Fun Family Devotional on Heroes

Whether we call them heroes or not, all of us have people we admire. Children and teens don’t always have discernment when it comes to their heroes. They are just as likely to have a fictional hero as a real one. They may also struggle to understand that every person we admire has strengths and weaknesses (and sins). It can be difficult for them to sort out the beliefs and behaviors of a hero that are worth trying to copy and those which they should reject. This can cause them to make poor choices in their attempts to be “just like” their heroes. There is a fun family devotional you can do to encourage them to use discernment with heroes.

Tell or read to your children the story found in Exodus 1. Ask your children if they notice something odd about verses 15 and 16. Point out that the Pharaohs in Egypt were at this time, powerful world leaders. Note, however, that God does not think it is important to tell us the name of this Pharaoh (even though his name would be familiar to us even today), but God does give us the names of the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah. They would be considered “nobodies” to the Egyptians at the time. After all, they were merely slaves who helped other slaves give birth to their babies. Yet God thought it was important for us to know their names.

Ask your children why they think God may have wanted us to know their names. We don’t know for sure, but it may be because they, not Pharaoh, were the true heroes of this story. They risked their lives to do what they knew would God would want them to do. Ask them if they can think of other examples in the Bible of people who their world might have considered unimportant, but the Bible felt it was important for us to know their names and stories. With teens, you may also want to point out that many people whom God later placed in powerful positions – like David and Esther – started out as unimportant people in their worlds. You may even want to look at Hebrews 11 for more heroes and the reasons God considered them heroic.

Ask your kids to name someone they admire or would consider a hero. Point out that even the heroes mentioned in the Bible sinned at times. The Bible doesn’t always share these weaknesses with us, but it tells us the only perfect one who has lived on Earth is Jesus. Explain that all people – even heroes and those we admire have weaknesses and sin at times. Our only perfect model (from whom we can copy everything he did) is Jesus.

Give your children some blank paper and art supplies. Encourage them to draw a picture of someone other than Jesus/God they admire. It can be a fictional hero or someone who is real. Encourage them to use words or drawings to illustrate that person’ strengths and weaknesses. Then give them another sheet of paper. Have them list the admirable things about Jesus. Note that since Jesus was perfect, he had no weaknesses. Have them share both drawings with your family.

End with a discussion of how to make wise choices when wanting to be more like someone else and how ultimately, Jesus is the best hero of all to mimic. Remind them that it may be okay to let the strengths of others motivate them to have similar strengths, but they can never truly depend on any person to be perfect. Their faith has to ultimately be in Jesus, because other people will always eventually make mistakes and sin – even if we don’t know the details (like in the lives of the midwives). Encourage them to think of one way they can work to become more like the ultimate hero, Jesus.

Preparing Your Children for Peer Pressure

Remember when you were in school and popularity or fitting in seemed so important? Peer pressure can encourage your children to make choices they normally wouldn’t make. Ultimately, however, your children are responsible for their choices whether or not peer pressure played a role. It’s in everyone’s best interest to prepare your children to do what is right – no matter how much their peers may pressure or tease them.

There’s a fun family devotional you can do to help begin the discussion about peer pressure. Tell your children the story of how Saul became king, found in 1 Samuel chapters 8-11. Focus especially on how the people wanted to be like everyone else (in the countries surrounding them) and have a king. Discuss with your kids why the Israelites might have wanted to be like the nations around them. Older children and teens may also want to discuss why with all of the many differences between nations, the Israelites focused on having a king.

With younger children, peer pressure should be discussed as wanting to be “just like your friends”. Older children are already aware of peer pressure, but it is helpful to discuss the meaning as well as possible pros and cons of peer pressure.

With younger children focus on verses like Proverbs 13:20 (whoever walks with the wise will become wise, etc.) and the importance of listening to friends when what they say is wise/matches what God has told us to do.

Older children and teens can handle a slightly more sophisticated discussion including other aspects like those found in Galatians 1:10 (seeking approval of man) and I Corinthians 15:33-34 (bad company ruins good morals).

Ask your kids how hard it is to avoid wanting to go along with the crowd/be like everyone else/peer pressure. What are some of the things they do when they are faced with a choice between doing what their friends are doing and doing what God wants them to do? Be aware at this age, they will potentially say all of the right things, but in reality be doing the exact opposite. It may help to give them appropriate examples or ask them for examples of when “other” kids struggle with peer pressure.

Give your children a large piece of paper and have them glue a paper bag to the sheet. They can add the title “My Bag of Tricks For Peer Pressure”. You may also want them to add one of the above verses or another verse on the topic to the paper.

With pre-readers talk about the “tricks” on the cards. Have them glue the cards to the paper and draw pictures of those tips. For older children, have them generate as many ideas as they can on their own to write on the cards and glue to the papers.

Here are some suggestions, if they run out of ideas:
• Memorize one of the Bible verses and say it to yourself whenever you are tempted.
• Practice saying, “No, thank you.” kindly, but firmly.
• Walk away.
• Just keep saying “No thank you” over and over.
• Have a secret signal with your parent(s) that means you are tempted by peer pressure and they need to come get you.
• Don’t hang out with people or in places where you might be tempted to do something ungodly.
• Remind yourself of all of the possible negative things that could happen when you give in and disobey God. (If you are really brave, share them out loud, because others may not want to give in either and will follow your lead.)
• Offer another choice that is godly to do instead.
• Remind yourself “everyone is doing it” is not true and you are not “the only one who isn’t doing it”.
• Make sure you are well rested, eat healthy foods at regular times, exercise, etc. It’s much easier to give in to temptation when you are hungry or tired.
• Make decisions before your peers ask you to do something about what you will and will not do (For example: “I won’t get drunk.).
• Don’t feel like you have to give a reason to say “No”. “No” is a complete sentence.

Your children may have lots of other great ideas. This list is not complete. It is merely given to help add to whatever ideas your kids may generate. Don’t end the discussion after this one devotional. Continue it periodically – even into adulthood. Regular reminders and strategy sessions can help your children make wiser, more godly choices – no matter what their friends and acquaintances are doing.

Top Tips for Correcting Parenting Mistakes

No parent is perfect. So what happens when you realize you have made a mistake in your parenting? Do you shrug it off, since children are “so resilient”? Do you assume it is too late to correct those mistakes? Are you overwhelmed with the time and effort it may take to correct your error and pray that God grants mercy to you and your children?

As much as we might want to make excuses for our mistakes, our children only benefit if we correct them. Sometimes, it is a fairly simple adjustment. In other cases, it may be extremely time consuming and even painful to get back on track. Making hard changes may feel impossible, but it isn’t. Here’s what you need to know.

  • Don’t procrastinate. Every day you continue to make the parenting error compounds the damage it may be doing to your children.
  • Pray for God’s help. You will need God’s help to endure those particularly tough changes and His forgiveness for any parenting errors that were made because of your own pride or rebellion.
  • Admit your mistake to your children. Many parents are afraid to admit mistakes, believing it will undermine the respect their children have for them. The reality is that they will respect you more for being honest and humble – even if they don’t like the change itself.
  • Give your children a real apology. Your apology should be sincere and model repentance. State your mistake, say you are sorry and list the changes you are making so the mistake will be corrected. Also share any atonement you are making to them for your mistake. Finally ask for their forgiveness. You can’t force them to actually forgive you, but modeling repentance and forgiveness for them makes it more likely they will eventually forgive you.
  • Explain the changes you are making in ways they can understand. Small children are concrete thinkers and need concrete details. It is important all of your children thoroughly understand what is changing and any new expectations of them.
  • Explain why you are making changes in ways that your children can understand. Younger children may not understand any abstract principles behind the changes, but it is still good for them to hear them. Your older children and teens may be more compliant if they thoroughly understand why the change is ultimately for their benefit.
  • Apologize for the tough transition period you are about to endure. It may take several weeks for everyone to adjust to any major changes. Empathizing with any annoyance or pain they may feel during the process can help make it a bit easier for everyone.
  • Give grace during the transition period. Old habits are difficult to change. Reminders should be given, as well as grace, until you can be sure non-compliance is about rebellion rather than forgetfulness.
  • Although it may be too late to correct your parenting mistakes for your adult children, it is never too late to apologize and encourage them to correct your mistakes with their own children. A sincere apology can go a long way towards repairing any relationship damage that may have occurred because of your mistakes. Alerting them to your mistakes can also help them break a potentially negative parenting cycle in your family.

Being humble enough to admit and correct your parenting mistakes isn’t always easy, but it is what your kids need from you….. and your future descendants as well.

Fun Way to Teach Your Kids to Filter Their Words

Very young children may not be aware of their thought process. As they begin to realize they can control not only their thoughts, but the words that come out of their mouths, they are ready to better understand how to filter their thoughts and reject saying things that are not loving, kind or productive. This fun family devotional can get them started.

Begin by explaining to your children that Jesus had some half siblings (Mary was their mother and Joseph was their birth father). James who wrote the book of James in the Bible was one of those siblings (not James the Apostle). James’ book was written to encourage Christians to live a life that would make people want to learn more about God.

One of the topics James mentions quite often is our speech. Read James 1:19-20, 26, 3:1-18 and 5:12. Ask your children to list all of the things James said we should control about our speech. If you have the time, you may want to read other verses in the Bible about our speech like, Ephesians 4:29, Colossians 4:6, Proverbs 15:1-4, Proverbs 21:23, Proverbs 16:24, Ephesians 5:4, Matthew 12:36, Luke 6:45, Proverbs 10:19, Ephesians 4:15, etc.

Give your children a large sheet of plain paper. Have them draw the outline of a person’s head on it. They should draw the brain in the head. Have them glue a coffee filter on the head between the brain and the mouth. They should draw one arrow that goes from the filter to a ”trash can” and another arrow that goes to the mouth.

In the trash can, they should write the types of words that should not be spoken (not specific curse words). By their mouth, they should write words describing the types of words God does want them to use. After they are finished, make sure they understand what is covered by each category. So called ”mild” curse words may be considered acceptable by your older children while your child in kindergarten may think “stupid” is a curse word. With older children, this can also lead to a deeper discussion of what our influence might be on people if we use certain words and whether or not saying them is important enough to risk having someone reject God because of the things we say.

End the devotional by brainstorming ways you all can improve your speech. Revisit the topic periodically to see how well everyone has learned to tame their tongue!

Tips for Teaching Your Kids to Love Their Enemies

Children and teens are learning how to navigate the world around them. One of the most difficult areas of life for them to master is interpersonal relationships. In fact, most of us adults are still trying to be more loving and godly in our relationships with others, too. If your children are old enough to spend time with people their age, you have probably already seen them struggle with the conflicts that often occur in relationships.

Perhaps the most difficult of relationships for Christian young people to understand and live out in their lives is the idea of loving and praying for your enemies. We live in a world that increasingly encourages everyone to destroy not only enemies, but anyone who thinks differently from us on a wide range of topics. In a world that believes it is tolerant, your children will be exposed to people who counsel them to do things that are far from loving.

So what are some things you can do to raise children who are counter cultural and love their enemies as commanded by God? Here are some of our top tips on the subject.

  • Teach your children God’s views on the topic and discuss it regularly. Your children will struggle to obey God and love their enemies if they don’t realize or remember that it is a command from God. I met a young man recently who had grown up in a war torn area of the world. Even though his father had been a soldier and watched as the enemy burned their family home to the ground, he regularly reminded his children that not only did he expect them to avoid saying anything negative about the enemy country and its people, but he also told them he would hold them accountable if he ever heard them doing so. Loving your enemy needs to be part of your family DNA as well as a command from God.
  • Define enemy for them. An enemy is not someone who disagrees with them or holds an opinion that is different than theirs on a topic. Enemies are people who actively seek to do us harm. They need to learn that the word enemy is a very strong way of describing someone in a negative way and it should be used very rarely in describing another person.
  • When they do believe they have an enemy, encourage them to pray for that person, but also make a point of your entire family praying for them as well. I believe God commands us to pray for our enemies because it is very difficult to simultaneously hate someone and pray for their benefit. Our brains don’t like contradictions, so praying for their enemies will make it more difficult for them to actively hate them. If your entire family prays for the enemy of one member, you also are reminding your children that your family is a team for God, not just individuals who happen to live together.
  • Don’t forget to teach your children the rest of the command. Luke 6:27-28 also says to do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and to not just pray for, but also love your enemies. Discuss and find ways to do good to any enemies your family has. Discuss what it means to bless those who curse you. How can your family do that on a regular basis also? With so many good things your kids will be doing for their enemies, it will be difficult for hate to take root in their own hearts.
  • Be empathetic about the pain your children’s enemies cause. I think Psalms shows us that it is natural to be hurt and even angry in the immediate aftermath of an enemy’s blows. Show empathy for that pain, but also put a time limit on it. Continuing to revisit the same grievance over and over is what can lead to sinning in one’s anger.
  • An enemy may never become a friend, but encourage your children to try and thaw relations when possible. It can be extremely difficult to act kindly towards an enemy. Most children, teens – and even adults – either try to avoid the person or snap back with their own anger. In potentially dangerous situations, avoidance may indeed be wise, but for the average childhood enemy situation, encourage your child to see if they can improve the overall relationship even a bit. Frenemy wouldn’t be a term if it were impossible to at least broker a truce of sorts.
  • Set a good example. If you are always criticizing your own enemies – or even worse – plotting revenge, you cannot expect your children to love their enemies. Setting a good example will make it easier for them to understand how loving your enemies is done.

It may never be easy for your children to love their enemies, but it is possible. They will need your help though in learning how to do it. Coaching them through the process will help them become who God created them to be.