Friday, December 7, 2018

Kids Are Sinners, And So Are We

Last week, I shared some ideas with you about involving children in corporate worship. You can read that post HERE. This is still an area that I am learning and growing in and so I appreciated the positive feedback from that post; I'm thankful to the Lord that it was an encouragement to many of you. 

I mentioned in that previous blog post that I was going to move on to discuss ways to train our children in worshiping the Lord in our homes. But before I do that, I wanted to take a quick detour. I felt that the Lord brought this to my heart, and I wanted to share it with you all. 

There are times that despite our best intentions and efforts, our kids don't cooperate. To put it frankly, they don't want to worship. 

And there are times, to put it frankly again, that it's not a problem with our kids, but with ourselves--with our own attitudes, lack of obedience to the Lord, failure to realize something that the Lord is showing us--and this is reflected in the attitudes/reactions of our children.

We are sinners. Our kids are sinners. We are all in need of help from a merciful Savior.

We need Him to teach us how to worship. We need Him to change us, to adjust our attitudes and habits, to teach us and to reveal new attitudes and habits to us. We need Him to show us how to daily lead our children through our actions in sometimes quiet, sometimes more visible or audible worship of Him. 

But we struggle with this as sinners. Other attitudes and actions come in--attitudes not born of His Spirit. We get busy and tired. We replace worship with other things and place the Lord on the "back burner" of our lives. This is so easy to do. 

And sometimes as believers we leave it right there. 

We are sinners; our kids are sinners--oh well; we'll never "get it right" here on this earth so why put in such an effort? Just let things flow; just go with it--it will all work itself out in the end. 

Or there is the attitude of "messy grace" which is so prevalent in the church today. I have no problem with the concept itself--but I do think that we need to start taking the grace and cleaning up the mess! Our kids are naughty--our kids are not naturally worshipers, they are sinners like us; ok--don't ultimately laugh it off, don't take it lightly--deal with it by the grace of God so that our lives and the lives of our family may bring greater glory to Him.

Admit your mistakes; admit your shortcomings and come before the throne of grace to ask for help from the Lord in how we raise our children. Fast and pray. Take Him seriously in daily life. Ask for wisdom and direction and He will give it to you. He promises that in His Word. 

Pray with your kids; pray with them daily. Deal with the "issues." Take the grace of God in your daily life with your kids. 

In other words, put the "grace" back into the "messy."

I am speaking to myself. If we want, truly want our kids to worship God aright, in spirit and in truth, then we must set the example. Do our kids see us on our knees? Do they see us taking God seriously, making sacrifices for the kingdom, putting Him first in our lives? Do they see that we value worship? Do they see that we care about the things of God? If our spouse is a believer, do they see their parents praying together and depending upon the Lord for the daily needs of the family? These are all important questions to ask and if we are honest with ourselves, we all fall short in many of these areas. We all could grow and change and make a greater impact upon our children for the glory of God. I know that I could. By the grace of God. 

I have a little sign in my house that I asked someone to make for me (thanks, Sara :-))--it says simply "Spend and be Spent." I wanted a reminder that my life is not to be used up for myself, to please myself, but to be used up for God--to be poured out for God--not for myself. 

I need this constant reminder. I am a sinner; my kids are sinners--we continually depend upon the grace of Almighty God. 

Everyday I face challenges with my children--and with my own ambivalence, or disobedience, or ignorance in some area that the Lord wants to reveal to me as I cry out to Him in my weakness. 

It is good to recognize our weakness so that we can lay hold of the great strength that is offered to us in our merciful Savior. When we do this, it gives Him the opportunity to pour His mercy out upon us as we teach ourselves and our children to worship Him aright--in spirit and in truth. 

As we establish these habits and patterns and seek to pursue the Lord as a family in daily worshiping our God, the key is--never give up. Through the grace of God, never give up and like Jacob, God will bless you and your family. 

Seek to worship God as a family; seek to put Him first in all that you do and your lives as a family will become a living fountain. Not a perfect example of holiness, but a refreshment to those around you. Admit your shortcomings and move on to embrace the grace of God and to grow and change in the areas that He would have you grow in your worship of Him. 

I faced a situation last year which is somewhat funny (in a terrible way ;-)) in retrospect but which taught me a lesson that I could not have learned any other way--a lesson involving high heels.  

It was Christmas Eve. At our church we have a Christmas Eve Service. For those of you who attend these services, you know that they are usually quiet and reflective. 

My 3-year-old son was in a surly mood. Obviously, he had not yet caught the holiday spirit. Or perhaps he was re-enacting the part of Ebenezer Scrooge in a Christmas Carol--the live version ;-). 

My husband and I have been training our kids to sit quietly in church since they were babies. But my strong-willed son would have none of it on this particularly reverent night of nights. 

He couldn't have challenged me on a sunny Sunday morning; it had to be performed on the evening when the sanctuary was full and there were visiting churches joining us for worship, when the lights were lowered and all was supposedly calm and peaceful. 

No. He could not. 

We had just finished singing a hymn (or maybe it was the prayer--I cannot remember--or maybe it is because I have been trying so hard not to ;-)). 

My son was fidgety and I asked him to sit on my lap where I thought that I could better deal with him and his wiles. 

No, he told me in a cheeky manner and I insisted, picking the little stinker up to sit on my lap.

The end result was humiliation. 

No! No! No! He loudly yelled (I think that that is the appropriate word) just as there was complete silence in the sanctuary.

Well, I would not be challenged--the little three year old would not get the better of yours truly--

So I scooped him up still squawking No! and proceeded to trip over one of the folding chairs that was set up for extra guests who attended the service.

Red-faced, I brought my child out of the sanctuary and vowed never, never to wear high heels to church again with young children. 

I quickly disciplined my son and brought him back into that sanctuary, even though I wished to run back home to Rhode Island. I also took my heels off and went barefoot the rest of the evening. 

I knew that the battle would be lost if I kept him out of the service for bad behavior. 

Later on I lamented to my Mom about the whole, terrible embarrassing ordeal (she had witnessed it, by the way--thankfully she was still willing to be associated with us ;-) standing with me in the foyer over a Christmas cookie that I think that I ate out of depression ;-). 

I can't remember her exact words, but she encouraged me so much over that incident. My Mom is not one to beat around the bush or just to say what someone wants to hear--she tells you the truth gently, whether you like it not--it's what I love about my Mom even though sometimes initially I balk at it. 

My Mom told me, "Bekki; you dealt with it (the disobedience)--that is the important thing. If you hadn't, that would have been much worse-- a lot of people would have just allowed the child to disobey--you removed him and didn't give him his way." 

(The back story of this whole episode is that I had just asked my Mom for advice on what to do when my son wouldn't obey me in the church service and she had told me just to scoop him up and take him out of the service, discipline him, and come back in. This advice was fresh on my mind at that service--unfortunately it was the first time that I tried it. ;-))

Then she added, with her usual humor--"but did you have to choose the Christmas Eve Service to deal with it?" 

My older sister, also a comedian, ;-) asked me later, "didn't you know enough to put your hand over his mouth? That's the first thing you do!" I think that she was counseling me to try it the next time--I was hoping that there wouldn't be a next time!!

And even if I had thought of this I suppose that it would have been impossible as I was using both hands to steady myself after tripping over the chair with a husky three-year-old in arms. 

The point of the story is this. Kids are sinners. We are sinners--things like this happen when we are trying to worship--when we are trying to teach our children to worship. 

The key is not to ignore the bad behavior, or to try to cover it up, but to deal with it, by God's grace. There were things that I needed to learn about being firmer in my discipline --there were things that my son needed to learn about obedience. We are both sinners. 

No one wants attention drawn to themselves--no one wants to be the one who looks like they have a strong-willed non-compliant child. But I'll tell you one thing--I admire the mothers who deal with the behavioral issues swiftly rather than ignoring them. I want to be more like that --in a loving way, of course, and with the discernment and the direction of the Holy Spirit. We have been working on this all year, and though my son will still challenge me at times, we seldom have any dramatic episodes. 

We are learning to worship together--two sinners, under the cross of Jesus Christ--my little son and I--the strong-willed little boy who loves to sing hymns and to dress up in a tie like his Dad and reveres the men who bring the tithe up to the front of the sanctuary. 

How I love my son --my fiery little Elisha--I love him enough to discipline him, to teach him through action and example, how to worship, how to obey his parents, how to love the Lord with all of his stubborn little heart. 

We are learning to worship.

We are not perfect families; we are sinners saved by grace pressing toward the goal.

We have a high calling; we have a job to do as parents. To teach little sinners to worship--and to worship aright ourselves.

May we do it with the grace that God supplies. 

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