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


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 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:

Focus on the Family:

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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.

Teenagers and the Gospel (Part 2)

Teenagers are Self Interested

Most Teenagers are a product of their culture and our culture is all about the consumer. Marketers have been targeting our kids for years and playing to their emotional needs. Ten’s of thousands of hours of screen time and all the related ads can’t be undone in a 30 minute pep talk. Because of this when it comes to Teenagers; they will understand most biblical truths through the lens of how it affects their lives.  Cognitively they should be able to think outside of themselves, however in our society it’s not an issue of ability, it’s an issue of conditioning. To reach teenagers you have to make a personal appeal or they will tune you out.

teenagers and the gospel

Even kids who have grown up in Christian families and have a strong background in church will have a hard time paying attention if you don’t address how the scripture relates to them personally. Quite frankly teenagers have been programed to be self-interested thinkers. You need to get to know them well enough to relate biblical truth to their personal needs. However, don’t make the mistake here of falling into moralism (good apart from the gospel). Teenagers need the gospel. Help them to see their need for the Savior.

Having a self-interested teen can be a mixed blessing. On one level you can’t compete with millions of dollars of marketing, well written scripts, and super model actors… on the other hand… those people don’t know “your” teen. While you may be less entertaining than the latest super bowl commercial, a little time well spent learning about the teens in your life can give you more credibility than axe body spray ever had.

Teenagers are Emotional

Teenagers make decisions based on feelings more than rational thought.  Physiologically they are still developing the rational part of their brain while the emotional impulse part of the brain is already developed.  They default to what they know. Something which seems cut and dry to you, is a major issue to them because they simply lack the development in their brains to process the situation the way you can as an adult.

They can still get there, it’s just not the preferred method and it requires you to connect a lot of the dots for them. Think of this as exorcising a weak muscle. The tendency to default to emotion is why students can sometimes be prone to “drama.” Teens often use the filter of feeling (“how does this make me feel”) to evaluate their circumstances and to make decisions. We need to guard our kids in this area because it leaves them open to manipulation.

The positive side of this is that teenagers are able to be empathetic. However, rarely do they ever get there without some help or guidance along the way. It is generally good when ask “How do you think it made them feel?”  When talking about how our actions effect others.

Grumpy Teen: If you are a parent dealing with a grumpy teen take in to account how many hours of sleep your child is getting each night. Most studies indicate that middle school age kids need around 9 hours of sleep or more per night and only about 15% of teens are getting enough sleep (There is a reason they would sleep till noon on Saturday if you’d let them). If 13 year-old Tommy is acting like the 3 year-old Tommy when he didn’t get his nap, it’s probably because 13-year-old Tommy is tired.

Challenge: How well do you know the teens in your life? If you don’t already, schedule regular personal time with your teen doing something you both value.  What emotions tend to rise to the top when you are carrying on a conversation? Pray for the teenagers in your life. Ask God to give you wisdom in applying the scripture to their needs. How is their sleep schedule? Sometimes a late weekend wake up is due to not enough sleep during the week.

Don’t Give Up On Andy!

I’ve had a few experiences with “tough-to-love” students recently in various venues. Whenever a kid like this enters your midst, there is often pressure from leaders and students to “do something.” Mostly they are aggravated by how the “tough-to-love” student is behaving.  I thought I would share how one of my youth pastors growing up “dealt” with one of the “tough-to-love” kids in our youth group.  We’ll call him Andy (I changed his name to protect his identity).

Andy was one of those kids who was difficult to deal with in our student ministry. His parents were both committed Christians and you could tell that he had read a great portion of the Bible. This is normally a great thing, but you have to know Andy. Andy was a skeptic and more often than not when the youth pastor opened up the floor for discussion Andy would inevitably point out a flaw in the youth pastor’s message (like he said “Noah” when he meant “Moses” etc.) or he would rebut what the youth pastor had said with his own take on various passages of scripture. To be clear, Andy was a know-it-all and he knew a great deal, but he didn’t know Jesus. (Later Andy’s youth pastor would say, “I prepared the youth lessons and then I went back again to see what Andy might say so I could be prepared.”)

Andy also used to like to play games and pranks while the youth group was meeting. His youth group met in the church’s old sanctuary. Andy would often get dropped off early for church and slip into the baptistery or side door entrance. He would wait until the worship music had started and he would poke his head out and make funny faces at the group behind the youth pastor’s back. Andy was a clown.

Andy also hung out with the “wrong” crowd at school and would often drink on the weekends and even throughout the week.  Actually, because Andy had some influence and aggressively recruited others to his lifestyle, it’s probably more accurate to say that Andy “was” the wrong crowd. Andy wasn’t just a social drinker, he drank alone on many occasions, Andy was a teenage alcoholic and on a few occasions he showed up to his youth group buzzed. Andy was a drunk.

I guess there are lots of ways to deal with a kid like Andy. You could kick him out. You could tell him not to come back. You talk to him in a condescending way. You could do your best to make him feel uncomfortable so he will leave on his own… Or you could do what David our youth pastor did. Since David was one of my mentors growing up I have a little more insight into how he handled the situation than most.

Every week that David saw Andy at church he would say, “Hey Andy I’m so glad you made it tonight!” (and he meant it). David invited Andy into a special discipleship group that met in his home on a week night throughout the summer and was genuinely pleased when he showed up. David prayed for Andy (I know this because I was there on more than one occasion where I heard him). David talked with Andy’s mom about how to best love and encourage him. David encouraged some of the kids in the youth group to reach out to Andy. Some of these were even the kids that Andy made fun of at school.

The summer that David hosted the bible study at his home we all began to see a change starting to take place in Andy. At the end of the summer just before Andy and his family moved off you could tell that he was different. He stopped drinking (this was in large part because his dad caught him), he started a prayer group at church, and he went to all his friends and told them he had changed.

Even though he moved, Andy kept up with David and the youth group through regular mail (this is back before e-mail, text messaging, facebook, etc.). He graduated high school and went on to college to become a youth pastor. He went through a few more “tough-to-love” stages. He was a hypocrite and a self-righteous Pharisee… but at the age of 24 years old Andy finally met Jesus in a real and life changing way. I know this because… you see, I’m Andy.

I am the man I am today in part because of the attitude of my youth pastor and a friend (that I persecuted mercilessly). They weren’t willing to give up on me or just consider me an nuisance. They loved me and demonstrated Christ’s love for me in their actions and attitudes.

Romans 5:7-8 ESV  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–  (8)  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

I didn’t know the depth of this verse as a tough-to-love kid until I saw it in my Youth Pastor, David and my friend Brett (who I used to make fun of incessantly). They loved me in Christ when I gave them every reason not to love me.

Teenagers and the Gospel

teenagers and the gospelWelcome to this series on teenagers. The goal of this blog series is to help parents and youth workers to understand the general changes and issues that teenagers are facing. Sometimes a little knowledge can go a long way in helping to develop a proactive game plan for parenting, teaching, and shepherding students.

These are general observations gleaned from over fifteen years experience in youth ministry. Nothing in this series is ground breaking, earth shattering, or even new. Hopefully these basic observations will give you the insight, perspective, and perhaps empathy for the teens in your life. Of course the ultimate goal is to learn how to best take the gospel and apply it to the teenagers in our lives. This series is mostly to help you understand the world of being a teenager. To this end I hope the entire series proves helpful

We’ll be taking everything in bite size chunks. So buckle up and hold on to something, we are about to reenter the teenage world armed with the gospel.

Teenagers are Changing (Literally!)

Teenagers are emerging adults. This isn’t an overnight process. They are in a constant state of transition from childish dependence on others to adult like independence. One moment they may surprise you with their ability to give selflessly to others, the next moment they can throw an emotional tantrum and break down because mom asked them to take out the trash. They really do have a foot in both worlds. It is fair to expect your teen to be more responsible, but don’t assume it will happen without a few setbacks along the way. 

When a set back occurs, take it in stride, gently help refocus your child’s attention on becoming responsible. Be sure to take time to praise the positive strides you see your child making. Genuine praise and encouragement for being responsible will motivate your child to become even more responsible. If we’re not careful we can fall into a pattern of discouragement by only noticing the set backs and it’s easy to deflate your child’s motivation toward responsibility.

Teenage bodies are also growing and developing into adult bodies. Your teenager will most likely hit growth spurts. Not only will they get taller, but thanks to puberty their bodies will take on a more manly or womanly shape. It is important to keep in mind that mature physical appearance doesn’t mean that your teenager is grown up mentally as well. Many teenagers are children in grown up bodies. Just because they look grown up, doesn’t mean that they are.

Your child may be taller than you, but they still take their cues from you on how to handle the various situations life throws their way. They may not be asking for advice because they feel a pressure to figure things out on their own. A wise parent will make the extra effort to be available for their child to talk. Sometimes talking works best in a shoulder-to-shoulder situation or in the midst of an activity rather than an intense face to face sit down. As a parent it might be wise to schedule a regular time with your child each week to participate in an activity you both enjoy. My dad was always great about taking my brother and I to play tennis, fishing, look for fossils or arrowheads, and a host of other activities we enjoyed. Later in life these times fueled great shoulder to shoulder conversations on the ride home that helped both my brother and I process life.

Each of these posts will end with a Challenge. This is a way to take the post beyond just information and allow the information to impact the way you interact with the teenagers in your life. Obviously the applications will be different according to your relationship with teenagers. Much of this is geared towards parents but will have some application with youth workers as well.

Challenge: Write down the name of the teens you have in your life (if you have a bunch then you might want to spread this over a few days). Take time to pray for them. Thank God that he has placed them in your life and ask Him to help you be sensitive to their needs as they mature. Ask God to give you wisdom in your relationship with them.

  • Write down all the ways that you see your teen becoming more responsible. Think of appropriate ways to encourage your teen when you see them following through on this type of behavior
  • Now Write down areas of responsibility that you they still need to work through. Current frustrations, etc. Pray over these issues and have a game plan in place to encourage the snot out of your kid when they step up to the task.
  • Think of ways to challenge your child to be more responsible.
  • Pray that God would protect your child from people who would want to take advantage of them.

If you don’t already have a regularly scheduled time to hang out with your child start working on a plan to get some shoulder to shoulder time in on an activity. Think of something that will be fun for the both of you and work at it until you find something that sticks. You’ll be surprised at how much this regular interaction will open the doors for authentic communication down the road.

In the coming days and weeks we’ll be looking at teenage grumpiness, technology, identity, forgetfulness, and more!

Children are Like Arrows: A Fresh Look At Psalm 127

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. (Psalm 127, ESV)

I guess I hear lots about this passage in regards to having a “quiver full of kids” and “kids are a blessing.” I’ve heard all kinds of explanations about how many arrows would be in a Hebrew quiver at the time that this was written.  I’ve heard glad parents tell me that their hoping to “fill their quiver” and others express over the loud noise of a toddler that “children are a blessing.”

I see value having lots of kids and most certainly agree that children are a blessing, even on their worst day (and toddlers have some pretty bad days).  However, I think there is a bit more to this passage than that.  I think there are some riches not mined here when we gloss over this Psalm so glibly.  Take a minute and dwell on this text with me.

Arrows are offensive weapons. You don’t use them to defend yourself as much as you do to make a dent in the enemy. Swords can be defensive. Shields are defensive.  Spears perhaps even defensive.  Arrows are purely for offense.  You let them go.  While kids are a reflection of their parents, they are also their own individuals.  Sometimes as parents we can try to use our children to protect our own egos, relive a second childhood, or even provide all the things we missed out on.  The fact is that just like an arrow leaves the grasp of an archer, your children were meant to leave your grasp too.

Those parents who are oppressive with their own sense of pride expressed either in the need for perfection or the need to be needed risk warping their children.  Start with the end in mind. Just like archers shape branches to make their arrows because they know what an arrow needs to fly, so parents are to be intentional in shaping their kids to live beyond their home.  The arrows in the quiver of Psalm 127 aren’t meant to be kept in the quiver.  They were intended to be a deadly show of force and accuracy against the enemy.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is that your children won’t remain at home forever.  Arrows aren’t intended to fill quivers.  They have a greater purpose.  Because Archers know this.  They shape their arrows with their ultimate purpose in mind (to be aimed and released).

Question: How are you raising your children for the years they will live outside your home?

More thoughts on Psalm 127 to follow this week.