Train them to Love the Lord
This one is incredibly difficult to measure. We all know that Christians should love the Lord and that we should raise our children to love the Lord. We all admit that we should love the Lord more than we do, if we are honest. Unfortunately, there is no love tester that we can connect to ourselves or our children to see if there is enough love to remain faithful during times of persecution, so what do we do? I wish there was an easy answer, a pill they could take or one action that would ensure it, but it is hard. There are several factors that I have seen as I have watched over the years and seen who remained faithful in these peaceful times. These factors may give us a clue to who is more likely to remain steadfast in their love when they are under fire from the enemy.
Obviously, regularly and consistently gathering with the church as a family has to be near the top of the list. Sending the kids is not very effective, and occasional attendance won’t work either. Few from those two patterns will ever become faithful. I can remember one mother coming to the elders of a church to beg them to do something about her son who was getting into trouble, the problem was she had never bothered to bring him to church more than once a month for the 15 years before that no matter how much they had pleaded with her. Church attendance is not sufficient alone, but dedication to assemble with the saints unless physically unable helps them understand the position of preeminence that God has and should have in our lives. If parents routinely allow other things to interfere with going to worship God, children will not value worship or God as they should.
Dedication is not love. You can’t have love without dedication, but you can have dedication without love. How many people are dedicated to paying their bills? Does that mean they love the bills or the companies that send them? Of course not. There are many who are dedicated to their jobs that they hate and go to work every day either because they need the income and/or benefits for their family, or because they can’t find a better one. There are some who go to church religiously and hate it. They may afraid of Hell, want the reward of Heaven, want approval of someone there, or simply be carrying out their duty, but they don’t love worship, God or the church. No, attendance is not love. You can attend without love, but you cannot love without coming to worship the God you love. The church is Christ’s bride. What would you think of a bride who had not seen her husband all week, yet when he came home she found other things to do and did not spend that time with him? Sounds like a miserable marriage to me.
Simply from a knowledge perspective, coming to 4 hours per week of Bible study and worship that really involves about 2 hours of actual learning time will produce the equivalent of a high school education in approximately 95 years. I doubt you will live long enough to get that diploma. Of course knowledge is not love, but knowledge of God and His love for us should prompt a return of love - 1 John 4:19.
Some other factors that can’t be forgotten are:
* Family devotional time. - Don’t let the kids think that God only lives at the church building. God has to live at your house too.
* Individual devotional time. - A leader can’t lead where he is unwilling to go. The closer you get to God, the closer those following you will get to God.
* Love. - God loved us to show us what love is or we never would have known. Love your children so they can see what love is. Love your spouse so they can see what marital love should be. Love your neighbor so they can see loving servitude. Love your enemies so they can see how hard it was for God to love us when we were enemies toward Him. Love God so they can see loving worship. Be sure that your loving actions and words are according to the scriptures.
* Teach the why. - Why do we go to church? We go to worship God because we love Him. Why don’t we ______? God loves us and has told us doing that would hurt us and Him. Since we love Him we don’t want to hurt him, and since we know He loves us we trust Him not to want us hurt. Tell them why Jesus came and suffered to save us – because He loved us. Tell them why God created us – because He is love and wanted to share that love with beings who could return it. If we spend too much time on the how to and the what to Christianity will be a tradition of rituals that have no meaning and that our children may practice, but without love.
* Spend time on God. - Let’s compare the amount of time each week that is spent on some different things. Learning Math - 3 ½ hrs. in class plus homework; The same for other major school subjects; Watching tv (live, recorded, movies, dvd, etc.) - average is 25-35 hours, about 4 hours a day more if you add computers, phones, etc.; Reading or being read to - average 3-4 hours, about 30 minutes a day; Praying? Bible Reading or Study? Talking with parents? How much time does your family spend on spiritual things? Where your treasure is there your time will be also, to turn a phrase. Make religious and spiritual and moral and ethical discussions part of your daily life with your children. It is scary the first time your 5,6,or 7 - year old child asks what “gay marriage” means, but it is an opportunity to discuss the creation and how God made male and female and never wanted 2 boys or 2 girls to try to make babies, etc. It can be a jumping off point to discuss marriage and how there should be 1 man with 1 woman for life and how Christ has one wife, the church. You can discuss how serious it is when someone loves Jesus so much that they want to be part of the church. On the other hand, if you say “we don’t talk about things like that”, they will eventually find out from someone who does talk about it and chances are that person will have many corrupted ideas to share. Remember Deuteronomy 6:1-9
* Ask and listen. As parents we are quick to tell children things they should know, but we are slow to listen to what their thoughts are about things. They don’t understand things that we take for granted and that can be confusing to them when we are talking. They may be embarrassed to admit that they don’t know what we mean when we have just rattled something off and then finished by saying “DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?” It takes a brave child to say “no”. We need to ask them questions that open up the discussion and let us understand what is inside them. Use why, how, what, where, when, who, and which to get them to tell you what they are feeling and thinking. It takes practice, but communication is increasingly important as they grow up. They are going to talk to someone and if it is not you it may be someone you don’t want it to be. Also, if they don’t feel comfortable talking to mom and dad they won’t feel comfortable talking (praying) to God.
I know that this just barely scratches the surface, but it will keep us busy trying to do these simple, yet hard things. Did you notice what all of them have in common? Every single one requires your time and effort. That is the key ingredient. The TV won’t teach them to love Jesus, school teachers won’t teach them to love God, even the church can’t do it without your help. It takes time to raise a garden, but weeds grow by themselves. It takes time to raise children in the way they should go, but a child left to himself will bring shame.