Posted in Children, Fostering Godly Character, Growing Up Together, Loving God, Parents, Prayer, Seeds of Faith, Spiritual Autonomy, Uncategorized

Hear

“Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” Deuteronomy 6:4

Image result for ear + imageThe opening verse to the Shema is so critical to growing a family and a personal life in the Lord. First, as Israel was being led into the desert out of Egypt and given heart-set commands from God, He addressed the Egyptian and Canaanite mindsets around them. One they were leaving, and the other they were about to walk into.

Before even this though, God opens what He is about to say with a single instruction.

Hear.

It seems like simple a simple word, one that a reader can gloss over, take for granted. But herein lies a world of trouble for many who would come to Christ.

Hear. To be told or informed of. To be aware of or know the existence of. To listen or pay attention to. To listen to all that someone has to say. To listen and grant.

In our day, many have become ultra-visual receptors. That is that we listen with our eyes. TV, social media, devices, billboards, everything around us grabs our attention and stimulates our understanding through the lens of sight rather than the filter of ears.

But I believe that the Israelites had also become a visually stimulated people, absorbing all of the sights and cultures of their masters in Egypt. That is why God needed to tell them when He uprooted them from the only life they’d ever experienced–because at the exodus, none alive had ever lived outside the bondage of Egypt save Moses–and began to instruct them by telling them to use their ears.

Jesus addressed this deficit as well, saying, “Whoever has ears, let them hear” [Matthew 11:15, 13:9 & 14:43; Mark 4:9 & 4:23; Luke 8:8 & 14:35; Revelation 2:7, 2:11 & 3:6].

Why? Because God speaks. He spoke all that is into existence [Genesis 1:1]. He spoke with His Creation–Adam and Eve [Genesis 3:9]. He spoke to Abraham [Genesis 17:9] and the other patriarchs. He spoke through the prophets at many times and in various ways [Hebrews 1:1]. He sent the Word of Life–His Son, Jesus–to speak and call the world to repentance [Matthew 9:7]. He spoke on the day of Pentecost to people from every language group [Acts 2:4-6]. And He still speaks today.

And because God also hears [1 Samuel 1:20]. He hears our prayers. We wouldn’t petition the throne of God if we didn’t believe with our all hearts, souls and minds that He alone is able to do beyond all that we could ask or imagine–and that He wants to, because He loves us.

We love Him because He first loved us. Shouldn’t we also hear Him, because He hears and listens to and grants petitions to each of us?

Posted in Children, Fostering Godly Character, Growing Up Together, Loving God, Parents, Prayer, Seeds of Faith, Spiritual Autonomy, Uncategorized, Worship

The Bread of Sincerity

“Give us today our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11

Image result for injeraIn our society today, it is hard for our children to imagine the need for God to provide food for us. After all, most of us have jobs and are able to make sure that our children not only eat what they need, but much of what they want–as much as they want, as often they want–everyday.

However, we try to impress on our children that even this type of bounty comes only from the Lord. He provides us with our job. He blesses us with the ability to be able to enjoy a variety of foods at each meal and other times throughout the day. He still maintains the seasons and global systems that allow food to grow. By His design our bodies extract nourishment from our food and deliver it throughout our bodies.

So demonstrating sincerity in mealtime prayer as thank God for providing for us is a very real thing. Our children need to see and hear our sincerity. Because we truly would not have the blessings and bounty that we do in our every day lives without God. That is not to preach a prosperity gospel. Not at all. But only to acknowledge that it is God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills [Psalm 50:10]. It is God who provides. It is God who gives the increase.

And it is God who sincerely deserves the glory for the good things that we are able to provide for our children.

Posted in Children, Christian Family Devotions, Fostering Godly Character, Growing Up Together, Parents, Prayer, Uncategorized

Family Rock

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Matthew 7:24

Image result for house built on rock + imageThe house is our life, marriage and family. The rock is Jesus. Whatever storms may come–and come they will–we will only weather them if we have built on Christ.

How do we build our selves, marriage and family on Him?

Be in the Word. As an individual, as a couple and as a family. Read. Meditate. Discuss. Live out the truth of God with sincerity.

Acknowledge God, and be in a personal relationship with Him. As an individual, as a couple and as a family. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks. Worship and give praise. Live out your love for God with sincerity.

When the storms come, don’t give up on your anchors–Bible study, prayer, praise and worship–but encourage one another through these.

 In this world, trouble will come, but Christ has overcome [John 16:33] and if He is our rock, then we too will overcome.

Posted in Children, Christian Family Devotions, Fostering Godly Character, Growing Up Together, Parents, Prayer, Seeds of Faith, Spiritual Autonomy, Uncategorized

Encouraging a Prayer Life

“This then is how you should pray,” Matthew 6:9a

Image result for children praying + imageThe familiar introduction to the Lord’s Prayer reminds us that Jesus modeled prayer to His disciples, and not just in this instance. But here we find that He teaches them how to speak to God the Father, just as we should pass along the understanding of how to pray to our children.

  • Start by addressing Him as Father, for that is who He is for all of us who have accepted Jesus as Lord of our lives [Matthew 6:9].

Children can understand a parent relationship, but they will also spend the first part of their lives watching their earthly father to understand their heavenly one. This is a weighty responsibility.

  • And even though we speak to God as we would our father, revere–honor–His name [Matthew 6:9].

Don’t come to God disrespectfully, by failing to fully understand and acknowledge who He is. This part comes with experience. For a young child, they can be told many things about God and given a formulaic way to sit and pray reverently, but they will spend a good many years working out understanding and reverence for themselves. It is the silent inner struggle we all come through on our way to spiritual autonomy.

  • Your plans and purposes prevail through my life, because you are also God my King. Make me as faithful and obedient as the angels in heaven [Matthew 6:10].

Paraphrased, yes, but the essential meaning of this verse is to recognize God’s sovereignty over heaven and earth and to realign our daily lives with that Sovereignty. But living as citizens of heaven is in direct conflict with the natural sinful state into which we are born. Here we teach young children to begin to ask God to show them if they’ve committed any sin and then to ask Him to forgive them. We also teach them to read God’s Word and pray for God to help them become more and more Christ-like every day.

  • Provide for us.

Now my children early on, developed a funny habit of saying, “I wish…” during portions of their prayer. We took this as an opportunity to make sure they understood that God was not a genie in a lamp that grants all our gimmes. Rather, He is a loving Father who provides for all our needs. So when we teach children to pray, we also instruct them in the difference between needs and wants [though God grants us the desires of our hearts as well–Psalm 37:4–but there is a whole other discussion to be had here.]

  • Forgive us, because we also forgive those who wrong us.

Forgiveness is huge! Because when we don’t forgive others, our sins are not forgiven either[Matthew 6:15]. Even a little child can understand forgiveness. Meaning it, on the other hand, is something they often grow into. In this part of prayer, we’re essentially asking God to make us more loving, more like Him.

  • Keep us from testing, and set us free from evil.

In this world we will have trouble, but Jesus has overcome [John 16:33]. And we can ask God to keep testing out of our lives, though sometimes we may have to endure it anyway. Jesus did [Matthew 26:36-56]. But other times He will grant our petition. And we can ask to be set free from evil. This can be taken two ways: 1) for our own salvation from sin, and 2) for protection or removal from the evil in the world around us. Jesus tells us we can ask God for divine intervention in our struggles! Praise the Lord!

We are all probably familiar with this passage of scripture, let us pass it faithfully on to our children, helping them to develop a prayer life from the earliest age to the glory and honor of God. Amen.

Posted in Children, Christian Family Devotions, Fostering Godly Character, Growing Up Together, Parents, Prayer, Spiritual Autonomy, Uncategorized

I Don’t Know How You Do It: The Secret to Big Families

IMG_4715.JPGSo often people count the kids my husband and I are walking with and declare, “I don’t know how you do it! I have trouble with just one!”

At first I used to smile and make a Sunday School pat remark about the grace of God, but by and by the Lord challenged me to consider how do we do it. Yes, the grace of God is absolutely necessary! However, He gave us many commands in His Word and the model for raising a Godly family. So it wasn’t just my big heart with God’s grace sprinkled on generously. He had helped us to build purposefully in a way that gives Him glory through our family.

After seeking Him, my answer changed thoughtfully to, “Well, it’s not like we had sextuplets and had to figure this out all at once. God”–in his grace–“gave us each child one at a time.” And each time we had a new child, we adjusted our life a little bit to include one extra person. Simultaneously, each older child naturally assumed more autonomy.

Our oldest and youngest child are nine years and six days apart exactly. Most of the children in between have an age spread of 18-21 months. So the 18-21 month old had to vacate their coveted place on Mama’s lap [always a heart wrenching first morning home from the hospital for me.] But this child then turned to Papa’s lap, and the one just older had to learn to either share Papa’s lap or learn to sit beside us.

Each child became a little more autonomous by virtue of the new addition. And this extended into feeding, dressing, toileting and playtime as well. By the time number six came along, three children were in school, which meant that they were also learning story time autonomy, amongst other things. They enjoyed being asked to help Papa and Mama out with small things. Our oldest wants to become a professional baker and got her start with Grandma around this time. So I could put ingredients on the counter and supervise her baking while I tended to baby. It was a win-win-win [because all the kids were excited to eat her creation, she was excited to have the opportunity to bake, and I didn’t have the hands to do it!]

This is not to say that an only child never learn autonomy, but it is easier to delay this development. In a larger family, children naturally have to become more self-sufficient earlier, because parents can’t possibly do everything for everyone.

This same development can be mirrored in helping children to become spiritually autonomous as well. Allowing older kids to lead devotions, encouraging those who can read to read the Word of God, and having everyone who can speak take turns during family prayer time or with their special night to pray for dinner for all. The more a child can and does do, the more autonomy they will develop while still under our spiritual guidance.

Posted in Children, Christian Family Devotions, Growing Up Together, Parents, Prayer, Seeds of Faith, Spiritual Autonomy, Uncategorized

Yours and Mine

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6 [NIV]

Image result for train up a childSpiritual autonomy. The ultimate goal of parenting. We know that our children cannot get to heaven, cannot receive the reward of eternal life, based on our faith. They have to make their faith their own.

This starts at the earliest age of training children in the way they should go. And spiritual autonomy–the ability and desire to do something on one’s own– mirrors the development of physical independence.

While a child is unable to walk, talk or reason, they are absorbing habits and forming reactions to regular actions. At this stage we take our children to church regularly, read simplified Bible stories/verses, sing songs, and pray with them.

When a child begins school, their intellectual and physical development soars. So as parents we look for opportunities to also give them spiritual autonomy. They still can’t take themselves to church at this age, nor would we expect them to. And sometimes, they aren’t interested, though hopefully this is not the case. But can they read the simple stories/verses for themselves now? Encourage them to read these to you and then talk about them. They can certainly choose songs to sing and pray for meals and before bedtime. As they grow we can encourage them to grow in this simple prayer life as well.

And as we guide our children through developing this spiritual autonomy, we need always ask: do they have a personal knowledge of our Savior? Does my child refer to God as my God and mean it? Or does she think of Him as Mom and Dad’s God?

Seed spiritual autonomy now and when our children grow up, they will continue to love God personally.

Posted in Christian Family Devotions, Parents, Prayer, Uncategorized

Check Engine Light

 Unfortunately, the last car that my husband and I bought turned out to be a real lemon. Within the first year, the engine started having regular trouble overheating. At first, we took it to a mechanic who ran both modern [digital] and old fashioned [driving the car and checking everything under the hood] diagnostics to no avail. The car didn’t register any difficulties. So my husband googled it and found that many cars of this make-model had similar problems, and even certified dealers [who charged a great deal more money for the diagnostic] never could figure out why. In the end, we’ve learned several tricks that will keep the temperature gauge just below halfway while we’re driving…most of the time anyway.

So it surprised me when my husband went to use the car after me one day and asked, “When did the check engine light come on?”

“It’s always on,” I answered like umm, haven’t we been combatting this for the last year-and-a-half?

“No,” he said. “There’s a different light on now, in addition to the normal one.”

The normal one? What’s normal about a perpetual check engine light? But that’s exactly how a person develops a seared conscience. The scriptures warn against becoming desensitized to sin.

Ephesians 4:17-19

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

When we sin, it illuminates a spiritual check engine light in our conscience. And because we have free will, we can choose to ask our spiritual mechanic [the Holy Spirit] to run a diagnostic on our hearts to figure out the trouble so that He can help us fix it, or we can ignore the light and keep driving. If we choose ignorance, eventually we’ll break down. Maybe not right away, after all, Satan told Eve that God was lying and, “You will not surely die”[Genesis 3: 4]. But you know the story. They didn’t die right away, but Adam and Eve aren’t still with us today. Genesis 5:5 records the sad truth, “Altogether, Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died.” “For the wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23].

Those who choose to ignore their spiritual check engine lights might not feel the effects immediately, but scripture is clear, their lives will eventually break down.

Ephesians 4:15

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise,

Pay attention to your spiritual engine and stay in regular contact with the divine mechanic. And remember that routine maintenance–daily prayer and Bible study–is advisable.

Posted in Children, Christian Family Devotions, Missions, Parents, Prayer, Uncategorized

Realistic Goals

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My husband and I have decided to set our family some spiritual goals for 2016. As a very busy family of eight, it seemed important that we did so, but also that the goals were realistic. We already eat dinner together each day, and open this time with prayer. We also are able, most nights still, to pray together as a family. I would love to add daily devo time, but with our activity schedule, it would lead to either stressing to fit it in or glossing over it in a hurry, neither of which is beneficial. Instead, we agreed to do devos the one night a week without work or activities–Saturday. And on Sunday, we tell the kids which scripture we’ll be discussing Saturday so they can read and prepare throughout the week. For us, this has kept the family focused on God all week long without leading to frustration.

As the kids grow and the schedules become more involved, keep Christ at the center with realistic goals.

Posted in Book Review, Children, Christian Family Devotions, Missions, Parents, Prayer, Uncategorized

Walk to African Missions

Let’s be honest. As Christians, we are all called to missions. Sometimes we can go, and sometimes we can send. When raising our children, it’s important to expose them to an understanding of the need for the gospel in the world. That being said, sometimes we can effect missions by reading.

Becoming aware of other countries and cultures develops a heart for missions. In light of this, let me recommend the book A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. This tells the story of a young Sudanese boy’s struggle during wartime in his country. It is a short read, based on a true story, that also provides an opportunity for readers to help out with humanitarian efforts in the Sudan. While it is not a religious book, Christian children will be moved to know what it would be like growing up in this harsh landscape during uncertain times.

Read this book as a family, either out loud or by passing it around in turn. Then, talk with your children about God’s heart for Sudan. Pray for Sudan. Consider starting a fundraiser or making a family faith donation to Salva’s water project for his homeland. Be prepared for both the overly- and under-enthusiastic response depending on the age and previous exposure of your children to missions work.

And pray for God’s guidance in your children’s lives. One day they’ll be grown and on their own. Will they have developed a heart and habit for missions by the time they have?

Posted in Children, Christian Family Devotions, Parents, Prayer

The Heart of Home

Deuteronomy 5:29 “Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!”

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I left this scripture as the final thought of my first post dated Aug 13, 2012, and I begin with it this evening because it is the very heart of the ministry of home.  This, the very prayer of God, breathed with the same breath that gave us life, with the same voice that called all that is into existence, whispered across the ages for all who accepting find.  Our Creator, Father God intended the goodness that only He who is love could desire for His children in each of our lives.  But that holy goodness in a fallen world, does not perpetuate itself.  That perfect love for us can only be received by answering this prayer of God Almighty with a resounding, “I will” spoken not of empty words on unclean lips but proclaimed with silent action from the altar of the heart.  The heart that will, “be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!”

This prayer is unique in that not only is it God’s prayer for us, but it succinctly states His plan and purpose from the Creation unto the Day of Judgment for individuals to know Him through His ordained institution—the family.  In Satan’s long war against our sovereign God he has continually worked to undermine this sacred institution.  The devil has sought to decentralize the holy purpose for which the family was designed at the creation of man; and that prowling lion who seeks to destroy all men will do so if mankind continues to retreat from the battle on the frontlines within the family.

God created a woman from man and gave her to him in marriage to begin a family.  When God destroyed the sinful world in the days of Noah he preserved a family.  The promise made to Abraham, the would-be-father found faithful enough to become the patriarch of the entire Jewish nation was a promise for a family.  He was promised a son who would become a great nation on the earth, and in God’s design this nation would be a remnant set-apart, preserving holy family generational lines through which the Messiah would come.  Joseph was forsaken by his brothers that he might later save his family.  Moses was given up by his mother that his life might be spared, but as a grown man he heard the call to abdicate his royalty and save his very large extended family from the captivity of slavery in Egypt.  It is no wonder that Satan has made families his primary target in his war against God.  The entirety of the Old Testament is a record of the first reality show in which the world watched as God’s chosen family—the nation of Israel—struggled and survived, lived and died, obeyed and were blessed, sinned and were punished, conquered and were conquered, came in and were cast out.  Genealogies were meticulously kept and histories were divinely transcribed so that the generations would know the faithfulness of God to His children, His family.  Even the Christ child came through a simple family.

Just imagine what the world would be like if the first family and everyone thereafter had feared the Lord and kept all His commands always.  We would be in a very different world from the one that we know today.  God’s commands to the family can be found throughout the Old and New Testaments, but they began at the inception of the family at the Creation.  God created Eve to be a suitable helper and companion for Adam.  Then, He gave them the command to be fruitful and increase in number and reminded them that this could only happen in a union of one male with one female.  They were instructed to fill the earth and subdue it by ruling over every living creature and to eat seed bearing plants for food.  After the Fall of man, men and women were both given consequential tasks for allowing sin to come into the world.  Men were now to work the ground, to bring forth food to eat by the sweat of their brow.  Women would now endure pain to both give birth and to raise their children.  Women would also desire to have their husband’s position of authority, but must be submissive.  To the Hebrew patriarchs a covenant in the flesh was given.  At the Exodus, Deuteronomy 5:29 is spoken by God after the giving of the 10 commandments and right before the Shema—an educational command—and many other less-remembered commands are given in this passage of scripture as well including: dietary and sanitary laws, holiday observances and making offerings to God.  The greatest commands given were first to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and second “to love your neighbor as yourself.”  In the New Testament the apostle Paul had to readdress the misshapen hierarchies of the family with commands to each of the churches about God’s design.  In short, God has commanded the family to be one father and one mother, to produce a multiplicative number of children, to work to be self-sustaining and self-governing, to educate their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord by teaching them His Word and by passing on His dietary and sanitary laws, holiday observances and offerings, and to love God and fellow man.

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with them.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5

And we are certainly living in such days.  Why?  Because of the deteriorating effects of the sinful nature on the family and the blatant choice to turn away from God generation after generation after generation.

“But,” may we be able to say with Joshua, “as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15b

And may we pass it on to our families so that we can exhort our children to, “…continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3: 14-15

Praying it forward.