One Of The Best Pieces Of Advice For Your Kids To Turn Out Right

Take care of this, and the rest will take care of itself

I was speaking recently with a parent whose kids are grown, and I asked him what advice he would give to a young parent like myself with kids still at home.  Do you want to know what he said?  Here it is…   “One of the best pieces of advice I’d give to any parent to make sure their kids turn out right is this…

LOOK IN THE MIRROR…

And learn to take care of that person who’s reflection you see.  Because when you learn to take care of that person, and to become all that God wants you to be, you have automatically become all the parent that your kids need you to be for them as well.”

I’d have to say, that’s some great advice!

It really doesn’t matter what you say to your kids about right and wrong, or even how loudly you ‘preach’ to them about living for God, if they don’t see those things exemplified in your everyday life, they are very unlikely to stick to theirs.

The saying holds true that “Our faith is more often caught than it is taught.”

“More than you kids will become what you say, they will become who you are.”

How well are you doing at taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and most importantly, spiritually?

How well are you doing at exemplifying your expectations for your kids, not just expecting them from your kids?

Could we honestly say to our children what the Apostle Paul was bold enough to say to his spiritual children in Philippians 4:9?

“Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”

If your children do as you do:

  1. Will God bless their lives with His peace?
  2. Will you want them doing the same things that they have learned, received, heard, and seen in you?

Every day your kids are becoming something.  Something different and something more than they were yesterday.  Everyday your kids are becoming more of you.  Is the ‘you’ that they are becoming the person you want them to be?

40 Simple Bible Statements To Teach Your Kids

Here are 40 simple Bible statements/principles to teach your kids.

Bible Statements Graphic

You might find these worthy of putting on your fridge, using as a springboard for devotional ideas, or even committing to memory.  Whatever you choose to do with them, they are great foundational thoughts for your kids to know and believe.

  1. “In the beginning God…” Genesis 1:1
  2. “God is not a man, that he should lie.”  Numbers 23:19
  3. “There is no man which sinneth not.”  2 Chronicles 6:36
  4. “We will not forsake the house of our God.”  Nehemiah 10:39
  5. “For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness.” Psalm 11:7
  6. “I will love thee, O Lord.”  Psalm 18:1
  7. “As for God, his way is perfect.”  Psalm 18:30
  8. “Who is God save the Lord?” Psalm 18:31
  9. “But as for me, I will walk in my integrity.”  Psalm 26:11
  10. “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”  Psalm 34:8
  11. “Trust in the Lord, and do good.”  Psalm 37:3
  12. “I will be sorry for my sin.”  Psalm 38:18
  13. “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness.” Psalm 45:7
  14. “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
  15. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.” Psalm 48:1
  16. “Ye that love the Lord, hate evil.” Psalm 97:10
  17. “Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.”  Psalm 138:2
  18. “Great is the glory of the Lord.”  Psalm 138:5
  19. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee.” Isaiah 41:10
  20. “I am God, and there is none else.”  Isaiah 45:22
  21. “Honor thy father and thy mother.” Mark 7:10
  22. “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”  Luke 1:37
  23. “Love your enemies.” Luke 6:27
  24. “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”  Luke 6:31
  25. “He that is least among you all, the same shall be great.”  Luke 9:48
  26. “He that is not with me is against me.”  Luke 11:23
  27. “Ye must be born again.” John 3:7
  28. “God is true.”  John 3:33
  29. “This is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”  John 4:42
  30. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32
  31. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.”  John 14:9
  32. “I am the vine, ye are the branches… without me, ye can do nothing.”  John 15:5
  33. “This is my commandment, that ye love one another.”  John 15:12
  34. “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Acts 8:37
  35. “God is no respecter of persons.” Acts 10:34
  36. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”  Acts 16:31
  37. “And hath made of one blood all nations of men.”  Acts 17:26
  38. “God… commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” Acts 17:30
  39. “Our God is a consuming fire.”  Hebrews 12:29
  40. “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”  Revelation 22:13

As an added convenience, here’s a free user-friendly graphic that you can download and print to share these statements with your family.  40 Simple Bible Statements To Teach Your Kids

Bible Statements

 

Oh No, Jesus Was a Step-Child!

Help & Encouragement for Step Parents & the Church

Now the birth of Jesus was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.  Matthew 1:18

baby

Imagine with me for a moment, Jesus, the only Son of God, was:

  • The child of an “unplanned” pregnancy.
  • Conceived to an unmarried teenage girl.
  • And raised by another man other than His biological Father.

Sound familiar?

In our society today, it’s a common occurrence for children to be raised in a step family or with a step parent.  And while it may have never been God’s original plan for the family, God is using churches today that are full of step families to accomplish His work and raise up the next generation for Christ.

“In 2011, the Family Research Council found that only 46% of children in the United States will reach the age of 17 living in intact homes with both biological parents.  This same statistic was reflected in 2014, when the Pew Research Center also found only 46 percent of children were currently living in a home with both biological parents.”  

While those statistics are unfortunate, they are reality.  And this raises a very legitimate question for the church…  If over half of families today are made up of something other traditional biological families, how is that reflected in the people we are reaching in our churches?  Are we reaching, welcoming, and helping these step families that enter our doors?  Because nearly half of families who visit our church will fit into that category.

May we never look down upon them, judge them, or treat them differently than any other family in our church.  Have they made mistakes?  Yes.  Would they go back and do some things differently?  Probably.  Can they reverse time and change the past?  No.  Is there baggage that has to be worked through?  Oftentimes.  Can we love them unconditionally right where they are?  Yes.  Can they be used in ministry to advance the kingdom of God? Absolutely.  Are their children any less important to God?  No.

And may I say this very clearly and understandably – broken homes, step families, and the children of them, ARE NOT second rate to God, and should not be treated as second rate in the church.

What is the church about?  Well, it’s a place where broken people get restored, sinners are given second chances, and all are allowed time and space to heal… from their sin, their past, and their failures, no matter what it involves.

Consider a couple of note-worthy things about step families from Jesus’ family:

  1. Jesus’ step-father was a godly man who loved the Lord and loved Him.  Joseph raised Jesus like He was his own.  He trained Him, taught Him, loved Him, and no doubt helped Him to become the man’s man that He was.  Joseph was the picture of what many parents portray in the church today – godly men and women raising kids not their own, and absolutely killin’ it in the process, raising some amazingly God-loving kids.
  2. A pregnant teenage girl gave birth to the Son of God.  God works in mysterious ways, and oftentimes through seemingly bad circumstances. The same is still true today. Remember this, “A mistake on the part of a parent never makes their child a mistake in the eyes of God.”
  3. A step-parent raised the only perfect kid ever.  Certainly, Joseph had a slight advantage, raising the only perfect Son of God, but he proved that IT IS POSSIBLE to parent successfully as a step-parent.
  4. God used a step-child to change the world.  While the surrounding circumstances were certainly different than in families today, consider this thought… God used the child of a pregnant teenage girl, and who was raised by a step-father… to save the entire human race.  And God is still using kids from all family types to make a difference in His kingdom today.

If you are a member of a Bible-believing church, I hope that these thoughts will remind you to be aware of both the needs and potential of the step families within your church.

And if you are a parent with a broken marriage, a second marriage, or filling another parent’s shoes as a step-parent, I hope that these words encourage you.  I also hope that they challenge you, and remind you that God’s greatest work ever accomplished in the world came through an “untraditional” family – a family that was yielded to Him and committed to the process of godly parenting, regardless of their circumstances.

No doubt, what God has called you to in this season of your life has its own unique set of challenges that some of us may never fully understand, but please know that I am praying for you today.  Praying that God would give you strength, stamina, and the spirit of a Joseph or a Mary for the specific situations that you face.

God loves you, the church loves you, and we desperately need your help to raise the next generation of world-changers!

Thanks Mom

For thinking about me, praying for me, and dreaming about who I would one day become, before you even knew me… thanks, Mom.

Thanks

For carrying me in your womb and all of the inconveniences you endured for nine months to bring me into this world… thanks, Mom.

For going though the pangs of death to offer me life… thanks, Mom.

For feeding me, bathing me, burping me, changing me… thanks, Mom.

For staying up late and getting up early to keep our house a home… thanks, Mom.

For washing dishes, folding laundry, and mopping floors with a smile… thanks, Mom.

For feeding our family’s hungry faces when it seemed you’d just finished the meal before… thanks, Mom.

For attending my plays, concerts, and games, and being my taxi driver to do it all… thanks, Mom.

For always being there to talk to when I needed it most… thanks, Mom.

For staying up late worrying about me and my problems… thanks, Mom.

For being a woman of prayer and taking those problems to the throne room of God on my behalf… thanks, Mom.

For enduring the many times I took you and all you did for me for granted… thanks, Mom.

For ’setting me stright’ when I wanted it the least, but needed it the most… thanks, Mom.

For teaching me that life is about more than just living, but loving… thanks, Mom.

For helping me see and come to know the One who loves me most… thanks, Mom.

For giving me wisdom and counsel for life’s big decisions… thanks, Mom.

For being much more than just a mother, but a friend… thanks, Mom.

For all those times you showed mercy on me when I deserved something else… thanks, Mom.

For all those times you gave me exactly what I deserved… thanks, Mom.

For teaching me things about life that I could have never learned from a book… thanks, Mom.

For showing me love that I could have never experience apart from yours… thanks, Mom.

For never giving up on me, even when others did… thanks, Mom.

For being my biggest cheerleader, my greatest fan, and one of my closest friends… thanks, Mom.

Mom, I wish I could give you all the thanks that you deserve, but I hope that I always show you, and that you always know, how truly grateful I am for you in my life.  No matter what has ever come between us or kept us apart, please accept these two simple words, from my heart to yours, with truest sincerity… THANKS, MOM!  I love you.

(If you’re thankful for your mom, share this and tag her.)

How & Why To Talk To Your Kids About Gender Identity

The Ball Has Just Been Put Into Our Court

Whether we like it or not, as parents we’ve been thrust into a situation by recent events that requires us to have a much-needed conversation with our kids about gender identity.

HOW & WHY

But while America is struggling to know their identity, your family doesn’t have to.

And while the events of the past week or so seem to demand it, some might still question why a parent would want to address this issue with their children.  Here are a few practical reasons:

  • If they don’t hear it first from us, they will hear it sooner or later from someone else (and probably not from our same perspective).
  • We set ourselves up for an awkward and possibly unexpected situation when our kids go into a public restroom, only to come out with many more questions than when they went in.
  • It gives us an opportunity as parents to teach our kids God’s perspective of human/gender identity.

Here are a couple of important points to bring out in talking to your kids…

GOD is absolutely CLEAR on the issue

While the world around us struggles to determine the truth of who and what they are, God has already made it perfectly clear and easily understandable, even for a child:

  • God created us in His image.  (Genesis 1:26-27)
  • God created us male and female.  (Genesis 1:27)
  • God created us with a specific gender for our unique purpose in mind. (Genesis 1:28, 2:15,18)
  • God alone decides a person’s gender, and has made obvious and undeniable ways of identifying that gender from birth. (Psalm 139:14-16)

By teaching your kids these basic biblical truths, they’ll be able on their own to identify truth from error when they hear it.  Teach your kids that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that His Word never changes, but is timeless, regardless of what the world does.

The WORLD is utterly CONFUSED on the issue

Sadly, we live in a very confused society who has allowed itself and it’s culture to be shaped by it’s pet sins rather than any form of truth whatsoever.

Consider this quote from the American College of Pediatricians…

“A person’s belief that he or she is something they are not is, at best, a sign of confused thinking. When an otherwise healthy biological boy believes he is a girl, or an otherwise healthy biological girl believes she is a boy, an objective psychological problem exists that lies in the mind not the body, and it should be treated as such. These children suffer from gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria (GD), formerly listed as Gender Identity Disorder (GID), is a recognized mental disorder in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-V)” 

Saying that anyone can be anything or any gender they choose and has rights to go into any bathroom they choose is simply naive and twisted.  Just ask any child, and they’ll be able to tell you “the way things are supposed to be.”  So why does our society believe they must push such confusion upon our children and future generations, not to mention intentionally subjecting the ones we are responsible to protect to a whole new world of unnecessary dangers?

The answer is very simply this – the world we live in is a very sinful, deceived, and confused place.

When the world around us decides to make laws that not only contradict the Bible, but so clearly go against common sense, we have not only confused the culture, we have chosen to confuse the future generations and worldview of our children and grandchildren.

We do well to teach our children that the world is confused, and God is not the author of confusion. (I Corinthians 14:33)

But most importantly, we must not miss teaching our children this last point…

CHRISTIANS must be CONFIDENT yet COMPASSIONATE on the issue

While we as Christians need to stand unapologetically upon the truth of God’s Word, may we always do it in a way that reflects well of Christ in a world so desperately in need of Him.  In the way we talk to our kids about the issue, may we transfer to them a love for a lost world that needs God’s truth to set them free.   And may we help prepare them to be grounded in the truth for the future challenges that they are sure to face in their own lives.

As the world gets further and further away from truth, they will hate more and more those who speak it.  But may that never change our love for the people behind the sin. Remember that the way that we present the truth will affect the way that our children believe it.

Our children need to hear about this issue from a grace-filled, biblical standpoint, and the best ones to talk to them about it is not the church, or the schools, but the parents.

Our kids are watching to see how we respond to this this issue, and the way we do has the potential to greatly impact them and their future mindset, either positively or negatively. We can inadvertently instill within them an animosity towards those who reject the truth, or just as easily instill within them a compassion towards those same people.

It is still possible to teach our children to love the sinner and hate the sin, by helping them understand that the real enemy is Satan, not any person (Eph. 6:12).  But we must intentionally demonstrate the love of Christ in our approach.

God has given us a great privilege to raise up the next generation of grace-driven, Holy Spirit filled, confident, yet compassionate world changers to take God’s truth into the future.  And issues like this one give us as parents a great opportunity to maximize upon that calling.

Let me strongly encourage you to talk to your kids about these important truths, and even use the points and scriptures referenced above to help you do it.

“We can stand for Christ without compromising truth; we can love the lost without losing our testimony; and we can raise up a generation who understands how to do both.”

The truth of John 8:32 applies now more than ever before for ourselves, our children, and the world around us… “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

If you agree, please share.  Whether you agree or not, I’d love for you to share your feedback.

It’s Not a Perfect Life, But It’s a Wonderful Life

As I write this, it’s 6:30 in the morning, and I’m sitting at my kitchen table looking at the beautiful sunrise out the back sliding-door window of our home.

Wonderful Life

As the sun rises in from the east, it brings in just enough natural brightness that I don’t have to turn on any lights, while at the same time, it magnifies all the fingerprints and smudges of dirty little hands that have gone in and out of our sliding glass door.

Just behind those innumerable smudges I can see lush, green grass that’s screaming at me to cut it once again (“Didn’t I just cut you last week?”), as well as a handful of other backyard projects that have been waiting (not so patiently) to get done.

Just last week we had our carpet cleaned in the house including our very light-colored carpeted stairs. However, yesterday at lunch, when I asked my 6 year old son, Shane, to throw away an avocado seed that had fallen on the floor, he ‘accidentally’ missed the trash can (while trying to slam dunk it, no less), and the brightly green-covered seed went rolling down the freshly cleaned stairs, plopping one green spot after another down each stair it hit on its decent to the bottom.

Ah, yes, and this is the same 6 year old boy, who on the same day climbed up a tree so high that we thought we were going to have to call the fire department to come and get him down (at least, alive, anyway).

We won’t even mention any of the other details of the week like running late to soccer practice because our little guy couldn’t find his gear (again), or the bathroom sink deciding to discharge instead of drain (not actually the little guy’s fault), or the fact that is was also my night to do the dishes (I love doing dishes… not).  Like I said, we won’t mention any of those things…

What I’ve come to realize is that we don’t live a perfect life… and we never will.  Because life is not meant to be lived perfectly.

But quite honestly, when I stop to think about it, would I really want to have it any other way?  Is a perfect life really what I want?  Will clean windows, cut grass, spotless floors, and perfectly draining sinks really make my life fuller and more meaningful?…

Do I want to one day look back upon my life and family with perfect, bland memories – nothing too exciting, too adventurous, too challenging, or too unexpected?  Yes, I sometimes resent those unpredictable circumstances in the heat of the moment, but are they really all that bad in the bigger picture of life?

Or do I want to remember my family life as a wonderful journey and adventure with unpredictable twists and turns that God took us on together… to grow us, and to grow each other, both in the little every day imperfections of life, as well as in the bigger challenges we’ve faced?

Our life’s not perfect, but I don’t really think that I want it to be perfect, because quite honestly… wonderful is far better than perfect.

And I’d have to say, I wouldn’t have it any other way… IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE!

Please share if you agree.  I’d also love to hear something about your wonderful, yet imperfect life. You can let me know by leaving a comment.

There’s No App To Replace Your Lap

Why Reading To Your Kids Still Matters

With the growth of media apps and YouTube use rising among children, kids are spending less time reading and more time ‘playing’, than ever before.

Portrait of happy family with two children looking at camera and laughing

Yet, in a world full of media gadgets, it’s still a good thing for kids to experience the wonders found in reading a book.  And one of the best places for them to develop an appetite for reading books is by reading them with mom and dad while they are still young.

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents” – Emilie Buchwald

While the benefits to childhood reading are numerous, here are couple reasons to keep in mind of why you might want to require your kids to put down their gadgets for a while and pick up a good old-fashioned printed book, or better yet, sit down and read one with them.

  1. Reading develops your child’s brain by opening up new worlds of imagination and possibilities.

All of us know this, but how easily it is to forget it.

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” – Richard Steele

Our oldest son who’s 13 recently decided on his own that he was going to refrain from any media/movies between Mondays – Thursdays.  Instead, he’s chosen to devote more time to reading.  The other day he told me, “Dad, when I know I’m not going to be watching any tv, I feel like I get even more into my book and just want to keep reading more.”

Reading a good book naturally has a way of drawing you in and trying to keep you there for a while, all while at the same time stretching your mind and imagination to think outside the box.  Our children’s imagination is something that they desperately need to use, yet it’s increasingly getting lost by the wayside with each generation.

“Reading is important because if you can read, you can learn anything about everything, and everything about anything.” – Tomie DePaola

The benefits of reading far exceed and are superior to the benefits of the other mindless activities that we often subject ourselves and our children to.

  1.  A love for books and reading is a gift that you give to your children.

“There is no substitute for books in the life of a child.” – Mary Ellen Chase

The younger a parent starts reading to a child, the more likely it is that they will become a reader themselves.  And not only that, the more they are read to, the more easily they will acquire the skills needed to learn to read themselves.

According to statistics from Scholastic, “Strong correlations exist between parental actions and the frequency with which children read. For example, among children who are frequent readers, 57% of parents set aside time each day for their child to read, compared to 16% of parents of children who are infrequent readers.”

When you read to or with your kids, you are instilling within them an appetite and thirst for knowledge and mental engagement, which are things not as easily found by sitting in front of the tube or a device.

In addition, when a parent holds both a child and and a book at the same time, it creates a natural bond by communicating a love for reading and a love for the child.  Kids naturally enjoy being read to, especially by their parents.

And while we’re talking about teaching them the importance of reading, let’s not forget to both show them and teach them the importance of reading the most important book of all – the Bible.

One of the greatest gifts a parent can give to their kids is simply to read to them, because there’s no app to replace your lap.

By taking the time to regularly read with your child:

  • You’re showing them that reading is worthwhile.
  • You’re sowing seeds for a lifelong relationship with books.
  • You’re helping them fall in love with the printed word at an early age.

So, how are you doing?

Remember, there is no app to replace your lap.

“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild… to pick up a book, and read to a child.”  Dr. Seuss

Radical Parenting In A Permissive World

A Guest Post on FierceDad.com

If we listen to the society around us, we’d be led to believe that the way we were raised as kids is no longer culturally acceptable or the norm. happy young family have fun on beach run and jump at sunset

Parents need to be less strict, more permissive, and allow their children to have more freedom than in previous generations, right?

Well, many parents who were once lovingly and sternly held accountable for their actions by their own parents have for some reason abandoned that philosophy of parenting for a softer and more “tolerant” approach with their own kids.

In a world where tolerance is the word of the day, should parents follow suite to a permissive culture?

I recently wrote a guest post for my friend, Grant Cox, over at FierceDad.com, and in it I answer the question, “What does radical parenting look like in a permissive world?

It’s pretty direct and to the point, and I think that you’ll find it to be both helpful and challenging. I’d encourage you head over to FierceDad.com and check it out.

For the next generation,

Andrew 

Should Parents Talk To Their Kids About The Rapture?

They Want To Know, And They Will Have Questions

Here’s an important topic that your kids need to be educated about (preferably, by you) – the Rapture.

The Rapture

I Thessalonians 5:2  For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.

We believe that at any moment of any day, Jesus Christ can return, taking us out of this world, thus initiating the beginning of the end of the world.  What a wonderful and glorious day it will be… for us, the saved.  But what a terrible and dreadful day it will be… for the lost world.

Do your kids know about it?  Here are some candid questions to ask them about the Rapture:

  1. Do you know what the Bible says could happen at any moment of any day that will change the entire world?
  2. Do you know what this event is called, and why? (The Rapture or the Second Coming of Christ)
  3.  Who will be taken when Jesus comes back?  Who will be left?
  4.  What will happen to Christians after Jesus returns?  What will happen to the world after Jesus returns?
  5. How can a person know if they will be taken with Jesus, or left behind with the world?

By asking these questions, it will give you a basic understanding of what your kids do and don’t understand, as well as a great springboard for further discussion and education on the topic. (While your kids need to know about this Biblical event, use your discretion based upon their age and maturity as to how much detailed information they are ready for concerning the end times. Even the youngest of kids can understand that “Jesus is coming back”, while the oldest may be ready for as much as you can possibly tell them.)

Whether your kids are already aware of the Rapture, or hearing about it for the first time, they’re sure to have questions.  Which is a wonderful thing, providing you with an opportunity to be the primary faith influencer in your child’s life by answering these questions of utmost importance.

Here are a few of the questions our kids have asked about the Rapture:

  1. What will happen to kids who aren’t old enough to be saved yet?
  2. What about people who have already died and went to Heaven, what happens to them?
  3. When will it happen? Will it happen in our lifetime?
  4. Will people be able to be saved after the Rapture?

All of these questions and more have prompted great discussions for our family that have allowed us to teach and train our children about Biblical doctrines and values concerning this topic. However, when it comes to talking about the Rapture and end times with our kids, we only give concrete answers when the Bible does.  Other possible questions and answers we simply discuss and digest together.

Think about this with me…  If the world as we know it could end at any moment (and it could), and our children will be affected by such an event as much as we are (and they will), why wouldn’t we want for them to be informed and prepared?

Not to mention that if Jesus doesn’t return in our generation, He likely may in the next, and it’s our responsibility to make sure that our children are ready, both for themselves, and the world around them that desperately needs the life-changing message of Jesus.  It will be our children who will be the ones to carry the urgent torch of faith and the gospel into future generations.

As you educate your kids on this topic, use some of these great Scriptures to help you give clarity and explanations to their questions:

  • I Thessalonians 4:13-18
  • I Thessalonians 5:1-10
  • Matthew 25:1-13 (key verse – 13)
  • I Corinthians 15:51-53

Here are a few simple talking points from the passage in I Thessalonians 5:1-10 to help your kids better understand the Rapture, and how it’s different for the lost and the saved:

  1. For us, He comes as our returning King. To the world, He comes as a thief in the night.  5:4  (Discuss with your children, what does this mean?)
  2. For us, it’s a time to anticipate. To the world, it’s a time to fear.  5:3  (Encourage your kids to explain why we would anticipate it, while the world would fear it.)
  3. For us, we must watch and work until He comes. To the world, they must repent and believe before He comes.  5:6  (What kind of important things has God given us to do until the Rapture?  What happens if the lost don’t repent and believe before the Rapture?)
  4. For us, our eternal destiny is secure in Christ.  To the world, their eternal fate is hanging in the balance.  5:9  (As Christians, should we be more comfortable knowing that we are saved, or more uncomfortable knowing that the world is lost, or both?)

In addition, talking to your kids about the Rapture gives you a great opportunity to:

  • Highlight every person’s need of the gospel (2 Peter 3:9)
  • Stress the necessity of our Christian witness (2 Corinthians 5:8-11)
  • Emphasize the need for godly living so as to always be ready to meet Christ unashamed (I John 2:28, 2 Peter 3:10-14, Titus 2:12-13)

I’ll admit, it takes a little courage as a parent to address a weighty topic like this with your kids, but they want to know, they need to know, and the best person to educate them about it is you!  Are you up for the challenge?

(If you’re a family that’s striving to spend time together in God’s Word through family devotions/faith talks, I’d encourage you to take this content and use it as family devotional material.)

Fill Your Backyard With Memories

Making Home More Than Just A Place To Come, But A Memory To Cherish

This past summer, the Lord blessed our family with the privilege of purchasing a new home out in the country with 2.5 acres of land.

happy young family outdoors

Our family loves it, and it’s already provided us with numerous hours of outside fun, from football to basketball, shooting bow and arrows and plenty of playing in the snow. Not to mention other activities that include a new zipline, building good guy/bad guy forts, and having a huge burn pile, which the boys absolutely love.

The Opportunity To Make Memories Is Now, But Not Forever

As the days pass, I realize more than ever before that my children, while still young, are not going to be young forever.  Even within the next 7-8 years, some of our children could be coming over to our home to visit because they’re married and have kids of their own. Wow. Scary.

When that day comes, I want for them to be able to walk though our home or into our backyard, and be flooded with good memories that fill every square foot of our 2.5 acres.  I want for them to be able to go to any area in our back yard and be reminded of good times shared and love shown.

I can remember as a child when my grandparents were alive, I’d spend a lot of time at their house. Grandpa and I would play catch in the driveway and climb trees in the yard.  I would play endless games of Yahtzee at the kitchen table with Grandma while eating out of the long plastic tubed bag of white powdered donuts with a tall glass of milk.  I would lay on the middle of their living room floor and watch Nick TV (and since our family didn’t have cable growing up, that was quite the treat).

My parents now live in that same house, and every time I go there, when I stop to look around and ponder the past, I can see memories of all of those things exactly where they happened.  Those parts of my childhood in that house still bring back a flood of good memories.

What I Want For My Kids To Remember Most 

I want the same thing to be true for my children when they one day come home to visit their “empty nester” mom and dad.  I don’t want their strongest memories to be of the times we watched a bunch of movies together (although we enjoy doing that), or of the times we sat around playing video or smartphone games (although we do that occasionally).

I want them to walk through a flood of a different kind of memories as they approach our home.  I want for there to be so many memories of good times we shared that they could take their son or daughter around our yard, telling all the stories of the things they did and the blessed life they were privileged to live in this place.

I want them to walk into our home, and be reminded of all the times we wrestled together on the living room floor.  I want them to remember the many times we sat on the couch and opened the Word of God together as a family.

I want them to walk into the dining room and remember the meals we shared, the conversations we had, the games we played, and all of the living and loving that was shared across those few square feet of table space.

I want them to look into the kitchen, and when they see mom fixing yet another meal, to remember all the good meals we enjoyed together, and the times we shared eating, laughing, and enjoying life together in that same place.

I want them to walk into their rooms and be reminded of images of mom and dad tucking them into bed at night and kissing them on the forehead, as well as memories of us praying with them at their bedside.

I want for our home to be not just a place that they come, but a memory that they cherish… A place that makes them feel special, no matter how old they are, because this is the place where our family became friends, where our moments became memories, and where our love became life.

How’s It Going To Happen?

So… in order to “fill my backyard with memories”, what do I need to be doing today? Well, it all happens one memory at a time…

  • I need to be carving out time to play football regularly with my boys (Two of them are determined to be in the NFL, you know.)
  • I need to be getting home on time at night so that I can prioritize those moments that will one day become precious memories.
  • I need to be disciplining myself to say no to other things ‘demanding’ my time so that I can say yes to my kids.
  • I need to resist the urge to be selfishly motivated, and make time to put the needs and desires of my children above my own.

2.5 acres of back yard is a lot of space to fill with a ton of memories.  I’m trying to add to those memories weekly, if not daily.  In fact, I think it’s about time that I sign off.  My 6 year old is tugging on my arm letting me know it’s time to go shoot some more arrows with him in the back yard :)

Back Yard 2

Shane doing one of his favorite things

Back Yard 1

Our youngest enjoying the back yard

It’s a work in progress, but I’m still working on it.  Thanks for listening to me share my heart. Hopefully, it may encourage you as well.  What about you?  What things will you do today to “fill your backyard with memories”?

7 Practical Keys To Balancing Family, Work & Ministry

A Busy Leader's Guide To Keeping First Things First (Part 2)

Last week, we started answering ‘The Big Question’… How in the world do I balance it all?  You can read last week’s article by clicking here.  Whether you serve as full-time staff, a bi-vocational pastor, or a ministry volunteer, this article will help you get off to the right start when it comes to finding balance.

Work Life Balance

Today, I want to share with you 7 practical keys to balancing family, work, and ministry that have helped bring the needed balance in my family life and ministry.

So here they are… How many of these 7 things are you practicing?

1. Leverage your mornings

One of the greatest keys to successfully balancing your life and schedule most often starts at the beginning of every day.  How you start your day often determines the success of the rest of it.

Some of your most productive and focused time can be found early in the mornings when both your mind and your focus has a fresh start.  In a recent article, I outlined some practical ideas for how to Jumpstart Your Mornings.  I’d encourage you to read it to find out more.

2. Leave the office on time

This needs to be based on a timeframe, not based upon your to do list.  There are many nights when I could easily stay and work for a couple more hours getting things done, but I have to remind myself to go back to my order of priorities – God, family, then work or ministry.  I’m sure you find yourself in those same shoes often.

It’s important to remember that even if I got it all done, there will still always be more to do tomorrow. Why is it that we more quickly shortchange our family than we do our work?

How would you answer these two questions?… When’s the last time you prioritized your work at the expense of your family?  When’s the last time you prioritized your family at the expense of your work? Unfortunately, for most of us, the answer to at least one of those questions is probably pretty obvious.

It’s understandable that there will be necessary and even intense seasons or times of staying late or working overtime, but if those times ever become the majority or the norm, our family is sure to notice, and they have every right to view it as a legitimate concern.

We can’t afford for the gap between what we say are our priorities, and what our family actually sees as being our priorities, to be very wide. If our work is truly that much and that pressing, here’s what I would suggest you do – steal an hour from your sleep at night by staying up an hour later or getting up and hour earlier, before making it a regular habit of daily stealing an hour or more away from your family.

3. Take a day off

If you are on a church staff and feel like you have too much to do that it’s not possible to take a day off, here are a few suggestions you may need to consider:

  • Meet with your pastor and ask him for help and understanding in how to best minimize your work load.
  • Find creative ways to delegate tasks that anyone can do, but that you are currently doing.
  • Learn to identify and eliminate things that in the grand scheme of things are time wasters and unnecessary. (more thoughts on this in the next point)

If you have no choice about not having a day off simply because you’re serving in ministry bi-vocationally or some other situation, I would just encourage you to have a plan for that schedule not to be a long-term plan.

My family loves my day off maybe even more than I do. My kids will often ask me in the mornings, “Is today your day off, Dad?” or, “How many more days until your day off?”, because they look forward to it as much as I do, knowing that we’ll get to spend extra time together and have fun.

4. Eliminate what’s unnecessary

  •  What are you currently doing that could be done by someone else?
  • What are you doing that you could stop doing, and it wouldn’t really negatively affect anyone or anything in your organization?
  • What are you doing that you could train someone else to do and/or delegate to someone else in your ministry?
  • What are you doing that anyone could do that is keeping your from succeeding at doing what only you can do?
  • What kind of things is your family participating in that are just filling up space on your calendar without really contributing to your overall purpose and direction as a family?

My guess is that if you’re serious about finding balance, there are some things that you could eliminate from your life and schedule if you really wanted to.

5. Combine family and ministry when possible

Don’t ever get the mistaken idea that there is a fine and definite line between family life and ministry life. They can often be the same, killing two birds with one stone.

Obviously, ministry can’t be the only times you’re spending quality time together as a family, but it certainly should be included in those times. Learn to take some of your kids with you when running ministry errands or making visits.

Serving in ministry together as family can be one of the greatest ways to instill and transfer a passion for serving Christ in your children.  Be creative as a parent in making things like visitation and serving others a fun and enjoyable experience.

Whether that means that they get to have a responsibility in those areas of service, or simply letting them know you’ll be going out for ice cream following times of family ministry, make ministry and serving the Lord together a common and memorable occurrence.

6. Protect your evenings

Evenings need to primarily be family times (keep at least 2-4 open nights a week).  Follow a plan by being intentional with themes, activities, devotions, etc. You want your wife and kids to anticipate when you come home each evening, and nothing speaks this louder than when you have special things planned to do together.  (Here’s a Perfect Family Game Plan you need to check out that will make you the family hero.)

7. Ask God for Help!

This should be able to go without saying, but we need to be reminded.  The Bible says in James 1:5 to ask God for wisdom, and He will give it to you.

Ask the Lord to show you how to better balance your family life and ministry life. Ask some spiritual leaders in your life to help you evaluate your effectiveness in the way you work, and some ways they see that you could become even more effective. Because usually those who work with you can see ways that you can be more effective if you’ll just be willing to ask them, and then humbly and openly receive and apply what they tell you.

While I don’t know your specific situation or what burdens you carry, what I do know is this – God never intended for your Christian life to be an unending rat race that you can never keep up with.

  • God never intended for your family to take a back seat to your ministry.
  • God never intended for your ministry to keep you away from your personal time with Him.
  • God never intended for you to always feel stressed or to carry your burdens alone.

Maintaining balance between ministry and family life IS POSSIBLE!  There are many ministry leaders who are both Godly and successful both in their ministries and their homes. But it does take intentionality, a plan, and the help of God to carry it out. Are you willing to go through the uncomfortable process of developing and carrying out such a plan?

“Remember, there’s just one thing that every person has that’s exactly the same – time.  No one gets more and no one gets less.  Its all in how we choose to manage it.”

I hope that these 7 practical things are helpful to you.  Which of these 7 things do you think is the most important?  What would you add to the list that you’ve found to be helpful to maintaining balance in your life?  I’d love to hear and learn from you!

The Big Question… How In The World Do I Balance It All?

A Busy Leader's Guide To Keeping First Things First (Part 1)

BALANCE…  we all want it.  We all need it.  Yet it’s a bit harder of a thing to find than it is a word to say.

Balance

In my 2015 Reader Survey, I found that over half of the readers on my blog are either paid staff or leaders in some capacity in their church or children’s ministry.

And when asked these questions, “What is the #1 challenge you are facing or question you would like answered about the family… children’s ministry… and ministry and leadership”, the overwhelming response to all three questions was the same – How Do I Balance It All – family, work, ministry, etc.?

I can certainly relate with this challenge, having struggled through the years to find this balance myself.  But thankfully, while I’ve by no means arrived, I do feel at a place in life having better balance than any time before.

While these principles may come from the slant of a pastor’s perspective, whether you serve as full-time staff, a bi-vocational pastor, or a ministry volunteer, I believe that these principles can apply to all of us if we’re willing to implement them.

So with those thoughts in mind, let’s address the issue of The Big Question – How in the world do I balance it all?

Here’s three things that are the best place to start…

1. DETERMINE YOUR ORDER OF PRIORITIES – God, Family, then Ministry

Long before God established the church, He instituted the family, as both the cornerstone of society and the world itself.  (Genesis 1:27-28, 2:22-24)

From the start, we must understand that before we will ever find balance in our lives, our families, and our ministries, we must align our order of priorities with God’s – He comes first,  our family comes next, and the ministry follows.

While God’s calling to the ministry is one of the greatest on earth, it is not above God’s calling upon our lives to be husbands or wives, and fathers or mothers.

Because no matter what we accomplish through our ministries, if we fail to accomplish God’s plan through our family, we’ve truly made a deal with the devil that’s not worth the trade-off.

Far too many Christian families have been guilty of prioritizing their work for God above their love for family, and ended up losing their family as a result.  God never intended it to be that way, nor does it have to be.

I submit to you that it is possible to serve in a busy and growing ministry while at the same time having a thriving and successful family life.  It simply takes intentionality about prioritizing what matters most.  (This is one of the reasons I recently introduced The Intentional Family Game Plan as a free resource. If you haven’t, you owe it to yourself to check it out.)

Remember this – you may invest into multiple churches or ministries throughout your lifetime, but God has given you only one family to invest in.  Following your relationship with the Lord, your family is to be your primary priority.  God. Family. Ministry.

Once you’ve determined your priorities, you need to…

2. DEVELOP YOUR SCHEDULE AROUND THOSE PRIORITIES 

This requires that you intentionally evaluate your life, your time, and your schedule, to see if they’re lining up with your priorities.  Because no matter what we say our priorities are, if our daily life doesn’t back them up, they’re nothing more than words, and we’ve successfully deceived ourselves into thinking that good intentions equal intentionality.

Sadly, it’s much harder to deceive our families, because whether we want to admit it or not, they know where they land in our order of priorities.

You may have heard of Stephen Covey’s powerful illustration of the big rocks (representing your most important priorities) and the small pebbles (representing the secondary things in your life that are of less importance).

In his illustration, if you pour the small pebbles into a jar first, then try to fit all of the big rocks on top, it’s impossible to fit them all.  But if you put the big rocks into the jar first, pouring the small pebbles in afterwards, the pebbles fill the cracks in between the big rocks, allowing everything to fit in the same jar after all.

Rock Illustration

The point is simple – that first things must come first… then the rest.  Learn to prioritize what matters most first, and then do those more trivial things.

Unlike the illustration, sometimes, even after scheduling what matters most first, you still won’t have time for all of the more trivial things, and guess what, that’s okay.  Learn to accept it.  Life will go on, and the most important things will have been accomplished.  This has been a hard lesson for me to learn.

I’ve found that the best and sometimes only way to make all of this happen is to put in on your schedule.  Because what get’s scheduled gets done.

Finally, you must…

3. DEPEND ON SOME PEOPLE YOU TRUST TO HELP HOLD YOU ACCOUNTABLE

Once you’ve determined and scheduled your priorities, make yourself vulnerable, and your schedule of priorities available to someone else that you trust.  It might be your spouse, a good friend, or someone else you trust to have your best interest in mind.

When it come to balancing ministry and family for me, I’m very blessed with a pastor/boss who not only exemplifies such balance himself by following a pre-determined schedule that includes consistently leaving the office each night on time, but he strongly encourages his staff to do the same.

Whether you find yourself in a similar situation or not, take matters into your own hands to both hold yourself accountable and find someone else to help hold you accountable as well.

While these three things may seem like overly practical reminders of how to set your priorities, I hope you’ll personally and honestly answer the question of whether or not you’ve actually taken the time to do them, and then take whatever actions necessary.

Once you’ve done these things, you’ve laid the groundwork for successfully benefiting from what I’ll be sharing with you in the next post – 7 Practical Keys to Balancing Family, Work, & Ministry. These are seven things that I’ve learned to put into practice that have helped to bring the needed balance in my life, and I trust that they’ll help you to do the same in yours.

“Remember, balance is never an instant luxury to be assumed, it’s an ongoing discipline to be achieved.”

If you’ve found the tips in this article to be helpful, please share it with others!