Bedtime Routines & Why They Matter to Your Kids

Over the years as a family, we’ve found that our children are often influenced by forces from outside of our home sometimes even more than they are by forces from within.  This has required us to become more intentional to not only invest into our kids, but also into strengthening our influence and investment into them on a daily basis.

And one of the best ways we’ve found to do that is through prioritizing one of the most precious and protected times of our day – bedtime.

Those moments in our home just before the kids are sent to bed are often some of the most precious moments we have together as a family. Its a time where we talk, we pray, we laugh, we share, we hug… and it’s a wonderful time that our family enjoys and anticipates.

Why?  Because counter to the noisy and busy world our families live in every day, the bedtime routine can become a warm and close environment that is both safe and relaxed, much the opposite of the rest of the day.  It’s a time where we can get personal, and it’s a time where we can sometimes get biblical.  

Oftentimes its serious, and other times it’s far from serious, but all in all, it’s a time where we can just be ourselves and tackle some of life’s issues together.

And don’t be fooled into believing that it comes easily… it doesn’t.  In fact, unless you prioritize this time as a family, things that are most urgent will crowd out things that are most important, and it may never happen.

If you haven’t established any bedtime routines in your home, I’d encourage you to consider trying some of these memorable ideas and the beneficial byproducts of a healthy bedtime routine:

  1. Storytelling.  Kids love stories.  Especially when you personally tell them the story or read it aloud to them.  They can be stories from books, stories from your past, or simply stories from your imagination.
  2. Scripture Memorization.  What better way to memorize a verse or passage than together as a family, and help your children hide God’s Word in their hearts? (Psalm 119:11)
  3. Quality Conversation.  Most families struggle to have real, quality, family conversation.  But what easier way to do it than to have a time scheduled and set aside for it to happen.  Don’t worry, just start with a verse, a thought, or a question, and let the conversation flow from there.  Try it, it really is easier than you think.
  4. Spiritual Investment.  There’s really nothing more important that investing into our kids spiritually.  So use this time for family devotions, teaching different character traits, discussing Bible stories, or talking about the Gospel.
  5. Personal Environment.  Make this time just before closing out your family’s day a close and relaxed time that they look forward to.  Have a plan, but don’t turn it into a church service either. 😃
  6. Singing Songs.  Families need to sing together, both in corporate worship, and in private worship.  When’s the last time your family sang together in your own home?  Believe me, your kids will love it, especially if you let them pick some of the songs.
  7. Showing Affection.  Nothing says I love you like a bear hug, a kiss on the forehead, and the spoken words, “I love you”, to close out your child’s day.
  8. Tucking In.  Tucking your kids in at night (especially if they’re still young) can be a huge deal to them, and put their mind at ease just before the lights go out, and a perfect opportunity for one last hug, kiss, or even the piggy toes.
  9. Using a Personal Routine or Phrase.  Consider coming up with a personal phrase between you and each child, or maybe a nickname, a special handshake, etc.  Whatever you do, the fact that it’s unique and personal to them makes all the difference and communicates love to them.

Bedtime… you may just find out for yourself that if you prioritize it, it has the potential to become one of the most memorable and beneficial times in your home as well.

12 Things You Should WANT Your Kids to Catch You Doing Together

I came home for lunch recently and was met with these words from my 13 year old daughter, “I saw that mushy text you sent to mom earlier today”…  And it really didn’t bother me that she had seen it.  It was actually encouraging.

As parents, I’m sure you’d agree that there are definitely some things we probably don’t want our kids to ever catch us doing together 😉 .

But there are some things that they definitely should catch us and our spouse doing together, even if we don’t know it.  Things that could be pretty impactful on them if they were to catch us in the very act.

So, here’s a list of 12 things you for you to consider that you should want your kids to catch you doing together:

  1. Praying together
  2. Holding hands just because
  3. Complimenting one another
  4. Putting the other person’s desires first
  5. Intercepting love notes or texts between each other
  6. Discussing family decisions together
  7. Flirting with one another
  8. Praising one another
  9. Refusing to argue with one another by agreeing to disagree
  10. Hugging in the hallway
  11. Kissing in the kitchen
  12. Being randomly generous and kind to each other or someone else in need

These are probably just a few of many.  But they’re a great start to get your mind thinking.  Do you agree?  Are these things you’d want your kids to catch you doing together as well?  If so, please share.

How many of these 12 are you doing? Which one is your favorite? What are some others that you would add?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Getting Honest as Parents – a Free Childhood Observation Analysis

Psalm 51:6  Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

One of the hardest things to do in our parenting is to be honest… with ourselves.  Because it’s so easy to become convinced that the way we are parenting is right, and to justify the ways we are parenting that are wrong.

I explain this in greater detail in the article called Every Parent is Deceived (most of them just don’t know it yet).  I’d strongly encourage you to read it if you haven’t.

In an effort to get honest with ourselves, we’ve got to be willing to evaluate our parenting, as well as ask and answer some tough questions about where our kids are mentally, spiritually, relationally, and behaviorally.

This list of questions below will help you to do just that.

Take this Childhood Observation Analysis of who and where your kids are in these 4 key areas: (take into consideration the ages and maturity level of your children and how that should impact your answers)

Answer based on three age categories (using the included free pdf) – K down, elementary, and teen, checking off the boxes only next to the questions you can answer with a positive response in order to find out their “good” grade.  (Don’t be too hard on yourself or them, just be honest. Kindergarten and down is the hardest category to judge, but you’ll get the idea.)

MENTALLY / Biblical Knowledge

  • Can my child name many of the character traits (attributes) of God, other than love?
  • If they are saved, can they clearly explain to someone the good news of salvation?
  • Can they identify key qualities that should make a Christian different from someone who is not one?
  • Can they explain why Jesus is the only person who could die for sin, and raise back from the dead?
  • Can they identify or locate key books or verses of the Bible?
  • Do they understand the principle of tithing and know how to practice it?
  • Can they explain God’s purpose for the church in the world, and the two ordinances He gave to it?
  • Are they able to clearly articulate what they learned in church after a given Sunday?


  • Are they currently reading their Bible on their own with any consistency?
  • Are they striving to demonstrate any of the fruit of the Sprit?
  • Do they show any concern for reaching others who are without Christ?
  • Do they receive correction with a teachable spirit?
  • Do they show compassion towards others who are poor, disabled, or underprivileged?
  • Are they polite, courteous, and respectful in their dealings with adults?
  • Are they dependable and reliable to keep their commitments?
  • Do they seem to show any interest or passion in spiritual things now at their current age? (If not, what causes us to believe that will change as they get older, unless some type of course corrections are made?)


  • Are you pleased with their attitude and respect towards authority in general?
  • Do they seem to get along well with others, willing at times to give in to others for the greater good?
  • Do they gravitate towards the right crowd of their peers?
  • Are their attitudes towards people of the opposite sex healthy and respectful?
  • Are they able to carry on healthy conversation with others when they don’t have something else to occupy their mind?
  • Is their social life and ability to interact with others unaffected by their media use?
  • Is the way they interact with their siblings a sign of potentially healthy future relationships?
  • Do they have a good reputation in their class at school, their neighborhood at home, or their small group at church?


  • Are they obeying the first time they are told without hesitation?
  • Do they obey willingly with an attitude of honor towards you and/or others?
  • When they are confronted with wrongdoing, are they repentant?
  • Do they avoid manipulating situations and people for their personal benefit?
  • Do they avoid complaining that your family’s rules are too hard or harder than others’?
  • Do they look for ways to serve others rather than primarily for what only serves themselves?
  • Do they carry out routine chores or responsibilities without being hounded?
  • Does the way they talk and respond to you now give you hope for the future?

The easiest way to get your child’s score is to use this free pdf file to track your answer totals.  

Now… total the scores based upon your child’s age:

  • K down – if their score is 8-12+… you’re on the right track!
  • Elementary – 12-20+… Keep up the great work!
  • Teen – 20-32… You rock!  You’re doing awesome.

Upon asking yourself these honest questions, take a moment to write down some specific ideas for the areas that need improvement, as well as the game plan for how you will make those improvements become reality.

Whether your child’s score reflects what you want it to or not, take heart!  God has give your children to you “for such a time as this” to prepare them for life and eternity.  We believe in you, and so does He.  Now go get after it!  And please share this so other parents can benefit as well.

Every Parent is Deceived (most just don’t know it yet)

Do you believe that we have a real enemy? I hope that you do.  

And one of the things that he is most masterful at is the art of deception. He is the great deceiver. He’s done it since that first day in the Garden of Eden, and he continues to do it masterfully even in our own homes today.  

And as much as we’d like to deny it and not have to swallow the reality of this brutal truth, we can’t afford to naively ignore it… 

Every parent is deceived… most of us just don’t know it yet.

Whether we’re willing to admit it or not, we ALL have blind spots, and we usually don’t even realize them (although they’re often glaringly obvious to others… can you relate?).

But by the very idea and definition of “deception”, it implies that the person being deceived doesn’t realize that they have believed something that is a lie (otherwise, if they did, they wouldn’t actually be deceived).

But because we know that our enemy is real and that his tactics are powerful, we would do well to recognize that everyone (including ourself) is being deceived in some way. Because once we recognize it, even in our parenting, that is the start to us ultimately finding out exactly where we are personally being targeted by the enemy’s lies.

Sometimes the best way to determine the areas where deception is taking place is to simply be objective as a parent by asking ourselves some honest questions about ourselves and our children…  Here are a few to consider:

  • If I saw other people’s kids acting the way that mine do, would I be proud, ashamed, pleased, frustrated, or annoyed?
  • If I saw other parents acting the way that I do toward my kids, would I be proud, ashamed, pleased, frustrated, or annoyed?
  • Am I excusing and putting up with behavior from my children that I would consider to be unacceptable from others’, or that my own parents would have considered to be unacceptable from me?
  • Am I making excuses for my child to justify why I’m not dealing with them in certain areas?
  • Am I making excuses for myself and the reasons why I don’t deal with certain things in my own parenting?
  • Are my children currently on the path to spiritual maturity or worldly carnality?

While different parents may be deceived differently, here are 5 of the main types of deceived parents:

1) The Hearer, but not Doer…

James 1:22  But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 

One of the greatest forms of deception that Satan uses in every area of life, including parenting, is deceiving those who know what is right to do (they have been taught and trained), but do little to nothing with what they know.  They have somehow bought into the lie of thinking that their knowledge of the truth is enough.  That because they know how to be a good parent, that they are one.  But that is not always the case, because as we all know, actions always speak louder than words. 

  • They may read books about parenting. They may attend conferences and classes. They may listen to messages and podcasts. They may even take great notes. But those practices and principles never seem to leave the page and transfer into their daily life. They know so much, but apply so little. And as a result, this category of parents is quite possibly among the greatest of the deceived because they have deceived themselves by being hearers, but not doers.
  • They try new things and they don’t work, so instead of finding something else that does work, they simply stop trying new things. They have very little, if any, consistency or follow through on what they try, and so they often give up before they’ve given anything a fair chance.  They want a “quick fix”, and so they’re often not willing to put in the time, discipline and dedication it takes to see the results they want.

You might hear some of these things said by this parent:

  • “I’ve just tried everything and nothing seems to work.”
  • That kind of discipline used to work for our parents, but it’s so old fashioned and out of date now.”
  • “I know that’s what the Bible says, but there are so many other options and alternatives nowadays.”
  • “I know these principles have worked for other parents, but my kids are just different.”

The solution for this parent is this: Apply what you know that you’ve been taught and seen work successfully for others.  And remember, “you don’t get what you wish for, you get what you work for.”

2) The Justifier…

This type of parent is one who always has good reason for why their child did what they did or said, no matter how wrong it may have seemed to have been to everyone else.

You might hear some of these things said by this parent:

  • “It’s not that big of a deal. We have plenty of time to deal with this when they’re older.”
  • “Yes, my kids are out of control, but they’re not quite old enough to discipline yet.”
  • “My kids are already in elementary school, so they’re way too old to discipline now.”
  • “Well, the real reason they act that way is because…”

The solution for this parent is this: Guard yourself against making excuses for your kids or for yourself.  Excuses can hinder future growth for both yourself and your child by only encouraging more of the same of what you’re experiencing now. (Psalm 51:6)

3) The “Not My Kid” parent…

This parent is similar to the justifier, but also different. They’re always convinced that their kids would never be capable of such things as they are alleged. In their mind, their child is always the exception to the rule.  They go to bat for their kids’ failure to show responsibility or having to follow through on their commitments.  They often mollycoddle their children rather than allowing them to learn how to face the realities of life.  They also allow their kid’s feelings to dictate their decisions. (Whether it’s requiring their kids to do chores that they don’t like to do, attend classes they don’t want to attend, or making them apologize to someone that they’ve wronged).

You might hear some of these things said by this parent:

  • “I know that’s what most kids do, but my kids would never do that.” (Fake sick, lie to me, shift blame on someone who’s innocent, etc.)
  • “My kid is a “good kid” who would never _______________ “ (Having good kids does in no way mean they are in any less a sinner than the rest.)
  • “My kids would never take advantage of me and my kindness.” (any parent who would say or think this is clearly being taken advantage of by their children).
  • “My kids would never manipulate me.” (Oh, yes, I’m sure they’ve never even tried.  Mine never have 😃)

The solution for this parent is this: You need to be your child’s parent more than their friend.  Do what is best for them, not what is most in line with their feelings, or most convenient at the time. Your child needs a parent who cares more about their future than they do about their feelings. (Proverbs 19:18)

4) The Threatener…

This is the parent who is often threatening to discipline their child, yet their child probably can’t remember the last time they were actually disciplined.  They use threats and sometimes lots of volume to demand conformity, somehow mistakenly thinking that louder parents raise more obedient kids.

You might hear some of these things said by this parent:

  • “If you do that one more time…”
  • “I’m going to count to three, and you’d better…”
  • “If I have to tell you to stop doing that again, you’re going to regret it…”
  • “Why aren’t you listening to me?  Can’t you just behave for once…”
  • “If you don’t listen to me in this store, you’re never going to eat ice cream (or fill in the blank) again in your entire life…”

The solution for this parent is: Quit being a hovering cloud without rain.  Follow through on your word with consequences, rather than more threats.  Let your word in it’s normal tone speak for itself.  With time, your children will begin to take notice that you say what you mean, and you mean what you say.  (James 1:20)

5) The Pharisee…

This is the parent who thinks their kids are better than others because they are just “such good kids.”  They put their kids on a pedestal, and their children often know it. They’re often compliant, willing, and follow the rules. But sadly, this parent easily falls into the trap of thinking that they have been successful at parenting simply because they have raised good rule-followers, when in truth, they may have failed to raise genuine Jesus-followers. And if they fail to make sure their children are first and foremost Jesus-followers, they will wonder what could have possibly happened or went wrong all too late when their kids walk away from the faith.

You might hear some of these things said by this parent:

  • “I thank thee, Oh God, that my kids are not as other kids.”  (reference Luke 18:11) (I’m thankful that my kids are so much better behaved than other’s.)
  • “My kids know that if they ever tried to do that they’d never see tomorrow.”
  • “I don’t think my kids will ever give me any problems. They’re just so well-behaved.”
  • “I know it’s happened to others, but my kids will never mess up like that…”

The solution for this parent is this: Be careful not to focus on outward conformity more than you do inward transformation in your children.  Guard yourself against giving your kids the wrong impression that they are spiritual for all the wrong reasons (following the rules, being more compliant than their siblings, etc.).  Train your children to have a personal relationship and walk with God that goes far beyond rules and reaches deep into the heart. (Matthew 23:23)

As parents, we all have ways that we naturally want to rationalize away things that we know we should or shouldn’t be doing in our parenting.  Because it’s always easier to make an excuse than it is to take action and responsibility by admitting we’ve been deceived.

But let’s face it, every parent is deceived, including you, and including me.  Our job is simply to break the lies of deception by recognizing them for what they are, and taking tangible steps of action to change.  

We just need to stop, look, and think long enough to realize where our blind spots are, and where we need to be more rational and intentional in our parenting. Or, be bold enough to ask someone we trust to point them out to us.

So, in what area are you currently being deceived as a parent? Also, what other types of deceived parents might you add to this list?

2 Corinthians 2:11  Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.

  • Next week I’ll be helping you get honest as a parent by sending you a free Childhood Observation Analysis to determine where your kids currently are, and how to get them to where you’d like them to be.  So check back soon, or simply subscribe to to get all future updates directly in your inbox.

The Most Important Thing a Dad Can Do Is…

A few months ago, I asked a very pointed question on my personal Facebook page, and asked for people to finish this sentence…


The responses I received were GOLD, and so I wanted to share them with you today.  I found that of all the responses, there seemed to be three main categories, thus representing three main areas that dads really need to “get it right” in their home – Personal, Relational, & Spiritual.

I hope you are challenged by these thoughts as much as I was.

The most important thing a dad can do is…


“Spend time with his kids.  It makes a world of difference.” – Katarina

“Be present.” – Sarah

“Be there for his children.” – DeAnn

“Be there.” – Paul

“Communicate.” – Ed

“Teach his children a good work ethic.” – Cori

“Listen to his children.  Nothing replaces time and attention.” – Melissa

“Listen with eye contact.” – Sherrilyn



“Respect and love his children’s mom.” – Erica

“Love his wife.” – Bill

“Love their mother and lead by example.” – Charity

“Listen, and know when to be a daddy and when to be a father.” – Angela

“Love his children.” – Tim

“Love the Lord, and love his wife and family. Be real and transparent.” – Heather



“Lead his children to the Lord.” – Ryan

“Model Christ in all he does.” – John 

“Be a good role model for his children.” – Sherril

“Love God openly and radically (Mark 12:30).” – Chuck 

“Lead by godly example by spending time and showing love to them in all he does.” – Travis

“Be faithful.” – Mary

“Be filled with the Spirit.” – John

“Teach them to love God and love others thereby encompassing the entirety of the law.” – David

“Lead his family to the Lord.” – Dion & Viviana

“Model Christ.” – Jeremy

“Stay in church with his family.” – Claire

“Love God with all his heart.  All the other things derive from that.” – Damaris

“Have faith always and he will show his children that they can get through anything!” – Jennifer


Wow.  These are so simple, yet so profound!  

I guess you could say that it all boils down to what we’re doing in our relationship with them (personal), our relationship with others (relational), and our relationship with God (spiritual).  

If you’re a dad, which area stands out to you as your greatest strength? And which area stands out to you as your greatest weakness that you need to work on the most?

The Value of Spending Individual Time with Your Kids

God designed the family to work much like a team, where mom and dad are the coaches, and the children are the players, learning the ins and outs of this game we call life.  And one of the keys to learning to work together as a team is found in spending time together.  

Our family spends lots of time together (as most families do), and we thoroughly enjoy it (at least most of the time. lol).  But even as a great team spends much of their time together, great teams also require times of one on one personalized interaction between the coaches and players, in order to help each player develop on an individual level and ultimately advance the effectiveness of the team as a whole.  

Just like a good coach, as parents we should try to invest individual time into each of our kids regularly. And here are 4 reasons why:

Intentional Focus

While there is great value in togetherness as a family, there’s also something special that happens when a parent gets laser focused on an individual child and their specific needs and interests. While our kids are siblings, they’re not siamese twins. They have different likes and dislikes, and different strengths and weaknesses.

This sometimes necessitates some extra effort on our part as parents to give them the intentional time and focus they deserve. Just like a good coach meets a player where they are, and helps them to personally succeed, we have the same opportunity as parents.  

Personal Conversation

One of my personal favorite reasons for spending one on one time with each of our kids is because of the sometimes serious and personal conversations we’re able to have about what’s going on in their own heart and life.  There are naturally questions that can be asked and things they can share that just aren’t as conducive to talk about when the entire family is around.  

This may happen by taking them out to eat on the weekend, running errands together, simply going into their bedroom at night and closing the door so we can talk in private, or inviting them onto the front porch to talk as the sun goes down.  Our kids are often willing to talk to us about so much more than we think or know, if we’ll just give them the opportunities to do so. 

Individual Priority

Kids naturally love their parents, and what kid doesn’t love getting all of their parent’s affection and attention all to themselves, without having to share it with anyone else?  Your children are craving for your personal attention whether you give it or not.  And the younger they are, the more likely they are to verbalize this by asking you to do things with them.  But the older they become, while they still desire it, they will be much less likely to verbalize it.

Your kids will eat up the individual time you give to them, and quite possibly, those times you invested directly into them may very well become some of their fondest memories in their adulthood.  Because when you spend individual time with your kids, you are speaking love by telling them, “You are worth this to me.”

Speaking their Love Language

Every person in your family expresses and interprets love through the filter of their love language. If you haven’t read Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages (or The 5 Love Languages of Kids), you really need to. Or at least go to and allow each of your family members to take the online assessment to determine their specific love language. 

Our family did this recently, and it was truly beneficial to learn how each of us process the giving and receiving of love differently. It’s not only helped us to better relate to one another, but also helped shape what we do when we spend individual time together. Spending one on one time with each of your kids often allows you to zone in on speaking their love language in a more powerful and personal way.

Loving our kids is an amazing privilege and weighty responsibility. And if we’re not regularly loving them both collectively and individually, we may be missing out on some key ways to express personal love and value.  

Do you practice this is your home? Do you need to start? What are other reasons you may have for spending individual time with your kids? 

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: 


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.


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.”


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?

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