Tag Archives: Keeping Children’s Hearts

Grounded in Christ, Your Children – Part 2

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Last month we were investigating a statement made by the pastor of a church when a family had decided to take their children out of the youth group because of negative influences in their lives from that youth group. The pastor told the parents concerning the rock music being played during the youth group, “If your children are firmly grounded in Christ it will not affect them.” Here is a link to Part 1 of this series.

A youth who is “firmly grounded in Christ” may be aware of things he believes to be wrong at youth group. However, there are also many fun things that will pull his heart to wanting to continue attending. “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:14). Those lusts of the flesh may have a stronger pull on his heart than his grounding in Christ. He may also be concerned that if he discusses problems with the youth group with his dad and mom, he might be asked to stop going to the youth group.

While on the subject of the youth group leader there is something very important to consider although not directly related to the e-mail. There is a problem that surfaces when we place our children under someone else’s leadership to spiritually guide them. “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). Jesus is telling us that authority and leadership needs to be clearly defined. There can be only one leader. Aren’t you glad there is only one pilot on airplanes? The pilot is the one in command, and he is responsible for whatever happens with that aircraft. This is similar to Dad being responsible to the Lord for his decisions.

Just imagine for a moment that the cabin crew is being given conflicting directions by the pilot and copilot. The crew would become resentful and possibly even have feelings against one of the two giving orders. Jesus is saying that if our children are being given different direction by their dad versus a youth group leader, they will hate the one and love the other. In fact, considering that youth groups are often fun and games, and Dad may at times be exhorting or even rebuking the child, it should not be too difficult to tell who the child will give their heart to.

I find that most parents are highly sensitive to peer pressure themselves. Why would they expect their children to stay strong and not be influenced by the youth with whom they are associating? I remember a conversation with one dad where we were discussing the merits of ditching the “beast” (TV). He was in full agreement with the negatives of the “beast” when all of a sudden it was as if a red light came on in his mind, and he exclaimed, “But what will others think of us if we don’t have a TV?” Here was an example of a group of people with whom this man associated whose influence was so strong in his life that he was mentally passing a decision by them and realizing that they would not approve of it. Even though it was just going on in his mind, it was causing him second thoughts about doing something that he had acknowledged would be good for his family. If parents can’t resist peer pressure, why do we think our children will be stronger than we are? “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

I’m convinced that most parents forget the pressure and temptations they experienced during their teen and young adult years. The power of the flesh is so strong! Crimes have been committed and countless marriages destroyed because men and women couldn’t contain themselves. Adults are supposed to be mature and have self-control over the desires of the flesh, yet one doesn’t need to go far for examples of failure. I’m thinking of a very godly pastor who was loved and respected by those who knew him. His church was devastated and friends greatly saddened by news of his moral failure. Here was a mature man who understood Scripture and preached against sin, yet he had embraced sin for a season. With so many examples similar to this, why is it that parents don’t understand the incredible temptations their children will encounter in youth groups? Why would we think our children will be strong enough to resist?

I also wonder if parents living within the bonds of marriage forget what it is like to live apart. They forget what it is like to be a youth entering puberty with hormones raging and the resulting temptations and desires. Solomon knew the power of attraction and love and warned about stirring it up too early. “I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please” (Song of Solomon 3:5). Putting youth in youth groups or sitting them in front of the TV is going to stir “love.” Wise parents will encourage their children to avoid relationships until they are emotionally, spiritually, and financially ready for marriage. Then, they look to God to show who He has to be their spouse. Why would we think our children will be strong?

I believe one dad’s recent comments sums up the needed commitment for each of us. “I have served five combat tours to Iraq. I was ready to die for my country, but I will give my life to get my children’s hearts back. Jesus already owns my soul.” When I read the passion in that dad’s statements, it was like driving a hot poker through my heart. Amen and amen. This man lost his children’s hearts while away serving our country, but he was determined to get them back. Most dads are home every night. What excuse will God accept for not having our children’s hearts and raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?

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?

Bringing Up Children Who Will Love the Lord – Part 3

This month’s Mom’s Corner continues with a series of articles answering a question about what practical things we can do for our children that would help them grow into adults who love the Lord with all of their hearts and live their lives for Him. I am once again including the original e-mail that I received with the question that precipitated these Mom’s Corners so that you don’t have to look back to find it in the other articles.

“My greatest desire for my child is that he will love the Lord with all of his heart. He is generally well behaved and obedient, but I have recently realized that I need to do a better job of stirring up godly appetites in his heart. I want to teach him to be a lover of God more than a lover of pleasure.

“There are two areas where I see my own need to improve: One is that I don’t think I have scheduled in enough work and responsibility for him. The other is that I am not a diligent person. I am too quick to settle for less effort, both on my part and on his. I haven’t been purposely doing this, but now that I realize it, I am so sorry for it! I want to change, and I am claiming God’s promise that I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.

“I am going to re-read my Managers of Their Homes book, and rewrite our schedule. Once I have done this, I plan to start joining the weekly accountability threads.

“Meanwhile, I would love any advice you have. I know that teaching our children to love God above all is a heart issue. However, I believe that our hearts are affected by the way we spend our time. I believe that our schedule has a VERY strong impact on our hearts. What do you put on your schedules that has actually brought fruit in your children’s lives, taught them to love the Lord, and to have a servant’s heart?

“We have silent Bible reading, as well as a time for reading the Bible together, and for memory work. He uses a Bible study book as part of his homeschool work. We also have a reading time right before bed. For the most part, we use books with a godly focus, such as the Moody Family Books Rod and Staff stories, etc. What more can I do to give him godly teachings and to help him apply these teachings to his life?” WhiterThanSnow

To briefly recap, we first saw the importance of the model we are setting before our children through our personal example. No matter how much teaching we do, if our lives don’t demonstrate what we teach, our children will not learn what we want them to learn. Then we moved into the realm of using Scripture to build a love for Christ into our children’s lives. They need to be reading the Bible for themselves, reading it with the family, and also seeing its application to every aspect of their daily lives.

I believe that if we want our children to grow up to be lovers of God more than lovers of pleasures, that desire will be part of our ongoing prayers for our children. We will pray continually for our children as Paul prayed for the believers in his churches, “We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you” (Colossians 1:3). These desires that we have for our children will be more than lofty goals that we hope will someday happen. They will be undergirded by the greatest foundation possible, the foundation of prayer. I love the prayers Paul prayed and can see the practical application of praying these kinds of prayers for my children. “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness” (Colossians 1:9-11).

As we strive to provide space in our children’s days for activities that will draw their hearts to the Lord Jesus, we would be wise to consider the negative impact that many activities can have on our children’s hearts and their focus. That is one of the major themes of our book called Keeping Our Children’s Hearts, so I won’t go into too much detail here. However, consider with me the child who grows up watching TV during his free time and playing a multitude of video games. Is it possible that he will so addicted to his entertainment that he will be a lover of his pleasures rather than a lover of God? If so, then we have to see our responsibility in this process because we are usually the ones who set the course of the daily schedule and allow access to these kinds of activities.

Another consideration when thinking about where a child’s heart will be drawn and how that will impact his walk with Jesus as an adult would be what his friends are like in his childhood years. What is the potential that a child’s friends will draw him to an all-consuming love for Jesus Christ versus drawing his heart to worldly fun? My husband, Steve, recently wrote a series of articles for dads that addressed this topic in much more depth. The series is called Worldly Friends.

Since WhiterThanSnow wants her son not only to love Jesus with all of his being but also to have a servant’s heart, certainly she will be moved toward her goal if she starts including her son in her daily work and chores. Think about the time a mother can spend with a child or multiple children working in the kitchen together or folding laundry. During those hours, fellowship and conversation occur all the while the child is serving. Much of it will be trivial discussion of the day’s events, but we can also steer those words into ones of spiritual magnitude. We can talk about our love for the Lord Jesus Christ, how it impacts our daily lives, how we fail and what we do when we fail, and how we want to have servant’s hearts. During these frequent discussions, we can bring Scripture to bear on the occurrences of life in our homes and help our children grow in their obedience to the Word and in their relationship with Jesus Christ. We also have a resource called Managers of Their Chores that goes into much more depth on this topic.

While daily work and chores are beneficial for the development of a servant’s heart, we also see the need for giving our children practical projects. Projects develop skills in our children’s lives, skills they can use to serve others both now and in the future. They also allow our children to strive to accomplish what is beyond the scope of our everyday chores, providing them with new challenges and incentives. Steve’s book Preparing Sons to Provide for a Single-Income Family is full of suggestions for implementing this kind of a mindset into our life styles. He also wrote a series of Dad’s Corners on this topic, which would be good resources, Practical Projects for Our Children.

The final suggestion I want to offer WhiterThanSnow as she pursues the development in her son of a heart for Jesus rather than a heart for pleasure is that they begin to minister together. Family ministry is a natural outgrowth of families choosing to work together. While there are limits on ministry with children, as we pray to the Lord for those opportunities, He is faithful to provide and direct. A very basic way to serve with children that I can think of would be to minister through hospitality. We can invite other families into our home for an evening of food and conversation. Include the children in the planning, food preparation, serving, and cleanup. For us, we always include family Bible time as part of the activities and invite our guests to join us.

A nursing, assisted-living, or retirement home outreach is another possibility with children because the elderly residents greatly love having children with whom to interact. When taking children into a nursing home, it is important to maintain high sanitary precautions since there is the possibility that germs in the nursing home will be detrimental to a child’s health. When Nathan and Melanie take our granddaughter, Abigail, to the nursing home, they keep her hands back so that the residents can’t reach out for them, utilize hand sanitizer frequently, and wash her clothing when they return home.

What higher vision could we have for our children than that they would love the Lord Jesus Christ with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength? Wouldn’t we agree with Paul as he writes to Timothy that we don’t want our children in this category, “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:4)? There are many choices that we can make as we go through our days with our children that can affect these desired outcomes for those children. We have observed families who are making these decisions in raising their children and the positive results that are manifested in their children’s lives. It is a joy and blessing to our hearts as we observe these young people walking faithfully with the Lord Jesus. May we be mothers who will purposefully strive toward doing what we can do with and for our children so that they can become men and women who are lovers of God more than lovers of pleasures.

Hearts for Jesus

“My question is this . . . with four children ages 14, 12, 10 and 8, how do I get them to enjoy Christ and seek to know and serve Him? My children love to play, play, play. It sounds as though you let your kids have video entertainment when they were younger. How did you remove those things without generating resentment and envy of other families? They are very geared toward where their next fun is going to come from.” Concerned Mom

This Corner’s request was written to me from a homeschooling mom. Praise the Lord for the desire of her heart. Sadly, though, it is usually the moms who are concerned about their children’s spiritual growth as opposed to the dads (as evidenced by the fact that the moms are generally the ones asking us questions in this area). But why am I responding to a mom’s question here in a Dad’s Corner? It is because Dad is the one who was given the overall responsibility in Ephesians 6:4 for how the children are raised. “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

In addition to the responsibility God has given Dad, Dad often holds the keys as to where the hearts of the children are directed. If Dad’s heart is worldly and fun-focused, then that is the likely direction the children’s hearts will be turned as well. However, if Dad’s heart is set on things above not on things on the earth (Colossians 3:2), then that is where the children’s hearts will be pulled. Frankly, it is an extremely difficult battle to help the children choose the Lord over fun, but there is hope.

Let’s briefly look at Colossians 3:1-2. “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). The first phrase is important to this discussion. It is a condition that if true, then the rest of verses 1 and 2 apply. Paul is saying that if a person is saved, then he is to seek things which are above. To seek means just that. It is a willful choice—a decision to desire and seek after those things that are of the Lord Jesus. They will be important to us, what we think about and pursue. Paul is not saying, if you are saved, it would be nice if you had a heart for spiritual things instead of the fun things of this world. He is saying, if we are saved, we are to seek after the things of the Lord Jesus.

What sort of things might that be? First and foremost it will be Jesus Himself. Dads, do we delight in Jesus? Do we think about Him as a bride longs to be with her new husband? Do we talk to Him in our hearts throughout the day? Do our hearts yearn to spend eternity with Jesus?

Further evidence of being risen with Christ will be a desire to be in the Word individually and as a family. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Jesus and the Word are inseparable. We can’t love Jesus and not love His Word. Do we want to read the Bible? Do we think about the Word and how we can apply it to our lives? “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). A sign of life and health with a newborn is the appetite to drink milk. Peter is saying that just as a newborn craves milk so a believer will earnestly long for God’s Word. Those who are saved will feed on the Bible.

In raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, Romans 6:16 is important to consider. “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:16). It is not only important to set our affections on things above but also to obey. Who are we yielding to in obedience—the flesh and the world or the Lord Jesus Christ? It isn’t enough to have warm, fuzzy thoughts of the Lord; we are to obey Him.

When we obey the Lord, He will manifest Himself to us. “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). The love of Christ in our lives—Jesus’ love for us and our love for Jesus—is a result in the believer’s life when we obey Him. It is something obvious to others when they are around a person who is abiding in Christ. It is a further “Amen” to the children that Dad is walking in fellowship with his Savior. It demonstrates to the children that Dad has a real relationship with the God of creation and that the things of this world are merely chaff. When Christ is alive in Dad’s life, the family will desire Christ and things above as well.

Obeying Jesus means we won’t have time for the activities that our world is in love with and is a further demonstration of real faith in Christ. “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). James is using incredibly strong language to tell us that born again believers’ lives will be different from those of the world.

Now with that groundwork validating the need to remove unprofitable, fun things, and the need for Dad to lead, let’s turn back to the question. “How did you remove those things without generating resentment and envying of other families?” The changes need to begin with Dad. It isn’t just an activity change but a heart change. About twenty years ago, our family of five was like most “normal” Christian families in how we spent our time. One thing we allowed our children to do was to play some carefully selected video games. (Those video games were so tame and boring compared to today’s video games that they would hardly be called video games anymore.)

As we spent more time in God’s Word, we became uncomfortable with the “beast” (TV), video games, and sports, and we realized they had to go. We spoke with the children and explained that the video games were addicting and unprofitable. We shared with them that we wanted to have family Bible time every night and for them to be productive with their time. If you have your children’s hearts, they will receive the direction change and not rebel against it. If you don’t have their hearts, then that is one more thing that needs to be addressed (For more information on keeping children’s hearts see our book called Keeping Our Children’s Hearts).

One thing that helped our children with their time usage was scheduling their time with productive activities. In addition to their school, they had chores. After they finished with their chores, there were projects and other learning activities on which they were to work. Projects are wonderful tools to teach our children worthwhile skills and are a profitable use of time. Back then, we had the boys beginning to learn both computer and building skills.

I have written several Corners on the subject of practical projects that would be helpful for learning how to use projects with your children. Here is the link to those articles.

In addition the Preparing Sons book is a good resource on productive use of time and working with your sons to instill in them a work ethic, skills, and the ability to provide for their future families.

Getting rid of the “beast” is also very helpful in weaning children off of the entertainment, “got to have fun,” addiction. With Dad leading the way, spend time together doing constructive things around the home and helping others. Often, I hear that dads feel they deserve some time to relax in front of the beast after a hard day of work, but would the Lord Jesus agree? In our society we have it easier than probably any other nation or time in history. How could we ever attempt to justify before the Lord that we dads deserve to relax? Certainly, no one could give the Lord a good reason for sitting in front of the vile programming that is broadcast these days.

If we deserve to relax, what about our wives? Isn’t it likely that many of them are working as hard or harder than we do during the day? May we dads have right thoughts and lead by being good examples. One way might be that everyone pitches in with the dinner cleanup. Then I can’t think of a better way to rest a bit and spend time profitably than to move into the living room and spend an hour or so reading the Bible and singing together. In addition to spiritual growth, over time you will find the family actually beginning to enjoy just sitting and fellowshipping amongst themselves. Then if there is still time left before bed, tackle some projects.

The Corner’s request didn’t say whether the children had made professions of faith. If they have, then what I shared is essential for their being raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. If they haven’t, there is no better setting for them to be brought to a point of seeing their need of a Savior. Think about it, if they aren’t saved, what is likely better for them spiritually, the continued pursuit of fun, or being in God’s Word every night? The answer is obvious.

Is it possible the children might envy other children? I suppose so, but if Dad’s heart is turned toward the children, if he has his children’s hearts and is spending time together as a family, it is more likely others will envy his children.

May we be fathers who are leading our children in paths that will help them learn to seek what is above. We teach first and foremost by our example. I encourage you to consider well what that example is in your family. Eliminate the trivial, empty time pursuits in your home and help your children become productive. Your children will bless you for these choices in years to come.

When a Wife Disagrees with Her Husband – Part 1

Steve and I often receive e-mails from wives asking questions about how to respond to a husband with whom they disagree in some way. This is obviously a situation that every wife will have to deal with in her marriage; for many it will be on a regular basis. Some who write to us give an example of one particular issue of disagreement, such as her desire to have more children while he says “no” or activities he allows for the children from which she thinks they should be sheltered. Here is an example from a Mom’s Corner request e-mail:

We’ve managed to keep most of our children’s hearts, but two of them just seem determined to test us and stray. My husband isn’t sure that we are losing their hearts. He thinks that their behavior is ‘normal’ for children their age. One is eleven, the other seven. As a mom, I fear being too harsh and severing that connection completely, but I also fear being too soft and watching them slip further away. My husband sees no problem at all with their conniving, lying, and trickery to get out of chores, but I think that’s because he’s gone all day and can’t deal with things immediately. So is there a problem? Is it me? Do I leave it until it becomes a problem for my husband? I would appreciate a Corner in response to this. A questioning wife

Other wives are crying out for answers to the questions and problems raised from living with a husband who either isn’t saved or is not following the Lord. The anguish in her heart not only for herself but also for the consequences in the children’s lives is evident. These e-mails relate stories of husbands who don’t lead their families spiritually, bring negative influences into the home, allow the children do be involved in things that are spiritually harmful to them, don’t spend time with their families, leave decision making to their wives, and more. If the man attends church, he may appear to be like the other men, but his wife knows a different story at home. These wives are caught in a terrible emotional dilemma: how to submit to and honor a man who isn’t being what God wants him to be and is leading the children down the same path. Here is an example of this kind of situation, also from a Mom’s Corner request e-mail:

I am married to an unbeliever who says he is a Christian. How do I keep him from cussing around our son and treating him with contempt? He also watches things on TV that are inappropriate. He then tells our son he is an adult and will watch what he wants! He is very controlling and rude. He goes to church with us about 60 percent of the time. Please address this issue. Thank you!!! Another questioning wife

I am not a counselor, but I can share some thoughts as a sister in Christ that I believe relate Scripturally to the wives who have a particular area of disagreement with their husbands and also to those whose husbands are not leading their families spiritually at all. I give these ideas based on knowing myself and from interacting with other wives who have written about similar situations. What I am writing is not addressed to wives who are victims of abuse.

While you may not find yourself facing these same scenarios, every wife has a husband who will sin at least from time to time. She needs to know how the Lord wants her to respond to her husband at these moments, and what she is to do with her thoughts. I think the verses we will be looking at in these Mom’s Corners could apply to wives who have a godly, Christian marriage.

“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; 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. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement” (1 Peter 3:1-6).

The first part of 1 Peter 3 is written specifically for a wife with a husband who is not obeying the word—either he is not saved, he is not following the Lord Jesus with his life, or he is not obeying in a specific area. This section of Scripture sets a clear path for a wife if she disagrees with her husband when he is not following the Lord and what it is that will bring about change in him, if it is to happen.

Often Scripture is silent in areas about which we would like exact direction, but here we find six verses that deal with a problem that wives face and for which they want biblical answers. Sometimes, I have read others who suggest a wife respond to a sinful husband in ways outlined in other sections of Scripture discussing how one believer relates to another. However, 1 Peter 3:1-6 would seem to supersede those verses since these are talking specifically to a wife.

The keys in this portion of Scripture I believe are:
“without a word”
“meek and quiet spirit”
“calling him lord”
“not afraid with any amazement”

“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives” (1 Peter 3:1). I find this verse to be most amazing. A wife is to be in subjection to her husband—even the husband who is not obeying the word. That kind of husband would be the most difficult husband to follow.

When a wife disagrees with her husband, either she is right or he is right. Let’s first assume that she is discerning Scripture correctly, and her husband it the one not obeying the Word. Then I believe 1 Peter 3:1 would apply. The verse says she is not to say a word.

Often it is a wife’s words that get her into trouble. She sees something she thinks isn’t right. She expresses her concern, unhappiness, or dissatisfaction. Nothing changes. She brings it up again, in another way. Nothing changes. Over the course of the years, this becomes a continual pattern for her. She has tried repeatedly with her words to win her husband to her way of thinking. Rather than being successful, she has grown the wedge between them. Perhaps the reason she hasn’t been successful has to do with the teaching in these verses.

While I believe strongly in the truth 1 Peter 3:1 teaches for a wife in how to handle a disagreement with her husband, I am not saying it is easy. I have been trying to learn to be obedient to this verse for over thirty years (in the Loving Your Husband session, I share practical examples). There has certainly been improvement in my life, but I have further to go. However, it is my heart’s desire to keep praying and asking the Lord for His grace in this area. I also ask Steve’s forgiveness when I fail, and I try to choose the path of obedience when a conflict rages in my heart over wanting to say something versus being quiet.

The second possibility is that the husband is right, and the wife is wrong. In this case it is obviously best that the wife is quiet and doesn’t persuade her husband to her position. Therefore, it appears to me that whether a wife is right or wrong, her best direction when there is disagreement between her husband and her is to be quiet.

The word “conversation” in verses one and two does not refer to spoken words between people. It is the same Greek word (anastrepho) in both verse one and two. According to Strong’s Greek and Hebrew dictionary, it means “behavior.” A husband is not won by the words of his wife but rather by her behavior.

There is much more I want to share in relation to this passage of Scripture and our roles as Christian wives. I am going to make this into a Mom’s Corner series. For now, I want to challenge you to consider how these verses relate to you personally, particularly the section about winning a husband without words.

Are You a Yes Man?

What does it take to be a leader? How would we score if we were rated in our leading abilities? More importantly, what will the results of our leadership be in five, ten, or twenty years?

Mary, our seven-year-old daughter, wanted to know if she and Jesse could go with the other three children to their appointment this afternoon. Unfortunately, the car we were taking would not have had enough seatbelts for all five of the children. I had planned on taking the smaller vehicle and was hesitant to change plans.

It is so easy for me to lock in on my own agenda and preferences. I would like to automatically choose to put others first. It amazes me that I can struggle with that, but it is true. I have to make it a conscious decision. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3). Vainglory means self-conceit. We are not to do anything based on the (false) assumption of our importance. In other words, we are not to put our interests first.

That can be a difficult thing when Dad is the one who is able to make the final decision. It is easy to think that means we can make the decision that is best for us. However, the best decision is the Lord’s decision.

I find I need to run each situation past the Lord and ask Him to tell me what I should do. As I took this decision to the Lord, He quickly impressed on me that my choosing the vehicle that would exclude my little ones was ridiculous. I love my time with them, and here I was willing to pass it up because I wanted to take the smaller car. It was hard to believe I was about to make such a silly decision.

We love our home, but one thing it lacks is storage for items like bicycles. With seven bicycles, that poses a real problem! Part of the solution is that I have three bicycles hanging upside down in the garage. That works out okay most of the time, but when the children want to ride those bikes, I have to pull the car out of the garage so we can get the bikes down. That probably doesn’t sound like a huge problem, but selfishly, there are times when it is very inconvenient; I may be working, in the middle of a project, or on the telephone. It is pretty easy to justify not taking the time to pull out the car to get down the bicycles when I’m in the middle of something “important.”

The other morning I was doing my beginning-workday routine of clearing out e-mail and doing other desk-related chores when one of the children asked me to go through his birthday list with him. I wasn’t officially on the “clock” yet, but I had to deal with those other things so I could begin “work.” To make matters worse, the previous evening I had told this child that I was available to go through his list with him, but he had something else going then that he wanted to complete. So now it was convenient for him but not for me. I was beginning to feel irritated about it because I was forced to make a decision: was he more important than what I was doing? I’m not saying we drop everything every time, just because our children want something, but are we willing to if the Lord directs?

This verse should ring loud and clear in our minds: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). As we evaluate the decisions that are brought to us each day, are we thinking of our children’s best interests? Are we zealous not to provoke them to wrath or cause them to be discouraged (Colossians 3:21)?

I expect we may have forgotten what it is like to have to go to someone else for a decision when we want to do something. I know it has been a few years for me. If every time I wanted to do something all I heard was “no,” I would get pretty frustrated. That is the difficulty of being a real leader: knowing when to say “yes” and when to say “no.”

On the other side of this discussion can be a tendency to say “yes” just because it is what the child wants. However, it might be against the direction the Lord is leading the family. Dads will justify the “yes” as only a small compromise or not a battle worth fighting. Don’t fall for that trap. If the Lord has directed in an area, it is a battle that must be fought and won! There can be no compromise.

How sad when we hear dads justify wrong decisions that they knew they shouldn’t have made, but the child “really wanted to.” The truth is, Dad said “yes” when he should have said “no.” But so often the dads are afraid of losing their children’s hearts if they say “no.”

We don’t lose our children’s hearts when we do the right thing. We lose their hearts when we do the wrong things for many years. Keeping our children’s hearts means purposing to say “yes” every time I can, even if it costs me something. It may be an inconvenience or an outright difficulty for me. If it is an opportunity to show them I love them, I value them, and want their best, then I am committed to saying “YES!”

As I shared, this does not come naturally for me because I’m selfish. However, the Lord Jesus has been working on me in this area, and I’m so grateful He has. “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). It is hard to even use that verse here. I know nothing of taking up my cross daily. The minor inconveniences I face cannot even be compared to taking up my cross. Yet, if that is the case, why do I struggle?

May we be committed to being “yes” men. May we purpose that we will do everything we can to say “yes” to our children, because we know that there are many “no’s” that must be served if we are to be faithful and trusted fathers. There will be numerous things that our children want to do that will not be good for them. If we have proven our love through the years, they will continue to trust us with their hearts.

Turn Your Heart

Malachi 4:6 says, “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” From this verse it is obvious that parents’ hearts turned toward their children are important to the Lord Jesus. As Christian homeschooling moms, I expect each of us would say that we have our hearts turned toward our children because the Lord has called us to this job. If our children weren’t our highest priority after our relationships with the Lord and then our relationships with our husbands, we wouldn’t be homeschooling. It seems that homeschooling is a proof to us that our focus is on our children. But I wonder if this is always the case.

I have discovered that having my heart turned to my children involves a choice on my part. Homeschooling certainly plays a role in that. However, I can mechanically homeschool without my heart truly being turned to my children. For me the fruit of a focus on the children is observed through my attitude toward school. Do I look forward to school time as a joy, or do I dread it as an unpleasant task? Do I smile at my children, or is my forehead knit together in frustration with them? Do I speak encouraging words to my students, or do I criticize their attempts to accomplish their schoolwork?

No matter what my feelings are toward school, Scripture tells me that I have a responsibility in what I think about and how I act. The Lord wants me to have my heart turned to my children. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” This tells me that if I am struggling with negative feelings about school, then I can take those thoughts captive and bring them into the obedience of Christ by thinking the truth of God’s Word. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

If I feel down and discouraged, I can choose to replace those thoughts with the truth of the Word. “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. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). If I feel like lashing out at the children rather than using sweet, encouraging words, I can recall, “The wise in heart shall be called prudent: and the sweetness of the lips increaseth learning” (Proverbs 16:21).

What might be other demonstrations that my heart is turned to my children? I believe one would be what I do with my time. Do I always stay busy with housework so that there is no time for the children? Am I prone to sit at the computer rather than reading a book to the children, playing a game with them, or teaching them a productive skill? What I have found in my life is that it is often easier to vacuum or do something at the computer than it is to spend time with the children. When my heart is turned toward myself, I spend my time doing what I want to do. However, when my heart is turned toward my children, I spend my time doing what they like to do with me or what is productive for them.

I want my children to remember a mommy filled with love for them that was evidenced in part by the time she spent with them. I desire that they grow to be adults recalling special shared memories rather than how clean our home was. Don’t misunderstand me. I have time scheduled in my day and week to keep up with housekeeping. That is a part of the responsibility the Lord has given me as a keeper at home. However, I still have discretionary minutes and hours. When my heart is turned toward my children, I will invest that time in them rather than in selfish personal pursuits. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour” (John 12:24-26).

Dr. S. M. Davis says that keeping our children’s hearts is the most difficult task facing Christian parents today and that it should be their highest priority. Keeping our children’s hearts begins with a mom turning her heart toward her children and a dad turning his heart toward his children. May we be moms who know the importance of turning our hearts toward our children. May we continually ask the Lord to turn our hearts toward our children. May we be submissive and obedient to the Lord as He prompts us to turn our hearts toward our children.

Can Dads Influence Their Children’s Spiritual Outcome? – Part 3

(Read the first parts of the series here.)

If you are like Teri and me, the issue of how children are exposed to the world is critically important to you. This topic is where the rubber meets the road in parenting: we either win or we lose after years of raising the child. We can do what appears to be a wonderful job in raising our children, and when we are close to the finish line, all can be lost.

We’ll re-look at part of what the father wrote in the second part of the series: What I am seeking is good, practical advice on how and at what age to expose my children to the world. And how to keep from losing them to the world. (I’ve got a seven-year-old daughter, four-year-old daughter, two-year-old son, and one on the way.) This isn’t the first time that I have heard people speak of sheltered kids getting out and “going nuts.” It seems to me that it would be best to expose them to the results of sin (chapel for recovering addicts, jail, etc.), as compared to them seeing “all of the pleasures and none of the guilt,” such as is seen at the mall, etc. Maybe even working this into some kind of a family ministry (although my children may be too young now; that is part of my question). This recent comment about the backsliding grandson has got me seriously considering self-employment and some kind of family businesses.

Last month I shared what I believe to be a critical attitude for our children and ourselves and how important it is in regard to our association with the world. I discussed how I believe that we would all benefit from the attitude that any one of us can fall into sin. We must own the fact revealed in Matthew 15:19: “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” This is just as important a truth for us as it is for our children. If we accept the fact that any of us can fall, and if we don’t really want to, then shouldn’t we welcome something that will help us avoid falling?

This month I want to share about something that I believe is at the center of parenting, although there is far more than can be written in one or two Corners. In a way this is a mini reflection of the essential element in our relationship with the Father. “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:37). The Lord wants our hearts because He loves us and desires fellowship with us. Also, when He has our hearts we are far less likely to be drawn away by the idols of this world. The blood of Jesus enables us to enter into a heart relationship with the Father. When we are born again (John 3), we become the children of God (John 1:12-13). Notice how God uses “family” terms so we will understand heavenly truths.

This is a beautiful picture of, ideally, how our relationship should be with our children. In the Bible, we see a God Who loves His children so much He died for them. The Father desires, more than anything, fellowship with His children. He wants to spend time with them, listen to them, teach them, guide them and—in return He wants our hearts. The more we give Him our hearts, the more wonderful that relationship becomes.

This is true for the parent-child relationship as well. As parents we are called to sacrifice for our children, love them, spend time with them, listen to them, teach them, guide them and . . . We may be tempted at times to think we will be satisfied with mere outward conformity, but we really want their hearts. When we have our child’s heart, the older the child becomes, the sweeter the fellowship.

I was talking to a good friend a while ago and discussing the importance of keeping our children’s hearts. We agreed that we both believe it is the most important and most difficult challenge before a father. If only dads would become passionate about their children’s hearts, we would not see so many “children” being lost to the world.

Why is it that more dads aren’t concerned about keeping their children’s hearts? First, I think many would say that they are. Unfortunately, there seems to be a disconnect. It is impossible for a father to spend his time and mental focus on a number of other things (outside of work time) and have anything left for his children. There is no substitute for time, and we are lying to ourselves if we think we can just spend quality time because we aren’t willing to give quantity. It takes time and effort.

Why is having a child’s heart so important? Aren’t they going to grow up anyway? Yes, they are going to grow up whether you have their hearts or not. However, if you don’t have your child’s heart, you miss out on the tremendous blessing of your children as they grow up. You stand the very significant chance, I believe, of losing them. Keeping a child’s heart is like the shepherd who is constantly inspecting his flock. He knows the danger that comes if disease or pestilence takes root. The toll to restore the flock to health will be high, if the shepherd is even able to accomplish it. If you have your child’s heart you can quickly tell if something is drawing his heart away. You will sense a heart change and know something is wrong.

There was a time when I felt that the heart of one of my children was slipping away. During our weekly discussion times, there were more issues of increasing difficulty to work through. Instead of being able to share my concerns and know this child was receiving them, I could see this child was struggling. I was perplexed and couldn’t figure out what was going on. I began crying out to the Lord and seeking Him for answers. The Lord was faithful and showed me what the cause was. I shared this with the child, who was able to receive it. Soon, the sweetness was back in the relationship and our hearts were close again.

If I hadn’t had my child’s heart, I would not have noticed the drifting of the child’s spirit. I would have thought that it was a normal separation, due to growing older, and believed the lie that you should accept it and not worry about it. If you believe the lie, as it gets worse and you see changes in your child, you cry out to the Lord because you are concerned about the direction the child is heading. The more concerned you are, the more desperate and fearful. Finally, resignation sets in, and you now believe that everyone was right and rebellion is normal.

I don’t believe that having our children’s hearts means they instantly receive everything we tell them. At times I wish that were the case, but it hasn’t been my experience. However, I do think it means that we can talk on a very deep and intimate level, and they will listen carefully to what we say. It means they value what we say, and what comes from our hearts will weigh heavily on their souls. Isn’t this true of our relationship with the Lord as well?

There are things the Lord brings to us that we do not receive with open arms. When the Lord started telling me that I was wrong to have had a vasectomy, and He wanted to be in charge of when we had children, I was not thrilled. However, because of my relationship with Jesus and spending time with Him, I began to see why I was wrong in getting the vasectomy. However, I was not ready to accept Him determining how many children we were going to have. My spirit was troubled because I wanted to resolve the issue about more children. Finally, one day when I was home ill from work, I said in my heart, “Okay, Lord. Today is the day. I’m going to find out what you really think about children.” So I got out my Bible and concordance and began to look up what God had to say about children. I don’t remember how long I was at it, but I do remember finally being broken. With tears in my eyes, I said, “Lord, I now see how precious children are to You and that they are the best gift You can give, next to our salvation.” It appears that in a similar fashion those things that are on our hearts from the Lord will find acceptance by our children if we have their hearts.

Dads, I encourage you, no matter what the state of your relationship with your children may be, to make having and keeping your children’s hearts your highest priority next to your relationship with your Lord and your wife. If you feel it is too late and your children are rebels, there is still hope. (If that is your situation, one resource we would recommend is Dr. S. M. Davis’ audio, Changing the Heart of a Rebel). Years down the road you may well have deep remorse that you didn’t invest what was necessary to win and hold your child’s heart. Whatever it takes, do it. There is no sacrifice too great. You will never regret it.

There is another very important aspect to having our children’s hearts, and I will share about that next month as we continue to look at how to avoid losing our children to the world.

Guarding Their Hearts

It was the night of our local homeschool moms’ meeting that we had decided to have in our home because of a scheduling difficulty with our normal location. I had been looking forward to taking the five little ones to Wal-Mart to enjoy a fun evening out.

After some shopping, I decided to buy the children a treat at the snack bar. All six of us were crowded into a small booth, while they enjoyed nachos and Icees. My heart was very happy as I was enjoying my little gifts from my Lord and Savior. Unfortunately, in an instant, like a light switch, my joy turned into a heavy, sad heart.

Our booth was on the edge of the nearly deserted eating area. Right next to us, a young woman of maybe seventeen years had pulled her shopping cart up and stopped. She had a wedding ring on her left hand and a baby in the cart. She had short hair, a stud piercing her right nostril, and she was somewhat unattractive. She was just staring into the snack bar area with the most sullen, sad expression I can remember seeing. Her eyes screamed of the hurt that she was experiencing. Her blank stare was periodically interrupted as her hand came to first one eye and then the next, wiping away what appeared to be tears.

When I had purchased the children’s snacks, a young man had stood behind me in line buying a hot dog and soda. He was scruffy and unkempt. His clothes were mostly black, and he wore a black ball cap. The cap had caught my eye as the bill was bent so it had a ridge in the center, and was pulled down far enough that I couldn’t see his eyes. All I could see was a nose, mouth, and cheeks with a two- or three-day-old beard covering them.

Now I realized that she was standing there waiting for him. “No, God, surely not!” After several minutes of silence, he got up and came out to her. There was no greeting between them, only what appeared to be a few dagger-tipped words exchanged. Then as if the two faced a meal of poison, they reluctantly walked off. It was terrible to watch.

I looked down at my two bright-eyed, happy little girls and thought, “Lord, there goes some daddy’s little girl, but where is he now?” How did a father ever let this happen to his little girl?

Some might wonder if the stud protruding from her nose hinted she had a rebellious history, and if she was the one to desert her father. Certainly, children have their own wills, and we cannot force them to be godly, but as long as there is a God in heaven that answers prayers, fathers must not give up.

I love the example Jesus shares with us in John 10. “Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7). The shepherd used to sleep in the doorway to the sheepfold. The sheep were in there for their protection and could not walk out without the shepherd letting them go. In the same way, wolves or thieves could not enter without first having to confront the shepherd. This section is a perfect picture of a father’s calling. The father is to be the shepherd of the flock that God gives him. This chapter has many wonderful encouragements for us dads.

“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Dads, are we so committed to our calling that we will give our life for our family? We are the door to our family. Our children don’t go out, and others don’t come into their lives unless we allow it. There are no excuses; we are responsible before the Lord in leading and protecting our family.

I don’t believe this teaches the father is a dictator; otherwise, Jesus would have used some other example. A shepherd does not drive the sheep like a cowboy drives a herd of cows. The shepherd leads the sheep with love and gentleness.

With the gentleness of our Savior, we are to protect our family. We must, with great tenderness, guide them to safe pastures. If we have chosen certain goals and paths for our family, we must be on guard for those who would draw them away. Often a family is doing many things right, but then they will allow wrong influences to pull their children away. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen it, and it always leads to grief unless something drastic is done.

For example, if parents have chosen to homeschool a child who is less than thrilled about it, they have to be careful of other influences that will feed and reinforce the child’s dislike of the idea. It might be a close friend who is not homeschooled, a youth group, or an outside activity that prevents the child from coming to peace with the father’s decision. If the bond between the father and each child is not stronger than any other outside influence, he will lose his child, or children, to that influence.

These can present very challenging situations, and it may take a tremendous amount of prayer on the father’s part to know how best to resolve them. It may be the only solution is to sever an influence, but whatever the Lord reveals, it must be done. If not, the parent will lose the child.

No one can serve two masters. They will either be drawn to you or to someone/something else. Obviously, dads, we need to be sure we are following the path of God’s calling. At all costs, the father must maintain that bond of love and respect with his children. Once the other influence “wins,” it is then only a matter of where it pulls them.

Over the last twenty years, we have had to make three very major decisions to correct the pull of outside influences. None of these influences were “bad” in themselves, but after much prayer, it was clear that the direction was contrary to that of God’s leading for our family. They had a different heart thrust and thereby were dangerous to our staying on the course and not raising up discontented hearts in the family. Since making those changes, we have not regretted them at all. Rather, we have praised God that He gave us the grace to persevere and follow through once the decision was made.

The good Shepherd is careful to lead His sheep to safe, healthy pastures, and so must we. However, what if a sheep strays anyway? Do we label that sheep as stubborn and rebellious, and let it go? A hundred times no! “How think ye? if a man have a hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?” (Matthew 18:12).

I find a most interesting reaction in my heart. When I have a child who is struggling with obedience, my flesh wants to pull back from that child. I have even justified this in my mind by telling myself, “When I sin, doesn’t that separate me from my Lord? My child’s sin is causing a separation between him and me.” That sort of rationalization will only result in my losing the child. This is a most crucial time, and it is critical we don’t draw away. It is imperative that we build our relationship with the child. Just like the shepherd who has left the ninety-nine on the hills and gone after the lost one, we must as well.

Our world expects us to blame someone else for our troubles. The shepherd didn’t blame it on that stubborn, rebellious sheep or perhaps a clever wolf. He knew he was responsible for the life of the sheep and would risk his life to protect it, whether it was from an external threat or the sheep’s own doing. “Lord Jesus, please give us the gentle, loving, determined hearts we need to lead, love, and protect our family.”

Raising Teens

I expect most have heard that a child will go through a rebellious stage in their teen years. If that is true, have you ever wondered how God could require in 1 Timothy 3:4 that a church elder, “ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity”? It hardly seems fair for God to require this as a qualification, and then put in human nature the flaw that causes all teenagers to go through rebellion.

It is just like God to require a man to know how to shepherd his family well in order to be entrusted with a position of authority in the church. Since it is a requirement for serving in the church, we can be sure that a rebellious teen is the responsibility of the parent.

How can we avoid rebellion from happening in our families? Most of us know someone we respect who has had a rebellious child. They seem to be a good parent; they seem to love and serve the Lord, yet the child is a rebel. How can this be?

As we read that section in 1 Timothy 3, we see many tests for the would-be elder. What sort of reputation does he have? Is he the husband of one wife? Does he keep himself from alcohol? Does he know the Scriptures? Is he hospitable? Is he gentle and not quarrelsome? Does he love money? These all address his character. He is to be above reproach in his private life, and that is a qualification for church leadership. As listed earlier, even the behavior of his children are part of his credentials. So we see that his example in the home is critical and a litmus test of whether he is good for the church.

I believe the father’s example and leadership are the first two legs of a three-legged stool that are necessary in raising children who will not rebel. They are vital in the home. Interestingly, I think these two legs are easier than the third leg, even though the third leg is unbelievably easy. However, that third essential aspect is often neglected and left on the shelf. It is available to every Christian and will not cost us a cent. When a crisis comes, it is one of the first things used. Unfortunately, due to it not being used consistently, it is often quite ineffective. It is possibly the greatest true measure of a Christian. Do you know what it is? It’s prayer.

You see, Jesus Christ changes lives. Prayer will, somehow, bring the power of the Lord Jesus into a person’s life to change his heart, as nothing else can. We read in Matthew 17 that when the disciples could not cast out a demon, Jesus said, “Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21). I’m not saying that a rebel has a demon, but I believe this verse teaches that prayer and fasting must be used when the heart is not changing. Whether it is our children or our spouse, Jesus Christ works in hearts.

Years ago I was very troubled over how our sons’ participation in team sports was stealing our family time. I finally told Teri we needed to quit team sports after the season was over. Teri and I both loved to watch the boys play ball, as they were very good. She just couldn’t agree to it. I decided that I would begin to cry out to the Lord to change her heart. Notice I wasn’t asking God to change her heart due to a selfish motive. I wanted to allow more time so we could be in the Bible in the evenings. In a very short amount of time, God changed her heart and the rest is history!

Earnest, intense, ongoing, sincere prayer is, I believe, the missing weapon of many fathers. I think that if our prayer life is what it should be, God will likely reveal problems early enough that they may be “nipped in the bud.”

Dads, do we pray? Do we cry out to the Lord on behalf of our children and wives? Do we know how to pray? Do we love prayer? Can we afford not to?

I believe this “three-legged stool” is why God justly requires obedient children as a qualification for being an elder.