Gold Pocket Watch

The antique gold plated pocket watch stands proudly on my dresser.  It has “Wm. McCracken” hand lettered on its face.  It was given to my grandfather at his “retirement” from the mission that was influential in leading him to Christ and sobriety.  He served on staff there for over a decade after his transformation.

I put it there intentionally … so that I am reminded everyday of my spiritual heritage.  My God story starts with an alcoholic grandfather who had a life changing encounter with God because of his addiction.  His watch is an “Ebenezer”… a visual memorial of my family’s God story.  The prophet Samuel erected a memorial to help fathers tell the story of God’s faithfulness to their children (I Samuel 7:12).

Recently I raised another “Ebenezer” in our home.  On our mantle sits a carefully folded American flag … 4 of its stars shining through the triangular case.  It is the flag that drapped my father’s casket.  It is a powerful symbol of not only his service to our country as an island hopping Marine in WWII, but to the victories he experienced after he returned home.  Dad overcame a tremendous amount of adversity … you can read about those in the book.

My question to you is … what are the “Ebenezers” in your home … the artifacts and heirlooms that are displayed in your living spaces that help you tell your family God story?  If you have some … please leave a comment about them and let’s get a little story telling going on …

God is a Story Teller

God has shared with us the greatest story ever told; and He wants us as parents and grandparents to tell it to our children.  He commanded His Old Testament family (Israelites) to share chapters of this story throughout the year through a number of ordained holy days (holidays).  These feasts and celebrations were specifically designed for fathers to tell God’s redemptive story to their children.

For example, Passover … the story of the angel of death’s “passing over” God’s people has been shared by Jewish families for over 3500 years!  It is the story of how a perfect was taken into the homes of the Israelites almost like a pet … I am sure that the children probably became attached to this little lamb … and then he was killed … and his blood painted onto the doorposts … and when the angel of death saw the blood on the door … he “passed over” that home and the first-born male is spared.

What a story … of not only how God freed His people from Egyptian slavery … but a foreshadowing of how Jesus … the Lamb of God … would shed HIs blood for us … so that the curse and judgement of eternal death would be broken … and our lives spared both now and for eternity.

Stop and think about your family’s “God story.”  How has God brought you and your family to this point in His story (history)?  Who are the earliest Christians in your family tree?  What forms of “slavery” or bondage did God save your family out of?  How did you come to faith?  These stories will be the greatest ones you ever tell to your children and grandchildren!

Finding the “best” time for Family Devotions

In our small survey you shared that you struggle with establishing a regular time and place for family devotions.  Karen and I wrestled too.  When our two sons were little guys we found that bedtime worked the best for us for three reasons:  First, we were all usually home at bedtime, (I did teach some night courses that interfered sometimes).  Second, it was a pre-determined time during the school week; it was regular.  And third, they shared a room … so that made it easy.

As our boys got older and our bed times began to vary, we re-adjusted our time to the breakfast table.  Again … we were all usually home … we all had to eat … and we all ate at the kitchen table.  We just needed to co-ordinate the best time before we left of the bus or work.  It required an earlier rise and shine … but we wanted to make it a priority.  It proved to be a great place to pull out the devotional book and pray together before the day.

The Israelites of Moses’ day, in an attempt to Keep their kids from Canaan, and obey Deuteronomy 6,  would have a prayer time with their kids first thing in the morning and before heading to bed, using verse 4 as the centerpiece of this time:

 “Hear O Israel the LORD, our God, the LORD is one.  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all of your might … and you shall teach them diligently to your children …”

There are no “right” or “wrong” times to make this happen.  The key is to find and set aside a regular time and place for you all to meet together as a family to spend some time interacting with God’s Word … and Him more days of the week than not.

Modesty / Purity wars …

In the opening of Keeping Your Kids from Canaan, I talk about the similarities between the godless culture of the ancient Canaanites and present-day America.

Three powerful forces are competing for the hearts, souls, minds and bodies of our children.  These negative influences war against our attempts to instill Biblical values into our children.  One of these forces is the fact that we live in a “sexually charged” culture.  Here’s a report from the AP this week that emphasizes the increase in this phenomena:

NEW YORK (AP) The Associated Press:  A watchdog group says broadcast television is implying a lot more nudity in prime time than it used to.

The Parents Television Council said Monday that its researchers found 76 instances where a person appeared nude, with private parts obscured, in prime time last season. It happened on 37 different shows.  The group says that’s a sharp rise from the 15 instances the networks aired the season before that.

Examples include a couple skinny-dipping on ABC’s “The Bachelor,” Howie Mandel jokingly appearing nude in his dressing room at NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” and a naked man jumping out of a car trunk in the candid camera show “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers” on NBC.

In each case, the full nudity is obscured by pixilation or strategically placed objects.

“It’s a lot more suggestive than we’ve seen in the past,” said Melissa Henson, spokeswoman for the group.

The parents group, which also monitors language and sexually suggestive content on broadcast television, said it will complain about the development to the Federal Communications Commission.

TV producers either believe they need to show viewers more to get more viewers … or they have an agenda to eradicate modesty altogether.  Their motives don’t really change the outcome.  Our kids, who are watching, are being conditioned to buy into the same messages.  Show more … suggest more … to get higher ratings!

Our culture is paying attention … offering even more of a challenge … take your sons and daughters to the mall to do some back to school shopping and you immediately face this same issue … skimpiness and inappropriate innuendos abound …

How are you as a parent dealing with the issues of modesty and sexual purity in your homes?

Survey says!

I want to drill down on how I can help you get your family devotions working more effectively in your home … would you please take a minute to answer this question … it will give me some helpful info on what to start writing about in the days to come …


Let’s talk about it …

If you’ve read the Chapter 6 summary (click ch. 6 link above) … you know that one way we, as Christian parents, can teach by telling .. is to have regular family devotions.

Research reveals that most of us struggle with making these powerful faith building times happen.  In Keeping Your Kids from Canaan … I give 6 steps to having successful family devotions: (1) find a regular time and place … the power of routine. (2) Keeping them simple making them easy to do … finding good resources.  (3) Planning … knowing what topics and passages are going to be covered in your curriculum or plugging into what your kids are learning at church or school.  (4) Making them fun … it’s a crime to bore kids with the Bible … use some fun teaching methods!  (5) Make them relational … how are you getting to know each other better because of these times? … and finally (6) Keep them going.  Don’t let a few missed days thwart you.

I’ve been doing a lot of talking … and now it is time to take a break and listen … So … if you have a thought … a suggestion … a struggle … a solution … regarding any of these 6 things … (or any post so far)  please leave a comment and let’s start a conversation … to help us all become more effective in teaching God’s Word to our legacy children!

You are the greatest

Most of us want to be “great” at something.  Well if you have children … I want to share with you what I believe you are the greatest at … (pardon my poor grammar, but work with me)   Are you ready? … You’re going to be surprised!  You’re the greatest theology teacher your children will ever have!

I can hear you saying, “No way … I’m no theologian … and I am not a professional educator!!”  It doesn’t matter … as one poet sang … “that’s the way God planned it … that’s the God wants it to be!” (Bob Dylan)  Let me explain.

Psalm 139 tells us that we are not only wonderfully made,  the writer tells us that we were knitted together in our mother’s womb.  God knew who our mothers were going to be … (and fathers too)… but let’s process that a little more … if our moms and dads were custom-made to be our moms and dads … that means their moms and dads were “special order” too … God knew who had to be with whom to make all of the characteristics that He wanted to give to you!!  That is mind-boggling … but God is an awesome God.

So it is my belief … and I want it to become yours as well … that God intended and designed (planned) for you to have the children that you have.   They are not an accident … and they were not switched at birth … they are a pre-ordained special delivery.  That means … of all the parents in the world that God could have given your children to … He designed, built and delivered them to you!  You were designed and custom-built by God to be their parents …. nobody is better designed to be their mom or dad than you are!

Being their parent gives you several powerful advantages in teaching them.  You have built-in connection … relationship … affection … and time.  All key ingredients to being an excellent educator.  As far as theology … you have the God-given position of being His representative.  Of all the word pictures God could have chosen to teach us about Himself … He selected family.  He wants to be known as our “Father!”  So think about it … how we “be” parents … is teaching our children about the love, character and nature of God Himself … hence you are the greatest theology teacher your children will ever have … they will see and understand God .. the way the see and understand you!

The “Nucleus” of our Culture and Creator

God created one man and one woman, and brought them together as husband and wife, to be the nucleus of the family.  His plan is that from this unbreakable union children are born and raised … homes are established.  Marriage is the smallest social structure; and it is the learning and proving grounds for all other social systems.  Strong healthy marriages make strong families … healthy families form healthy societies.

In the context of marriage we learn about hierarchy and obedience to authority.  We learn how to communicate and resolve conflicts.   We learn how to share and get along.  Every relationship skill we need to succeed in every social arena of life we ever participate in … is learned in marriage.

This married couple, as parents, teaches these same relational and social skills to their children.  They use formal and informal methods.  They instruct through verbal teaching and they demonstrate by modeling … they tell and show!   Healthy marriages will produce healthy families.  Strong families will form healthy communities.  Healthy communities make a strong society or nation.

Amazingly social scientists have confirmed this … affirming the adage: “All truth is God’s truth!”  They have “discovered” that the health of families has a direct correlation to the wealth of a culture.  That means the health of our marriages have a direct correlation to the health of our community, country … and world!

For thousands of years, fallen humanity has desperately tried to “re-engineer” God’s idea of marriage and family.  They have explored for ways to split the nucleus … Jesus cited that the prophet Moses conceded divorce because of the hardness of man’s heart.  He (Jesus) said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”  Matthew 19:8

So now we live in a world where “civilized, politically correct” societies no longer affirm that the marriage of one man to one woman for life is the only nucleus that can produce the type of family that God intended.  Mankind is arguing that marriage doesn’t matter … on any level … not just between a man and a woman.

Why is this important?  Because of all the word pictures God could have used to teach us about Himself … He chose family.  I believe that marriage and family are not only the foundational relationships of all society … I believe they are to be the very incarnational reflection of who God is and how He desires to relate to us … His creation … aka children.

The “Key” to keeping your kids from Canaan …

The KEY to God’s strategy for keeping His kids from Canaan is found in Deuteronomy 6:4 … You, as parents, shall love the Lord your God with all your heart … soul and might.  This chapter unpacks the meaning of this pivotal command … the one that Jesus Himself identified as the “greatest commandment” when asked by a letter of the OT lawyer … (Matthew 22: 35 – 40)

The BIG IDEA of chapter 5 is:  You cannot give your children what you do not have.  If we want our kids to love God they need to see and hear us loving Him.  That’s what Moses is talking about when he commands you to talk about them as you walk … drive … do life together … and to bind them or show them … your kids need to see and hear your love for God.  Children are into “show and tell!”

Our problem is that we struggle in loving God more than we do the world.  Our hearts say it is more important for us to leave our kids a legacy of cash … at the expense of a legacy of Christ.  Jesus taught us that no man can serve two masters … for he will hate one and serve the other …

Those are challenging words … How are you doing in showing your kids how much you love God … and show them what that love looks like lived out?  Do they hear you talking about your love for Him … in formal times as well as everyday conversations?  These probing questions show us how powerful and important this command is …

Who are these Canaanites?

QUESTION:  “Why the metaphor of Canaan and the Canaanites” in your book?

ANSWER:  “Canaan” represents the anti-God of the Bible tendencies of every culture toward materialism, pleasure-seeking and self-centeredness.  Or, as one writer put it, the “unholy trinity” of money, sex and power. Not all cultures are as blatant about it as the ancient Canaanites were … but North America is approaching their level every day. These three emphases are temptations that draw us away from a pure devotion and love for God.

The child sacrifices of these idolatrous Canaanites are a frightening metaphor for how our culture is attacking our families.  Just as the Canaanite priest would seize the first-born and sacrifice it to a pagan idol, so the gods of that unholy trinity want us to sacrifice our family relationships and relationship to the True and Living God to them.

The Israelites were told to destroy the Canaanite people. No, we are not to “destroy” the modern pagans, but we need to destroy the paganism within us, and keep our lives and our families free of its influence.  You can read the first chapter of Keeping Your Kids from Canaan where I explain this a little more fully.