“Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house were tensions and frustrations. What a rouse!
The hurts and offenses from long long ago seemed just under the surface. Things were ready to blow.”
Does this, in some measure, describe your family Christmas each year? Are you concerned about the gathering over the next few days? You are not alone. It isn't just your family. In fact even in the Bible we see family conflict from the first family (Cain murdered his brother Able) right on to the family of Jesus himself. If you study the families of historical heroes in the faith, missionaries and even pastors, you’ll find conflict to one degree or another. Why? We are all sinners. We irritate each other at the very best and “bite, devour and destroy one another” (Galatians 5:15) at worst.
So how do we handle tough family situations during the Holidays when it is supposed to be a time of love, joy and peace? A time to cherish the memories of each other’s company, yet it is filled with strife? Certainly there are an infinite number of situations. This post is not intended as a “cure-all” article nor do we want to minimize your family’s needs by trying to tackle them in a short blog post. However, we want to offer some basic Bible principles and a few practical ideas that may be of help.
1. Love your family. Jesus said that our love for family must be secondary to our love and devotion to him. He also said to love our enemies and those who spitefully hurt us. In order to love Jesus and honor him, we must love our families. What does this love look like though in practical terms? Does it mean we open ourselves or our children up to physical or spiritual harm? No! However, It does mean that we love biblically. Study 1 Corinthians 13 for a refresher on what this means. We suggest you seek wise biblical counsel from a pastor or godly friend for help in your particular situation especially if it is involves an abusive situation.
2. Pray. Pray for yourself. Pray that you will show grace, love, patience, mercy and reflect Christ and his actions toward those who hurt him. Pray also for the family members who cause problems. Seek God's help diligently about the whole situation through serious prayer.
3. Open neutral lines of communication. The Christmas visit probably isn't the best time to confront or rebuke. Instead, perhaps you could make an actual list of topics you can chat about which you know will be neutral. Try crafts or hunting and fishing. What about new apps you've found for your phone? Recipes, pets, new restaurants… the list could go on, but think ahead about it and write it down. Maybe write it in a note on your smartphone so you can discreetly refer to it when needed in the middle of the room or in the car.
4. Don’t preach. Again, this probably isn't the time to correct, advise or rebuke. If frustrating topics arise, do your best to suggest postponing the conversation. Have a plan of action for politely walking away. (I have to email a friend for Christmas, wrap a gift, check on the kids…) Do your part to avoid tense subjects especially if you’re prone to being a confronting type person.
5. Limit the time. Plan ahead to limit your time together. Don’t over-stay. Planning ahead allows you to politely let them know you’ll only be staying for a few hours or just for a meal. If family is coming to your house, plan something ahead that you’ll be involved in after the family visits. Invite others over at a certain time so the family members in question will need to leave etc. This is not being rude. It is planning to avoid conflict.
6. Plan activities. Perhaps you can visit a local landmark together. Go to dinner at a neutral place in public. You can plan crafts with the kids, outdoor or indoor games or watching a Christmas movie. Avoid down time where people are bored, restless or have opportunity for negative conversation and/or arguments. Keep the flow of activity moving with things that give options to keep minds and talk active with positive subjects.
7. Create Space. If possible, plan ahead for times of space for yourself and/or your family while still visiting. Maybe you’ll take the kids for some last minute shopping or to a McDonald’s Play Place. Plan a walk or run each day. Plan to call a friend for Christmas which takes you away into a private room for a short time. Bring a project to work on with the kids – a model or craft. Whatever it is. Plan ahead to create some space so tensions can ease. Space allows you and them time throughout the visit cool down.
We fully realize that these few suggestions could seem trite depending on how difficult things are for you. We hope not, but we do want you to know that we realize that the Christmas and New Year’s holidays are not always “the most wonderful time of year” and we care. If we can be of help to you or your family, please contact us and talk with us. We care and we believe the Bible can bring hope to your situation.
Learn More About How Victory Can Help Your Struggling Boy
Watch a Video about Victory Academy for Boys
Read more from Mark Massey and our Team
5 Phrases That You Can Give to Make Christmas Awesome This Year
Victory Academy for Boys - A Well Kept Secret for Too Long
Making Time to Train Your Teen Before They Are Gone
The question of this article rests with our need to be attentive to and help our children learn to choose wisely as they are being bombarded by a plethora of temptations and influences.
Deuteronomy 6 shows that biblical parents are to be attentive to the influences that impact their children. I would assume that all good parents are concerned, if not worried, about the influences that are incessantly crowding in on their children. In today’s culture (as it always has been) it is a justified concern, if not worry. Influences and temptations have been a problem since the Garden of Eden. Certainly, we can start our own list as we look at the degradation of American culture. Whether it is people, ideas, media, or Google searches, influences bombard our souls.
Take a thorough look at what influences are weighing heavily on your child’s thinking. As you work through that study, look carefully at what is revealed about his values and the motivations of his heart. You want to know the “why’s” as they reveal the real him, who he really is. I John 2:16 says that the temptations of our world are at least threefold: things that appeal to our flesh (feel good), things that appeal to our sight (look good-could be inner satisfaction), and things that appeal to our arrogance. Each of those arenas of temptation appeals to our inner-man, our heart. In this passage, the Apostle John frames the concept as our “love.” It is at the Heart level, where “loves,” motivations, and values are formulated, that you want to engage and influence them with God and His Truth.
How do we become an “influence manager” in the lives of our kids? A business manager is tasked with identifying problems and solution processes, as well as organizing and utilizing all resources to produce a stated goal or outcome for the owner. As an Influence Manager, we are working for God in the life of His child. That fact should bring us to a greater level of focus and commitment to the task of parenting. God tasks us to bring Truth to bear on our child’s thinking so the influences that they face are seen clearly for what they are. So, we want to “manage” the influences by making sure our kids have their eyes wide open to the dangers and blessings in the many “voices” that are impacting their thinking. Our goal is our children’s spiritual and physical success, which will be a result of their thinking. Lessons about influences are clearly laid out in the commands and detail of Deuteronomy 6-11.
In Deuteronomy 6 and following, we see the commands to:
Set Your Stage--
The “stage” of your own personal pursuit of Loving God with all of your heart is where your influence plays out. While it would be great to just demand that they not listen to certain influencers, that would only work in a perfect police state…so, the key is to have the opportunity (the stage) to help your son or daughter learn which influencers to listen to and ones from which to guard their hearts (see Proverbs 4:23).
Foundationally, as biblical parents, we first have to be concerned with loving (think worshipping) and obeying God ourselves. We have to make that personal choice to love God with all that we are and then live that love out in obedience to His word (commands) (v5). God’s command to love Him is the prerequisite to teaching and training your children in the same spiritual issues of obedience and worship. Honoring God is the only way you can be the influence that God has called you to be (v6-7). Otherwise, your influence is part of what is drawing them away from God. When we don’t love (worship) God and pursue obedience to Him, it is like we are smoking our own brand of flesh and then trying to tell our kids to quit smoking the brand they like…They probably won’t buy the drama…
Engage the Heart--
There is no better way to get a full, robust picture of your kids’ hearts than to spend copious amounts of time with them. A lack of time engaging our kids’ hearts often results on us forming assumption-based conclusions and corrections. Some parents worry about what their children are doing on Friday night. I have to ask why those parents aren’t doing something with their children on Friday night? You must take time to be around to see the influences. Those will be influences that you physically see and those that you see the results of in your kids’ thinking and actions.
One of the biggest struggles I hear about is that a son or daughter won’t let the parent influence him at heart level. They won’t listen to them or maybe even flat out tell them to get out of their life and leave them alone. Though I plan to give an entire article to this in the near future, the short answer is that the parent of the struggling kid often must start small with kind, loving words, then work his way up to dates and creating special events and opportunities to spend time together. It may be that you are at a place where there aren’t a lot of opportunities to say positive, heart level words. Pray for and look for opportunities to get in those positive comments and kind actions. They know they are hard to live with and you have the opportunity to show the supernatural fruit of God’s Spirit at work in you (producing patience, kindness, gentleness, etc). Proverbs 20:5 highlights the truth that we have to become wise, carefully, discerningly working to prove that we are trustworthy enough for our children to open their hearts to us. It will take time to really study your child as well as deep thinking on your part. It will take a serious investment of “you” to prove your unconditional love. It is that level of love that compels us to love and honor God and it is that same level of love that provokes a humble and loving response from our children. Understand that it may have been a long time, if you have ever seen that response from your child, but the same is true of God’s relationship with us…yet Christ was and is faithful to pursue us.
Train with the Word--
The Deuteronomy passage is crystal clear that the Words (commands) of God are to be a central part of our lives.
Challenge their Worship—We need to look for opportunities to challenge our children in positive ways regarding the temptations (by influencers) they face to worship something other than God. When we position ourselves between our kids and their influences we parent by authority (and we can find that there are influencers that we miss or can’t quite block our kids from). We can also look like we are facing off against them and the influencers become a way to get away from us. When we position ourselves beside our kids, pointing them toward God we are in a better position to influence. God lays out some of the key areas that we need to train/challenge our children to make good decisions about things that affect their worship of God. Here are three that are predominate ones in Deuteronomy (for an old-school pastoral play on words I titled them "Whine, Women, and Worldliness").
Though you may have come to this article looking for a way to control the influences that your kids face, I hope you have been drawn to a greater challenge, one that also rests at the core of our children’s (and our) greatest need; to learn to “love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all your soul, and all your mind” (Mathew 22:37). Becoming an Influence Manager is about coming alongside and helping our children learn to love and worship God amidst the temptations and influences of our world.
Here are more helpful articles from Victory...
Depending on a child's personality type, they may act in different ways when faced with problems and challenges. Some act out in anger and aggression while others begin to shy away from family and friends, become very depressed and reclusive. Those who act in anger seem to get noticed first. An effort is made to help. Those who become quiet and discouraged often go unnoticed for longer periods of time. Here are 9 Biblical ways to help defeat depression.. We hope you'll read them all, but at least scroll through the list below and allow God to use some of them to help you help your teen. You are not alone in your struggle.
Sinful sexuality has likely existed since shortly after the Fall of Man, and though nearly every ancient culture has embraced sexual debauchery on a national scale, America is relatively new to the practice.
The Sexual Revolution that started in the 1920’s primarily affected the lower class and fringe citizens. Promoted by those fighting for their right to get drunk, this dingy, back-room thinking was still considered base and dirty by the average American. Young people were easily sheltered from its effects.
However, the Sexual Liberation of the 1960’s had a different impact. Even though they focused on more extreme forms of sexuality, they managed to force their beliefs into a much wider slice of mainstream thinking. There wasn’t a class or demographic that wasn’t affected by the shifting tide of sexual thought. This made it far more accessible and culturally acceptable — especially to young people.
But the Sexual Explosion of the 2000’s hasn’t merely pile-driven its way into the majority of American homes . . . it’s highjacked our families. Today, sinful sexuality is not only considered acceptable by the majority of teens and young adults, but it’s the practical life-blood of our culture. In fact, to reject the Sexual Explosion’s teachings is to be considered abnormal, intolerant, and worthless.
At every turn our children are being led to believe that lifestyles that were once viewed as perverted and/or sinful for thousands of years are now the generally accepted norm. And it only took less than 50 years to do it.
What’s the danger our children are facing, and what can we parents do about it?
A number of years ago I predicted on Facebook that if homosexuals won the legal right to “marry,” people with all sorts of aberrant sexual fantasies would come begging for their piece of the pie. I proposed that gay “marriage” would be remembered by history as little more than the gateway drug for a dynamic sexual explosion in America. And though I had gay-rights advocates booing my prophecy, it took less than a year for my prediction to come true. But now, given the massive push in transgenderism, I believe we need to broaden our predictions and consider the implication all of this will have on our families. I believe that — barring an act of God — your children will see the following forms of sexuality legalized (or at least generally accepted) in their lifetime.
So, what does this mean for our families?
Lord willing, these predictions will be wrong. We’ll see. But I don’t think so.
Consider Romans 1:24-32, “God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”
At the same time, we need to hold on to sanctified optimism. God can do anything and everything He sees fit. We’ve seen great spiritual awakening and revival many times in this nation. Perhaps the Lord will see fit to use His people to affect such a change before we die. That would be amazing, and I’d be happy to be proven wrong. Remember, this prediction can only come true “barring an act of God.” May we all be used as that act of God. Of course, today the real concern is not what the world is going to do, but what we need to do to prepare our children for the attack. Even if the predictions above don’t come true in our children’s lifetime, there are more than enough sexual attacks barraging them. How do we prepare our three year old, our thirteen year old, and yes, even our twenty-three year old?
Here are the two most powerful suggestions I can give you.
1. Talk about Biblical Sexuality Early and Often.
For decades, the “birds and bees” was an awkward discussion had in an awkward way at an awkward time because no one wanted to deal with it — and they didn’t really know how. May I say, that was an atrocity. In fact, I’m going out on a limb to say that parents not talking about sexuality from a biblical perspective early and often helped to lay the groundwork for the Sexual Revolution. Christian parents weren’t telling theirs kids about sex, so the world did it for them. This — in turn — led to the Sexual Explosion of the new millennium. However, I do understand our hesitancy. The idea of introducing a potentially destructive thing like sexuality into the pure mind of an otherwise innocent child is petrifying.
But it’s also a lie. None of the things I wrote above are actually true. The first and worst claim I made was that sexuality is an impure, destructive entity. Sexuality is just like everything else in this world — it was created to be a perfect and beautiful part of the human experience, but sin has corrupted it. Yes, it can be used to destroy, but when we scare kids into thinking that sex is wicked, we’re lying to them about how God created them and the plan He has in store for them.
Another major lie of which we try to convince ourselves is that our children’s minds are “pure.” Our children’s minds aren’t pure. They’re full of selfish lusts. And if we define “pure” as free of sexual thoughts, we will be surprised that they’re not pure in that context either. God created us to be sexual beings within the right relational context, and we’re not 100% certain when those drives and desires kick in. For some children, they start thinking sexual thoughts around puberty, but for others it can happen as early as kindergarten or sooner. I’m not even referring to the sexual thoughts that have been imposed from the outside. I’m just discussing the natural desires and thoughts that organically arise in a child’s mind because they’re human. I know that’s daunting to consider, but we mustn’t fool ourselves into thinking they are “innocent” just because they’re young. I think most of us just need to pause and try to remember our first sensual thoughts.
The third lie I spoke was the idea that I’ll be the first one to introduce sexuality to my children. That’s impossible. It doesn’t matter if you homestead in Montana, there will always be husbands and wives who kiss, babies being born, barn dances, and countless other looks, posturing, films, songs, and books that hint at, flirt with, and subconsciously point to the sexual reality in all human beings. Please, do not avoid the topic of sexuality with your kids because you don’t want to be the first to sully their pristine minds with wicked thoughts of sex. None of that is true. I’ve been introducing sexuality to my children since they were old enough to understand language. The key isn’t whether to deal with it, the key is how. And as long as you deal with it biblically, there’s plenty of material in the Bible itself, and plenty more material that was founded on it. As an example, you can’t get through the first few chapters of Genesis before you encounter men, women, nakedness, marriage, sex, sin, shame, and child-bearing. Allow the Scriptures to be your starting point as you train your children in God’s Word.
But there are also great resources that provide a script.
2. We need to encourage others to talk about it early and often.
Not only has Christian culture convinced us that we shouldn’t talk about sexuality with our kids, many people have totally outlawed anyone talking to our kids about sexuality. I’ve preached in Christian schools where sexuality was completely off the table for anyone — including the teachers and pastors in the school. I’ve met parents who refuse to send their children to purity conferences like the ones that evangelist Ben Schettler organizes. This is a travesty! We need trustworthy men and women speaking Truth into our children’s lives. Why would we forbid them from addressing this topic? Because we’re afraid. But God has not given us a spirit of fear. He’s provided us a spirit of love and a sound, mature mind. Yes, we need to be wise, but why do we shy away from this topic? The world is pushing it down their throats!
I live in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, fifteen minutes past nowhere. I need to drive 45 minutes into another state to get to the closest Walmart. And yet, my family has seen all of the following while at Walmart: teens making out, homosexual couples, a man dressed as a woman, magazines featuring pictures and words all about sex, music that discusses sex, posters, movies, books, calendars, games, and makeup advertisements using sex to sell. And we were only there for 45 minutes! If you take your child to Barnes and Noble, swing through the children’s section, and head straight to the cash registers, your kids will see a number of things, not the least of which is a Playboy magazine sitting right at their eye level when the reach the check-out.
We must not fail our children in providing them a substantial, foundational, unmovable, and unashamedly biblical groundwork for sexuality. We need to speak that truth into their lives, and we need to enlist other God-fearing men and women to do the same.
This is why, every year, we take the students at Victory Academy on a week long snowshoe retreat. During that retreat we discuss God’s plan for satisfaction, and we relate it to everything from food to money to sexuality. We’re doing everything we can to help parents in the daunting task of training their children to understand God’s plan for sexuality. We’re also creating a sexual addictions curriculum to help everyone break the chains of sin in their lives.
If we’re not careful, Christians will lose this battle. But we’ll only lose it because we’re ill-equipped and afraid. The world system has all of its bullet-points orchestrated perfectly with its entertainment system to keep their philosophy of sex ever before your children . . . regardless of the age. Homosexuality, transgenderism, pornography, polygamy, incest, pedophilia, and bestiality are just some of the issues your children are and will be faced with in every imaginable venue. But the Bible offers everything we and our children need for life and godliness. It exposes us to genuine, all-consuming satisfaction the world cannot counterfeit. Hope lies in God’s Truth.
Train up your children in God’s Word to prepare them to successfully meet the temptations of the world.
For specific help for the sexual temptation attacking your home, here are some resources:
Victory Academy for Boys is a boarding school that specializes in ministering to boys who are engaged in sexual sin.
Victory Academy for Boys produces the Victory Digest, which is a compilation of articles and links to various parenting materials that help parents think and parent from a biblical worldview.
Victory Academy for Boys produces Parent.Point, which is our monthly blog of helpful articles written by our staff.
WildHeart Adventure Camp is a Christian adventure camp devoted to teach young men how to have a passion for God and adventure. We take three weeks to train our campers in three core areas: spirit, skills, and service.
I host a podcast called Truth.Love.Parent. We discuss everything you can imagine when it comes to God and family. Many of our episodes deal with sexuality. You can click here to subscribe to TLP on iTunes, or you can click on the individual episodes below to listen to them in iTunes.
We see often see in Scripture the saints of God in times of suffering. Adam and Eve suffered the murder of their son by his own brother. Job suffered the loss of almost all he had. The faithful Christians in Revelation suffered and even in Heaven seem to question why they were not being avenged for their suffering. Hebrews 11 has a whole list of suffering saints. We are faced with the question of why God’s children suffer if an all-powerful God loves and cares for them. Though that seeming dilemma is not the point of this article, a few quick notes may lead you to further help and study.
1. Sin. We live in a sin-cursed world. Romans 8:22 reminds us that all Creation groans because of sin. In addition, the consequences of our own personal sin often bring pain. The sins of others can bring heartache, too.
2. Strangers. We are strangers in this world. Hebrews 11:13 reminds us that this world is not our home. This is not our place of rest. We can’t expect to be too comfortable here. Heaven is our resting place.
3. Sons. We are sons of God. Therefore God, as a loving Father, brings suffering at times to discipline us in order that it may yield the “peaceable fruit of righteousness” in our lives (Hebrews 12).
4. Satan. Job 1 allows us to see that Satan and his minions are allowed by God to bring about hard times for God’s children in order to bring glory to God. Always remember though, that God’s glory and the good of his children are eternally bound together. Our good does not suffer to bring God glory.
5. Selfishness. Although a derivative of #1 above, it still should be mentioned, because the selfishness of those we love (as well as those we don’t even know) can cause great pain.
So, Here Are The 5 Ways We Can Learn to Give Thanks Even When Life Is Hard
1. Relinquish control to God’s sovereign plan, knowing that He is never out of control. Even with the problem of sin and evil, God overrules and works all things for our good as we become more like Christ.
2. Rest in God’s wisdom and love. God is all-wise. He knows the end from the beginning and is always acting in love toward us, His children. We often cannot see that when in suffering, yet we can understand it when we compare parenting to God’s love. As a parent allows a non-understanding, crying baby to undergo surgery, an immunization shot, or other pain for ultimate healing or good, so God does the same. As the parent would not love the child if he/she stopped the pain, so God would not fully love us if He did not allow what was best.
3. Run to His Word. God’s Word, the Bible, contains “all things that apply to life and godliness.” We open it to find the truths we need, and we depend upon His Spirit to lead us in applying it to our situation and to our hearts personally.
4. Reach out to others. In the midst of our pain, it is helpful to serve others. Serving helps us get our focus off of our suffering. It is an encouragement to know that we have helped others and been used by God to bring joy to them. Even during Jesus’ suffering on the cross, He was mindful of His mother’s needs.
5. Share your burden. Don’t substitute fellowship with others for time with God; but if at all possible, find a close Godly friend who will faithfully listen and point you back to God’s truth when your faith begins to waiver. Confide in your church family to find healing and strength. God works through the body of Christ, the church. If you don't have a church home, we would love to fellowship with you and strive to encourage you during these hard times.
If you feel that Victory Academy may be part of the solution for your family or if you just need some Biblical advice on struggling teens, we are here to help. Contact us.
Other Articles and Info you may be interested in:
10 Suggestions to Help Stop the Yelling at Home
7 Biblical Ways to Begin 2015 to Be the Best Parent You Can Be.
10 Conversation Starters for You and Your Teen
Why We All Need Counseling
Victory Academy for Boys - A Well Kept Secret For Too Long
Tucked into one of the most common Scriptures on parenting is a foundational truth that is often overlooked. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Usually we either focus on “the way he should go,” or on “when he is old he will come back to God (so don’t worry about his choices as a teenager). Sometimes we focus on the “train up” procedures themselves. Whatever our focus as we attempt to interpret and apply this verse, many of those whose children “turned out” read this verse and have feelings of smugness at their success. Others whose children didn’t “turn out” ponder this verse with feelings of guilt or shame. Those who are facing a teen in rebellion sometimes cling to this verse in the hopes that they will someday come back to God.
Rather than get hung up on how this verse makes us feel, or whether this proverb is meant to be a concrete truth or a general principle, I would like to zero in on one key element of the training spoken of in this verse, the trainer and his training. The subject of the training is elementary. It is training in righteousness. That most certainly is “the way he should go.” But what that training looks like is seldom pondered, and thus seldom practiced.
If we can understand what that training is to look like, the rest of the verse becomes much clearer. We know the subject of the training is holiness/righteousness. That certainly is “the way he should go.” The question is how do we go about the process of training? This is the only instance in Scripture where the Hebrew word hanak is translated “train up.”[i] It is usually translated “dedicate.” The literal root meaning of the word is to narrow. When used in the context of dedicating/initiating buildings it means to narrow down the use of the building to a specific use, such as a temple or palace. This is the only verse where the word is referring to an action taken on a person. It is interesting that the other places it is used it has to do with consecration, dedication, initiation. The concept found in this word is that of narrowing the child’s thinking in such a way that he chooses the right way to go. By putting this training into its historical context, it takes on a much more comprehensive and colorful meaning than the simplistic interpretations that see the training to mean to “stimulate desire,” or even to nurture, and discipline. Though “training” certainly includes those ideas, many times the power is taken from this Scripture by thinking of this training so simply. The training is often glanced over and the “promise” of a great, spiritual child is grabbed.
Looking back into this historical/cultural context we can see that a parent in Israel probably would not have taken the “training” to be simply something that just happened. This “training” is active (as opposed to passive), and required special effort from the trainer. Perhaps Solomon is using this word to cause the people to connect the job of parenting to the great amount of work and commitment it took to build the Temple. The Temple was very carefully built. It was tedious construction. A lot of sweat went into it. This same concept could be used when talking about the training of a soldier who is put through a rigorous process that results in his being equipped and dedicated to military service. That kind of training requires that the trainer, or builder have the experience of life in those things he is teaching. He must also have good stamina, the endurance to stay at it to the end. He must also have a high level of personal commitment to the end product, be that the development and commissioning of the soldier or the completion and dedication of a building. Buildings are built with sweat and effort. Soldiers are readied for battle with a great amount of sweat and effort poured into their training.
Taking this understanding of the trainer into the spiritual realm, the parent who desires to train and/or dedicate his child to live God’s way must have those same elements of spiritual experience, spiritual stamina, and spiritual commitment. These are all needed because it takes a lot of holy sweat and effort on the part of the parents to see the child grow up to serve God with all his heart. We will need to experience a walk with God that compels our children to follow along in their own spiritual journey. Time spent with God’s Word and in prayer is a priceless element in the parenting equation. How could we expect to have stamina (endurance) in our spiritual lives if we aren’t growing spiritually through the power of the Word and prayer? Our spiritual experience has a lot to do with our spiritual endurance. Our children watch us. They know what we are committed to. They know what we are passionate about. There should be no doubt in their minds that you are passionate about spiritual things. We should be so passionate about spiritual things that we are committed to the pursuit of spiritual growth in our own lives first. Our pursuit of our own spiritual growth should foster a commitment to our children’s spiritual growth. That commitment should be unwavering. There should be no TV, vacation, house, car, or job that compromises our commitment to spiritual growth. Experience, stamina, and commitment are vital elements in being prepared to train up our children.
There are late night talks and prayer. There are hours of prayer for the wellbeing of a child. A plan for instruction in righteousness takes time and energy to develop and implement. There will be many hours of comfort sacrificed for the spiritual and relational wellbeing of the children. It will take time, lots of time. Someone once said, “I have pictures of my children in my wallet where I used to have money.” It will cost financially. Ultimately it costs us. We must give of ourselves in this process of training up our children. “Training,” as a concept in Proverbs 22:6 is more about how we train than about what we train. The how is by holy sweat. The what is “the way he should go.”
[i] Gleason Archer, Jr. in Exposition of Specific Passages in the Book of Proverbs elaborates on some of these points.
Here's more that you may find helpful.
Failure. It happens to everyone. Young or old, rich or poor, new Christian or seasoned Saint, there is no one who doesn’t find themselves humbled and grieved because of their own failure or the failure of someone they love. However, there is great hope. For the true child of God who has a real relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, failure is NEVER final. There are five reasons for this, and they are all wrapped up in the person and work of God through His Son Jesus Christ.
1. Failure is never final for the Christian because of His precious blood. Jesus died by shedding His sinless blood so that He could be the substitute for us. Christ took the wrath of God His Father upon Himself so that we could be forgiven. Because of this sacrifice, God promised restoration, cleansing, forgiveness, and mercy. Of course, Christians are already declared totally righteous for all eternity, but those of us who are believers still find ourselves in need of asking God’s forgiveness throughout this life. Our failures, accidental or purposeful, hinder our walk with God, and we need restoration, just as we do in earthly relationships when failure divides. 1 John 1:7-9 reminds us that “if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” John goes on to declare that if we try to hide or deny our failures, we are liars; but, if we confess our sin to him, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sin, bringing about greater holiness and restoration.
2. Failure is never final for the Christian because of His power. Ephesians 3:20 declares that we should thank and praise God because He is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” God has promised His power to help us sustain a godly life. Even when we feel totally defeated and discouraged, His power is greater and can do far above what we feel can be accomplished in and through us. In addition, 2 Peter 1:3 reminds us that God’s power is given to us so that we have everything we need to overcome failure and live a godly life. Yes, we fail, but God’s power never allows us to live consistently in a state of sinful failure. His power saves us from a life of failure!
3. Failure is never final for the Christian because of His punishing. In Hebrews 12, we are reminded that any true child of God who fails and then refuses to return to the Father will be pursued by God and disciplined, just as a loving father disciplines his children in order to draw them back to a right pattern of living.
4. Failure is never final for the Christian because of His plan. Romans 8:28-31 is encouraging, because God states that all things are working together to cause us to be more like Christ. Life is like a giant puzzle with infinite pieces, each of which is needed, and all of which come together to accomplish God’s plan. Some of those pieces even include our failures. God, although never responsible for our failures, mercifully allows our failures to strengthen us for the future and make us more conformed to the image of His Son. The book of Romans also reminds us that when sin increases and failure happens, grace always increases more and overcomes our failures (Romans 5:20). Knowing all this, even in the face of failure, we reach the same conclusion as the divinely inspired Apostle Paul. Writing in Romans 8:31-33, he states, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifies.” If all that weren’t enough encouragement in the face of failure, we can also rely on this promise of God in Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” No, God is not ever going to leave His children helpless in a state of failure. He has promised to save us from (not in) our sinful failures (Matt. 1:21).
5. Failure is never final for the Christian because of His presence. Hebrews 13:5 gives us yet another promise for our failure: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Often in failure we feel that God is angry and frustrated with us, and we may even feel forsaken or deserted by God. On the contrary, like the analogy of God our Father and the father in the story told by Jesus of the prodigal son in Luke 11:15-32, God eagerly awaits to forgive and restore us.
If you have failed and are discouraged, or if someone whom you love has failed, there is hope in Jesus Christ! Failure is never final for the Christian.
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For the Christian, Christmas is the grand celebration of the Glory of God coming down to earth. While it is quite natural to focus in on the humble baby in the manger, the grace of God displayed in the Creator humbling Himself to take on human flesh for the sake of a world of sinners like us should overwhelm the manger scene. The irony of the Splendor of Heaven leaving His throne to take on the confines of human flesh drive us to exalt (glorify) the God of all for His amazing grace. That said, the glory of God is one of the most challenging concepts for us mere mortals to comprehend. Throughout the Old Testament Scriptures we see snapshots of God’s glory in relationship to His physical splendor and righteous character. Those glimpses of God compel us trust and obey. Yet in those Old Testament accounts of do’s and don’ts it is easy for us to lose focus on the core character of God.
God is more than just the things He does. However, when we look at the motivations behind what He does, we get a glimpse of His nature, who He really is. The Apostle John lived with Jesus and watched Him build relationships and minister truth to people, and he recorded in 1 John 4:8 that “God is love.” In a very real way, the more we understand His love for us, the more we are driven to love Him. That is a foundational truth that can compel us to keep the Great Command to “love the Lord your God with all your heart….” Sharing our hearts is how we build strong relationships. It is super valuable to clearly understand who God is in His core nature. That is a concept that, given our broken mess of a darkened spiritual condition, can only be grappled with by looking at the Light of Life, Jesus of Nazareth.
Though before Jesus was born into human flesh, the Incarnation, we had record of how God acted and what He felt, it was Jesus becoming the Living Word in the flesh that opened the door, bringing the Light of Truth to our darkened understanding of who God is and gave us an in the flesh example of the loving nature of God Himself. As we look at Jesus’ life and how He handled the mundane judgments and decisions of daily life, we see the amazing grace of God’s heart. We literally got to see how God would live life as a human.
The Gospels record Jesus’ teachings on a number of daily life issues and His teachings are hard, counter-intuitive in some ways, yet starkly revealing God’s heart as He deals with man. His first sign miracle was recorded in John 2; he turned the water into wine at the wedding party. In that act, God in the flesh showed grace in the mundane daily needs at a family party. He cared about the simple things that his mother thought were important. So, how does God respond to our mundane daily needs? It appears that He cares enough to do something about them.
In John 4 we have another great picture as Jesus heals the official’s son. After listening to the official’s heartache over the imminent loss of his son, in an act of God’s amazing grace, Jesus heals him. Jesus is gracious to us in the heartaches and losses of life. That is great news for each of us as we have heartache and loss scattered throughout our lives.
The third picture is of Jesus’s glorious grace is found in John 8, where the scribes and Pharisees bring an adulteress woman to Jesus to try to trick Him into breaking Roman law and proclaiming that she should be killed (according to Jewish law), thus also showing him to be harsh and condemning. The game backfired on them as Jesus merely squats down and writes something in the sand. One by one the accusers leave and Jesus tells the woman to go on with life and stay out of sin. This record reveals that, even in the face of sinful people caught up in sinful situations, Jesus came to earth not to condemn, but to save (John 3:17). In this account we also see that Jesus came to deal with heart issues. Obviously Jesus was also concerned that the sinner turn away from the physical sin, but His focus was on the heart needs of the men that brought the woman to him. They were willing to sacrifice the woman to “get” Jesus. Two great truths can be gleaned here. God reads our hearts and convicts us on to make righteous choices.
Jesus’ glorious grace, displayed in human form, was the ultimate act of God’s gracious love for us. We rejoice in His birth, His life, His death, and His resurrection. His grace is displayed in our salvation and our sanctification. Someday we will be the ultimate display of His grace in our glorification (Eph. 1-3) in Heaven! Praise our glorious God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who came to show us His grace in the mundane, daily struggles of life. He came to show us how to glorify Him through the heartaches of loss. In the ultimate revelation of His grace, on the cross He was glorified to take on our sin and pay the price of our condemnation so we could glorify God with freedom from the bondage of sin.
How then, like the Apostle Paul, will we “live Christ” in our interactions with those we love? Will we meet out grace in our correction of sin in our children? Will we respond with humble grace in that relationship that has, so far, evoked anger and bitterness or disappointment? Will we reflect the Light of Life by graciously loving those around us, thus provoking them to see the glorious grace of our loving Lord?
Soli Deo Gloria! Glory to God Alone!
In my reflections on the 25 years of ministering here at Victory, I have great memories. I remember former students who have called my cell phone and just wanted to check in with me and see how I was doing. Once, after many years, a student from my second year here visited us. He, his wife, and baby girl were such a blessing. We had lunch, talked about their ministry and walk with God. Those calls, from Chicago and Utah, and the visits from former students brought me face to face with what Victory is all about. We are building relationships that go deep, reaching the hearts. We love these guys, really. The natural product of those relationships is heart influence. As Scripture is wrapped around the daily life here at Victory, their view of life is challenged and biblical answers are found to be true. That impacts the foundation of their worldview. That reveals the cracks in their self-focused worldview and brings light to the solid foundation of the biblical worldview. That impacts the inner man, the heart, life. As they see themselves as sinners in need of a savior, we then begin to show them the value of Christ and His work on the cross. When they see that at heart level, real growth of heart begins, life changes.
We have seen such good fruit in reaching the hearts of struggling young men that as I reflect, my adrenaline begins to flow and my focus is narrowed. Deep relationships have the ability to produce long-term influence and good fruit. Why I sometimes forget the sureness of the biblical sowing and reaping principle puzzles me. It puzzles me because one would think that by now I should recognize that correctly applying the Word of God produces good fruit. After all, good fruit is what those who are in Christ were designed to produce (Eph. 2:10). That is what God is in the business of doing in us. We recognize that we don’t see that fruit in every boy we work with, which reveals that our relationships didn’t get as deep as we wanted them to get. However, even with those we often see in the later years when they do finally grow up and commit themselves afresh to God, they call back and want us to pray, and they want to visit.
I have had the opportunity to work with well over a hundred young men in my time here. Many of those have gone on to succeed in life as policemen, firemen, missionaries, faithful employees, and great husbands and fathers. Today, in the day to day struggles of ministering to the guys we see little rays of hope as the light of the Word is shined on their hearts. That is what Victory is all about. We press on, influencing, reaching into one heart at a time, and seeing God work His work of changing lives from darkness to light.
Take some time to spend with your teen but don't just watch a movie or play a video game, TALK. Grab some coffee at Starbucks, go fishing, take a drive, go shopping or just take them out for their favorite meal.
Here are some conversation starters to help deepen the communication and make the time more meaningful.
1. Name three things you wanted as a kid but never got.
2. What was the happiest day of your life so far and why?
3. What is the dumbest purchase you ever made?
4. Which is better to you, $100 Million or true love?
5. If you wrote a book about your life, what would the title be? Why?
6. What kind of church do you think you’ll go to when you’re older?
7. What’s an area you feel I need to work on as a parent?
8. What’s the most difficult thing in the Bible for you to believe?
9. A Bible verse that has really stuck out to me lately is…
10. What friend has had the most impact on your life for God? Why?
So there are a few ideas to get you started. Make sure to make the questions / starters work both ways. Remember communication is a two-way street.
What other conversation starters have you found to work with your teens that may help other parents?
Leave a comment below or on Facebook.
Here are some other Parent Point Posts you may be interested in:
Making Time to Train Your Teen Before They're Gone.
Rules Without Relationship Equals Rebellion.
What Do Your Kids Think?
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Author & Editor
Author and Editor
We're a group of folks who love helping teens and families. We also love learning and sharing what God has taught us in our over 50 cumulative years of working with families and teens.