*Note to reader* - The will be a multi-part post. Too much information for one post. The farther I get into the whole "family ministry" thing the more I am coming to the same conclusions:
1. Parents should be the primary spiritual influencers of their children.
2. This is a job that parents can't do alone, they need the body of Christ, His church, to partner with them.
3. All the really good resources out there come to the same conclusion: the heart of the matter is the HEART. Getting the heart of God into the hearts of our kids.
Point #3 above drove me into my Bible to see what it says about the heart. Did you know that the word "heart" (or a variation of) appears 875 times in the ESV? I will now break down each verse ... just kidding, I just wanted to freak some of you out.
This post will focus on our hearts. What it looks like both before and after God gets a hold of it. Why start here? This is where we start. Parents or kids, it doesn't matter, this is where we all start.
We start here as a parent because we need to get our heart right before we can expect our kid's hearts to be affected. What they see us value for our hearts will become a value for their hearts. Why? Because I am becoming more and more convinced that things are 'caught' not 'taught'. As our kids see us reading our Bibles, praying, and being involved in the local church they will come to value these things as well. If Bible reading, prayer, and service are things that only happen on Sunday, our kids will learn from that value as well.
So how does the Bible describe our heart before God gets involved? Let me just warn you, it's not pretty. The following is a list of the descriptive words used and in the parentheses is how many times it appears that way. Our heart, pre-conversion is: - Foolish, leading to folly (7) - Stubborn (6) - Dull (6) - Evil (6) - Proud / Prideful (3) - Troubled (2) - Angry (2) - Sinful (2) - Hard (2) - Wicked (2) - Lies (2) - Deceived - Deceitful - Arrogant - Dishonest - Whoring / Adulterous - Drunk (with sin and desire) - Impure - Lustful - Jealous - Greedy Not a pretty list. Not a pretty way to describe our hearts. But this is where we all start. Thanks to the fall, there is nothing we can do about it on our own.
So, what do our hearts look like after God gets involved? The picture totally changes. With God's help our heart: - Trusts (5) - Rejoices (3) - Delights (2) - are Patient - are Courageous - are Clean - are Blessed - are Humble - are Mournful (because of sin) This list is easier to accept, filled with things that we want to be true of ourselves and our kids.
How do we get our hearts first, and our kids hearts second, from one list to the other? What is required to move from life without God to a life with God? We need words and thoughts that are acceptable to God. How can we possibly do that? We can't, not on our own. How does this happen? We need a new heart! The Bible describes it several different ways: - a Whole heart (3) - a Pure heart (2) - a Kept heart - an Understanding / Knowledgeable heart - a Circumcised heart How do these descriptions become true of us? They become true of us as we interact and experience the GOSPEL! God loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to live a perfect life (that we can't live), to die on the cross to pay the price for our sin (a price we can't pay), and was raised again thereby both destroying death and restoring our relationship with our heavenly Father. Through us spending more and more time in the Gospel, our hearts are made more and more like Christ's. This is what we need for ourselves and should be what we desire for our kids. The Gospel should affect every area of life and needs to be seen doing so.
The Gospel needs to be active in our lives before we can expect it to be active in the lives of our kids. Think about a cup. If our cup has even a little bit in it, we can share it with those we love. If our cup is empty, there is nothing to share.
This ends part one. Part two will consider why we need each other. Why parents need the local church to help get kids to see the value of the Gospel. Part three will be about God's heart and what God desires for our heart.