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What Identifies Your Family

What Identifies Your Family?

FamilyIdentity

Joey and Carla Link

October 2017

 

Family is a group of people who have special meaning in our lives. They are the backbone of support, personal cheerleaders, teachers, counselors, and anything else we might need.

Do you know the divorce rate in the church now almost equals the rate for non-believers? Just think how many children are growing up in two homes and perhaps more if their parents re-marry. As they wander from home to home, what identifies them as a family? Something needs to. Being part of a family connects you to others, in what should be an unshakable bond.

Pastor Greg Laurie says it this way:

“The fact is, God starts with the family because He created it. Our very existence as a society is contingent on the success of the family. And that also explains why Satan hates it so and has declared war on it. It has been said, ‘A family can survive without a nation, but a nation cannot survive without the family.’ ”

So what do we mean by family identity? “Identity’, is defined as, “sameness, oneness, unity.”

So when we talk about family identity, we are wondering what unifies a family into one.

 

How do you build unity into your family? One way is to build spiritual unity by praying together as a family and serving God together. Here are a couple ways you can do this.

 

  1. Have a ‘key verse’ your family uses to base its actions on. This can change over the years as the needs and age of your children/family change.  In our home the key verse was Mark 12:29-31.

The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”

  1. Have family devotions. Parents all too often see family devotions as one more thing to fit into an already busy schedule. We carry family devotion books for children of all ages  in the Parenting Made Practical bookstore. You will find you can read the Bible passage and devotional thought plus ask the questions at the end of the devotional and be done in 10 – 15 minutes. If you have never had family devotions before, start with one day a week and read the devotional right after dinner while everyone is still sitting at the table.

 

Another way to build unity into your family is through emotional support, which a family needs for its members to be intertwined with each other. Emotional support includes being there for each other and lifting each other up.

 

  1. Be encouragers (I Thessalonians 5:11) To encourage is to “give courage to.” We love that. When someone in the family is faltering or nervous about trying something, there is nothing like your family standing behind you giving you the courage to take the first step.

 

  1. Be positive. Being positive starts with our tongue. Sarcasm, harsh tones, and the like spread like wildfire in a family and soon everyone is focused on the negative instead of the positive. When he was in elementary school, our son would come home from school full of negative stories. I(Carla) told him he had to tell me 3 good things for every bad thing. This helped him think of the positive about his day and he would actually look for good things to share.

Start the trend in your home.  At the dinner table tonight, start a discussion with “We’re going around the table and everyone gets to share one good thing that happened in your day today!”

After being in youth and family ministry for over two decades, we can tell you when a teen is strong in his personal convictions and moral value system, when he knows he can count on his parents for support and encouragement, when home is a place of stability and security, when he knows he can count on his family for fun – he is less likely to look for any of those anyplace else.  This will keep him strong in his faith, and make him less vulnerable to temptations that other teens face.

What about your family? What would your children say is special about being a part of your family? We encourage you to visit Parenting Made Practical’s Instagram to see how families we know are strong in their identity answer that very question!

This Little Light of Mine

This Little Light of Mine

By Joey and Carla Link

September 22, 2017

 

We remember singing a song as children titled “This Little Light of Mine.” As we sang we held up our index fingers and twirled them around. The second verse is “Hide it under a bushel, No! I’m gonna let it shine.” The next verse is titled “Don’t let Satan blow it out” and the last verse is “Shine my light ‘til Jesus comes!” We are sure you can imagine the hand motions for each verse. (I just looked it up; you can find a Veggie Tales version of the song on YouTube)

 

It was a fun song to sing, but neither of us remember any Sunday school teacher of ours stopping to talk to us about what the song actually means. We encourage you to go on YouTube and play the song for your kids if you don’t already know it.

 

What do your kids think their “light” is? If you asked your kids what they do that brings glory, praise and honor to Jesus, what do you think they would say?  Have you ever told your little ones that saying “please” and “thank you” are ways to let their lights shine? Do your kids think how they treat and speak to their siblings and friends is letting their light shine? Do they realize every time they obey when asked to do something they don’t want to do and when they use self-control they are letting their lights shine?

This little light of mine

 

Every verse in every song means something. Let’s take a look at the rest of the verses in this song.

 

  1. How do your kids hide their lights under a bushel? Many parents were working on getting their kids to greet people who spoke to them at a family conference we were at recently. Not saying “Hi” to those you meet especially when they greet you first is definitely hiding their light under a bushel. When kids don’t turn assignments in on time they are hiding their lights under a bushel. When they don’t do their chores the way you have shown them or come when you call their name, they are hiding their lights. When they are not doing what they know is right, they are hiding their lights. James 4:17 says, “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails do it, for him it is sin.” (ESV) Sin covers our lights.

 

  1. What is the difference between hiding their lights under a bushel and letting Satan blow it out? Giving into temptation is letting Satan blow your light out. For teens, when all the kids are going to a party where alcohol will be and your teens join in, they are letting Satan blow their lights out. When your 5th grader is seeking the attention of the popular girls at school instead of spending time with a child who is always on the sidelines, Satan has blown her light out. Satan loves it when your kids are absorbed in “Me, Me Me” because they aren’t putting the needs of others first. Sleeping in instead of having their Quiet Time/Devotions is a biggie for Satan too. Ask your kids to think about who they are giving the victory to, Jesus or Satan.

 

  1. Shine your light ‘til Jesus comes. We hope your kids know Jesus is coming again. Until that day, it is every Christian’s responsibility to “Go therefore and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19) One of the best ways to do this is to let the light of Jesus shine bright in our lives no matter our age!

 

“Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works

and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:16 (ESV)

When Trouble Comes, Are Your Kids Ready?

When Trouble Comes,

Are Your Kids Ready?

HOPE

by Joey and Carla Link

September 6, 2017

 

Driving home from a family camp 13 years ago today, a man fell asleep and lost control of his vehicle. He hit us, throwing us over a guardrail. Even though I (Carla) was wearing a seat belt, I was ejected from the van, suffering severe injuries. I was able to go home after a 3 month hospital stay, but our lives have never been the same and never will be as I suffer medical repercussions from that accident still today.

 

A horrific car accident, your house being broken into and robbed, or you find out you have cancer; these are the sort of things we never expect to happen to us as Christ followers. We often think our life of faith is going to be all sunshine and roses and Jesus has failed us when things go wrong. But God clearly says all through Scripture that we will go through dark and difficult times. People still frequently say to me “I don’t understand why God would allow this to happen to you.” My response is “Why not?”

 

“Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

 2 Timothy 3:12.

 

Have you ever thought about preparing your kids for tough circumstances? It’s like a toddler learning to run, he will stumble and fall and get hurt, but he will keep getting up and will run again. If your kids are going to live for Christ, they will make mistakes, stumble and fall. All God asks us to do is pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and try again, and again.

 

How do you prepare your kids for tough situations?

 

  1. Step up your obedience training. If your kids do not obey you without reminders and lectures from you at least 80% of the time, consider it time to work on training them in obedience training. For if they won’t obey you, why would they obey God in tough times? Both of our books, “Why Can’t I Get My Kids to Obey” and “Taming the Lecture Bug and Getting Your Kids to Think” will help you with this.

 

  1. Read Old Testament Bible stories to them. Ask your kids what the person in the story did to deserve such trouble. Ask them what they would do if they were in a similar situation. Joseph wore a coat his father had given him and his brothers ganged up on him wanting to kill him but sold him into slavery instead. David did nothing to King Saul for him to send an army after him to kill him. When given the opportunity to strike back and even kill the King, he said to his friend “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless?” (1 Samuel 26:9) What a powerful lesson to teach your kids when they are being treated unfairly by peers and friends.

 

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

 

  1. Follow the leader. Right now we are all glued to the internet and television looking at pictures of the devastation in Houston, Texas after last weekend’s hurricane. Can you imagine thousands of parents comforting kids as they are leaving all behind to evacuate flooded homes? In moments like these you don’t want your obedience training to fail you or your kids.

 

God is bigger and has more power than the hurricane. That’s hard to imagine too, isn’t it. But that is how God can say with confidence, “I have overcome the world.”  God will find a way to make it right for these families again. It is up to us to show our kids the way through tough times. I (Carla) recently shared with a young friend who was facing difficult medical testing how I got through it, something I had plenty of experience at. She used the things I shared with her and told me later she did feel God’s overwhelming peace in the midst of the tests.

 

  1. Teach them how to handle adverse situations. Start when they are young. When your toddler takes his brother’s toy from him, teach the preschool brother what he can do to work it out instead of hit him. As you continue to teach the appropriate ways to work through difficult situations as your kids grow and mature, it will become a part of who they are when they become young adults to deal with tough situations.

 

What you don’t want to do is frighten your kids when you think of preparing them for adversity. You don’t need to fill their minds with worst case scenarios. It goes back to this verse in Deuteronomy 6:6-7:

 

“These words that I command you today shall be on your heart.

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them

when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way.”

 

It is the parent’s job to prepare your kids to handle the unknown in the everyday circumstances of life. Staying on top of their obedience training doesn’t require filling their heads with the possibility of impending disaster. Putting their seat belts on is a matter of obeying the law, you don’t have to tell them what it would be like to get in a car accident without one. Keep the big picture in mind, but with kids, stay in the here and now. Have a plan to consistently train your kids’ character to be Godly and they will be able to handle whatever comes their way.

 

Teach your kids as Paul said in Ephesians 6:13 about what it means to put on and wear the full armor of God. He never leaves us unprotected in any storm, much less the worst of storms.

 

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes,

you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything,

to stand, stand firm then.”

 

As the Newsboys song goes

 “Your love never changes
There may be pain in the night
But joy comes in the morning.”

What Are You Filling Your Kids’ Spiritual Backpacks With?

What Are You Filling Your Kids’

Spiritual Backpacks With?

books2

Joey and Carla Link

August 23, 2017

It’s back to school time! It can cause anxiety for kids – going to a new class, new school or moving up a grade. Other kids can’t wait for the next grade. Many parents can’t wait for school to start again to get their kids and family back in a regular routine. Good parents ensure kids learn everything they can and what they need to be well-rounded adults.

 

Parents hit the “Back to School” sales and get their curriculum ready and lesson plans completed if they homeschool. Back to school time can be emotionally draining for parents as they realize their kids are growing up, especially if they have kids who are college bound.

 

One thing many parents don’t plan for as they prepare their kids to go back to school is their spiritual growth and development. I focused on this with our kids each year. Here are some Spiritual preparations I wanted my kids to have before they left our home for good.  What are yours?

 

Stores in our areas post lists for each grade and school of what kids need to fill their backpacks with. Wouldn’t it be great if you had a “Spiritual Check-List” too? Here’s ours.

 

  1. Our kids know where each book of the Bible is and can turn to that book in church or Bible study when the name of the book is called. We did drills looking up different verses in the Bible which encouraged them to memorize where the books were to beat their siblings.

 

In this digitized age, Bibles are easily accessed on phones and tablets and the names of the books of the Bible can be found by googling them. This is our perspective of course, but we think while you can certainly access the Bible on your computer or phone, nothing replaces holding the Word of God in your hands and reading the pages with reverence and awe. The Bible is the life of God and you just don’t get that feeling from a tablet or phone.

 

  1. We read from the Bible 4-5 days a week as a family. I (Joey) started in Genesis and read through the Bible with them over the years pulling out a few verses each day for them to think on. Yes, we even read through Numbers and Deuteronomy. J

 

  1. We memorized verses together. We put a key verse (on a 3×5 card) on the mirror of their bathroom and bedrooms to help remind them to look at it. As a single parent of 3 teenage girls, my (Carla’s) mom had 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good morals” on every mirror, closet door and on cupboards in the kitchen! I have never forgotten that verse as a result.

 

  1. We took them to mid-week kids’ programs at church. Our church had the excellent AWANA program where they memorized verses each week. We didn’t just have them memorize verses, when we worked with them on memorizing the verses, we asked them what they meant and had good conversations about them.

 

  1. We would read a book at dinner time a few days a week. One of our favorites that is still in print is “Little Pilgrim’s Progress.” Our goal was 2 chapters 2-3 nights a week and our young teens kept asking for more.

 

  1. We had them read books that would encourage them in their faith and challenge them to live for Jesus. Carla or I would take them through books like “A Girl/Boy After God’s Own Heart” 1-2 chapters a week. The questions at the end of each chapter opened up wonderful discussions on applying God’s principles to their lives.

 

  1. We encouraged them to have their Quiet Time/Devotions every day. On Saturdays, Joey would ask them what God had taught them in their QT’s that week. They were eager to share and we did as well.

 

  1. We wanted our kids to be able to lead someone to Christ, so they had to not only know the plan of salvation, they could actually share it with someone.
  • Do you know 90% of Christians have never led someone to the Lord? How that must hurt God! Have you? We wanted our kids to be confident how to take this step when God knocked on their door and said, “He/she’s ready!”
  • We used “The 4 Spiritual Laws” by Bill Bright of Campus Crusade ministry, now known as Cru.

 

  1. We wanted our kids to be able to lead a small group Bible study or confidently teach a children’s class.
  • Carla always taught Sunday School classes and had the girls join her and assigned them weeks to plan each part of the program including the lessons and to teach them.
  • She or I would lead a Bible Study with their peers, then have them lead one while we observed. All 3 of our kids will tell you they are grateful for this experience.

 

Some might wonder when and how you can fit all this into your children and family’s schedule. It’s just like any other thing your kids want to add to your family’s life, like playing a sport or spending time with friends. When it’s something you want to do and you think it is important in their lives, you find a way to fit it in and make it happen.

 

One day, your kids will graduate from kindergarten, elementary, middle school and then high school. Potentially they will go on to college and graduate from there. At each level of promotion, they move up after completing course work they know, understand and are proficient at.

 

When your kids graduate from your home will they be proficient at following Christ? Will they have the foundation building blocks from your home (with the church’s help) for your kids to get a job or go to college and not walk away from their faith? Do you know over 80% of kids raised in evangelical Christian churches walk away from their faith during their college years? So not only are we not bringing new believers into God’s kingdom, the ones He gave us to raise for 18 years are walking away from Him. This should scare you to death.

 

Will your kids choose to go to church when they leave your home? Marry a strong Christian? Will they be hanging on to their most important textbook of life, their Bible? What do your Spiritual lesson plans need to include this year?

It’s Summer!

It’s Summer!

Joey and Carla Link

Picture1

August 9 2017

It’s already August! Is your family enjoying time together and perhaps with grandparents? It is so hot here in the Midwest everyone is talking about finding a beach! Is that in your summer plans? The stores here are putting out school supplies. I’m thinking “School supplies, it’s barely August!”

Whatever you planned to do this summer it is definitely time to get on it. I want to go through drawers and clean them out and reorganize them. I think I have gotten one done. What about you? Do you have any household projects you were hoping to accomplish?

 

What about your kids? Did you and your spouse come up with one thing each of them needed training in? Have you started to work on it consistently? If we asked each of your kids what you were working on with them, what do you think they would say?

 

What about daily devotions? Everyone slacks off doing them in the spring for the extra 15 minutes of sleep when soccer games and practices were added into the already overcrowded family schedule. You wanted to get them going again before school starts. There is still time for that. We have devotion books for all ages at the parentingmadepractical.com bookstore.

 

If things have gotten crazy and lazy with bored kids causing trouble every day, here are some tips to get your home back in order.

 

  1. Get a routine in place. Routine brings order to your child’s day and order brings predictability, which gives kids security. Too much free time for kids of any age leads to trouble.
  • Your kids get up around the same time every day so they need to go to bed at the same time too. Don’t let summer’s lazy attitude let your kids stay up late night after night unless the family has a planned activity outside the home. I encourage you to keep them on the same sleep schedule they are on when school is in session.
  • They need to have regular eating times too. Please don’t let them snack all day. We had the rule that drinks needed to stay in the kitchen unless they were outside.
  • For kids 5-11 years, have them help you make their routine (if they have a good attitude about it). Make a list of the activities that need to be done or can be done. Include chores, devotions, reading time, free play time, game time, time on computer and so forth. Write down how much time each activity should get or needs.
  • Tween and teens can come up with their own routine, although you have the right to align it with family activities or tweak it. Make sure they include a time each day to play with younger siblings.

 

  1. Step up your obedience training. Together with your spouse, write down next to the names of each of your kids how often they come with a good attitude when you call their name and give a verbal response if you have trained them to do this (kids 4 yrs. and up). Give each of them a percentage. For the ones whose percentage was lower than 75% – it’s time to step up your obedience training. Come up with a plan, decide to be consistent and get going. If you need a review, our “Understanding First-Time Obedience” Mom’s Notes presentation comes in a packet with a chart to use. Oh, for the kids with a percentage higher than 75%, make sure you have a quiet moment with them to praise them for being consistent.

 

  1. Spend intentional time with your kids. While your kids may beg to spend time with their friends this summer, what they really want is to spend time with YOU! They may not show or say it, but they do. Spending time with your kids is more than sitting in front of the television. When was the last time you rode bikes together? Our grandkids, ages 6 and 4 yrs. were here recently visiting us parent-free and we rode bikes to a city park a few blocks away. Joey was on his bike, our little guy had just learned to ride without training wheels, our 4 yr. old granddaughter was on a big wheel and I in my scooter. What a site we made but they asked to go again and again. Oh, spending time together means no phones! You can take it with you; just put it on silent like you would if you were at the movies. This leads us to #4…

 

  1. Have FUN! It’s summer! Do things as a family but also find time to spend with each child individually. Even going for a walk around the block one-on-one or out for ice cream will speak volumes to your child. You can always have fun without letting your standards slide. I remember one of our daughters was pouting on a family outing when she was around 9 yrs. old and her father looked at her and said, “I can see you must not want to do this since your attitude is choosing to sit out and watch us have fun.” She sat for 30 minutes and watched us race cars on a track. Joey went to her and asked if she was ready to join us and she apologized and said to make it right her attitude would be good the rest of the day.

 

What are some of your favorite family activities with young children? With older kids? Can you think of activities they can do during the daily routine like “Lego Time”?