Monday, November 22, 2010

Revisiting 'Thank You' During a Week of Madness

This is my revised Thanksgiving Column for, from a decage ago, offered as a Word of perspective, thanks and encouragement to parents, friends, family and ministry colleagues

Ever notice how hard it is to get a sincere ‘Thank You’ from anybody? Do you recall how good it feels when those words are spoken to you in sincerity? Do you know the pleasure of looking into the eyes of the seven-buck-an-hour-single-mother-of-two who checked you out at the grocery store and sincerely thanking her for her hard work?

Thank You’ is something we are not very good at saying any more. We don’t say it enough to each other, and we certainly don’t say it enough to God. We are a nation on the run, streaking toward what we perceive as more, bigger, and better, while hardly noticing the blessings left in our wake. How poignant that 'Thanksgiving is Thursday' and 'Grab Day', or, 'Black Friday' is the next day. (And why is it black Friday if everyone is going into the red?)

Read carefully the words of a wise leader, a man of dignity and depth, as he considered the season at hand:

 “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.”

Those words apply to us today as much as they did when they were written 149 years ago by President Abraham Lincoln upon the establishment of Thanksgiving as a holiday. Thanksgiving informally began in the fall of 1621 when the pilgrims, thankful for their meager sustenance and grateful to the Indians for their help, invited the Indians to a day of Thanksgiving. (Why, even our steeped Thanksgiving sports tradition began that day: The Indians and pilgrims held foot races, wrestling matches and shooting competition.) The celebration lasted three days. Prayer and genuineness thankfulness were the focus rather than food and fun, though there was plenty of each.

How things have changed. We killed as many Indians as we could and drove the rest onto reservations. We’ve been grabbing all we could ever since, ever mindful of how to get more; rarely mindful of the one who “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.Our games have gotten bigger and our guts have gotten softer while our hearts have gotten smaller and harder. By this time of year, many parents are stressing over how they are going to afford more 'stuff' for Christmas. And to many families, Thanksgiving 'celebrations' have become elaborate, costly, stressful productions.

My encouragement to us all – especially to the man I see in the mirror – is to spend much of this Thanksgiving week in thankful prayer, in genuine reflection upon God’s glorious gifts, both earthly and eternal.

Parents, plan some slow time for your family, read Scriptures of praise and thankfulness, and literally ask each family member to thoughtfully list the many blessings (not merely possessions) they have. Don't get lost in the rush!

The Word of God encourages us to “come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.” (Psalm 95:2) We are repeatedly admonished to be thankful to Him. If you want to enjoy the blessing of blessing God in this way, read carefully many of the Psalms. Psalm 100:4-5 says, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.”

Perhaps today you cannot think of much for which to give thanks. Perhaps your earthly circumstances are dire. Even so, the Bible tells us, “In everything (in all circumstances) give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thes. 5:18) Perhaps you need to call some brothers or sisters in the body of Christ to pray over you, to comfort and love you. God uses everything to teach us, shape us, draw us to Him. Even those hurting deeply today can be thankful that there is a merciful God who desires a personal relationship with you and will give you answers and help both temporal and eternal. He is a God of mercy, and He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the price for the sins of each of us. The price is paid in full, and we have eternal life with Him if only we give Him our life. As if to make sure we understand that His mercy is to be our first focus of thanks, Psalm 136 begins, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!” then proceeds to invoke “for His mercy endures forever” 25 times!

If you are a very blessed family, with a warm home and good food and love to share, perhaps you need to think of some hurting or lonely or broke people you need to share your home with in this season. Extend the context of 'family' and bless someone - and yourselves.

May those of us who know God personally through Jesus Christ rest joyfully and thankfully in His mercy this weekand always, and may we be eager to share the news of His salvation with those who do not know Him, urging them to receive His life and thus His mercy.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ready, Aim, Fire Your Children at the Devil

"Children are arrows in a quiver,and they are to be trained as missionaries & shot at the Devil." -- Jim Elliot (thanks Dan Dumas for posting on Twitter)

Who do my kids belong to? Me, or God?

The answer will change everything about their life.

If they are God's, then we are to be raising them to live out His purposes, and His word is perfectly consistent with Elliot's quote.

No, I'm not excited about my kids being martyred in a foreign country -- but it's not my call!

 I'm not even excited about my 15-year-old daugthers' passion to reach homeless people by feeding them and witnessing to them as they stand at street corners begging. All I see initially is some old man ogling my daughters! (It is, however, my responsibility, call and choice that they will not do this alone.)

I'm not excited about my wife potentially spending three weeks in a small town in Ukraine without me while waiting to bring home our son -- but a 12-year-old boy's life depends on it.

Someone may say, 'You are taking this all too seriously,' to which I have no choice but to answer, 'And you, if you say you are a Christian, are denying the very Word of God written by the God you say saved you!'

The trouble I see in our culture -- and I mean in our southern, evangelical, we-say-we-believe-the-whole-Bible church culture -- is that most parents are preparing their children for absolutely nothing apart from successful navigation of the American dream (which, if you haven't noticed, is becoming less and less attainable. So they are being equipped to accomplish something they are likely to fail at, and which had no altruistic purpose in the first place).

Most college freshman today are equipped to to manage high-tech toys and use a condom. Impressive, eh?

Is it any wonder so many teens are depressed? They are being led into pointless lives by unfocused parents who are as depressed and/or frustrated as they are because they live pointless lives.

Hard stuff? Yes.True stuff? Look around.

It doesn't have to be this way.  Indeed, it is not this way for everyone. I see many parents making the transition to meaningful lives, and wrestling in a healthy way with how to translate that to their children. We are power agents of the Most High. The Holy Spirit is in us. We are called to be on assignment.

As Alex and Brett Harris write, our children can 'Do Hard Things.' We have to lead them into them. We have to do them first, or at least with them. We have to know by the Word and the Spirit that there is a higher calling that can bring life change to us and countless others.

What -- and who -- are you and I hanging onto?

Let's throw it all down and go for it. As Elliot also more famously said,  "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Why Cool is Really Lukewarm (or, How to Keep God from Spitting Out Your Kids)

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know them."
-- 1 John 3:1

Does the world know your children? Do they fit in perfectly at school, or on their sports team?

Be careful how well your kids fit in. You say, 'But I want my child to be well-liked.' We all do, but if your child is well-liked for the wrong reasons, he or she will be the wrong kid, the person who conformed for short-term satisfaction. When one starts down that trail, they rarely turn around. The allure of popularity is great.

I'm not saying we want to produce a generation of outcasts.  But, think about it:

Given a choice between outcast and typecast, which type are you trying to produce?

God's children are not to be like other children. Nor are they to be haughty and holier than thou. It's a delicate balance that will feel right some days, so very wrong some days. That can be a roller coaster ride of insecurity for the most surrendered Christ-follower. The key is that their security be found in nothing besides their identity in Christ. With you backing up that message, that is enough!

Being a child of God will cost your children some points on the cool meter. But cool is often merely the enemy's way of being (luke)warm. A cool Christian in a public school is possible depending on the demeanor, gifts and personality of the teen and the culture of the school. But there is no perfect formula, no guarantee. What satisfies your child has to be on a higher plain. Ridicule and disdain shouldn't be desired, but it must be acceptable if it comes for the right reason.

Verses 2-3 give us more clues. "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies Himself, just as He is pure."

The unsaved or carnal Christian child needs to be cool to have identity. The born again child has identity, and is working to discover "what (he) will be"  as he matures into it. He is not trying to be like the cool kids. He is not wearing stripes because the other kids are. (Now, if he is wearing plaids and stripes, please, homeschool!)

Here is what the child who knows his identity, knows Whose he is, is doing: "Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself."

The purification process includes not doing some cool things because a) they are a bad witness, b) they don't need to be cool in the world's eyes because they are sooo cool in God's eyes.

How do you make this work? If I knew that precisely I'd be a gazillionaire author and conference speaker, spitting out the formula to the mass of hurting parents! (Now, that would be cool LOL) We humans keep messing this up. But here's the deal: it comes down to them knowing who they are, and that comes down to you introducing them to Christ, leading them to salvation, and unpacking for them what the Word of God says about their identity.

That's a lot of hard work. I know, Judy and I are speaking it daily to two teens and a pre-teen. But it's worth it. Sometimes it's cool to see your kids be uncool.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Supplement Your Family Needs

We see a lot of advertising about taking supplements to replace needed nutrition lacking in our regular diet. Indeed, depend on your condition, the supplement can be essential.

Tonight Judy and I took turns reading James to our family, then we prayed as if we were Elijah!

We read with nominal commentary -- just a quick expansion or explanation here and there. Then the Spirit moved me to write to you, covering a few benefits of reading the Word to your family.

  • The Word is the food the Holy Spirit feeds back to Christ followers when He gives them counsel, hence your family must hear it!
  • You as parent(s) reading the Word to your children establishes, over time, the priority of the Word in your life, and thus theirs.
  • It is like taking a bath spiritually and emotionally. Even when it challenges, it also soothes and comforts. You want to settle down a restless, dispirited, irritable house? Wash it in the Word.
  • It resets the mind. If you believe that how you think impacts your emotions, which usually determines your actions (seriously, this is true and vital to understand), then you'll see the value of hit the reset button often.
Families appear too busy today to read the Word. They are giving their minds -- then their hearts and actions -- over to the enemy very subtly. Don't let it happen in your home. Read the Word over your family.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The American Dream and Your Kids

Thanks to Tom Ascol for this tweet (on 'Twitter' micro-blogging service, if you don't recognize the terminology): "The danger with pursuing the American Dream is that you might actually attain it & then settle for it."

That prompts several thoughts. It is a good idea for parents to regularly discuss: 'What are we pursuing, and do we really want it?"

Can you think back to high school or college when you wanted to go out with, or marry, some certain person soooo badly? And you now (I hope!) look back and thank God that didn't happen!

How many of us are pursuing the American Dream, and do we really want that?

Let me just give you two ways pursuit of the American Dream might be harmful to your children:
  • It could give them a sense of entitlement. How many middle-class and higher teens awake every day expecting to get what they want and be treated the way they want to? is that the character you want to cultivate? Will they ever serve God, much less know Him and live in His power, with a heart like that?
  • It could be good at the expense of best. This is Satan's big one. Find a nice mate, get a nice house, take nice vacations, make good money, grow old, look back and wonder why you lived. I know senior adults who are miserable as they slowly fade. They are miserable in part because they got it all so to speak, but made virtually no difference.
Let's re-think. Let's set our sites higher. Let's challenge our kids to find God's purpose in them, and to make that their 'dream.'

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Shaping Your Child's Sexualty -- The Intimacy Equation at Home Makes the Difference

God’s overwhelmingly affirms sex. It doesn’t go from wrong to acceptable on marriage day, it goes from wrong to right. It was God’s idea, thus God’s creation. He overwhelmingly affirms it Scripture, to the point of describing it in specific, profound personal-body-parts detail in Song of Solomon. He lays it out clearly.
God likes sex.

That overarching view is vital as you try to shape your child's thinking and actions with regard to sexuality. But first a key question: Is it even possible to shape the sex life of your children before they become sexually active?

I think so. I believe you can radically influence -- not control -- their future decisions.

Let's face it: Somebody is going to shape it, and the world is working at it real hard.

The sexual dialogue among kids at school is on-going, explicit and inaccurate, when it comes to the facts and beliefs you want expressed to your child.

They are getting mental sexual input from outside your home consistently. They may be getting visual sexual input from somewhere, because it is almost impossible to keep them from it. Have you ever been in ‘Victoria’s Secret’? There is no secret!

Here’s the why-and-how you can shape the sex life of your children before you are married: because you have the most access to the important sex organ they have: the mind.

In order to persuade their hearts and minds to a Godly sexual orientation, you have to have an ongoing, relational, honest dialogue. You not only have to enter into the conversation that is going on about sex, you have to lead it, drive it, direct it, take it over, and set the boundaries for the secondary conversations (those you don't hear).

First you've got to understand that if 'The Talk' really is merely a 'talk' in your house, you'll headed for failure. It’s an on-going conversation, or you will fail. The ongoing conversation  (not 'the talk') starts with issues that are - on the surface - distinctly non-sexual.

First, you must define intimacy (not merely sexual intimacy), because it is going to be the river that carries your influence.

My definition of intimacy: Complete exposure. Ideal Intimacy is safe, comfortable, nurturing, complete exposure.

Of course intimacy has levels, and as a relationship strengthens and grows the level should deepen.

Our kids are hungry for and in deep need of intimacy. If you don’t give them intimacy you’re going to increase their chance of seeking it the wrong way, and still not getting it. In fact, seeking it the wrong way will set them back, perhaps grievously and with permanent damage.

Let me use a synonym – an incomplete-but-accurate one – for intimacy: Safety

I explain to kids as they are growing up that there are four areas of their development in life, and that they deserve and must have for their full development real safety in each.

• Emotional
• Spiritual
• Intellectual
• Physical

They all overlap, and they all fall under spiritual. The intellectual leads to the emotional. Your emotional state tends to determine your actions. Sex is physical, and requires actions. Are you following me? If you want to influence what’s happening on the end of the equation, you better work with the beginning of the equation – the mind! You have to have a safe environment to accomplish that.

A healthy family has Godly ‘intimacy’ in all four areas. (A brief time out here. In a culture of increasing perversity, let me be very clear: I’m not talking about anything sexual other than between husband and wife.)

Intimacy in these four areas means it is safe to express your emotions, thoughts and spiritual views or questions. Your children should already know there is physical safety – and I don’t mean their protection from danger in this case – under your care because you are the primary care-taker of their physical well being as long as they are a minor in your home -- and that should ease the difficulty of discussion of intimate physical issues, including sexual issues.

If your children have a good understanding and experience of non-sexual intimacy, they will more easily make right choices about and transition – in marriage – appropriately to physical intimacy (which we also know is emotional, intellectual and even spiritual).

When you tell your kids don’t, you best be adding the why. And you better be dealing with the heart elements. They have to have enough emotional trust in you, enough experience at genuine familial intimacy on all four levels with you, to actually believe that what you tell them is what they should do even when they don’t understand, because when everything wakes up physically and they want sex bad enough, their lack of relationship experience and intimacy in non-physical contexts is going to radically increase their chances of failing.

Without that great grounding, they run the risk of having sex for the same reason you continue eating donuts, or consuming whatever isn’t good for you: because it satisfies an immediate desire. They have to be focused on God, and focused on their future mate. They’ve got to believe God and believe you. That means you have to have enough emotional and intellectual equity in their life that they don’t let their emotions drive their physical actions!

You gain that equity by having raised them in genuine intimacy in four areas of development, while teaching them how it all falls under the coverage of the Word of God.

God’s Truth on all issues of life – especially the hard ones – should flow through you to them, so the experience of your interaction with them should validate the Gospel and empower them to wise choices. You can be the difference maker in their future sexual decisions by grounding them in God's truth about sex in an environment of total safety.

Friday, September 10, 2010

How Your Sexual Past Affects Your Shaping of Your Child's Sexuality

Your experience with a given subject -- in this case, sex -- directly affects how you view and thus instruct on the same subject. This is profound in simplicity.

Extrapulated to your parenting and specifically your efforts to shape (through the early teen years) and inflluence (beyond that) your children's sexuality, that means you must come to terms with your sexual past. 'Sexual past' does not merely mean any pre-marriage sexual activity, but also the ways you were taught about sex before you were married.

How does this affect your parenting? Scenarios:

* Perhaps your parents were scared speechless -- literally -- of discussing sex with you as a pre-teen and teen. You may have went through puberty and beyond wondering things like, "Is this normal?" on a variety of physical and emotional experiences. You likely wondered, "Is it normal to think about X, wonder about Y, and imagine Z?' No one told you anything -- except other kids, who were sensationalizing and practically making up their information. Now you are scared to death to talk to your children. But you have to. They're dying to hear from you. You have credibility. You can overcome this.

* Perhaps you had some relatively mild, or major, sexual experience before marriage, either as a child when something took advantage of you, or by choice as a child, teen or young adult. A variety of emotional pain, confusion and images could still be having an effect on you. These need to be dealt with Biblically before you can be as effective as you should be in talking with your child. Trust me, I know countless adults in their 30s, 40s and 50s who are still negatively shaped by these unresolved issues!

I believe the best way to help you help your child is to Biblically address how to cope with any past issues you have. So let's review John 7:53-8:12, The Woman at the Well, and make some application.

The Scene: The religious people (the self-righteous legalists) are trying to trap Jesus, so they bring him the most publicly unacceptable, egregious, situation of the day: a woman caught in adultery. They did it publicly. In ‘church.’ With smirks on their face they said, ‘OK, GOD, what you do about this?!’ He delayed. Twice. To let them think about it. (Pretty good parenting technique, by the way)

1→ No one, Lord.” LORD!

She called Him ‘Lord’! She’s standing there just after having had sex, with somebody’s table cloth wrapped around her so she won’t be stark naked, and she calls Him LORD! She goes in there literally expecting to DIE, and comes face-to-face with a man who turns the tables on her accusers. This man is different, why, He’s is the only God-Man!

2→ Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

Listen, when you take a sinner to God, what do YOU expect GOD to do with him?! Be careful here! If you want them ‘condemned’ for being so bad, you better get in the execution line with them!

God isn’t waiting for a person to get cleaned up! He saved you as you were! What He says to her is amplified in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus . . . “ He says, paraphrased, “You’ve met me now. Everything changes. Go on, quit that nasty stuff, and live in the light.”

3→I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Once you are exposed to The Light, you crave TheLight! Remember the woman at the well. She had a pretty sordid sexual past and present, too. But once she’d seen The Light, she didn’t mind what everybody knew so much . . . that was secondary. She ran back to the village telling the people to “come see a man who told me everything I ever did!” In her case, that’s the same as saying, “Come see a man who told me everybody I ever slept with!”

The point isn’t what she did – the point isn’t what you did – the point is Who He Is, and how He changes who you are! Our God is a God of redemption, and that includes in YOUR sex life; whether of the body or of the mind. Read the redemptive passages of Scripture!

Romans 8:28-30 applies. A few thoughts and steps spinning off of “all things work together . . .” as it relates to a sexual sin history.

A He knew you were going to do that (He did not ordain it, permit it, or endorse it, but He knew it)

B He knows who you are with now (He knows who you married and the baggage you brought)

C His mind can overtake your mind (If you don’t believe and live this, you are living in defeat; the battle is for the mind, and the saved have ‘the mind of Christ’)

D His nature can overtake your nature (”be transformed by the renewing of your mind”)

E Practice makes perfect (overcome ‘wrong sex’ with ‘right sex’; he ordained your sexuality with your spouse!). In other words, get on and stay on the right path.

Parents, what ever is a hard subject for you when you were 13-years-old (or 8, or 28) is going to be a hard subject for you to address your child on if you haven't come to terms with the Lord on it.
If you are born again and have put all your junk before God for cleansing, and have thus been renewed in your mind by His Word and Spirit, You are clean. You are redeemed from your sin, including your sexual sin. Now go and sin no more.

Being free from it -- and knowing you are free, and accepting your freedom, -- you are now free to shape the sexuality of your children without guilt, shame, remorse or embarrassment.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Parenting Design -- How Parents Can Re-Draw the Plans

I read a quote this morning that expressed how I've been feeling about my parenting lately: "Life is the art of drawing without an eraser."

This piece we are working on has many beautiful parts. It is a tapestry I'm largely proud of, in the context that any good we do is God's work. But there's a smudge here, a jagged line there, some discoloration in some places, an evil doodle in that corner. There are words of affirmation all over the piece, but a few words (maybe more than a few?) we don't want to say, hiding in the corners.

In earthly terms, you just can't undo what you've done. I've been feeling that for a few days, exacerbated nightly as Judy reads to me excerpts from a fine parenting book by parents who started doing all the right things very early. The enemy tries to condemn (this blog does not!), and I recognize discouragement as perhaps Satan's greatest tool. There are seasons when he reminds you of every mean word you ever said to a child or every situation you mismanaged. The quote and the review of our parenting life (21 kids through the home, for various lengths of time) left me wondering how much better off our children would be if we could remove the mistakes.

So what do you and I do with our parenting mistakes? We don't have an eraser. It's like we have a blood stain on a white shirt! You moms, in particular, know how hard it is to get out blood.

Ah, but Jesus turned the tide (bad pun intended, sorry). His Blood does get out stains!

The blood of Christ is an eraser. I'm not saying there are not earthly ramifications for sin, but I am reminding you that the grace of God extended from the Cross by the Holy Spirit to your life and into your family's life can clean up the nasty images, evil doodles and false starts of your work, and mine.

How?  Let's let powerful theology meet practical life. You're a parent. You've made mistakes. Your kids can name them as well as you can. You want to change courses. You have an idea how, but the past . . . has too much damage been done?  In 99 percent of cases, no. (Of course, there is the occassional extreme abuse case).

Here is what you do: Own it. Honesty and humility are great credibility builders. They are key ingredients in a holy cleanser. I've seen many intense moments with kids -- my kids, other parents and their kids -- absolutely desolve into tender love when a parent looked at a child and said, 'I blew it. I sinned, and I apologize.' Pfffft. There went the angry, evil pressure that was building.

I'm not just talking about sin in the heat of the moment -- a yelling match, a curse, a threat -- I'm talking about big picture stuff.

If you want to center the parent plan on Christ and re-shape family life when you are already years into it, just sit down the family and say so. A summary of the talk may look something like this: "Kids, we love you passionately and thank God for you. (Mom or Dad) and I have been praying and thinking about the direction our family is headed, and about how we have raised you. We want to apologize for some mistakes we have consistently made, and we want to set a new course. We want you to understand, from a Biblical perspective, why we are making changes. We're really going to need your cooperation, but we'll all find ourselves in far more peace and purposeful as we adjust."

Then tell the truth. Apologize for the bad very specificallly, then lay out a new plan. You're not surrending authority, your gaining credibility! The plan doesn't have to be perfect. I promise it won't be! But re-start. Turn it over to Christ. Let His blood cleanse yours!

Need help with the plan? Contact us.

We've been through this re-drawing thing a time or two.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Why You & Your Kids are Going Crazy

Why are you and your kids going crazy? Because you and I are like a long home run: "Going, going, going -- Gone."

Judy and I have had a rash of 'awakening' moments lately that look like this: We will be driving somewhere -- or mostly likely back from somewhere -- with our kids and a few more, and one of us will say, "Did we really need to do that? Could we have had as much fun playing a game at home, walking by the lakes that are near our house (instead of the streams an hour away), watching a movie together at home?"

We'll be tired, the kids will be cranky, we will have just spent money we don't have (so to speak). It's starting to sink in -- we GO too much. We seek to entertain ourselves -- and that's not always bad. But does an American Christian middle-class family have to be going and doing to be happy?

Strong in my spirit -- and I believe it is from the Spirit -- is the urge to stay home more, and to learn to enjoy that with my family. We have a nice home, as most of you do, so why do we so often think we have to be somewhere else to be happy?

I'm not at all against family outings, vacations, etc., but here's the crux of the matter: Most of us can honor God more with our time usage, spending and commitment to real dialogue with our children by staying home more.

This may not seem like a crucial, hard parenting issue, but we also may all be getting fooled into a busy-ness that undercuts our goals. Think about it. Don't go crazy.


Today's blog is link-intensive, as I've seen many things I want to share over the past weeks but haven't produced a blog. After a summer of administration and re-tooling, I'll be back to consistent blog production.

As I reviewed many links I had filtered about family, I found a lot of secular stories that were of use. Here's what I'm seeing: non-Christian parents are asking some of the right questions, and non-Christian researchers are seeing some of the right data. It's just that neither are coming up with the right conclusions! (mostly). Among the following links are many secular stories, but they have value as you use the data and the questions and issues to apply the Word in your context.

I realize there is more below that you can absorb in one sitting; please return to the blog from time to time and keep exploring.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Are Your Daughters Looking Sexy?

Judy and our 15-year-old girls were having a fun day  shopping last week, when I got a text from Judy that said, "Shopping for 15-year-old girls is a sample of hell." I wondered which child had pitched a fit, so I called Judy. My three ladies were getting along wonderfully, the problem was that almost everywhere they went, the clothes they found were too revealing, and it was becoming frustrating.

Such is the state of our culture. Parents, I offer you two scenarios to consider:

1 -- If you were rich, and you sent your daughter on a mission trip into a difficult part of town, would you want them to pin their money -- 20s, 50s, 100s -- to their shirt, for everyone to see. All the people who lust after money, who reach out to grab whatever they can get, however they can, would target your daughter.

2 -- If your daughter is pretty -- which would include the ability to be sexually attractive -- would you want them to advertise what God gave them by revealing it? All the men who lust after sex, who reach out and grab whatever they can get, however they can, would target your daughter.

You would never agree to display the money, such as in scenario one. But many parents, including those in the church today, are enabling the display of their daughters sexual beauty by allowing them to display too much. Stick with me here -- there is a lot to consider.

A parent might say, 'Who says it is 'sexual' beauty?' The World. And we as Christians are to be in it but not of it. Or a parent might say, 'I'm not displaying my child's sexuality, they are just going swimming in something comfortable and stylish.' But remember, sexuality is in the eye of the beholder. If your child is too young to be sexually mature, you must remember that there are, frankly, a lot of perverts out there. If you're child is into puberty, then clearly they can attract sexualized looks. You cannot put a bumper sticker across their biki bottom that reads, 'I am not sexualized, and you may not look at me that way.'

Fellow parents, I nor my bride are prudes. We don't travel via horse-drawn buggy with Judy wearing a long dress. And I have not yet bought a table cloth and punched head and arm holes in it for my daughters to wear. But there is a level of sexual impropriety -- um, just plain sin -- in our culture that demands we as Christian parents hold a higher standard for the protection of our children (foremost) and as an example.

This truth seems to escape even the church family. I am around Christian families whose girls are wearing very revealing swim suits. Why? Someone has taken an intrevenous dose of naivity, or they are downright liscivious. I'll assume the former. (Moms, aren't you grossed out by those guys walking down the beach in thong swim suits with their parts practically hanging out? If your daughters aren't wearing much more on the lower half, what's the difference?)

The Word of God clearly teaches modesty in appearance among Christian women. FirstTimothy 2:9 instructs that "women adorn themselves in modest apparel." The definition of modest is 'having or expressing a humble opinion of oneself or one's accomplishments or abilities.' (Collin's) If your children are beautiful by the world's standards, they must be humble about it. We know about struggles with this.

To dress in such a way that says, 'I'm hot,' is not modest or humble. It is sexually inviting to many. When a pretty woman gives a man way too little to imagine, he is likely imagining. Realize that you are dealing with undisciplined minds, at worst, and normal sexual attractiveness, at best.

 To help them understand, I have been frank with our girls. I have said -- when they grew out of a pair of shorts, or tried on a swim suit too revealing -- "If you wear that out, all the guys will just be imagining what little is covered up." I've asked, "Do you want to sexually arouse a man?" ("No, Daddy!!) "Then don't wear that. It is alluring to undisciplined men, whose minds are too un-Christlike not to think sinfully."

I have explained to them that men (and I mean 'boys becoming men' here, too) who see a pretty woman wearing very little, if mentally undisciplined, are very quickly aroused. I am attempting to protect my daughters by telling them the truth about what their appearance can say to other men. Since a Daddy's job is to teach his daughters how a Godly man is supposed to treat them (respectfully, not sexually until married, etc), then this is one of the things we as Dad's must do! Moms, if you are reading this, have your daughter's dads read it and see if they don't agree about how men respond, then lovingly challenge them to teach their daughters the same.

There are stylish one-piece swim suits. Tankinis are a compromise that aren't too revealing. Be wise. Be modest. But Moms and Dads, you really have to help the situation. Here's where I go to meddling instead of preaching: it's really hard to help my girls understand why they should be modestly dressed when the mothers of many of the kids their age are showing off their stuff, too. Men, you must influence your wives on this! And while you're at, some of you need to tell your wives to show a little less up top in their day-to-day wear.

This culture is oversexualized. I don't know of it being significantly different within the church, or certainly not at your neighborhood pool or lake. Honor God. Protect your daughters.

Finally, I leave you with the modesty guidelines Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, gave his daughters. They are worthy of pinning to their bedroom mirror.

  • If you have trouble getting into it or out of it, it is probably not modest.
  • If you have to be careful when you sit down or bend over, it is probably not modest.
  • If people look at any part of your body before looking at your face, it is probably not modest.
  • If you can see your most private body parts or an outline of those parts under the fabric, it is probably not modest.

 A practical must-read for any parent who ever has oversight of smaller (grade-school and under) children:

Monday, May 31, 2010

Facebook & Your Kids -- Trust Me, Read This

A few days ago a friend told me via e-mail to check the facebook photos of one of our children for one that I may not approve of. Indeed, while not severe, it was something I didn't like the look of, and I removed it. I appreciated the heads up from the fellow parent.

I cut the photo immediately because I have my children's facebook account passwords. If having their passwords doesn't sit will with you, please stick with me. More on that later.The other day I saw a post from one of our teen daughter's 'friends' on facebook that caused suspicion toward that friend. I checked out their profile and indeed was disturbed by much of what I found. (They are now blocked).

This morning I took a little more time on one of our girls' accounts. And I peaked at the friend list of a few of your kids, too (if you are of the FB Concord family) because my kids, your kids and all their friends are linked by culture and the faith we profess.

I was very disturbed by what I found.

Parents, here's the deal: Our kids 'don't want to hurt anyone's feelings' and they accept almost anyone as a 'friend.' (Either that, or some of them want some inappropriate friends. Since their human, it could be a mix of both. Mine not excluded).

What I saw today on a few of our girls' 'friends' pages and on a lot of other pages related to your kids was a bunch of nasty stuff. Foul language. Sexual language. Vast sexual innuendo, and some not-so-innuendo.

I would ask my daughters, 'Who is so-and-so' when I would find something I didn't like. Frequently the answer was, 'Oh, that's one of (John Q. Smith)'s best friends and they friend-requested me.' 'John Q. Smith' would be the name of a teenager at church who is well respected, but had a handful (sometimes more) of friends who should not be. That's how the slippery slope of bad stuff was getting in.

Here's my point: Parents should be reading this stuff! Monitor the activity. It will tell you a lot about your teen and their 'friends.' Now, indeed, many-to-most of those 'friends' on facebook may not people they know very well (which should cause a discussion about who and why to 'friend' someone), but do you want to expose them -- or allow them to expose themselves -- to the sinful, wasteland ramblings of people? And before you get the 'I'm trying to reach out to them' answer from your kids, let me simply say: really? REALLY? Do you believe that?

I mean, it's not impossible.
Or likely.

Here's an accurate summary of what I found looking at the profile of many kids I didn't recognize who were friends with mine or your children: a teen would, in his or her profile, mark their religion as 'Christian,' then I could find NOTHING or very close to nothing, on their info or wall that supported that designation. In fact it frequently supported the opposite.

When your child says to you, 'Oh, they are really not like that,' what do you say back? I say, 'You are what you say, and here's what they said,' and I quote their wall.

Hey, mine aren't perfect, and yours aren't perfect. And I'm not perfect. That would Jesus, whom we love and strive to be like. Many of our kids and your kids are striving for perfection,  looking to Jesus, battling the cultural influences -- and they need help. They need to know they can 'ignore' a friend request and even block someone. They may need you to do it for them.

At the very least, you and I need to be reading this stuff. Oh, and about having the password. Here's our privacy guidelines at home: you have privacy when using the bathroom and changing clothes. Beyond that, if we have reason to be suspicious, we inspect. That doesn't mean we are reading diaries daily and poking around all the time. We are thankful to have kids who aren't creating suspicion by the hour. Most of yours aren't, either. But it would still be blatantly stupid to give them carte blanche.

If a parent senses that they should inspect (any aspect of the child's behavior), they should.

More of us need to.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Teaching Love in a Loveless Culture

I preached a fine sermon early this morning on my foggy deck, but only two squirrels, a rabbit and whatever critters had their heads poked out of the creek, were there. And they wouldn't sit still. (The baby ducks were asleep, I'm sure, but maybe their mommy heard). Okay, I wasn't actually out there talking, but I was studying.

So here's the short version, a review of 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter. We must consistently teach and re-teach our children what is true love. The world is teaching them the wrong thing. Read the chapter carefully. Here are some things it shows me, and I encourage walking your children through these things, with discussion and examples.

In verses 1-3 we see
  • Love is more than Words
  • Love is more than Power
  • Love is more than Caring
  • Love is more than Emotions
Then we move on to see a string of attributes of love, all of which need illustration/examples for our children. We need to catch them loving, and point out that is in Biblical love. We also have to point out the contrast, gently but clearly.

Interestingly, this chapter deals with childishness in v. 11. Clearly, we are in the process of moving our children from childish, shallow, emotion-driven love to Godly-thinking, Spirit-motivated, self-sacrificing love. A verse parallel to 11, and right across the page in my Bible, is 14:20, "Don't be childish in your thinking, but be infants in evil and adult in your thinking."

The overarching definition of love as established in this chapter could be, "Selfless choosing of what is best for others, with confidence that God will work in and through them."

I pull from this text three keys to loving Biblically:

One -- Holding Your Tongue
Two -- Believing the Best About Others
Three -- Be Patient With Others
Model Biblical love to your children. Coach it. Speak of it. Contrast it with the world, because your children are seeing a selfish love, an emotion-driven-warm-and-fuzzy love that isn't love as soon as they stop being satisfied. God has given us the Words, and the Spirit, to teach true love to our children!

  • Gaming can be addicting. Heads up!
  • Paul Tripp: "Addiction: the result of seeking horizontally what is only found vertically - earth's pleasures are brief and will not satisfy the heart."
  • Any of us parents deal with anxiety? LOL. Stupid question. Think about, process, this: "Anxiety makes us doubt God's lovingkindness, & thus our love to Him grows cold; we feel mistrust, & thus grieve the Spirit of God." -- Spurgeon
  • "You and I did not invent communication and words, God did, therefore He owns our words & they should glorify Him not us." -- David Prince. This is a great truth for us to appropriate, but also to teach to our children. I don't know of I had thought of it quite that way. Sometimes just seeing something from a little different angle opens it up to us.
  • 10 Principles for Healthy Discipline, from a man who teaches well on parenting.
  • I sense that quite a number of families I have the privilege of ministering with are at or near a 'next stage' in life. Here is good, brief blog about 'moving on.'

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Suitcase Full of Joy & Hope

This morning I was standing in front of our church with a group of orphan children from all over the world who travel our country singing to honor God. They'll return to their 'homes' -- such as they are -- in a few weeks.

As I stood there with several church members who had hosted the children in their homes, I was face-to-face with a contrast that should make us re-think life.

I knew that I was going home tonight with the family project being to carry some stuff from our garage area to storage space under the house. That's what American middle- and upper-class families do: re-arrange their stuff.

Yet as I stood there I saw a nice black suit case for each child, the contents of which likely were all the worldly goods they possess. Everything. Yet they beamed happiness. They were purposeful. They were used by God. They knew joy and peace. And they did not have to have the $300 armoire at the garage sale, or store spare breakfast nook tables in the attic, or have to decide which of 15 pairs of designer jeans to wear. The pair of shoes they owned matched everything just fine.

I'm supposed to be a Bible teacher and good communicator, but I'm not exactly sure what to do with this information, this sensory shock, this reality check. I'm not trying to write a guilt trip to anyone, or I have to take the first dose of guilt. I'm not saying we should sell our stuff . . . well, maybe we should.

I just know that we value the wrong things. Period. It is tragically observable. And I know we are teaching our kids to value the wrong things. And I know that Jesus didn't teach us to do this. And I know if we obey Him, we'll stop, re-evalueate,  and adjust course (in any number of ways God calls us to).

That's my challenge to myself and to you. One great read that will challenge you the same way and perhaps help put feet to conviction is David Platt's Radical. Your middle-school-and-up kids can read it to. I encourage it.

Now, I've got to go put my spare suitcases under the house.

Links, Notes, Quotes

* VERY informative info on your children and cell phones. All parents have to look!:

* "Your decisions are only as good as the info you base them on. It's stupid to decide before knowing THE FACTS"-- Rick Warren per Proverbs 18:13

* Beethoven was deaf. Van Gogh was colorblind. Nothing is impossible. -- via Travis Garland on Twitter

* Ron Edmondson consistently produces good stuff for parents. Check it out.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Destination of Desperation

"During His earthly life, He offered prayers and appeals, with loud cries and tears, to the One who was able to to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His revererance." -- Hebrews 5:7

As a parent, do you teach and model crying out to God?

(start sarcasm) Undignified, isn't it. Crass. Raw. Crude. Just . . . image destroying. We can't been seen like that! What will our kids think? (end sarcasm)

THAT WE DEPEND ON GOD. That we desperately need Him. That we are real enough to say it and show it.

I'm not suggesting we have a nightly wailing session. But let's consider Jesus' model.

Jesus consistently:

-- Offered prayers and appeals. His habit was to communicate with His Father. That should be ours, too! 'Prayers and appeals' suggests more than merely 'give me' prayers, but real communication.

-- Prayed passionately. When we fall in love, we show passion. When we want something badly (even something shallow and very earthly), we show passion. Do we show passion when approaching God Himself, who is both God and our personal Father? We should, out of reverance, love, and for a good example.

-- Did the above out of an acknowledgement that the One He was crying out to was able to deliver Him! When we are struggling, do we model turning to God for the answers? Our kids will go where you go for answers. Do you go to pop psychology? Comfort food? Drugs or alcohol? Denial? or God your Father?

-- Was heard. Because He showed reverance! How amazing, if anybody ever had a right not to show reverance to God (and no one has that right) it would be the One Who also was God Himself. But He was humble. He was still dependent. We don't even teach our own children reverance for us, much less God, or reverance for authority.

Let's model passion and appeal to God. Let's gather as a family and lift our needs to Him together. Let's not be afraid to let our children see us needy, hurt, even desperate, because they have to know what to then as anything.

Notes, Links, Quotes

* A Discipleship Journal article on seeing God in th Dark, good for tough times; yours, or sharing with another. You might have to create a password to access, but it's free.

* A Great Encouragement for Moms, from our friends at DiscipleLikeJesus, who did our parenting conference:

* "If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it." -- Albert Einstein. OK, Einstein wasn't writing about Jesus, but I offer you this quote to stimulate thinking. When you get a crazy idea about how or when to minister, are you SURE it's crazy? Jesus did some pretty wild stuff.

* "Grace is not the permission to sin but the power to not have to sin!" -- Rick Warren

* Here's a tough one to make your children (or yourself!) understand, but keep trying:
"Waiting to FEEL right before DOING what's right is immaturity. Doing it no matter how you feel is Godliness." -- Rick Warren

* George Orwell: "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."

* "Somebody once said that the biggest difference between you and God is that God doesn’t think he’s you." -- via Josh Hunt

* "You can get all A's and still flunk life." - Walker Percy

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Simple Message about Being Simple

I was driving with 11-year-old son Morgan recently when he said, 'We need to go sit by a lake.' I said, 'Why?' Morgan said, 'Because it is very calming.'

A few days later our family was visiting a beautiful countryside property with mountains, streams and wildlife. One of our daughters commented, 'Now this is how I want to live!' The other one affirmed the thought.

Recently, we've noticed our children 'clamoring for activity' less and less -- that is, enjoying quietness, embracing simplicity. Chilling.

Not long ago, Morgan literallly asked us to limit his 'screen time' (we do anyway, but it was a rare request).

Here's where I'm going: simple is better. Uncluttered is better. As a family, we've been striving for it and most often missing for a long time, but lately I see the message getting through, lately I see us embracing the upside of down time. And I KNOW it is better!

My simple encouragement to families today is to re-evaluate (perhaps again; we've done it many times) your life, and reduce in order to add.

Take an insightful inventory:
  • Examine each frequent pleasure activity of each child and ask if that is a) good for them; b) the best use of time.
  • Count the number of things you are truly doing as a family unit (and possibly replace some of the first bullet-point with more of the second).
  • Read, during family time, what the word of God says about peace, how to have it, and solitude. Note that Jesus had a lot of each in the midst of pressures. Discuss how to adjust and make a plan.
  • Replace some eating out with eating outside, as in a picnic at the park and/or by the water. It's more fun and cheaper.
  • Practice solitude in front of your kids and with them. Teach them that boredom, at its essence, is a bad choice on their part, not a lack of activity.
  • Be missional, together. There are countless things you can do that serve others, thus honoring God and in the process building family.
We must lead our children to getting the message that more isn't necessarily better, that busy isn't necessarily productive, and that money spent doesn't equal value.

You and I have to take the lead. As we've begun to see, they'll get the message. They'll like it. But the battle (of good vs. best) will go on and we must stay in the lead. The enemy is trying to rob your family of, well, your family! He is trying to rob your mind of focus on our Lord and His purposes. He is trying to create so much mental and scheduling clutter that we cannot see through.

You have control of this. Take it. Keep it.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Keys to Biblical Confrontation, Part I (Gal. 6:1-5)

Outline/Key Points from April 18 Teaching of 'Equippers of Middle Schoolers' @ FB Concord, Knoxville, TN.

Galatians 6:1-5
1“Brothers, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, consider yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.3 For if anyone things himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.5 For each one shall bear his own load.”

1“Brothers, if a man is overtaken in any trespass” – WHEN SOMEONE SINS

you who are spiritual” ¬ -- in order to take the next action, you have to be ‘spiritual’
Spiritual = pneumatikoi – ‘of the Spirit’ pneuma – breath, wind, etc. power, life!

You who have spiritual life in Christ

RESTORE = set right

Parents, this passage applies to all Christians in a wide variety of contexts, but in a strictly parenting context, we are being told here that we have to be spiritually fit (walking with Christ) so that we can identify and correct the sin we see in our children

This is the heart of Biblical Confrontation: that you be one in mind with Christ so that you see as He sees and correct as He would correct. Intellectually, it’s as simple as that.

It is key to understand that there is no one else to do this job. It’s you. Since you are their ‘life giver’, the one who gives them, ostensibly, the most love, guidance, and encouragement, then you are their chief authority.

If an authority figure less than you – teacher, coach, pastor – tries to give corrective instruction and you do not, it is given far less – if any – value by your child. They hear mixed messages. They likely maintain the status quo, because what was told to them was not important enough for you to say it.

If you, too, are giving restorative instruction, others’ efforts are a meaningful aid, perhaps even the final nudge that moves them.


in a spirit of gentleness

Paul David Tripps writes in Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: “True love is not offensively intrusive or rude. But the Bible repudiates covering sin with a fa├žade of silence. It teaches that those who love will speak, even if it creates tense, upsetting moments.”

And it does!

And with empathy borne of self-awareness
consider yourself lest you also be tempted

I think there is dual-purpose to this encouragement. 1 – For your own holiness, health of walk with Christ and edification, be sure you are not actively doing the same thing you are correcting your child – or anyone else – for. 2 – Considering our own sin will help us deal with our children with less of an attitude or edge. As parents, we can be self-righteous at times!

"Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Bearing one another’s burdens requires genuine self-exposure, surrender, openness. We help our children when we a) hurt with them over their struggles, b) acknowledge that we do or did struggle with the same/similar thing.

This earns credibility/buy in. It gives traction to our efforts. We shouldn’t do it just for that reason – that is disingenuous – but it is a clear benefit.

3 For if anyone things himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

Don’t set yourself up as perfect, set yourself up as one who knows the Perfect One, and who seeks to pass on what you know of Him to a child who is only as sinful in his/her nature as you are!

4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.5 For each one shall bear his own load.”

This is initially a confusing verse, appearing to some to contradict verse two. But it does not. There are multiple greek words for ‘burden,’ and one in v. 2 indicates bearing a load with someone, while the one in verse five is a different word, focused on bearing solo, and a different context, indicating something more like, ‘We are each responsible for what we bear.’

In the area of parental biblical confrontation, that would mean simply that we are each responsible to do what we should do, not someone else. It is about our accountability before God.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Applying a Biblical Principle to Appropriate Consequences for Kids

If I had one message to teach Christian parents, it would be about how we must not exasperate our children (Ephesians 6:4). And while I won't launch into that message (again) in detail, I'll write about something related: the challenge we face as parents over what to withold as consequences to wrong actions.

Let me suggest some guidelines that serve the purpose of consequences without loss of purpose, or that cause exasperation:

(Almost) Never Punish by Taking Away Ministry
I had a discussion about this recently with colleague Andy Rittenhouse when I had withheld our 14- and 15-year old girls from a regular inner city ministry outing they love and where they've personally been very effective. I knew the outing had ample support and leadership, and I was simply trying to get the girls to focus and was giving them time to do so. I soft-selled it not as punishment. Nevertheless, it didn't feel right in my spirit and they were back the next week.

The overarching point is that we want our children to do ministry, and when we take it from them as a consequence, we are sending a mixed signal. We might also be keeping something from being accomplished that our Lord instructed.

(Almost) Never Punish by Taking away Something that is also Robbing Another Child not from your Family

I remember a few months ago when one of the girls' friends had five kids over for her birthday party. Something happened the day before for which I would normally have pulled the next fun event. But that would have robbed the other child of some of the joy of her party. So I adjusted to the next thing.

The same goes for team sports, where pulling the starting center fielder hurts everybody. Or where sitting your child simply sends a bad message about 'team.'

When at all Possible (and it almost always is) make a Consequence be related to What Happened

If they misuse the cell phone, restrict the cell phone, etc. I've heard of parents being so angry that they punished randomly. When there is no relation between consequence and action, the children usually just don't get the point.

What does all of this have to do with 'exasperating the child?' Everything. They are exasperated when you and I keep pounding and pounding the same message the same way -- even if we're right. They are exasperated when our signals are mixed. They are exasperated when the consequence is so unrelated that they can't even remember what they did wrong.

There are some parents who will disagree strongly with the above approach, and if they love Christ, I am not saying they can't be effective. But I have serious reservations. I think some of those are guarding their pride as much as their standards. There are a lot of my-way-or-the-highway parents who are getting neither, and their kids may leave home for college angry and frustrated because instead of a Christ-like, even-handed approach, they saw a jumble of emotion and mixed signals, and they still don't get the point.

Remember, you can be right all day long and lose. It really does matter how you make your point.


Go Gaga Over This
I don't agree with all of her rationale, but the message has some value in our culture.

Discuss This Among Your Family
"You simply cannot be a disciple without being a missionary - a sent one." -- Neil Cole

One Wise Man's 10 Lesson's Learned in Life
Food for thought/discussion:

Use This to Discuss the 'Costs' of Following Jesus -- It's Not Just Missionaries That Pay

Bulletin Board Material . . . In Honor of the Great Jackie Robinson
"A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives." -- Jackie Robinson

You Must Be Teaching the Word to Your Children . . . . apparently no one else can
7 of 10 believers claim "God helps those who help themselves" is from the bible

What Happens in a some homes: right actions, wrong reasons
"A home full of well-mannered children whose obedience is not understood through lens of the Gospel is not holy but hellish" -- David Prince

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Grace vs. Responsibility -- Understanding the Balance in Parenting

How much grace do you give your children? How much do you insist on change, when in fact you haven't changed, and they are less mature than you? Where's the line? Believe me, I know the struggle!

I've never seen a better explanation of the grace/consequence line than what follows, from Paul David Tripp's Instruments in the Redeemers Hands. Tripp is not necessarily speaking of parents in this writing, but it is not out of context to apply it so. Stick with me, this is useful stuff!

" . . . it is wrong to approach a struggling brother or sister with a condemning, self-righteous spirit. This puts you in the way of what the Lord is doing in their lives. You must grant them the same grace and love that you received from the Lord. At the same time, you do not want that offer of grace to be misunderstood. God's grace is always grace leading to change. Since God's purpose is that we would become 'partakers of his divine nature' (2 Peter 1:4), change is his agenda. As we offer people a humble, patient, gentle, forbearing, and forgiving love, we must never communicate that it is okay for them to stay as they are. As long as a vestige of indwelling sin remains, change is God's call. It must never be compromised in the relationships He gives us. To do so is to cease to be an ambassador and to stnad int he way of the Lord's work in that person's life.

"So we sturdily refuse to condemn, but we also refuse to condone."

When we lose sight of God's grace and purpose as it relates to our children, control, condemn, stand in the way. When we understand the purpose, see the big picture, recognize or own sin and the transformation He is working in us, we are effective ambassadors of God's grace, love and training.

I used the word ambassadors because Tripp did. That's what we are. We are not owners of our children. We are not mere enforcers. We are certainly not Gods ourselves. We are His representative to them while they are under our roof, primarily, though somewhat beyond.

Many parents do not clearly explain to their child that a particular action was sin. They feel harsh and don't want to hurt their child's feelings. Or they just aren't thoughtful enough about their process of instruction.

Other parents are telling their children very often what they are doing is wrong, but they are not putting it in the context of sin, or showing grace. They are, in essence, doing nothing but exasperating the child.

The balance we strive for is an even-tempered, loving, explanation and challenge to the child. "Susan, what you just said to your brother was very offensive. You sinned against God and him by running him down. Sit down and deal with it with the Lord, and then go talk to your brother. If I hear that again, there will be a consequence." Then, do what you said. Teach the family -- or the particular child -- Scripture that instructs and transforms in the areas you see them struggling.

I know, that sounds nice and tidy and simple, because it has no emotion! I wish I could do it 9-and-of-10 times! That's why we have to understand what Tripp explained above. We must get the big picture. We must see each encounter with our children's sin as a part of his grace-to-change process.

If we know our position and understand what He's doing, He will do it through us.

Links, Quotes, Notes

The Parent Lab blog post takes different forms from time to time. Today's should inform and motivate what to pray for, as the following couple of items are not solution-focused, but give cause to search out our Lord and intercede.
* A mother in our church recently send me a summary of a recent experience. It is very eye-opening as to the sexual realities of their culture. I share with permission:
 I just attended a small group of moms with teenagers and 2 senior girls from (a private school) had a Q-and-A with us. They were very OPEN and it was alarming...These are good... 'smart' girls, Heres what they said:
  • 95% of senior girls-not virgins
  • sex buddies is real--'friends with benifits'
  • oral sex is not considered sex and is common
  • cars is the place (still) parking still happens
  • the term now (vs 'go with' ) is 'talking' as in..."were talking'
  • birth control? still lots of unprotected sex, or lots of girls taking bc pills for 'other things' like complexion, their parents believe only for that.

those in 'church' or Christian groups doesnt mean they are not engaged in all this behavior-they said some of those are the worst.

Other things the mother learned:

facebook-its about the numbers, they will add anyone
inappropriate text-words, they just delete, dont tell their parents
drinking-drugs, still prevalent, some parents have 'drinking parties' at their homes, usually coincide with their own 'drinking party' with adults in other part of home.


One of the girls dad was a police officer-she said that 'gave her a good excuse'
They thought parents have huge influence,including their own choice of friends-(drinking parties)
They valued their openness with their parent-felt they could tell them anything (didnt mean they did-but felt they could)

* Check out this very well researched and written Wall Street Journal (best written paper in the world) piece from Monday on economic change and how it is impacting our generation and our kids'. It is must-read-but-makes-you-think stuff.
* A story that might inspire your kids, though obviously an over-the-top example:

* The Disciples weren't superstars. Share this with your kids and contextualize to your and their walk with Christ: