5 New Year’s resolutions for a more Christ-centered family

5 family-affirming New Year’s resolutionsMy first New Year’s resolution took place as a young adult, when I pledged to read the Bible—from Genesis to Revelation—in one year. I remember enjoying Genesis and Exodus, struggling a bit with Leviticus and Numbers, and then getting bogged down in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy at the time was like quick sand, and I never made it out.

I since have made it through Deuteronomy, but I’m still mostly a failure at New Year’s resolutions. For instance, my 2014 New Year’s resolution was to plant garlic. It’s unique and incredibly healthy, and it would save my family a bit of money. But I never even purchased a bulb.

Still, New Year’s resolutions are worth pursuing, especially when it involves something as significant as your faith or your family. While resolutions themselves aren’t mentioned in Scripture, the Bible does have a lot to say about second chances and new beginnings (Psalm 51:10-11).

I imagine even the Apostle Paul would have made New Year’s resolutions. After all, it was never-look-back Paul who wrote, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-15).

So what type of resolutions should parents make this year? Here are five suggestions that—if followed—are sure to change your family life for the better:
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‘Dad, did baby Jesus cry?’ — 3 ways to teach your children great theological truths this Christmas

The Adoration of the Shepherds (Gerard van Honthorst), 1622.

The Adoration of the Shepherds (Gerard van Honthorst), 1622.

Kids have a way of asking questions we adults have never pondered.

Once, my inquisitive son was reading a science book and looked up at me with a puzzled look.

“Dad, are there germs on germs?”

I was confused, and he knew it.

“Yeah,” he continued. “There are germs on us. But are there germs on those germs, and then germs on those other germs, then germs on those germs?”

Maybe he was hoping that all those germs would duke it out in a battle royal and kill one another – and we’d never get sick.

Honestly, I’m still not sure what the answer is.

But the other night he asked me a relatively easy one.

“Dad, did baby Jesus cry?”

“Of course,” I responded.

“Huh?” he replied, sort of shocked.

“All babies cry, because that’s how they communicate,” I said. “And it’s not a sin for a baby to cry.”

He had been singing “Away In A Manger,” a wonderful Christmas tune that has the unfortunate lyric concerning the Christ Child: “No crying he made.”

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year to reinforce the Gospel to our children, simply because everyone they know – their friends, their teachers, their neighbors – is celebrating it. In other words, our children can’t go anywhere without being reminded of Christmas, even if it is a sanitized, secular version.

But we don’t have to battle the local box store to put “Christ back into Christmas.” We can do that in our homes, beginning by what we tell our kids about Jesus.

Here’s three ways parents can teach their children deep theological truths about Christ this season, using simple language:
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Mold your kid into a patriot: 7 flag-waving ways to teach children a love for American history

Shape your kid into a patriot: 6 flag-waving ways to teach children a love for American historyMark Twain may have said it best: Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”

That’s a good approach just about any day, but especially during polarized times such as these. After all, very few of us are happy with the way things are going in Washington, D.C., no matter your party. And even if you are among the few who are pleased with Congress and the president, just give it a few years. Things will change. That’s the nature of politics; it’s cyclical.

There’s a lot I’d change about D.C. and the country, but I still love America and the ideals for which it stands. That’s the way my wife and I are raising our kids. We don’t worship America but we do believe the U.S. is immensely blessed — and we want our kids to appreciate that.

Here are seven ways we’ve taught our kids about the United States and its history that might benefit your family, too:

1. Tell them about America’s triumphs. Teach them about the freedoms the Founders established that were uniquely American at the time – freedom of the press and religion. Talk about the great inventors: Samuel Morse (telegraph), Alexander Graham Bell (telephone), Thomas Edison (phonograph, motion picture camera, electric light bulb), the Wright Brothers (airplane). Discuss the role America played in World War I and II, and the way it won the space race and put the first man on the moon, and even won that 1980 Miracle on Ice.

2. Tell them about America’s flaws. Otherwise, their perspective of the United States will be skewed, even unbiblical. No country is perfect. We’re still a nation, for instance, that enslaved an entire race and that waited nearly 150 years to give women the right to vote. Then tell them how the Founders, through the Constitution, laid the groundwork to right the nation’s wrongs, and how no country – no matter how dominant – can thrive continuously without God’s blessings (Daniel 2:21, Psalm 22:28).
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3 biblical lessons for parents when your child is selfish

3 biblical lessons when your child is selfishIt was a picture perfect Spring evening for baseball as I took my two sons to their first minor league game.

The sun was setting, there was a nice warm breeze blowing through the stadium, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We ate popcorn. We devoured peanuts. We even got to watch a train pass close by the stadium, which always is a treat for the kids.

After a couple of innings we visited the playground located outside the foul line in left field. My sons were having a blast.

We had passed this empty stadium multiple times on the highway, and my oldest had said he longed to see a game there. So here we were, in that very stadium that my son wanted to visit, doing presumably everything he wanted to do.

Then it came time to leave. He didn’t mind leaving, but he wanted cotton candy first. Never mind that I had not promised him cotton candy, that it was too late to eat anything that sugary, that I had already bought him a ticket, and a popcorn, and a bottled water, and that he was able to play on that playground for so long that he was tired. He wanted cotton candy, and he wasn’t leaving until he had it.

I told him no, and he got mad. He raised his voice. He cried. Even stomped his feet. We went to the car with him upset and me wondering how that situation could have been avoided. And he didn’t get any cotton candy.

When our children are selfish and ungrateful, what are we to learn? I think God is telling us something – about ourselves. The Bible draws many parallels between the relationship between God the Father and His children (Christians), and earthly parents and their children. Often, our children serve as a mirror of our own actions. It’s as if God is holding up a full-length mirror and screaming from heaven, “Look!”

Here are three lessons to consider:

1. We, too, are ungrateful. When my son or daughter or your son or daughter is ungrateful, we are getting a vivid yet honest reminder from God of our own sin – a small glimpse of what our sin looks like to a holy God. When the Apostle Paul tells us to “pray without ceasing,” he certainly had in mind living in a constant state of gratefulness for our blessings. But how often do we thank God for the basics of life — food, housing, health, clothes, a job – much less the things He gives us that we “desire” (that car, that boat, that vacation)? And even when we mumble a prayer, how often are we truly grateful?

2. We, too, are prone to forget our blessings. How many times have you prayed to God and received the answer that you desired, only to forget it quickly and six months later wonder in your heart, “Why has God abandoned me?” We forget that God has blessed us multiple times in multiple ways, over and over, abundantly. We are prone to forget, to stray, to wonder. We’re like every other person who only remembers what happened five minutes ago – the meaningless Facebook post, the pointless TV show. It’s the “what have you done for me lately?” syndrome. We want the cotton candy.

3. We, too, rebel against God. So often, it’s when we’re living in the midst of God’s blessings that we’re prone to sin. Deep down, we begin to credit ourselves for our blessings, forgetting that all good things come from God (James 1:17) and that He is due praise for every blessing in life. In our sinful heart, we begin even to wonder if we need God. In other words, our spiritual life often hits rock-bottom when God is blessing us the most. Just like I did to my sons, God may pour blessings on our lives – the “popcorn,” the “peanuts.” But he’s still not buying us the cotton candy.

Michael Foust is an editor and writer who blogs about parenting and fatherhood. He loves his family and also really likes popcorn. Interested in re-posting this in your publication or on your blog for free? Send me a message in the comments section below (the message won’t go public).

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3 reasons to say ‘I love you’ when disciplining your child

5 lessons from Proverbs that will make you a better parent

6 reasons to break that iPhone addition — and play more with your kids

7 tricks to get your children loving books

Go play outside: 9 keys to raising nature-loving kids

Turn it off: 6 reasons not to let children watch television

Before they can talk: 7 ways to teach toddlers about God

5 reasons why fathers should change diapers

The 3 best children’s Bibles for young kids

10 essential tips for every new parent

10 essential tips for every new parentThe night before my first child was born, I did a lot of thinking, wondering what it would be like to be a parent.

What would it be like, I wondered, to hold my own child, to hear “Daddy” for the first time, to watch him or her swing on the playground with friends? It was so foreign to me, but now seems so natural.

If I could go back to that night in February 2008, I’d tell myself a few things. Some of the items on this list I learned by experience, while others I practiced nearly from the get-go. Here is what I would tell myself:

1. Parenting is far greater than you can imagine. Nothing on this earth compares to it, and you will regret waiting so long to become a parent. It’s better than all those things you think are fun: football, naps, eating pizza. You’ll soon discover you’d rather be a parent for one year than do all that other stuff for 100 years.

2. Don’t get too busy in life. You’re living in the days you’ll forever treasure, and this time will fly by faster than you can imagine. Limit your hobbies, your take-home work, and even how you are involved at church. Spend lots of time with your kids. Continue reading