This is a great responsibility, Mom, and yes… it is on your shoulders. Your husband’s as well (or the child’s father), but today I am talking to YOU.
Last week I wrote on loving your children by teaching them who love. That must be first and foremost, teach your children about God’s love for them and his salvation offered through his son Jesus Christ. Today and next week, I am writing on the significant task God has assigned to you as a parent of keeping your child’s heart “unstained from the world.” See James 1:27.
Solomon was a man blessed by God with great wisdom; his wisdom was far superior to that of any before him or any after him. In Proverbs Chapter 4, he is entreating his sons to listen and be attentive as he shares his counsel with them for their benefit. His desire is for them to gain wisdom and to “walk the path of the righteous” (v. 18).
Toward the end of the chapter in verse 23, he sums up his guidance in one sentence, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (NIV)
Much of what we are instructed to do as Christians can be boiled down to guarding our heart or keeping our hearts pure for the honoring of God. The heart is the core of who someone is, the area from which flows feelings, decisions, and attachments. It puts on display who we really are; our actions flow forth from our heart.
The ESV translates the Hebrew this way “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” We are to protect our hearts with all vigilance, a strong word indeed.
What does this have to do with raising Children? Everything! Have you ever thought about why God assigned these children to YOU? He has given them to you as a heritage, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” (Psalms 127:3) He has ordained that YOU be the one responsible for caring for them; teaching them about him, and guarding their hearts while they are young. This is on your shoulders until they are old enough to guard their own hearts.
This is big stuff and a huge responsibility! I don’t say this to overwhelm you, but to make you understand the seriousness of what God has called you to for these fleeting years.
How do you guard your child’s heart? Proverbs 4 goes on in verses 24 -27: Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. (ESV)
These are good directions on how to keep your heart pure and how to train your child to do the same. Put simply: speak carefully and honestly, do not deceive; your eyes need to be forward on Christ (whom you live for); you need to wisely choose your path and where your feet go; staying persistent in your pursuit of Christlikeness; and finally, stay away from evil.
When relating this to how you guard the heart of your children think of it this way. You are the gatekeeper of their heart. You are the one to decide who or what is granted access to the heart of your child. What their heart is filled with is largely up to you. You don’t want to allow anything in that may cause harm to them or their potential relationship with Christ. This sounds simple…. it isn’t.
It is a raging war and you are in the middle of it. Placed there by God himself. How well are you doing at fighting for the purity of your child’s heart? How have you prepared yourself to know what is good and what is evil?
Continue to read next week as we address some very practical ways in which we need to be guarding the hearts of our children.
Do you love your children? The answer is not as obvious as you might think. Sometimes we have great emotions and tender thoughts toward our children, but is that really love?
In Titus 2:3-5 Paul gives a significant list of what the older women of the Church should be teaching the younger women. Included in this list is the command to teach the young women to love their children:
It may seem odd that someone would need to teach us to love our own children; doesn’t that come “naturally” the moment they are placed in your arms after birth? Well, in some ways, yes it does. In other (very significant) ways we really need to be reminded what it means to truly love our children - thus the command in Titus 2.
Loving our children can mean cuddles and words of encouragement. It can also mean discipline and allowing pain to occur. It can mean giving or withholding; gentleness or a hard line. All of these can be expressions of love from a parent to a child.
What is the single most important way to love your child? Tell them about Jesus. Tell them about who love is and why there can be no love without Jesus. Read through the book of 1 John with them, especially Chapter 4, which contains lines like:
If you hate your children, then withhold this from them. And understand if you do this, you cannot love them, it is impossible. Only those who actually love their children will introduce them to Christ. “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8.
With this knowledge we should SHOWER our children with true love; sharing with them the knowledge of who God is. Love them as much as possible by teaching them more about him and reading his Word to them.
Train them up in love to love him who is Love.
No material gift, “quality time”, or spoiling holds a candle to the eternal significance of this vital information. Do not withhold it, lavish it on them as the Father has on us “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” 1 John 3:1.
If your heart has been claimed by God, this is pure and simple obedience:
Soak your children (and all children you love) in experiencing and learning God’s designs, plans, promises, commands, and his justice, grace and mercy. Teach these attributes diligently to your children as commanded. There is nothing greater! Mothers, I enCOURAGE you to LOVE your children!
When I was young my family delivered newspapers for our little one street town of Homestead, Iowa. Each morning bright and early (or dark and early) we would get up, pack the papers into big heavy bags and head out on our bikes to do our route. I have to admit my older brother and sister did this much more than I did, but I did my share and still have many memories of it. It was one of those “character building” experiences that are required when growing up.
One summer morning my Dad was helping me get the last few papers delivered; we were both on our bikes. There had been a hard rain the night before and you could still smell it in the air. Drowned worms were all over the road and I would swerve to miss them.
I remember riding by the town feed store and seeing up ahead a huge toad in the middle of the road. Once I spotted him I couldn’t take my eyes off of that ugly thing; I felt like he was staring at me and I was staring at him. Wasn’t he going to move? My bike felt unstoppable as it traveled my exact line of sight, exactly where I didn’t want it to go…“SPLAT!” I rode right over the middle of that bloated toad. I can still hear the sound of it exploding into a squishy and disgusting mess all over the street and my bike too.
I then did what every young girl would have done after that, jumped off my bike and ran to my Dad screaming and sobbing. Dad did what every caring father would have done after that, held me in his arms and laughed his head off. Telling me between huge chuckles that the toad had been dead already and that I had the entire road to travel on, why didn’t I just go around it?
My Dad still laughs at this story to this day, over 20 years later. You just ask him and you’ll see.
As gross as it may be, it provides a great illustration for how we often handle the problems we face in life.
That bloated toad = anything bad, difficult or ugly in your life. Once we have our sights set on it, we have trouble seeing or thinking about anything else. Often we think we can handle it fine on our own, only calling on God if we need to (that would be considered a drastic measure reserved only for emergencies). Yet, this never seems to work out right. We seem to keep running smack dab back into that toad every time, making a horrible mess of things.
Here is the problem: when we focus on the problem we begin to orbit around it and allow it to have a gravitational pull on us. We use the desire to avoid the sin as the reason to alter our behaviors. We try to do this using our own strength.
Is your struggle with lust? You then try to keep all of those temptations at arm’s length as you circle around it. Eventually you fail and are in a mess again. Marriage issues? Focus on the problems, try harder and it will work out. Ha! Right. Using these strategies makes as much sense as being on a diet and staring at chocolate cake all day.
The fix: we MUST refocus our sights - take our eyes off the problem and place them squarely on the solution; off the toad and onto Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:18 says it like this, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (NIV) We need to keep our eyes set on Jesus, the only possible solution to heart problems (which all of these are). He is the only one who can fix our heart issues, we certainly can’t, no matter how hard we work at it or how many therapists we see.
God allows these toads in your life for good reason; he wants your attention for sanctification. Some of us are slow learners and deal with many toads in life. All the while Jesus is saying, “Hello? Look at me! You need me to get you through this. Quit giving attention to your sin and turn around and let me save you from it.”
I ran into that toad because I was looking right at it. If I had looked past it to where I wanted to go, I would have missed it altogether. Where do you want to go? If you are a “follower of Jesus” then you need to keep your eyes on the one you say you are following!
Let me tell you, all issues, anxieties and obstacles look mighty puny next to a huge God.
No wonder Jesus remarks many times in scripture about how little faith we have!
We can’t be aware of the might and power of our God when we have our eyes set on earthly toads. Time to start looking up. Call on God in prayer and get into his Word.
Our heart often travels where our eyes lead it. Your sight matters. “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light,” Matthew 6:22. I enCOURAGE you to get your sight checked today.
Do I really need to say more? It seems quite self-explanatory to me. In our constant pursuit for perfection (or at least as close as we can get) how often do we stop and think what we are really striving for?
We think it would be awesome to be perfect; preferably in as many areas as possible. We want to be Wonder Woman, or Super Mom if you prefer the name, same thing.
We want to have a well decorated home, that is well kept and always clean. Same with the kids, hubby and certainly ourselves - well decorated and clean. Physically beautiful and fit? You bet. Wonder Woman so obviously is. And haven’t you ever envied her ability to fly? Wow, I sure have! That has to make life easier.
But if I had to guess, being Wonder Woman is probably pretty lonely. Who could measure up to all that? What would you talk about? You probably wouldn’t want to invite her to your home to meet your husband.
So why do we find ourselves wishing to be like her? Wanting to be found fantastic and amazing in every way? Oh, how our hearts deceive us so easily. Sinful desires creep in and lead us to into discontent with the blessings God has lovingly assigned to us.
It is truly a heart issue. We begin to worry more about what others think of us or even what we think of ourselves over and above what God thinks of us. We forget we are playing for an audience of one and we begin to act out dramatically for an imagined audience in our heads who have no sway over our value or identity.
The Bible tells us that we are vessels for him. “For we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 1 Corinthians 4:7. This treasure is disclosed in the verse prior, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
We are called to let the light of the treasure of Christ shine through our weaknesses, the thin spots in the clay. Often the parts we don’t like on display.
How could we show that the treasure (what is truly valuable) belongs to God and not to us if we were Wonder Woman or Super Mom? We would get the credit when the hurting and dying world looks our way, trying to figure out just how we do it all. We would be thieves, stealing glory due to God.
The beauty and display of Jesus comes from weak vessels displaying greatness that could only come from someone greater. This is why God tells Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” And Paul says, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Amen to that. We should actually boast in our weakness, ladies, not our strengths.
As I think about my closest friends and imagine them next to Wonder Woman, I have to laugh. They don’t compare either, and I love it that way! Praise God, he has been lovingly creative with us. Our lives of imperfection can speak volumes of the grace of Jesus Christ and how he alone makes us wonderful and super.
We were not created to be like Wonder Woman or the fictitious Super Mom, we were created to have a need for a savior. Our lives and even our bodies were created exactly the way they are in order to produce the most glory for God possible in our lives. This is what true beauty is all about, reflecting the beauty of Christ. I enCOURAGE you to look for it in those around you, your sisters in Christ. Look for it in yourself.
I love to be comfortable. Just ask my husband, he will tell you after working all day I can’t wait to climb into my “comfy clothes” (otherwise known as yoga pants and a t-shirt). In the winter months, I could be found in pjs as early as 5:00 pm. Phil sees me and just shakes his head and laughs.
I also like to hang around good friends, eat good food, and read good books. I much prefer these activities over interacting with strangers, fasting, and public speaking. If you’ve read my blogs before, you already know my tendency toward being an introvert. I enjoy being comfortable, that’s all there is to it.
Don’t get confused, I like to get out and about and love the outdoors. I even love tent camping… as long as the weather is great and I have an air mattress and remember everything for s’mores.
How much comfort can one person stand? Is being comfortable a legitimate goal in life? If I was able to remain in a state of constant comfort, say, wearing my non yoga-ing yoga pants, while reading a good book and eating as many Georgia Mud Fudge Blizzards as I desired, would I be happy? HECK YES!!! …for about one day, maybe two… okay a week max.
Your version of comfort may be a little different than mine (you may prefer cookie dough Blizzards, I get that), but my point is we all have comfort zones. These are very real and very appealing.
So appealing that we can, if we allow ourselves to be led astray, work our whole lives trying to gain or maintain our ideal comfort zone and be able to spend as much time in it as possible. Or we work the best years of our lives so we can retire and spend the remaining years living in the ways we are most comfortable.
Here is the big question: did Jesus die so that we could experience comfort? Another way to state it: is your comfort worth Jesus dying for?
Agh! Why did I have to go and ruin it for you? Replace the word “comfort” with “happiness” or “success” if you want. Those are just other words to describe your comfort zone.
You see, I don’t buy into the “American Dream” that the world tries to sell me. I don’t buy into any ideals the world tries to sell me. Dead end pursuits that are fun and cozy along the way still lead to dead ends.
Just as your final destination determines the route you take on a journey, so should your final eternal destination determine the route you take while on Earth.
Too many of us get pulled away by the cares of this world and get convinced that the “comfort zone pursuits” of this mortal life are worthy of our time and energies and even eventually our souls. It is so sad a thing to live for, so very temporary.
God says in Revelation 3:16, “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” And in Zephaniah 1:12 “I will punish the men who are complacent, those who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good, nor will he do ill.’”
So, this is why I so often ask God to please, “Kick me!” Kick me out of my comfort zone; don’t allow me to be pulled into an apathetic lifestyle or complacent way of thinking. Do whatever is necessary to keep me about Kingdom business and not my own.
Oh, he is so faithful in this! As he slaps that Blizzard out of my hand and tells me to get dressed like a big girl. Time to be un-cozy for the glory of God and for my own good.
This is what keeps me ministering to women, holding Bible studies, and staying up way too late writing blogs. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10.
Did you hear that? He has work for us to do! Why? Because he created us specifically for these specific tasks eons ago. Ladies, this means something!
If God is the Potter and we are the clay would we prefer he keep his hands off us and allow us to sit as a useless blob? No! Please fashion me into something useful that displays your goodness, Lord! No matter how painful or pleasurable, mold me as it pleases you, for “all things were created through [you] and for [you].” Colossians 1:16.
So, yes, “kick me” is often a prayer I pray. I need it. I mean it. I too easily hold on to my comfort zone. But, oh, when you get out of it and are willing to fully trust God, what a beautiful thing it is! What a glorious feeling to be used for the purposes of a great God. There is no better place to be.