Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Discarded Torch

Maybe you've seen the video clip of three generations and how they spent/spend their free time as children. Maybe you, like me, are reminded of playing outdoors in lingering sunlight or with frost-laden breath. And maybe you, like me, want the same for every child who ever has or ever will walk the face of the planet.

The reality is that we are letting our kids down--not in access to fresh air, freedom and fantasy--as much as in our role as disciplers of Jesus. Kids who play video games and spend hours lost in la-la land have very little to offer the world. They will enter crippled, weak and anemic both spiritually and practically. We know that. But the truth is, it's not the kids' decision. It's ours. We are failing. We are so self- and comfort-centered that we've dropped the torch and taken a detour instead of running the race.

Here are some ways to pass the torch to the next generation:

- Stop! Look at yourself. What kind of example are you? Monkey-see, monkey-do. What do your children see? What does the Lord see? Examine your life, your motives, your thoughts. What consumes you? What drives you? How is that evident in your choices? Sadly, the things that drive you drive your children. They're probably the same things that make you angry and frustrated. Your g/God has become their g/God. Repent or rejoice. If this part of your life isn't on track, nothing else will be. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart" (Deut. 6:5-6, emphasis added).

- Observe. Watch your kids. Ask questions. Get to know them. What do they enjoy? What do they do well? What don't they do well? What's important to them? What do they want to do with their lives? How are they doing that now? What do they need to improve? How can you help them?

- Provide opportunities. Involve your child in what you do. A disciple is a follower. But if no one leads, they can't follow. Be the leader. Teach your child new skills. Take your child to new places. Introduce them to the needs of others. Put them to work. Do it with them. Do something new, something you've never done before either.

- Be vulnerable. Allow your child to ask hard questions (they will--you don't have to prep them!). Answer honestly. Say, "I don't know. Let's find out." Let them see you struggle, fail, and figure out how to get back on your feet. When Jesus told Peter, "Feed my sheep," it wasn't because he had it all together. It's because He knew where and how to find the Good Shepherd. Take your children to Jesus. He will use your needs and weakness to show them how it's done.

- Speak truth. When your child is wrong, tell him. Present truth from the Word of God. Address the issue. When your child does something well, tell her. Praise her effort and encourage her in using her gifts. Words are powerful! Use them. "You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up" (Deut. 6:7).

- Do life together. When your child fails, don't write him off, send him to the corner or take away his cell phone. Help him! Come up with a plan for change. Yes, you will be inconvenienced. More than that, you will have to look your priorities square in the eye. And if we're honest, American parents, our choices communicate that our children are less important than our jobs, our friends, our ministries, our leisure and our comforts. That's why we write them off, send them to the corner and ground them from privileges. We do it for no other reason than our sin has blinded us to discipling and loving our children as God has loved and provided for us: sacrificially, unconditionally, over and above His comfort and reputation.

- Be the adult. You are not a child. God intends us to grow. All of us. The word "grow" is used 124 times in the Bible. That's God's goal for you--with the purpose that you are changing, different today than a year ago, applying the knowledge and experience He provides. Change requires exercise, training and practice (1 Tim. 4:7-8; Heb. 5:13-14). It's slow, difficult, and demanding but the results are oh, so worth it! Be the adult. Be responsible. Be accountable. Be an example. Be the leader.  "You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates" (Deut. 6:8-9).

Be the kind of person who can say, "Follow me as I follow Christ." (1 Cor. 11:1)

And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight....

And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.”

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 11:32-34, 39-40; 12:1-14)

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