How to Tell If You’re In Control of Your Kids (or the other way around)

Here are 5 simple ways to tell if you are in control of your kids or the other way around.  Are any of these things happening in your home?

  1. Your kids are telling you “no”, and it goes unchallenged or undisciplined.  They may even hit you, scream at you, or defiantly run away from you and it goes unpunished.
  2. Your kids take advantage of you in public places and you allow it.  They may be small, but they are terribly smart.  And they figure out the rules to the control game very quickly.  They know who’s in the driver’s seat.
  3. Your kids know how many times they can repeatedly disobey you before you will actually do anything. Whether that be a consequence, a raised voice, or you simply “losing it”.  They know the rules to this “game” that you’ve chosen to create (yes, you created it), and so they know your tolerance threshold, as well as your breaking point, and as a result, they take advantage of it.
  4. Your kids ignore what you tell them by simply not responding, or by doing it anyway.  Does this sound familiar… “Stay inside or outside… Quit coming in and out of the house… Keep the door closed!…  If you’re going to play outside, stay outside!”  And it’s almost as if they never even heard you.
  5. Your kids make more of the family decisions than you do. It’s good for parents to give their kids input and allow for preferences to be taken into consideration.  However, never forget that you are the parent. You are responsible for the decisions of your family. This includes what and when they eat, who their friends are, what they watch and listen to, and whether or not they go to church when the doors are open. These and many more are things that you as the parent should decide.  Because your child’s physical, relational and spiritual health is your responsibility and should be in your control.

While these 5 things are meant to help you identify who’s in control in your home, if you find that you’re on the wrong side in one or more of these areas, I’d encourage you to read 4 Ways to Get Your Kids to Take You Seriously.  It contains some helpful solutions to get back on track.

Provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4

Little Foxes that Spoil the Vines

Song of Solomon 2:15  Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.

We all have them. Every. Single. One of us. “Little foxes”, that threaten to spoil the vines. Small things, maybe pet sins, in our lives that we think are innocent and no real threat… to our marriage, our children, or our spiritual life.  Yet they actually hold the potential to ruin them.

I can remember as a teenage boy being given these words of wisdom from a spiritual leader in my life who said, “Take care of sin while it’s still small.”  And those words have stuck with me to this day, echoeing in the back of my mind as a constant reminder of the danger of those times I find it easiest to justify ‘small’ sins.

What is it for you?

In a marriage, it could be… a bad habit, a consuming hobby, a hidden addiction, a lack of effort or communication, an “innocent” relationship with someone of the opposite sex.  No man ever plans to leave his family, abandon his home, and be an adulterer, but it all has to start somewhere as small as a look, a compromise, a letting of the guard down, and before you know it, a snowball is being formed. One that seemed so innocent at first, but now threatens everything he holds dear.

In parenting, it could be… an inconsistency, a seemingly insignificant compromise, a discrepancy between a parents words and their actions.  Or it could be a “little fox” in the lives of our children that we fail to deal with while it’s still small.  Think about it:  Negative actions and character traits that kids end up having in adulthood are usually because they were allowed to develop in their childhood.  Whether it be dishonesty, theft, addiction, or lack of self-control, etc.  

They more than likely didn’t develop those traits as an adult.  They cultivated them when they were young, and they became little foxes in their lives.  This is one of the reasons why it is so important to help our children learn to control their thoughts, tempers, words, and actions from a young age, because life-habits of permanent consequence are being formed.

I can clearly remember the words of my dad when I was a boy, saying, “Son, you can smoke as many cigarettes as you want, as long as you never smoke the first one.”  And he never had to explain himself because his point was clear – take care of sin before it takes care of you.  Because sin dealt with when it’s small is so much easier to overcome than sin dealt with when it’s tall.

In one’s spiritual life, it could be… a spiritual complacency, letting the basics slip, comparing ourselves among ourselves.  Oh, how easy it is to let the little disciplines of the spiritual life slip… because we’re busy serving or doing ministry.  We’re too busy being a Martha and helping others, that we don’t make any time to simply be a Mary and sit at the feet of Jesus.  And before you know it we’re burning our spiritual candle from both ends, because we have allowed little foxes to begin spoiling our spiritual vines.

All of these things are easy to justify and dismiss in our lives yet still have the potential to be the little foxes. And before you know it, you’re looking back at a broken marriage, a wayward child, or a spiritually apathetic and backslid Christian.

It’s a threat for all of us.

Sometimes the foxes in our lives look so cute, fuzzy, and innocent that we think they are harmless, but in reality, they are a threat to the fruit that God desires for us to have in the different areas of our lives?  It could be a thought, a look, or a seemingly insignificant compromise.  But remember the end of the verse and the reason why the the foxes were being taken away… “for our vines have tender grapes.”

There is much fruit in your life, your marriage, your children, and your relationship with God that is at stake.  And these little foxes threaten to devour it.

These foxes are not only petty sins in our lives, but can also be a picture of our own self-deception. We can easily be fooled into thinking that which is not completely good is also not completely bad, when in reality, that is where the deception takes place.  And we never see it until it has already taken hold of us.  Yet it all began in our wrong thinking, as we started to justify and rationalize ‘small’ sins.  

We think we can handle it.  It’s not as big of a deal for us. Because even though it’s happened to others, it will never happen to us.  Our marriage will never be ruined.  Our kids will never be wayward.  Our spiritual life, or lack thereof, will never be exposed.

What we often deem “acceptable” can lead to potentially irreparable damage.  Small foxes that spoil the vines.

The question we need to ask ourself is this… Are we chasing out the little foxes in our lives, or are we feeding them?

Be honest with yourself… When is the last time you had to ‘amputate’ something out of your life because it was a small fox, a pet sin, that posed to threaten and even destroy the most important fruit that God has given you?  Maybe it was a person, a habit, a hobby, or even an app on your phone. But you knew that it was a small fox that had the potential to spoil your vines.

Most failures in life are not a blowout, but a slow leak, a slow fade.  And it’s not usually the big obvious sins, but the small ones, the “little” foxes, that will spoil our vines.

What small foxes do you need to deal with today in your own life or the lives of those you love?

5 Things To Pray for Your Kids BEFORE You Need To

Over the years I’ve had multiple parents who’ve sat across from me in my office and expressed dire concern for a child who is on a foolish path. And their question is always the same – “What do we need to do?”  While sometimes there are practical steps that can be taken, at other times there is little that can be done as a ‘quick fix’ to make up for years of neglect in parenting and prayer. And yet, prayer is still the best option.

Have you ever found yourself praying hot and heavy for your kids in the heat of the moment because of some trouble they were in, or some major decision they had to make? We’ve probably all been there, especially the older our children become.

While no child comes with any guarantees, here are five things to pray regularly for your children no matter their age (but especially while they are young) – things we easily forget to pray fervently about until the time comes that we need to.

Pray in advance about:

1.  Their Soul

In the end, nothing else matters in our prayers for our kids if we don’t pray first and foremost for their salvation.  God has called us as parents to be the #1 factor in their lives that lead them to Him and ultimately to Heaven.  That is a definitely a task that requires the ongoing power of prayer.

2.  Their Heart

Apart from their soul, nothing else is as valuable, or as vulnerable, as their heart.   Put a high price on protecting their heart, for out of it are the issues of life (Prov. 4:23). One of the best ways to protect your child’s heart is by protecting what influences their mind. (What they watch and read, the amount of time they spend online, who their friends are, etc.) We need to pray that God would not only help their hearts to be good, but that He would protect their hearts from evil.  Pray that God would give them a humble heart, a servant’s heart, and a heart that pursues God, and is passionate about the things that are closest to the heart of God Himself. Because a pure heart is their greatest asset to making wise choices for the rest of their life.

3.  Their Life’s Mate

Second only to salvation, who your child chooses to marry is the most important decision they will ever make in their life.  God has called you, as their parent, to be a big part of that decision.  All throughout Scripture, we see examples of parents involvement both practically and through prayer, for God’s will to be performed in the person their child marries.  This involves praying for their purity as well.  The time to pray and prepare your child for a lifetime of purity and a life’s mate is now.

4.  Their God-Given Purpose

Your child is unique.  So unique, in fact, that God has a specific purpose for their life that no one else can fill exactly like they can.  Each of your children are wired differently than the others.  They have strengths, gifts, and abilities that are uniquely theirs and that align with their God-given calling in life.  Your job as a parent is to help nurture those passions and cultivate a desire in their hearts to use them in the greatest way possible for the cause of Christ.  This cannot happen easily apart from the power of prayer.

5.  Their Children

As you pray for your kids, pray in advance for their future kids, your grandchildren, because they will be raised by the kids you are raising right now.  How well they do as parents in the future will greatly reflect how well you’ve done now.  So parent now and pray now as if your grandchildren’s lives depended on it, because well… they do.  Remembering that we are raising the future generation of parents ought to inspire us.

Sadly, many parents only begin to pray for some of these things once their children start to go astray, or start a relationship that they don’t approve of, or make life-changing decisions that scare them, and all of a sudden, they’re driven to their knees in prayer.

Here’s a better idea… Don’t wait.  Pray now.  Before you need to.  And then enjoy watching your children reap a lifetime of the benefits.

“If every parent would pray for their child as fervently over the course of 18 years as they do in the heat of the moment, it could literally change their child’s life.”

Make it a priority today to take the time you need to pray for your kids individually and specifically, by name.  Pray these 5 things over their lives, and watch God unfold the details.

“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”  Philippians 4:6

To the Parent of a Prodigal

3 principles that will shape your perspective

Most of us are familiar with the story of ‘the prodigal son’ in Luke chapter 15.  However, for many parents, it can be a story that’s all too familiar in a more painful and personal way.

They relate to his story because it is one very similar to their own. They have a son or daughter who is “far from home”.

And while being a parent of a prodigal carries with it a weight that only such a parent can know, there are some key principles in this biblical story that can be a help and encouragement to any parent.

And we see these principles exemplified through the father in the story.  Here are a few of them:

  1. The father didn’t rescue the prodigal from his foolishness

And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country.  Luke 15:12-13a

While our tendency is to want to save our children from any pain or heartache that we can see in their future, that is not always what is best.

Regardless of their age, don’t be too quick to rescue your kids. Sometimes there are lessons that can only be learned from “the school of hard knocks.”

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your kids is:

  • Allow them to make mistakes
  • Allow them to learn from those mistakes
  • Because sometimes experience is the best teacher

I can remember as a boy hearing my dad say these words, “Experience is the best teacher, you just can’t always afford the tuition.”  Some lessons in life have to be learned the hard way because unfortunately, not all of us are willing to just simply learn from the mistakes of others.

  1. The father didn’t revert to fear when the prodigal went astray

But while he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion.  Luke 15:20

When one of your children goes astray, don’t fear.  We don’t see a father in this story who is daily wringing his hands in fear of what might happen to his son.  We instead see a father who with great anticipation daily awaits and prays with hope for his son’s return.

Sometimes parents are guilty of taking their prodigals’ actions personally, even blaming themselves for them going astray.  But may I remind you that even the disciples of Jesus who would soon “turn the world upside down” actually failed and abandoned Him in His darkest hour.  Yet they returned to be even stronger than before to fulfill and carry out his mission of changing the world.

Oftentimes, the thing we see as our greatest fear (our child going astray) actually has the potential to be a part of God’s greatest purpose for their life, enabling them to be used in greater ways in the future.

  1. The father didn’t refuse the prodigal when he returned

Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him… For this my son was dead, and is alive again.  Luke 15:22, 24

If you remember, there was a moment in time when the son “came to himself” and realized the error of his ways.  He remembered how good life was before, and the graciousness of his loving father that he had forsaken.  Yet he believed in the good heart of his father to accept him back, even if only as a servant.

Just as we need to allow our children to make mistakes and learn from them, we also need to allow them to make things right.  It is important for our kids to know that they are loved unconditionally and can always return and receive forgiveness – no matter what.

Because the greatest earthly relationship that holds the most potential to bring a prodigal back to where they need to be is actually you, their parent.  When the prodigal was at his lowest moment, who came to his mind?…  He remembered the unconditional love of his father, and it gave him reason to return to where he knew he should be.

If you have children still in the home, this is so vitally important that you establish a culture now where your home is a place of grace – a place of unconditional love where mistakes are allowed and forgiveness is granted. By doing so you pave the way for the future. 

The Father is a beautiful picture of God’s grace towards us, and a beautiful example of the kindness and grace we are to have towards our children.  A grace that says, “You can never get too low or go too far to outrun my love.  I love you unconditionally, and nothing will ever change that.”

So, to the parent of a prodigal:

  • Never stop praying
  • Never stop trusting
  • Never let fear have the final say
  • And always love them unconditionally with open arms

Be the parent to your prodigal that God has been to you – gracious, forgiving, loving, and kind. And trust God with the rest.

Luke 15:20, 24  And he arose, and came to his father.  But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him… For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.

“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?

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.