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NIGHT LIGHT FOR PARENTS
By JAMES DOBSON SHIRLEY DOBSON
Multnomah PublishersCopyright © 2002 James Dobson, Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWEEK ONE
Passing On the Faith
Footsteps by Dennis Rainey
Samuel was always the natural athlete in our family. Since I had played junior-college basketball and baseball, I hoped that our son might follow in my footsteps.
As a child, Samuel played Little League ball for a couple of years with older boys and did well. But when he turned thirteen, he really began to excel in tennis. We loved attending his matches and tournaments. We drove hundreds of miles, taking him all over the state to play singles and doubles in tournaments. He brought home trophies and ribbons, and he once battled the number-one player in the state in his age group to match point before losing in a tiebreaker.
Samuel was ranked seventh in the state when his game began to slide. His coach didn't understand why he wasn't getting to balls that earlier he had reached with ease. Thinking it might be his shoes, we took him to an orthopedic specialist for a proper fitting. The problem only got worse.
After Samuel's fourteenth birthday, we took the entire family to a FamilyLife marriage conference in Dallas. That weekend we noticed that Samuel wasn't keeping up with the rest of us as we walked to dinner and later when we hurried to catch a planeat the airport.
The following Monday morning we went to a doctor's office with Samuel and were soon numb with disbelief as the neurologist announced, "Your son has a form of muscular dystrophy. He will most likely never be confined to a wheelchair, but he will never run again. His days of tennis and sports are over." Months later a trip to the Mayo Clinic confirmed the earlier diagnosis.
Although Samuel's disease was not life threatening, we felt as though a dream had died for a young man and his parents.
The next four months were tough because Samuel refused to quit tennis. Most matches he tripped and fell facedown on the asphalt, losing in straight sets. Many of his opponents, who had no way of knowing what was going on, mocked and laughed at him. (He and a partner did win a doubles tournament once, with a miraculous come-from-behind victory.)
Finally, Samuel hung up his tennis racket, admitting that his playing days were over.
Late one afternoon as I was driving Samuel home from a doctor visit, we were talking about what his disease meant to him as a young man. I was struggling to keep my emotions composed while trying to comfort him. I was battling my own feelings about a fourteen-year-old boy who would never field grounders again. Never play basketball with his brother. Never jog with his dad.
But Samuel ended up comforting me.
In the twilight of late afternoon, he turned to me and with a boyish grin said, "Well, Dad, I guess you don't need legs to serve God." I couldn't talk. As I brushed away a stream of tears, all I could do was reach across the seat and give him a hug.
Samuel is not perfect. He's still spreading his wings and, like all of us, learning constantly what it means to be a disciple of Christ.
But riding in the car with me that afternoon, he showed me that he was a young man whose identity went far beyond tennis, whose character was weathering a stiff challenge, whose relationship with God and family was sustaining him, and whose mission for God transcended any physical limitations he would face in his lifetime.
I had hoped that Samuel would follow in my athletic footsteps. I was delighted to realize that he was choosing a far more meaningful path.
* * *
LOOKING AHEAD ...
Is anything more difficult for a parent than watching a son or daughter go through pain, whether it's physical, emotional, or spiritual, or a combination of the three? You want desperately to take away the hurt, yet there is nothing you can do. Or is there?
It's true that many of life's difficult moments can't be avoided. Times of crisis are inevitable. But you can equip your children to face the hardships to come. It's the most important task you'll ever undertake.
We'll be talking this week about your primary job as mom or dad: helping your kids establish a relationship with the Lord. Their faith in almighty God will guide and protect them, give them strength, and place them on the path that leads to an eternity with Him. No matter how severe the challenges, our heavenly Father will provide your children with the comfort they need, when they need it. And when you're hurting, He'll do the same for you-perhaps even through your own son or daughter.
JCD MONDAY Relay Race
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4
The vital mission of introducing your children to the Christian faith can be likened to a relay race. First, your parents run their lap around the track, carrying the baton, which represents the gospel of Jesus Christ. At the appropriate moment, they hand the baton to you, and you begin your journey around the track. Finally, the time comes when you must get the baton safely into the hands of your child. But as any track coach will testify, relay races are won or lost in the transfer of the baton. This is the critical moment when all can be ruined by a fumble or miscalculation. Any failure is most likely to occur in this exchange. Once firmly gripped, however, the baton is rarely dropped on the backstretch of the track.
As parents, our most important reason for living is to get the baton-the gospel-safely into the hands of our children (John 3:3). Unless our sons and daughters grasp the faith and take it with them on their journey through life, it matters little how fast they run. When they cross that finish line with their commitment to Jesus Christ intact, they-and you-will bask in the applause of heaven!
Before you say good night ...
How, if at all, did your parents hand off the baton of faith to you?
Are you preparing your own children for a smooth handoff?
What more can you do to show your kids this most profound need?
Heavenly Father, our most fervent desire is to one day be together with our children in eternity. Grant us strength and wisdom as we seek to lead our children to You, especially in those critical handoff moments. Amen.
Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6
When you construct a plan for introducing your children to Jesus, you may want to make your motto "the earlier the better." In a recent nationwide poll, researcher George Barna learned that children ages five through thirteen have a 32 percent probability of accepting Christ as their Savior. That rate drops dramatically, to just 4 percent, for kids ages fourteen through eighteen. And those who have not become Christians before age nineteen have only a 6 percent probability of doing so during the rest of their lives!
Spiritual training of children should begin at their earliest moments of awareness and continue through the teen years. The most important year, however, may be age five. That is when they are open and tender to the call of Christ. Some kids come to a fork in the road at this point. Either they begin to internalize what they are taught and make it their own, or Bible stories and lessons become like fables that don't apply to the real world. Your careful instruction during this period can lay the faith foundation that will guide your children throughout their earthly lives-and lead them into a joyous eternity.
Before you say good night ...
Where do your kids stand right now regarding faith in Jesus Christ?
Does the level of spiritual training you're providing match the ages of your kids?
How does the spiritual training you received as a child influence your faith today?
Dear Jesus, You are the master teacher. Help us to follow Your example as we train our children-to say the right words at a time when their ears will hear so that they will become devoted followers of You. Amen.
Teach them to your children ... so that your days and the days of your children may be many. Deuteronomy 11:19-21
We recommended last night that you give extra attention to the spiritual training of your children at age five, when they are most open to your teaching. This idea may concern you. You might prefer that your child be allowed to decide for himself on matters of faith and God. We can respond to this concern with an illustration from nature. After a gosling hatches from his shell, he will become attached, or "imprinted," to the first thing he sees moving near him-which is ordinarily mother goose. If mama goose is absent, however, any mobile substitute will do. In fact, a gosling will become imprinted easily to a blue football bladder dragged by on a string. A week later, he will fall in line behind the bladder as it scoots past. Time is the critical factor; the gosling is vulnerable to imprinting for only a few seconds after he hatches. If that opportunity is lost, it cannot be regained.
In a similar way, there is a brief period when children are most receptive to instruction about God and about right and wrong. When parents choose to withhold religious training from their small child, allowing him to "decide for himself," they almost guarantee that he will "decide" in the negative. If you want your kids to enjoy a meaningful faith, you must give up any attempts at objectivity and instead "teach [these words of Mine] to your children" (Deuteronomy 11:19).
Before you say good night ...
Are we holding back in the spiritual training of our kids? If so, why?
Can we harm our kids by withholding our instruction?
Dear God, thank You for the privilege of teaching our children about You. Let us make the most of the opportunities You give us, not allowing anything to come between our kids and an intimate relationship with You. Amen.
Do not forget the things your eyes have seen.... Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Deuteronomy 4:9
As you teach your children about God, you would be wise to heed the words of Moses. His message to parents is that we should talk about spiritual matters continually:
Impress [My commandments] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:7-9
If we take away anything from this passage, it is that we must make the spiritual development of our children our highest priority. Nothing comes close to it in significance. By God's grace, our efforts to establish a vibrant faith in our two now-grown children, Danae and Ryan, have been successful, which is our highest achievement in life! If you follow Moses' advice and are diligent in revealing the Lord, His Word, and His ways to your kids, the probability is great that you will achieve the supreme prize of parenthood.
Before you say good night ...
How persistent are you in instructing your children about God?
Is teaching your kids about God your top parenting priority?
What practical ideas can you implement that follow Moses' advice?
Father, forgive us for too often losing sight of our responsibility as parents. We want to obey Your commands and impress them on our children. By Your Spirit, help us to consistently draw our family closer together and closer to You. Amen.
The Good News!
"Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16
You may be reading this book tonight without ever having made a commitment to Jesus Christ. The best gift you can give your children-and yourself-is the decision to put your trust in Him. All of us have been afflicted with a disease called sin, which means that we are in a state of rebellion against God. This curse is embedded in our very natures. Scripture tells us it is impossible to be good or righteous enough to cleanse us of this wickedness, regardless of how hard we try (see Romans 3:23; 5:8; 6:23).
Fortunately for us, however, God's infinite love demanded that He provide a remedy for the human family. His wonderful answer was to send His only Son, Jesus Christ, to endure on the cross at Calvary the punishment we deserve. Jesus' death and resurrection three days later are your passage from a meaningless existence to an eternity of joy and freedom. He offers you a gift of new life. All you have to do is repent of your sin and put your faith in Him. This is the meaning of our human existence-the only satisfactory explanation for why we are here and where we are going. No wonder it's called the Good News! How can you introduce your children to Christ if you don't know Him intimately? If you haven't given your heart to Jesus, will you do so right now with the prayer below?
Before you say good night ...
Have you claimed the gift of eternal life offered by Jesus Christ?
If not, what is preventing you from making that commitment?
Lord Jesus, I am thankful beyond words for Your sacrifice. I am a sinner who needs You and believes in You. Help me to serve You, obey You, and follow You. Please forgive all my sins and grant me a new life for eternity with You! Amen.
Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17, NKJV
When confronted with the awesome responsibilities of parenthood-not to mention the incredible evil in today's world-it's no surprise that many parents feel an urgent need to pray continually for their children. When Danae was about three years old, Jim and I realized that as parents we needed divine help. We began fasting and praying for Danae, and later for Ryan, almost every week (a practice that I continue to this day). Our prayer went something like this: "Lord, give us the wisdom to raise the precious children You have loaned to us, and above all else, help us bring them to the feet of Jesus. This is more important to us than our health or our work or our finances. What we ask most fervently is that the circle be unbroken when we meet in heaven."
God has not only heard this prayer, but also blessed it in ways we never anticipated. Our prayer time has become a project that Jim and I enjoy together, drawing us closer to each other as we draw closer to God. In addition, the act of fasting each week serves as an important reminder of our priorities: It's difficult to forget your highest values when one day out of seven is spent focusing entirely on them. Finally, our children were influenced by these acts of discipline. When they observed us fasting or praying, it gave us the opportunity to explain why we did these things, how much we loved them, and how much we loved and trusted the Lord.
God hears and honors-in His perfect timing-our petitions on behalf of our children. If you want the very best for your sons and daughters, I urge you to call on the greatest power in the universe in frequent prayer.
Excerpted from NIGHT LIGHT FOR PARENTS by JAMES DOBSON SHIRLEY DOBSON Copyright © 2002 by James Dobson, Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
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