Give Your Kids the Best that Money Can’t Buy

I absolutely love giving gifts to my children.  And I think my wife and I enjoy giving to them as much or more than they enjoy the receiving.

Recently, we bought our son and daughter a new guitar and ukulele to help and encourage them to go to the next level in their talents.  They’ve both begun playing in church, and are striving to improve.  Our daughter has even started a YouTube channel, where she sings songs that she’s written.

And there’s something very rewarding as a parent to be able to see your children filled with joy and appreciation for what you do for them.  I think it’s a wonderful reflection of the joy our Heavenly Father receives when we show our appreciation to Him for all the gifts He freely gives us.

Yet giving gifts come at a cost.  Not to mention the cost of raising children in general.  Let’s be completely honest, it takes a lot of money and sacrifice to be able to provide for the needs of a family, as well as to provide for some of their wants.

As I look at the life our family is blessed to live, we have so much.  Our children enjoy a beautiful home out in the country, a huge yard that includes many benefits.  We’re able to wear nice clothes, drive reliable vehicles, and enjoy good food. And not because we’re rich, but because we’re blessed. And it brings joy to my heart to provide all of those things for our children in the best ways possible.

However, as nice as those things are, none of them are what will set our children up for success in life either personally or spiritually.

Yet, so often as parents, isn’t that what we try so hard to do – give our kids the best of everything that money can buy?  We’re determined at all costs to provide our children with the best that life has to offer, or maybe the best that we never had ourselves.  We don’t want them to go without anything they want, or that we feel they deserve.

But are we doing them a favor or a disservice?

Chances are that very few of us will be able to give our children everything their hearts desire, while at the same time giving them everything that really matters.  In fact, often we’ll have to choose between the two. Because… what really matters?  A nice house or car?… name brand clothes?… the fact that they can have everything we went without as children ourselves?

While all of those things can be good and nice to provide, should any of those things become our main priority as parents?

If we’re not careful, materialism (in the name of doing what’s best for our kids, of course) can become a driving factor in our parenting.  Yet the most important things that we can ever give to our children are the things that money can never buy.

Things that cannot always be immediately seen or held.  Things that can not always be taught, but must be caught.  Things that come from a depth of character that goes far beyond just scratching the visible surface.

Things like an understanding of how to forgive those that hurt us, how to love those that hate us, and how to serve those that least deserve it.

Some of the greatest things you can ever give to your children are the best that money can’t buy:

  • An example of a mom and dad that are together forever.
  • A willingness to live life joyfully, regardless of circumstances.
  • An unwavering commitment to God’s Word and God’s house.
  • A spirit of unconditional love for them, no matter what.
  • The ability to laugh at themselves and their mistakes.
  • The value of a good work ethic and the value of a dollar.
  • An attitude of optimism that sees the best in others, rather than one of criticism and complaint.
  • I suppose that this list could go on and on…

Someone once wisely noted that “the most important things in life aren’t things.”  And how right they were.

I love nice things, and I love providing nice things for my family, as I’m sure you do yours. But may the things that we prioritize as a family, and the way we live our lives, give our children proof that we truly believe in the “things” that matter most.  You know… those things that are the best that money can’t buy.

Pharisaical Parenting… The Perfect Way to Raise Little Pharisees

Then spake Jesus… Saying, “The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.  Matthew 23:1-3

The Pharisees were known for their strict adherence to the law of Moses.  They lived their pious lives in an effort to do everything by the letter of the law.  In addition to the 613 ceremonial laws given in the Old Testament, they had added many of their own, and as a result, had become top-notch legalists in their view of life and spirituality.

The Pharisees believed that if you weren’t keeping every part of the law, you weren’t right with God.  And in their minds, a person’s relationship with God was based primarily upon their rule-keeping ability.

Jesus warned His followers to obey their rules, but not to follow their works, because “they say, and do not.”  They were good at telling everyone else to be right with God, when they were not right with God themselves.  Primarily because the basis of their spirituality was terribly flawed.

Jesus brought greater clarity to what He was saying later in the chapter in verse 23 when He said, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: 

HAVE WE MISSED THE POINT?….

You see, the Pharisees missed the point.  They were so busy keeping all of their rules, that they missed the more important things that really mattered.  They missed the matters of the heart.

While the Pharisees were great at making sure all of the rules were followed, they were also some of the most critical, judgmental, and legalistic people you’ll ever see mentioned in the Bible.  Jesus referred to them as “whited sepulchers” in verse 27.  They looked good on the outside, but were spiritually dead on the inside, because all they could see was the law, and they were self-blinded to the concept of grace that Jesus was trying to show them.

Sadly, it is very possible for us as parents to revert to such dangerous thinking ourselves, where we become “pharisaical”, or legalistic, in our own homes without even realizing it.

Pharisaical parenting happens when we start becoming more of a rule enforcer than a heart nurturer.  We begin to focus more on outward conformity than we do on inward transformation. We begin to give more attention to what others see than what God thinks. We even often believe the lie that as long as we make sure our kids keep following all the rules, they will turn out right in the end… when sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.

We’re mistaken to think that more rules will automatically raise more godly kids.  In fact, it can sometimes do the exact opposite, causing our children to be in danger of looking down at others, thinking they are somehow more spiritual because their list of followed rules is longer.

However, the best way to prevent legalism from creeping into our children’s hearts and lives is to first rid it from our own as parents.

SO DO THE RULES MATTER?…

This doesn’t mean that we don’t have rules that we follow and enforce in our homes.  This doesn’t mean that we allow our children to have “liberty” to do whatever they want.  This doesn’t mean that we drop our standards and convictions.  It simply means that those things are not our primary focus and priority.

Jesus said about the Pharisees rules at the end of verse 27, “these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”  He was saying that while the rules are still important, they are no longer the main focus.

Jonathan Edwards once wisely noted a good distinction between the dangerous extremes of legalism and grace when he said…

“The devil has driven the pendulum far beyond its proper point of rest; and when he has carried it to the utmost length that he can, and it begins by it’s own weight to swing back, he probably will set in, and drive it with the utmost fury the other way, and so give us no rest; and if possible prevent our settling in a proper medium.”

In other words, there must be a proper balance between God’s rules and God’s grace.  An extreme in either direction has the potential to be terribly dangerous.

Jesus himself was the perfect example of such balance, as He was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).  He said in John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments”, but He also said in Matthew 12:34 that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”

So while the rules are important, matters of the heart always trump any checklist. Because…

“Raising kids with a compliant attitude is good, but raising kids with a transformed heart is best.”

THERE’S A NEW MOTIVATION…

Our kids need to understand that we follow God’s rules because we love Him, not in order for Him to love us.  We live separated lives out of the overflow of God’s grace, not out of a fear of God’s displeasure.  And our obedience stems from our relationship with God, not from our rule-keeping abilities.  

What this means is that the rules are no longer our greatest motivation for serving God. Grace is. Under grace, we now put more of an emphasis on training and nurturing our children’s hearts for the Lord, than we do their passion and drive for adherence to the rules.

The Pharisees kept all the rules, but they missed grace, and as a result, they missed all that really mattered.  They missed Jesus.

Jesus told the people that they would do well to keep the rules, but not at the expense of what mattered most – the matters of the heart.

Because if we do, we fall into the same trap and mentality that the Pharisees had… thinking we’re spiritual for all the wrong reasons, and inadvertently training our children to do the same.  We become guilty of Pharisaical parenting.

May our children grow up knowing that we love God, more than we love rules.  And when we love God first and foremost, following His rules will naturally follow from the heart.

Here are a few practical ways to do this in your home:

  • Create a culture in your home where matters of the heart are emphasized over keeping of the rules.  Pay more attention to the direction of your child’s heart than you do to their compliance to your rules. (It’s not just about a checklist of what we do, but about the heart motives behind why we do it.)
  • Praise spiritual qualities that you see in your children more than you praise talents and grades.  Praise character over talent.
  • Teach them to respond with grace, not criticism, towards other believers whose rules may be different.
  • Walk with Jesus yourself by modeling for your children what it looks like to live a grace-filled life – obey, serve, forgive, be humble.  Because your children will always learn more from what you model than they do from what you mandate.

Remember, we’re not called to raise rule-followers, but Christ-followers.  And once we make that distinction, in our own hearts, and the hearts of our children, it can make all the difference in the world!

As a parent, what have you been giving more focus and attention to in your home?… Following the rules, or following Jesus?

12 Sad Things to See Happen in the Life of Any Family

Twelve of the saddest things to happen in the life of any family are when…

  1. Parents become emotionally and spiritually absent
  2. Bedtimes take place without affectionate words or hugs
  3. Meals go without prayers
  4. ‘I love you’s’ are seldom spoken
  5. Criticism is more common than praise
  6. Complaining takes the place of gratitude
  7. The television gets more attention than family members
  8. Parents fight more than they flirt in front of their kids
  9. Dust collects around the family Bible
  10. Church attendance becomes a matter of convenience rather than conviction
  11. Random acts of kindness are a rarity
  12. Jesus’ name is seldom mentioned in daily life (at least not in the right kind of way)

But… Imagine for a moment the positive power and potential for our families if all of the above things were reversed.  How wonderful a place could our families be?

What if?…

  1. Parents become emotionally and spiritually engaged
  2. Bedtimes abound with affectionate words and hugs
  3. Meals are always started with prayers
  4. ‘I love you’s’ are frequently spoken
  5. Criticism gets drowned out by praise
  6. Complaining takes a backseat to gratitude
  7. Family members get more attention than the television
  8. Parents flirt more than they fight in front of their kids
  9. Everyone gathers around the family Bible
  10. Church attendance becomes a matter of conviction rather than convenience
  11. Random acts of kindness are the norm
  12. Jesus’ name is regularly mentioned in daily life

How much could your family change if you got a bit more intentional?  Which list best describes your family, and how are you personally contributing to either one?

8 Questions to Ask Before You Push POST

Rules to follow when using social media

Social Media.  It’s kind of a thing nowadays.  As far as what kind of thing it is… well, that all depends upon how we choose to use it and consume it.

In striving to use social media in a way that honors the Lord, here are some questions/guidelines I follow to filter my posts through, prior to hitting the ‘POST’ button.  You might consider using these social media rules yourself:

  1. Is it Positive?  You’ve probably noticed that there’s plenty of negativity floating around social media, to the point that sometimes it feels like your swimming in the lake next to a landfill.  A Christian doesn’t need to add to such negativity.  If I’m going to put something out there for the world to see, is there something of positive value in it for those who see it?
  2. Is it Factual?  Social media is no place for spreading rumors, speculation, or gossip.  Does everything I read that ruffles my feathers mean it’s true or worthy of putting my name above it?  Do I want to be that person with egg on their face because of an emotional trigger response to post something questionable without knowing the facts?
  3. Is it Helpful?  Just because something is positive, and even true, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s helpful.  Can what I post simply put a smile on someone’s face, or just help point them in the right direction?  Is it helpful?  If so, it’s probably worth posting.  (Phil. 4:8)
  4. Is it Fun or Entertaining There’s great value in knowing and following people on social media who know how to have good, clean fun.  Do I know how to laugh at myself and enjoy life, and as a result, help others enjoy it with me?
  5. Is it Overly Political?  Probably the last thing we need more of on social media is politics. While it’s not necessarily wrong to post something political, and sometimes it’s inescapable for Biblical truth not to collide with political opinion, as a general rule, I try to abstain from political posts as much as possible. Has anyone ever changed another’s mind by using social media as a megaphone for their political views?
  6. Is it Drama Free?  If for some reason I want to air out my dirty laundry, social media is not the place to do it. What is the motivation behind what I’m posting?  Am I looking for pity, or just to generate an emotional response from others? Am I using social media to vent my frustrations or satisfy my flesh? Save the drama for your mama.
  7. Is it Regret Free?  While I can always delete that post tomorrow, why post it today?  Is what I post going to be something I’ll be proud of tomorrow, next year, or 10 years from now?  Good thing when you delete something from the Internet, it can never be found again. 😃  Better yet, what if I just bit my lip… (or, my thumb) a little more often?
  8. Is it Christ-honoring If none of the above questions answer whether or not I should post something, this should be my ultimate filter – is what I’m about to post going to honor the Lord and strengthen my testimony? (I Cor. 10:31)

I personally enjoy using social media, but it’s not just what I post that I have to be careful of, it’s also what I consume.  So here’s a bonus :).  In addition to filtering posts with the above questions, I filter time spent on social media by asking these 2 questions:

  1. Am I Wasting My Time?  Certainly there’s plenty of time that can be wasted on social media.  Sometimes 30 minutes can feel like 5.  Am I using social media wisely, and redeeming the time, or am I allowing it to become a god of idle hands that puts me in the devil’s workshop?
  2. Am I Stealing Someone Else’s Time?  Am I taking time away from things that really do matter like my family, my job, or my responsibilities?  Am I forfeiting valuable pieces of my kids’ childhood for a device addiction?  Am I acting married to social media instead of married to my spouse?  Am I stealing time and attention away from those who need and deserve it most by throwing it to the wind with nothing to show for it?  Am I setting a right or wrong example of social media use for my children?

Social media isn’t going anywhere. So if we don’t have some boundaries, we’ll certainly have some regrets.  And if we don’t exemplify and teach our children proper boundaries, so will they.

What are some of the social media rules you follow? And what would you add to this list of guidelines?

Laugh More… Live More

Why laughter needs to be a regular ingredient in your home

Our family loves to laugh. Whether it’s at someone or with someone, whether it’s joke night or just time to get silly, laughter is a ton of fun. In fact, some of my greatest memories as a child were times when our family had all out gut-busting times of long, hard laughter.  

Families who learn to laugh more together learn to enjoy life more together.  Here’s three reasons why you need to make laughter a regular ingredient in your home:

It Makes Life More Enjoyable for Everyone

When you’re laughing, your smiling, and when you’re smiling, you’re having fun.  Even if you don’t want to admit it.  Learning to laugh at your self and not take everything in life so seriously will help you and your family enjoy every day of life just a little bit more.  Laughter has a unique way of strengthening family unity and making life more fun and enjoyable for everyone.

“A person who knows how to laugh at himself will never cease to be amused.” – Shirely McClain

It Lightens Your Load & Lifts Your Spirit

When you’re having a bad day, or you just need to be refreshed, nothing can change the mood like a goofy friend, a silly joke, or some unexpected humor.  Even when life throws us curveballs, and we have a bad day, laughter can do something for us that little else can do.  At least for a few moments, it puts our mind at ease, and allows us to focus on something positive.  

“I love people who can make me laugh, when I don’t even want to smile.” – Anonymous

“Laughter is a tranquilizer with no side effects, so please take it regularly.” – Anonymous

It’s Good for Your Health

As many health benefits as there are to laughter, it should be bottled up and sold. Laughter relaxes your body, relieves stress, boosts your immune system, improves blood flow, burns extra calories, and actually helps you live longer. Many studies have shown that good doses of laughter are like an internal medicine for your body. 

Imagine that…  Proverbs 17:22  A merry heart doth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.  

And even if it didn’t make you live longer, someone wisely noted that “If you laugh a lot, when you get older, your wrinkles will be in the right places.” 🙂 

If you’re family is not laughing together regularly, you’re missing out!  So maybe its about time your family busted out a joke night, had a silly dress up competition, engaged in an all-out tickle fight, or watched some crazy cat videos on YouTube! Whatever you do, let loose, and have some fun.  Your family will be better for it!

To help get you started, here are some good, clean (& corny) jokes your family will enjoy!

“I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.” – Woody Allen

How to Help Your Kids Own Their Own Beliefs

I recently heard the story of a parent who was concerned that their teenage daughter, who used to be so obedient in listening to them, was now listening to everything her friends said by allowing them to influence her decision making.

The parents didn’t understand why, until someone wisely pointed out that their daughter didn’t change beliefs, she just changed who she was listening to. You see, those beliefs had never become her own in the first place, and as a result, she had simply mirrored the beliefs of her parents until she was influenced otherwise.

As parents, a great danger we face is in simply giving our children a knowledge of what to believe, without instilling within them a desire and passion for why to personally believe it. Our ultimate goal must be that even once our children are out from under the umbrella of our authority, the things we have instilled within them will have become a part of the fabric of their character and the very foundation of their lives.   

Their faith must become personal to them.

And in order for that to happen, we must give our children opportunities to own their own faith, or else potentially abandon it forever. 

So how can a parent successfully help their children own their own beliefs? Here’s 3 important ways…

1. Don’t solve every issue or problem for them. 

Our children need guidance, but sometimes we need to allow them to make their own decisions, and the resulting consequences. Whether it’s the issue of money, how to deal with friendship struggles, or what to do when they’ve been wronged, our job as parents is not to solve our children’s problems, but to guide them through them. (Sadly, many parents bend over backwards running to the rescue of their child’s every whimper or struggle, but to their child’s own detriment.)

This requires that we be their guide, but not always their decision maker. We must give them opportunities to make their own decisions, and learn from them.  

There are times when my children want to spend their money on something I feel is foolish, so I give them guidance, and allow them to make the decision, one way or the other. Sometimes they make the right decision, and are glad that they did, and other times, they make the wrong decision, and learn to accept the consequences.  

You may have heard the old Chinese proverb that says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  This is a great parallel in parenting. 

“Childhood is the university for life, so helping our children learn how to properly deal with life now helps them learn how to properly make life decisions for years to come.”  

While this is sometimes hard to watch as a parent, it’s very worth it when you keep the end result in mind – a child who is equipped to solve their own life problems both biblically and responsibly.

2. Don’t expect them to mirror everything identical to you and your preferences. 

This has been a difficult one to learn and accept as our children have gotten older. There are certain things my children enjoy and preferences they have that I might not personally choose. And I’m learning that that’s okay. Yes, there are certain things that are non-negotiable, and biblical lines that should never be crossed, but then there are many things that are more a matter of different preferences than anything else.  

For example… my son enjoys some types of clothing styles and hobbies that wouldn’t be my preference, but there’s nothing superior about my preferences over his. My daughter also enjoys playing the ukelele and singing like Grace VanderWaal, neither of which match my tastes. However, she’s become quite good at both. 

What I’m learning is that God has gifted my children in ways that are unique to them, and very possibly ways that He can use them in the future to fulfill their own personal calling. And it’s okay for them to own their own gifting and preferences to become the person God wants them to be, even when they don’t match my own.

“My job as a parent is to reproduce my values in my children, but my job is not to produce clones of me and my preferences.”  

Each of my children are uniquely created by God for a specific purpose. My job is to help them own their own beliefs as I guide them to find, follow, and fulfill that purpose.

3. Teach them how to listen to the voice of God for themselves.

I believe that one of the greatest things you can ever teach your kids to do is to listen to the voice of God, and make decisions based upon the moving of His Spirit in their own hearts and lives. All too often, as Christian parents, we fall into the trap of thinking that we have to make all the decisions for our children from the time they are born until they are 18 years old and on their own. And as a result, we fail them.

We fail to prepare them for life, and we send them into the world without the proper capabilities to make wise decisions for themselves, independent from mom and dad. As parents, it is our job to put ourselves out of a job by reproducing ourselves (our faith, our values, and our beliefs) in our children.

In order for that to happen, it’s very important that as soon as your children are old enough to be saved and to start facing life’s challenges, they are old enough to be given liberty to let God direct their steps and help them to make wise decisions. (Of course, this involves teaching them to pray and read God’s Word on their own.)

If your children are used to praying for themselves, receiving your guidance, and personally listening to the voice of God at young ages, they are going to be more than equipped to own their own faith by making godly decisions once they’re living life on their own.

We are sadly seeing a mass exodus of young people leaving the faith of their parents, and I believe that this is often one of the main reasons why – we’ve always owned their faith, and inadvertently allowed them to simply mirror ours.  

Sadly, this often only becomes all too evident, all too late, when we’re standing there watching them walk away.

I know that your heart’s desire as a parent is to help your children own their own faith.  So ask yourself, of these three things, which one do I need to work on the most?  And remember…     

“If we never give our children opportunities to own their own faith, it’s quite possible that they never will.”

Do you agree?  Disagree?  Or what else would you add to this list of ways to help your kids own their own beliefs?

  • If you found this article helpful, and would like to receive future articles directly in your email inbox once a week, you can sign up here.

How I Almost Disciplined My Son for Something He Didn’t Do

Sitting on our kitchen table is a small container called The Box of Encouragement.

Inside of this box are 3×5 cards that we we use to write notes of love and kindness to others in the family.  I recently wrote a note to my 9 year old son, Seth, and left it on the table before leaving the house one morning.

But that wasn’t the only note I wrote that morning before I left.  I wrote another note to put on my iPad as I left it on my bed stand to ensure that none of our kids used it without permission (which they had recently started doing). It was important to me that they weren’t just defaulting to device time when they didn’t have something else to do.

I was certain that my note would make the point very clear without any ‘ifs, ands, or buts’.

However, when I came home for lunch that day, I noticed the Seth was crouched behind the front door, playing with the iPad in hand as if he didn’t have a care in the world.  I sat down next to him, and asked him, “Son, did you get permission to use the iPad from your Mom?”  He looked at me with an “uh-oh” stare and said, “Um… No.”

I said, “Well, didn’t you read the note that I left this morning?”  He said, “Yes, sir.”

“Then why are you using the iPad without permission… You’re going to have to be in trouble.”

He shook his head with a yes as tears began to well up in his eyes, and he said, “I’m sorry, Dad.”

For whatever reason, I told him that we would take care of the discipline a little later before I left from lunch, rather than immediately… and I’m glad that I did.

A few minutes later, I came to find out that the only note my son had read that morning was the yellow one I had left personally for him on the kitchen table.  The other note on the iPad had inadvertently gotten pushed aside by his younger brother who didn’t even bother to try reading it. What I had thought was an act of willful disobedience on his part was actually much less, and I had almost disciplined my son wrongfully.

When I asked Seth about the situation, he said, “I didn’t know for sure what you were talking about, I just figured I had missed something you told me in my note, and that I was wrong.”

I apologized for assuming his wrong intentions, and told him never to be afraid to ask questions, or explain himself, if he feels he’s being wrongfully punished.

While I’m glad things worked out the way that they did that day, I’m most thankful that I didn’t discipline my son for something wrong that he didn’t do.  I was reminded of the importance of doing my best to have all the facts prior to enforcing discipline, and the value of allowing my children to explain themselves and their intentions.

“When your child is in trouble, never underestimate the value of asking them questions, allowing their honest feedback, and listening to their heart.”

I was also reminded of the great picture this is of what Jesus Christ did for each of us when He went to the cross.  Having done nothing wrong, He willingly laid down his life for us, suffering wrongfully in our place, like a sheep led to the slaughter.

He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.  Isaiah 53:7

When he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree.  I Peter 2:23-24

I can honestly say that I’m thankful for a son who was willing to be punished for something he didn’t even do, simply because he trusted his father.  I’m even more thankful for a Savior Who was willing to be punished for my sins, of which He was not guilty Himself, because He too trusted His Father, and was willing to pay the ultimate price for you and me.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this.  Have you ever had a similar situation in your family, I’d love to hear about it.

Me and my two youngest boys just being ourselves 🙂

5 Ways to Show Your Kids You’re in Love with Their Mother

It has been rightly said that “one of the greatest gifts a father can give to his children is to love their mother.”  And I couldn’t agree more!

The success of your children’s future marriages will in large part depend upon the example of yours.

So with that thought in mind, here are 5 practical ways to show your kids that you are madly in love with their mother:

Respect Her

I Peter 3:7  …husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife…

Men, if we want our children to have utmost respect for their mother, we must start by having utmost respect for our wife.  Find creative ways to honor your wife in front of your children.  Speak highly of her, because your view of her will be reflected in your children.

Praise Her

Proverbs 31:28  Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

Learn to practice praising your wife… after a good meal, or… after a bad meal.  Praise her when she’s up; praise her when she’s down.  Praise her in public; praise her in private.  Believe me, your kids will notice and take note of how they are to treat their future spouse someday.

Touch Her

Proverbs 5:18  Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice in the wife of thy youth.

Physical touch speaks volumes to small watching eyes. Hold hands in the store. Put your arm around her while sitting in church.  Kiss her when she brings dinner to the table. Hug her in the kitchen for no reason.  Little eyes are paying close attention and taking mental notes for themselves someday.  And although they may say, “that’s gross” what that really translates into is “that makes me feel loved and secure.

Spoil Her

Ephesians 5:28  So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies.  He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

God is pretty clear that once a man makes the marriage commitment to his wife, he is to care for her and treat her as his own flesh.  Men, this simply means that there is nothing that we should be doing for ourselves that we aren’t equally doing for our wives, and even more so.  If anyone in the family gets the best, it ought to be mom.  If anyone in the family gets spoiled with the nicest things, it ought to be mom.  Our children need to see their mother as the queen of the family who is treated as such.

Prioritize Her

Ephesians 5:25  Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it.

Christ gave His Church His utmost priority.  And in doing so, he set the example for us as husbands to follow toward our wives.  Show your children that you prioritize her by spending time alone together, taking her out on dates, and allowing nothing less than respect for her in your home.  Whatever you do, don’t ever apologize for letting your children know that mom comes first.

If you want your kids to adore their own spouse someday, resolve conflicts quickly, be considerate and affectionate, and sacrificially serve them, ask yourself, am I doing those things for my spouse right now?

Proverbs 23:26  My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways. 

These five things aren’t rocket-science, but they can make a huge difference in the tone of your family life and the relationship you have with your wife.  And ultimately, they become a great gift to your children, both now, and forever.

In which of these 5 ways do you need to most improve?

How to Choose the Best Movies for Your Family

5 easy guidelines for getting it right rather than having regret

Have you ever started watching a movie with your family, and thought to yourself, “This is not at all what I expected” or “maybe this wasn’t such a good choice after all”?  

I think we’ve all been there, slightly embarrassed that we didn’t do a little more research, or unsure if we should – A) bear the discomfort of turning a movie off completely, or B) endure the discomfort of sitting through the rest of it on eggshells about what might happen next.

After this scenario happening in our family too many times, we developed some ground rules that have helped us avoid those awkward situations and decisions. We’ve found that by following these few basic guidelines, it’s easy to make the decision in advance about which movies are right for our family, rather than having to regret it after the fact.  

I’m guessing they might be helpful for you as well.  So here are 5 easy guidelines for helping your family choose the best movies:

1. Watch the trailer.  This seems so simple.  But do we do it prior to every movie we watch?  We should.  It’s amazing how much you can learn about a movie (it’s theme, it’s overall tone, and it’s purpose), just by viewing the trailer.  Sometimes you may think you know about a movie, but after watching the trailer, you find that it really isn’t what you expected.  Following this simple rule is often the simplest and first step to being informed. 

2. Read the reviews.  Reviews abound for movies nowadays.  Find out what other families are saying about specific movies, and whether or not they are glad they watched it and would recommend it to others.  Reviews are a great way be informed from the voices of experience.

3. Use a movie review source. A couple of review sources we use from a Christian perspective are Family Life’s Plugged In App (also PluggedIn.com), and Crosswalk.com.  These sources will give you a complete rundown of the overall theme of the movie, the positive and negative elements, spiritual content, drug content, language content, and an overall family friendly rating. 

4. Align it with your values (moral and biblical).  Let’s face it, most of Holywood is not promoting our Christian values, but rather challenging them more and more each year.  Much of it’s very blatant, while some of it is very subtle and implied.  So don’t assume anyone else has your child’s best interests in mind, but rather, do your research.  And after doing it, you should be able to better discern whether or not a movie is going to be a positive or a negative experience for your family, and whether or not it will help you or hurt you as a parent. Every person is influenced by the entertainment they consume, and especially our impressionable children. So make sure it is working in your favor.

5. Ask yourself the honest questions.  Is this a wise use of our family’s time? Will this work against or reinforce what I am trying to teach my children (language, violence, sexual content, etc.)?  Is there a life lesson to be taught or gained?  Does this movie elevate what is good, or glorify what is evil?  Could this movie potentially undercut what I am trying to instill within my kids?  Is the theme of this movie something that is in line with, or contrary to, Biblical principles or practices?  

If you follow these five simple rules, they won’t take more than a few minutes of your time, but they definitely can save you a few hours of regret. 

As Christian parents, it is our responsibility to protect the hearts and minds of our children, as well as the appetites we create in them. (Psalm 101:2-3, Prov. 22:6, 23:26) And what we allow them to watch can play a huge part in that.

How to Love Your Family the Way God Loves You

I John 4:7-8  Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.  He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

“God is Love”…  That’s a very bold statement for the Bible to make.  To state that God is not just a great picture of love, or that He displayed the greatest act of love, but that He IS the very definition of love itself… it ought to change our thinking about love.

Because if God is love, then no-one has the ability to love apart from Him and being made in His image.  Without Him, there is no such thing as love, so we are only able to love as a reflection of His character.

Have you ever struggled to love… God’s way?  While God has called us to a life of love, our ability to love is not based upon our ability to simply choose it.  That would put the weight of responsibility squarely upon our shoulders, which is impossible.

We are only able to love completely as we depend upon the grace of God, and then demonstrate to others through the power of His Spirit that very love that He has first demonstrated to us. (I John 4:12-13)

NOTICE THE GREAT LOVE THAT GOD HAS FOR YOU… 

(Seriously, take the time to read and ponder these verses, even if they’re familiar to you)

John 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Romans 6:23  For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 5:8  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 10:9,13  That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved… For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

If you haven’t yet received God’s gift of forgiveness and eternal life through salvation, I would encourage you to be saved today!  (If you have questions about salvation that I can help with, please let me know.)

I John 4:9-10, 12  In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.  Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins…. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Once we know God through a relationship with Jesus Christ, we have the promise of the love of God at work in us and through us to others around us.

Notice what kind of love this is that God has for you and gives to you through the person of Jesus:

  • A Sacrificial Love: Love at any cost – John 3:16
  • An Unconditional Love: Love that is undeserved – Romans 5:8, I John 4:19
  • An Eternal Love: Love that never ends – Jeremiah 31:3
  • A Powerful Love: Love that cannot be changed – Romans 8:38-39

When we consider the great nature of God’s love demonstrated through Christ for us, can we honestly say that our love towards our family members mirrors such love?

REALITY CHECK…

Are we willing to:

  • love at any cost?
  • love when it isn’t deserved?
  • love without any strings attached?
  • love when it’s not reciprocated?
  • love without any hint of ever holding it back, no matter what?

How well are our gestures demonstrating such love?… what about our responses to mistakes?… our tone of voice?… our actions?  Is the love of God that is at work in us actually reaching out on to the other side of our skin for our family to see?

Our natural tendency is to try and love on our own terms.  But love in its truest form is only a love patterned after the definition of love itself – God.  “God. Is. Love.”  And we can’t do it without His help.

This is deep, but so true – We can only love our family the way God loves us when we love our family the way God loves us. (I warned you it was deep 😃 )  But are we?

God, our Heavenly Father, has set the perfect example for us in how He loves us, His children.  And in it, a perfect example of how we are to love our children as well.

How are you doing at sharing the love… by loving your family the way God loves you?

I John 4:11  If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 

John 15:12  This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

5 Ways You’re Hurting Your Family (And you don’t even know it)

Have you ever had to be confronted with something you were doing wrong, that you didn’t even know you were doing wrong?

We’ve all been there, haven’t we?

Here are a few common mistakes that couples often make in parenting that they may not even realize they are making.  However, they can still be costly.

Are you guilty of hurting your family with any of these unintentional, yet common mistakes?

1.  Correcting your spouse in front of your kids  

I know you don’t always agree.  But when those times come, it’s really important that you discipline yourselves to put on a unified front when your kids are watching.  Sometimes its a whole lot easier to just say, “Honey, let’s talk about this later”, than burdening your kids with an unnecessary feeling of insecurity that comes from seeing mom and dad at odds with each other.

Even if you genuinely believe  your spouse is wrong in a situation, do your best to make that known in private, not in the presence of your kids.

2.  Siding with your kids over your spouse when there’s a conflict

Let’s face it, from time to time, you’re going to see eye to eye with your kids over your spouse on certain issues.  It may be that you don’t think they deserve to be disciplined for something, but your spouse does.  Or you think your spouse is being too harsh, and your child is being treated unfairly.

In these types of situations, one of the most dangerous things you can do for your family is to side with your child over your spouse (at least if it’s done in the child’s presence).  Because when this happens, the seeds of disrespect and contempt are inadvertently sown in your child’s heart.

While the last thing you would ever want to do is set your spouse up for parenting failure, that is exactly what you will do if you throw them under the bus and side with your children over them.  The solution to this type of situation is simple –  have a conversation with your spouse in private, come to an agreement or compromise, and then explain it to your children as a unified couple.

3.  Giving your kids permission to do something your spouse has said no to

Kids are smart, and they know that if one parent won’t give them the answer they want, then maybe the other parent will.  In our home, our children understand the consequences if they ask one of us something that they know the other has already given them a clear answer about.

However, if in any family, one parent regularly goes behind the back of the other, and gives their child permission to do things that they have already been told no to, they have successfully sown the seeds of division in their family, and they shouldn’t be surprised when they reap an unwanted harvest in years to come.

4.  Having and enforcing different rules than your spouse

One of the greatest keys to successful parenting is two people being on the same page, going in the same direction, and trying to accomplish the same vision for their family. Anytime that children begin to sense that there is a certain set of rules when one parent is present, and a different set of rules when they are absent, there is a great potential danger in the home. This could involve what kids are allowed to watch, listen to, eat, or say, etc.

Dad and mom need to get on the same page when it comes to rules concerning chores, expectations, respect, discipline, and so many other areas.  This can be especially difficult for step families or single parents whose kids live in more than one home with different sets of rules.  But as best as possible, for the sake of the children, every family needs to find as much common ground as possible in this area.

5.  Giving your kids greater priority of your time and attention than your spouse

This is often one of the most common mistakes that couples make in parenting, and don’t even realize it – focusing more on their relationship with their kids to the detriment of feeding and growing their own relationship with each other.

When parent and child become more of a team than mom and dad, mark it down, there’s going to be problems.

Never forget that God gave you your spouse first, and your children second.  And anytime that your relationship with your spouse suffers, your children will naturally suffer as a result.  Strong marriages make for strong families.  So do what it takes to put your spouse first, and don’t ever apologize to your kids for doing so.

None of us would intentionally try to hurt our family, but it’s very possible we’re doing it without even knowing it.  If so, let’s make the necessary course corrections.

Let’s make it our goal as parents to make our home the most safe and balanced place for love to grow, character to form, and future family precedents to be set.

3 Reasons It’s Time to Have a Family Meeting

If you want to have a long lasting and smooth running vehicle, every few months you need to take the time to get your oil changed.  In addition, every now and then, you may even need to get get an alignment or other routine maintenance done.

Why do we do those things?  I’ll guarantee you it’s probably not because we want to or because we just have extra money lying around.  It’s because we understand the necessity of protecting our investment by keeping our vehicle running smoothly and functioning properly for the long haul.

Over time and with use, fresh oil is needed, and the bumps in the road require that some adjustments be made. It may not be overly noticeable at first, but the longer you leave it unattended, the worse it will continue to get.

The same is often true in our families. We have much invested, and in fact, there may be no greater investment we make in our lifetime.

But over time, with the bumps in the road of life, our family sometimes needs a routine adjustment, and some “fresh oil” to help get everyone back on the same page.

One of the ways we’ve found helpful to make this happen is by having routine family meetings.  These meetings help us implement the necessary tweaks to getting things that have gotten slightly out of alignment back to running smoothly and evenly again.

Here are 3 important reasons why it may just be time for you to have a family meeting:

1) To Establish Organization

I Corinthians 14:40 reminds us to “Let all things be done decently and in order.”  This would include the family.  God never designed for the family to be a hodge-podge, shoot from the hip, whatever happens happens, kind of institution.  He established the family as the cornerstone for intentional passing down of faith and values to future generations, who would then be able to do the same for more future generations.

I believe that God expects us to have a biblical game plan for our families.  This requires more than good intentions.  It requires implementing tangible steps of action.  One such step can be family meetings.  Many of us have regular and routine meetings for work, for ministry, and for other areas of life, in order to keep things running smoothly, so why not for the family? Meetings are not always fun, but they are often necessary.

2)  To Explain Expectations

We had our most recent family meeting a few weeks ago, and much of the purpose of that meeting was to clarify and re-establish some expectations that had gotten lax over time.  So rather than us continuing to get frustrated with one another because of family expectations not being met, we came up with a plan, and got the family together to go over that plan for how to realign our priorities and expectations.

We also use this family meeting time to give our kids the #1 area we want them to currently focus on improving in (sometimes it’s a school subject or other challenge, but most often it’s a character trait we’re currently trying to help them develop).  These family meetings are a separate event from doing family devotions, because they have a uniquely different purpose.

By doing these meetings, we’ve found it makes family life better for everyone.  Less confusion for the kids, more accountability for the parents, and ultimately less stress for everyone.  Why? Because everyone knows what the expectations are and the accompanying consequences of them not being met.

3) To Get On the Same Page

Following our routine family meetings, we find that just like an oil change or alignment, our home runs more smoothly and effectively.  This also gives us an opportunity for greater family unity and camaraderie.

One of the greatest areas this has helped with in our family is relieving stress for my wife by helping hold the kids accountable during the day to the same standards they are accountable dad is present.  I don’t know about your family, but my kids often have more of a tendency to take advantage of mom when I’m not around.

In addition to some good old fashioned discipline, family meetings have helped us to get on the same page and to nip things like that in the bud, as well as to focus on other priorities of family life that we feel need to be discussed.

“As a family, we’re on the same team.  So shouldn’t we also be on the same page?”

In my opinion, the value of regularly sitting down together with your family and getting everyone on the same page cannot be over emphasized.  I’d encourage you to try it, and find out for yourself!

So… is a family meeting long overdue in your home?

Do you already do family meetings?  If so, I’d love to hear about it.  Or, if you have questions, feel free to let me know.