I love to garden. Anybody who knows me is well aware of that fact. I’ve been gardening for years and it is very therapeutic for me, not to mention that it saves a lot of money on the grocery bill. A few years ago, Clara, Andrew and I were planting the garden. It’s a process that usually takes one day each spring. We lined off the garden by making rows in the soil and then we planted our seeds. Usually, we plant mostly green beans, cucumbers, pumpkins and corn. They kids worked so hard helping me. When we were finished that evening, Clara was so excited! (She was like 5 or 6 years old at the time.) She exclaimed, “Daddy, I can’t wait till tomorrow morning to go pick all the beans and corn!” Clara didn’t understand. She thought the process of the seed turning to plant, turning to blooms, turning to fruit happened overnight. I wish it did, but as we all know, it doesn’t.
Gardening takes time and so does making disciples. Many people want to have families that have children who are followers of Jesus…but this just doesn’t happen overnight. It took Jesus three years to teach, train and equip his followers. Yet, they still struggled mightily. Peter comes to mind immediately. After three years of intense time with him, Peter denied even knowing Jesus three times. He even called down curses upon himself. Jesus never gave up on Peter. Peter was slow to learn, just like so many of us. If anyone could attest to the fact that making disciples is a long and hard process, it would be Jesus.
Raising a family is much like riding a roller coaster. There will be many ups and downs. We get to choose our attitude and how we will respond to those ups and downs. Still, it is easy to get impatient and tired of the tedious work. Earlier today, I shared my weekly: “Two Minute Tuesday” about how there are just 168 hours in a week. None of us get any more or any less time. It doesn’t matter if one is rich or poor, we all get the same amount of time. There are 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week and that equates to 168 hours per week for each of us.
The point of my video today is that we don’t have much time to get the job done of raising a Christ-centered family. If we are going to deliver to our children a faith in Christ that is rock solid, we must guard our time like a precious treasure and use it wisely. Here’s the video in case you haven’t seen it. It’s an object lesson that’s pretty neat… I’m using water and Cheerwine to make my points. 🙂
Here’s my fear: The American Dream dominates most Christian homes. Most people see the American Dream as the pursuit of happiness and getting all the gusto out of life one can. So, we pack our schedules with all the activities we can afford in pursuit of happiness and the American Dream. Many families are seldom home at night during the week. They are constantly on the move. There are after-school activities, ball practices, extra-curricular classes, dance lessons, music lessons, tutoring, etc. The list can go on and on. Believe me…with school starting back yesterday…it’s “wide open” for many families.
If you ask one of these family members how they are doing in about 6 weeks, they will likely say, “I’m tired.” Sure they are tired. They are running from pillar to post and are utterly exhausted. Why? Because it is exhausting to pursue the American Dream. Is there anything inherently wrong with this pursuit and all of these activities? We all want our children to be well-rounded. But, we must ask ourselves this question. When are we supposed to disciple the children? When do we become students of the Word of God? When do we, ourselves, have time to become disciples so that we can in turn make disciples, if we are running around all over the place, all the time? That’s precisely the problem. If we are never together for more than a few minutes here and there, we can’t and we won’t make disciples.
Some quick questions: Do our children have to have it all? What are we saying to our children when we’re gone all the time? How are they establishing their identity? Is it in what they do (their activities) or who they are? Often I hear parents describe other people’s children in this way. They will say, “I know her. She’s a cheerleader at the middle school.” Or perhaps this way: “He’s the point guard on the basketball team at the high school.” They are known as the cheerleader, the basketball player, the dancer, the piano player, the smart kid, etc. We establish in the minds of our children, unknowingly, that they must be identified by whatever they participate in to actually “be somebody.: It is easy to see why we do so. It’s because of this pursuit of happiness and the fact that we equate happiness and our identity with going and doing and getting all we can out of life.
Many have become so enamored by the idea of the American Dream that they equate their success with it. These false, pagan ideals bombard us at every turn. They are in the grocery store check-out line. Those skinny beauties on magazine covers that say, “You can have it all if you look like me.” Commercials and billboards flash before our eyes flaunting the “good life.” They say things like: drink this, buy this, or have this and you’ll be happy. Americans today buy lottery tickets by the millions just hoping and praying they can hit the jackpot and get rich; then all their dreams will come true. But we Christians are wiser than those who pursue such frivolity, aren’t we? We can have our cake and eat it too! We can have it all, (the big house, nice cars, vacations, new clothes, nice TVs, the latest gadgets), and still raise our children right, can’t we? As long as they are well-educated, accomplished and well-liked, then all is well or is it?
How does this often work out in our culture today? We’re so busy. Often the schedule for a family is dictated by the kids’ activities. We have to look on the refrigerator at the schedule to see if we can do anything.
Now don’t get me wrong. I think it’s wonderful for our children to be involved in extra-curricular activities. Mine are. But, we are constantly asking: “How much is enough?” But, it’s not just sports and outside activities. We push our kids so hard to make the good grades don’t we. I get it. Parents (myself included) love speaking about how well our children are doing in school. There is certainly nothing wrong with academic success. I graduated at the top of my class in high school and in college. But, we must remember the words of the Apostle John when he said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4). Can we say that? Does our desire for academic or athletic success for our children eclipse this standard written by John? Let’s never forget that God does not have a room in heaven for our children’s diplomas and trophies. I can hear the words of the 12-year-old Jesus again. Can you hear them? He said he had to be about his Father’s business. What about our children? What or whose business are they about?
You know, we push our children academically and athletically. We want them to be the best they can possibly be in these areas. But what about spiritually—do we push them spiritually? Somehow, we have tied our children’s success, and in many cases, their identity, to how well they perform on the field, dance floor, court or classroom. We push them to get scholarships and get high grades in school. Then what? They graduate with a degree and get a job and start making money. Does that bring happiness and fulfillment? Jesus said we should seek the kingdom of God first and then everything else we need will be added to us (See Matthew 6:33). We might say we believe this for our children and we may even tell them that, but what do our actions show?
Folks, we must count the cost. We really cannot have it all. We may have to choose. Do we want our children to make straight-A’s or take some time to learn the Word of God and make B’s? Would we be willing for our children not to be on the travel team, even though they may be good enough, so they can be in church and have time to be involved in more spiritual training? There is a cost and a huge price to be paid if we desire to raise Godly children. It doesn’t happen by osmosis.
You know, I’m the first to admit that it’s so easy to get tangled up in living vicariously through the successes of our children, especially if they can do things we were unable to do as a child. But, it shouldn’t be an “all or nothing proposition.” We must find a balance for sure. But, we must choose wisely and remember, whatever it is that we make our children crave is what they will desire for the rest of their lives.
Hey can I ask another set of questions: If we were to ask our children about their goals in life, what would be their response? What would their answers reveal? What do they crave? What kind of legacy are we passing down to our children? Is it the American Dream, or a Christ-honoring life? Is a little Jesus here and a little Jesus there good enough?
No, an occasional rain shower or just a little bit of sun will not make a garden grow and be bountiful. A garden needs enormous amounts of sun, water and fertilizer to grow. Yes, it is wonderful that we take our children to church. However, the church house was never intended to be the place where parents drop of their children to be discipled. That job must be done in the home by the parents.
You see, mom and dad, we live in a culture today that is making our children very sick, not literally, but sin-sick. They are inundated with worldviews and philosophies that are so pagan and anti-God that it is staggering to the mind. In many schools children are taught from the first grade that their ancestors are monkeys. They are fed a steady diet of pop culture through TV, music, video games and every other form of social media. Even in a controlled atmosphere, they are contaminated every day by a mixed up world. So, a little bit of Jesus (a prayer over a meal and being dropped off for a couple of hours at church), simply won’t work! They need more, much more. They need Jesus and the Word of God to be flowing through them like an IV-drip at the hospital.
If you have ever been around a hospital, you have seen plenty of IV bags hanging from little metal stands on rollers. If the patient is sick enough, he must take that IV bag of medicine everywhere he goes. If he takes a walk down the hall, the IV goes too. The patient must receive a constant flow of his or her medicine and when the IV bag runs out, the monitor on the rolling stand signals an alarm. It beeps and beeps until the nurse comes and replaces the used bag with a new, full bag of medicine. Likewise, we must be constantly pumping Christ’s teachings and the Bible into our young people from a very early age to counteract the influences and worldviews of evolutionary thinking and secular humanism going into them. As good as most of our schools are in America, (we’ve got some fantastic ones here in Wilkes County), these schools and their teachers cannot and will not be able to teach our children about Jesus Christ. It’s illegal. Therefore, parents, as good as our coaches and instructors may be, it’s quite simply not their responsibility to teach our children the Bible and the principles of Scripture. It’s our job!