began when our children were little, and we would spend Christmas Day with my parents who were our next-door-neighbors. Having our family’s gift giving on Christmas Eve freed up Christmas Day to spend at Grandad and Grandma’s. Now Grandad and Grandma’s health is such that all the celebrating is at our house so they are part of our Christmas Eve day. Opening our presents and having our Christmas meal on Christmas Eve now allows us time to go to the nursing home on Christmas Day. It gives our daughter-in-law, whose family lives close, freedom to spend Christmas with her family.

While the Christmas season can become hectic and focused on what has to be done, I want to encourage you to use that busyness to put your heart on worshiping your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (Psalms 29:2). When I worship the Lord Jesus while I prepare for the celebration of His birth, my heart is set on things above. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).

May I suggest that you evaluate with your husband what is important for your family during the Christmas season and make sure that your time is invested in those priorities. Be sure Christmas is purposefully utilized to draw your children’s hearts to Jesus Christ and to serving Him.