Monday, December 21, 2015

When All is Calm

The song, "Silent Night," has intrigued me for years. Just consider these words:

Silent night, holy night 


Is "calm" a foreign word? Let's define it:
"Undisturbed by passion; not agitated or excited; quiet; tranquil; as the mind, temper, or attention."

All is calm...

Maybe "calm" is plain English, but the concept is rare. How do we get to that place? God knows the way, but we may have become too busy to allow Him to show us how to get to calm. After all, we have cookies to bake, gifts to wrap, cards to send, concerts to attend...

All is not calm under these conditions. Calm doesn't like crazy.

Christmas is the only birthday celebration known to man where the Guest of Honor is so steadfastly ignored. During this season of run-run-go-go-do-do-do, Christ is often forgotten, and the calmness that comes from time in His Word is forfeited. 

A starved soul is an agitated soul. The solution? Feed your soul as you do your body: regularly. Daily. Without the Word of God, we are anything but calm.

Pause. Grab your Bible and sit down. Hug it. Read. Pray. Thank God for His "unspeakable gift." Don't rush this process. You have all day to run like a marathoner. Please pause.

Missing out on the calm that God provides is like missing a flight because you didn't give yourself enough time to get to the airport. The ticket is yours, but poor planning can rob you of a seat.

Silent night, holy night. All is calm...

With Christ, all is calm, even when everything around us is not.

"Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors." 
Proverbs 8:34

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Our Children Are Surrounded

At a recent ladies' conference, I made this statement in a workshop on parenting adult children: 

"Stop apologizing for the spiritual condition of your children. This is unnecessary. If their relationship with the Lord is off course, that's between them and God." 

This statement was prompted by the frequent times ladies would tell me about their children being "away from the Lord," often with a tone that seemed confessional. While completely sincere, this is a practice that really serves no purpose. I'm not sure where we got the idea that we need to explain our children to others, but it's a mistaken notion.

If you have multiple children, you will have multiple outcomes. If you have only one child, you may still have multiple outcomes as behaviors and choices fluctuate over time. Doesn't anyone else remember making some of the grandest mistakes during the younger years?

People talk as if spiritual warfare, including trials raising children, is something brand new. We seem to have forgotten that there is nothing new under the sun. "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 1:9) Spiritual warfare is as old as Scripture, but perhaps we thought that our families would be exempt. After all, we go to church, read our Bibles, pray daily, and much, much more. Wouldn't that at least protect our children from the world?

Parenting was already a hard job. There is no profession on earth that has such an enormous impact on others than parenting. Teaching students comes close, but parenting is both teaching and training, which are two distinctly different things. In fact, perhaps because we're confusing the two today, many are dismayed at the outcome.

Teaching imparts information. Training provides practical skills.

When we're depositing chapter-and-verse by the hundreds without the corresponding training on how to live it, we can expect system failure. Memorizing dozens of verses is not the same as training, anymore than memorizing an instruction manual will make you a technology pro. Without training, the instructions are merely accumulated and in some cases, disregarded or discarded later in life. Too many "award-winning" Christian children are morphing into young adults who are unsure of their spiritual standing. They may even still own the trophies and ribbons won at Awana or Master Club, but have no idea why they should care about walking with God.

Many children are drinking poison because someone changed the label to trick them into taking the first toxic sip. They have been duped, and the poison has caused a worldly delirium that makes them imagine that enemies are friends and loved ones are foes.

How many times must we see a child walk away from God before we'll understand that our teaching is too heavy on image and too light on substance? We have been downloading vast amounts of pre-selected and pre-screened information, pressed the "start" key and then wondered why things weren't working like the manual said they would. Just like computer programs, there were "bugs" in this system of child-training.

But wait a this a blame-the-parents tirade? No, because parents are only part of the equation. Parents are often easily blamed for faulty outcomes with their children, but how many of us did the best we could, only to have a result that was completely puzzling? It's not just the parenting process; we've also got competition for their hearts.

The influence of "evil men and seducers" is at an all-time high. "But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived." (2 Tim. 3:13)  The team of deceivers is running out of time and losing ground, so they're resorting to cheating, deliberate lies and a last-minute rewriting of the rules.

Satanic oppression in the form of dishonesty and distortion is at pandemic levels, and our precious children are surrounded by this demonic influence, even in "safe places" like Christian schools and yes, even in homeschool. Don't be deluded: Oppression is a game of coercion with a goal of domination. The agenda of those who hate Christ is this: To weaken our faith and cause insecurity mingled with doubt.

What better way to weaken the faith of Christians than to attack their children?

Christians schools are not exempt from attack, and neither is the home. Just ask any parent that trained a child at home, expecting a far better outcome just by limiting the number of influences. We can limit influences, but we cannot erase them. We are all in the same battle, and we need to accept the reality of spiritual warfare. War includes atrocities and casualties, without respect of family lineage.

What can we do about these perilous times?

  1. Beg God to protect your children. Prayer is a power tool that is often left unused, like an unplugged yet essential appliance. This is not the time for "now I lay me down to sleep" prayers. This is the time for agonizing prayer coupled with intermittent fasting. Pray for wisdom, protection, guidance, prudence, endurance, and anything else you can think of to benefit the spiritual well-being of your children.
  2. Stop lying to yourself about hazards. If we give our children tools that make it so easy to access things that will harm them, we are doubling our workload and increasing the risks. What purpose does it serve for a child or teen to have a handheld computer in the form of a phone or tablet? Plain old ring-a-ling cellphones exist, but even elementary-aged children are toting smartphones with Internet access. "Oh, don't be so old-school. Everybody has a smartphone." Perhaps it's time to admit that we're giving into societal pressures to keep up with others, and by keeping up, our children are tapping a screen and heading into darkness.
  3. Beware of the "mice." Keeping the home environment pure without making it unrealistic is a constant challenge. Understand that unwanted influences only need a crack to get in. Just like mice, media in many forms can slip in unnoticed and you may not realize they're in your home until you see little "calling cards." Mice leave droppings. The influences of the enemy also leaves "droppings" in the form of changed spirits. When a child is unusually negative and disinterested in spiritual things, something else is filling their soul. Hungry souls eat spiritual food. Full souls can't tolerate it and would much rather have junk. When you suspect that something has infiltrated your home, get to the bottom of it.
  4. Increase practice sessions. Stop focusing how many awards your child earns and work harder at training them how to live in a very anti-Christian world. How will your children withstand the attacks of these coming days if all they have is a trophy that says they had perfect attendance and memorized the most verses? Again, teaching is not the same as training. Spend more time role-playing and practicing some actual situations that could and probably will come up, such as being invited to try a drug "just once," or being pressured to share "just one kiss." 
  5. Ask the Lord what to do. There are times when we are honestly stumped, and we need to remember that God already has the answers if we'll allow Him to lead us. And God's solutions may not look like what we would have chosen. God sees things differently than we do. Too many times, we are guilty of trying to fix things "our way." After all, if we can fix something, then we can tell others what "we did" to repair it, making us the ones that get the glory rather than the Lord. Learn to ignore the noise of pride. Humility improves our listening skills, making it possible for us to follow instead of striving to lead. The Lord doesn't need our instructions cloaked in prayer requests; we need Him. We don't know it all. 

It's tempting to think that our current culture is to blame for the incredible decline in spiritual health, but it's actually an age-old battle. I saw this quote recently in a book that was written in 1942, but the author made a statement that sounded like he was living in 2015:
"Man is by nature under the taskmaster Satan, who wants to keep him in bondage, and to do this, he offers many false attractions, lies and misrepresentations. All the forces and powers that he can possibly muster are used to keep souls bound in misery." (Lindsey, Albert. Wilderness Experiences. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1942. Print.) 
These times are perilous, and our children aren't the only ones in peril. "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come." (2 Timothy 3:1) We'd better be on guard, too. Study the Bible daily, treating it as non-optional. Wear out a patch of carpet with the imprint of your knees from prayer. Live a life of godly integrity, and model what it looks like to walk with God. It's not over yet, and we are not without hope. 

"Surrounded" is never the same as "defeated."

"Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee." 
(Psalm 25:21)

Suggested study assignment: 2 Timothy 3:1-17

Read more in Keep the Heart eMagazine: 

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