5 Essentials to Leaving a Legacy That Will Outlive You

** The following article was copied from www.familylife.com.

A husband and wife who walked by faith and, consequently, left a legacy far beyond anything they could have imagined, lived in the early 1700s in colonial America. Their names were Jonathan and Sarah Edwards.

Jonathan Edwards felt God’s call to become a minister. He and his young bride began a pastorate in a small congregation. During the years that followed, he wrote many sermons, prayers, and books, and was influential in beginning the Great Awakening. Together they produced eleven children who grew into adulthood. Sarah was a partner in her husband’s ministry, and he sought her advice regarding sermons and church matters. They spent time talking about these things together, and, when their children were old enough, the parents included them in the discussions.

The effects of the Edwards’s lives have been far-reaching, but the most measurable results of their faithfulness to God’s call is found through their descendants. Elizabeth Dodds records a study done by A. E. Winship in 1900 in which he lists a few of the accomplishments of the 1,400 Edwards descendants he was able to find:

  • 100 lawyers and a dean of a law school
  • 80 holders of public office
  • 66 physicians and a dean of a medical school
  • 65 professors of colleges and universities
  • 30 judges
  • 13 college presidents
  • 3 mayors of large cities
  • 3 governors of states
  • 3 United States senators
  • 1 controller of the United States Treasury
  • 1 Vice President of the United States

What kind of legacy will you and your mate leave? Will it be lasting? Will it be imperishable and eternal? Or will you leave behind only tangible items—buildings, money, and/or possessions?

The apostle Paul instructed Timothy to invest his life in faithful men who would be able to pass God’s truth on to the next generation. Where does God want you and your mate to invest the time you have been given?

Living a Life Worthy of Legacy

1. Fear the Lord and obey Him. Your legacy begins in your heart, in your relationship with God. Psalm 112:1-2 reads: “How blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who greatly delights in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth; The generation of the upright will be blessed.”

On our first Christmas together, Barbara and I gave a gift to God first. These sheets of paper became title deeds to our lives—to our marriage, to our hopes of having children, to our family, to our relationships, to our rights to our lives, to whatever ministry God gave us—we gave everything to Him.

2. Recognize the world’s needs and respond with compassion and action. In Matthew 9:36 we read: “And seeing the multitudes. He [Jesus] felt compassion for them.” You and your mate need to leave a legacy by being committed to doing something about our world. Many Christians today are walking in the middle of the road; they’re so focused on what other people think that they are unwilling to take any risks in order to make an impact for Christ. In light of this, Jamie Buckingham wrote, “The problem with Christians today is that no one wants to kill them anymore.”

When you fly over rows of houses, do you wonder how many people in those homes know Jesus? This year thirty million people will die without hearing the name of Christ. Hundreds of millions will pray to idols. Someone needs to reach these people with the Good News.

John F. Kennedy, in Profiles in Courage, described the need for courageous people: “Some men show courage throughout the whole of their lives. Others sail with the wind until the decisive moment when their conscience and events propel them into the center of the storm.” If you want to leave a lasting legacy, you need to act with courage to reach out to those in need.

3. Pray as a couple that God will use you to accomplish His purposes. As recorded in 1 Chronicles 4:10, Jabez prayed, “Oh that Thou wouldst bless me indeed, and enlarge my border, and that Thy hand might be with me, and that Thou wouldst keep me from harm.”

What did Jabez ask God to do? Bless him. Give him new turf and enlarge his sphere of influence. Keep him from temptation. Stay with him. Pray this prayer with your mate, and at the end of the year, see how different your lives will be.

4. Help your mate be a better steward of his gifts and abilities. Help your spouse recognize how God has used his gifts and abilities in the past. Serving others? Teaching the Scripture? Advising a Christian Ministry?

Help him plug into the local church, which needs committed laymen and women who have strong, godly character and a vision for their communities.

Help him recognize his convictions. Thomas Carlyle says, “Conviction is worthless until it can convert itself into daily conduct.” Help your mate determine what he is willing to die for so he can ultimately determine what he can live for.

5. Ask God to give your children a sense of purpose, direction, and mission. The challenge here is to leave your children a heritage, not just an inheritance. As someone once said, “Our children are messengers we send to a time we will not see.”

Dignity through Destiny

David Livingstone, the missionary to Africa, said, “I will go anywhere, as long as it is forward.” And by moving forward and advancing God’s kingdom, he undoubtedly also advanced his sense of dignity.

Gaining a vision and a direction in life will yield significance to your mate’s life as well, especially if the omnipotent God of the universe has set that heading and direction. In fact, true vision, direction, and destiny can come only from the One who controls not only the present but also the future. By discovering your eternal destiny, you will begin to build lasting dignity in your lives. The internal awareness of that God-ordained dignity will enhance the self-esteem of every member of your family.

The challenge is the same for all of us. Will we follow Christ and fulfill His call and vision for our lives? Just as we found spiritual life in no other Person than Jesus Christ, so we find a dignity like no other in the destiny He provides.

Become a Role Model Worth Following

** The following article was copied from www.allprodad.com.

As we strive to be role models for our kids, there will be plenty of times we fail. Our children have a funny way of calling us out when we do something that is inconsistent with what we are teaching them. For example, it’s a bit of a wake up call to have your children stop you mid-sentence because you’re talking with your mouth full at the dinner table after you’ve told them they shouldn’t.

If you desire to be a role model, who is worthy of following, here are 6 areas in your life that need to be evaluated and changed accordingly.

Your Language

Watch what you say. Whether you think your kids are listening or not, they hear you. Be careful not to call other people names, gossip, or curse if you don’t want your kids doing the same things.

Your Tone

How you talk to someone is just as important as the words that are used. Be careful to speak to your spouse and others with respect.

Your Attitude

Negativity breeds more negativity. Have a can-do attitude for your child to be prepared to take on the world. Sometimes even the smallest attitude adjustment can go a long way.
Are your elbows on the table? Do you hold doors for women when out in public? Your children will be little gentlemen and little ladies only if you model it yourself.

Your Confidence

Exhibit confidence to your kids in doing what is good. Always do the right things for the right reasons.

Your Forgiveness

We all make mistakes. Are you modeling the father’s forgiveness for your children? And do you apologize when you are in the wrong?

Your Love

The greatest gift that you can give your children is love. Be a model of love to your kids. Show and tell your children that they mean the world to you. They will learn to love the way you do.

Why Parents Should Team Up With Teachers

** The following article was copied from www.theparentcue.org.

Being a parent at school can be overwhelming. All that teacher jargon and new programs. Tons of data coming at you with test results and standards. Plus, the endless fliers and forms to be signed.

It’s no wonder if you’re feeling a little lost and confused!

You might feel like you’re just barely keeping your head above water when it comes to handling things at your child’s school. The good news is that you are not alone. Many parents also feel overwhelmed and confused.

The better news is that you have a built-in ally and support system! Building a positive connection with your child’s teacher can dramatically change your school year. As a bonus, your child will feel the impact of your new home-school team, too!

Why should parents team up with teachers?

It can feel like school and home are two separate things. They overlap with daily homework or at school events, but otherwise exist separately. In an ideal world, this shouldn’t be the case. Home and school should be working together to help your child succeed!

When parents and teachers are talking or emailing regularly, everyone is on the same page. That means you are all poised to act swiftly and cohesively if or when there are serious concerns.

Working with your child’s teacher as a team also means that parents will have an extra resource. It’s easier to understand test results or school acronyms when you can send a friendly email or have a quick meeting.

Building a strong parent-teacher team is the foundation for helping your child succeed at school!

How can parents and teachers connect?

Everything starts with open, professional, respectful, and regular communication.

When school starts, send a short email to the teacher. Express your excitement or positive outlook for the new school year. Ask how you can help. Share one or two quick must know tidbits about your child, like optimal working habits tips or tricks past teachers have used.

Make it a habit to send a friendly email a few times a month. Let the teacher know that you see their hard work. Share a lesson or project your child recently completed. Comment on a book suggestion your child is enjoying.

Having this positive communication routine in place makes it easier to bring up tough situations.

What happens when something “bad” happens?

When you do need to ask the teacher about something more challenging, like low grades or behavior problems, keep it brief and professional. Stick to the facts and leave emotion out of your message. If you have big concerns, ask for a meeting to talk things through together.

You’ve already created a positive connection with the teacher, so it will be easier to have these honest conversations. Parents who have built a good working relationship at school often find that they get more information or assistance from the teacher.

Teachers who feel supported and seen by their student’s families are more willing to be flexible or offer more assistance.

How does this help my child?

Teachers are on the front lines with your child for a good portion of their waking hours. They notice little changes in mood or academic confidence.
You want the teacher to feel comfortable coming to you with their observations, even when what they are seeing isn’t cause for jubilation.
When the teacher is able to speak candidly with parents about not so great situations, it helps everyone find solutions and resolutions more quickly. The teacher might feel comfortable offering more unique options or sharing additional support services.

Parents who build a respectful, professional relationship with their child’s teacher feel more confident and empowered at school. You’re willing to stand your ground or try something new because you’ve been talking openly with the teacher about your options. That spells success for your child! With a cohesive, cooperative support system between home and school, your child is more likely to access needed services or resources. You’ll be tipped off as soon as possible about academic dips or victories. That means you can act quickly to fill academic gaps or celebrate improvements.

In short, you will likely get more for your child when you have a good working relationship with the teacher.

Speed Kills

** The following article was copied from www.homeWord.com.

What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil. –Job 3:25-26

The pace of life is killing the soul of families. It makes good people act crazy and makes otherwise healthy individuals become vulnerable—vulnerable to sickness, vulnerable to broken relationships and vulnerable to sin. The old adage “speed kills” no longer refers only to drivers on the highway.

Today’s family is dangerously tired. We are too busy and too distracted to find much hope unless we undergo drastic “family surgery.” The soul of a family is at risk when the family is overstretched and overcommitted. In my book, Creating an Intimate Marriage, one theme I focused on is the idea that when couples are overcommitted, they become unconnected. Doesn’t this hold true for families as well? What happens when our families run too fast for too long? The hurry and busyness of life can be the great destroyers of an otherwise healthy family. A philosopher in the previous century put it this way: “Hurry is not of the Devil; hurry is the Devil.” Decades later Richard Foster wrote, “Our Adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry, and crowds. If he can keep us engaged in ‘muchness’ and ‘manyness,’ he will rest satisfied.”¹

Let’s face it: everything is more dangerous at high speed. When we are overly tired, we tend to become numb to what matters most in our life. We settle for mediocrity in our primary relationships with God, our spouse, our kids, our extended family and our friendships. The saddest part is that many of us are just too busy to care. When we are overcommitted, we postpone or cut short what matters most. Our to-do list seems necessary and unavoidable. We feel like we can never escape the persistent presence of bills, schedules, and other responsibilities. This ever-increasing pace of life turns even the best people into machines and greatly reduces our general level of happiness and fulfillment.

Choosing to cut back from the busy pace we live our lives can be difficult and involves tough choices. It requires the courage of your conviction that cutting back is in the best interest of your life and those of your family, even when doing so is contrary to what we so often see as the norm in today’s culture. Today, go against the flow. Slow down!

GOING DEEPER:
1. What do you find most difficult about the concept of cutting back?

2. How might reducing the pace of life bring healing and wholeness to your family?

FURTHER READING:
Psalm 23:2; Mark 6:31

5 Ways to Help Your Kids Make Wise Choices

**  The following article was copied from www.theparentcue.org.

Any of these sound familiar?

Dad, can I ride my skateboard down the driveway and into the street?
Mom, can we jump off the roof into the pool?
Mom, can I slide down the banister?
Dad, can I jump on that beehive right there?

When you hear questions like that you want to scream, “NO!”
That, or run crying into your bedroom and hide under the sheets until your kids grow into adults.

Let’s face it, some decisions are easy to make. Clearly, the beehive should be left alone.

Others? Not so much. Sliding down the right banister can actually be pretty fun.

As parents, we’ve (hopefully) figured out how to make a wise choice over time. Our kids on the other hand are just starting their journey to discovering wisdom, and unfortunately, choices aren’t always cut and dry. As our kids grow up they’ll soon learn that the decisions they’ll have to make are not as black and white as we might wish.

Helping kids understand that is often easier said than done. How do we help our kids learn the importance of wisdom and making the wise choice?

1. MODEL YOUR OWN DECISION-MAKING PROCESS

Kids are concrete thinkers, and often that means they need some connections made that are intuitive to you. As you walk through a decision such as what to eat for a healthy snack or how to respond to a neighbor’s barky dog, verbalize what’s normally just inside your head. Invite kids into the process and ask them their opinion. If it’s a big choice that you’re praying about (like buying a car or new home), pray with them about that decision as you ask God for wisdom. When your kids see you make wise choices, they’ll be more likely to make the wise choice themselves.

2. TELL STORIES

The Bible is full of people who both succeeded and failed at wisdom. Read those stories together and talk about the consequences they experienced. And not only the Bible, as you’re reading (or watching) anything with your children, pause and talk through the decisions you’re seeing played out in the storyline. Use these as teachable moments to help kids discover more about wisdom.

3. GIVE THEM OPPORTUNITIES TO MAKE THE WISE CHOICE

We often think it’s easier to make decisions for our kids. And let’s be honest—it usually is. But when we consider the end in mind for our kids, this isn’t the best thing for them. Rather than give them the answer to decision, we can guide them through the process making the wise choice. Ask questions that walk them through the sorts of ideas they should consider when making a decision. Eventually, they’ll start asking themselves those same types of questions. They may still not make the choice you wish they’d make, but at least they’re thinking through it. And who knows, they may surprise you and consider something that you hadn’t.

4. LET THEM MESS UP

Like or not, we often don’t learn without messing up once or ten times along the way. As much as you’ll want to step in and fix it, resist the urge to rescue your kids from the consequences of their choices. It’s hard to watch of course, but sometimes we need to let our kids touch the proverbial stove in the short-term choices to help them gain wisdom that will help them win at the rest of their life. And if they do mess up (and they will), don’t take away their responsibility. Let them learn from their mistake and get back at it. Show them that you can still trust them even when they mess up. This will help give them confidence to get back at it and grow in wisdom.

5. CELEBRATE THE WINS

When your kids make the wise choice, let them know you noticed. Celebrate them with a high-five, a hug, or slip a note into their lunch box. You don’t need to throw a party to celebrate they chose to finish their homework before playing video games all week, but showing appreciation will affirm those choices and reinforce to your kids that it was worth the effort to make the wise choice.

When it comes to wisdom—finding out what you should do and doing it—it’s important to remember that parenting is a marathon sport. Over time, the conversations that you have about making decisions will influence your children to consider the value of wisdom. Giving kids a strong foundation of wisdom is important. Let’s equip them to face down whatever choice they may face in the future.

10 Dangerous Video Games Your Teen Might Be Playing

** The following article was copied from www.crosswalk.com.

“Just one more level!” they plead. Late night, playing video games with friends, it seems they’ve been on for hours. You know where your kids are. But do you know what they’re playing?

Many of us grew up playing video games. But we’ve come a long way since Pac man, Atari, Donkey Kong, and the early days of Super Mario Bros. The truth is, gaming has changed, along with technology and all of the other influences in the world. Never has there been a generation so attached and wired to a constant influx of media messages every single day. The gaming industry is big. And immensely profitable. Though studies have been debated over the years about the potential negative effects of violent video games for teens, indicators seem to suggest, it’s not all “just a game” anymore. Gaming has progressed down a more dangerous pathway, and parents would be wise to learn more.

While most would probably never allow their kids to eat a constant diet of junk food, or see a steady stream of R rated movies, many teens are playing hours upon hours of video games every week, with mature, suggestive, adult content, profanity, and graphic violence. So what’s the difference? The lines seem blurred; kids receive mixed messages of what’s OK, and what is not. We are affected, by what we choose to watch, focus on, listen to, and even by what games we play.

Recent statistics show:

“The global market for video games is expected to grow from $ 66 billion in 2013 to $ 79 billion in 2017. This forecast includes revenue from dedicated console hardware and software (both physical and online), dedicated portable game hardware and software, PC games and games for mobile devices such as mobile phones, tablets, music players and other devices that can play games as a secondary feature.”

In our nation alone, “8.5% of youth gamers (ages 8-18) can be classified as being clinically ‘addicted’ to playing video games.” 

A nationally representative study found that the average 8-12 year old plays 13 hours of video games per week, while the average 13-18 year old plays 14 hours per week. Total that up and within the ages of your child’s growing up years, they could be logging upwards of close to 10,000 video hours.

While some top selling games promote learning and encourage positive messages and themes, there are many other games to avoid. The ratings, content, and reviews alone can give you much information. This is by no means an exhaustive list; there are many games that could be discussed here. Often, you will find a combination of several key characteristics they hold in common:

1. Graphic, bloody violence, real, vivid images which research indicates that over time, can lead to overall desensitization of violence or suffering, as well as increased aggression in dealing with conflict, and lack of empathy.

2. Inappropriate sexual content, overall disrespect, and violence towards women.

3. The idea that “killing” should be rewarded. Though it’s all part of the game, the lines between reality and make-believe can sometimes become blurred, and the disregard for human life seems all too real.

4. Player adopts the role of first person shooter, actually looking down the barrel of a gun, demolishing the enemy, thus making it all more real and vivid.

5. Game success is often measured by negative behaviors which promote criminal activity, theft, disrespect for authority, drug and alcohol use, and other things that parents would not likely want their kids to emulate in real life.

Ten Dangerous Video Games for Teens:

Grand Theft Auto V
Genre- Action/Adventure, Shooter
Platform – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
ESRB Rating – Mature

When a video game sells $800 million worth of software in a single day, it says a lot about our culture. This game is rated “M” for many reasons. It is not a game intended for kids or teens. Violence, deviant behaviors, foul language, and graphic, sexual content abound in this game.

Diablo III
Genre – Role-Playing, Combat, Horror/Suspense
Platform – PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4
ESRB Rating – Mature

As its title may suggest, this game is full of demonic images and monstrosities. Its graphic, violent content is disturbing and raw.

Wolfenstein: The New Order
Genre – Shooter, Combat, Action/Adventure
Platform – Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PC
ESRB Rating – Mature

This first person shooter game takes aim at Nazi Germany forces and allows players to take on the full effect through extreme battle images. Blood, gore, intense violence, strong language, use of drugs, and strong sexual content abound through it all.

South Park – The Stick of Truth
Genre – Role-playing, Combat
Platform – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
ESRB rating – Mature

This is no innocent cartoon series. It is crude, rude, and full of graphic sexual content and foul language.

Assassins Creed IV – Black Flag
Genre – Action/Adventure, Combat
Platform – Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, WiiU, PC
ESRB rating – Mature

In following the pattern set by other Assassins Creed games that came before, this version is also high in violent, graphic content, sexual themes, and profanity.

Mortal Kombat
Genre – Combat, Fighting
Platform – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
ESRB Rating – Mature

Fighting game of unprecedented violence. This one game led to the establishing of the entertainment software rating board, and is still, quite possibly, one of the most historically controversial games ever.

Watch Dogs
Genre- Shooter, Action/Adventure
Platform – Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PC
ESRB Rating – Mature

This game is all about a hacker seeking revenge, but it gained the “M” rating for extreme violence, strong language, and strong sexual content.

Dead Space II and III
Genre – Shooter, Horror/Suspense, Action/Adventure
Platform – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
ESRB Rating – Mature

Extreme violence, blood, and gore typify this game which launched its initial ad campaign this way: ”It’s revolting. It’s violent. It’s everything you love in a game, and your mom’s gonna hate it.” Many moms may have been thankful for that heads up information. And quite possibly they forgot, that Moms are often the ones who choose which games to buy, or not to buy.

Mafia II
Genre – Action/Adventure, Shooter
Platform – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows PC
ESRB Rating – Mature

Real view of the mob world, including gangsters’ devaluation of human life, drugs and alcohol, and mistreatment of women. Foul language abounds and Playboy centerfolds are scattered around the environment for players to find and collect.

Naughty Bear
Genre – Role-playing
Platform – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
ESRB Rating – Teen

The Teen rating may fool many, but this is a violent and disturbing game about a sociopathic bear who spends his time beating his peers until they commit suicide. It is basically a game that encourages imaginative murder.

The popular mindset of our culture may have a strong opinion of what they think is right. But you have the freedom to choose what you believe is right for your own family. Here’s what you may hear:

“It’s really not that bad.” 

The truth is, it really is.

“Everyone else is playing it.” 

The truth is, everyone is not.

“The parental controls make everything safe.” 

The truth is the games still contains graphic, mature content that can’t be fully controlled, and some allow for modifications to be set, where players can add extra material, characters, or plots twists that actually change the game.

“We don’t buy “M” games, so they’ll never see them or play them anyway.” 

The truth is that even though you may not buy them, many of their friends probably do.

“It’s just a game, it’s not real and they know it’s not.” 

The truth is, real or not, young minds are still affected by what they see, play, and hear. Older minds are affected as well. Young minds are still being wired and influenced by all they’re taking in from the world. And the experiences a teen has, even virtual ones, can have a huge impact on their core beliefs, values, and attitudes.

As parents, we can form our own conclusions about what we feel comfortable allowing for our kids. But if you’re like me, maybe you haven’t known enough about what’s out there and the full content that a game actually contains. I encourage you to do the research. Talk with your teen. Ask questions about what they’re playing or what their friends are playing. Keep communication open. Keep computers and games devices in common areas of your home. Make the choice for your family of what is allowable and what is not.

Most importantly, there’s One voice that rises above all the rest. More than what your teen wants, or what their friends are playing, more than varying opinions of what research says, or what the top selling games trends are. His voice reminds us to take care of what we allow in, to guard what we think about, watch, and do. And that’s really the most important thing to impress upon our kids as they grow. The one truth – that what we do – that what we choose – it matters.

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).

The Missing Ingredient in Our Parenting

** The following article is copied from www.thegospelcoalition.com.

In our new parenting book, Equipping for Life, written primarily for young new or aspiring parents, we set forth three important aspects of parenting (we call them the 3 “Rs” of parenting): realism, relationship, and responsibility. While young couples often start out their parenting adventure with a healthy dose of idealism, in reality parenting is done by sinners on sinners and takes place in an imperfect world.

Additionally, the nature of parenting is often misconceived; it’s more than merely a task or assignment. Rather, it’s a complex and evolving relationship between parent and child, under God. Moreover, parenting needs to be given more of a priority than most give it; it’s a mistake to delegate parenting to teachers, coaches, or youth leaders and sideline essential parental involvement and engagement.

In this article, we’d like to share one insight that has increasingly deepened during the course of our own parenting journey that, if taken to heart and applied consistently, has the potential to revolutionize the way many of us go about parenting our children. This simple insight is that throughout our parenting efforts, character consistently must be made the key priority in everything we do and say.

Throughout our parenting efforts, character consistently must be made the key priority in everything we do and say.

In theory, this point may seem obvious, and few would likely disagree. In practice, however, many of us don’t actually parent in such a way that character is the overriding focus in the way we relate to and guide our children.

So, let’s briefly define character and then look at ways we can help our children develop character through the various life stages of parenting.

Importance of Character in Parenting

Character is who a person is at the core of their being. It affects all their relationships and accomplishments in life. And character doesn’t just appear in our children; we must be diligent to make it a focus, cultivating it in their lives, especially when they’re young. While many parents prize activities or achievements (sports, education, or good grades, to name just a few), character should be the priority and be valued as that which undergirds every aspect of life. In conjunction with establishing children in their personal faith in Jesus Christ, parents’ central concern should be on their child’s character development—as a response to what Jesus has done for them. At the core, we want to encourage our children to be more like Christ (Rom. 8:28–29).

As a child encounters various challenges and opportunities, his or her character is molded. The tendency for many young—and not so young—parents is to indulge their children, especially their first child and often also the youngest. However, if we pamper our children and permit them to get their way all—or even most of—the time, we’ll reap the consequences in the form of a spoiled, ungrateful child bent on getting his or her way. We’ll be training the heart of a manipulator who subtly but effectively subverts the role of the parent. This runs counter to the parental responsibility to foster traits of submission and cooperation within the family. The stewardship of developing character in our children is vital, not only for ourselves and our children, but also for the sake of family unity and dynamics, for the community of believers, and ultimately for the mission of God. It’s absolutely essential to stand firm as parents and make sure we’re parenting our childrenrather than the other way around.

Your primary goal in parenting is not to minimize conflict but to build genuine character.

Toward that end, it’ll be important to communicate from the beginning that you, not your child, is in charge. This isn’t a matter of trying to stifle our children’s development and self-expression or acting as overbearing despots shutting down all their initiatives. Rather, it’s a sign of true, committed love and of being responsible as a parent. As the book of Proverbs continually affirms, discipline is vital in childrearing, and the loving parent provides consistent correction and accountability (e.g., Prov. 6:23; 12:1; 14:24; 29:15).

As you move through the life cycle of parenting—from infancy to childhood to adolescence to early adulthood—the nature of your relationship with your child will inevitably change, but your commitment to building character should remain constant. This is what “responsible parenting” is all about.

In the short run, a laissez-faire, hands-off approach may seem preferable in that there may be less conflict, but it will not likely result in a young person marked by character and maturity. Remember—your primary goal in parenting is not to minimize conflict but to build genuine character.

Detriment of Misplaced Focus

So, as your child starts school, what is your main goal for them? Is it to see your son or daughter get good grades—straight A’s? Good grades certainly have some value and may be an indication of intelligence and academic ability—or at least of being able to do well within a given system of expectations—but they’re not always a reliable indicator of character (though they can be).

If not grades, is your focus as parents to promote your child’s athletic success? Being a good sports parent may be one of the signs of a “good” parent in this generation, but are you pushing your children too hard to excel in baseball or basketball or some other sport? You may be the perfect soccer parent, present at every game, capturing memorable moments on camera and posting them on social media—only if your child’s team won the game, of course—perhaps even the coach of your son’s or daughter’s team. You may sacrifice much of your time, especially on weekends, to invest in your child’s recreational pursuits. Yet your child’s heart may remain unregenerate, his mind set on winning at all cost, and his sense of identity staked on how well he did on the baseball or football field.

In the end, who is going to watch all those videos? What does it really matter if your son’s team won or lost a given game? But his character will have been affected, for better or for worse, and it’ll be too late for you to turn back the clock.

Role of the Spirit in Developing Character

Rather than focusing on good grades or athletic (or other) achievement, invest the bulk of your efforts on helping your child develop character. Since character is who a person truly is in their heart, exemplified in what they do when no one’s looking, good character means integrity—a stable core of conviction that isn’t easily shaken by peer pressure, cultural influences, or shifting circumstances.

As you seek to shape your child’s character, which values will you seek to impart? And what will be your strategy to teach and reinforce those values? Character isn’t formed by default or by chance. What’s more, children tend to imitate their parents’ behavior, so we’ll want to make sure that we ourselves are people of integrity.

So how do we accomplish this aim?

First, we can recognize that, while requiring parental focus and commitment, developing character in our children can’t be done apart from the Holy Spirit’s work in your child’s life. If we take on the task ourselves, the burden of forming character will be overwhelming; we just can’t build character in our children through our own efforts. The Spirit will do his work in our children as they enter their own relationship with God and as they themselves strive to be men and women of integrity and moral excellence by God’s grace.

Developing character in our children can’t be done apart from the Holy Spirit’s work in your child’s life.

A catena of Scripture passages on the Spirit shows that the Spirit produces in all of us (including our children) what is pleasing to God. As they walk with him, are led by him, livein him, keep in step with him, and are filled with him, they’ll set their mind on spiritual things, and the Spirit of the risen Christ will infuse their mortal bodies with supernatural strength to surmount their sinful nature. Paul encourages believers to “walk by the Spirit” and be “led by the Spirit,” and writes that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:16, 18, 23). He adds, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal. 5:24). He also urges believers to be “filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18) and affirms that “those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:5; cf. v. 11).

In this way, our children will be able to please God and “do all things through him who strengthens” us (Phil. 4:13). Again, the apostle Paul strikes the balance beautifully when he urges believers, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12–13). Encourage your children to strive actively to “work out their salvation,” trusting that God is at work in them, both to have the resolute will and the actual power to live the life God wants them to live.

If you’ve introduced your child to Christ—and he or she has received him and become a child of God—you have the opportunity to nurture their spiritual lives by impressing on them Scripture about the work of the Spirit in keeping with the above-cited passages. The last thing you’ll want to do is condition your children to live the Christian life in their own strength!

Final Plea

It’s character, parents! Focus your energies on developing character in your children. Don’t worry too much about good grades or athletic achievements. Those do have their place, but character trumps scholastic or athletic accomplishments in the end because Christlike character is a permanent, lasting fixture of our children’s lives, both in this present life and also in the life to come. Winning a tournament or playing at a recital, on the other hand, are temporal achievements—here today, gone tomorrow.

It’s character, parents! Focus your energies on developing character in your children.

Therefore, parents, care more about inculcating virtues such as integrity, honesty, and selflessness in your children than being unduly preoccupied with or blinded by external badges of honor.

The virtues God celebrates are Christlikeness and the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If your child were to take his or her final exam in these characteristics, how would they do? Would they get an “A” or “F” in self-control, for example, or somewhere in between? What about the other virtues on the list? And how would you do? We know these are convicting questions.

While ultimately character is the result of the work of God’s Spirit within us, Scripture nonetheless urges us to “make every effort” to actively pursue these virtues and even to excel in them (2 Pet. 1:3–11). So, parents, let’s get to work and strive to build Christlike character in our children by the grace of God and in the power of the Holy Spirit!

31 Questions to Help You Be a Better Parent

** The following article was copied from family life.com.

Feeling passionate about parenting? If you’d genuinely like a shot in the arm for your parenting, perhaps these questions can get you started. But remember: Their effectiveness is proportionate to your level of honesty, humility, and most of all, dependence on God’s power to make His presence a reality in your children’s lives.

1. What are the most significant cravings of each of my kids’ hearts?

2. How am I doing at building a relational bridge with my children? Do I “have their hearts”? Do they feel connected with and encouraged by me? Do I feel connected with them?

3. When I’m honest, what top five values do I feel most compelled to instill in my children? Would those line up with the top five values God would want my children to have?

4. What are each of my children’s greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses?

5. Am I being faithful to pray diligently, deeply, and watchfully for my kids? (For a great FamilyLife resource on this, click here.)

6. Which child in our family is most likely to be overlooked, and why?

7. Which child tends to receive most of my attention? Why?

8. How do I believe other people see each of my children? How do I feel about that? What portion of others’ opinions could I learn from, and what should I set aside?

9. Are my children developing more into givers than takers?

10. What life skills would I like my children to develop this year?

11. What are the events on the timeline of my children’s lives that have the most impact?

12. In what ways have my children exceeded my expectations?

13. Do I have any expectations of my children that have become demands that I clutch out of fear, rather than hopes that I seek from God by faith?

14. In what ways do I feel disappointed by my children? What can I learn from this? (For example, about what is valuable to me, about how God has made my children, about loving as God loves, etc.) What should I do about this in the future?

15. What is my greatest area of weakness as a parent? My greatest strength? What are my spouse’s?

16. In what ways are my children totally unlike me?

17. What did my parents do particularly well? In what ways do I hope to be different? (Is there any forgiveness that needs to happen there?)

18. What events from my childhood are important for me to shield my own children from? Are there ways that this has led to excessive control?

19. In what areas are my children most vulnerable?

20. What do I love about my kids? About being a parent?

21. How well do my spouse and I work as a team in our parenting?

22. How am I doing on preparing my children to be “launched” as thriving servants for God in the real world?

23. What can I do to equip my children to love well? To be wise? For successful relationships?

24. How is my children’s understanding of the Bible? How would I describe each of their relationships and walks with God?

25. Who are the other influential people in my kids’ lives? As I think of my children’s friends, teachers, coaches, etc., how can I best pray that they will complement my parenting and my kids’ needs?

26. Am I replenishing myself and taking adequate rests, so that my children see the gospel work of grace, patience, and peace in my home?

27. What are each of my kids passionate about? How can I spur on and develop their God-given passions?

28. How am I doing on teaching them biblical conflict resolution? Am I teaching them to be true peace-makers … or peace-fakers, or peace-breakers?

29. How authentically do I speak with my kids? Am I building a bridge of trust and security through my honesty and openness with them?

30. Am I striking a good balance between protecting my kids and equipping them for whatever they may encounter when they step outside of my home, now and in the future?

31. What great memories have I recently made with my kids?

Building Bridges with Your Kids

** The following article was copied form theparentcue.org.

Picture it. Family movie night. You’ve just popped an industrial-size bowl full of popcorn. You’ve got a mug of hot chocolate for each kid, with exactly 13 mini marshmallows each. Everyone’s snuggling under blankets and settling in for some much-needed R&R.

Then, the big question . . .
“What do you want to watch?”

It’s a dangerous thing to ask. You could end up with the latest Disney animated masterpiece. You might be in for a treat like the Greatest Showman. Or you might hear those three disastrous words . . . The Emoji Movie.

(I apologize if it’s your favorite. But, well, I can’t even.)

If you’re anything like me, you last about 30 seconds before you start glancing over at your phone. You think to yourself, “They probably won’t mind if I check my email.” Then you check football scores. You look at your Instagram likes. Your kids seem totally engrossed in the movie, right? What’s the harm?

A simple cue can signal something fundamental to your kids. That’s the good news and the bad news.

Picking up your phone might not seem like a big deal. But let’s be honest. If your daughter looks over and sees you checked out from the movie—something she likes; something she chose—what does that communicate to her?

As a parent, you probably bump up against this tension all the time. I know I do. Sure—you’ve got some interests in common with your kids. But you’ve got your “adult things.” They’ve got their “kid things.”

To a certain extent, this is perfectly healthy. All of us need some space and some autonomy in our lives. We’re different people with different likes and dislikes.

Going out golfing with the guys? Watching football on Sunday afternoons? Perfectly normal, in moderation. Your kids are going to have their own interests that will seem completely baffling to you, too. (For me, it’s those YouTube videos of adults unboxing and playing with kids’ toys. They love it. I just don’t understand.)

But here’s the danger: If everything you enjoy is separate from your kids, you may slowly, unintentionally, distance yourself from them.

To bridge that distance, a lot of families take vacations where they’re forced into close proximity with each other. That can work. Making memories together can certainly add valuable relational deposits. But that also begs the question: Do we really want to present quality time as an exception? Do we want the status quo of our family to be defined by parallel, but separate lives?

Our simple cues communicate more than we realize. As a parent, that’s a sobering reality. But remember how I said it could be good news, too?

I believe our kids notice when we take small steps in their direction. Not giant, sweeping, expensive overtures. Little things that communicate value.

When your daughter starts to tell you the funny thing her friend did at school, what if you shut the computer and gave her your full attention (and eye contact)?

Maybe you didn’t quite finish your project during work hours. What if you chose to put it away until after the kids’ bedtime so you could carve out time for family dinner at the table?

What if you asked questions about your son’s action figures and came up with your own silly chapters to add to their backstory?

None of us gets this right all the time. There’s always more we can do to build bridges to connect with our kids. But I think one of the biggest reasons we miss those opportunities is that reaching out seems intimidating. The gap seems too wide. We forget that intentional small steps can have a cumulative impact. Over time, they can send you confidently in the direction you want to go.

When my kids were just starting to walk, I remember that all I had to do to connect with them was sit down on the floor. When I did, they would head straight for me. They’d giggle and flop all over me. It was so simple and so pure. All it took was a decision on my part to be present.

I think the same principle is true for older kids, too. Maybe it just looks like a night in front of the Emoji Movie.

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