Finding Strengths in Your Child’s Weaknesses (Part 1)

Norman Rockwell Girl with Black EyeWhen we see faults in our children’s character, our feelings can range from annoyance to serious concern. Perhaps you have been trying to fix particular attitude problems your kids have, but although you’ve lectured to exhaustion, the issues persist.

It can be discouraging — especially if you recognize that the faults you see in them are your own areas of weakness. Our children are often miniature mirrors of ourselves, and that’s not always pleasant to acknowledge. We don’t want them to make the same mistakes and suffer the same consequences we have, and sometimes we blame ourselves, thinking we’ve inadvertently trained our bad habits right into them!

There’s hope, and it starts with realizing that many negative character traits can be turned into utterly positive ones, as we call upon the Lord for His assistance. He’s the One Who said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

While it isn’t the case across the board, some character flaws are actually good qualities in disguise. Originally, mankind had been created in the image of God, bearing an accurate reflection of His nature, but the resemblance was marred when Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the garden. All of us have inherited the sin nature and the damaged character traits which go with it. Now, the God-image in us is grossly distorted, like how those mirrors in carnival fun houses look — only worse. What was once beautiful became ugly.

Here’s the good news, though: ever since Jesus redeemed mankind through His atonement at the cross, He has been restoring all things. He wants to restore you and your children, too — including those besetting character flaws. The negative traits can be transformed back into what God originally intended them to be.

Let’s take a look at some common negative character qualities, and see what God wants to restore us to:

1.) Stubbornness becomes persistence and perseverance when we allow God to reshape us. The persistence/persevering side of this character trait is crucial for intercessors, leaders, and problem solvers.

2.) Criticalness is the flip side of discernment. Discernment is a vital tool in getting God’s kingdom work done. When we understand the difference between these two, we no longer have to feel paralyzed by negative impressions received in our spirit-man. (See my article, Criticalness or Discernment? at my Out of the Fire blog for how to know the difference.)

3.) Bossiness is the immature mark of born leadership. Born leaders see the goal and just want to get it done! Developing a heart of servanthood helps us overcome bossiness.

4.) Arrogance is transformed into confidence. Arrogance is all about me and what I can do in my strength; confidence is about knowing who I am in Christ and letting His Spirit work through me.

5.) The tendency to be controlling becomes decisiveness and the ability to take the lead when a need presents itself. Control has a root of not trusting God. As we yield to Him and let go, He teaches us when to take the reins and when to restrain ourselves. We learn to delegate, rather than manipulate, and to leave our hands off of whatever is not our realm of responsibility.

6.) Paralyzing timidity and fearful caution change into prudence which weighs situations and moves forward in wisdom.

7.) Blunt lack of tact, when redeemed, becomes a steady directness, a stay-the-course truthfulness, seasoned with grace.

8.) Those who are oversensitive to the actions and words of others usually have an acute ability to hear the Lord hidden inside of them. They can also be keenly empathetic toward the pain of others.

(9.) Self-pity, redirected, becomes compassion.

The Holy Spirit desires to remold each of us so that these negative traits become the positives they were meant to be. He renews our minds and imparts His heart to us, as we spend time in prayer, Bible meditation, and listening to Him.

The Lord has other means to restore the God-image within us as well:

  1. Suffering brings forth humility and compassion for others.
  2. Yielding ourselves to His discipline, rather than making excuses for why we are justified in keeping our weaknesses,  helps us achieve transformation into positive character faster.
  3. Allowing Him to bring us through testings creates dependency on Him for His strength.
  4. Submitting ourselves to others on a regular basis builds humility within.

All of these are necessary components for growing in Christ-likeness. The refiner’s fire cannot be avoided if we wish to move forward in the Lord’s plans for us. We and our kids need to know that. We can ask Him to redeem our areas of weakness, and He will be faithful to answer us.

When we understand that many of our particular faults are actually God-designed traits which are part of our purpose in Him (once they are restored), it is far easier to love ourselves as we are and to cooperate with God to set things right.

Next time, we’ll talk about how we can help our children come into the positive side of their character challenges.


Character Building for Families


Teaching Children to Hear God (Part 4)

Jesus Loves Children via PhotoBucket

Let’s talk about some ways we can help our children become sensitive to the Lord’s voice. In the first post in this series, I gave you a few starting ideas. Here is a summary:

1.) Mention often that God wants to speak to them personally.

2.) Encourage them to talk to Him about everything. Encourage them to ask God questions about whatever is on their mind, and to listen for His answer.

3.) Tell them that God is eager to guide them and help them with obeying Mom and Dad and with making decisions — even little choices.

4.) Have a prayer time with them each day. Also set aside time in each day for them to pray on their own. If you need help, my article, Teaching Babies to Love God  and my book,  The Homeschool Guide to Raising Prayer-Filled Kids  will assist you in developing a plan.

5.) Read the Bible to them daily, explaining passages to them as needed. Also provide a time in your homeschool schedule for them to read the Bible individually. Reading lots of Scripture teaches us to discern the Lord’s voice when He speaks to us through other means.

6.) Encourage them to share the dreams they have experienced during the night, and pray together with them for understanding about what God might be speaking through their dreams.

Here are some other ways you can help them develop a listening ear:

Teach them to write down whatever God says to them, no matter how small. Tell them that by writing down what He says, it shows Him that His words are valued by them. It is a way of honoring the Lord.

Tell them that writing down what He says will help them remember it accurately later on. They can go back and read God’s personal word to them whenever they need encouragement or reassurance. They can pray back to God what He has said: “Father, thank You for telling me You would help me with this problem. I’m going to trust You to take care of it.”

Make hearing God special for your children by giving them their very own journals for recording what He speaks to them. Suggesting that each child come up with a title for his or her journal, such as, Sarah’s Conversations with God, makes it all the more personal. If you are interested in making your own prayer journals, my book, The Homeschool Guide to Raising Prayer-Filled Kids, has some ideas for you.

Go on a daily “God hunt.” I first learned this concept from Dr. David Mains, former host of Chapel of the Air. Start each day by reminding your children to be on the lookout all through the day for ways God is at work in their lives — things He says or shows them, ways He works on their behalf, answers to prayer, etc. It’s like playing hide and seek with God, or going on a treasure hunt — trying to find Him by watching for little clues He leaves behind. When the family sits down to dinner, everyone (including parents) shares how they discovered God during the God hunt that day. Playing this game is guaranteed to make the whole family more conscious of the Lord’s continuing presence.

Frequently share your own experiences of hearing God, seeing visions, receiving answers to prayer, etc. Your personal examples give substance to what you teach. You can share as the experiences come up, but you can also share them as “I remember when …,” whenever something in conversation or circumstances naturally triggers a memory. Your examples will help your children to know what to expect, and to be eager to hear God for themselves.

Repetition is the key to ingraining in our children the concepts of God’s Kingdom, and this is especially true in teaching them to become familiar with the voice of their Shepherd. As you deliberately train them to recognize God’s voice, build their expectation that He will speak to them, and then reinforce what you’ve taught by frequently bringing hearing Him into conversation, experiencing the voice of the Lord will become quite natural to both you and your children. Together, you will enter into the never-ending adventure of a satisfying, intimate relationship with Him.

Previous: Teaching Children to Hear God (Part 3) 

Hotline to Heaven: Hearing the Voice of God

Hotline to Heaven: Hearing the Voice of God

The Homeschool Guide to Raising Prayer-Filled Kids

The Homeschool Guide to Raising Prayer-Filled Kids

Teaching Children to Hear God (Part 3)

Jesus Loves Children via PhotoBucketTalking often with your children about the various ways God speaks will help them discover how they are already hearing Him. It will also make them aware of new ways He might speak to them.

Last time I briefly shared several ways God speaks to us through His Word, the inner voice, pictures (visions), and impressions. Let’s look at a few more avenues of hearing Him:

Dreams — Everybody dreams. Scientists believe dreams help cleanse our minds and emotions of the junk of the day, and this is probably true. But throughout the Bible, God often spoke to people through dreams, and He still does today. If you and your children remember your dreams, there’s a high likelihood that this is an avenue through which God desires to talk with you.

Dreams are a vast topic, which we can’t tackle here. However, if you want to explore how God might be communicating with you through them, I have written an extensive article series on dreams  at my other blog, Out of the Fire. It’s free, and I think you will enjoy what you learn there.

Encourage your children to tell you about their dreams. Take the time to talk them through. Mention that God might be trying to speak to them through their dreams and suggest, “Let’s ask God to show us what your dream means.”

Checks and nudges — A “check” in your spirit is that little uneasy feeling you get inside when you are about to say or do something that you shouldn’t. A check is planted in you by the Holy Spirit to help you avoid sin or an unwise decision. Most of us tend to rationalize these away, thinking they are silly — and then we end up wishing we had acted differently.

A nudge is the positive side of a check. It is the Spirit prompting us to do or speak something which will further God’s plan for us. Following a nudge can take us from a place of danger into a place of safety. God also uses them to lead us into opportunities and connections with people which will benefit us or them.

Checks and nudges are one of the most common ways the Lord speaks, but they are subtle, like a soft whisper. The more we learn to pay attention and act upon them, the more sensitive we become to His leading, thereby coming into the greatest amount of blessing.

Peace or the lack of it — Very similar to checks and nudges, the Lord guides us by the absence or presence of His peace. Colossians 3:15 instructs us, “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts ….” Again, this is a very subtle way of hearing the Lord, but it is one that all of us can tap into.

Christian songs — How often have you been focused on something else while Christian music was playing in the background, and suddenly a line from a song gripped your attention? Perhaps it reassured you, reminded you of God’s goodness, or convicted you of something you needed to get right with the Lord. God often uses Christian music to speak to His children. It is just as valid an avenue to hear from Him as any other means.

Sermons and Christian teaching — We hear both God’s general message and also personal tidbits meant just for us. The Holy Spirit emphasizes a word, phrase, or point to witness to our heart something which He wants to talk to us about. What one person takes away from a sermon may be quite different from what speaks to another person, because each of us has unique needs in any given moment.

Pastoral counsel and correction — We all need this, and we can expect God to speak to us through our pastors on a personal level. For children, parents fill a pastoral role of speaking into their lives on God’s behalf.

Other people — Someone says something which the Holy Spirit drills home to us. We can’t shake it. It might be a word of encouragement or a direction we should take. It might be a testimony of something good the Lord did for them, which in turn gives us hope that God will do great things for us, too! Often, the person has no idea that he is being used by the Lord to speak to us. God can even use non-believers to get His message across to us.

Inspired ideas — As we grow deeper in our relationship with the Lord, He plants inspired ideas within us on a regular basis. They are often so subtle that they seem to be part of our normal thinking patterns, rather than coming across distinctly as His voice. Romans 12:2 talks of the “renewed mind” we are to enjoy as believers. 1 Corinthians 2:16 says “we have the mind of Christ.” The flow of inspired, creative thoughts within us is a normal way to hear from God.

By now, you might be pleasantly surprised by how much you have already been hearing from the Lord. Encourage your children to look for Him to speak to them in these ways, too. The list I have given is not exhaustive. If you’d like to share other ways you have experienced God’s voice, please feel free to comment on this post. I’d love to hear from you!

Next time we’ll talk a little more about practical steps you can take to help your children become increasingly sensitive to the Lord’s voice.

Previous: Teaching Children to Hear God (Part 2)
Next: Teaching Children to Hear God (Part 4)

Hotline to Heaven: Hearing the Voice of God

Hotline to Heaven: Hearing the Voice of God

The Homeschool Guide to Raising Prayer-Filled Kids

The Homeschool Guide to Raising Prayer-Filled Kids

Teaching Children to Hear God (Part 2)

Jesus Loves Children, via PhotoBucketIn the last post, we talked about practical things you can do to prep your children to hear God personally. Today, we will examine some of the ways God speaks. Taking time to explain to your children the variety of ways in which God speaks will help them to recognize His voice.

Through the Bible — This is absolutely the first and foremost way we must hear God speak to us. Every other way we hear from Him is subject to us making mistakes, but the Word of God is inerrant. Everything we hear through other means must line up with what is in the Bible, or else we did not really hear God. In addition, when we become familiar with how He speaks in the Bible, it helps us recognize His voice accurately at other times.

God speaks through His Word:

  1. In a general way. We learn His precepts, what He says about Himself and His relationship with us, and how we are to walk out our life in Christ.
  2. By bringing a particular verse or passage to your attention for your current circumstances. He personalizes it to where you are in the now. People commonly say, a verse “leaped off the page to me.”
  3. The Holy Spirit recalls a particular verse to your remembrance when you need it. “But the Comforter, Who is the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said to you” (John 14:26).

A voice inside — This is what we often call “the inner voice.” It is the Holy Spirit, Who lives within every believer, speaking to your spirit-man. The inner voice can manifest in various ways:

  1. A word, phrase, or sentence which you seem to hear in your mind. You didn’t think it up yourself. In fact, it will often be inserted when you are thinking on an entirely different topic.
  2. The voice can be either in the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person: “I love you, My child.” “You need to check on the baby.” “God cares about your needs.”
  3. It can feel like the words are originating in your heart or your stomach, rather than your mind. In America, we tend to talk about our spirit as residing in our “heart.” Among some eastern peoples, the seat of the spirit is thought to be in the stomach or abdomen area. I usually experience the inner voice as though God is speaking into my mind, but I’ve also occasionally felt as if the words were coming from somewhere deep within. Wherever in your body the words seem to be coming from, it is really God speaking to your spirit.

Pictures — Some of us are primarily hearers, while some are seers. Artistic people, along with visual learners, are more likely to see visions than to hear sentences in their spirit-man. On the simplest level — the way most visions happen on a day-to-day basis — a vision is a picture which comes into your mind. God places it within you; you don’t decide to think it up yourself. It is stronger than a fleeting imagination.

Common picture-visions:

  1. Someone’s face comes to mind when you are not thinking about him or her. This is God’s instruction to pray for the person in that moment.
  2. Seeing Jesus
  3. Seeing yourself with Jesus, doing something together with Him
  4. You see a simple object, which symbolizes something else. The Holy Spirit gives understanding of what the item symbolizes, often after you ask Him to explain.
  5. Have you lost an object, and looked everywhere for it without success? Try asking the Lord where it is. You may have a picture flash into your mind of where to look. We have found many lost articles around our home through God answering through this type of vision.

Visions such as these are “snapshot” pictures. Visions in the mind’s eye can also be progressive scenes. Visions can also be “open-eyed,” where it seems as though you are looking at them with your physical eyes. Open-eyed visions are the least common, but they do happen. They are often super-imposed over your natural surroundings, so that you see both at the same time.

An impression without words or pictures — You just know what God wants you to do, perhaps even down to details, yet you didn’t discern specific words or a definable picture. It is still God speaking to you. This is the way conviction of sin often happens. The Holy Spirit pricks our hearts about particular sins we have committed, and our response is to ask the Lord’s forgiveness.

By the way, if you can recognize the Lord speaking conviction of sin into your heart, you already know how to hear God. He speaks in that same voice about other things besides sin.

Next time, we’ll talk about a few more simple ways God speaks to us – ways in which we hear Him regularly, but do not always recognize as the Lord’s interaction with us.

Previous: Teaching Children to Hear God (Part 1)
Next: Teaching Children to Hear God (Part 3)

Hotline to Heaven: Hearing the Voice of God

Hotline to Heaven: Hearing the Voice of God

The Homeschool Guide to Raising Prayer-Filled Kids

The Homeschool Guide to Raising Prayer-Filled Kids

Teaching Children to Hear God (Part 1)

Jesus Loves ChildrenIn my last post, I said that a key to keeping the love-flame for Jesus hot in our children’s hearts is teaching them how to experience the Lord speaking to them personally. Indeed, this is important in keeping our own hearts ablaze for Him, too!

Every believer is entitled to hear the Lord speak to him or her. In John 10, Jesus spoke of the ability of sheep to recognize and be led by the voice of their Shepherd. Let’s look at just a few of the verses found there:

Vs. 3-5 — … The sheep hear His voice, and He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. And when He puts forth His own sheep, He goes before them, and the sheep follow Him: for they know His voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they do not know the voice of strangers.

V. 8 — All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.

V. 27 — My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

The theme is recognizing and being intimately familiar with the voice of the Shepherd — and obeying accordingly. Sheep are simple-minded animals, yet they know the difference between their shepherd’s voice and the voice of all others. That’s what we want to learn for ourselves and teach our children to do, too.

It is easier for children to come into the place of knowing the Lord’s voice than it is for adults, because they haven’t had all the doubts, what-ifs, insecurities, and other hang-ups planted in their thinking that we often have by the time we are grown. So, if we can help them develop a conversational relationship with the Lord from their earliest years, they will do better at it throughout their lives than those of us who started after we had already acquired a lot of hindering baggage.

Here are a few ways to get them started:

1.) Mention often in casual conversation that God wants to speak to them personally. Encourage them to talk to Him about everything — their happy and sad times, their struggles with obedience and with getting along with siblings, and their “I wonder about this” ideas.

2.) Tell them that God is eager to help them with obeying Mom and Dad and with making decisions. Assure them that He wants to guide them — even in the little choices they make.

3.) Encourage them to ask God questions, and to then be quiet for a few seconds to listen for His answer. Tell them He might answer by putting a thought or a picture in their minds, or by just helping them “know” the answer in their hearts. (I will talk more about ways God speaks to us in future posts.)

4.) Pray with them each day. Teach them how to pray from the time they are very small. Continue to pray with them as they grow older, but also set aside time in each day for them to pray on their own. (See my article, Teaching Babies to Love God, and my short book, The Homeschool Guide to Raising Prayer-Filled Kids  for a detailed plan.)

5.) Read the Bible to them daily, explaining passages to them as needed. Keep reading the Word to them right up through their teens. They will continue to learn through hearing the Word read and through discussing it with you. Also, provide a time in your homeschool schedule for them to read the Bible quietly on their own, once they are able. (Third grade / nine to ten years old seems to be an average age when reading alone works well for them.) The more familiar they become with the Scriptures, the easier it will be for them to recognize the Lord’s voice — because His voice in the Word and His personal voice to us sound the same.

6.) Share often with your children little things which the Holy Spirit is speaking to you. They don’t have to be monumental in nature. “You are My friend,” “I will take care of you,” and “I am always here for you,” are the stuff of which intimate relationship with Him is made.

That’s a starting and a continuing place. Through repeating these concepts often, we build an understanding in our children that they can expect to experience God interacting with them throughout the day. They will develop listening ears and seeing eyes, which are always half-tuned for what God might want to reveal to them.

Next time, we will touch on some of the many ways God speaks into our lives.

Next: Teaching Children to Hear God (Part 2)

Hotline to Heaven: Hearing the Voice of God

Hotline to Heaven: Hearing the Voice of God
The Homeschool Guide to Raising Prayer-Filled Kids


The Homeschool Guide to Raising Prayer-Filled Kids

First Things First (Hint: It’s About Jesus)

Jesus_088, by Linda Johns (Katie58_2006) at PhotoBucketThe beginning of a new school year is a good time to review what our purposes for homeschooling are. Families homeschool for multiple reasons, but for Christian homeschool parents, our primary goal should be to disciple our children into becoming ardent lovers of God. Yes, we want them to excel academically, so that they can function well in society when they are adults, but if we raise them to be successful in material ways, and yet their hearts are not intimately attached to the Lord, we will have failed in what matters most.

Raising our children to be Christ-lovers would be a daunting task, if we had to do it in our own strength. However, we do not. We have the Holy Spirit always at our elbow, eager to help us. We must draw on Him to give us the wisdom, and to open our eyes to moments throughout the day to draw our children’s attention to the Lord.

Training them up in the ways of the Lord goes far beyond making a Bible class part of our daily studies (although that can be a valuable tool). It is important to get to their hearts, not just their heads, with the message of Jesus, and then continually point them toward fastening their attention on Him. If we depend merely on a curriculum to do the work for us, we may end up with children who know all the Bible stories and all the doctrine, but do not know the Lord Himself.

Leading our children into a lifelong passion for Jesus begins with dedicating them to the Lord and interceding for their salvation. We tenderize their hearts to Him by presenting the simple Gospel message and talking about all His loving-kindness toward them. Eventually, and hopefully at a very early age, we lead them in a prayer of repentance and dedication of their hearts to Jesus. They are now what we often refer to as being “born again” (a term taken from the story of Jesus’ dialog with Nicodemus, in John 3).

My article, Teaching Babies to Love God, will help you to get started in cultivating a love for Jesus in your children, if you are unsure where to begin.

So that’s a start, but how do we keep them in the Kingdom? How do we make sure the flame continues to burn in their hearts, and how do we get it to burn brighter and hotter? I believe a key component is teaching our children to know the Lord’s voice personally. Ongoing relationship with Him depends much on two-sided communication with Him as both Lord and Friend. Today’s post is an introduction to an upcoming series on teaching children a lifestyle of being led by the Holy Spirit through hearing His voice and responding to Him.

Unfortunately, many modern-day Christians do not expect to hear God speak to them on a regular basis, and, in fact, have no idea how to hear God if they wanted to. I have noticed this especially in younger adults. Somewhere along the way, the art of hearing God ceased to be passed from one generation to the next. We can reverse that trend by beginning at an early age with our children, and I’m going to give you some practical how-to help for making it happen.

Perhaps you don’t really have a good grasp on hearing God yourself, so you might wonder, “How will I teach my children what I do not know?” It’s OK. You and your children can learn together. I hope you will find the adventure exciting!

While you are waiting for the series to get up and running, I have written a couple of short and inexpensive books which will be a big help to you in getting started. We have them in both print and e-book editions. (The e-book versions are a great choice if your budget is tight.):

Hotline to Heaven: Hearing the Voice of God

Hotline to Heaven: Hearing the Voice of God

The Homeschool Guide to Raising Prayer-Filled Kids

The Homeschool Guide to Raising Prayer-Filled Kids


New Discounts and Ordering Options

U. S. Customers:

Character Building for Families SetEverybody likes receiving discounts — and at Full Gospel Family Publications, we like giving them out, too! That’s why, for our U. S. customers, we are offering a 20% discount on orders of 5 or more Character Building for Families (either Volume 1 or 2, mix or match). Put together a group order for  your homeschool co-op or homeschooling buddies and save $3.20 per book. Order at our Character Building for Families homepage.

River Life Student EditionWe also offer a 25% discount on 5-10 copies of River Life: Entering into the Character of Jesus (ideal for your homeschooling teens). Order more than 10 copies and receive a 30% discount. Order at our River Life page.

As always, Media Mail shipping is free on all our products.

International Customers:

Over the years, shipping internationally has become extremely expensive, and I really hate how much we have to charge our international customers to ship your printed materials.

We have another solution for you. You can now purchase Character Building for Families and River Life: Entering into the Character of Jesus very reasonably as PDFs. Go to our ordering page, click on the button which applies to where you live, and look for the PDF options on the ordering page for significant savings.

(We’re not entirely automated, so we’ll e-mail your PDF to you. Please give us a short amount of response time.)

Sorry, PDFs are not available to U. S. customers.