7 Reasons Why You Should Intentionally Invest in your Child’s Spiritual Growth

 

Patience (Yellow, Blue JosiahKids Shirts)

I started working with teenagers at my church in New Jersey when I was only 21 yrs old. As I packed up and left for Bible School, I was already sure of two main things. The window to influence a child for good closes quite quickly. And two, it is better—much better to start early. For many years, I have spoken to parents in the wee hours of the night agonizing over their teenagers and young adult children. I knew earlier on that once I became a parent, it would be imperative to pour in as much good as I possibly can into the lives of my children (and any others) that God would place along my path. Unfortunately, not all parents see the value of their child’s spiritual formation. Many times (athletics, academics, a life of ease and excellence in everything else) has been prioritized over a child’s relationship with God. This breaks my heart. I thought I’d try to provide a few persuasive reasons why your child’s spiritual formation should be at the very top of your family’s priority.

  1. As a Sunday School teacher, I can personally attest that what your child receives on Sunday morning is possibly equivalent to taking a vitamin once a week. It’s helpful yes, but by no means can it replace the trouble you take to prepare a nutritious meal that your kids rely on for their health and sustenance. You are a spirit. You live in a body. When it’s all over, our bodies will return to the dust, and the spirit will return to God who breathed His breath of life into us. Your child’s spiritual stamina should be of greater value than the value we have placed on ensuring our food is (authentic, organic, locally grown well-seasoned, natural, pesticide free) as seen on TV, blogs and media campaigns. Do that, yes! But put in more effort to feed the Spirit man—nothing can match the wisdom, guidance, protection, and leading that God will provide your kids when you invest in nourishing their spirit. Don’t settle for spiritual undernourishment.

 

  1. We are always (ONE) generation removed from following God wholeheartedly. Hezekiah loved and feared God greatly. He destroyed idol worship in Israel, sought to please God, and cried out to the LORD to heal him from a grave illness. God heard him, answered him and added 15 years to his life—even blessing him with a son; Manasseh (see 2 Kings 21). This son of a God-fearing man did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than all the kings of Israel combined. He led the entire nation astray, provoking the LORD who answered Judah with disaster everywhere. Just because you fear God, does not mean your children will follow in your footsteps. You and I must work to ensure we give our children a sure faith of their own. You will never know the evil you will restrain by investing from the front end. Think of it this way: every evil we know was invented and or imagined by someones child.

 

  1. The Bible is transparent about the good God seeks to do in the lives of His people, but it also warns to beware of the schemes, seductions, and enticing of the evil one who comes to steal, kill and to destroy. If the enemy can discourage, derail, disconnect and distract (us) and our kids early, this means he will have less work to do later. Michael Jackson had amazing skill and talent, but there was an open door. Satan is actively seeking to plant seeds of doubt about your child’s identity, purpose and calling. Did God really say? I’m I beautiful? Do I really fit in? Is this really wrong? Notice that all three times when Satan attacked Jesus in His most vulnerable state, though HE was the Son of God—He answered: It is written. It is written. It is written. Can your child competently rebuttal and refute Satan’s lies? Read (Deuteronomy 11:18-21) God gave this responsibility to the Fathers and Mothers—not the child. We are to own this!

 

  1. We never quite know when difficulty will come knocking on our family’s individual doors. On what should have been an ordinary day, Joseph was sold into Egypt as a slave by his own brothers, Daniel as a boy found himself in Babylonian captivity, the little servant girl was snatched from her own family in Israel by the Assyrians and given as plunder (a slave) to Naaman’s wife. Never did it occur to any of these young people that their lives would change so drastically in one given day. I too personally know the pain of deep loss that came knocking so unexpectedly—leaving my “perfect” childhood a shattered wreck. In all instances (including my own) it was GOD—knowing HIM really, well that saved the day! For Joseph, Daniel and the little servant girl they all brought MASSIVE national change because they knew the God of their fathers!

 

  1. I am yet to find a better discourse given on this topic than that Christ himself gave in Matthew 6. There are SO many good things said in that one chapter, it is impossible to add them all into this one bullet point (so read it). If I had to choose a single highlight from that chapter, it would have to be: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33) What things? Whatever you have need of! Apparently, God already knows that you need clothing, food, shelter—that He does not want you to worry about it and or spend all your time focused on amassing wealth or temporary things. He promises to supply ALL your needs if you will just dare to put Him first!

 

  1. Listen to what Malachi says while addressing an issue of spiritual and marital fidelity (2:15). Has not the one God made you? You belong to Him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring! SO be on your guard… Though it might be nice to do, God is not in the least concerned that we should raise Him the next generation of Gold medal champions. He is not even concerned that our children make it to the NBA, NFL or bring home the FIFA world cup. Rather, what would please HIM most is to have us raise Him children who fear and reverence His great name. Think about it, the Bible says Eli raised (worthless sons). God literally had to destroy them. Hophni and Phinehas were unfit to serve as priests before God. Their story is chilling—they completely lost the fear of God. Their father Eli had also lost his spiritual vitality and could not restrain his sons from doing evil. He could not even discern that this tiny little Samuel running around in the LORD’s temple—was his own replacement. All three men died on the same day. God had raised a new prophet for Himself. Samuel would serve God for the next 40years! Our children must be fit to serve the living God.

 

  1. I can think of no greater complement from the living God than to hear HIM say of King David: “I have found a man after my own heart.” What that simply means, is that I have found a person who has likes and dislikes like my own. He is passionate about my passions. He loves what I love. He hates what I hate. He is not perfect, but he strives to please me and brings me great joy! Wouldn’t we all love for God to feel this way about our children? Let me submit to you, parents. Your children cannot love a God they do not know. In order for their hearts to be in sync with the heart of the God of heaven, they must first begin with the very first verse (in the beginning, God…) and make their way to the very end of the revealed story of the heart of God. There are no shortcuts. They must take the stairs one step at a time into the heart of God!

cropped-marlene-maina-signature-black-and-white-jji.png

Children Learn What They Live

children love what they live
Photo Credit: Mother for Life (motherforlife.com)

 Children Learn What They Live 

By: Dorothy Law Nolte

If a child lives with criticism,

HE learns to condemn.

If a child lives with hostility,

HE learns to fight.

If a child lives with ridicule,

HE learns to be shy

If a child lives with shame,

HE learns to feel guilty.

If a child lives with tolerance,

HE learns to be patient.

If a child lives with encouragement,

HE learns confidence.

If a child lives with praise,

HE learns to appreciate.

If a child lives with fairness,

HE learns justice.

If a child lives with security,

HE learns to have faith.

If a child lives with approval,

HE learns to like himself.

If a child lives with acceptance and friendship

HE learns to find love in the world.

“Children are so impressionable that they pick up even our unconscious attitudes.  I wish every one of us had inscribed on the walls of our home the words of Dorothy Law Nolte’s work.” John A. Lawrence

cropped-marlene-maina-signature-black-and-white-jji.png

As the twig is bent, so grows the tree

Identifying: We Reap the Same in Kind As We Sow 

As the twig is bent

Several years ago, “Our Daily Bread” carried an article by an anonymous author on the power of example.  It would be worth repeating it here.

“One day when Junior was 14 he noticed his father wearing a happy grin as he came home from the office.

“Got pinched for speeding, but Jake down at the city hall got the ticket fixed for me,’ he said.

“When Junior was 15, he was with his mother in the family car when she backed into a tree.  The damage would easily exceed $100.

“We’ll say someone rammed into us when we were parked downtown, she said. ‘Then we’ll collect insurance for it.’

When the boy was 16, he listened to his grandfather reminiscing about the ‘good old days of rationing’ when he made $100,000 black-marketing cars.  That same night Uncle John was bragging that on a good share of his business he sent no bills and took no checks—just cash.

“Why be a sucker and let those punks in the Internal Revenue Department get all my money?’ he asked.

“When Junior turned 18, his family pulled every possible string to get him a paid scholarship at a coveted Ivy League school.  They even lied about the family income to make it seem that their son needed financial aid.  When he had a rough time scholastically, an upperclassman sold him the answers to the calculus examination.  Junior was caught and expelled.  When he returned home, his mother burst into hysterical weeping over the disgrace he had caused.

“How could you have done this to us’; she sobbed.

‘This isn’t the way we raised you.””

John Lawrence:  I have a feeling I know why this was written anonymously; it is too like the real thing not to be based upon reality.

As someone has well expressed it “As the twig is bent it is apt to snap back in your face.

(The 7 Laws of the Harvest; Page 41)

marlene-maina-signature-black-and-white-jji

Samuel: A Rare Clarity

To hear HIM wellThe Desire to Hear HIM Well

As I journey through first Samuel once more, a deep longing of desire overwhelmed me when I came to chapter nine.  Not only did I enjoy the story, it felt new! I was pulled in by the intimate detailed conversations between Saul and Samuel and their first meeting and introductory days near Mizpah. Was this story always this beautiful? The new beginnings for Saul, Samuel and a persistent Israel are quite captivating. Saul, who knew little to nothing about Samuel is unknowingly led by God (with the help of a servant) right to the proverbial doorsteps of a well-informed prophet who God had prepared in detail to anticipate his arrival.

The Bible tells us, Samuel was now old.  His sons (Joel & Abijah) who Samuel had appointed to lead Israel were reported to have turned aside after dishonest gain, accepting bribes and perverting justice—reminding us much of the sons of Eli, the high priest who tiny little Samuel had replaced. Which meant the old man Samuel had to continue in his role as prophet and judge over Israel until the LORD could find someone of the same spirit.

The backdrop of this scene is of course not good.  God’s heart is broken.  His people have rejected Him and asked for a king.  Samuel is grieved, but God insists he should listen to the people and do as they have asked.  It is in the midst of this grief where God permissively grants Israel’s request that something beautiful emerged out of the chapter for me personally—deeply endearing my heart to the God of Israel.

For one, He (God) cautions the people of what having a king might mean for their properties and their sons and daughters. When they insist to go forward, He does not begrudge them or treat them with resentment—even though he would be completely justified to withdraw His participation and presence from the entire thing. Instead, God remains loving and engaged.  He even guides Samuel through a VERY detailed process telling him that He would be guiding a young man to him the next day and what Samuel is to say to him.

Can I please point out that God’s character is SO deeply endearing to me?! He is impressive, above reproach and simply amazing!  He had judged the house of Eli and raised up Samuel.  He could dwell on the sin of the sons of Samuel or the collective stubbornness of the hearts of the house of Israel, or He could simply walk out of this and let Israel figure it out—but He doesn’t. Instead, He simply moves forward with the vessel that is willing, faithful and yielded to Him not being hindered by Samuel’s age, the people’s rejection of Him, or the omniscience He holds to know what Israel’s future was going to look like in just a few short years. He talks to Samuel, he asks him to anoint Saul with oil. Read the details.  Samuel is able to give Saul blow-by-blow details of what his journey back home would look like.  God even fills him with the Holy Spirit and literally–changes the man to equip him for the job, signifying that He dearly cares for His people even when we are walking outside of His ways. What a heart! This is beautiful; totally worth emulating!

I gleaned quite a few practical lessons from this passage today, but the deepest longing it awakened in my soul that brought me to my knees before heaven was the intimacy God shared with Samuel. Samuel did not have to guess or wonder what God was saying—he heard God clearly and consistently.  The instructions Samuel gave Saul were accurate and reliable.  They were the VERY words of God!  “You stay here for a little while” he had told Saul “so that I may give you a message from God”.  These words would make any 21st-century Christian cringe (because of how misused they have been), yet this was how Samuel had led Israel, and he would be the very same channel God would use to visit Jesse—regarding God’s own choice for King (David).  So I got on my knees this morning and I prayed earnestly “Lord, I desire to hear you exceptionally well.” Lead me, guide me, and grant me such intimate clear lines of communication with you, that I too like Samuel (in spite the wrong or evil that was going on with his family or his nation) will be able to hear you my LORD with a rare clarity—and speak reliable words that will lead your people to honor your great name.

 Marlene Maina  // 9.1.17