Drawn By Love, Kept By Grace – The Real Way to Keep Kids in the Faith

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A staggering 78% of kids raised in Bible-believing homes leave the faith by the age of 18. In an effort to understand this phenomenon, there are blogs, articles, and books written on this subject, discussing all sorts of ideas, such as perhaps it’s because we shove biblical “heroes” at them, or it’s because they attend youth group far more than they actually attend church, or maybe it’s because we’re pushing them to learn too many Bible verses.

 

The weakest argument I’ve heard so far is that Christians who use “churchy” language, such as believer, unbeliever, and the Lord willing, are somehow destroying our kids’ desire to follow Jesus. While that one may be the most frail and humanistic of the explanations, I do believe each may have its part in this unprecedented youth exodus. They still, however, miss the point of the deeper issue.

 

The solutions offered to these ideas address the specific issue thought to be the problem. We’re told that we should show kids that biblical “heroes” were actually liars, fornicators, and drunks. We decide that the youth should attend services once a month. We are warned against using “Christianese”, even though we are, in fact, Christians. And we’re told that we absolutely must show kids that the whole point of Christianity is that God always chases people who run from Him, and He will never give up on them. And yet the youth are still leaving.

 

These solutions don’t work because they only deal with the surface problems – the ones that exhibit themselves. You don’t really think Satan is going to make it that easy, do you? If we are searching in the wrong places for what is driving people away from the faith, we’ll end up with the wrong results.

 

To be fair, I have read some very good articles on this subject. One in particular, Top 10 Reasons Our Kids Leave the Church, should not be missed. In it, the writer states what I believe is the reason we are losing our kids: “We have failed to deliver to them the faith ‘delivered once for all'(Jude 1:3).” We have fed those searching for God a flimsy and idolatrous idea of what grace is and does. A counterfeit faith is no faith at all.

 

Apart from the true message of the Gospel, everything becomes superficial and unsatisfactory. So first, let’s take this out of the context of kids alone, and realize that for anyone – young or old – to stay rooted in the faith, we must understand what the Gospel truly is.

 

The message of the Gospel begins not with us or our need, or even God’s meeting that need. It begins with God – a God who is ultimately concerned about His glory, and who created man in His image to reflect and bear that glory. But from even before He created man, God knew we would mar His image through sin, and deeply grieve and displease Him. So from before the foundation of the world, God set about the business of redeeming and restoring His broken images, showing us love, mercy, and grace throughout history, ultimately culminating in the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His only Son.

 

The work of the cross only strikes us as awe-inspiring,” one author wrote, “after we have first been awed by the glory of God.” But a great many people have been led into the kingdom of God by Christians who teach a watered-down version of the Gospel. Many prefer to tell people how much God loves them and wants to be with them forever, but shy away from talking about the bloody price of sin. Jesus died a brutal death to defeat sin and unite us to the Father through Him.

 

J.C. Ryle Quote on Sin

 

Love is power. And a self-centered, counterfeit gospel always leads to sin’s dominion again exerting itself. The primary reason sin gains power over believers is because we love it. If sin did not attract us and was not pleasurable, it would have no power over us. So what drives love of sin from us and cuts it off at its root?

 

A surpassing, transforming love.

 

And what fills us with this powerful, sin-displacing love?

 

Amazing grace…that saved a wretch like me.”*

 

He loved us before we knew Him, He died while we were yet His enemy. He holds us when we fail, He keeps us when we fall. He forgives us when we sin, He removes our sin as far as the east is from the west. He fills our hearts with surpassing love, He empowers us to keep every commandment.

 

Grace

 

Without love for sin, the world has no dominion over our us, for grace leads to godliness. A preeminent love for God, based on His love for us, makes doing His will and pleasing Him the believer’s greatest joy, and in this joy lies the strength to remain in Him (Neh. 8:10). And this joy lies only in this refrain:

 

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more
,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!**

 

The power of grace, the power of the true Gospel, is the power of all-conquering love. This alone can keep our kids – can keep us all – in the faith. 

 

Christ Alone

* Amazing Grace by John Newton

**It Is Well With My Soul by Horatio G. Spafford

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Constant Conversations with the Creator

I love reminders. Lists in my purse keep me from forgetting to pick up cheese and milk at the store, the warning chime in my Jeep lets me know when the lift gate is open or the oil needs changed, and inspirational quotes, comics, and pictures posted on my fridge, computer, and dresser caution me to be kind, prompt me to be patient, and fan the flames of my faith.

 

 

1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to pray without ceasing. At first, this seems a daunting task, perhaps even impossible. But once we realize what prayer truly is – simple yet deliberate communication with God – we can begin to see that it’s not only doable, but enjoyable. After all, we do it with friends and family. We post to Facebook about the great cup of coffee we’re enjoying and what our kids are doing, text our spouse about what we need him to pick up and our friends about a yard sale they should go to, and Instagram a great party we’re attending. Simple yet deliberate communication.

 

When an ambulance races past and my two-year-old exclaims, “Siren truck!” I pray for everyone affected, that healing would be granted, souls would have one last chance to seek Him, and His comfort would be felt. When my husband heads to a business appointment I pray for favor with those he’s meeting with and for safety during his travels. Throughout the day, just breathing a heartfelt prayer over whatever I face makes me more familiar with hearing and communicating with the Lover of my soul.

 

One way I make prayer a constant conversation is by keeping prayer reminders around my home. Just as I have lists and quotes and pictures to motivate me to do my best and remember what to buy, I have prayer prompts in strategic places.

 

I went to Hobby Lobby and purchased attractive boxes and some river rock, then wrote scripture verses on some and put them on our bathroom counter. When I brush my teeth or fluff my hair, I take out a rock, read the scripture, and pray it back to the Lord.

 

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Another box of river rocks contains names of people I love, nations of the world, vocations, families, and ministries and is placed on a table near our front door. Whenever I walk past it, I pick up a rock and pray for the missionary, pastor, lost loved one, family member, or ministry printed on the rock.

 

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Pinterest can be a helpful tool, but can also become a place to waste time if you let it. So to keep my time in check, Pinterest is another place I keep prayer reminders. I started a board titled Prayer and I begin my time there, praying for others and myself. From there I can search Pinterest having begun in the Spirit, with His guiding eye on my time. I also keep a sharp eye out for prayers to pin, so my prayers continue throughout my time spent on the site.

 

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Novelist and fellow blogger, Amy A. Corrin, took spiral bound note cards and wrote scriptures on them to pray for her children. Each day, Amy took one note card and prayed that scripture over her little ones. Her children are grown now, but she still treasures those cards, and re-reads them often. Her story inspired me, and now, as I read through the Bible, I pick scriptures that I want to pray over my daughter. I’m compiling a list to do just as Amy did.

 

Over the years I have collected many excellent books on prayer. Some of them are in-depth studies on the methods and elements of prayer, or the vitality of it in a believer’s life. Some of them are books of prayers that you can read each day, or by subject. I keep these lying around the house in places where I can pick them up throughout the day to unclutter my mind and re-focus on seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).

 

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Jesus calls us His friends, and confides in us all that the Father has told Him (John 15:15). Friends talk with one another anytime about anything, and our friendship with God is no different. Today, let’s commit to constant conversations with our Creator!

The Symbol of Thanksgiving

I number gifts and I snap photos and I write graces and I post them here. A continual boasting of His love poured out; rain drops of great grace. But what’s the point of eucharisteo?

Is it a mere Joel Osteen type attempt at a false prosperity gospel to bring health, wealth, and happiness by speaking bold “words of faith” and gratefulness to leverage victory and gain? Is it another postmodern system of relativism that preaches thankfulness without acknowledging to Whom we ought to be thankful?

The apostle Paul answers these questions for us in Galatians 6:14:

Boast in the Cross

With the words God forbid, Paul makes it clear that any other ground for boasting is counterfeit and contrary to the Gospel. The cross was an object of shame to the Judaizers, and means little to legalists, but to the wretch who grasps amazing grace, the cross is the only symbol of thanksgiving.

Romans 2:4-5 teaches that we store up God’s wrath if we think lightly of the blessings we receive, not grasping that His kindness is meant to lead us to repentance and boasting in His death and resurrection.

While the Bible itself speaks of boasting in other things – in the glory of God (Romans 5:2), in our weaknesses (2 Cor. 11:30 & 12:9), in tribulations (Romans 5:3), and in the people of Christ (1 Thess. 2:19) – Paul is saying that all other boasting must still find its validity in the cross.

In his book The Passion of Jesus Christ, John Piper offers this truth:

Everything good, and everything bad that God turns for the good, was purchased by the sufferings of Christ…every legitimate pleasure in the world becomes a blood-bought evidence of Christ’s love and an occasion of boasting in the cross. When our hearts run back along the beam of blessing, to the source in the cross, then the worldliness of the blessing is dead, and Christ crucified is everything.” (emphasis mine)

And so we boast in our blessings because they find their dawn and their legitimacy in the cross.

 

In the still, the Spirit comes and He whispers a name.

Christ.

The counting of all blessings is ultimately summed up in One.” ~ Ann Voskamp

 

Thanksgiving Thursday: Unwrapping the Gifts

 

1146. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!

Amazing Grace

 

1111. Writing at a coffee shop during a rainstorm

 

1096. Sundresses; because every girl feels good in a sundress 🙂

 

1101. Take out from Three Margaritas

 

1118. Taking our Peanut up her first 14er

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1134. Snuggling on the couch with my Love, watching a late night movie

 

1144. A family walk that ended just as the rain began to pour

 

1090. Playing games and eating pizza during Peanut’s nap

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Please tell me, what gifts have you unwrapped this week?

 

 

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Thanksgiving Thursday: Growing Kids Through Courageous Prayer

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6:00 a.m., October 27, 2010. That was the moment I breathed the very first prayer for my child. I prayed for my future child many times before, but not really for her, the very four-week-old who then occupied space in my womb.

I sat in a business meeting with my mind on anything but business. I stared down at my tummy, wishing I could see inside to the tiny heart that had begun to beat just days earlier. My heart went boldly before the throne of grace: “Oh, Jesus, with your grace empowering me, my life’s aim, from now until my last breath, will be to point this child to you. May my failures demonstrate the need for a Savior, my victories display the triumphant Overcomer, my tears present the love of a Comforter, and my laughter parade the joy of the Lord.”

Mama, Called to Point Them to Him

E.M. Bounds says, “God shapes the world by prayer,” and nearly two and a half years later, my heart still breathes the same prayer…and many more! Bringing a soul into the world will cause prompt and complete obedience to Paul’s admonition to pray without ceasing, because prayer is present where a parent isn’t.

I read a story of a mother whose young daughter was experiencing extraordinary hardship that would test even the strongest adult. She prayed earnestly for the Lord to help her little girl survive the day. As she sat pleading with God, she heard the still, small voice: “Is that really all you want from me?” Recognizing that God wanted to do mighty things through her prayers, she cried out, “No, that’s not all I want!” She then unleashed her innermost desires, petitioning for her daughter to prevail, not just survive, so that everyone who knew her would know God’s hand was on her. She went on, praying big, bold, aggressive prayers, knowing she was asking the only One who could accomplish all that she asked.

As busy parents with children who grow faster than the laundry pile, we don’t have time to waste on aimless prayers mumbled without purpose or passion. We must cover the fruit of our wombs in what Will Davis Jr. describes as Big, Hairy, Audacious Prayers in his book Pray Big for Your Child. “When a Christian talks to God,” he writes, “all the power of heaven is at play, and cultures, nations, and history lay in the balance…great prayers don’t originate in the heart of the parent; they originate in the heart of God.”

The God Who Made My Child...

Pray for your children to come to an early love of Jesus, His Word, and His ways. Pray for them to have a tender heart toward His correction, and that they would quickly repent of and turn from sin. Pray that they tune their ears to know the voice of the Shepherd. Pray that they will obey you and God with cheerfulness, and experience the joy of the Lord as their strength. Pray for them to be wise and harmless, truthful and loving, bold and humble, and strong and gentle. Pray for them to cleave to the Spirit, and rely on His empowering grace that is sufficient for all things. Pray that they will fear nothing but sin, desire nothing but God, shake the gates of hell, and set up the kingdom of heaven on earth. Pray that their future marriages will be extraordinary, fun, pure, passionate, and Christ honoring. And pray – hard – for their parents.

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As parents, we are a compass, a tool that will empower our little ones to navigate their lives, and we must always be pointing toward the bright and Morning Star. We only have their young years to direct them, and then we let them go. Will Davis Jr. says it this way: “Parenting is the only God-designed relationship where the goal is separation…Our greatest parenting moment comes when our kids walk out into the world, fully equipped to function as God-honoring, independent young adults.”

When we seek God for the ability to train up our children in the way they should go, we are promised that we will be continually guided in our quest (Isaiah 58:11). And when we begin to petition boldly and courageously for our children, the One who lives to intercede for us leads us to even bolder and more courageous requests (Heb 7:25). Ephesians 3:20 assures us that He is able to do more than we ask or imagine, so let’s start raising our kids one prayer at a time!

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Unwrapping the Gifts 2/21/13

846. The privilege of loving my child through prayer

827. Cherry chip cookies

830. The tap-tap-tap of keyboards as I create a symphony of words in unison with my new work partner

847. Taking part in shaping the future generation of God Chasers

816. Lying cradled safe in my husband’s arms

844. Lunch with a friend

820. Feeling the load lighten

848. The fervent prayer of the righteous avails much

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Please tell me, what gifts have you unwrapped this week?

 

 

 

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Thanksgiving Thursday

“Life is a furnace and the faithful live by the Shadrach-prayer of only 4 words: “Even if He doesn’t.” This world doesn’t have anything that can burn down the faith of a heart on fire for God.

Gratitude follows grace as thunder follows lightening.

God gives grace and ours is to give thanks and in the midst of full days, this is God’s unconditional demand: That we live thankful.”  Ann Voskamp

My Thanksgiving List 11/22/12

476. Toddler games for the Ipad

520. Stocking up on diapers, a full tank of gas, and a large bottle of rum

526. Growing closer and closer to my Mama

533. Writing tithe checks

538. Pain killers

539. A toddler that eats anything

540. Twenty years of holding hands with my boyfriend

541. A good Wal-Mart baby!

549. Celebrating the day that has begun to represent my life – Thanksgiving

Please tell me, on this Thanksgiving Day, what blessing have you unwrapped?

Thanksgiving Thursday

                 

               My Thanksgiving List 11/1/12

 

457. Paying bills (Yes, really!)

 

462. Long walks on warm fall days

 

413. My kitty’s purr

 

404. A good night’s sleep

 

440. The first snow of the season!

 

444. Our first kiss, exchanged for a popcan tab 😉

 

447. Stacks of wood lovingly prepared for our little wood stove

 

449. Cooking shows on Create

 

454. Skot’s homemade hushpuppies

 

465. Purchasing the first Christmas gift for a special person

 

460, 461. Jehovah Tsidkenu, the Lord our Righteousness…He makes us holy from the inside out, and when He begins a good work, He will carry it on to completion! 

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Happy November! Please tell me, what gifts have you unwrapped this week?

 

Thanksgiving Thursday, Time to Grow Up

Do you ever wish you could tell someone to just grow up? I do, and this week I have dealt with a woman, well into her thirties, who has whined, grumped, and sniffled her way through childish, unattractive tantrums.

A couple of days ago, I decided enough was enough. I am old enough to know better, and I just want to grow up.

…Control, pseudo power from the pit,” Ann Voskamp says. Yes, it had been control I was after. And it’s hard for me to see. When the desire to control others sneaks up on me, I often don’t recognize it, there is just a sinking sense of helplessness. “Worry is the facade of taking action when prayer really is.” Once again Ann speaks to where I am.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a [woman], I put the ways of childhood behind me.” 1 Corinthians 13:11.

This week I am thankful for the grace that enables me to see with new eyes, empowers me to be transformed, and speaks when it’s time to just grow up. All is grace.

 

My Thanksgiving List 8/30/12

 

107. Apologies

 

118. The scent of fabric softener

 

98. Standing on the promises of God my Savior

 

102. Funny Facebook posts that make me laugh

 

101. Chardonnay

 

110. New books arriving in the mail!

 

113. Long family walks

 

111. A true parenting partner

 

121. The best workspace ever

 

120. Yard sales

 

106. Watching movies with Peanut in the living room…on a weekday…on a hide-a-bed

 

100. My faithful, trustworthy husband! Thank you, Father, for this wondrous gift!

 

119. A sweet Sabbath day in the House of God with the people of God

 

122. Dollar days at the Colorado State Fair with my family