Stand in the Gap - Part 3
Stand In The Gap 3
One wise woman said, "Have children only if you want to share your life with them. If you don’t think they are going to be the best people in the world to spend your time with, don’t have them. There are other things you could do".
Drs. Lewis and Dodd, in their research of over 3,000 teenagers, found that the number one indicator for the continuation of faith from one generation to another is the practice of spiritual disciplines by the parents. That is, the children see the parents regularly involved in such things as Bible study (2 Timothy 2:15) and prayer (Judges 13:8). Even though a neighborhood Bible study in your home might not be designed specifically for the children, such a study underscores to the whole family how important the Lord and the study of the Word are to Mom and Dad. In having a Mormon or Jehovah Witness caller into your home might not result in their conversion, but it will impress a very important truth upon your children. They will see that Mom and Dad do have the truth and that such truth can stand up under fire.
Someone said, "Our parent’s priorities came out of their prayers". Family prayers need to be more than simply the typical prayer given at meal time. We need to be specific in our prayers and regularly pray for family members, others, and upcoming events in the lives of each child. Let your children hear you praying about everything. Someone entering the hospital, something happening at work, a decision you are trying to make, financial help, etc…They need to see that God can be trusted with handling every aspect of our lives,"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6).
- An area of improvement that I see in the lives of many Christians is the need to be prayer oriented (1 Thessalonians 5:17), or in a prayerful frame of mind. Often, people will tell us about something they are going through and we don’t even think about praying for them. When someone says, "I’m going in for a checkup tomorrow", "I’m traveling out of town", "I’m taking the car in because it has been acting up recently", we should immediately think, "I need to pray for them".
- Have you ever thought about making a weekly prayer list and posting it in some very prominent place in the house?
- The Neglected Curriculum: Stewardship
That is, parents need to model unselfishness, generosity, and liberality when it comes to giving of our time, talents, and money. "Drs. Dodd and Lewis did some very interesting research on the relationship between family income and whether or not children take God seriously. The children of families with low income ($5000) and high income ($100,000) were the most likely not to take God seriously. The middle income parents had the children who were more likely to take God seriously. But surprisingly, like a bouncing ball, when the parental income skipped over the $100,000 mark, the children’s interests in God shot up. The researcher accounted for this phenomena with the same logic I heard from parents: ‘After a certain point, money is no longer an issue’" (Faulkner pp. 174-175). That is, they learned that money doesn’t cure the major issues of life. Personal financial success for parents doesn’t have to equate into children who are spoiled. Successful families understand the meaning of the proverb, "Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death" (Proverbs 11:4). "Covetous or greedy people never get around to prioritizing their children as the most valuable asset they possess (Ecclesiastes 2:18-19). Sometimes, after they have blistered the world with success, they trying ‘buying’ their children with company privileges (if they own their own business). This usually backfires for one of two reasons: first, the children are already bent out of shape for lack of parental models and couldn’t manage a business if it was turned over to them; or second, they are so angry and resentful toward their parents that they wouldn’t take the business—the thing they blame for separating the family—if it were dumped in their laps" (Faulkner pp. 175-176).
- Teach your children the value of hard work. "Some of the families who could well afford any car they wanted drove used cars. They taught their children how to buy good used cars and how to shop at garage sales so they could be better stewards of their money"(Faulkner p. 173). Teach them that prosperity doesn’t give us the right to waste or become careless (Matthew 14:20).
- Teach them the importance of learning to wait and doing without (Proverbs 25:16; Psalms 119:71).
- Give them chores and responsibilities, make them earn an allowance.
- Teach them to be givers and not takers (Acts 20:35), and that you lose nothing when you are generous (Luke 6:38; Proverbs 11:25).
Wealth cannot buy some of the best moments in life. "People are beginning to say, ‘This is crazy; we’re not living, we’re doing lunch’…..The rebellion is against time pollution, the feeling that the essence of what makes life worth living---the small moments, the special family getaways, the cookies in the oven, the night fishing with the kids asleep next to the lantern, the weekend drives, the long dreamlike summers---so much of this has been taken from us, for we have given it up. For what?" (Faulkner p. 179) (Matthew 6:25 "Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing?")
God At Work
Children are impressed with our faith when that faith is manifested in every area of our lives including our employment or business. Parents who raise faithful children don’t separate their faith from the rest of their lives (Colossians 3:22-23). "One manager of hundreds of employees sent out a three-page letter telling his employees what kind of person he wanted to be. He said, ‘Please tell me if you observe me acting otherwise, because this is who I want to be" (Faulkner p. 176).
The Importance Of The Church
"Through the church, God has provided a spiritual family to fill in the gaps that we sometimes have in our physical families. For many of these folks, especially the ones who have had to do a lot of traveling, the church became a kind of extended family…Now, these people were discerning people; they were not blind to the faults of people in the church….they were keen on preserving a sweet spirit. One parent said he could remember very well his own mother saying, ‘Please don’t ever be critical of the church’" (Faulkner pp. 177-178).
- Every family has some missing moral gaps, i.e., family members who aren’t Christians, or who have fallen away. In the local congregation we find their moral replacements for our children! "but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions…" (Mark 10:30). What a wonderful verse! In the local congregation we can find the faithful father, mother, brother, sister, son or daughter that we never had!
- Successful parents, instead of being critical of the local congregation, seek to fix what needs improvement. And being critical of the church in front of our children is so unwise—for they can’t do anything about the problem at hand!
Seize The Early Years
"The title of the popular book by Robert Fulghum says it in a nutshell: All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten. Things like sharing, manners, love, kindness, taking turns, getting along with others---you know, the basics of life---all are learned in the early years. If we allow our children to get by with selfishness, ill manners, being ugly to others, and cruelty for their first six years because ‘they are just children’, we may not be able to reverse those traits later on" (Faulkner p. 182).
- As parents, let us learn from our children. "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3-4). It is interesting that society often defines the "mature" someone who is pushy, proud, over-confident, defies authority, questions everything, insists on their own way, and is consumed with a self-promoting agenda.
- The heart and soul of Christianity can be found in observing a humble child. Such a child so eagerly wants to please his Father, is so trusting of what the parents say, is willing to sacrifice, and wants to contribute. He may say, "Here Dad, you can have the money in my piggy bank if you need it" (1 Peter 1:14).
- One of the reasons that some Christians find it so easy to sin is that they don’t really have a relationship with God. If they really viewed God as their Father, sinning would be too uncomfortable, too humiliating, and just too emotional of an experience. They just couldn’t stab their own Father in the back, they just couldn’t break His heart with such ease.
The Importance Of Good Memories
"Memories---good memories—are anchors to our past that provide stability for our future…Psychologist Alida S. Westman surveyed college students to discover ‘what made them happy during childhood’. Almost two-thirds identified
‘activities with one or both parents’. Most of the activities mentioned were simple things such as taking a walk, going on a family picnic, or playing together. On the other hand, few students recalled activities which would be difficult to arrange (really expensive vacations or parties). Toys, it turned out, were not particularly important for childhood happiness: only 39 percent of the college students mentioned toys when identifying their fondest childhood recollections" (Faulkner p. 187). Try building a happy, stable mental scrapbook for your child. When our children are tempted to think that being a Christian is a negative thing, such memories will prick their conscience and force them to ask the question, "If being a Christian is so bad---then why do I have such good memories when I was doing the right thing?"
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church Of Christ/644-9017