Friday, May 23, 2014

THESE ARE THE YEARS

I had the privilege of sharing some thoughts at a baby shower a couple of months ago. I think the message is one that I need to be reminded of regularly so I thought I would share them.

"According to Barna Research in an article entitled, How Teenagers' Faith Practices Are Changing:
  • teenagers are much less inclined toward spirituality than were teens a dozen years ago
  • teenagers today seem much less inclined to have spiritual conversations about their faith in   Christ with non-believers

 In their article What Makes Faith Stick During College?, Sticky Faith states:
  • studies indicate that 40 percent to 50 percent of all youth group graduates fail to stick with their faith or connect with a faith community after high school.

 In 5 Reasons Millennials Stay Connected to ChurchBarna Research also shows:
  • 6 in 10 people born between 1984 and 2002 (the Millennials) that grew up in a Christian home will walk away from their faith.

  • Only ¼ of 18-29 year olds are practicing Christians (attending church at least 1x per month). (most evangelical churches I know wouldn't even consider that “practicing” – I wonder what percentage attend church 1x/week?)

 To address growing and concerning trends, Ken Ham has written  Already Gone – “Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it.”

So you may be wondering why I am talking to you about teenagers and young adults, when you've just added a beautiful baby to your family and your other children are so young.

I am sure that you have often heard that you should enjoy this time because it goes so fast – it’s true  it does go fast…WAY too fast. But when we are in the midst of 

the diapers 
and 
nursing or bottles 
and
crying
 and
the never ending dependence 
we sometimes long for the next stage. 

And
 when they are
little and learning 
and
need help with everything 
from
washing hands 
to
 wiping bottoms
to
 math and spelling
and
 we long for respite in what comes next.

 And
 when we have to deal
with growth spurts
 and
hormone changes
 and
attitudes
 that make you wonder what happened to that sweet child from yesterday. 

Don’t wish this stage away. 

Our children are on loan to us for a very short period of time and we have a job to do. 

Enjoy the gift and the blessing of these days and these stages and use what God has given you to fulfill His call on your life to instill into their lives.

These are the years that we have to invest and instill into our children’s lives.

According to a national survey from the Search Institute measuring the top five people with the most significant religious influence through the teen years –

 the number one influence

 averaging at about 75%

 is….

MOM 

.......followed by dad in the low 50 percentile. 

(I noted that the church influences – pastor/elder/SS teacher/camp counselor – all are around 20-25%. This doesn't negate the Body of Christ - we are called to encourage one another. To train. To teach. To gather. So even if you have no children or are before or beyond the child raising years, I am still speaking to you!)

I strongly believe that the relationship that we build during the childhood years sustains our children during the transitional teens and further carries over into a strong influence in the young adult years. This time is crucial for their growth and development and laying a foundation for our children in their spiritual walk.



The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 says:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, 
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 
and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

When we read this verse often think of missions trips and third world countries where they don’t have to deal with the Polar vortex.  A vacation in the sunny south spreading a little of the Good News sounds nice but could I challenge you that the “nations” aren't just a continent away but are right outside your bedroom door? (Potentially banging at the most inopportune moments..... but there they are the nations of whom we are called to make disciples).

It is easy to get caught up in:

the shopping 
and 
the bill paying
and
the laundry
and 
the cleaning 
and 
the providing for 
and 
the just doing of the “stuff” 
(don’t get me wrong clean underwear and hydro with which to do said cleaning are crucial) 

We can so fill our hours that we lose track of what is important.

And even with what is important we can fill our time so full of every meeting and Bible study and Christian service activity. We can cram our “extra hours” with good spiritual activities that we lose sight of what is important. We see this in the story of Mary and Martha. Martha was busy doing – I am sure she was a wonderful cook and her home was well cared for but she was missing out on the communion with her Lord. 

Attending the meetings of the assembly are good and important we are told not to forsake the gathering together of ourselves. 

Using the gifts God has given us IS important but all of these things CANNOT be at the expense of our own spiritual walk and the relationships with our spouse and our children.

WE have a duty to preach the gospel to our children. 

At the end of the day, if I fail to introduce my children to the Saviour, I have failed. 

I want to take a moment to clarify because I want to be sure that no one hears judgement in my words. 

I have heard from many sources “God doesn't have grandchildren”. This is true. Our children will not inherit our salvation or ride into heaven on our coattails. 

We cannot force our children to believe - to choose to become followers of Christ. They can repeat a prayer and it mean nothing. 

I remember when my girls were little overhearing an eager McKenna threatening Braelyn with consequences if she didn't repeat “the prayer”. Mc understood salvation was important but didn't yet understand that it is more than words. Matthew 12:34 says

"Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks."

We can only introduce them to the Lord but we cannot force a friendship. 
We can encourage them in their walk but we cannot walk it for them. 

They are responsible with what they choose and they will stand before Him to give their own account. We will give our account. Will it be wood, hay and stubble - the non eternal or gold, silver and precious stones...eternal investments.

We need not to hold onto guilt but only to be faithful.

Deuteronomy 11:18-20 says

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates,

It isn't a daily check list:

  • Framed Scripture verse in every room…..................................CHECK
  • Read a verse over breakfast…(in between yelling about the spilled milk and the need to get teeth brushed)….................................................................CHECK
  • Listened to Adventures in Odyssey in the car…..................................CHECK
  • Prayed over all our meals out-loud(even the ones in public….woohoo getting a little radical)…….................................................................CHECK
  • Another car ride oooooh! We can mix it up with some Christian music……BONUS CHECK for each additional trip
  • Bedtime prayers and even possibly a devotion story….................................CHECK

Certainly sending your child to a Christian School deserves some extra CHECKS for expense and homeschooling deserves some for the sacrifice of time and sanity.

rather this is a way of life. God’s Word should be so indwelt in our minds and hearts that it naturally pours out in what we say and how we live.

There is a saying that is commonly attributed to Saint Frances of Assisi – he didn't actually say it but I think the saying has some merit. 

“Preach Christ always, use words if you must.” 

I have heard that saying denounced by believers. I understand. We ARE to PREACH Christ. We often hear another saying that we accept more readily “actions speak louder than words”. If my preaching of Christ and the sharing of my faith isn't supported by the life I lead – even in the safety and comfort of my own home, where I am more real than anywhere else on earth - then there is a problem. And the people who see that disconnect more than anyone, are my husband and my children.

I am not perfect. WE are not perfect but I think we often get so focused on what is on the outside, what people see, that we don’t focus on the inside and what truly matters.

One of the recent speakers said

 "If we are only raising our children to be obedient we are raising Pharisees.” 

Obedience is important but a heart surrendered to Christ is more important. Out of that heart flows true obedience.

If I wear a head covering in meeting but have a rebellious un-submitted spirit – it is just a piece of cloth.

Mark Holman, in his book Faith Begins At Home says 

“As parents we pass on things to our children every day. They’re watching us, learning from us and emulating us. The question is not ARE we passing things on to our children but what are we passing on to our children?”

Dr. David Anderson once asked a group of parents 

“How many of you wish your teenager had a stronger faith?” 

every hand in the room went up. He then made a comment that I’ll never forget. He said,

“While it’s good that everyone desires that our teenagers have a stronger faith,. The truth is that what we see in our teenagers’ faith is a mirror image of our own faith. So the issue is not their faith but your faith.”

I don’t think it is ever too late to grow in your faith and influence your children but I think that growing your walk with the Lord in a vibrant and living, visible relationship is the best foundation and example that you can provide your children. Your life as an offering supporting the gospel that you are preaching to the nations within your reach –that is a fulfillment of the Great commission and the call on your life to raise up your children.

May God richly bless you as you reflect Him to your children in your marriage and your home.

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I am the very blessed wife of my best friend. The humble mother of five precious children. Walking a life-road that is more amazing than I could ever imagine.
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