Love and Truth
My job as mother is to love my children like Jesus loved us. He was sent to us and moved into the neighborhood to dwell with us. He was available. I want to emulate Him and be available too. I want to be interrupted to hear them when they speak (but this is not at all an easy discipline, right?). Jesus loved and nurtured and protected and provided for us. But it wasn't pointless love. It was not love without the love of wisdom, it was not love without a message. Truth was meant to help His children be happy and know freedom no matter what trial might come their way. My father confessed recently that his deepest aspiration for his children was that as adults they would know happiness, real and lasting happiness. Is that not a great insight into why we've been given grace through Jesus Christ?
The best way to show my children how to live in the Kingdom of God is to practice the Great Commission as a family. Whatever passage we read from God's Word will become real when they see it "working" out there in the real world where outsiders have no obligation to me at all.
I am certain one of the most common ways the enemy gets Christian parents out of the work of making disciples is to convince them that their number one purpose is to sell their lifestyle to the world. "Lifestyle" is the principles by which I run the house and interact in society. In my heart I'm like every other parent; I think I'm wise. I admit that. I am so desperate to make sure, especially on my best days that my children not believe there is anything good in me. I don't want them to get a tolerable way of life from me and miss everything that Christ is going to be for them. The truth is, if I try to persuade others to do the same things outwardly that I do, I am sickeningly building my own kingdom, not Christ's. So what I want to listen for is what God is telling my children to become for Him.
Pursuit of the Kingdom of God
One of the most challenging places to make disciples is in my own family. Yes, because they know me most intimately. They reveal whether I truly am walking in the Spirit because they get me at my most natural state. I try to admit that to them so that they can get a true picture of the difference and see grace to continue after failing.
But it is also challenging because I have to somehow find a way to teach our children to look past the culture of being a Christian family in the normalcy of Christian friends and by-and-large Christian community, and gain true faith and fellowship with God for themselves. This requires the most creative and diligent work of reading the Word of God and then acting on it by the grace of Jesus Christ. My job as mother is to make tangible the Kingdom of God in their midst. It is much easier to disciple someone who does not come from a church-background.
I'm not all that good at it. I'm doing my best. I wish I was better.
If the church at which we attend and serve was gone tomorrow, would my children know how to advance the Kingdom of God successfully in their sphere of influence? This is my concern as I listen to their concept of God. Matthew 19:14,
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”Every time the Kingdom of God shows up, the people experience it as Good News. They get cured. They are fed. They are forgiven. They are reconciled. I want to live in a way that invites my children to experience the Kingdom as good news to them. And I don't want them to be judged or made to feel criticized until they're ready to taste and see that the LORD is good, because criticism is not good news.
My delightful husband Ben hears well the need for true righteousness and gave me an article. It said,
Parents who raise their children with nothing more than Christian values should not be surprised when their children abandon those values. If the child or young person does not have a firm commitment to Christ and to the truth of the Christian faith, values will have no binding authority, and we should not expect that they would. Most of our neighbors have some commitment to Christian values, but what they desperately need is salvation from their sins. This does not come by Christian values, no matter how fervently held. Salvation comes only by the gospel of Jesus Christ.The article presented a story of a 16-year-old girl who was raised in the church and said "I don't think I believe in God anymore" to her mother, who understandingly panicked. The mother's number one sense of loss in this situation was for her daughter's morals and manners. The article replies to this concern saying, "Hell will be filled with people who were avidly committed to Christian values. Christian values cannot save anyone and never will."
Being righteous does not mean being right. It does not at all mean superiority. Being righteous means that God has credited a certain supernatural capacity into a child's life, to bear with life and experience victory to the praise of God. Every other moral or virtuous code that does not give the glory to God's supernatural enabling is what Revelation describes as Lukewarm. Rev. 3:14-21,
‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.The question I ask myself is this: Are "Christian manners and morals" inadvertently teaching my children to be self-sufficient from God's righteousness?
"But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matt. 6:33). I totally trust Jesus' righteousness to make my kids moral and mannered!
Here are some basic truths about righteousness for the Christian parent to read and digest. You might not be able to pass the teachings below directly on to your children, but hopefully they will help you read passages from the Bible to your children with an angle of revealing His Kingdom to them.
I used to believe that once I got saved, God dumped all Christ's righteousness into me, into my spirit. So the righteousness I had when I got saved is Me-Centric. But that would mean that once I'm saved I no longer are in need of God in order to be increasingly transformed. This was a wrong belief. Even after salvation, righteousness is not Me-Centric, it is still in-Christ, it is Christ-centric.
Isn't that a great picture?
How then am I connected through salvation to Christ, where His righteousness dwells? Legally it's mine, the righteousness and holiness I need is in an account that Christ has set up for me to use. But the salvation funds have not been transferred in to the way I live unless I approach God by faith continually and ask Him to give it to me.
How are the righteousness funds transferred?
They are transferred through faith. Sometimes most specifically through asking God directly, even knocking diligently by prayer to have them. If there is a Christian parent here who is reading and knows way down deep that God is elusive and distant and you can't seem to break through the barrier, don't give up on God or on His credits toward you. They are there and they are definitely yours because of Jesus. For me too sometimes He expects me to directly ask Him to be kind toward me, and help me in the name of Jesus. Even at these most difficult moments, God has always given me the righteousness for which I asked. He is good!
Look at the picture of water below. The water is righteousness. Faith is the straw. Faith is the conduit through which what you seek is given to you.
Faith is the way we were saved and it is also the same conduit through which we are being made holy. Here is another graphic illustration on where righteousness comes from.
Children may be able to understand that their life choices are like erecting a building. 1 Corinthians 3:9-15 says,
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.As a parent, I want my children to consider having their life's choices tested by God's holy fire. The quick and easy answers here, are, first - no one can lose their salvation based on their performance as a Christian (See the cross in the building above? The foundation has been laid; see Ephesians 1:13).
Second - when your child yields to the Holy Spirit and allows God to lead them by faith, those building materials (life choices) construct more building onto the corner foundation of their salvation. Works done in the Spirit are God Himself at work and obviously will endure eternally because there is no sin or imperfection in them.
Third - when your child does things in his own strength or his own ideas and purposely excludes God, those life choices are like hay and stubble - they also add building onto their foundation. However with fire they disintegrate. More, they are the materials which make the fire hotter. Everyone will pass through that fire, yet every child of God is guaranteed to pass through to the other side and live. See the cross stones embedded in the picture above? Those are the materials at minimum that are guaranteed to pass without burning up.
Lastly - if my children have any sort of edifice remaining after the Day of testing by fire, then over those life-choices they will eternally experience the joy of their LORD.
Deploy and Debrief
Devotions with kids can quickly become busy work, another task to lay upon our already busy lives. May I suggest another model that I believe works: Help children hear Jesus deploying them out with power on a mission just like He sent His disciples in the Gospels. And just like the disciples, children need to come back in to our huddles to debrief. Debrief means to report on what happened and what it means. Instead of scripting out their Christian experience through a book written by a best-seller, I want them to discover God in the day they share with me.
I don't want to parent them as much as possible. When they present a problem to me, I want God to fix it in replacement of me. When they are sad about a friend who can't come to AWANA, I want to ask them to pray about that person coming, rather than try and arrange seats in the minivan for them as just another thing that I do for them. When they are scared about laying in bed at night, I would rather them pray than find comfort from mom sitting in their room another night. The more they turn to Him, the less pressure I have as an adult. And, most importantly, we become a family of coequal-servants of Christ.
I do not want my children reading the Bible like homework. The tone of approaching scripture should come from interest to approach God Himself. When I interact afterward with what my child has read from the Bible, I should but rarely ask them comprehension questions. "What was the man's name in the story?" "What did God tell this person to do?" Why do I suggest comprehension questions are a bad thing? Because it teaches them to read the Bible like scientists observe nature. It trains them to think the major point of any passage is to answer the five Ws (who, what, why, when, and how). My kids come home angry about looking at a Bible. They say, "uhh, I already know the stories Mom!" That breaks my heart. Instead, they should be reading it to hear what God is saying to them and to respond in their daily life, to choose something differently because of what they have seen and heard of God. The best answers come by asking the best questions. I try my best to do this for them.
I respect what God wants to do through them and I make sure not to invade any space that God wants to have to reach their hearts.
Uprightness of a child is one who, though he fails God 7 times, he rises back into the presence of God 8. No accusation from the enemy will blind this child's eyes from trusting that God is the only one, the best one and the sufficient one to advocate for their soul.
I accidentally left out prayer. My friend Chelsy has a heart for Christian mothers to pray for their children, and she has imparted a godly example to me.