believe we need to answer the above two questions (Click Here to read Part 1) by first focusing our hearts on God. Deuteronomy 6:4-6 are very clear that we must not just consider that God is important. “God is great, God is good, now we thank him for our food” (our normal, daily acknowledgement of God) is not an end, it is a beginning! The verses clearly say that we are to “love the Lord our God with all [our] heart, and with all [our] soul, and with all [our] might.”
I would love a big HD TV (bigger is better!). I would also love a Convertible Vette (’72, black). My idol of choice is comfort. As Paul Tripp outlines in his book Age of Opportunity, it could just as well be control, success, respect, or appreciation. My point is that there are many choices that we make each day that move our hearts away from worshiping God and toward worshiping the creation (and ultimately self, see Romans 1:25). It isn’t that it is a sin to get, have, and enjoy, but is that our focus? If that is our focus then ultimately what we pass on to our children is a focus on self. What are you passing on?
Do we really love the Lord with all our might. Is my whole heart totally given to Him? If it is, my schedule often teaches differently. How about yours? As Luke 6:45 states that our behavior is a revealer of our hearts, what does our schedule reveal about where our hearts are focused? What should a person that is loving the Lord with all really look like? Back in Deuteronomy we see an answer. Chapter 6 verse 20 reveals that our lives should provoke our children to ask why we live so differently from everybody else, and what do all these things God has commanded really mean? A life that is “caught up” with God, isn’t “caught up” with houses, cars, electronics, vacations, retirement, clothes, and restaurants (Mt. 6:24. Deuteronomy 6:10-12 gives an eerily accurate warning to avoid this. Verse six of the same chapter says that we are to take the words that God has communicated to us about life (His commands, statutes, testimonies) and make them a part of our hearts (inner man—the real us!).
Secondly, we must free up the resources to enable us to communicate that focus to our spouse and children. I believe that in our society it takes money to live (in fact, more and more of it!). If I said otherwise I would lose all credibility as a (somewhat) sane person. Chapter 6, verses 11-14 warn that when we have houses full of stuff, and life is easy, beware of leaving your commitment to God and serving and worshipping what the others around you are serving and worshipping. Are these verses applicable in our culture? Are they applicable to you and me? Yea. We need a shift in thinking from, “how much can I get to live on,” to “how much do I need to live on.” We all have different incomes and expenses. Some expenses are, to a large degree fixed, some are discretionary. We have all heard the saying, “you either have time or money.” I fear that we have lost track of the fact that the pursuit of money takes time. Time is something we think a lot about, but perhaps we don’t think about just how valuable it is. When we are given the responsibility to diligently teach our children about our love for God and His instructions for life, verse 7 expresses the value of time. In verse 7 of Deuteronomy 6 God commands us to take the time all through the day to have proximity and purpose in our interaction with our children. A good summary of the teaching in these verses would be, “all throughout your day, diligently teach your children about the God that resides in your heart.” That takes time, making time immensely valuable. A new car, a bigger house, nice clothes, and eating out are fun luxuries, but because of the time investment required to get, have, and enjoy, their cost can be exponentially more than their value! Some of those things can hinder and even take away our ability to influence our children (and spouse) toward God.
If you need a new method of time management, books abound, read away. My hope here is that you will look closely at the two key thoughts. As you head toward the end of the year take time to reflect on the focus of your heart. What needs to change about your focus? After you evaluate, and adjust your heart’s focus, assess your time resources. With the correct focus you will find the time resources you are looking for. Make those adjustments that need to be made so you can free up your resources to have the time to reach your children’s hearts. A summary of the truths found in Deuteronomy 6: 20-25 reveals the fruit of living God’s commands for life:
So that, when your child asks you in time to come, saying, what is all this Bible and God stuff, you will hear their question, wrap your arms around them and tell them all that God has done for you and how much you love Him.
Americans live at a frantic pace. I'm an American. I'm not sure what the rest of the world is experiencing, but contemporary life here in the good ole’ U.S. of A. just doesn’t fit into Mark Twain’s lazy days of floatin’ down the Mississippi. That is a bygone era (if there ever was one). Most of us find ourselves immersed in our own very busy lives.
Have you had the same moments of reflection I've had that provoke me to wonder where it all went? What's more - how is this busy life impacting my family? What's it doing to my relationship with my wife? When am I finding time to influence my children and love them toward God? The example I am living, is it leading those I love to a stronger faith in God? As Christian parents, we have a lot of things to accomplish in this time-limited, time-pressured life. Though we often get the required tasks done, in my observations, few of us get the necessary tasks done.
After reading something like that, it's easy to walk away with a serious guilt trip. That's not my intention. As I look at my own wife and children and their multitude of needs, I become even more frustrated with the pressures of my own life. Sometimes it's like I'm watching a movie where it's plain to see something bad is going to happen. I want to yell out, “No, don’t do it, can’t you see what will happen?”
But no one listens.
The scene just keeps on rolling.
Have you ever felt this way? You can see something bad is going to happen, but you're helpless to change it? What do we do? Too often we simply plod along anyway. “The show must go on,” you know!
No, the show need not go on. If it must, perhaps it needs to without you! What must go on is much simpler than what's being pressed upon us by our culture (and well-meaning Christians). "What must go on" is that we must encourage our spouses to love and good works, to walk with God (Hebrews 10:24). We must dedicate time to our children so they can learn from us who God is and why we serve Him with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength (Deuteronomy 6).*
As a simple test of initial perceptions; have your spouse ask your children what you do and what you love. I'm humbled to think of what my children would say. They see me spend a lot of time and focus on my job and the daily details of life. I'm not sure they would initially say that I spend my time serving God. I'm afraid they would see me as a person that runs a boys' home. I hope they would say that I love God and mommy, but they might equally say that I love to take naps, watch TV, spend time at the office, hunt, fish, travel, golf, et. al.
I'm not questioning whether you or I love God. That's for another time. I'm assuming we love God. The question of the moment is two-fold.
1. Do we live like we love God more than the details, pleasures, and duties of our daily life (Deuteronomy 6:4-6)?
2. Do we take the time to communicate that to our spouses and children (Deuteronomy 6:7-9,20-25)?
If, by chance, they miss that, then they miss everything of real value, for eternity!
For more on how to teach our children to love God with their whole being, check out the book Everyday Talk.
As Victory Academy opens this school year, there is one thing that bothers me. For twenty five years it seems that Victory has been a secret.
Some things are so valuable they shouldn’t be kept secret. What makes Victory so valuable? Victory value isn't due to any one person, but found in the fact that God has done His work through literally hundreds of people to make Victory what it is today. Staff members, volunteers, and donors have sacrificially worked together to build a ministry that produces eternal fruit.
This should not be kept a secret.
What do you get when you put together a staff with decades of experience working with troubled teens, a program developed over twenty-three years, and an excellent 120 acre facility protected from many of our culture’s problems? That is Victory Academy for Boys! We have a fantastic program for reaching at-risk teen boys, and people need to know about it. Victory is not a band-aid for bad behavior. Victory is about heart surgery; real inner-man change.
Victory Academy is valuable because our program answers the needs of struggling teens and their parents. As I have looked over my 25 years here and considered the several hundred teens and families we have helped, I was able to name many whose lives were radically changed right here at Victory. Overwhelmingly, our alumni have graduated high school and some have gone on to serve in our military and law enforcement. Some have gone on to further their education at college. A few have studied at Bible colleges. One is finishing up graduate school this year to become a missionary pastor. Another is a youth pastor in Michigan. Dads have changed from passive to active leaders in their families. Families have seen the principles of God’s Word work in their homes. Relationships have been restored. Victory Academy works because God’s Spirit works through God’s Word to change hearts.
Foundationally we believe that parents are the key to long-term change and growth for a boy. If dad and mom are strengthened and encouraged in their parenting, our program’s impact will be family-wide and influential in the next generation (look at Psalm 78:1-8). Our parent program does the work of encouraging and strengthening parents, while helping them get back to the place of influence for God in the lives of their children.
There are families in every church and neighborhood that could benefit from our program. Many teens and their parents are struggling with all sorts of problems, and Victory is all about providing hope and biblical counsel to these families. Every time I poll an audience an overwhelming number of them know of teens that need our program. Think for a moment, whom do you know that would benefit from our program?
Victory Academy is open, ready, and able to help struggling teens and their parents, so, go tell the secret!
Let’s see what God will do!
For most parents when their children are young it is easy to have a close relationship. Hugs, prayer time, the words "I love you" all come very easily with young children. However as the teen years advance, relationships between parent and child can suffer. Whether a father and daughter who rightfully find close affection a bit more awkward or a father and son who have a growing difference in interests, or perhaps it is a mom who is struggling to allow her "little boy" to find the independence of being a young man, parent / teen relationships can be complicated at times. However as parents continue to find the need to exercise control over their teenagers with rules, standards and limitations, relationships becomes all the more important.
Loving relationships are the glue that hold families together and help smooth over the arguments, struggles and growing pains that every family faces during those teenage years. The principles of the Bible apply at home just as they do in relationships at work and church. Principles of love in 1 Cor. 13 such as thinking no evil, assuming the best, not holding grudges etc. need to be adhered to. There are many other relationship principles as well such as the principles of reconciliation found in Matthew 5 and other places. We can study principles such as "Don't let the sun go down on your anger, don't let your anger lead to sin." (Eph. 4:26) and so many more that can and should be found.
Take time to build relationships. Find common ground and utilize it. Go out for coffee or shakes (food is almost always common ground) watch sports together, learn to play a video game. Perhaps you hunt or fish, sew or bake, whatever you can find to engage in with the goal of building the relationship, do it!
Don't only spend time when there is an issue. Make "deposits" in their lives as often as you can by spending that time with them, saying "I love you" or sending them a text from across the room letting them know you're proud of them. These deposits allow you to make "withdrawals" and yet not damage the relationship when there are disagreements or discipline issues.
If rules and regulations are enforced in a teen's life without an on-going love infused relationship, rebellion will be the result.
What ways have you nurtured and enhanced the relationship with your teen lately? Why not shoot them a text right now and invited them for ice cream soon?
Download our Whitepaper on Ten Things Parents Miss by Executive Director, Mark Massey. Click Here
Wondering if your teen needs to be away from home for awhile to get help? Read Mark's helpful guide on making this difficult decision. Click Here.
Watch a video on a Victory Kind of Life to learn more about Victory Academy for Boys. Click Here.
Click here to Contact us for counsel and help.
Matthew 5:14 is where Jesus says, “Ye are the light of the world.” We say, “amen” and continue on or rededicate ourselves to the task of evangelizing our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the far reaches of our world. Rightly so; we should! But fulfilling the Great Commission is a broad task that is spread among many. We should all pray about it and consider it, but all are not specifically called to go to Judea, Samaria or the farthest corners of the world. We often personalize the commission and refer to “our” Jerusalem where we live. That is also helpful and challenging. I would like to propose that we take another step back and recognize that the great commission includes our families! Our Jerusalem is right where we are, whether that is at the office, at church, out shopping, or in our homes. It is interesting to me that the intimate knowledge of how Dads and Moms and children really live when the front door is closed has profound impact on what those within that home come to believe as true and thus live. Any difference in our teaching and actions when we are on one side of our front door and the other is viewed by others as blatant hypocrisy. Dewey Bertolini, in Escaping the Subtle Sellout, says that “we have a credibility crisis” in our communities. I go further (and I think Bertolini would agree), we have a credibility crisis in our families. As I evaluate my own influence with my children, I get a frog in my throat. Am I a light, a purifying influence, a dispeller of darkness in my own home? Am I living in a way that provokes my children to love God with all their hearts? Am I seeing my children “buy into” the True and the Living God? How about my wife? Is she being purified and enlightened by me? Before you or I can answer these questions, we need to know what God means when He calls us to be light.
Paul, in Ephesians 5:8-9 writes of how, or what we do that makes us “shine” as light in the darkness of our world. He finishes verse eight with, “walk as children of light.” Verse nine defines that walk as a life that is lived as a result of the Holy Spirit’s work in that person. That result is a life lived with all goodness, righteousness, and truth. That is the life that shines! What does all goodness, righteousness, and truth mean in the here and now?
Paul’s statement in verses eight and nine is a synopsis statement within his larger explanation (chapters 4-6) of how we are to flesh-out the doctrines taught in the first three chapters of Ephesians. In chapter 4:18-20 Paul refers again to the children of light (those who have been enlightened by Christ to a new way to thinking and living). He then proceeds to tell us about this new way of life (the new man) that is characterized by forgiving, giving, edifying, patience, calmness, honesty, kindness, and tenderheartedness. This is what being light is all about. Chapter 4:32 and 5:1-2 give the definitive example: Christ. We are to love others (even our spouse, even our children, even our parents) like Christ loves them. Period.
Light is explained in Ephesians 4-5 as originating from Christ (5:14), so for us to be light, we must get it from being with Christ (His Word and His Spirit). Light is also the antithesis of darkness. Being light then is being different from those who don’t know Christ. Different in the way we handle life. Different in the way we think. As a father maintains self-control (see temperance in Galatians 5:23, 2 Peter 1:6) when a child spills the milk, or breaks new digital camera. . ., he is a light burning brightly! As a mom answers with a kind voice (see Ephesians 4:29,31-32) when a child (or husband) has “pushed her buttons,” she has dispelled the darkness in her home. As a dad patiently helps his child understand how and why she should be kind to those who don’t give her her way, he becomes the purifying influence that she needs him to be. That dad is light. The mom that answers the phone call from the prodigal daughter can be light by her kind (which may require firmness), tenderhearted, forgiving (Ephesians 4:31-32) spirit. That is being real light, which is a result of walking near THE LIGHT. Being the light is what our families need. If there is darkness there, the need is more light! More light is also what our community needs, and our world. Be that light!
Transfer that thought over to our families. Am I, and are you shining as a bright light within our families?
I can only provoke my children to love God as much as I do!
Around 25 years ago I heard a sermon that stuck with me through many years of dealing with struggling teens. It was from Hebrews 11, the “hall of faith” chapter. The gist of it was that People are people, God is God and Miracles are miracles. God who is God can take People who are just people and do a miracle so that when people see it all they can say is Praise God that is a miracle. This thought has encouraged me over and over as I worked with teens who were teens. Perhaps you’ll take some time to study through the thoughts below and be encouraged in your family’s situation.
Remember that No matter who you are dealing with, God is able to work in them both to “will and to do his good pleasure.” He can take your weaknesses and theirs and show his power through them and do exceedingly and abundantly above all you ask or think in order to use the situation for his purposes, bless your lives and get glory for himself.
Have you ever found yourself yelling and didn't want to? Perhaps you've asked how can my child be so disrespectful. All humans crave healthy family relationships because God created us to be creatures of relationship. Thankfully, Christ has shown us how to fix these relational mistakes that we've made. We must do it His way. Matthew 18 sets out several simple concepts on how to go about getting a respectful relationship with your family back. The first concept that most people miss in a disagreement is that correction is best accomplished in private. Verse 15a says that "if your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private." It is so easy to get caught up in the emotion of the moment and blow up in front of other family members or even worse, friends or extended family. When done in private, it takes all of the other factors out of the situation besides the desires of the two parties. If you act in the moment and lash out with emotion in front of others, it is most likely sinful and has bad consequences result even if you were right in the argument.
1. “I love you.” If you love someone, let them know it. Tell them and show them often. You may think they know it, and they might, but it is always nice to say it. I Corinthians 13 reminds us that we can be smart, sacrificial and sound wonderful in our speech, but if we don’t have love, we are nothing. Tell your wife, your son or daughter, call your mom and dad. Even in the struggles, an "I love you" sure can't hurt.
2. “I was wrong, forgive me.” One of my professors in college encouraged us to substitute this phrase for “I’m sorry.” In saying, “I was wrong” there is no doubt in the offended and hurt person’s mind that you know you hurt them and desire their forgiveness and restoration of the relationship. We can not be rightly related to God if we have broken and torn relationships with others. Perhaps you need to use this phrase with your teen today. Don't wait for them even if they were wrong too.
3. “Thank you.” In Luke 17 we read about those with leprosy who Jesus healed. He literally changed the rest of their lives. Things were different because of His intervention. Only one returned to say thank you. There certainly have been people who have made a difference in your life. People whose intervention changed things for the better. Do they know you are thankful? What about old friends, parents, your children, their teachers, a coach or former pastor. Make sure they know you are thankful. “Thank you” is never said too late or too much.
4. “I will .” We must say “I will” to God as he speaks to us about things he wants us to do or change, but we also need to say it to others. Jesus showed us in John 13 his willingness to wash his disciple’s feet. He then commanded us to do the same. Look for needs you can meet, and then when you see it, say, “I will.”
5. “I can.” Have you hit some brick wall in your Christian life? Do you feel defeated because of a sinful habit, or lack of prayer. Perhaps there is some difficult trial you and your teen are going through. In either instance, it is easy to say, “I can’t make it.” Paul reminds us that we CAN do all things THROUGH CHRIST who will strengthen us. A great lesson we must learn is that in myself I can’t, but in Him, “I can.”
Even with examples laid out before us it is still difficult at times to know exactly what to do and say to get our teens to listen and really hear Truth. Though it may be possible to force a person to physically hear, the most powerful impact (influence) on a person’s thinking requires some kind of connection or relationship. Proverbs 20:5 teaches that people of understanding will “draw out” the deep things going on in the hearts of others.
When a teen lies to you, you have a few options, including ignore it, yell at him, or lay down consequences. There may be times when each of those options seem appropriate. I find that a fourth response is best in the long run.
Identify with his motivations and connect him with Truth. I think it is healthy to admit that none of us are very far away from any particular sin. Many times it is very difficult for teens to accept correction or responsibility for their actions when it is so easy to point the finger at some flaw in their parent, or pastor, or sibling (or whoever is applying the pressure at the moment). Biblically the key to solving strife (relational conflict) is humility and truth. That is well stated in Ephesians 4:15 as truth wrapped in love. Wrapping truth in love provokes thinking about motivations of the heart, at least in-part, because when acting in humility and love we take attacking and offending out of the picture and join with them in the discussion of truth. Biblical truth becomes the light in the situation and does the work of revealing the heart. As a parent I am then freed up to love and help them (sometimes with consequences) learn how to implement truth in their actions.
Mark Massey is director of Victory Academy for Boys, Amberg, Wisconsin. Take a look at VictoryAcademyForBoys.org
One of the struggles we face as we work with our teenagers is pushing our great wisdom on them at the moment of their struggle. While sometimes it is crucial to parent “in the moment,” many times they just aren’t ready to hear it. They just made a decision to think a certain way and you are telling them that their thinking is wrong. That is hard for all of us to hear. Proverbs 20:5 is my go to verse that challenges me to be patient, kind, and as understanding as possible in an effort to have my teen open his heart. Stepping back and letting the dust settle often reveals a door of opportunity to discuss the deep things of his heart. The problem arises when our idols get in the mix and we get offended or impatient and begin to demand their change or belief in what “great wisdom” we have to say.
Truth is that most, or at least many times our teens know what is right and wrong, the difficulty is found in learning how to go against feelings and live what is right. The flesh is just so powerful and they are at a stage of life where feelings and limited knowledge foment deficiencies in their decision making.
Take a step back. Wait a bit. Remember that almost all problems can be given a little time. Think through your own version of their struggle and pray for God’s wisdom to find that right moment to positively challenge their thinking. You are their mentor, God’s influencer for Him.