Medications Can’t Fix Our Kids

medications-blogMedicine cannot fix our kids. Yes, it can help. When my kids are sick, they are much more likely to sin without medicine than with medicine. And they are not alone. They come from their Daddy and Mommy who a both more prone to get upset, angry, and annoyed when they feel bad. Our bodies and souls and interracially tied together. The one effects the other. And  when Medicine relieves us from physical pain, it is a beautiful thing. As physical problems diminish the amount of stress laid upon our souls often diminishes. I am very pro-medicine. Without it, my kids, my beautiful bride, and I would not be alive and our quality of life would be much less than it is now.

But medicine cannot heal all of our problems. Medicine cannot make our kids nicer or fix their personality problems. Medicine cannot get our kids closer to Jesus. No amount of drugs can fix anger, disobedience, and foolishness.  

Here’s why. Our attitude problems are heart problems. They are sin problems.

In Mark 7:14-23, Jesus directly and clearly tells his disciples that nothing that enters a child from “the outside can defile him since it enters not his heart but his stomach and is expelled” (v.18-19). We are not evil people because we have chemical imbalances in our brain. Nothing we eat, drink, or inject into our bodies or our kids’ bodies makes us evil, mean, and cranky. There is great relief in this truth. We don’t have to worry about losing our relationship to God because of a pill bottle or because of that shrimp on our plates. Nothing we ingest can reach our soul.

But this truth is also hard for us to swallow because Jesus is saying that our most noticeable and prevailing problem extends beyond our control. If our main problem is food or our environment we could change those things. We could eat this and avoid that and happily earn our salvation. But our ultimate problem is our hearts. Notice what Jesus says in Mark 7:21-23

For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.

Our sin, our kids’ sin, and the anger, the lies, the slander, and the sexual immorality that we encounter on a regular basis is not the fault of the medical community. One more pill, or just a slightly better therapy will not fix our kids or us. We are evil and we do bad things because we have bad hearts. Our very natures our corrupt beyond repair. We need divine intervention. As the Pastor and Biblical Counselor Heath Lambert wrote,

The only way God’s broken image can by fully restored in sinful people is through Jesus Christ, the perfect image bearer who came to conform us, by grace to resemble God as closely as he does.

So what does this mean for us?

 When our kids our sick, we need to point them to medicine. When our kids our overcome by sin, we need to point them to Christ. No combination of pills can change our kids hearts and make them love us, their siblings, and their teachers more. No medicine can cause a kid to repent of their angry heart.

To be a faithful parent, we cannot simply medicate our kids’ sin away. We must go after their hearts, calling them to repent. And we must plead with God to save and sanctify them. Trouble comes from within. And to help our kids change within we inject them with the gospel. Only God through his word is able to bring real change. Are we ready to deal with this divine reality? Are we ready to admit that our children’s biggest issue is their heart?

John Bunyan’s Message For Today’s Parents

bunyan-blogJohn Bunyan’s arrest, trial, and 12 year imprisonment never had to happen. He could have declined his last invitation to preach. He could have followed his friends’ advice and fled the meeting house before the constable arrived. And, he could have promised to never preach again and been quickly released. He could have walked away from the whole commotion quite easily.

But Bunyan could not deny his God and Savior. He could not abandon God and “blaspheme the gospel.” As he told one of his accusers, “If I were out of prison to-day, I would preach the Gospel again to-morrow, by the help of God.”

Bunyan’s Story

Bunyan’s convictions would cost him dearly. When he was imprisoned in 1660, John Bunyan left behind a pregnant wife and four children, the oldest of whom was blind. When his wife Elizabeth heard of Bunyan’s arrest, she went into premature labor and gave birth to a still-born child. And for the entirety of his twelve-year prison term, Bunyan provided a meager income for his family by making and selling shoelaces.

As a loving husband and father, Bunyan’s heart was tormented by his family’s sufferings. At times, he felt that he “was pulling down his house upon the head of his wife and children.” As Elizabeth, would later tell a judge, John Bunyan truly “desired to live peaceably, to follow his calling that his family might be maintained.”

Although Bunyan longed to care for his family, he knew his ultimate allegiance was to Christ. No matter how much he loved his family, Bunyan could not abandon his Lord and Savior. And he was able to trust Jesus through this time because he knew that God could and would care for his family. Bunyan truly believed Jeremiah 49:11 which says,  “Leave your fatherless children, I will preserve them alive: And let your widows trust in Me.”

Furthermore, Bunyan was convinced that denying Christ to save his family would ultimately lead to his and his family’s destruction. He wrote:

If I…venture all for God, I engaged God to take care of my concernments: but if I forsook Him and His ways…I…should count also that my concernments were not so sure.

Whether in or out of jail, Bunyan knew that God was the one that preserved his family. John abandoned his self-sufficiency and entrusted his life and his family to the God of the universe. And as a result of his faith, Bunyan was able to boast that, “Jesus was never more real and apparent than now; here I have seen and felt him indeed.” His family was preserved by the grace of God. And Bunyan got a new family becoming the spiritual father of thousands through his writings.

Lessons For Today

The world has changed much since Bunyan was imprisoned. We no longer travel by horseback. And we no longer hide our retirement account in a chest above the fireplace. But, we can still learn much from John Bunyan, the parent. And my biggest take away is this: Christ is everything.   

As parents, we long, like Bunyan did, to give our kids the very best things. We take them to church. We sign them up for softball. We select great piano teachers. We do anything and everything to help them excel at life. But at the end of the day, our kids really need only one thing, Jesus. The rest is all fluff.

Bunyan understood this truth. He understood it to the point of separating himself from his kids’ so that they could achieve the thrown of grace. He would rather suffer for his faith and see his family confined to poverty than provide comforts for his children and see them miss heaven. Bunyan lived out Matthew 16:26, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”

Friends, we must take time to listen to Bunyan’s message. We should not sacrifice the church and the gospel for our kids’ worldly advancement. Rather, we should do the opposite.

We must see that sports, musical skill, and even our own careers are secondary to the gospel. If sacrificing these things enables us to reach our kids with the gospel, then we must sacrifice them. We must be willing to sell all that we have and follow Jesus.. No half measures will do. Christ must be primary. We must build our family and our family’s schedule around the gospel. We should listen’s to Bunyan’s message and make Christ everything.

Do you hear it?

PS:

Come learn more about Bunyan on Wednesday night, October 26, 2016. FBCE will be hosting our third annual Reformation Day Festival featuring the life and works of John Bunyan. We will have a live historical skit, games, candy, and yes even a prison based on his famous work, Pilgrim’s Progress! I hope to see you there!

reformation-festival-16

Two Ways To Ruin Your Kids Spiritual Life

backpackI was an idiot – enthusiastic – but an idiot. On my first day of college, I bounded off to class. In all honesty, I more lumbered about campus like John Bunyan’s Christian, carrying every single book for every single class in my backpack. I must have been toting around at least 70 lbs. of pure academic pain. Who knew, you didn’t have to take every book to class? Thankfully, by the end of the first week, I figured out that my zeal was a little misplaced. I discovered the beautiful truth that carrying five to ten pounds of pens, textbooks, and notebooks was more than adequate.

Often in our zeal to live out the gospel, we can be tempted to lay heavy burdens on our kids. We can become focused on secondary things such as our kids’ media consumption, their bedtimes, their education, their clothes, and their friends. We praise our little ones for embracing our schedule, for wearing the right clothes, and for having the right friends. We praise them for meeting our standards. And in the process, we may subtly swap out the gospel for our traditions. Instead of experiencing joy, our kids will begin to  feel weighed down because they are carrying all of our traditions around with them.

In Mark 7:1-13, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for burdening their followers with extra biblical principles. The Pharisees were substituting the commandments of God for the commandments of men. They were holding the Jews to extra biblical standards of cleanliness. And at the same time, they were downplaying the conviction of the law.

Jesus took exception to the Pharisees because they were missing the heart of the gospel. They were turning God’s free gift of salvation into a pay-for-play scheme. The Pharisees thought people could reach heaven through good works.

Jesus disagreed. He proclaimed that God cared about the heart. The child who doesn’t watch TV is no closer to heaven than the kid who watches TV 18 hours a day. The girl who dresses modestly is not closer to salvation than the gal showing off her navel piercing. Salvation is a matter of the heart and not a matter of following conservative family values.

Are we guilty of having swapped traded out the gospel for our traditions? Have we burdened our kids down with a bunch of extra traditions? How can we know?

We typically add burdens to our children’s lives by holding them to ridiculously high standards and/or by downplaying the significance of the Bible. Let’s Take a look:

Ridiculously High Standards:

First we need to ask ourselves are we adding to the law of God? In Mark 7:5, the Pharisees were demanding that the Jesus’ disciples follow the priestly code of conduct. They wanted the disciples to achieve a certain level of human cleanliness that God did not demand of them.

We need to make sure that we are not demanding more from our kids than they are able. We cannot hold children to the same standard that we demand of our pastors. We cannot expect grade-schoolers to be fully hospitable, peaceable, gentle, content, and sober-minded (Tim 3:1-7). Our kids cannot live up to these expectations. And if we punish them for not achieving the character of an elder, we will break their spirit. We will weigh them down, causing them to view every sin as a crushing defeat.

We must not do this. We must extend grace to our children, expecting them to get angry and expecting them to be selfish. We must see our children’s childhood as a time of training and formation, patiently helping them to grow in faith. We must not expect our kids to already be pastor material.

Downing Playing the Bible:

Second, we must not devalue the Word of God. The Pharisees were more concerned with ceremonial washings than with people honoring the parents. As long as your hands were clean, they thought a person could ignore his parents suffering and still be considered godly (Mark 6: 8-13). The Pharisees were seemingly crazy.

What about us? Do we devalue the Word of God? Are we more concerned about our kids clothes than whether or not they lied to their teacher? Are we more concerned about our kids’ media time than their constant outburst of anger? Are we more concerned with applying our traditions and then applying the Scriptures? What do we care about most? This is hard to wrestle with. But to raise of kids in love, we must get this right. We must be more concerned about our kids’ heart issues and their obedience to God than their conformity to our traditions.

Now admittedly these things can go hand in hand. God can often use our standards and rules to draw out our children’s heart. The child that rejects our view of modesty has heart issues. Her disobedience maybe driven by a fear of man and by a belief that her friend’s opinions matter more than God’s love. But the ultimate goal is not just to get our kids back inline with our standards. Our ultimate goal is to see their hearts changed. Our ultimate goal is to see our daughter abandon her fear of man and put her trust in Christ. Our ultimate goal should be to see our daughter’s heart more closely knitted to the heart of Christ.

And now back to our question: “Parents, have we burdened down our kids with traditions or are we seeking to reach their hearts with the gospel?”