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Who wants to be a lovely empty box?

"Beware of misapplying your energies; be careful to begin in the right place."--C.H. Spurgeon, from his sermon on "The Great Reservoir" of the heart (Prov. 4:23)

If you are training your young people by hyper-focusing on the externals while neglecting the heart, you are "misapplying your energies," and you won't like the end result. A person who can put on a good public show while covering up a sin-filled private life is like my Grandma Bubbie used to say: "Pretty package; nothing inside."

Obviously, we have to keep externals in line because man can only see the "outward appearance," but we need to give more effort and energy to the part that God can see: the heart. We who are parents will find ourselves in the prime of our Christian lives just in time to witness the slow decline in the lives of our young adults if we’re not more conscientious about matters of the heart.

This is the "looks" generation. You can be looking good but doing ugly and people will praise you for getting it half-wrong! The sad thing is, the appearance won't last. Well behaved children who are trained to look good without actually developing the right heart may get all the "merit awards" in school, but they are being set up for a colossal fall one day. Misplaced goals result in disappointing outcomes.

Are you tired of seeing young people walk away from God after moving the tassel on their graduation caps? If so, you're must purposely teach your child give God his heart. And this goes for any parent training children, regardless of where the children are getting their education. You may have the best "Yes ma'am, Yes Sir" puppets on the planet, and they may be impressive for a while, but they'll be a source of depression if you never get around to focusing on the heart.

Many of us know parents who did an exceptionally good job training their children, only to have a child do something disappointing later in life. If you're that parent, you did your best. Don't blame yourself for choices that you didn't make. On the other hand, those of us who "missed a spot" or more in the training process need to accept the fact that some of the things we may not like are side effects from training errors. I am that kind of parent. Still, I am also the kind of parent who is willing to work hard to increase the chances of success while trusting the Lord for the long-term outcome. Temporary setbacks do not have to become permanent lifestyles. When God has the heart, great changes can take place!

How do we help our young people with their hearts? Start young. Read Scripture to your children, yes, even while they're in the womb. Then read it to them daily, even if it's only a few verses, until they can read on their own. Once they are reading, make Bible reading a regular part of their day, like tooth-brushing, only far more important! "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." (Psa. 119:11) The Word of God memorized becomes the Word of God hidden in the heart. Teach your children to read, memorize and meditate on (ponder and consider) God's Word. 

Once you've established this habit, don't mess up your work by allowing unlimited access to the media. Become an avid screener! Check things out before you allow your precious loved ones to plunk down in front of something that may train them to turn away from God! If more people would "edit" what's coming into their homes via the numerous electronic devices today, there would be less pollution entering the minds of the residents. "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me." (Psa. 101:3)

If your child is already past the early training stages, make daily Bible reading a house rule. If their feet are still under your dining room table, your rules are still in force. Don't worry that you're "making them do it." No one was ever harmed from daily Bible reading, but many have been destroyed by trying to live without it. It's never too late to start a Bible reading habit.

 If you don't like what you're seeing in the spiritual growth and development of your young person, maybe it's time for a change strategy. Expecting a young person to walk with God in this world while repeatedly immersing their minds in the popular media is like expecting an alcoholic to stay sober while living in a bar! Clean out the clutter of  media influences, magnify the Lord and His Word in your home, and then watch God go to work from the inside out. God always starts with the heart, because God doesn't "misapply His energies."

And while we’re on this topic, does God even have your heart? If not, start with your own heart first. Just as the flight attendant says in the safety instructions on the plane: "If oxygen masks appear, put on your own mask first before assisting others." We need more parents who have hearts for the Lord. Maybe then we'll see reproduction of the right kind.

"Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." Prov. 4:23

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