In Need Of A Savior (part 2)

What are some of the things that have been passed down in your family?  Families pass down all kinds of stuff. We pass down our genetics; you might have your grandfather’s hair or your grandmother’s eyes. We pass down possessions; my grandmother handmade quilts and each of the grandkids have one now. We have traditions. We are Auburn football fans. I’m an Auburn football fan because my dad was an Auburn football fan. He’s one because his dad was an Auburn football fan. It goes back generations in my family.

Your family probably looks different, but there are things that are being passed down. It may be something like a desire to serving your country through military service, or it may be a watch from your grandfather, or it may just be your dimples, but you have something that has been passed down to you.

Sometimes what we inherit isn’t always good. My grandfather was an alcoholic. Fortunately, my dad decided he wanted his life to be different and so he avoided alcohol. I on the other hand found out at an early age just how easy it was to become an alcoholic when it’s in your family tree

But what happens if something really important doesn’t get handed down? What happens when something vital never crosses the generational divide? What happens when parents love God, but their children never develop a real relationship with Him? We are forced to look back and ask…Why? What went wrong?

We see exactly that scenario unfold in the book of Judges. The people of Joshua’s generation loved God. It was Joshua who stood up and made a decree to the people of the Land, “choose you this day whom you will serve…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). It really seemed like Joshua had long term plans for serving God to be a part of his family’s heritage for generations to come.  The book of Judges even tells us that even while there were elders living after Joshua that all the land served the Lord (Judges 2:7).  When the people were taking over the land it was men like Caleb who went through some means to ensure that his daughter would marry a God serving and brave young man (Judges 1:12-13).

Read Judges chapter 2

It’s hard to imagine how there would come a generation that didn’t love and serve the Lord like their parents did. We have plenty of evidence that this was something that was designed to be left in the family legacy. Certainly each person has to make their own decisions to follow the Lord, but it’s not like the parents were negligent about teaching their kids about God.

Continue reading “In Need Of A Savior (part 2)”

3 Simple Habits We Have Adopted in our House to Honor Mom All Year

When I was a little boy I said something hurtful to my grandmother. A few moments later I saw the angriest version of my grandfather I had ever seen. It was just a conversation but I listened, as through tears of righteous anger, he let me know that was his wife that I had just insulted and he wouldn’t stand for it. The message was clear, “grandma was precious to him and she would be treated as such by me!” Somehow when he stood up for grandma, he had raised the level of respect in my heart for both of them.

I learned that day that husbands have a big influence in the way that their wives are viewed by their children.

I have another set of grandparents where my grandfather was an alcoholic and often verbally abusive and pushy towards his wife. I regret that as a child I did not regard this grandmother with as much honor and respect. My grandfather took her for granted and I’m ashamed to think that I did too as a child.

There came a point where I decided that I wanted to be more like my grandfather who was jealous (in a good way) for his wife and less like the grandfather who quite frankly mistreated his wife. I wanted something better for my marriage and for my children. So over the years I’ve adopted 3 simple habits and hope to adopt more to honor my wife in our home and in front of our children. 

Simple Habit #1: The first thing I did was I got the door for her. I know it’s a small thing, but for me it’s a heart thing. It’s one small way that I can demonstrate my love for her. My wife is very capable of getting her own door, but this is a simple way to honor her. My kids see this and think it’s normal. When my son was about four he walked one of the students from our youth group to her car and “got the door for her.” I want them to always think this way about their mother and about me. Small habits can sometimes teach big lessons.

Habit #2: I gossip about the goodness of my wife to our kids. From the time they were little they have heard me say, “you have got the best mom in the whole world! You need to honor her! God gave you an incredible mom!” When they were younger I would remind them about how she fed them, and clothed them and looked after their needs. I made it a point for them to know that I am truly their mom’s biggest fan. I go as far as to let them know that while I love them and want to be the best for them, that I love their mother most and I illustrate this by talking positively about her to them even behind her back!

Habit #3: The “Every Day is Mother’s Day” Motto. My wife truly does a lot, she’s not the kind of person you have to motivate, but the kind you have to slow down. She is very independent and will do everything rather than ask for help. So with the baby on the way we made a new rule in our house: “every day is Mother’s Day.” I love what this simple motto has done and is doing for both our children and my wife. It reminds my kids that they don’t need to be invited to do something like help their mother, but they can jump in and serve her like it is Mother’s Day. I also love watching my wife have to take a step back sometimes and let us help.  The other day I asked my son to do something to help his mom and he started to complain (he wanted to hang out with me) and so I simply reminded him that “Every day is Mother’s Day” and he stopped complaining and went right over and started helping his mom! He’s catching the vision.

What about you? What sort of things do you do in your house to honor mom all year long? We are always looking for more ideas!

 

Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family (A REVIEW)

parenting

I’ve read a few parenting books now. Not because my parents were awful at parenting but because I’m not sure I’m that good. It always helps to get biblical insight into our everyday routines and practices and that is what I love most about this new offering by Paul David Tripp. This book is real, it’s practical and most importantly the author consults the scripture for application specifically relevant for parenting in this generation.

I’ll be honest it starts a little slow. If you are used to reading fiction or don’t read much the first few chapters, while beneficial, will be difficult to wade through. However, by chapter three the reading pace picks up and more ‘drama‘ is introduced to each of the chapters. Dr. Tripp provides modern stories of parents and children of varying ages and how different situations play out. You find yourself reading deeper and wondering if he has secretly been watching your family. Thankfully he admits his own faults as a parent along the way and comes off as a humble guide rather than condescending.

I really appreciate the tone throughout the book, while laying out gospel principles in parenting where you may feel like a failure he is ever extending grace (a gospel component no doubt). And in those moments when you feel like you could have written the chapter because these are things you were already aware of, He reminds you that this too is by grace. I especially appreciate that he doesn’t leave off the subject of parenting teenagers and young adults but includes theses stages of life and development.

So if you are a parent or would like to be a parent one day, I highly recommend this book to you! It’s great! No matter how discouraging your past, it will leave you encouraged with hope for the future. And even if you came from a great Christian home with wonderful gospel centered parents, this book will provide fresh reminders for a whole new context of parenting.

I  highly recommend Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles to any parent or future parent.  I can see it being especially helpful and encouraging for parents and ministers to children. The retail price is $22.99 (hardcover), and is available around the web in places like Amazon.com for $16.30.  I gave it five stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

How do you respond when your child tells you they have seen a pornographic image

I’ve been in student ministry for around eighteen years and have seen the tides of culture shape and change the coming generations. I remember when pagers were for expecting dads and drug dealers. Now it seems like every twelve-year-old I meet has access to a smart phone, I-pod touch, kindle fire or another screened device on which they can watch you-tube videos and movies with frequency. I’m not against change, but this scares me (mostly because I’m a dad now).

viewing pornography

You see I’ve also noticed another disturbing trend. In my generation for someone to be exposed to pornography they had to find a tangible source such as a magazine. Then came the computer and now hand held screen technology. Obviously the technology isn’t to blame for the spread of pornography but it does make pornography more accessible. The question used to be, “have you ever seen pornography?”…now the question is “when did you first see pornography?”

Many of our kids will stumble across it innocently. They will do a search for their favorite Disney character or try and look up something for a report on the president and while search engines like Google have gone through great lengths to protect innocent searches from pornographic results the purveyors of pornography have also gone through great lengths to make their wares visible.

If you have recently discovered that your child has seen a pornographic image, you are probably working through a lot of different feelings. You may be angry at those who make these kinds of things accessible. You may find yourself mourning a sense of innocence. You may feel shame if you yourself struggle with viewing pornography or you may even recall shameful events in your past if you were abused. Whatever your emotions the key is to think in terms of how your child will process this event.

First: Be thankful that you know. Pornography does the most damage when it is viewed in secret. Shame can creep in and have serious and lasting effect. Part of uprooting the shame is removing the secrecy. If you found out because your son or daughter confessed to seeing an image or images… be thankful. Even if you feel angry because you think they sought it out… be thankful.

Second: Express and affirm your love for your child, especially if you think your child sought this out. Pornography can become a cheap and unfulfilling substitute for intimacy. Those who view it often already feel the sting of shame. They need to know they are loved by you unconditionally. Withholding love and affirmation from your child is NOT a biblical form of discipline.

Third: Express your Desire to help them process what they have seen in a way that brings glory and honor to God. This event may open the door for you to have an age appropriate “sex-talk” with your son or daughter. If you find yourself at a loss for talking points check out my notes from the last time I spoke at a “true-love-waits” event.

Fourth: Figure out what they have seen and how they were exposed. Did a friend introduce them to a pornographic image? Did they hear a slang word used at school (or on TV) and look it up? Did they find a magazine somewhere? Did someone send it to them on their phone in a text message? Knowing how your child was exposed will help you protect your child from seeing more images. It’s also important to know what your child has seen. Unfortunately there are many, many obscene images out there from images from soft-core to very violent and explicit material.

It is important that you know your personality and that of your child. If part of you takes this as a personal offense you run the danger of coming across as a prosecuting attorney rather than a sympathetic parent. You don’t want to be overbearing on this issue and close down the lines of communication. Your child needs a parent who is in this fight with them and for them more than they need a parent who wants to fight against them. If at anytime you feel like you are in over your head you may want to reach out to a trusted pastor or counselor for help or advice. If you find out that this isn’t an isolated incident and that your son or daughter may be addicted to pornography you may want to contact a Christian counselor. Make sure that if you contact a counselor that you find someone who shares your understanding of the negative impact of viewing pornography.

Other Resources on helping your children

Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention: http://erlc.com/topics/C13/

Focus on the Family:
http://www.focusonthefamily.com/lifechallenges/love_and_sex/pornography/how_to_confront_children_using_pornography.aspx

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Raising Kids Who Don’t Remember Jesus

BibleRead-2They have heard about him. They know his stories. They know what he’s done for us. They sing songs about him. They have asked him to forgive their sins. They have been baptized in his name. They have memorized his words. They have done good works in his name. They have more information about him at their fingertips than any other generation, yet they don’t remember him. How does someone so saturated with Christianity loose the very essence of the one they call Savior? How do you claim a sense of what it is to be Christ-like, but have no memory Christ?

What am I talking about? It’s the Lord’s Supper. The essential part of church life that emphasizes the gospel, what it means to trust Christ, and most of all where we REMEMBER him. It’s a common meal where we all participate by receiving elements that represent the blood and body of Jesus and in doing so we ALL TOGETHER acknowledge his sacrifice and eminent return.

I see lots of believers, especially believers with children skipping out on this thing that Jesus actually said to do in rememberance of him. Is it possible to teach our children about Jesus, but to not remember him? Can we have them sit for a family devotional and prayer, sit in Children’s Church, sit close by as we go and minister, and somehow not teach them to sit for a moment to examine their life and remember Jesus?

I get it. There is a long list of excuses on why not to get the kids our of children’s church or return for a special evening service. They haven’t made a profession of faith yet – (They need to see that they are left out and apart from Christ. This physical illustration of restricting your kids from taking the Lord’s Supper will do more to teach them this reality than you words alone). Kids are really hard to keep still and quiet in church (It’s always been this way, but there are very few things in life they learn from lack of experience and this isn’t one of them).  They are in children’s church, I don’t want to interrupt the lesson.  (Can you make a children’s lesson more profound than the experiential, tangible, visible, and tastable lesson set before us in the elements of the Lord’s Supper? First as an outsider observing everyone else and then prayerfully as a believer who also professes faith in Christ.) Think about it, with the Lord’s Supper you see with your own eyes all your brothers and sisters professing that their hope is in Christ alone for salvation? We see that God provided the ultimate bread from heaven, and that we don’t live by bread alone, but by his very Word! We see that Jesus truly is the vine and we are the branches, that he is the head and we are united as the body! We see that it is only through his brokenness that we can be made whole.

Perhaps a more sober thought is, “What do I implicitly teach my kids by not participating in the Lord’s Supper myself and not bringing them in to join me?” I think the answer is clear. You teach with your actions (which speaks louder than words) that you don’t have to obey every request command of Christ and you teach that they don’t have to shouldn’t remember Jesus in this way because it’s not important.

We do a lot for our kids, everything from organic food to baseball practice. We sit through dance recitals and agonize with them over homework. We do our best to teach them about our faith and to honor God, Why wouldn’t we prioritize the Lord’s Supper?

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  – (1 Corinthians 11:23-26 ESV)

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Why I Stopped Ignoring the Lord’s Prayer and Started Using it to Disciple My Kids

I need to confess something. I used to have an antagonistic spirit toward the Model Prayer (or the Lord’s Prayer) as many call it. I knew it was in the scripture, but I felt like it was something that was foreign to me. I went to a Christian school from fourth through seventh grade and I’m sure that maybe I learned it there. It wasn’t something we recited in the home, it wasn’t something we recited at church, and I’m pretty sure the only reason I memorized it was because it was part of my school work.

So it sat dormant in the back of my mind. I think I also had a prejudice against it because I felt like the words became hollow when everyone said them in unison. I wondered if God would even hear the prayers of those who repeated these words. I mistakenly thought prayer was a one sided communication. I was supposed to just tell God what I needed and he was supposed to provide. I didn’t realize that prayer was one of the key ways that God changes our hearts.

Everything changed for me when I had kids. I wanted my kids to know God the way that I know God. My life was radically changed when I was about twenty-five years old and I haven’t quite gotten over it. I knew that the model prayer must be important. Who better to teach my kids how to pray than Jesus, right? At this point I thought I had it all figured out. I was praying my way for a while. I never thought to go back and look at what the Scripture says about prayer. I never thought to go back to this prayer that I had memorized. I never thought that this was anything more than a tool to use with my kids.

So I started teaching Miss R, my oldest, when she was about three. And Mr.N, my youngest, learned to say it as soon as he could talk. In fact we have a video of Mr.N saying the Model Prayer when he is about two years old. He’s recited it nearly 1000 times in his little lifetime now.

Not long into the journey something happened. I forget the spark that caused it all, but one day one of my kids was struggling with bitterness and I said, “Remember how Jesus teaches us to forgive in the model prayer,” and I shared the story of the unmerciful servant. Then one of my kids were concerned for someone and I said, “Remember how Jesus teaches us to ask God for our daily bread.” Then one day one of my kids was struggling with an injustice in their world, and we saw that the Lord’s prayer teaches us to ask for Jesus’ kingdom to come.” Then one day my daughter is consumed with her sin and as I pass by her door at night I hear her praying, “Dear Jesus will you forgive me for my sin just like I ask in the Lord’s prayer?”

I began to meditate deeply on the Lord’s Prayer, going over it again and again in my mind. Thinking through the implications and tangents to other scripture passages and I was amazed to realize that there was a lot more to the Lord’s Prayer than I had thought. I was the one guilty of repeating things without thinking, but with sincere meditation this has become I guide for me in how I pray.

One of the ways that the Lord’s Prayer effects us is it acts like a tuner. I have a guitar. I don’t play much but someone gave me a guitar… and a tuner. The tuner is helpful because the guitar is very prone to getting out of tune. You put the tuner on the end, play a note and then adjust accordingly. It works great when I use it. This prayer is like that. Our lives get out of tune. We begin to lose focus. We think life is really all about this thing or that thing and somehow we miss God in the mix. This prayer teaches us how to adjust our attention, our focus. Is your life filled with anxiety? Go to God in prayer like Jesus teaches us to and you will find peace in the midst of a troubled night. It tunes our hearts. It checks our actions. It exposes our secret motives. Most of all it focuses us on the supreme value of Knowing God.

Join me as I dig into the Model Prayer over the next few weeks. I’ll be sharing brief exposition with practical application. I won’t be blogging every day on this topic, but will be blogging frequently. Check back often to get the latest.

Let your kids choose not to go to church today and they’ll choose not to go when they are adults

My dad was a pastor, so I got an inside perspective on church growing up. I did everything from help fold the bulletins to taking up the offering. Occasionally through my preteen and teen years there were those moments where for whatever reason… I did not want to go to church.

Now here is where it gets a little touchy because I had friends whose parents gave them the choice about attending church. (ironically they still HAD to do a lot of things like wear a shirt to the dinner table, do their homework, their chores, and visit with great-grandma).  I thought for sure that the only reason I HAD to attend church was because my dad “worked” there. I mean there must be a reason that my friends parents were lax on the whole church deal but strict on stuff like Algebra.

Then my dad got fired… ahem, I mean resigned from the church he was serving. I thought for sure we’d take a Sunday off or something, but the very next week we were in church (a different church, but a church none-the-less). I tried to get out of going (in hind sight I can’t imagine how difficult this must have been for my dad) but he insisted and we went. I learned in a very real way that church attendance was important, not because my dad was a pastor, but because that is where we gathered with the people of God for the worship of God.

Then there came that first Sunday I was away at college. I had the opportunity for the first time in my life to ditch church, but at 18 years old I got out of bed early, got ready and walked into a church in time for Sunday School and I’ve only missed a handful of Sundays since. You see when my dad made me go to church when I didn’t want to, I learned something… Church is important. It was more important than hunting, fishing, sports, and especially more important than sleeping in.

My friends also learned something from their parents about church… Church wasn’t important. Much to the agony of their parents many of my friends, whose parents let them stay home, have continued to stay home from church. They went to college and didn’t attend church. Now they’re having kids and some are coming back but others aren’t.

I’m sure my friends’ parents meant well. They were probably afraid that they would burn their kids out on church. Maybe the pastor made that awful “I had a drug problem… my parents drug me to church” joke one too many times. Or maybe it’s because deciding to follow Jesus is a ‘personal decision’ we don’t want to “pressure” our kids, that we as parents can make the mistake of backing away from training our kids in spiritually right and helpful behaviors. We wouldn’t think twice about making our kids do their homework or clean their room. But somehow we let church attendance be the one place where we let them decide for themselves? Does this not actually send the unintended message… church is not important and you can blow it off for sleep?

I get it…. We faced a similar issue when we started family prayer time and my kids didn’t want to pray. Should I tell my kid they “have to” pray? I don’t want them to hate prayer… But then I realized that I’m responsible for training my kids and they will follow my example no matter what I do. So it’s probably better to err on the side of “repeat the Lords Prayer with me then” than it is to say, “you don’t have to pray.” At the very least they will know that prayer is important to their father. God has blessed our family prayer time. He’s used the Lord’s Prayer in numerous ways to instruct my children and bring both of them to conviction and repentance. I look back and wonder the shape their hearts would be in if we had not hunkered down and said, “This is too important to skip.”

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