The idea is stunning and magnificent. It’s much more significant than “the mechanic with us” or “the heart surgeon with us” or the “preschool teacher with us.”
Now, you may know a preschool teacher or a mechanic who’s a lot of fun to be around, but — generally speaking — there will come a time when they have to go. Christmas break is often enjoyable because we get to visit friends and family, but all good things must come to an end . . . before they turn sour.
Nerves quickly fray, patience wears, and — after a few days — “the fish starts to stink.”
But this tendency to “conditional fellowship” extends far beyond our earthly relationships.
“God with us” is most enjoyable during Christmas because it’s warm and festive and swaddled in cuteness. It’s desirable when I’m going through a very difficult crisis. It’s beneficial when I need advice.
But “God with us” is a problem when I want to go my own way. It’s troublesome when I don’t want to be confronted, rebuked, corrected, or chastened. Immanuel is inconvenient when I desperately want to be distracted from following Christ.
So, how does one remain stunned by the magnificent reality that God came to live with us?
“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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.