Dads, how do you fulfill Prov. 22:6?

Recently, I saw a Facebook posting that asked this question;

Dads, what are some ways you can “train up” your children? When is this job of spiritually training your kids done?

I waited to see what others might post, but nothing showed up and I forgot about the question until it was re-posted a couple weeks later by the same person.

rockwell careful-aimMy sons are presently 18 and 21 and my wife and I had committed to homeschooling as soon as we recognized that we were going to get married. Not everything we tried to accomplish or planned to do got done, or necessarily worked out as expected. Some stuff didn’t work for us that may have worked well for others. Still, I felt that I could offer some sort of response based on this life experience – if they were asking for help, repeatedly, why shouldn’t we try to address their question?

The nature of Facebook comment fields suggests that brevity should take precedence over any long-winded response, but I felt that there were many things suggested in the Bible and put into practice in family’s homes that ought to be included in the response. Here’s what I offered in my initial response to the question “Dads, what are some ways you can “train up” your children?”:

Pray for them, pray with them, read them biblical accounts and engage them with thought provoking questions about the meaning of and application of the selected passage, keep house rules biblically centered and enforce them consistently with a focus on obedience to God out of reverence instead of trying to gain favor, encourage memorization of key scriptures, love them, praise them for successful growth, encourage them when they struggle, don’t be afraid to ask for help, guide their social interaction as bad company corrupts good morals, help them adopt a worldview that tests everything against scripture (instead of testing scripture to find loopholes for permissive but questionable behavior, model Christ constantly since you are being watched by them (more closely than you may realize). Be a leader with a vision for your family’s development and prep them to become a leader of their own family if so blessed.

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I figured that this mix of suggestions could cover a wide age range from birth thru adulthood. It’s interesting to consider the cognitive development of our children – what they can do at such early ages is encouraging in that their spiritual development in learning about God can begin very early in how we respond to them, encourage them, play with them, etc. The Centers for Disease Control is a noted health organization that has listed out key milestones for development between birth and five years old. By nine months, most children understand the concept of “NO” and are ready to start learning some basic rules for safety and healthy living. I’m not suggesting that we teach 9 month olds the ten commandments, but the point is that they learn by watching us – what we care about, they’ll be interested in, too. So, do they see us engaged in prayer time, devotions, and participating in church?

By two years old, the CDC notes that most children begin to show defiant behavior. Where is this coming from? Is this man’s true nature beginning to show itself? Is it a character issue or merely a behavioral one? This can be a critical time for parents – to be patient and to think about how to communicate effectively so that our child training isn’t merely to achieve peace in the home, but to begin the foundational work of ministering to our own children.

Phil Vischer (creator of Veggie Tales) had offered some interesting insights in a recent article titled “how to raise a pagan kid in a Christian home”:

“I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, “Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,” or “Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!” But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality. . .

And that was such a huge shift for me from the American Christian ideal. We’re drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore.

Do you teach your kids “be good because the Bible tells you to” or do you teach your kids that they will never be good without Christ’s offer of grace? There is a huge difference. One leads to moralism; the other leads to brokenness. One leads to self-righteousness; the other leads to a life that realizes that Christ is everything and that nothing else matters.

I want my kids to be good. We all do. But as our kids grow up, the truth of the gospel can easily get lost somewhere between salvation (where we know we need Jesus) and living life (where we tend to say “I’ve got this”). My experience is that the vast majority of parents [or scout leaders/volunteers] are encouraging moral behavior in their kids so that God will bless their (usually self-centered) pursuits. It’s the American Dream plus Jesus. And it produces good, moral pagans.

Matthew 7:21-23 provides a chilling challenge or warning. Perhaps it could apply to parents who mislead their children into believing that “acting right” is the same thing as “confessing and submitting”:

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

I remembered that one of the tactics we were encouraged to use with our children was catechism. Teaching our children to memorize a series relatively simple questions and answers (backed up by scripture verses) to construct what we believe and why we believe it. Informal use of catechism can begin at an early age, but many start by age 5 or 6. For our family, we started the process, but didn’t stick with it. I liked the approach, but it was hard for us to maintain our discipline along with all the other distractions and priorities. Still, it could be an unknown blessing to other families, so I took to Facebook and offered this comment:

For some families, an ideal way to train up their children in the way they Should go (as opposed to the way that they Would go) is to catechize them. Catechize = a verb meaning to instruct (someone) in the principles of Christian religion by means of question and answer, typically by using a catechism. For our family, we used the Westminster Shorter Catechism around the dinner table and during bible studies as our boys grew up. This was not the only instruction, nor the only method used, but it was one tool in the tool box that helped build a strong foundation of understanding what we believe and why we believe it.

CSB imageWe ought to encourage our children towards excellence in their understanding of scripture and desire to grow spiritually. While there’s nothing wrong with being a chess grand master, or the MVP of the local little league team (etc.), there’s also nothing wrong with being wholly invested in church history, doctrine, world view, ministry and service to others. In this video, Voddie Baucham Ministries shows how some men in the modern church may react oddly or even push back against these pursuits – don’t discourage children (or allow them to be discouraged) when they press on to become more mature Christians than we may be presently.

With regard to developing healthy social skills and interaction, we should keep a watch over our children – to protect them without stifling them, either. In my response chain I offered the following suggestions:

IMGP6935Getting your children strong opportunities to socialize and develop social skills is important, but we have a duty to oversee that process to appropriately protect them (not prevent them from ever making a mistake, etc. but to set reasonable boundaries as they grow and explore). Is our first choice to send them to a secular summer camp at age 6 in order for them to learn to witness? Probably not. Jesus stuck with his family while he was young (Luke 2:40-52 states he hung around the temple and with his family — not seeking the lost, the last and the lonely until much later in life). So we may want to balance their independence (their choices on areas of interest, our leading on where, when, how to accomplish those interests). After all, misalignment of organizational goals could be in conflict with your family goals, too. In example, our sons wanted to learn mixed martial arts, so we found a studio that did not teach them Far Eastern Religion while developing their discipline and strength. In scouting we chose to participate in units that were like minded in our expression of faith in order to reinforce our belief system instead of challenging it. Consider this article, https://troop113.wordpress.com/…/misaligned-objectives…/

skisLastly (for now at least – I keep remembering additional things to offer) I would encourage Dads and Moms to work on their genuine devotion to God – be excited by the fact that the creator of the entire universe loves you, individually, by name, and wants to have a relationship with you. He provides a mechanism for escaping our prior slavery to sin and it came at great cost.

Our children get excited by what excites us. If we treat our faith like a mundane, burdensome exercise of futility, they’re likely to see it that way as they become adults, too (or be more easily swayed by peers that it should be viewed in that manner). Consider Psalm 78 (in it’s entirety, but I’ll highlight verses 2 thru 8):

I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us. We will not conceal them from their children, But tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers That they should teach them to their children, That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, That they may arise and tell them to their children, That they should put their confidence in God And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments, And not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not prepare its heart And whose spirit was not faithful to God. [emphasis added]

Here, we see that we should be getting our children into God’s word as early as possible, and increasing the depth/complexity of the passages, doctrine, history, etc. as they continue to mature. It takes a lot of work to delve into the Word, but you do not need to be a reverend with a PHD in Divinity – we are equipped with the Holy Spirit and the promise found in Isaiah 55:11 “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” God will make it plain for us, we need to do our duty and make it exciting to our children.

So readers, what have I completely forgotten to offer as practical advice on training up our children in the way that they should go so that in their increasing age they will not depart from it?  While it may be too late for me to implement with my sons, I’m still working with them to prepare them to raise their own families someday, too.

P.S. I have a strong bias towards involving our children in “scouting” type activities and organizations for a whole host of reasons that could fill more than one blog article! I encourage Dads and Moms to get involved as adult leaders/supporters instead of merely dropping your children on the doorstep. Your family will grow more because of your commitment and involvement than if you “drop and run”.

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Walk Worthy by Bearing Fruit in Good Works

IMGP7151As Trailmen, our motto is to “walk worthy.” That is to say we’ll consider our conduct – how we live our lives, how we behave, how we respond to disappointments and frustrations.  Of course, walking worthy can mean a lot more.

In the Bible, Colossians 1:10 connects the idea of walking worthy with “bearing fruit in every good work.” What does that mean to us?

Bearing fruit means being productive, accomplishing a result, delivering on our promises, fulfilling our commitments.  You bear fruit for your parents and teachers when you complete your homework correctly and on time.  Or when you complete your chores around the house without having to be asked twice. Or when you share the gospel message with a friend who would benefit from hearing about your faith and why it is an important part of your life.

Rockwell boy helps girlThe definition of “every good work” may be a bit broader.  Clearly we know we ought to obey our parents, and obey God’s commands; however, there is a difference between merely obeying someone in authority over you and doing good works for other people.   More simply, I’d ask you, does taking the trash out without being asked multiple times become the limit of doing good works, or is there something more to this idea?

In the Bible, James 2:14-26 has a lot to say about good deeds.  Listen to this modern interpretation (NLT) of some of the verses:

“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.”

Let’s look at one more scripture reference: Philippians 2:3-4

IMGP6865“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Based on these verses (or alternates listed below) what do you think is our calling as Trailmen who walk worthy by bearing fruit in every good work? How can we bear fruit in every good work as Trailmen?

  • Would we wait to be asked to help someone, or would we seek out that opportunity to help someone?
  • Do we sit back passively and wait for orders and directions when we can see plainly what needs to be done? (Opportunity for discussion about maintaining order during a troop meeting – waiting for instructions is sometimes necessary, but if we recognize an emergency like a fire getting out of a fire pit on a camping trip we’d act immediately for safety reasons)
  • Do we seek out an opportunity to do something special for other people each day?

Can you name some examples of good deeds you, family members or other Trailmen have done recently?

What are some of the advantages we receive from helping other people who are in need of assistance? (try to inspire discussion – here are some potential responses from Trailmen):

  • (we might get a “thank you” but that’s not why we decided to help)
  • (we practice the art of commitment – we engage instead of avoid)
  • (we are practicing a kind of leadership called servant leadership – putting the needs of others ahead of our own needs and learning that compassion often takes sacrifice of our free time, our own convenience and our own resources)
  • (we learn that serving others is the opposite of being selfish)
  • (we learn to be assertive instead of passive – passive means sitting back and waiting for someone else to help or get involved – what if “EVERYONE” was passive all the time? No one would step up to help others or to help us when we needed help)

Summary – Walking worthy covers a lot of specific things.  We ought to obey our parents and leaders for our safety on trips, we ought to obey God’s directives and commands because He loves us and knows what’s best for us.  Even doing all that, we could become lazy — doing only enough to get by in our lives, but instead we ought to seek out ways to help other people.  It’s a way to show them that we care about them and we do it to teach ourselves to become men of action — willing to stand up and do what needs doing instead of waiting for someone else to come along and do it for us.

Walk Worthy and Do A Good Turn Daily, Trailmen. Helping other people at all times helps us learn to commit and avoid selfishness or passivity.

Additional verses on doing a good deed daily, or helping other people:

  • Hebrews 13:16 ESV – Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
  • Romans 2:6-8 ESV – He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
  • Colossians 3:23-24 ESV – Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
  • James 4:17 ESV – So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
  • Proverbs 3:27-28 ESV – Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.
  • Hebrews 10:24 ESV – And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
  • 2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV – For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
  • Titus 2:14 ESV – Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:13 ESV – As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.

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Commitment is the Key to Transformation

IMGP6811This past Sunday’s sermon was the conclusion of a series examining our church’s mission, vision, values and virtues. Titled “The Three Most Important Words” it was a great exercise for internalizing our need to commit to the organization or move on — it’s a binary equation in Christianity — you believe or you don’t; you obey or you sin.  The world tries to paint a deceptive swath of “gray” suggesting that permissive activities are not about obedience or disobedience, but simply our right to waste the afternoon watching golf on TV.

It got me thinking about my own commitment to youth ministry.  As a former BSA leader, a TLUSA advocate, and a serving CSB Ranger, I’d say I’m committed to action.  For me, it’s not just about summarizing thoughts and ideals in a blog — exploring these themes to understand how they fit in with scriptures — but in reality, it’s all about trying to live out scriptures and these organizational ideals in my daily life.  “Once an Eagle, always an Eagle” is meaningless unless I’ve transformed myself through that process of shifting from “me first” towards “how can I make a difference in other people’s lives” — that can only come from a lifetime of discipline and especially consistent commitment.

IMGP6829Our pastor made it really simple and very clear.  “Commitment is the difference between information and transformation” — without a commitment to internalize and execute the directives, mission, values, etc. we’re only adding to our head knowledge.

When we commit and follow through, it can change our hearts, minds and whole lives. Most importantly, the overflow of this change can influence our relationships and local community in highly positive ways.

Arguably, the “three most important words” were “HERE I AM” uttered in response to God seeking our commitment to Him. A few examples of people who heard the call and acted on it include:

  • Abraham
    • Gen 22:1-2 (NASB) Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am. He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”
    • Gen 22:11-12 (NASB) But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am. He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
  • Jacob
    • Gen 31:11,13 (NASB) Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am.’ I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar, where you made a vow to Me; now arise, leave this land, and return to the land of your birth.’
    • Gen 46:1-3 (NASB) So Israel set out with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God spoke to Israel [a]in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am. He said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there.
  • Moses
    • Exodus 3:1-4 (NASB) Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.
  • Isaiah
    • Isaiah 6:1-8 (NASB) In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the [c]temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven” Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!
  • Jesus
    • Psalm 40:7-8 (NASB) Then I said, “Behold, I come [a form of “here I am”]; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.”
    • Hebrews 10:5-7 (NASB) Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, “Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, But a body You have prepared for Me; In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure. “Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come [a form of “here I am”] (In the scroll of the book it is written of Me) To do Your will, O God.’”

In our lives, we ought to learn more about God and His Word; however, we must be ready to respond to His call with commitment, otherwise, we’re learning but not growing, hearing but not going, acquiring without sharing.  Are you committed to the Lord (Matthew 22:37)?  Your family (Ephesians 5:22-33, 6:1-4)?  Your neighbor (Matthew 22:39)?

Within Trail Life USA, do you understand the Trailman’s Oath and Motto?  Do you forge practical methods to practice these steps/pledges in your daily life?  Are you walking worthy of the calling by committing to God with a response of “HERE I AM”?

The Trailmans Standard