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Your Children and the Church

Do you choose a church based on your perceived needs of your children? This question has come to me in various forms over the years. Some are looking for a larger youth group or children’s program. Some families attend churches where their children do not have peers, or in one instance, they did not like the “type of children” that were attending the program. In either case, they begin looking for another church. The parents start investigating the churches in the area and where most of their child’s school friends attend. Then . . . They go.

I have four children. I share this with you so that you will understand that I know the desire for your kids to be in an environment where you think they will flourish. As a parent, you desire the best for your children. If you are a parent and you are struggling with this question, I would like to share a few things with you.

It is your job to lead the home

Your child is a gift from God, and you are stewarded to lead them in a manner that glorifies God. There are times that we as parents tend to relinquish power to our children that they are not ready to handle. It is not your child’s responsibility to choose a church for your family to attend; the weight is on your shoulders as a parent.

It is your job to point to Christ

In the process of evaluating a move, please consider the function of your home in the spiritual life of your child. God designed the household to be the primary place of theological instruction, and he gave us the church to help accomplish the task. Before you move to a different church for the sake of your children, evaluate if your home is taking the primary role of spiritual development.

The responsibility of the parent is more than just transportation to church services and functions. Parents have the responsibility to instruct and instill Scripture into the lives of their children. Please do not consider leaving a church that seems to have little to offer your children if you are not giving your children the foundation they need in the home. If the foundation of the household is faithful, the children will lack nothing.

As a parent, you attend church for your spiritual health, and the byproduct of that pursuit will be a spiritually healthy home and spiritually fed children. Your children will follow in your footsteps, they will worship as your worship, and they will feast on God’s Word as they watch you study God’s Word. You are a far more significant influence than any local church.

Older generations are a gift

We have a ‘s wonderful children’s program at Oak Ridge Baptist Church. The lessons that our children receive are second to none. However, I find that the program is not the foremost blessing for our children – it is the people in the church.

I sat today and watched my 8-year-old sit and have lunch with people much older than him. In fact, one is over 80. He loves these people, and the people love him. I see my 12-year-old sit and work with ladies well beyond her in age, and it is a blessing. They have helped teach her to sew and crochet – she learns from them. They model an ethic, propriety, and love of Christ that is often absent among her peers. My two middle sons love the men in our church. They see how these men treat their wives and how they serve the church body. These blessings are invaluable to my children and me.

Church isn’t about your children

The church is about God and displaying His glory. If we choose a church based on what the church offers our children, we are inadvertently teaching them that church is about them. We instill a consumerist idea about the church that only harms the church and our children. Be careful that you do not teach them that God is just honored in the “bigger and better.” Teach them about contentment and looking for the blessings God has given in the church you currently attend.

I pray these thoughts will help you as you serve your church, or as you look for a church.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2019 in Church Life, Family Life

 

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God’s Will And My Special Needs Son

It wasn’t long into the pregnancy that doctors began searching for answers.  We had been through the process before, after all, this human being was the fourth child to enter into our family.  We knew the routine, and the doctors knew our names. I am thankful for thorough and cautious doctors – the medical professionals that sit alongside patients with a bedside manner that voices concern, but also with a presence that calms anxiety.

We knew months in advance that there were malformations in Levi’s brain.  These abnormalities accompanied the absence of a critical set of nerves that join the two sides of the brain.  With the advanced medical technology, there were so many things the professionals could tell us, but there were also many questions for which they could not give answers.  I remember speaking with one of the neurologists, asking him questions, and listening to his response.  Levi could be on a spectrum that ranged from bedbound, in a vegetative state, to acting in ways the world deems normal.  It was a polite way of telling us they were clueless as to any prognosis.

It was during this time that we, along with many brothers and sisters in Christ, began to pray. When I look back on the day he was born, 5,281 people were watching the blog to see how things were progressing. This number does not count the numerous churches that were supporting us through prayer in a time that we had to lay everything in the hands of God completely and trust him.  A conservative estimate was about 10,000 people praying for our family and Levi.

What Were They Praying?

I would like to be super religious and pious, believing that I along with the others were praying for God’s Will.  However, as a father, I was asking God to heal my son.  I remember when they whisked him off immediately after delivery with no explanations or reason.  We didn’t even get to look at him.  The prayers increase.  I was not praying for God’s will; I was pleading with my heavenly Father that he would save Levi.

Some of you that sit reading this know Levi, but there are others that do not.  Levi is now seven years old and doing things the doctors told us might never happen.  He can walk, he can feed himself, he interacts with others, and uses sign language as his primary means to communicate.  I share this with you because God has done so many works in his life and blessed us in more ways than we could number.

Do We Pray For Levi’s Healing?

Every day I pray that God allows Levi to continue to grow and develop, but I do the same for Emma, Charlie, and Caleb.  I ask God to work in Levi’s heart, but I do the same for Emma, Charlie, and Caleb.  I ask God to call Levi to salvation and use him for God’s glory, but I do the same for Emma, Charlie, and Caleb.  

Now and then, some people ask us if they can pray for Levi.  Levi has people that know him well and pray for him often.  However, these people usually are meeting him for the first time or know of him and the situation.  We covet the prayers of our brothers and sisters in Christ and celebrate that God’s people care for each other.  The aching of my heart begins with these words in the midst of their prayers, “I declare in the name of Christ, that Levi be healed completely and have faith that it is done.”  No, they don’t use those exact words, but you get a general idea.  They pray that God will completely heal Levi, that he would be able to communicate, move, and operate like a “normal” child.  They even go as far as to declare that these things have and already are happening – that God is healing Levi even in the midst of their prayer.

Why My Heart Aches

As a father, someone that desires God to work in and through Levi, this often sends my heart into a period of turmoil.  I do believe that God can heal Levi, but that does not mean that he will.  I begin to doubt my faith.  Is my son not experiencing the fullness that God has for him? Have the prayers I offered over the past seven-plus years been lacking; therefore, is Levi’s current situation my fault.  Why isn’t God healing Levi?  

Then, I begin to think about what Levi is thinking.  “There is something wrong with me.” “Why do they keep asking God to change me?” “Why is God not answering these prayers?” “Why can’t I be normal?” 

I know the people asking to pray have sincere hearts.  In no way am I condemning them for their prayers or blaming them for the rollercoaster that the prayers initiate in my heart and mind.  However, I don’t think they understand what effects their words have on a parent with a special-needs child or the child.

My Peace

God may never miraculously generate a corpus callosum for Levi.  He may not allow him to communicate verbally.  Levi may not be able to function on his own or live independently. So, what if my prayers for these things are not God’s will?

I believe that Levi was knit together in Amy’s womb.  I believe that Levi is fearfully and wonderfully made.  I believe that God has a desire for Levi and a purpose for Levi. I believe that at this moment in time, Levi is precisely whom he is supposed to be with the limitations that are present.

I believe this because I know that God loves Levi more than I do.  I know that he has plans for Levi that are better than anything I can imagine.  

I will continue to ask God to do a great work in Levi’s life, just as I ask him to do so in Emma, Charlie, and Caleb’s lives.  I will continue to pray that God allows Levi to develop into a God-honoring young man. I trust that my heavenly Father has a more excellent plan that Levi’s earthly father can fathom.  I believe God will use what the world deems as limitations display his love and glory to the world.  Therefore, if Levi is never “healed” God is still good and God still loves Levi.

How Can You Help?

I do not dare speak on behalf of parents that have children with special needs.  As I father, I want to share with you what has benefitted our family the most.

Pray  I am not speaking of the prayers I mentioned above.  Families with special needs children need prayers for stamina, prayers for peace, prayers for rest, prayers for faith and faithfulness.  The other children in the family need prayers that they would not be embittered or jealous.  Pray for the parents as they try to meet the needs of all the children.

Help  Does your church have a way for the family to worship together, or a ministry to allow the parents to have times of worship?  Our church is composed of an amazing group of people that continually pour out love on us and our children.  Often, churches are an uncomfortable place for parents to bring their kids with special needs.  They are hard to keep quiet, the atmosphere of people raises the level of anxiety, and the stares of people with good intentions heightens discomfort.  Are there people in your church gifted to work with these children?  Are there people that are willing to learn?  How can your church reach out to these families?

Love  These children are created in the image of God.  God loves these children.  These households were placed together by God.  God chose the parents.  God is at work in a million different ways, and these families have come into your lives for a particular purpose.  Love them well.  Speak words of encouragement.  Build relationships.  Get to know the family.  Let them know that normal is not defined by society or culture.  Instead, normal is learning to operate in the purpose and design of God, trusting him in every step.

Is It God’s Will?

Will Levi be completely healed?  I do not know – maybe not on this side of heaven.  Do I pray for healing?  Yes.  Is his lack of healing my fault, or because of my lack of faith?  No.  Do Levi’s limitations limit what God can do in and through him?  No.  Does God have a plan for Levi? Yes.  Do I know what that is?  No.  Do I trust God?  Yes.

I trust that God’s will is happening today.  I choose to be satisfied with that portion even as it pertains to Levi.  Praying in a way that models these truths is the best way you can minister to our family, and it is a good way to begin ministering to other families that are similar to ours.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2019 in Church Life, Family Life

 

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