Last week, Good Morning America ran a segment on protecting your kids from the influence profane language, from predators, and from various other immoralities that they should not be exposed to. Their focus was the digital realm—the internet and video games. And a good bit of the advice they gave was the kind of thing that Christian parents ought to take special note of.
They talked about getting filters set up on your home internet and your devices, about making sure that kids do not have access to the entire digital world from their own devices, and about specific services you can use to keep that kind of thing under control (link below). Two pieces of advice rose above the rest:
1) Even as you protect your kids from bad influences and temptations, teach them how to avoid and overcome the temptations that will inevitably present themselves.
2) More than anything else, parents must be involved. It takes some extra work for dad and mom to navigate these waters, and it's worth the diligence required of us to do it rightly.
Admittedly, it seems a little bit hypocritical to hear this advice from a left-leaning media network… one that occasionally promotes the spectrum of the LGBTQ+ agenda and other unwholesome ideas to kids in other segments and on some of its other channels. But in spite of the inconsistency, Christian parents ought to realize that if those folks can see the value in protecting children from unwholesome and dangerous influences while they are young, how much more should we be diligent in doing that?
*they recommend www.parentalcontrols.org for filtering/guardian options on video games*
You are finite. You don’t have perfected skills in all areas. You will never have unlimited time. There is always at least some limit to the available money. Your energy is finite—everyone has to rest at some point. And you presence is limited—you can only be in one place at a time.
That makes the math pretty simple: If there is only one you and one me, then neither of us can be everywhere, doing everything all the time. And that’s true even when we want to do some of the good works that God created for us to do. The reality is undeniable: you can’t do everything. You and I are not God.
So is it possible to live life peacefully while knowing that you can’t be all-knowing, all-being, and all-doing—even in the areas where you feel that you should be doing something? Yes. But we have to make some tough choices. We have to prioritize things that are truly important and then let go of the less-important things.
And this is where the tough choices have to be made. Most of us intrinsically know what’s most important to us: our faith in Jesus, our families, and our own well-being. It’s easy to give something a higher priority; it’s harder to be at peace while letting go of the things that should be lower priorities. But that’s what must happen. Jesus said, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33)
And when we do that, we can be assured that it will work. And you can have peace of mind when you make choices based on godly priorities… that he is working things out as he knows best. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28)
- Dan Lankford, minister
A word to Christian parents who are trying to raise godly kids:
If you’re tired, you’re probably doing it right.
Parenting is a tough job. There’s a lot to do, and it’s important to do it well when you can. We shouldn’t be surprised if it tires us out sometimes. But in spite of that, there are some things that need to remain high priorities for our families. They will continue to make us tired, but they are worth it. Here are three quick reminders:
First, keep your spiritual life strong (Matt. 6:33). Don’t let the urgent demands of daily life take precedence over your walk with Christ. If you succeed in raising educated, healthy, industrious children, but your walk with Christ is sacrificed, it just won’t be worth it.
Second, prioritize your marriage. Give attention to your spouse. Go on dates. Work thru conflicts rather than avoiding them. Read the Bible and pray together. Enjoy God's gift of sex. Stay committed to each other. Your kids will grow and leave the house, but as Christians, we are committed to our marriages until death parts us. So make marriage a priority, and enjoy the blessings of godliness that can come by doing so.
Third, teach your children. Don’t just protect them, teach them (Eph. 6:4). Don’t just survive every day, teach them every day. Don’t just try to make them happy, work to make them better.
Family life is hard work. If you’re tired, you’re probably doing it right. Keep going, and God will be with you.
- Dan Lankford, minister
For Christian parents, one of the happiest days of the whole parenting experience must surely be when our children decide to commit their lives to Christ. Several years ago, before I had kids of my own, I was with a close Christian friend when his son was baptized. I said to him, "This must be a good day for a dad." And without missing a beat, he said, "This is the best day for a dad."
Here's something to think about in that situation: as a parent, what do you say to your kids after that momentous, eternity-shaping event? What should our first conversation with them be like?
I don't feel like I have a very complete answer to that question, but I've got a couple of ideas as I think ahead to what I will say to my own kids. It will probably involve a long and serious conversation early on. (More likely, it will involve several serious conversations when we sit in our house, and when we walk by the way, and when we lie down, and when we rise.) So as I'm thinking about that now, here are some of the things I will want them to hear from me:
- First, I want them to know that I am overjoyed at the choice they've made! I am thrilled that they have believed in Jesus enough to do something with that faith.
- Second, I want them to start thinking about the power & importance of prayer right away. It's hard to think of anything as powerful for fighting temptation, for overcoming doubt, and for truly enjoying the gift of salvation.
- Third, I want to warn them about the serious and unrelenting nature of temptation. It doesn't go away after you're baptized; in fact, your temptations will almost certainly get stronger. And you don't get to take them less seriously after you're baptized. It can become easy to downplay sin by thinking, "Now, if I sin, all I have to do is pray for forgiveness," but it's not okay to presume upon God's grace like that (Rom. 6:1).
- Fourth, I want to ask them some questions about their friends. Will those friendships help you walk with Christ? What will you be doing to light the way to Jesus for them?
- And finally (for now, anyway), I want to hear that my kids have some actionable plans for spending time with God. A commitment to Bible reading, a prayer time and journaling habit, a devotional study they're having with their Christian friends, or a tangible way to do some good works for others... something to ensure that their faith will be active.
There's probably plenty more that would be good to include in those first days of shepherding our children toward God when they become Christians. But I hope that even this helps us as parents to start thinking ahead and planning to help our kids as much as possible when they make their own choice to walk thru life & eternity with Jesus Christ.
- Dan Lankford, minster
This past week, USA Today published a report titled, Why Having Kids Isn't Necessarily the Best Idea, According to Science. It said, “Being a parent is supposed to be one of life’s great adventures…. But… According to a slew of new research studies, it turns out there are plenty of reasons not to have kids.” According to the report, children are bad for the environment, they affect a mom’s work life in negative ways, they cause strain on adults’ friendships and marriages, and parents are generally less healthy than adults with no children (research shows that parents get less sleep, less exercise, and less quiet time. That much isn’t shocking, is it?).
The last line of the report says, “But for all the reasons not to have kids, there are always a few reasons that make it all worthwhile,” but it does not say what any of those reasons are. And the implication of the whole thing is that “science” tells us that having and raising children is a bad thing.
First of all, should a society which ridicules the Christian sense of what people ought to do really be telling us whether or not we ought to have and raise children? Does this not entirely violate the stated rules of science—to observe the natural world; not to make moral judgments about that world?
Secondly, Christians cannot buy into this as though it had any merit of truth. Our worldview prevents us from seeing this as a valid conclusion. The Psalmist was not just speaking feel-good niceties when he said, “children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psa. 127:3). He was speaking the truth from God. Children are a blessing to God’s people, and we would do especially well to remember that in the midst of a culture that sets itself against the well-being of children with perverse practices from the murder of the unborn to poisoning children’s minds with concepts like “gender confusion” to sexualized expectations for youthful girls.
All of it reminds Christians that we have a responsibility toward those who are vulnerable—in this case, children. We have a responsibility to welcome the children whom God has given us in our homes, to defend the unborn, to protect children from the devil’s attacks against their bodies and their minds, and to make sacrifices for their well-being.
In this case (and unfortunately many others), the world’s “science” is completely bogus; the conclusions being drawn carelessly. It is a good thing for parents to have and raise children. In fact, it is very good, as it has been from beginning. “God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it...’ And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Gen. 1:28, 31)
- Dan Lankford, minister
To this day, when my dad is asked, “What do you want for a Father’s Day gift?,” he will say something like, “It doesn’t have to be a brand new truck, but something in that price range would be fine.” And even while I shake my head at him, I still think it’s funny every year.
Another father says something more attainable and more profound when asked the same question: “Prove that you know me.” That’s it. He wants his wife and kids to demonstrate that they truly know and appreciate him, and to let that be the motivation behind their gifts.
For the Christian, every day is our Father’s day, and we have an opportunity to give him a gift every day. And God’s hopes for gifts from his children are the same as that dad mentioned just above: “prove that you know me.” Inherent within that request: prove that you respect me.
In Malachi 1, the Lord says to his people, “A son honors his father… If then I am a father, where is my honor? ... When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? ... Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.” (Mal. 1:6-10) Does a second-rate gift prove that God’s people know him? That they respect him? The answer is an obvious and resounding, “No.”
When you give a gift to your dad, don’t take my dad’s advice—it doesn’t have to be expensive. But do remember to show dad, by your gift, that you know him—what he appreciates, what he loves, and what he hopes to be in his life. And even more than that, make sure that the gift of your whole life shows that you know all the same things about our Heavenly Father.
- Dan Lankford, minister
A bit of advice for Christian parents (self included): let's read the Bible to our kids and with our kids.
Somewhere along the line, many Christian parents got the idea that the best way to share the word of God with our children was to change it. So we eliminated details, we added artist renderings of the stories which are very often historically inaccurate, we inserted punchlines and jokes all along the way, and we only told them the Bible stories that have happy endings.
Let me be clear: I'm not necessarily opposed to all the things in that list individually. And I'm not necessarily opposed to the use of all children's Bibles.
But as Christian parents who value the words of God himself, let's be sure we are sharing the words of God himself with our children. When God commanded the Israelites to teach their children, he said, "these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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." (Deut. 6:6-7) He intended them to share his very words with their children.
Islamic parents understand this as a crucial part of sharing their faith. Their children are taught the Quran from the time they can talk. Most devout parents read passages to them multiple times daily. And as a result, they have one of the highest retention rates of all faiths. In other words, children from devout Muslim households very often grow up to be devout Muslims. And when asked why, they frequently cite a strong attachment to their holy book and the god (Allah) it describes.
We must do the same. If our holy book truly is the words of God (and I believe it is), and if the God in it truly is the author and perfecter of our faith (and I believe he is), then we must share THAT with our children—even when it challenges them, when it seems to bore them, and when they don't seem to appreciate it. Certainly, a simplified version of God's word will be easier and more entertaining for a child. But it won't have the same life-shaping power as the Gospel itself. Let's not neglect to share the God-breated word with them. "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Heb. 4:12)
- Dan Lankford, minister
It seems that the best gift in any relationship is fellowship. It’s the gift of sharing something—thoughts, experiences, passions, or just time. It is one of the defining elements of Christian-to-Christians relationships that we share Christ and the Holy Spirit and thereby have fellowship with each other.
Today, remember that this is the best gift you can give to dad too: share something with him. And especially make it a point to share your time with him if there’s any way you can. Dads are often encouraged to share time with their kids (Eph. 6:4—you can’t bring children up to maturity without a serious time commitment), and the same encouragement ought to be heeded in the other direction.
So give some serious consideration to how you could spend some time with your dad in a way that he would appreciate it today. Play a game that he enjoys, watch a game that he enjoys, go somewhere he likes to be, talk about one of his favorite subjects, find one of his old favorite TV shows on YouTube and watch it with him, talk about a great book you’ve read, or ask about his favorite memories from when he was a kid.
If at all possible, do your best today to “honor your father” (Eph. 6:2) in some way. A gift that he can open is definitely a good thing, but give it a little extra thought, and you’ll probably be able to think of a way to share a little more and to instill some fellowship in your relationship.
- Dan Lankford, minister
“If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you… You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.” (Lev. 25:35-38, emphasis added)
In commanding them not to exact interest on loans to their poor brothers, God reminded his people under the Law of Moses to mirror his own generosity. He had given them the land of promise—and plenty more besides—and he asked them to live similarly toward each other.
In Jesus’ sermon in Luke 6, he makes a similar requirement of his disciples. “Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back” (Luke 6: 30, emphasis added). He commands us to give—to do good—not so we expect repayment either now or int the future, but simply because we can do good. It is an attitude of grace and generosity that mirrors the grace and generosity of God both under the Law of Moses and since the time of Christ.
We would do well to put these principles to work toward our families first. Give some deep and honest consideration to the following questions. How much are you willing to GIVE for your family? Are you willing to do good when it goes unnoticed? What about when it is rejected? What about when family members hate you for doing what is right? Will you continue?
How much are you willing to GIVE for your family? Are you willing to be wronged when you’ve done right? Are you willing to forfeit your rights and pleasures for someone else’s best interest? Are you willing to love or respect your spouse more than yourself or your children? Are you willing to love your children by putting their needs above your own? And are you willing to do all of it without demanding to be repaid for the good that you have done?
Don’t keep your family members in debt to you. Just be a giver. And in doing so, you will teach them what God has already done for all of us.
- Dan Lankford, minister
Today, I was really struck by a prayer challenge and a question about it.
The challenge: pray this prayer over your children:
“God, thank you for my child. And God I pray that they will grow up to love you and serve you exactly like I do. And God I pray that they will grow up and handle their money exactly like I do. And God I pray that this child will grow up and visit the exact same websites that I do. And God I pray that this child will grow up and treat their spouse the exact way that I do. And God I pray that this child will be as industrious and hard-working as I am.”
And the question: would you want God to answer that prayer?