“Mommy, Do All Dogs Go to Heaven?”

What to tell your child when their pet dies

Our family recently watched the new movie, The Stray, and it was quite a tear-jerker.  (Spoiler alert…) While it was a very clean and enjoyable movie, it could potentially raise some serious questions from your kids about what happens when a family pet dies.

Because let’s be honest, for most families, it’s likely bound to happen sooner or later. For one reason or another, a beloved family pet will die.  

And when it does, what is a family to do?  What are parents supposed to say?  How do you answer all of your kids’ questions about death, eternity, and if they will ever get to see their pet again?

Losing a family pet can be a difficult thing, especially for a child.  But it can also be a positive thing for preparing a child to know how to cope with the struggles of life and the realities of death that they are certain to face as they age.

Whether your family has experienced this, or have yet to, here are a few thoughts to help you discuss this sensitive subject with your kids (or to file away for future use):

  1.  God created pets for our enjoyment because He loves us

A family pet has the potential to be so enjoyed that they oftentimes become “one of the family.” We connect with them emotionally, and they bring us great joy and happiness. This is a beautiful reminder of the good gifts that God has given us to enjoy in His creation. 

If you remember in Genesis 1:24-25, after God created the “living creatures”, He saw that they were good.  And in the next verse, vs. 26, he tells us that God made them for man.

But not only did God give them to us to enjoy, He gave us dominion over them as well – Genesis 1:28.  As humans, we are overseers of not only our beloved pets but over all of God’s creation.

  1. God created animals differently than he did humans

Genesis 1:7  God breathed into man the breath of life, and man became a living soul.

God has placed eternity in the hearts of human beings.  He has not done so with animals.  Animals are unlike humans in that God has created us with a soul, an understanding of right and wrong, and an ability to connect personally with our Creator. In addition:

  • We are conscious of the future.  Animals live only for the moment.
  • We can understand the concept and consequences of our actions upon our future.  Animals can only live for what is most pleasant here and now. (Their #1 thought is their next meal.)
  • We were created for a higher purpose that matters for all of eternity.  Animals serve one primary purpose – for the benefit and enjoyment of mankind.

Just as God created animals different than us, God’s love for them is also different than His love for us.  Mankind is God’s prize creation. This is why God sent His only Son to the cross to save the souls of men. 

  1.  God doesn’t promise that our pets will be in Heaven, but He does promise that there will be animals there

One of the biggest questions our kids will often have is this, “Will I get to see my pet again someday?”

The good news is that there will be plenty of animals in Heaven with us for all of eternity.  They will be for our enjoyment there quite possibly even more than they were here on earth.

Isaiah 11:6  The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

However, God makes no promises as to whether or not those animals in Heaven will be ones that we knew here on earth.  

So is it possible for our pets to be in heaven?  While it may not be likely, anything is possible. God can do whatever He pleases. And if God were to choose to let someone’s pet into Heaven, who is to stop Him?

But the Bible gives us no clear answers that this will be the case.  So, it’s okay to simply be honest about this with our children by telling them that we just don’t know.  

What is important is helping our children understand that regardless of what animals will be in Heaven, they will not be there because they have a soul like we do, but simply because God has chosen for them to be a part of eternity for us to enjoy.

  1.  God understands how we feel when we lose something or someone we love

This could be the most important lesson of all that your children could learn through the loss of a pet.  God cares about us when we hurt, and He understands.  

The loss of things we love in this life is a sad reality of living in a fallen world.  Ever since Adam and Eve “lost” in the Garden of Eden, loss has been a constant part of the human existence.  Yet God understands our feelings and frustrations over losing something that is important to us, even when we are kids.

And He even wants to comfort us when we are sad.  

God ultimately understands because He has suffered the greatest loss of all through the giving of His only Son for our salvation, and He understands when you lose something you love as well.  

While we may not be able to give completely satisfactory answers to all of our kids’ questions, may we do the best we can to help them understand what God does and doesn’t tell us concerning this subject.  And may we tactfully and tastefully help them understand the truth by giving them comfort without giving them false hope.  

What Ever Happened to Childhood?

Once upon a time, kids were just kids

Once upon a time, there were children.

They were carefree little tykes who played with dolls and toy trucks, went to school to learn their lessons and did what their mothers, fathers, and teachers told them to do.  At night, their parents read them bedtime stories and they fell asleep dreaming of knights and princesses.  Children loved their parents and knew that Mom and Dad would always be there in the morning.  Of course, children got into trouble sometimes, but only because they were naturally mischievous, not because they were downright wicked.

Think hard.  Do you remember children?

In this era of fast-lane living, it’s difficult to believe that childhood once did exist as an innocent age of Tom Sawyer exploits and happy, golden days.

What has happened?  Has childhood as a time to be remembered fondly vanished forever?

Here are some statistics about childhood in the United States:

  • Of all persons arrested for a serious crime, 1 out of 3 is a minor.  And no offense is too outrageous to imagine – children have robbed, raped, and killed.
  • Many kids have replaced candy and bubble gum with drugs.  According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 27% of children aged 12 to 17 have smoked marijuana at least once.
  • The rate of adolescent suicide has risen dramatically over the last two decades.  According to the U.S. Public Health Service statistics, suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents.
  • By age 15, many youngsters have already engaged in sexual intercourse.  And unwanted pregnancy isn’t the only price adolescents pay for promiscuity, according to statistics from The Centers for Disease Control.

If this is what’s happened to childhood, where have we gone wrong? Are we responsible because we’re forcing children to grow up too soon? 

There’s little doubt that our changing priorities and values have had a significant negative effect on children.  If kids are engaging in adult vices, perhaps it’s because they’re being forced to accept adult responsibilities.  It’s not uncommon today for a 6 year-old child to have his own key that opens a door to an empty house in which he prepares his own dinner.  Nor is it unusual for young children to log thousands of miles each year jetting between separated or divorced parents.

“We treat kids as though they’re grown-up when they’re only ten years old.  We believe we’re preparing them for life in the real world, but we’re harming them more than we’re helping them,” says Jean Rosenbaum M.D.

The increasing divorce rate and the growing number of single-parent or two-career families are accountable for children being left at home without supervision and, more importantly, without role models.  Is it surprising then that youngsters turn to television as a babysitter and for role models?

Parents Needed!

If childhood is to make a comeback, experts agree that adults must assume their responsibilities as parents… This means being able to set house rules and to restrict the influences that their children are exposed to.  Parents should supervise TV viewing and fire the tube as a regular babysitter.

This is difficult and it requires an amount of attention most parents aren’t prepared to devote to child-rearing.  Children are not little adults.  They need to be treated differently, to learn discipline and to develop respect for themselves and others,” says Neil Postman, author of The Disappearance of Childhood.

He offers parents this simple guideline: “The longer children are allowed to mature, the more mature they will become.  There is no crash course on maturity.”

(These are excerpts from an article written by I. E. Thompson in 1984)

 

 

 

 

When God Chooses to Bless You

Last week, my wife and I attended The KidMin Nation Mega-Con (children’s ministry conference) in Nashville, led by our friends Ryan & Beth Frank. This was a conference that promised to be the most audacious, out of the box KidMin conference ever… and in my opinion, it definitely lived up to its name. The level of professionalism, organization, and practical ministry content was second to none, as was the heart of those behind it.  We left greatly encouraged and well equipped to minister in even greater ways than before.

And part of the hype surrounding the conference was the fact that they were giving away the keys to a 2017 Chevy Malibu to one of over 1600 children’s pastors in attendance. And even better yet, my lovely wife, Charity, was chosen to be the winner of that car! (You can watch her win the car here.)

And if the simple fact that they were giving away a car wasn’t impressive enough, coming to find out that the two couples who spearheaded the conference, Ryan & Beth Frank, and Martijn & Amy Van Tilborgh, actually used personal funds to purchase this car and give it as a gift was mind-blowing and very humbling.

While we are currently relishing in the way that God has chosen to bless our family, I can’t think of a better or more deserving person than my lovely wife, Charity, to be honored with such a gift.

While I don’t brag on her nearly as often as I could, today is different. For the past 16 years, she has served alongside me in the full-time children’s ministry and been the most selfless, servant-hearted person I have ever known. She serves, and serves, and serves some more. Most often behind the scenes and in the shadows, yet she is making ministry successful on so many levels. She constantly sacrifices of herself to meet the needs of others in both her family and ministry, even when it often comes at a high personal cost of her own time, convenience, and resources.

Prayer changes things… 

When it was announced many months ago that this car would be given away at this conference, my wife began to pray. You see, for some time now, she has been saving up her extra money to purchase a small, more fuel efficient car for her to get around in.  Due to unforeseen family circumstances, she’s been driving a lot of extra miles lately, and so she was hoping and praying that God would bring along something more practical and economical.

In addition, we had recently started looking for an additional vehicle for our son who is starting Driver’s Ed this month. In fact, the day before winning the Malibu, I had found a potential car online for us to purchase and showed it to Charity.

God’s plans are better than our own…

Well, God decided that He had something far different and far better in mind!

I remember telling one of my kids at the conference that, “Whoever God wants to have that car will be the person who wins it.”  And sure enough, God chose to bless my beautiful wife with that new car!

So, as we sat down as a family this past weekend to discuss our blessings, it was a special time to reflect upon God’s goodness in our lives in so many ways.  And we walked away with these few thoughts:

  • God is good, all the time.  Car, or no car, our family has been abundantly blessed far beyond what we deserve.
  • God makes no mistakes.  Mom won the car because God wanted mom to win the car.
  • Good gifts are “God” gifts.  Every blessing in our life both big and small has come from the hand of God.

God has blessed our family in so many ways so many times, and yet, He has chosen to bless us yet again. And this time, specifically, He blessed my wife, and for that, I am truly thankful.

Isn’t it about time that your family sat down together and discussed the blessings of God in your lives as well?

Because regardless of whether or not you ever win a car, God has chosen to bless each and every one of us abundantly in more ways than we could ever count.

James 1:17  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father…

Want Your Kids to Show More Initiative? (Try these 3 things)

Does this sound familiar in your home?… “Why do I constantly have to remind you to put the milk away… throw away your trash… pick up after yourself… do your chores?”  

Most parents naturally desire for their kids to do things on their own without them having to be constantly told what to do.  Yet, it’s a real struggle.  There are times when every parent feels like their children have forgotten every single thing they’ve ever taught them over the years.  And you wonder, why am I still having to remind them to meet these simple common sense expectations. 

While every parent would love to see more initiative oozing out of their kids, here are a few things you can try that will help you get more of the results you want:

  1. More praising, less nagging.  Whether it’s with our spouse, or with our kids, our natural tendency is to nitpick at what they are doing wrong, rather than to recognize and praise them for what they are doing right.  However, praise breeds seeds of positivity, both in the attitude and actions of others.  Nagging always breeds seeds of negativity and contempt.
  2. Incentivize more than you criticize.  Everything you do, even as an adult, has a motivation behind it (you’ll work overtime because you know there’s an incentive.)  What motivation have you given your kids for them to want to do what you’re asking?  Do they know that they will be praised when they do right, not just jumped on when they do wrong?  Are there any rewards or perks for the times they intentionally go above and beyond?  Are you using the natural law of incentives to motivate them? Or are you just naively expecting that your negativity toward their behavior will somehow produce positive results?  
  3. Focus on your focus.  You always get more of what you affirm.  So are you focusing more on the positive or on the negative?  Because whichever you focus on more, you’ll always get more of the same.

In addition to these three ways, here are 3 questions you need to honestly consider:

  1. Am I showing any initiative myself?  If I’m expecting my children to pick up after themselves,  make their bed, or show initiative when they see something that needs to be done, am I first setting the example of doing those things myself?
  2. Have I invested time into teaching and training them?  Most areas where we want our kids to show initiative don’t come naturally to them or anyone. In our sinful nature, we’re naturally sloppy, lazy, and apathetic to what needs to be done around us. So take some time to instruct your kids in the why behind the what that you’re expecting of them.
  3. Do I have any follow through with consistency or accountability?  One of the biggest enemies to our kids showing more initiative is that we often accommodate their laziness by not giving them any accountability or consequences for their actions (or lack thereof). This could easily be remedied through a chore chart, a daily time deadline, or simply making sure you’ve clearly expressed expectations and consequences.

Our children will surprisingly rise to the occasion if we hold them to a high standard, believe in them, and be their chief encourager.

I heard this quote recently, and it resonated with me… “Be the chief encourager of your children, not just the chief police.” 

Good stuff!  And so true.

Which one of these ideas could you work on to help your kids start showing more initiative in your home?

3 Ways You & Your Spouse Can LOVE Happily Ever After

A lot of marriages exist instead of excel.  They simply survive when God intended them to thrive.  

What once started as exuberant, young love easily turns into nothing more than “old hat”, everyday life.  Two people, coexisting, living life together “till death do us part”.  Because well, that’s what they said they would do, and they’ll die doing it.  Even if for no other reason than just because it’s the right thing to do.

I can clearly remember as a boy the love my grandparents had for each other, especially as they aged and struggled with poor health. Their unwavering love and dedication to each other was greatly impactful on me. However, I can also remember how there were many times that they could hardly stand each other, as they got on each other’s nerves to no end with their petty squabbles about things that really didn’t matter. In fact, it was hard not to sit back and just chuckle inside at their childish pettiness at times over little ways that they would intentionally push each other’s buttons.  

My wife and I have been married for 16 years, and sometimes I catch us doing the exact same things, pushing each other’s buttons. And I have to remind myself of what I learned from my grandparent’s love, both the good and the bad.

While every marriage faces its struggles and challenges, God never intended for a husband and wife to experience a mundane existence of simply “living happily ever after.”  

The problem with the phrase “living happily ever after” is that it always seems to be the “living” part that gets in the way. Life has a natural way of taking its toll on us, and especially in our marriage.  

However, I think that God designed for us not so much to live happily ever after, but to love happily ever after.  God never established the institution of marriage to be something we just do, but rather something that we enjoy. Yet in many Christian marriages, where two people are just pushing their way through, joy is the last thing you’d be likely to find.    

However, what if every couple strove intentionally, not with each other, and not simply to fulfill their marital obligations, but strove intentionally to really, truly love one another the way God intended through marriage?  Could it be possible for them to “love happily ever after”?

Can couples that have been married for 10, 20, 30 or even 50 years still be madly in love, and it even be obvious to others by the way they interact with each other?  I for one, believe that while “loving happily ever after” is a lost art in many marriages today, it’s still not only possible but promising for the best marriage we could ever hope to have.

So, how does it happen?  Here are 3 ways to consider how to be successful at loving happily ever after:

1) Make your spouse the apple of your eye   

For many, the apple of their eye can easily become a job, a hobby, a ministry, their children, or even another person other than their spouse.  However, your spouse needs to become so big to you, that they are the shiniest and most important apple of your eye. Second only to God, your spouse is to be the most important person in your life.  They are the one thing in your life that should get the best of your time, attention, and love.

I Corinthians 7:33-34  But he that is married careth for… how he may please his wife.  She that is married careth for how she may please her husband.

This can be carried out tangibly in how we talk to them, treat them, and prioritize them with our time.   

Sadly, one of the greatest marriage killers to ‘loving happily ever after’ is misplaced focus in marriage.  This often happens when the children become a greater priority than the marriage.  And as a result, once the kids are gone, spouses don’t even know each other anymore.  Let alone know how to successfully focus on and live with each other.  However, this cannot happen if we purposefully keep our spouse as the apple of our eye.  

This takes work.  It takes intentionality.  It takes pursuing your spouse like they are actually the most important person God has placed in your life – because they are.

2) Keep accounts small with each other 

Ephesians 4:26-27  Let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.  

When the buttons start getting pushed more frequently, it’s time that you have some of the tough, but necessary, conversations. Rather than just brushing those things under the rug, and hoping they’ll go away, put your big boy pants on, and address them.  

Successful communication is key to successful companionship in any marriage.  

But simply fail to keep your accounts small, and your problems will become big very quickly. However, if you always refuse to keep score through regular acts of forgiveness and openness, accounts stay small.

Proverbs 26:20 reminds us that… “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out.”

In many marriages, the wood of annoyance, bitterness, and resentment builds to the point that it eventually erupts into a fiery inferno, leaving damage and destruction behind in its path.  This is never God’s will for your marriage.  And this would never happen if we learned to keep small accounts with each other.

The way that my wife and I personally keep small accounts in our marriage is simply what we call our open heart policy.

3) Never stop celebrating your love  

When God gave you your spouse, He gave you something special.  He gave you a gift that you were extremely excited about opening and enjoying both on your wedding day and for the rest of your life.  The good news is that God never intended for that to stop once you got married.  

Here are a few reminders of how to celebrate your love.

  1. Celebrate by creating special moments – Enjoy life together!  Make memories that are unique to you.  Put the kids to bed early one night every week.  Go on those date nights.  Spend time doing the “nothingness” together, like looking at the stars at night, or taking a walk just because.  Make your marriage your greatest earthly relationship like God meant it to be.
  2. Celebrate what God has given to you through sexual intimacy – Make sex a priority!  Just like a great party heightens your senses, sometimes all at the same time, through the music, the food, and the fun, God intended your marriage to be one of the greatest ongoing parties of your lifetime.  This can involve as many of your senses as you desire, including and especially in the bedroom.  Great sexual intimacy requires that you and your spouse be intentional and open in this area of celebrating your marriage. Yes, marriage can be tough, including times of struggle and difficulty, but there also needs to be regular times of celebration.  Marriage is a party, sex is the celebration.  Celebrate regularly.
  3. Celebrate through working together as a team – Because teamwork makes the dream work!  Good marriages take work.  Great marriages take a lot of work.  It’s not easy being married to another sinner, but you’re both in the same boat, and you’re both married to an imperfect teammate.  And God has given you to each other to make one another better.  Are you learning from each other?  Are you allowing your spouse to point out areas of needed growth?  Are you teachable, coachable, and a team player?  Good teams celebrate their differences because it’s what makes them successful.  Good marriages do the same. 

As you consider these things, are you on track to “love happily ever after”?  Are you making your spouse the apple of your eye?… Are you keeping small accounts with each other?… Are you celebrating regularly?…

Or do you need to make some course corrections before ending up somewhere that neither of you wants to be?  If so, why not do something about it today?  It could mean the difference between just living happily ever after, or getting to experience loving happily ever after.  And there’s a Big Difference. 

5 Ways To Start Every Day as a More Patient Parent

You know the drill… It’s time to leave for school in 5 minutes, and one kid can’t find one of his shoes for the 4th day in a row, two of the others are fighting over who gets the last Pop Tart, and somebody just spilled the gallon of milk all over the kitchen floor.  Ahhh! 

As parents, we’ve all had those days when the very last thing we had enough of was… patience.  Yet, it was the one thing we needed most.  

Well, while there’s no magic pill to give you unlimited patience, if you’re a parent who regularly, or even daily, feels like pulling your hair out (or the hair of your kids. lol), here are 5 practical ways to start every day as a more patient parent:

1.  Wake up on time.  Let’s admit that sometimes many of our problems are self-inflicted.  We’re daily frazzled because we’re daily rushed.  If what we’re doing hasn’t worked yet, what makes us think it will work if we continue doing it exactly the same way?  That’s the definition of insanity – “doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result.”  If our wake up time, our routine, or our ability to be punctual isn’t working, nothing will change unless we do.  So change things up by actually going to bed on time and getting up on time (or maybe getting up earlier). 

2.  Spend time alone with God.  Yes, this may mean having to get up that much earlier, but the payoff can be huge. Especially for the parent who prioritizes even just a few minutes of quietness alone with God before the short people wake up and the crazy kicks in. 

3.  Pray for your family and with your family.  Have enough wiggle room in your schedule to stop and pray together, even if it’s short.  Because prayer changes things, and the best way to help your kids believe it is to do it.  And, it gives your family a moment together of peace and quiet before the rest of the day. 🙂 

4.  Catch yourself in the moment.  Most parents don’t always realize they’re even being impatient with their kids because their snappiness, harshness, or yelling becomes so routine.  Practice catching yourself in the moment being impatient, and then start making course corrections.  

5.  Be in control of your tone.  The exact same things said in a different tone of voice can make all the difference between patience or impatience, and between a positive or negative response. Impatience is seen and heard most often by your kids from your tone more than anything else.  So be in control of your tone.  Your tone can create calm or chaos, tension or trust, help or hurt, but it’s all up to you.  

Patience as a parent doesn’t usually come naturally.  It requires lots of work, lots of walking in the Spirit, and lots of love (and for some… lots of coffee).  

However, these things will definitely help if you actually do them.  So, which one do you need to start implementing into your daily routine to become a more patient parent for your kids?

Succeed at Nearly Every Relationship in Your Life with This One Word

Fail to do this, and you'll struggle with nearly every relationship

One thing that God created us all to have in life is relationships.

And some people seemingly thrive in nearly every relationship they have.

Others seem to struggle in nearly every relationship they have.

Not all that surprisingly, the people who thrive relationally also seem to be some of the happiest people you will ever meet.

And those who struggle, often times are not.

This comparison can at times be reflected in their spiritual well-being as well.

So what makes the difference?

What is it that separates those whose relationships are characterized by much striving, and those whose relationships are characterized by much thriving?

Is there a single, most common factor that determines the difference?

Is there a “secret sauce” to relationships that the first group of people knows or follows, but that the others do not?

Is there something identifiably different about how these two types of people approach relationships?

The simple answer is – YES!

There is One Key Component above all others that will make you the best family member, the best spouse, the best friend, or the best co-worker that the people in your life could ever have.

And would you like to know what it is?… Do you think you can you guess what it is?

Have you cheated yet by scrolling to the bottom to find out what it is? 🙂

If you want to have the happiest life, and the most successful relationships humanly possible, you must learn to do This One Thing.

Because if you fail to do this, you will struggle with every single relationship of your entire life.

So, are you ready for the answer?  Here it is…

FORGIVE

2 Corinthians 2:10-11  For your sakes FORGIVE I in the person of Christ; lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.

Your willingness to forgive is one of your greatest assets to having great relationships in your life. Because one of the greatest tools in Satan’s toolbox that he uses against us to destroy our relationships is unforgiveness.

Because he knows that unforgiveness plants bitterness, increases discord, and breeds division in our relationships.

And that is his ultimate goal in every relationship of your life – to ruin it.

There are only two things in your life & relationships that are guaranteed:

  1. You will get hurt by others. (So forgive.)
  2. Others will get hurt by you. (So apologize.)

Jesus said that offenses will come in our relationships, and the only thing that we can do is simply choose how we respond to the hurt. (Whether we are the one that needs to ask for forgiveness, or give it away.)

And the response we choose will ultimately determine the life we live.

Bitter or better.  Hurt or healed.  Victim or victor.

And the only response that wins every time is forgiveness.  

Not anger.  Not resentment.  Not revenge.  Just forgiveness.

Jesus said…  “It is impossible but that offenses will come:… If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.  And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” (Luke 17:1, 3-4)

These are not words that we like to hear or have an easy time practicing, but they are words of truth.

Why is forgiveness so hard?  Because: 

  • Forgiveness requires supernatural power – you can’t forgive without God’s help.
  • Forgiveness requires repetition – you’ll most likely have to forgive multiple times.
  • Forgiveness requires obedience – you are commanded to forgive, not given multiple options.

Learn to forgive, and you free yourself to live.

Learn to apologize, and you just might save a relationship.

“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” – Paul Lewis Boese

FORGIVE –  Fail to do this, and you’ll struggle with nearly every relationship in your life.

Oh, but figure it out, and you have opened the door to a lifetime of relational success – in your family, in your marriage, in your church, on your job, etc.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Lewis B. Smedes

Ephesians 4:31-32  Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

If you’ve hurt someone, it’s time to apologize.  If you’ve been hurt by someone, it’s time to forgive.

Which relationship in your life needs this one word the most today?  FORGIVE

12 Things to Remind Your Child About Going Back to School

As parents, it’s our job to prepare our kids for life.  And a big part of that job often includes partnering with our school of choice to help educate our children academically.

But as we full well know, there’s a lot more than just academics on the line.  So, with the new school year back in full swing, here are 12 simple yet important things to remind your kids about going back to school:

  1. It’s okay if school is fun, but fun is not the purpose of school.  Your future is the purpose of school.
  2. You will have some good days, and you will have some bad days – guaranteed.  Learn to embrace them both.  Because the bad days will make you appreciate the good days even more.
  3. You’ll make some new friends this year.  And they will shape not only a part of your life but a part of your future, so choose wisely.
  4. Follow the rules (in the classroom, in the cafeteria, on the playground, etc.), even when no one is watching, and even when others don’t.  Remember that you ultimately answer to God.
  5. Your teacher will make some mistakes this year that negatively affect you.  Be patient and understanding, even when it’s hard.
  6. Don’t say everything you think, and always think before you speak.  This will save you a lot of trouble, and others a lot of hurt.
  7. Give your best, every day.  Read, study, learn, repeat.  Don’t settle for accomplishing someone else’s best.  Your best is between you, your parents, and God.
  8. When you have the chance to make yourself look good by making someone else look bad, take the high road, and do the right thing.
  9. When you’re faced with the perfect opportunity to cheat, don’t do it.  The pleasure of saying no will far outweigh the fear of getting caught.
  10. When you see “that kid” who doesn’t have a friend, be the one to change that.
  11. When you’re not sure what to do, ask yourself, “What would make my parents and God most proud?”  Then do that.
  12. Remember who you are.  You are a Christian.  You are a friend.  You are an achiever.  You’ve got what it takes.  And your good attitude is your greatest resource.

Why not pull your child aside before the end of the day and remind them of these 12 things?  It might just open up a door for some great conversation.

One of the Greatest Dangers Facing Our Christian Young People Today

Having been raised in church since I was born, I had heard about Jesus and the gospel since day one.  It’s all I’d ever known.

I can vaguely remember kneeling at my mom’s bedside at the age of 4, praying a prayer, and making a ‘profession of faith’.  However, my profession never extended beyond my knowledge, because the gospel had never changed me. I had never truly been born again.

However, when I was 12 years old, The gospel become very real to me personally. God began doing a work of conviction in my heart, and it was at that time that I allowed the gospel’s transformational power to change me, as I genuinely called upon the name of the Lord to be saved.

Our kids KNOW the Gospel…

Most kids raised in church have the privilege of being used to hearing the gospel.  In fact, they know it so well they could probably recite it forwards and backwards.  They’re told about God’s love and how Jesus died for them even while they’re still in diapers in the nursery.

And as they grow, they hear it taught in Sunday School and in Children’s Church. And they’re even able to quote verses from the Roman’s Road.  They hear regularly about the amazing power of the gospel to change lives. And this is a good thing.

And yet… many of them grow up so accustomed to the gospel that its familiarity has the underlying potential to breed an inadvertent apathy towards it, to the point that it often has little to no impact upon their everyday lives.  Many of them having either never experienced the transformational power of the gospel firsthand in their own lives, or having never allowed it to transform every facet of their daily lives and choices.

So what is one of the GREATEST DANGERS facing our Christian young people today?…

The gospel is so common that it just becomes old hat, and as a result, one of the greatest dangers facing our Christian kids is this – they’ve gotten “used to” the gospel.

What God intended to radically transform ours and our children’s thinking and living, actually has the potential to become all too familiar, all too fast, to the point that we forget (at least by our actions) that the gospel is the one thing God has given us to change both ourselves and to change the world around us. (Rom. 1:16, Eph. 2:1-10)

God’s plan has always been that the gospel would shape our identity, determine our priorities, and affect every decision we make in life (about what we say, how we react, what we listen to, where we go, who we associate with, etc.)

A driving PASSION of their life, or just a PART of their life?…

The gospel was never meant to be compartmentalized into just a part of our lives, but rather, that there be no part of our lives that remains untouched by the gospel.  

The gospel is meant to define life for us, while at the same time defining us for life.

It is not to be a casual part of life, but rather a commitment that requires our willingness to die for it, and even more importantly, our passion to live for it throughout the process of everyday, ordinary life.

Yet, so often, if we’re not intentional, our kids (and ourselves) can get so used to the gospel that it becomes more of a necessary evil of life rather than a transformational reason for living. It becomes simply another relic added to the shelf of our family traditions, rather than the entire foundation upon which our children build their very lives.  

Let’s face it… we all know “Christians” who’s priorities and decisions give little to no indication of real or dramatic life change because of the gospel.  However, have we ever stopped to consider that this could be happening in our own homes and in the hearts and lives of our own children? Just because ours is a “Christian” family, does not give us any guarantees. Because life change for our children requires much more than just a label. 

My wife and I now have 2 teenagers in our house (please pray for us).  And although I’m thankful that my kids have grown up hearing the gospel all of their lives, I don’t ever want them to “get used to the gospel”.  I want it first to change them through the power of salvation, but then also through the ongoing process of sanctification, and allowing the gospel to be the filter through which they view every detail of their daily lives.

So how is a Christian parent to do this?… That is, raise “Christian” kids who don’t get over the fact they are Christians?

While ultimately, we know that this requires the supernatural touch of the Holy Spirit at work in their lives (first and foremost through salvation), here are some practical ways and ideas we’ve tried as parents to help our kids, and especially our teens, to never “get used to” the life-changing, transformational power of the gospel.

  1. Send them on a mission’s trip.  Our oldest two children were able to be a part of a mission’s trip to Grenada last summer, and it was a life-changing experience for both of them. I’m convinced that there is very little else that has the potential to change a teenager’s perspective about their purpose in the world and in God’s kingdom than to put them into such an environment of less.  Sending your child on a mission’s trip forces them to come face to face with the reality of what really matters in life.
  2. Expose them to the lost.  If we’re not careful, we can easily over-insulate our children from the lost world to the point of isolating them from it as well.  Our children desperately need to see firsthand just how greatly they are needed for the cause of the gospel. Because our children will rarely ever have a burden to reach others with the gospel if they aren’t ever surrounded by or exposed to others who desperately need it.  Whether you encourage your kids to make friends with unsaved neighbors, those at school, or witness publicly together as a family, find ways to expose your kids to the lost world all around them.  Our two oldest recently detasselled for the first time, and our son often enjoys paint-balling at a local course.  Both of these exposures have been an eye-opening experience for them of the sinful lifestyles and lost condition of many teenagers today.  In addition, it’s also given them a burden for these same people.  (As always, use discretion as the parent for what you know to be best for your specific child, and never use this as justification for allowing your children to be regularly surrounded by worldly influences).
  3. Help surround them with other people whose lives have been changed by the gospel.  Nothing motivates us to be changed by the gospel as much as rubbing shoulders with others whose lives have been, and are actively being, changed by the gospel.  
  4. Challenge them to read, read, and read some more.  Start by motivating them to get into the Word of God for themselves so that the Bible becomes real to them during this crucial age of the teenage years.  Also, give them some good books to read.  Here’s a great book my wife and I recently bought for our two teens and required them to read – This Changes Everything: How The Gospel Transforms the Teen Years.
  5. Require them to be involved in serving in their local church.  If they aren’t serving when they’re a teen, why should we expect that they’ll be serving or passionate about the gospel when they’re an adult and out of our home?  There’s a reason why 50% of our “Christian” young people are leaving the church once they leave high school.  And a big part of it is because the gospel has never become real to them either practically or personally while they were still at home.  They’ve never learned to possess their own faith.
  6. Never “get used to” the Gospel as a parent yourself.  If the gospel has not truly transformed not only your soul, but your everyday life and choices, don’t expect it to transform your children any more than you have allowed it to first transform you.  Because more than your kids will become what you say, they will become who you are.

“The greatest way for the gospel to change the hearts and lives of children is for it first to change the heart and lives of their parents.”

Once our children’s lives become radically changed and defined by the gospel, so many other details of their life and future fall into place concerning their priorities and decisions. 

We have been put “in trust with the gospel” and its life-changing power, for ourselves, our children, and the lost all around us. (I Thess. 2:4)  May we never take that lightly.  And may we never “get used to it.”

Do you agree that this is one of the greatest dangers facing our Christian young people today? Feel free to let me know.  I’d love to hear from you.

Mom & Dad, Please Get to Know Me

My youngest son and I just spent a week together conducting our final VBS of the summer.  We had a blast, and while we were away, I asked him a list of questions to get to know him better, as well as to see how well I really know him.  While I thought I’d ace this, some of his answers actually surprised me.

Shane & I about to board a plane to Lubbock, TX for our final VBS of the summer.

If you have children, you probably know them pretty well too… or at least you think you do.

Sometimes we’re convinced that we know our own kids better than anyone else, but if we really stop to evaluate ourselves, we might just find out that we don’t know them quite as well as we think, or as we should.

One of our primary goals as parents is not just to raise our children, but to know them.

It’s easy to get so busy taking care of our children, that we can lose track of many of the important details of their lives.

God gave them to us to guide through life, and this requires that we study them, learn them, and know them to the best of our ability.  Their wants, desires, needs, and special quirks should be things that we both know and understand better than anyone else.

Learning to know our children can be a life-long process, but a very worthy one.  So here is a list of basic questions/statements for you to try and answer to see how well you know your child.  Pick up a pen, and start filling in answers: (printable pdf available by clicking on the image)

After filling out your answers to all of the above questions, ask your child their responses to the same questions, then compare and discuss your answers together.

My son got quite a kick out of seeing how many answers I got right (and how many I got wrong). He thought is was super fun to see how well dad knows him.  And we had some great discussion as well.  I’m sure your kids will love it too.

Don’t be surprised if you get stumped along the way.  Just have fun.  And remember, the goal is simply to get to know your child better.  And believe me, you will.

I Became a Better Parent the Day I Realized THIS…

Before becoming a parent, I can remember watching parents of young children and saying things to myself like, “My kids will never act that way” or “I won’t ever let my child get away with that.”  Can you relate?

In those early years prior to actually becoming a parent, it was very easy to be an “expert” in parenting and know all that there was to know about how to raise kids right.  I could have easily counseled parents if they’d have just trusted me (and my single, childless self. Lol). In fact, I think I may have even tried a time or two to coach my own parents in how to raise my younger sisters.

But my oh my, how the tables turn when you actually have children of your own and find out that your own kids are as bent towards foolishness (Prov. 22:15) as everyone else’s, whose parents just “didn’t have it all together”.

The longer I’ve been a parent, the less that I feel I know about being a great parent, and the less qualified I feel to be a parent at all.  Because there is so much to learn around every new corner and with every new age and stage. Parenting is a never-ending series of new challenges and choices. 

“Remind me, why am I the one writing this blog?”…  

I have the privilege of writing this parenting blog about how to parent your children God’s way, and I love doing it.  Yet I often feel so very inadequate just to be the godly parent that my own children need me to be on a daily basis.  

So many times I don’t know what to do in my own family. So many times I mess up and don’t get things right. So many times I fall short of being the parent they need me to be.

Yes, I know the rights and wrongs of parenting, as do you, but struggle just the same to actually be consistent to do them. I get frustrated, irritable, impatient, selfish, tired, and lazy. Just ask my wife and kids. 🙂 

Sometimes I hurt my family’s feelings. I’m sometimes too harsh. I’m sometimes too lenient. I don’t always give as much time to my kids as I should. I struggle to be consistent in discipline. Sometimes I get so frustrated at my inability to be all that I want to be and all that God and my family deserves that I be as a husband and a father. 

All in all, I find that I can’t be successful at this parenting thing on my own… and yet, that’s when I actually succeed.  You see, it’s in those times when I realize that I can’t be the parent that my kids need me to be… that I actually become a better parent than what I just was.

I am my best self as a parent when I simply admit that I don’t have it all together, I don’t always know what to do, and I need the constant help and grace of God in my daily life to be the godly parent He has called me to be. 

A+B doesn’t always = C

Yes, there are parenting principles that work and that need to be followed and obeyed, yet there is no foolproof A+B=C formula that guarantees our desired results in our kids every single time, in every single circumstance, or every single family. 

I need to daily depend upon the grace of God and the guidance of His Holy Spirit in my life. Because there are things that happen in my family and decisions I have to make that no amount of biblical or parenting knowledge could every prepare me for.  

Of all things in life, I believe that parenting is one of God’s ways of revealing to us our own insufficiency and our utmost dependency upon Him.  

And parenting should be one of the greatest things in life that drives us to our knees.  It ought to cause us to plead with God for wisdom and direction as we we take seriously the responsibility of raising and forming little human lives.  

I became a better parent the day I realized… 

While I’m not the parent that I want to be or fully need to be, I became a better parent the day I realized that:

  • I don’t know how to be a good and godly parent on my own.
  • I need more of God and less of me in my parenting.
  • I cannot ultimately control who and what my children become.
  • I am helpless and hopeless as a parent apart from the grace of God.

Apart from Him, no matter what I do and no matter what I know, I can quickly become a parenting failure and mess up this parenting thing big-time. But with Him, I can do all things through Christ.  

The day I became a better parent was the day I began to trust more than I try, pray more than I push, and quit trying to act like l’ve got it all together. Because I don’t. I never will. And neither will you. And the sooner we realize it, the better parents we will become.   

II Corinthians 12:10  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities… for when I am weak, then am I strong.

5 Reasons You’re Struggling to Say YES to Your Kids

Have you ever found yourself bombarded with questions from your kids asking you to do things with them?  Rhetorical question, right? Kids naturally ask a ton of questions, and especially requests for your time and attention. 

“Dad, will you come and play this game with me?”

“Mom, will you watch me and see what I can do?”

“Can we go on a bike ride?”

“Will you help me build this?”

“Can we watch a movie together?”

“Do you want to play outside?”

And when they ask, let’s admit that the internal struggle is often very real, because while you want to say yes, they just never seem to ask at “convenient” times.

Do you find yourself at times struggling to say “Yes” to your kids like I do? We want so badly to say “yes”, and yet there’s something else inside of us pulling us in the opposite direction to say “no”.  The struggle is real.  But so are their needs.

Here are 5 reasons you might be struggling to say “Yes” to your kids:

  1. You’re too busy “adult-ing”.  We get so preoccupied with our busy little life of adulthood that we feel “put out” by our own children’s requests for our time and attention. It ought not be this way.
  2. You’ve forgotten what it was like to be a kid.  Can you go back in your mind to that carefree feeling of childhood?  Can you remember how fun life was and how big a deal it was to you when someone older, especially your parents, said “yes” to you.  It was a big deal to you.  And it’s a big deal to your children right now.
  3. Your priorities are wrong.  If you don’t feel like you can ever say “yes” to your kids when they want to spend time with you, it doesn’t matter what your excuses are, your priorities are totally out of whack.
  4. You’ve lost sight of what is most important. It’s so natural and so easy to focus on the urgent things at the expense of the most important things in life, and especially when our children are young.  Work time quickly replaces family time, and the mandates of our adulthood quickly replace potential memories of our kids’ childhood.
  5. You’ve believed the lie that “you still have plenty of time”.  And if you believe it enough days and months and years in a row, before you know it, you’ve missed an entire childhood.  With every moment that passes, they only get older. They never get younger.

So here’s a “YES” challenge for you.  Are you ready for it? – See if you can go the next 7 days, one week, without saying “no” to your children when they make any request of your time or attention. Do you think you can say “yes” for 7 days straight, dropping whatever it is that would keep you from saying yes?  It sounds easy, but it might just be harder than you think.

  • Every time they want to play ball in the backyard.
  • Every time they ask you to look at their project.
  • Every time they as for your help.
  • Every time they want to talk, or for you to simply listen.
  • Every time they reach for a hug.
  • Every time they ask you to tuck them in.
  • Every time they want more of you.
  • Every. Single. Time.

Will it inconvenience you? Almost certainly.  Will it be difficult? Probably.  Is it worth it? Absolutely.

May we never forget that our kids want us, they need us, and they deserve us.

Even if you don’t get it perfect for 7 days straight, try it, and see if it makes a positive impact on your kids.  They’re counting on you to be a YES Parent in the ways that matter most.