God has gifted me with a love for working with elementary age children. I am comfortable with them and can easily communicate with them. I enjoy hanging out with them and teaching them new things about God. Teenagers on the other hand are a different story. I'm not as comfortable interacting with them and find myself a bit intimidated by them. But thanks to our ministry with FCA, I get to meet some amazing young people who truly inspire me.
I don't want to forget these amazing young people. So I'm beginning a new series entitled, "Young People Who Inspire Me". I want to write down their stories and the impact they have had on my life personally. This past week I had the privilege of hearing the stories of some very inspiring young people from all over the world.
Young people like Joshua. Joshua is a student from Senegal, West Africa. I had the pleasure of hearing Joshua share his testimony at OBI earlier this week. His mother is a Christian and his father is Muslim. Joshua's tribe in Senegal is very large....roughly 2 million people. In those 2 million there are only 15 known Christians.
Joshua shared how when he was younger he would go to church with his mom and then go to the mosque with his Dad. He would spend time praying to God and then pray to Allah. He said that he realized that he couldn't keep trying to worship both Allah & God. So he chose to serve the one true God.
And even though his father is disappointed in him, Joshua knows that God is with him and gives him strength. His goal is to become a doctor and return to Senegal and proclaim Christ to his people. He asked for his fellow students and teachers to pray that his father would come to Christ.
As I sat and listened to this articulate young man speak about his life, I was so inspired by his love and boldness for Christ. His boldness to not go to the mosque to pray but to stand strong in his faith in Christ. His boldness to be one of 15 known Christians.
As I listened to him, I was also convicted of my own complacency and lack of boldness. I was convicted about the distractions that I allow into my life that keep me from proclaiming Christ boldly everyday. The opinions of others that may inhibit my boldness.
Joshua has inspired me to choose to serve God boldly each day. To not worry about the opinions of others and how my boldness may offend them. Like it says in Matthew 10:32-33 “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven."
If you've read many parenting books or received advice from "experts" or other parents about how to raise your children you're probably familiar with the saying" Pick your battles". It's especially popular when talking about training toddlers and teenagers. And for good reason!!
Both of those ages come with an overwhelming amount of battles that you could easily go insane if you waged war on every detail. But I also think those stages in a child's life present us with the temptation to use "pick your battles" as an excuse to ignore training our children properly.
In our house, we are well past the toddler years and are right smack in the middle of the teen years....and it is exhausting. So much more than the toddler years ever were!! And I think that's because as parents of teenagers, we face battles that have the potential of causing death.
Battles that can destroy character, testimonies, innocence, relationships, reputations, and physical lives. Battles that if ignored can completely alter our child's future and the future of others. We cannot ignore these battles under the guise of just needing a little peace in the home. Or under the false assumption that our kids are basically good and we just need to get off their backs.
When we use "pick your battles" as an excuse to avoid disciplining an unacceptable behavior, we are setting our children up for failure. And when I say "unacceptable behavior", I mean unacceptable according to God's Word.
You see He's the one who sets the parenting standard. He wrote the guidebook on parenting. Nowhere in God's Word does it say "pick your battles".
God's advice on parenting is pretty clear. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. God is telling us to continuously pour into the hearts of our children the commandments of God. It is an all day, every day responsibility.
And what happens if we don't? 1 Samuel 3:13 tells us: "For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them." God judged Eli for allowing his sons to dishonor God. Eli knew that what they were doing was wrong in God's sight. He gave them a "mild admonition" but when they did not listen, he gave up the fight. He honored his children above God.
Not only did he put his children before God, he also failed to restrain them. Some of us are tainted with the philosophy of modern psychiatry which teaches that children should not be restrained lest they grow up inhibited. We're told to not set boundaries that are too strict or standards that aren't too high. Consequently, we see children of Christian parents who talk disrespectfully to their parents and act anyway they so please. When we refuse to restrain our children we are sinning against God.
So as I look at the behaviors, attitudes and choices of my own children on a daily basis, I see lots and lots of different battles that need to be fought. I see battles against purity of heart and purity of mind. I see battles against disrespect of authority and disrespect for others. I see battles against giving in to fleshly desires and sexual immorality. I see battles against materialism and pride. I see battles against Satan as he tries to devour my family.
How can I look at all of those battles and decide to only pick certain ones to fight? When it comes to the heart of my children, I must fight each and every day. I must honor God above their comfort and happiness. I must restrain them from doing things that dishonor God. I must train them according to the standards that God has put forth in His Word.
It will be exhausting. I will grow weary and will want to just give in to repetitive disobedience. I will have my doubts about whether the training is even worth it. I will lose my cool and need plenty of fresh new starts. But through it all I will have the hope found in God's Word.
The hope of Proverbs 22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. The hope of Proverbs 29:17 Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul. The promise of Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. The promise of James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. And the promise of Galations 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
So as I continue parenting my teenagers, I won't try to "pick my battles" to just get through each day. I will fight for the hearts and minds of my children so that they will have a foundation that is secure in Christ. A foundation that will prepare them to honor God above everything else. A foundation that will one day lead them to parent their own children to live against the cultural norm.
I am a Christian, a wife, a mom, a VBS crafter, a coupon clipper, a thrift store shopper, a football fan, a cook, a student of the Bible and an avid reader.