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Building good foundations

Parenting a four-year old-- a preschooler-- is an entirely different ballgame than parenting a toddler, not in a slow evolution of parenting sort of way, but a must-completely-refigure-our-parenting-NOW way. I was chatting with a friend of mine a couple weeks ago about parenting and how sometimes-- okay, all the time-- parenting our preschooler is much more work than parenting two toddlers. Yes, our preschooler does have a very "high maintenance" personality. He internalizes everything around him; he absorbs everything-- I mean, everything-- he hears. He strives and longs from the very core of his being to be pleasing, yet can't help but do something for attention or test his boundaries. I wrote a blog about him in July. My love for him has also grown from simply maternal to a fascination; I can't wait to hear what he is going to say next and I love his little quirks, like the way he tells a joke or the silly faces he will pull in the middle of story. I long to hear his point of view and desire to fill him up with good things to talk about.

Watching him transition from a toddler to a little boy-- a child of his own with thoughts, dreams, desires, and fears-- has shown me the tenuous influence we as parents have over our children's thinking. His thoughts are swayed by his favorite TV shows, what the kids around him think, what his teachers at preschool talk about, how he feels he fits into the world around him, and-- most of all-- by his very own mind. He is forming opinions about the world at large by the small interactions he has each day. My friend and I were discussing this new world of parenting challenges. She has two boys, a first and second grader. She said something that stuck with me, "I think back to the toddler years and long for those challenges, those things that were so hard for me at the time. There were tantrums over sippy cups and taking naps, but there weren't the 'hard questions' that are forming their characters." We went on to talk about what influence these years will have on them as teenagers and then young men and ultimately the grown men they will become. I've always felt that parenting is our chance to teach our children about God's love. How they receive love from us is naturally where they will draw conclusions about God's love. Right now I have the majority of my preschooler's attention. He still turns to me, his face full of puzzlement, when he stumbles across something he is unsure of. "What does it mean to die?" "Why can't we talk to strangers?" "Why were you and Daddy arguing?" "Can we buy a monster truck?" Later he will draw his own conclusions or seek counsel from his friends and teachers.

Which led me to my own line of questioning: am I giving him a solid foundation? Am I teaching him how to select his friends? Am I giving him a strong moral compass? Are we raising him to be a man like his father is? Are we growing a desire in him to learn more about God? Are we focusing on his character? Is our lifestyle a model of the character traits we desire for our children to have?

I turned to God. I forget where I heard this, but I really did hear this from somewhere. You know how parents always joke that babies should come with owner's manuals? Well, they do; everything you need to know about raising your children is in scripture. So I turned to the concordance in my Bible to look up every verse on teaching. Here is what I found:

Old Testament
  • Exodus 4:12 "Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say."
  • Exodus 33:13 "If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people."
  • Deuteronomy 4:9 "Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them."
  • 1 Kings 8:35-36 "When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and when they pray toward this place and confess your name and turn from their sin because you have afflicted them, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them the right way to live, and send rain on the land you gave your people for an inheritance."
  • 2 Kings 17:27-28 "Then the king of Assyria gave this order: 'Have one of the priests you took captive from Samaria go back to live there and teach the people what the god of the land requires.' So one of the priests who had been exiled from Samaria came to live in Bethel and taught them how to worship the Lord.
  • Psalm 25:9 "He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way."
  • Psalm 51:13 "Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you."
  • Psalm 90:12 "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."
  • Psalm 94:12 "Blessed is the one you discipline, Lord, the one you teach from your law."
  • Psalm 119:99-100 "I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts."
  • Psalm 143:10 "Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground."
  • Proverbs 3:1-2 "My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity."
  • Proverbs 7:2-3 "Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart."
  • Jeremiah 31:34 "'No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,' declares the Lord. 'For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.'"
New Testament
  • Matthew 5:19 "Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."
  • Matthew 7:28-29 "When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law."
  • Matthew 10:24-25 "The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!"
  • Luke 11:1 "One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.'"
  • John 14:23-24 "Jesus replied, 'Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me."
  • Acts 20:20 "You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house."
  • Romans 2:21 "You, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You, who preach against stealing, do you steal?"
  • Romans 15:4 "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope."
  • Ephesians 4:14-15 "Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ."
  • 1 Corinthians 2:13 "This is what we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom but words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words."
  • 1 Timothy 3:2-3 "Now the overseerer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money."
  • 2 Timothy 2:2 "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others."
  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
  • 2 Timothy 4:2-3 "Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-- with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them great numbers of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear."
  • Titus 2:1-2 "You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love, and in endurance."
  • Titus 2:11-15 "For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say 'no' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope-- the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you."
  • Hebrews 5:11-6:1 "We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teaching about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God."
  • Hebrews 8:11 "No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest."
  • James 3:1 "Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly."
  • 1 John 2:26-28 "I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit-- just as it taught you, remain in him. And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming."
Wow. Over and over again the Bible talk about teaching! So to start at the very beginning, we must teach someone how to worship the Lord, just as the king needed to be taught in 2 Kings. He expressed a desire to worship God and someone came and "taught them how to worship the Lord." If we desire for our sons to worship God from their own hearts, we must teach them how to do that. Teaching them about God will turn their hearts towards God's ways, as said in Psalm 51, "then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you." God's grace is extended to all people. This grace is what will guide our children down the straight and narrow path. Titus tells us that "the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say 'no' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope." Once we have taught our boys about the grace and how to worship God, they must have their own desire to follow God. The responsibility of their faith is their own, "keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye" (Proverbs 7) and ""solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil" (Hebrews 5). We must teach them that through constant prayer and a heart bent towards God, they can stand strong in a fallen world: "Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground" (Psalm 143). It is imperative that we build strong foundations of faith for our children, "I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray" (1 John).

In Deuteronomy 4, it says, "Teach them to your children and to their children after them." This is something my husband and I must remember everyday. As parents we must "preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-- with great patience and careful instruction" (2 Timothy 4). We don't need to come up with elaborate games or analogies. No, we just need to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. "This is what we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom but words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words" (1 Corinthians 2). We can share with them our own testimonies and read from them out of our own Bibles. In Matthew 5, Jesus taught his disciples how to pray when they witnessed him praying, "One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.'"

What are the fruits of faith in Jesus Christ? First and foremost: "whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5). Psalm 119 promises great insight and understanding. Proverbs 3 promises peace and prosperity. Titus 2 says, "It teaches us to say 'no' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope." How will we know if we have passed the message on to our children? "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching" (John 14).

To quote Debra Bell in The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, "Aren't you glad you're a Christian? Aren't decisions like this just why we know we weren't designed to figure life out by ourselves? We need a heavenly Father we can count on for the future."

2 Corinthians 10b-16:
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person's thought except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgements, for, "Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.
Which leaves with one option, as commanded in Exodus 4, "Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say."

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