Category Archives: Christian

A Well-Grounded Faith (Part 2)

In my last post, I mentioned that it is important for us as parents to ensure that our children are familiar with the core beliefs of all Christians. We must also help them to understand what being a disciple of Christ entails. This involves knowing not only what God desires to do for us, but also what He expects of us in return.

Let’s start with Christianity’s core beliefs.

These are the foundational teachings of the first apostles. Paul told Timothy, “And the things which you have heard of me among many witnesses, commit the same to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). The apostle John exhorted, “Let that therefore abide in you, which you have heard from the beginning. If that which you have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, you also shall continue in the Son and in the Father” (1 John 2:24).

Core Christian beliefs:

  • The infallibility / inerrancy of the Bible
  • God is eternal, having no beginning and no ending.
  • God is three distinct Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is one God, not three, with all three Persons having existed from eternity, without a beginning.
  • God is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipresent (everywhere present at the same time).
  • Jesus is fully God and fully man. He existed eternally as God the Son before He became man, but now He is both.
  • Jesus was miraculously born of a virgin into a fully human body.
  • Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life here on earth.
  • He died on the cross of His own free will, to atone for our sins. There is no other way to God or to heaven, aside from trusting in Jesus as our only means of salvation.
  • We are saved by grace alone (God’s gift of righteousness to us, through Jesus’ death for us) rather than by any help of our own good deeds. At the same time, those who are true believers desire to live holy lives, modeling our Savior, Jesus.
  • Jesus physically rose from the dead.
  • He ascended into heaven, and is currently seated at the right hand of God the Father.
  • He has sent the Holy Spirit to indwell all believers.
  • Upon death, the spirits and souls of all believers are immediately taken to heaven.
  • Jesus will come again to receive His Church to Himself. There will be a resurrection of the physical bodies of all believers into new, glorified bodies at that time.
  • Jesus will physically return to earth to rule and reign over all.
  • Upon death, those who have refused to believe on Jesus will suffer everlasting torment and separation from God. Their physical bodies will also experience a final resurrection, when they will be judged before God’s throne and assigned to eternal damnation in the lake of fire, along with the devil and his angels.

The Creeds:

One of the most effective ways to teach these core beliefs is by studying the creeds of the Church with your children. You might want to commit one or two of them to memory. In the early centuries of the Church, creeds were formed by men of God in order to unite believers around the essential doctrines of the Faith. They were also formulated to combat various errors which had crept in. Here are the main creeds:

The Apostles’ Creed

The Nicene Creed

The Athanasian Creed

Statements of Faith:

Still another way to instruct our children in the core beliefs of Christianity is by studying trusted statements of faith or catechisms. Your denomination or fellowship may have a clear statement of faith. If that is not the case, here are a few which may be helpful to you:

The Assemblies of God Statement of Faith (Pentecostal / Charismatic believers)

The Westminster Shorter Catechism (Reformed)

The Westminster Catechism for Young Children

Christian Missionary Alliance Statement of Faith (Evangelical)

In our next post, we will talk about teaching the Ten Commandments as a means to help our children enter into life led by the Holy Spirit.

Part 1

Resources by Lee Ann:


Teach Your Kids to Hear God!


The Homeschool Guide to Raising Prayer-Filled Kids

A Well-Grounded Faith (Part 1)

Some years ago, a friend of mine shared with me her philosophy for raising her children to know Jesus. Rather than teaching them about the Lord and how to know Him personally, she felt that they would somehow end up desiring Him automatically because of her example. She hoped that by observing her prayer life, worship, and daily living for Jesus, they would catch on and want the same for themselves — that they would somehow naturally absorb a life in Christ, without instruction. Unfortunately, her plan did not work, and her grown children are not following the Lord.

Of course it’s important for our faith to be exhibited before our children on a daily basis. Seeing us engage in intimate relationship with God should whet their appetites to know Him themselves. That is certainly part of the picture.

But we must also give them tools so that they will have a clear idea how to develop relationship with the Lord. There are practical steps we can walk them through to help them form habits of prayer and Bible reading, or to learn to hear God speak to them. While there are exceptions, most children won’t figure these things out on their own. They need to be given the skills, and encouraged in them repeatedly, while they gradually mature in their young faith.

So, discipling our children to seek God for themselves is important. But there’s something else we need to do as well. We must instill in our children a framework of the foundations of biblical faith — core beliefs which all true Christians should be aware of and adhere to.

While some church fellowships are doing an excellent job, a large portion of the Church seems to have been missing this part of discipleship for the last few decades. Consequently, we now have many, many people attending our evangelical / charismatic churches who are clueless about basic beliefs and don’t even realize it. They live by their soulish instincts, rather than being led by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit — because they don’t know any better.

Because some in the Church are very afraid of promoting legalism (and rightfully so), we’ve gone to another extreme, where we don’t speak about God’s expectations upon His people at all. We’ve neglected to give people an elementary knowledge of the nature of God and how He operates because of it. We’ve adopted a feel-good, just-follow-your-heart, everything-is-conditional-on-the-circumstances approach. In some cases, we’ve even said from our pulpits, “Doctrine doesn’t matter. All you need to do is love Jesus.” As a result, many people are ignorant of the truth. They have ended up worshiping a God made in their own image, a false Jesus, who benevolently panders to their every whim, requiring no commitment in return.

We’ve got to start changing this, and the perfect place to begin is in the home. No longer can we depend on the local church to do it for us through Children’s Church or Sunday School programs — because, in many cases, it’s not happening there. Often, it’s not happening in adult church either. Fragments of truth are being taught here and there, but no cohesive framework is presented to help people become established solidly in their faith.

If your local fellowship is doing a great job already, that’s wonderful! You are blessed! For those who do not enjoy such blessing, in the next few posts, I will be sharing some ideas of how to impart systematic, foundational teaching to help your children pursue after God to the fullest.

Part 2 

Resources by Lee Ann:


Teach Your Kids to Hear God!


The Homeschool Guide to Raising Prayer-Filled Kids

Servant Parenting

We then who are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves. — Romans 15:1

Being a parent can feel overwhelming, especially for those who have several small children to attend to. Sometimes it gets discouraging, as we deal with one need after another without much of a break to regain our personal tranquility.

I remember the discouragement I felt several months after having our second child. Recovering from a C-section this time around had not been nearly as easy as it had been with the first child, almost twelve years before. Furthermore, the doctors told me I had gone into this pregnancy not yet fully recovered from the chemo and radiation I had completed just five months previously. To top it off, our beloved miracle baby, my promise of a restored life from our Father in heaven, suffered stomach issues and cried incessantly.

In the midst of all my fatigue, I indulged in a small pity party, with me the only guest. Why could I not have a little peace and quiet? Why all the jumping up every few minutes to meet another demand? Why couldn’t I have a tiny bit more time for uninterrupted thoughts without another colic bout intruding? (You may snort your disdain, because I had only one small one to deal with, but the struggle was still real!)

The Lord quickly recalled to my mind an article I had once read in a homeschool magazine. The author had told of her own time of feeling overwhelmed by small children, and how the Holy Spirit had quickened to her heart Romans 15:1: “We then who are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves.” God had applied the verse to her parenting, encouraging her to serve her children, to bear with their neediness for so much help, and to set her wants for time to herself aside.

The Lord used that verse to bring me out of my own case of the blues, and to give me a new joy in serving both my children. I mulled it over often in the ensuing days: I can bear the frailties of my little girl. Jesus calls me to not please myself, but to do this for Him, and to do it with joy. From that point on, I really did find new joy and strength in serving her.

I remembered another story I had heard, of a mom who pictured herself as serving the Christ Child every time she dressed or fed her small children. It helped her to overcome impatience and to lavish love upon them. I took that story to heart and started applying it, too.

Our self-serving society constantly barrages us with the message that we’re supposed to indulge ourselves. We are told that the good life is all about us having our needs met, our desires gratified. In particular, women have been brainwashed into thinking that children are a hindrance to our fulfillment, so the sooner we get them out of our hair, the sooner we can accomplish “important” things. Meanwhile, we miss realizing that the little people we have been given to serve on a moment-by-moment basis are the genuinely important things.

Those of us who follow Jesus must continually push back against these selfish ideals. Intellectually, we know from the Bible that we are called to serve one another, to put others ahead of ourselves. That knowledge doesn’t make it easy, however. Perhaps one of the best, and yet often hardest, training grounds for learning to be a servant is within our own families. Jesus calls us to die to self. Paul even said, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). It’s not a popular or frequently heard message in the Church today, but it is as valid as it ever was.

Jesus uses serving our family to build our character. For those of you who find caring for your children a great joy without much of a struggle, what a blessing! It is a special grace, which may be due to your God-given temperament or His unique plans for you. The Lord will find other means to build your character. But for those of us who are more challenged in this area, He uses it to mold us into the likeness of Himself.

… In lowliness of mind, let each of us esteem others as better than ourselves. Do not look every one on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 2:3-5

Do it for Him, bear it for Him. He will receive your servant parenting as if you had ministered directly to Him. It is a fragrant offering.

 

Character Building for Families

 

 

Building God’s Kingdom Through Family (Part 4)

Leah drawingHow can we help our children understand the ongoing importance of family in the purposes of God?

1.) Teach them that family is the oldest of institutions, from the time of Adam and Eve. Explain to them the mandate God gave to that first family to fill, subdue, and take territory in the earth. (See Part 1 of this series.)

2.) Show them the thread of God’s plan for family from Abraham to Jesus. (See Part 2 of this series.)

3.) Tell them that family did not start as a new idea at Creation. God, by His very nature, has always thought in terms of family. Two of the Persons of the eternal Trinity relate to each other as Father and Son. Even the angels are sometimes referred to as the sons of God in Scripture.

4.) Instill in your children a love for the Church — because it is the family of God. “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of Whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Ephesians 3:14, 15). Teach them to relate to other people in the body of Christ as brothers and sisters, who should receive our love and respect.

5.) Help them to understand that through Jesus they have become the sons and daughters of their Father in heaven:

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and if children, then heirs: heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ, if we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together. Romans 8:14-17

He is the King of the universe, and therefore they are royalty, and should act the part with grace. Explain to them the responsibilities of royalty and how to carry them out with humility.

6.) Teach them the concept of adoption. Use Romans 8:14-17 again. Adopted children have 100% of the privileges and inheritance rights of biological children. Therefore, what Jesus has is now equally ours as sons and daughters!

7.) Continuously build into your children  a sense of their God-given destiny. Help them to develop a consciousness that God has a specific plan for each of them, which has been in place since before they were born — since before the world was born, for that matter.

Our secular humanist society would have them believe that their existence came about as a random toss of chance, and that an amoeba was their ancestor. But God says He knew each one of us before time began.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, those whom He predestinated, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified. – Romans 8:28-30

… He has chosen us in Him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He has made us accepted in the Beloved.Ephesians 1:4-6

Help them to become familiar with Psalm 139. (Memorizing it would be a good idea.)

In this series, I have given you an overview of God’s plan for building His kingdom through family. Grasping it for ourselves and imparting it to our children is a huge task. But if we will ask for His aid, He will expand our understanding of all that it entails.

May you and your family be blessed, as you enter together into partnering with God for the establishment of His kingdom on earth.

Previous — Part 3

Character Building for Families

 

Character Building for Families

 

 

Building God’s Kingdom Through Family (Part 3)

Leah drawingI mentioned in Part 1 of this series that when God created Adam and Eve, He already had planned for the family to be a unit of spiritual warfare. He said they were to have dominion over all the earth, and that word dominion, in the Hebrew, means to “tread down, subjugate, prevail against, rule, reign, and take.”

The concept of family working together in warfare was well understood by the Israelites. Many sons meant increased strength when an enemy came calling. Psalm 127:4, 5 says, “As arrows in the hand of a mighty man; so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them. They shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.”

Now, as then, we have an enemy who comes to “kill, steal, and destroy.” Jesus came, however, so that we “might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Jesus is the abundant Life-Giver, but one of the ways we can partner with Him in shedding abroad abundant life is by living out solid family relationships, where Jesus reigns supreme in our homes. At the very least, our children will experience abundant life through the safety and security they enjoy. Beyond that, stable families with happy children are a testimony to nonbelievers that there is something more which they can have as well, if they will give their hearts to the Lord.

Raising children who love Jesus more than life, and who will be willing to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) long after they have left our homes, is not an easy task. Accomplishing that goal is in itself a large component of spiritual warfare. We must depend on the Lord at every step to help us with the task and to rescue us and our children when any of us falter.

Next time, we will talk about some ways we can help our children thrive by giving them an understanding of the purpose of family.

Previous: Part 2
Next: Part 4

Character Building for Families

Character Building for Families

Help! My Kids Aren’t Listening to Me!

familycirclepoempicSo, you’re a brand-new homeschooling parent. You’ve been at it now for a week or two (maybe a little longer). You went into this with enthusiasm in your heart, and beautiful visions in your head of happy, loving hours together with your children, all of you as ardent as could be about learning just scads of great stuff. Maybe you dreamed of creating art masterpieces and pint-size architectural wonders together. Perhaps you were going to jointly discover scientific breakthroughs in your very own  lab in the basement, just like Thomas Edison. All was going to be laughter and good times together. Homeschooling is fun, right?

The problem is, Jimmy and Chrissy don’t want to reinvent the light bulb or paint a Renoir, and they certainly don’t want to learn arithmetic or write a book report. And besides it taking all your energy to get them to push a pencil through a couple of worksheets for twenty minutes, they … um … are sassy.

I don’t know why this is, but initially, homeschooling can bring out the worst in kids. Even if they’ve been pretty good about obeying and being respectful before you began the homeschooling adventure, you might find that there’s something about you taking on the role of schoolmarm that changes how they view and respond to you. If your children have already experienced a traditional school, they may even have been squeaky-clean models of comportment there — but it all changes when Mom is the teacher.

The theological reason for that has sometimes been called “the depraved nature” — that fallen, sinful soul we are all born with. Most children are not highly motivated to learn, unless the subject happens to be a particular passion for them. They don’t want to work; they want to do whatever they want to do. We grownups are the same way, only we’ve matured enough to discipline ourselves to do stuff we know is good for us to do, even if we don’t enjoy it.

In the long run, homeschooling your children will be far more successful if you make your main goal for the first year to lay the foundations of Christ-like character in your children — especially that they learn to relate to you, the parent, with respect and obedience.  Outwardly right behavior is not enough: you will need to address and bring transformation to what is going on in  their hearts. This means keeping a watchful eye for attitudes in your children which do not seem to be right, and then dealing with those immediately. It’s a lot of work. It is far easier to ignore little things, and just keep pushing to get the academic stuff done.

Yes, your children are still going to do their school assignments, and you will progress in that area, but you may not get as much done in that first year as you had hoped (or as you will in years to come), because you might have to interrupt your lesson times frequently to deal with needed attitude adjustments. But once you get the foundations in place, you will make up for lost time in the  academic side of their education.

Am I saying you will be able to fix all the character issues in the first year, and it will be smooth sailing from thereon? No, just that it will get easier over time. Think about it: is God still working with you on your character? It’s the same with our children. Ongoing conforming to the character of Jesus is needed for all of us. But if you focus on the major points of dealing with budding rebellion at the heart level and teaching your children how to respond to you with obedience and honor, you will have accomplished a tremendous amount of “real” learning, which will aid them throughout their lifetimes.

Maybe you feel inadequate to the task, and don’t even know where to start. For an overview, you might enjoy reading J. C. Ryle’s classic article The Duties of Parents, available as a free, short e-book. And for more comprehensive help, you might want to take a look at our Character Building for Families manuals (see below). They will help you not only teach your children how to behave well, but they will also help you to get at the heart issues which motivate their behavior. Ultimately, it’s about bringing our children to know and love Jesus wholeheartedly.

 

Character Building for Families

 

Raising Them Moral, or Raising Them Christian?

good childrenDuring an interview, I was once asked which is the most important character trait to cultivate in our children. My immediate answer was, “a passion for Jesus.” We can have a measure of success in educating our kids to be truthful, responsible, moral citizens, but if we don’t reach their hearts with the message of their need for Jesus and bring them into a vibrant relationship with Him, what have we really accomplished?

In the secular world, both in our public school systems and in business, character training has become a big deal in recent years. Educators and corporate leaders are discovering the need to teach people within their organizations the basics of integrity and living responsibly, for the sake of alleviating chaos in the system and bringing about greater productivity. Secular character education companies are currently making big bucks trying to teach people how to behave decently.

Now, I don’t have a problem with schools and corporations teaching people the rudiments of good character. If we’ve got a society full of broken homes, where many children are being raised with little concept of behaving in a principled, civilized manner, somebody has to take matters in hand, or we eventually end up with anarchy. But cleaning up the outside of the cup, while the inside is still pretty much a mess, and keeping people under control by convincing them that behaving well will be advantageous to them and society (and that not behaving well will bring painful consequences), has its limitations. The severest limitation of all is an eternal one.

So, what does this have to do with homeschooling families? Simply this: if we are not vigilant, it is very easy for us, too, to teach our children to be outstanding models of good character without it ever reaching their hearts. We have them in an ideal environment, with little outside corrupting influences most of the time. We tend to monitor and protect what goes in their eyes and ears through the TV, computer, and other media. We watch over who they spend time with outside of our homes, so that they are not involved on a daily basis with other people’s out-of-control lifestyles. And we instruct them in how a Christian should live through the Bible, teaching materials, lectures, and through being role models to them.

Unfortunately, sometimes it can escape our notice that, although we are presenting the right model to them, they might be merely complying with our expectations, without absorbing into their hearts the truths we are trying to impart. Indeed, even if they do embrace the concepts we teach, if it goes no further than a sincere desire to live uprightly, we’ve not accomplished the intended purpose.

What is that purpose? Bringing them into knowing and loving the Lord Jesus. The goal should not be to raise upright, law-abiding citizens, but to raise up lovers of God, who will obediently, humbly, and enthusiastically follow after Him.

Part of the reason some homeschool parents (certainly not all) are experiencing the heartbreak of seeing their children turn away from the Lord once they are grown is because children who grow up in an environment of goodness without ever coming into a heart-changing relationship with the Lord (or who are not taught how to keep growing in that relationship) are left wide open to the evil pursuits of the world outside, once they are no longer in the controlled environment which was so lovingly provided for them.

Am I saying we should not protect our children from the ways of the world while they are growing up? Should we instead expose them to the evils of society from the time they are small, so that they will not be “hot-house plants”? Perhaps even send them to public school? Absolutely not! I believe wholeheartedly in shielding the young ones from evil and wrapping a holy blanket of protection around them. But they need to know the Who of it — the Lord.

If we only teach our children to be upright in their character so that they can lead a prosperous life, free of the consequences which sin brings, we’ve missed it by making it all about them, which is ultimately quite selfish.  We must teach them to love the Lord more than themselves — and to live righteously out of a joy of bringing Him delight.

You may be saying, “But my children gave their hearts to the Lord when they were very small, so this does not apply to me.” Helping our kids to cross over into the kingdom of heaven through that initial accepting of Jesus is one of the most wonderful moments for any believing parent. But we can’t just leave it at that and then assume character training will do the rest.

We must continue to teach them how to go on in their relationship with Him — how to increase in their love for Him, how to know Him more deeply each day than they did the day before. And, we must be vigilant in prayer on their behalf. It is a big job, but it can be done, as we depend on the Lord to help us.

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Character Building for Families