Teachable Moments

Call Your Children To Be Disciples, Not Just Christians

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”   
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Is there a difference between the terms “disciple” and “Christian” and if so, why does it matter?  

If I were to ask you, “do you want your child to be a disciple or a Christian or both?”, how would you answer?  

While it may seem like we’re splitting hairs, denoting the differences between what it means to be a disciple versus a Christian may help us find clarity in how we view our faith.  And obviously, the clearer we are, the clearer our children will be. Words matter for they define what we believe and what we believe directly influences what we pass on to them and others.

Here are some quick facts to help us distinguish between the words disciple and Christian:

  1.  The word disciple is used in the New Testament gospels while the first use of the word Christian isn’t seen until the book of Acts (Acts 11:26). 
  2. Jesus refers to his followers as disciples, but never as Christians, and New Testament believers called themselves disciples, brothers, or saints.
  3. The word disciple is translated “follower” or “student” while Christian is translated “belonging to Christ”.
  4. Christ clearly lays out the cost of discipleship (Luke 14:28, 33) which is considerable and should be expected.

The difference in terms is somewhat noteworthy when we take the full meanings of the words to heart and consider how to apply them to our everyday lives.  Reflecting on these bits of information, I find two questions come to mind:

  • Do I belong to Christ? (Christian)
    • Here we examine what we believe about God and examine ourselves, “Have I placed my faith in Christ, thus belonging to Him?”
  • Do I follow Christ? (Disciple)
    • Here we examine how we worship God through our lives, “Do I strive to imitate God in word and deed no matter the cost?”

The best of both worlds is when we see and refer to ourselves as Christian Disciples.  We know to whom we belong and in doing so, we are committed to being imitators of Christ, (Ephesians 5:1-2) following in His footsteps (1 Peter 2:21) in both word and deed.  This is a Christian Disciple and this is who God wants us to raise our children to become.

How do we encourage our children to be disciples, and not just call themselves “Christians” and call it a day?  Start simple (I suggest the following as a template).

  1.  Ask your children questions. What is a Christian Disciple?
  2. Discuss with them how to define their identity as a Christian Disciple.   Belonging to Christ and choosing to follow Him in all ways.
  3. Look into scripture and create simple points from the scripture you read to help children understand and remember the points:
     Puts Christ first in all things (Mark 8:34-38)
    Shares the gospel of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20)
    Shows one’s love for Christ (Philippians 2:6-8; Galatians 5:22-23)
    Grows in their love for Christ (Matthew 22:37-40)
  4. Pray that God works in their hearts to understand and live out a true and vibrant faith.
  5. Live as a role model so they see you as a Christian Disciple.

Dear Reader, for 2020 – I challenge us all to consider what we mean by “discipleship” and how we are living it out in our homes and churches.  What is the most important thing we can do for our children, for our church, and for all others?  Inspire one another to embrace our identity as Christian Disciples so we bring glory to God and participate in the expansion of His Kingdom.  He is worthy! 

May 2020 be blessed with His presence as you wallow in the joy of belonging to Him and live faithfully as His disciple.

Blessings Abundant – Elizabeth

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Teachable Moments

Praying Like Eliza Spurgeon

Let me tell you a story – a story about Eliza Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon said this about his mother, Eliza: “She was the starting point of all the greatness any of us, by the grace of God, have ever enjoyed.” 

Eliza Spurgeon, mother of well-renowned preacher from the 19th century, Charles Spurgeon, took the responsibility to pray for the souls of her children as a sacred duty of parenting.  Charles noted that his mother prayed earnestly for her children often and throughout their entire lives. 

Remembering one moment as a young boy, Charles never forgot her tearful prayer when she threw her arms around him and cried out to God, “Oh, that my son might live before Thee!”.  Eliza instructed all her children in the scriptures, also using the help of books like Alleine’s Alarm or Richard Baxter’s Call to the Unconverted.  Never shy to get to the point, Eliza would read and ask her children questions about what they understood, usually concluding by asking each child, “how long before (they) would seek the Lord”

Along with Bible reading and meditation with discussion, Eliza prayed often for her children.  Charles recounted hearing her pray: “Now, Lord, if my children go on in their sins, it will not be from ignorance that they perish, and my soul must bear a swift witness against them at the day of judgment if they lay not hold of Christ.” Charles’ soul was pierced, and his heart stirred as he considered the witness his mother was bearing before the throne of God on his behalf.  Her prayers had such a profound impact on him when he was young that he wrote many years later, ““How can I ever forget her tearful eye when she warned me to escape from the wrath to come?”  The prayers of Eliza Spurgeon were as much a part of and an example for the faith Charles came to call his own as any sermon or study that he did himself.

 A Parent’s Prayers Can Be The Mean to an End

God not only decrees ‘the end’, but ‘the means to the end’, and it is often the prayers of the parents that are the means which lead to salvation for their child’s soul.  No greater responsibility lays before a parent than to pray on behalf of their child. 

 Do you wish to become more like Eliza Spurgeon?  I do!  If so, how should I pray for my children?  Consider using scripture as your prayer.  Eliza often prayed God’s words back to Him and then applied them directly to the child she was praying for.

·       Pray your child’s heart will be open to God and the salvation He offers

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,  Ephesians 1:18

·   Pray for the spiritual protection of your child

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but you protect them from the evil one. John 17:15

·   Pray for your child to not fall into temptation.

Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.  Matthew 26:41

·   Pray for their joy, patience and faithfulness to prayer

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Romans 12:12

·   Pray for them to run to God when they need help

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18

Dear Reader, are you busy?  Are you too busy to give yourself over to praying on behalf of your child and their soul?  What a temptation to live by the tyranny of the urgent and never get to what is eternally valuable.  May we never, ever be that busy for if we are – we are trading in the temporary for the eternal, the cheap for the priceless.

As we measure our days in light of eternity, may we spend our days doing the most important work any of us could ever do – praying for our children.  May God hear our prayers and grant us grace as we prove to be faithful in our petitions.

 Prayerful blessings to all of you – Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

How To Help Your Child Grow Up To Be A Successful Adult

Our children are “future adults” and we want to parent them for “future success”.   How can we influence their ability to be successful in their relationships and chosen careers as they grow up?  Research says out of all the things our children need to know as they grow that contributes directly to their career competence are their relationship skills. 

Relationship skills are both traits and behaviors that enable someone to interact well with others.  They inspire good communication and conflict resolution. They enhance positive teamwork and can predict sustainability in a job.  Relationship skills make both the one who has them and the one who receives them happier to be doing what they are doing.

  •  Relationship skills aren’t just important to career success, they are important to our faith formation. 
    • The godly way of looking at relationship skills is to see them through the lens of the “one another” verses we find in Scripture; a relationship that values “one another” is a relationship that honors God.  
    • The term “one another” is found 100 times in the New Testament and 59 times refers to how we treat one another within God’s Kingdom.
    • How we care for one another not only allows our relationships in our careers and homes to flourish, but enables us to be a witness to the world of our transforming faith. 
    • God does not suggest “one another” conduct, but demands it.  They are imperative verbs – commands, not suggestions.
    • Just a few examples of “One Another” verses that personify good relationship skills are:
      1. Be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10) 
      2. Honor one another above yourselves (Romans 12:10) 
      3. Live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16) 
      4. Build up one another (Romans 14:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:11) 
      5. Accept one another (Romans 15:7) 
      6. Admonish one another (Romans 15:14; Colossians 3:16) 
      7.  Care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25) 
      8. Serve one another (Galatians 5:13) 
      9. Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) 
      10. Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:2, 32; Colossians 3:13) 
      11. Be patient with one another (Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:13)

Dear Reader – consider looking up all the “One Anothers” in Scripture and put them on your refrigerator, in your car, or on the mirror in the bathroom – anywhere you and your children will see them on a regular basis.  How do we teach our children to walk by faith AND help prepare them for the future?  “One Another” living! (also known as relationship skills)

  • Relationship skills are personified  in good communication.  In John Maxwell’s book, “Everyone Communicates, Not Everyone Connects”, John proposes that we need to do more than just talk to one another, we need to connect.  Career experts would agree – many companies will look for those who can relate well with others over a college graduate who has a high GPA but doesn’t have strong relationship skills.

    What are some of the points John Maxwell makes in his book that we can pass on to our children?  Here are 5 of his principles to get you started in thinking connection, not just communication.
    • Think “One Another” always.  (Maturity is the ability to see and act on behalf of others.)
    • Connecting with others requires effort.  Connecting requires initiative (go first); clarity (prepared); patience (slow down); selflessness (give); and stamina (recharge). 
    • Work hard with enthusiasm. (Vision without passion is a picture without possibilities.)
    • Be a person of integrity. (People ask three questions about their leaders: Do they care for me? Can they help me? Can I trust them?)
    • Prepare and don’t give up.  (Preparation yields confidence and passion yields conviction.​)

Dear Reader, I have heard it said, “The days are long, the years are short” and I believe it’s true.  In the midst of parenting, it can feel exhausting and all-consuming.  But before we know it, we are sending them out into the world. Remember to keep the end goals in mind as you parent today.  Work toward who your child is becoming and invest in their ability to relate well with others.

Blessings to you this week as you parent with a purpose to equip your child for their future adult life.  

Always yours truly, Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

The ABCs of What Kids Believe

How do you know what a child believes about God?  If you want to know, just ask them!  When one Sunday School teacher who was teaching through the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22,23) asked their 5-8 year old students what they thought “peace” was, the responses were varied; here are some of my favorite answers.

  • My Mom says “it’s when everyone is asleep, but her”
  • Sharing one of your favorite toys and then, not hitting your friend even though they sat on it and broke it
  • When everyone gets exactly what they want to eat at dinner
  • When my Dad gets to sit in his chair and control the remote control
  • Grandpa said without quiet, there is no peace and since it’s never quiet in our house, peace doesn’t exist

These children’s God-knowledge brings a smile to our face; out-of-the-mouth-of-babes we discover what we have taught them.  Life observations that often occur in everyday conversations reveal our child’s everyday theology.  As they grow older, staying on top of these perceptions is key so we ensure our children are building a foundation of solid truth about God and who He is, how He works and how they can know and love Him.  To discover what our children are thinking and remain influential in their spiritual faith formation, consider the following A, B, C and D.

A.  Ask questions and listen well before you give advice.  No matter how old they are. Do you want them to respect you?  Then, model respect to them first by giving them an opportunity to explain themselves. Try not to jump in too soon so they have the time and space they need to make themselves heard.

B.  Be in consistent conversations. Theology is a process of learning and growing both in orthodoxy (beliefs) and orthopraxy (living out our beliefs).  This requires conversations every day whether we are walking, relaxing or driving to church (Deuteronomy 11:19 ). Hint: if a conversation isn’t going well, think about walking away and trying again another day; remember – faith formation is a marathon, not a sprint to the finish line.  Winning an argument could cost you future conversations and thus, your influence is diminished in their lives. 

C.  Communicate with them over dictating to them.  Fear can lead us to try and control our children (preschoolers and young adults alike).  To live by faith, not fear, be self-aware of your stress and worry, take a deep breath and seek to respond with calm wisdom, avoiding knee-jerk reactions.

D.  Depend on God in prayer.  We won’t be “quick to listen and slow to speak” unless we are depending on God’s Spirit to guide our thoughts, calm our hearts and produce the fruit needed for godly influence.  Ask God for His peace that passes understanding for in that stillness, we will sense God’s voice guiding and leading us.

What do our children believe?  Building a solid theology that informs our children’s everyday lives comes in all shapes and sizes, just like our children.  As children grow, it will come to mean different things to them and they’ll have different questions. Approaching our everyday conversations about their everyday theology can be as simple as A, B, C and D.

Here are some final thoughts on peace to encourage you as you parent:

  • Silence is usually associated with peace, unless they are yours and are upstairs playing – then silence is suspicious…
  • Peace is only one drive-through away when your child doesn’t need a sippy cup because they have finally reached the magical age of drinking through a straw.
  • I could get a medal for world peace and not feel as accomplished as potty training a child.
  • Peace is that glorious moment in the morning when no one is conscious but me!
  • Of course my children experience peace – ​I’m the one up most of the night overthinking their lives for them…

Blessings to you and the precious children in your life.  Fondly yours, Elizabeth

Teachable Moments, Uncategorized

Introverted Parents

Being an introverted parent is vastly different than being an extroverted parent.  They don’t think alike, dream alike, nor make the same parenting decisions. They definitely don’t have the same internal dialogues; many introverted parents think one response but wisely give another.  Here are a few examples.

“Mom, I know we’ve spent all day together but do you want to come play with me?”
INSIDE ANSWER:  “No – I don’t want to play with you.”
WHAT THEY SAY OUT LOUD:  “Yes, of course – but see what Dad is doing; I know he’d love to play with you too.”

“Dad, what are you going to ask Santa to get you for Christmas?”
INSIDE ANSWER:  “I want to have total peace and quiet that I KNOW will not be interrupted.”
WHAT THEY SAY OUT LOUD:  “I have everything I want, sweetheart; I have you.”

“Mommm!!!!!” “Daddddddd!!!”
INSIDE ANSWER:  “I SO want to change my name.”
WHAT THEY SAY OUT LOUD:  “Yes, honey?”

What is an Introvert?  Introverts are characterized with a personality that

  • Turns inward more than outward
  • Prefers low-key environments
  • Regains energy by spending time alone
  • Feels drained from social interactions
  • Prefers a few good friends more than many less-intimate friendships 
  • Focuses more on internal thoughts and moods than external situations

From a 2010 Psychology Today edition entitled, “Revenge of the Introverts”, we learn that scientists are discovering the brain of an introvert does not work like their extravert counterparts.  Introverts actually take in information from their environments and need alone-time to process what they are observing and experiencing. If they don’t have that quiet time or solitude, they will naturally feel overwhelmed.  Introvert brains tend to be very active and therefore, putting themselves in situations which add additional stimulation (i.e. crowds, high-energy, or high-sensory) are by necessity limited.

How does this God-created personality affect a parent’s relationship with their kids?  

  1.  You are not a mistake.  Realize that it is not a mistake how you are made.  Introverted parents will struggle with different things than extroverted parents do and that, my friends, is perfectly OK.
  2. Not their job.  Realize that it is not your child’s responsibility to create an environment that is comfortable to the introverted parent.  Work on not getting frustrated that the child is not meeting your personal needs – it’s not their job.
  3. Be nice.  Kids are naturally loud, inconvenient and exhausting.  Introverted parents are going to feel this more poignantly than extroverted parents; they have a higher chance of feeling anxious, depressed, and inadequate.  So, be careful. Don’t judge yourself too harshly when you really hate your lack of a schedule, the millions of interruptions to your time or the peace and quiet you so desperately need but aren’t going to get.  Bottom line, don’t expect yourself to be someone you’re not – be nice to yourself. If you can accept how God has made you, you have a chance of being a great parent just the way you are.
  4. Give yourself a break.  Figure out a way to create frequent breaks throughout the day.  If you are caring for a toddler, you may not have a long period of time to quietly sit or enjoy solitude, but if you can grab even 5 minutes here and there throughout the day, you’ll tend to do better.  Put in times to quietly think, appreciate and practice thankfulness.
  5. Measure happiness carefully.  Extraverts tend to be happy about everything, but introverts have the advantage of not worrying so much about actually being happy (they worry about other things).  While extroverts want to try everything on the buffet of life, introverts tend to savor meaningful moments. Embrace how you understand happiness and fulfillment, knowing no two parents measure it the same way.
  6. Know what you’re good at.  Introverted parents are good at assessing situations and knowing that change needs to take place.  Introverted parents are good at allowing their children to process life and tend to encourage a slower pace of life.  Introverted parents value relationship over activity and tend to accept their children how they are made more easily than an extroverted parent.  Introverted parents unite – and realize how good you are at this parenting thing.

Dear Friend, parenting is hard enough without us trying to be someone we’re not or we’re judging ourselves harshly for who we wish we were. The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. (Job 33:4)  We need to celebrate how God made us knowing that we are the parent our child needs as God is the architect of our families and builds our families by purposeful design.  Take comfort in His plan, lean on Him for wisdom and seek Him for the strength you need to endure. He is faithful to you.

May this day be a day you celebrate how God is working in you to be the person and parent He desires.  To all my introverted readers, here’s to you! Fondly yours, Elizabeth

And now…introverted thoughts that will make you smile (hopefully).