Tag Archives: Discipling

A Godly Legacy – Part 3

We are continuing the topic of a father’s godly legacy. To read the previous two months, see Part 1, Part 2. How critical is it to us when we are gone that we leave behind children who love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ? You can tell how important something is to a man by the decisions that he makes. A man will find a way to do what is important to him. No matter how difficult it is, how expensive or how much time it will take, he will do what he considers must be done. The question is just how important is it to us to raise mighty sons and daughters who will love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ? Our decisions and the life we live will be the proof.

Have you considered how important your role of discipling your children is in determining whether you will leave a godly legacy? We have observed many families where Dad’s responsibility is to bring home the income, and Mom’s is to raise the children. That is fine if they aren’t Christians, but Scripture is clear that Dad is to take the lead in the process of discipling the children. “And, ye fathers . . . bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

If discipling the children was the wife’s responsibility, then it wouldn’t make sense that a bishop/elder’s qualifications were contingent on his having faithful children. “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)” (1 Timothy 3:1-5). Are we willing to own our responsibility, and how committed are we about raising godly sons and daughters?

Everyone has a spirit, soul, and body; therefore, we need to develop all three in our children if we are to do our job well. “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Last month, we discussed preparing our children physically, and this month we will begin to look at disciplining their souls.

The soul is comprised of the mind, will, and emotions of a person. It is what makes us unique and often in Scripture is referred to as the heart of man. “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh” (Luke 6:45). We have tremendous opportunities to shape the hearts of our children. This month we will look at preparing the treasures of the mind.

Dads desiring a godly legacy understand the need to train their children’s minds in a Christ-focused, virtuous environment. They will pay their property tax bills (much goes to public and charter schools and state colleges) without the “benefit” of having their children’s education funded in order to avoid the godless, promiscuity-promoting, humanistic environment that the state system provides. Families avoiding state-funded education bear the added financial burden to purchase their own curriculum to ensure that God has His place in the knowledge that is shaping their children’s minds.

Sadly, we hear of families who have taken the “bait” of free curriculum or large dollar checks and been enticed to join charter homeschools thinking they are just another way of homeschooling. Since funding is from public money, Dad is signing away his ability to make choices as to how his children are educated. HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) reports that some thirty states prohibit the use of Christian curriculum in their charter schools. When enrolling his children in a charter school, Dad is now agreeing to fill his children’s minds with the same humanistic material that the public school children receive. With Jesus thrown out, Dad’s hope of a dynamic godly legacy is questionable at best.

I’ve heard that some are happy to enroll in charter schools with the hidden agenda of using Christian curriculum. Such a plan can be both illegal and a violation of conscience. If an agreement was signed stating that the provided curriculum would be used, to do anything else is wrong. The consequences associated with such a bad plan will be to teach the children that breaking one’s word is acceptable behavior as long as you have what you believe to be a good reason. This sort of corrupt example will produce a legacy of compromise.

Dads, who have a passion for a legacy of men and women of God, desire that their children function well in society by being able to speak, read, and write as ambassadors for Christ. Also, abilities in mathematics, science, and business are important. History is beneficial in understanding how God has worked with mankind following the historical account of Scripture. A knowledge of the wrong social choices man has made and the resulting consequences is important in preventing similar future problems.

Another aspect that shapes our children’s minds is not only what they learn but also how they learn. School is preparation for life, and life consists of work. Whether it is Dad providing for the family or Mom managing the home and teaching the children, life involves work. Work is what we are called to do. “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (Genesis 2:15). The Hebrew word for “dress” means to work. God put man on the earth to work. That is why an essential part of raising our children is that as they transition from childhood to adulthood, they transition from playing to working.

Therefore, it is good that children are accustomed to doing schoolwork (as opposed to “schoolplay”). The older they are, the more they need to know how to apply themselves to the task of learning. God gave us a great example with the Bible. Notice it is not filled with pictures or cartoons but words. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). “Study” in the Greek means to make diligent effort. One of the best preparations for life is to teach our children to study diligently (which requires work) and enjoy it.

During our homeschooling years one of our greatest joys was when one of the children would come to Teri or me exclaiming about things they learned while studying. A tremendous blessing of the children learning to study independently is how they now readily apply themselves to learn new things even after their formal schooling is over. As a result, our children enjoy learning new software, acquiring new skills, working toward certifications, and additionally, the young men love sermon preparation and the ladies doing Bible studies. It is important that our children become lifelong learners. I believe when a person stops learning, they will likely stop growing and begin to shrivel up mentally. Teach your children to work and give them a love for learning. The caution is always to guard our minds and choose to learn only things that do not compromise our convictions.

In addition, we must be cautious to learn in a safe environment. You may want to visit ITonRamp.com, a new website that we launched in May. The goal is to equip young people and parents with new skills through long-distance courses.

In some aspects, twelve years of educating our children seems like a long time, but in reality it is short. There is so much for our children to learn that twelve years goes by quickly. That is why wise parents jealousy guard that time and stay home to concentrate on the children’s learning. Over the twenty years that we have encouraged homeschool families, we have observed that once a homeschooling mom leaves the house with her children for an activity such as a field trip, doctor’s appointment, or errand, little school work is accomplished when they return home. Each day must be seen as a precious resource and every minute used wisely.

Teri and I were shopping for a rug for our bathroom. We stopped into a “rug store” we have driven by many times. Unrequested by us, the salesman began showing us his most costly rugs, which turned out to be handmade. There was one rug roughly three feet by four feet. Every thread was hand inserted and then tied-off in the back. It took two people four months to make that rug. The patience and determination to work day-after-day on such an intricate design was overwhelming to me. We then told him we weren’t interested in paying a lot for something you walk on and would be very satisfied with a synthetic, machine-made rug at a fraction of the price. There’s a time to invest and a time to conserve. The souls of our children, who have been entrusted to our raising in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, are of infinite value. Are we investing in their lives? Are we being faithful stewards?

Children’s Personal Bible Time

Again this month the topic for the Mom’s Corner comes from a specific request. Here is what was asked:

“I’d like to know more of how you have taught your children to have their own personal devotion time. Is it modeling and the enthusiasm from your family Bible time that encourages them, or have you ‘taught’ them how to do it? I wonder if you give your children journal questions to get them started, such as ‘what did you learn about God from this passage?’ etc. I suppose my bigger question is how do you encourage your children to think about what they are reading as opposed to reading, checking it off a list, and moving on?

“Do you require it or wait until they desire that time themselves? We have devotions as a family, but our children seem unmotivated to have their own personal time with the Lord.

“Although I read the Word, I’ve realized over the last year, with great disturbance, that I, myself, have never learned how to ‘study’ the Word beyond simply reading it. I can understand their frustration at not knowing where to start, what certain passages mean, etc. I am trying to learn by reading books on ‘how to study the Bible,’ because the Holy Spirit has given me the hunger and desire to learn; but how do I encourage my children?”

“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). We want our children to have the sword of the Spirit available to them, and we want the Word to work continually in their hearts. We know that this comes through the personal familiarity they gain in discovering what the Bible says and teaches.

We desire that our children would take with them throughout their lives a habit of spending time every day personally reading their Bibles. This habit has to be developed and nurtured while they are living in our home. We believe it begins with the example that Steve and I set for them. If we don’t make personal Bible reading a priority in our lives, we can’t encourage the children in it or expect it of them. That means that Steve and I both, faithfully every day, have time alone with the Lord for Bible reading and prayer.

We have seen the vital importance of Dad setting the example of personally spending time in the Word every day, in addition to Mom. Steve verbally encourages the children in the importance of their time in the Word. He often shares his enthusiasm for his Bible reading time, his desire for even more of it, his joy in what he is learning, and highlights of what is exciting to him from what he read that day. Certainly, this is important from Mom as well, but Dad is the spiritual leader and head of the home. It is critical that this is Dad’s heart if it is to be passed on to the children.

As soon as our children can read fairly well on their own—usually around age eight—we give them the family, large-print Bible we have kept specifically for our younger readers. At that point, they are given the privilege of getting up earlier in the morning when the older children are rising so that they may also have their time in the Word, like their bigger siblings. “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee. . .” (Psalms 63:1). In our family, personal Bible time is scheduled for the same time in the morning so that there isn’t noise and distraction from other family members’ activities while we are reading.

Steve and I work together on bedtimes to allow for a reasonable amount of sleep for the children while maintaining the priority of early-morning individual Bible time. Five of our children have their Bible time in the living room at the same time Daddy is having his Bible time in the living room. The others have theirs in another room of the house. While there are several people who are all in the living room at that time, there is no conversation because each person is individually reading his Bible. Steve loves having his children gathered with him spread out through the living room reading their Bibles in that early-morning hour before the busyness of the day begins. It also helps him to make sure each one is staying on task. Steve is always communicating with his children concerning the importance of their time in the Word and encouraging them in it.

When a child begins to have personal Bible time, Steve gives him a reading assignment—usually he has him begin in the New Testament. After the child has had daily Bible time for six months, then Steve buys him his own Bible and Bible cover. Most of our children have a Thompson Chain Reference Bible, a Study Bible, or both. They read during their personal Bible time and have the chain reference or study notes available if they have questions about what they have read and want to do more study.

Our family Bible time in the evening teaches the children how to read passages, think about them, ask questions about what they mean, look at cross references, and most importantly, how to apply it to daily life. These are all tools that they learn together and then have at their disposal during their personal Bible time without having to go through a Bible study book or class to be taught what to do. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

As the children grow, Steve continues to work with them as to where in the Bible they will be reading. He is watching them, considering areas for them to read that would be helpful for specific struggles they are having. Sometimes a child will have a particular book or two that he wants to read. Other times a child desires to read through the Bible or through the New Testament. Once the children reach twelve or thirteen years of age, Steve generally allows them to choose where they will read for their personal Bible time.

About two years ago, Steve was given a wide-margin Bible, which he uses for his personal time in the Word. As he reads, he writes notes in the margin. He has realized the benefit of that for his own spiritual growth. Resulting from this, we have begun to purchase wide-margin Bibles for some of our children, and Steve is encouraging them to make personal notes in the margin as they read.

Our children’s personal Bible time is not a time that we have felt should be invested in deep Bible study. Rather it is a time for relationship building with the Lord Jesus Christ. We want them reading with an eye for how the Word applies to their daily lives. We desire that they would have a hunger for the Word and a delight in it.

When our children are in high school, Steve has them read through the Bible, outlining it as they go. They do this as a combination of individual Bible time and some school time. In addition to the Bible outline, they will also develop a personal doctrinal statement with verses to back up each point of doctrine on the statement.

We like to see our children take the habit of daily Bible reading with them into their adult lives. Steve and I know the importance time in the Word has had in our lives and our personal relationships with the Lord Jesus. We also hear regularly from people who have major spiritual problems in their homes and personal lives. Almost always they are not reading their Bibles consistently. As we prepare our children for life, we are choosing to give them the most solid foundation possible—one built on the precious rock of the Word. “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).

Helping Children Overcome Sin

Recently we had a request for a Mom’s Corner on a topic to which many of us can probably relate.

“I have become aware of my controlling tendencies and have begun to work on this area of my life. Knowing this behavior does not please the Lord Jesus I am learning to pray and trust His ways.

My goal is to serve my family with a gentle spirit, patient heart, and quiet voice; however, I have noticed that my ten-year-old daughter has picked up and mimics much of the ‘Old Mom.’

What methods can I use to teach her that Mom’s old way does not bring glory to God and that she will suffer the same if she continues in those behaviors? Most of the time she (like I was) is unaware of this controlling nature. Please help.” A Mom Who Is Growing Away from Controlling

As we evaluate our lives and our children’s lives, we often see our sin mirrored in our children. The world recognizes this with sayings such as, “Like mother, like daughter.” My example to my children is usually speaking as loudly as, or louder than, my actual words. Scripture also gives us a picture of how this process of our example works. “Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:7).

Our salvation frees us from the bondage of sin, but we can still live with the consequences of that sin, including seeing it reproduced in our children. Because of our own recognition of the particular sin and our battle with it, we become very aware of it not only in our lives but also in our children’s lives. When we begin to experience victory, we are happy to release our families from the effects our sin has been having on them, but we are not happy to see those effects perpetuated by the same sin in one of our children.

Seeing my sin in my children helps to keep me aware of the consequences of that sin, my need to depend on the Lord Jesus Christ, my desire to continue to grow spiritually, and my prayer that I not fall back into the old ways. I can use my children’s failures to help me not become prideful over any victory I am experiencing but to be grateful for the Lord’s work in my life and to give Him the glory for it. It should also allow me to be compassionate toward my children as they battle the same sin that I have and most likely am continuing to struggle with in some measure. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

When Steve and I face these kinds of situations of seeing our sin mirrored in our children, we begin discussing the problem and the solution with the child. Steve, as the spiritual head of our home, is the one who takes responsibility for initially addressing these kinds of sin issues. These difficulties offer good opportunities for heart-to-heart talks and then ongoing follow-up. Steve makes it a point to pull out practical application of the Word in our nightly family Bible time to the specific needs of the children. Often what sin one child is dealing with, another one may be as well.

Steve and I share with our children our failures and what the outcome has been through the years. We acknowledge to them that we know it has been our bad example that has opened the door for their sin. We discuss how the Lord has convicted us of that sin, how He has been teaching us to deal with it, and the changes we have experienced as a result.

In this particular case, here are verses of Scripture that might that apply to the problem and could be used in seeking to teach the Lord Jesus’ heart on the matter:

It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house. (Proverbs 21:9)

A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knoweth nothing. (Proverbs 9:13)

Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands. (Proverbs 14:1)

It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman. (Proverbs 21:19)

A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike. (Proverbs 27:15)

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. (Philippians 2:3)

But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. (1 Peter 3:4)

Steve and I have found the one-on-one discussions are best to have at a time when the child is not in trouble for some wrong behavior. At the moment of failure, the child is often defensive and making excuses. However, if we plan for a time to spend alone with the child later on, first sharing the testimony of our failures and then discussing his need for change along with the applicable verses, then his heart is usually more open.

We can use these one-on-one discussions to begin the process of crying out to the Lord for victory over their sin. We will be a prayer warrior for our children in these struggles they are facing. We can pray with our child. Then the child can begin praying for himself daily to overcome the sin. We can also choose to pray for each other since we each know the other is wanting to be obedient in this area. Every time there is failure it will be another opportunity to pray since there will be confession, repentance, and asking of forgiveness.

As moms we want to point out and encourage our children’s successes in an area where they are wanting to change. We can bless them by helping them to notice the victories and to be grateful to the Lord Jesus for His work in their lives. We will also need to bring up the failures, if the children don’t do so first. Sometimes they won’t recognize their sin or will try to make excuses for it. Excuses are an indicator of pride in a child’s life, and that also needs to be worked with. Each failure is a step toward humility, if they will cast down pride, repent of sin, and choose to be obedient.

I also want to be aware of whether I have truly turned from the sin I see mirrored in my child’s life. Sometimes I may think there is spiritual growth over the sin, but in reality, I am still continuing to walk in the sin at least to some extent. I think this can be especially true in the area of controlling. It is good for our children to hear us acknowledge our sin and ask forgiveness for it.

“Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:9). Paul tells his readers in this verse that his instruction to them of God’s Word and his personal example are the path they are to follow. This is important for us as mothers as well and very sobering since it bears with it great responsibility in our own personal obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ.

The path of instruction, example, and correction would apply to helping a child with any sin he is struggling with, not just a daughter who needs to stop controlling. We have the precious opportunity in our children’s lives to help them learn to obey Jesus Christ, depend on Him, and repent of their sin. Moms are generally with their children on a minute-by-minute basis, whereas our husbands are with the family for more limited amounts of time in the evenings and on the weekends because of their need to provide for the family. May we make the most of the mothering years we have with our children in helping and directing them in their spiritual walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Leading Our Children to Depend on Jesus

With obvious frustration in her voice and near tears in her eyes, ten-year-old Mary came to me with her math. She had missed every one of her long-division problems. It was not because she didn’t know how to do them but rather because of careless multiplying or subtracting mistakes. At first, I felt myself being impatient with her interruption to what I was doing. However, the Spirit prompted my heart that this was one of those valuable, spiritually stretching moments for Mary.

I began sharing with Mary verses such as, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). I encouraged her that the Lord Jesus was the One to turn to in her need and weakness. We talked about the goal of her math and how her failures showed her where she should be more careful and work harder. We discussed how her problems were actually more valuable to her than what came easily, with no effort involved. Finally, we prayed together. I suggested that the next time she started math, she come to me, and we would pray together.

The following day, a joyful Mary, with a beaming face, burst into the dining room announcing to me that she had gotten every division problem correct! What value could I place on the spiritual lesson that Mary was learning in relying upon and trusting Jesus Christ? However, I also know how easily I could have robbed Mary of this blessing.

The first way I might have kept her from a positive, spiritual experience would have been by responding to her out of my impatience, telling her to just try harder and be more careful. After all, she did know how to work the problems. My selfish focus is sin in my life. It also doesn’t allow my children the joy of a mom who is there on a moment-by-moment basis in their young lives, encouraging them to develop a dependence on Jesus as a response to the trials and difficulties that enter their lives.

The second way I may keep my children from opportunities for growing in their reliance on Jesus Christ is by removing the struggle itself. When the math is hard, I begin thinking about looking for another curriculum—something that teaches in a different way, that is easier, that has fewer problems to work. If I take away my child’s source of need, then there is no longer a reason for him to cry out to Jesus Christ for His strength in the situation. My child is able to make it through on his own.

What is more important for my childimmediate success in getting right answers on a math problem or learning to develop the habit of crying out to Jesus Christ for help in every circumstance? Rather than viewing the daily problems with my children as trials to be avoided, I can use them positively. Throughout my hours with my children, there will be multiple chances to point them to Jesus, to use Scripture to address a situation—to help them develop spiritual disciplines of relying on Jesus and obeying Him. The more I see difficulties in this light, the more I have to gain for my children in helping them to grow within themselves these habits. The goal would be that the inclination to look to Jesus would become so engrained in their lives that it is almost instinctive rather than something that is not done at all or is forced because it is the “right” thing to do.

I want to encourage us as mothers to invest in our children’s lives by helping them grow in their faith. Rather than removing children’s struggles, see the value in what they can learn through them in spite of the fact that they are children. Spiritually help them walk through their difficulties—even ones as small as missing all the division problems in the math lesson. Let them experience the joy of victory in Jesus Christ. Even if that victory doesn’t involve success in a particular academic struggle, it will be evident in the spiritual realm of the child’s relationship with Jesus Christ and dependence on Him. May we be mothers with an eternal focus.

Spiritually Healthy Children

Reflecting back on all the places Teri and I have lived during our twenty-eight years of marriage, I realized there was one thing consistent with each place: they all had “needy” lawns. I always mowed the lawns on a regular basis, but I had no clue as to what it took to have a truly healthy lawn.

There were times when I would get inspired and think, “If my neighbor can have a reasonable looking lawn, then so can I.” I would go buy a bag of fertilizer and a new drop spreader (the old one had rusted to a point of uselessness by that time) and painstakingly attempt to apply the chemicals to the yard. Then, with significant anticipation, I would watch for the lawn to green up. I can remember the satisfaction of seeing beautiful, green grass. Unfortunately, that satisfaction was always tempered by the disappointment of seeing lush green stripe, pale green stripe, lush green stripe, then pale sickly-looking stripe.

No matter how careful I was to overlap each pass with the drop spreader, it seemed like I missed as much as I covered. At each turn, I would even put a stake in next to the wheel and aim for the opposite stake across the yard. I just couldn’t get it right. I wasn’t sure which was worse, a uniformly pale, anemic yard, or one with deep green stripes accenting the pale stripes, sort of a drop-shadow affect.

Then, eleven years ago when we moved into this house, I decided it was time to do it right. By combining my lawn with my father-in-law’s lawn (he lives next door to us), I could get the chemical treatments applied professionally for less than I could buy them over the counter. With the volume discount, a rich, green lawn was on the horizon. No more striped lawn! A pro was going to be applying the treatments, and all I would have to do was mow. I was so pleased!

I greatly enjoyed seeing the lawn green up as the chemical plan started. I began to take even more notice of the lawn than I ever had. The lawn-treatment company always said that if you weren’t pleased with the results, just to give them a call. They would come back out and take care of whatever they needed to do. So for the first time ever, I had hopes of not only a green lawn, but a weed-free lawn as well.

I wish I could tell you those six years of professional lawn treatments revolutionized our yard. Unfortunately, I can’t because we didn’t have one successful year. My only explanation is that the Lord obviously had a lesson in it for me.

Each year there was always some sort of problem with the lawn. I would discuss it with the lawn-treatment company, and they always had a reason why the yard wasn’t improving. For several years it was because it was a wetter-than-normal year. They told me the fertilizer and weed control were being washed away. Then there were the years when it didn’t rain often enough. They said I needed to water the lawn so it received at least an inch of water every week. Do you have any idea how much an inch of water over the whole yard each week costs? It made what we were paying for the chemicals seem like chicken feed. Then there was a year when they had to treat for grubs two or three times. By the time the grubs were finally conquered—well, actually, “conquered” probably isn’t accurate—I think there was nothing left to eat so the grubs moved on.

After several years, I finally could see that having someone else responsible for fertilizing and weed control was not the answer either. What needed to happen was for me to learn what should be done to properly care for the lawn, and then do it myself.

The first rule I discovered was that a healthy lawn—one that is well-fed and well-watered—will resist weeds. Unfortunately, my lawn was in such sorry condition that it needed much more major work.

The first thing we did was to verticut the yard, reseed it, and apply starter fertilizer. After applying large amounts of daily water, the grass seed sprouted and began growing. It took several years of fertilizing, watering, and some more over-seeding to achieve our current lawn. It has grass that looks nice—not beautiful, but acceptable, by my standards.

In giving you that much detail of my lawn history, I didn’t want to bore you or brag about what little I know regarding lawn care. I felt the background was important in laying the foundation for what I wanted to share.

Brothers, I am deeply grieved by my observation of how many dads are doing nothing to maintain healthy children’s hearts. It is as if, just by giving them a place to grow, these dads believe their children will turn out all right. To me that is like giving grass a place to grow and then expecting it to be a beautiful lawn. I don’t think either will happen.

The next wrong assumption I see is that it is best to turn our children over to the professionals to be properly trained. The experts are supposed to know exactly how to raise children, just like the guys who spray chemicals on the yard are to have your “lawn’s best interests” in mind. However, even if some professionals have more knowledge than a typical dad, they don’t have the heart attachment that a dad has for his own children.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 is clear in stating that the responsibility for discipling children rests on fathers. “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”

The temptation is to let others give our children their spiritual training. We cannot, though, expect Sunday School teachers, youth group leaders, or even our pastors to be responsible for our children’s spiritual growth and nurturing. Notice the key word in that last sentence: responsible. We are the ones who will be held responsible for how our children have been spiritually fed. Others may supplement what we are feeding our children, but we will not stand before the Lord and say, “It was his fault that my children weren’t discipled.” As long as the chemical “pros” were responsible for my yard, I was hardly even willing to water it. That was my fault and not theirs! Just because we take our children to church does not mean they are being trained in the way the Lord wants them to be.

The chemical “pros” give every lawn the same treatment. That is why it took three treatments of increasing-strength chemicals to deal with the grubs that one year. Even within a family, each child needs individual care and nurturing. There are times when I’m choosing to give one child much more attention than others, because that is what the child needs at that time. I wish we were able to train each child in the same way as it sure would make raising children easier, and we wouldn’t have to work so hard. That is my preference, though, and not the Lord’s. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The fact that we feel inadequate and uncertain about how to raise our children is a good thing and will motivate us to pray. Then God gets the glory for everything that is done.

The essence of having a healthy lawn is to nurture it. That means, at a minimum, we give it proper food, water, and cutting. Weather will always be a factor in how much we do of each of the basics, so we have to be observant. In the same way, we must be observant of our children’s needs. The storms of life will come and go, and they have an effect on how we are going to care for each child. This will vary from year to year, and maybe even day to day, as needs will be different depending on the conditions.

One thing is certain: food and water are a must. Dads, that is why we must be serving our family a healthy portion of the Word daily. It may be a larger serving at some times, but they need God’s Word every day. If you don’t want them to grow in the Lord, not leading your children in a daily time of family worship will accomplish that goal. Your children will not grow and mature spiritually if you don’t spiritually feed them! Are we relying on the experts to feed our children? Please don’t if you really care about your children!

In John 21:17 Jesus said to Peter, “. . . Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because Jesus said to him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said to him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” Men, if we love our children, we must feed them. May we not stand before the Lord someday admitting we didn’t feed His sheep.

(Steve has a 2 CD Set on the importance of daily, family Bible time, how to practically accomplish it, and actual samples for our family devotions. Please see Feed My Sheep.)

A Sure Test of Worth

There is a skill that every father needs to learn and then be able to teach his children. It is essential for effectively sharing the love of Christ with your family and others.

Without this ability, you and I will leave people with the impression that we think we are more important than they are. The absence of this is particularly evident at social gatherings. The ones with it are a pleasure to be around, while the ones without it are boring.

If you don’t develop this skill, your wife may doubt that you really care for her. If you don’t practice it with your children, someone else may steal their hearts away from you.

Jesus was a Master of this. In fact, He amazes me every time I read that He did it. Sometimes I cannot understand why He did this, other times it was pretty obvious. What is this skill?

I commented briefly about it in last month’s Corner from Mark 9:21, when Jesus asked a boy’s father, “How long is it ago since this came unto him?” Jesus is God, and He knows everything. Why did He ask the question? Was He seeking a confession or some information He did not know? I believe Jesus asked the father the question because He wanted to draw the father into a conversation in order to reveal needs in the father’s life.

Jesus was accomplished in the art of asking questions. Why is the ability to ask questions so important in life? First and foremost, it communicates worth to the person you are asking because it says that what they are thinking is important to you.

To my shame, there have been times when Teri was describing a situation to me and “in all my great wisdom” I’ve quickly figured out the solution to her problem. I’ve interrupted her with answers she was seeking. However, what I really did was to communicate that she wasn’t as important as my time. I had given her a swift answer so I could get on with other things. Jesus could have quickly healed the father’s son mentioned in Mark 9:21 without any communication, but He didn’t. He took what time was necessary to get to the heart of the matter, which included growing the father’s faith as well as delivering the son.

That is why questions are so important. What if I were to wait until Teri finished describing to me her problem? Then, what if I asked her a few questions to verify that I understood the situation, gleaning additional clarification as needed? Wouldn’t this communicate that I care about what is important to her and am putting her interests first?

Another example might be the times I’ve been out all day and haven’t had a chance to speak to Teri. Finally I come home and ask her about her day, how she is feeling, or if she had any problems. Aren’t I telling her that I love her and that she is important to me by asking the questions and being attentive to her answers? Who am I communicating is the most important if I’m only interested in telling her about my day?

The same is true with our children. Communicating heart to heart involves asking our children questions about their struggles, their likes and dislikes. It is an excellent way of showing genuine interest in them and getting to heart issues.

We cannot effectively witness to someone without asking him questions. It is very difficult to communicate the love of Christ while “verbally shoving” something down someone’s throat—and that is what a constant stream of words does.

Consider the following examples. “Jim, you need to be saved so you won’t go to hell. You need to confess you are a sinner.” Or, “Jim, where do you think you will spend eternity? Would you be interested in learning what the Bible has to say about it?”

“Donny, I have seen you being very mean to your sister, and it better stop.” Or, “Donny, I’ve observed you having some conflict with your sister lately. Would you tell me about it? Has she offended you in some way? Shall we talk about it?”

It will help a child throughout his life if he learns how to ask good questions as a means to get to know others. Think how common it is to spend time with someone you don’t know very well. What better way to get to know something about that person than by asking questions?

Years ago, our evening family altar time was interrupted by a knock on the door. Nathan, then thirteen years old, jumped up and said he would see who it was. He stepped outside and didn’t come back in for quite a few minutes. When he finally returned, I asked who had been at the door. He said it was one of his lawn-mowing customers. I asked if there was a problem, since he was gone for so long. Nathan said, “No Dad, there was no problem, we just got started talking.” The gentleman Nathan was talking to was probably fifty years his senior, but because Nathan is skilled at asking questions, he was comfortable talking to just about anyone.

We have found communicating through questions to be essential for our monthly visits to the City Union Mission. The men we “visit” with are often not refined in their social skills. Carrying on a conversation can be quite difficult at times. Questions that require more than a simple “yes” or “no” answer are the primary arsenal for chipping away the hardened outer layers of these men.

Questions are a surgeon’s tools for getting to the heart of man. When guided in a gentle but purposeful fashion, they will unlock a great treasure. They can bring to light hidden hurts that have been long buried. They can be the key to discovering deep waters. When I sense a closed spirit in Teri or the children, loving questions will uncover issues that I need to address or offenses I have committed.

How can we teach our children to gracefully employ the art of communication though questioning? Practice with counsel makes one skillful. Fellowshipping after church or with dinner guests provides wonderful opportunities for children to practice their communication skills. Encourage your children beforehand to think of questions they can ask. Then have them practice the questions with you prior to the guest’s arrival. That way you can help them learn what is appropriate to ask and how to be gentle with the questions.

I suppose the most difficult aspect of asking questions for a child is learning what is appropriate to ask and what is not. Questions about the guest’s physical appearance are always the most risky. One we have learned to shy away from is, “So when is your baby due?”

There are some dangers with questions. As I just mentioned, some questions are inappropriate because the relationship or an assumption can prove false. Questions can be blunt, insensitive, demanding, or too many. Our tone while asking is very important and often will tip the scales toward appearing caring or toward being pushy and demanding.

Teri and I are amazed at how often we encounter people in social settings who will never ask a single question about our family or us. It isn’t that we are dying to tell them about ourselves, it just makes the conversation much easier and more pleasant. By their not asking any questions, they appear to be interested only in themselves, and we run the risk of appearing nosy after asking them question after question.

I would encourage each dad to evaluate his communication skills in questioning. A good place to start is by asking your wife if she feels you show interest in her. Do you ask her about her day, her needs, and her cares? If you aren’t doing this, repent of your selfish focus. Then begin to ask your wife and children questions to communicate that you are putting them first and caring about them. Make this ability to use questions a priority in your life, and then teach it to your children.

I have found the art of asking questions one of the most important skills I have. I must give credit to two people in particular. One was a man who taught a sales seminar I attended in 1982 on being successful in sales. The other person is Teri’s mother. She is gracious and skillful in interacting with others, and I see much of this is due to her ability to ask questions.

Dads, may we be ready instruments in our Lord’s hands through our communication skills and equip our children to be the same. These children will then be comfortable in social situations and will bless you.

A Daughter’s Titus Two Woman

As I entered my forties, younger women whom I counseled or encouraged would occasionally refer to me as a “Titus Two” woman to them. This term comes from Titus 2:4-5, which outlines specific areas in which older women are to teach the younger women. “That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Titus 2:4-5). Having me referred to as a “Titus Two” woman made for a few rounds of laughter at our dinner table when my family teased with, “Mom, you know what that means? You are an OLDER woman!”

One day I was thinking about my own teenage daughter in relation to Titus 2:4-5. I realized as she grew up she was going to be looking for a “Titus Two” woman in her life. I wanted to make sure I had made a concerted effort to be that woman for her even before she felt a need for one.

I knew that being my daughter’s “Titus Two” woman would grow naturally out of a healthy mother-daughter relationship. However, as I evaluated my time usage, I noticed that I was encouraging Christian homeschooling moms via e-mail each day. I also would usually meet with a local homeschooling mom on a monthly basis in a mentoring relationship. I desired to invest dedicated time such as this in my own daughter’s life.

I began the process by scheduling a monthly outing for just my daughter and me. This is exactly what I did when a friend asked me to mentor her. Why not do the same with my daughter? While my oldest daughter and I had occasional excursions together, it was not on the regular, consistent basis I wanted. I always had good intentions of going out with her. However, in reality, time slipped away with no “feet” being given to the intentions. I found that when evening came, I didn’t have the energy left to take my daughter out unless we had planned it ahead of time.

For about four years, Sarah, my nineteen-year-old daughter, and I have gone out to eat together on the first Monday of the month. We both look forward to this special time. Occasionally, Sarah will invite one or both of her younger sisters to join us. Generally, though, this is an evening for just Sarah and me. Sarah often brings up areas she is struggling with in her personal life. We can discuss these issues and find biblical ways to deal with them. She feels the freedom to ask questions and bring up topics she might not be comfortable talking about at home where little ears are always about. During our evening out, we talk with each other, relax, and enjoy the freedom of not making or cleaning up dinner. I plan a simple dinner for the family at home that Daddy and the children can easily make. We are even a bit practical by running errands after we eat. Both of us have fond memories of these past four years’ outings and can hardly believe we have been having them for that long!

The second purposeful way I set out four years ago to be my daughter’s “Titus Two” woman was by planning weekly time to study together. This wasn’t to be study such as we did in school. I wanted it to be much more personal—a sharing of hearts, not simply learning academic information. “To be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands”—these have been my curricula and guidelines as Sarah’s “Titus Two” woman.

Sarah and I scheduled our study time. My days were already filled to the brim with homeschooling and caring for a house full of children. Sarah had her own school time, working for her dad, household helping, and much more. I prayed, asking the Lord for creativity in finding the needed minutes for Sarah and me, knowing this would be quite a task. Our study time was planned for a half an hour two nights a week, right after the younger children went to bed. We purposed to be faithful to this appointment. However, we gave ourselves some leeway since if we missed our time together one night, there would still be another night that week to meet.

These study times together are rare opportunities for Sarah to relate to me as another woman, an older sister in Christ, rather than strictly as her mother or her homeschool teacher (when she was still a part of our homeschool). Since this is not part of our school, there are no grades or expectations other than that she want to grow in her relationship with her Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes our study causes us to be very serious and even grieved as we evaluate our lives in light of Scripture. Other times we laugh and are silly.

I am very grateful as I look back on these past four years for what the Lord has done in developing my “Titus Two” relationship with Sarah. It would have been so easy to stay busy with life and to ignore this vital area. Often, when a friend finds out about my monthly outings with Sarah, she will say, “Oh, that is such a good idea!” I completely agree!

What about you? Are you seeking opportunities to be your daughter’s “Titus Two” woman? Even if your girls are young you can focus some of your conversation on “Titus Two” topics. If your daughter is a teen, then it is even more imperative that you are teaching her specifically in the areas Titus 2 lays out for older women to teach younger women. May we give the same time and opportunities to our own daughters to learn from the lessons the Lord has taught us that we give our friends. Mother, may I encourage you to be your daughter’s “Titus Two” woman.