The time between the last writings of the Old Testament and the appearance of Christ is known as the “intertestamental” (or “between the testaments”) period. Because there was no prophetic word from God during this period, some refer to it as the “400 silent years.” The last thing God said to His people before these 400 years of silence was “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction” (Malachi 4:5-6).
One of the first things we see coming out of this period of silence is the ministry of John the Baptist of which it is said that “he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17). There is something about turning our hearts back to our children that will soften this generation to the gospel and “make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” As our hearts are turned back to our children we need to turn:
- From burden to blessing
As we rush from around trying to get our children to band practice, soccer practice, gymnastics, dance, and everywhere in between all the while trying to find time to squeeze in dinner and homework to begin to at times see children as a burden. Yet Scripture is clear that children are a gift from God “a reward from Him” (Psalm 127:3). The psalmist goes on to saw that children are “like arrows in the hands of a warrior” (Psalm 127:4). This might seem like an odd comparison to us, but can imagine a warrior ever being without his arrows. Children are not a burden, something to find need to escape from, they are a blessing from God.
- From distracted to engaged
There are so many things that can distract us and take away quality time we spend with our children – work, chores, responsibilities at our kids’ schools or in the community, etc. For me, it can be as simple as wasting time on email or Facebook. A lot of evenings while I am home spending time with my kids the moment my phone vibrates with an incoming email I feel like I have to pull out my phone immediately to check my email. What if it’s something important? The truth is most of the time it is some Zulily email that my wife signed me up for, and even if it’s not chances are it can wait an hour until my kids are in bed. I have since downloaded a free app called the Legacy App. I entered the birthdays for both of my children and it set up a countdown clock until the day they turn 18 and likely leave home after high school. I know that I only have 709 weeks left with Hadley who is just 4 years old. In fact if I wanted I could literally watch the seconds tick away. Now every time I am with my kids and am tempted to jump on Facebook to see what everyone is eating for dinner I am reminded of how little time I have left with my kids. I know this may seem depressing but the psalmist writes “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). When we understand how limited our time is with our children maybe we will use that time more wisely. This is just one thing that has helped me avoid distraction and stay engaged in the lives of my kids.
- From punishment to discipline
Punishment is easy. Punishment is usually based on fear (1 John 4:18) and is simply reacting to the situation. Discipline on the other hand takes time. Discipline is based on love and is about going after the heart of our children. Proverbs 3:12 reminds us that “The Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” Punishment is about responding to what our child has done. Discipline is about shaping who they will become.
- From our dreams to His design
Chances are from the moment you first found out you were having a baby you probably started imaging what life would be like with that child. Maybe as a mom of a little girl you imagined having tea parties together or shopping together. Or as a father of a son you imagined taking him on hunting trips or throwing around the football together in the backyard. Maybe you imagine your child growing up to be a successful business man or woman or even taking over a family business. We all have dreams for our children but we need to be willing to give up our dreams for His design. Scripture tells us over and over again that God has formed us and shaped us for a purpose, that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). Don’t parent your children based on your dreams and desires for them, but based on God’s design for them. Help them grow into the men and women God created them to be.