A Children’s Pastor’s Response To The Supreme Court Ruling On Same-Sex Marriage

gay marriage

On Friday, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States determined that marriage between homosexual couples would be legally recognized in all fifty states. No doubt, our kids are hearing all about this topic both on the TV and, many times, on the playground.  It’s hard for any parent to control the context in which their child may have conversations regarding this important topic.

Many Christian parents have struggled with the question, “How do I talk to my kids about this?” Likewise, many Children’s Pastors have struggled with the question, “What is my responsibility in this? Should I discuss ‘Gay Marriage’ with the children in my Kids Church?”

Some thoughts for Children’s Pastors:

I think you have to be careful what issues you are addressing in Children’s Church “as a group.”  So many children are at different points in the journey regarding both mental and emotional maturity.  When you address something as weighty and serious as homosexuality and gay marriage to a large group of kids, it is very difficult to do so in a way that is appropriate for EVERY child.

In addition, many parents (as they should) want to be THE ones to discuss topics such as this with their kids.  I understand, many parents DON’T ever discuss it with their kids.  That’s unfortunate.  However, you don’t want to undercut parents by addressing it publicly in a large group of kids.  This should be something that parents include in their general talks about “Biblical Sexuality” with their kids.

Of course, if a child asks you a direct question about it – treat that just like you do any other question about sex or sexuality.  Answer with, “I would be happy to share my thoughts with you about this subject.  Let’s talk to Mom or Dad when they come to pick you up.  Perhaps together, we can answer your questions in a healthy way.”  Then, follow the cues of the parent.  If they do not wish to discuss it right then and there, follow their lead.  Allow them to do so on their own terms and in their own timing.

An alternative to discussing this with the large group is to offer a special class or “discussion” in which you allow parents to sign their kids up to attend.  Encourage parents to attend with their children.  Rather than coming at the topic in a negative manner (i.e. “We are AGAINST gay marriage”, etc.), discuss the topic within the overall umbrella of God’s plan for our sexuality (“God created male and female to complement one another.  Marriage is the life-long commitment between one man and one woman.”).

The topic of “gay marriage” and “homosexuality” is a difficult one for kids.  Yes, it is becoming much more commonplace and a topic that they are hearing more and more about, but it is also very polarizing.  While we don’t ever shy away from the Truth, we also must be wise and careful when dealing with the youngest among us.  We want clarity, not confusion.

Some thoughts for Christian Parents:

Depending on the age of your child, they may or may not be aware of the Supreme Court decision. They may or may not be aware of the subject of “Gay Marriage” at all.  Don’t feel pressure to bring the topic up to your child simply because it is in the news, all over Social Media, etc.  Your child may be too young to even consider the conversation.

If your child asks you a question about it, address it. However, if your child is in the 4th Grade or above – they are GOING to hear about it. Kids love to talk about things that seem “taboo,” so it is better for you to be the FIRST one to speak with your children about this issue. It’s a lot harder to deal with when you are having to UNDO the misinformation your child may have already received from friends or the media.

As you have this conversation, remember:

  • Don’t freak out! – Don’t overreact and freak out! I see too many parents flip out over things like this. Don’t go on a diatribe about the “liberal agenda” and the “LGBT Conspiracy.” Just calmly share with them how, although some people choose to live their lives in contradiction to what God planned and the Bible teaches – our goal should be to pray for them, show them God’s love, and display God’s character in everything we do. Don’t flip out! Children take their emotional cues from you, the parent. Although there is reason to be concerned about our nation and community regarding this issue, God is STILL on the throne. There is no need to panic!
  • Don’t only give PART of the story! – Don’t simply say, “We believe that Homosexuality is a sin.” Explain to them what “sin” really is – “CHOOSING to live outside of God’s plan and purpose for your life.” Sin is the willful choice to disobey God’s commands. Revisit the story of Adam and Eve and how sin and temptation has been a problem for human beings since the beginning of time. Remind them that, although people make choices that are the opposite of what God has commanded, Jesus came to die on the cross so that ALL sin can be forgiven. All we must do is admit our sin, receive forgiveness, and CHOOSE to follow Jesus every day!
  • Don’t focus on the DON’T! – More important than the fact that “We DON’T believe that ‘Gay Marriage’ is right,” children need to hear what we DO believe. They need to hear that God has a plan for marriage. He created male and female and desires that they come together for a life-long partnership with God as the Head. God wants to bless the family unit with His presence on a daily basis. It is a sacred institution, and no law, decree, or court can change what God has planned since the Creation of the human race.

A reminder for us all:

Children are watching you during this critical time. In fact, THE WORLD is watching Christians during this time.  If they see you addressing this issue with anger, bitterness, or (God forbid) hatred in your words or tone of voice, that will send a confusing message to them.  After all, God is Love.  He created EVERY man, woman, boy, and girl.  He loves them ALL!

Remember that Ephesians 4:14-15 (NLT) states, “Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.”

That is our mandate as the Church….to speak God’s truth with love.  Just because the truth of God’s word is different from the beliefs of others or the ruling of a court doesn’t mean we should join with others who choose to resort to name-calling, picketing, belittling and hate. As children of God, we need to be careful that our speech, tweets and posts are speaking the truth in love. We need to T.H.I.N.K. before we tweet.

The Church should respond in the same way that God instructed the children of Israel in 2 Chronicles 7:14:

14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

We can’t force others to be humble – but we can be humble.

We can’t make people pray and seek His face – but we can.

We can’t force people to turn from their wicked ways, but we can and should clean up our own lives.

When we do, God promises, He will hear from Heaven and heal our land.

The answer to this world’s problems and America’s problems is Jesus. Share Jesus. Share His love. Share the difference He has made in your life. Trust that when people encounter His grace – they, too, will be changed!

“Selfies” Are Sinful! Here’s Why…

seflie

OK, perhaps I am overstating it JUST a bit!  :-)  But, the “selfie” culture on Social Media is very telling.

Much of the time (not ALL, so no hate mail OK?), these selfies are simply a means of saying, “Look at me!  I want attention!”  Everywhere you look on Social Media people are taking pictures of themselves doing the most mundane things in the most elaborate poses – as if the rest of us really want to see this.  “Check out my new shoes!”  “My hair is ON POINT today!”  “Look at these abs, baby!”  It’s all about me, me, me!  It’s all about self, self, self!

Our society suffers from a “ME-First” mentality.  It’s the reason – when you are coming up on a stoplight – that you change lanes just to get further ahead of the car in front of you. You are GOING to get ahead of them.  Or when a car begins to pass you on the road, you speed up.  You will NOT allow them to get in that coveted position!  Talk about a ME-First world!

It’s the reason you get angry when someone else in the restaurant gets their food before you when you CLEARLY sat down before they did.

And, the ULTIMATE example of a ME-First mentality?  Black Friday!  This is where you can see the disgraceful sight of people pushing, elbowing, and biting so they can be the one to save $10 on bed sheets for Christmas.

It’s the reason you check how many friends you have on Facebook or followers on Twitter and Instagram in comparison to someone else.  If you have more, you are higher up on the social ladder.  You are sitting in the seat of honor.  Some of you even have the app “Followers Plus” that tells you how you rate against others.  It gives you the ability to see your “fame value” and your “acclaim value” to see if you really are as popular as you feel.

So, what does Jesus say about elevating yourself above others?  What does Jesus say you should do INSTEAD of trying to live with a “ME-First” mentality?  Jesus says…

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” – Luke 14:11

Jesus seems to be saying, “Don’t wait for other people, circumstances, or even God to humble you. CHOOSE to humble yourself.”

You must CHOOSE to put others first.  You must CHOOSE to put yourself in the lowest position – not because you were forced to be last. Not because you’re having a pity party because everyone else got the breaks.  But, because you CHOSE to humble yourself.

So, how do you choose to humble yourself?  How do you actively humble yourself on a daily basis so you never have to go through the pain of BEING humbled?

I shared a message with our congregation on this very topic.  In it, I share some insights from The Bible that will help you in this process of choosing to HUMBLE YOURSELF!  I hope it is a blessing to you:

The Two Most Powerful Words A Parent Can Say

father says i am sorry

Parents mess up.  ALL parents mess up.  Even deeply committed Christian parents mess up.  But, not all parents are willing to admit it.  Two of the most wonderful words children of all ages can hear from parents are, “I’m sorry.”  These are also two of the most difficult words for parents to say.

Too often, we wrongly believe that in order to have the “upper hand” as a parent, we must be seen as infallible.  We must never admit our mistakes for fear it will show weakness to our children, and they will try to exploit it.  Parents who believe and practice this – do so at their own peril.  The truth is, the parents who are willing to say, “I’m sorry” actually RISE in their child’s esteem.  Those who refuse to say these two powerful words place a huge divide between themselves and their children.

Your kids aren’t stupid.  They know when you are wrong.  They know when you have made a mistake.  When you refuse to admit your mistakes, your children begin to see you as someone who cares more about BEING right than DOING right.  It’s hard to recover from that.

Saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t only apply to the small things like being late to pick your child up from practice or forgetting to bring home ice cream like you promised.  “I’m sorry” are two words that need to be used for the BIG blunders as well.  Apologies are necessary for individual offenses, but parents also need to address prolonged, harmful patterns of communication—demanding too much, blaming, withdrawing, smothering, and so on.

Let’s face it, not every parent today grew up in a healthy home.  Often, you are doing your best to parent your own kids in spite of the negative, dysfunctional home you grew up in.  You want to be a good parent, but you are often guessing at HOW to do it well.  You didn’t have the best example placed before you growing up, so you struggle with communicating with your child in a healthy way.

In many cases, parents can and should explain how their own painful backgrounds have colored their perceptions and shaped their responses.  These stories help the rest of the family understand how they got this way, but they aren’t excuses for bad behavior.  The offending parent needs to own the offenses, apologize, repent, and begin to rebuild trust.  A full apology communicates, “I get it now.  I realize how I’ve hurt you, and I’m deeply sorry.  I want to open the lines of communication with you.  I’ll do my very best to do better, and I need your help.  Will you tell me when I mess up again?  I have a long way to go, but I’m stepping onto the road today.”

This isn’t just a theory.  I’ve had these conversations with my kids.  I have asked Ashton and Jordan to speak up anytime I become condescending or demanding, and I’ve promised that I’ll respect them when they have the courage to call me on my personal shortcomings.  That means I don’t get angry when they’re honest with me.  I don’t walk off in a huff, and I don’t look for some reason to blame them and turn the conversation around.  I take it like a man and thank them for their courage and love.

For instance, I get upset when mechanical things don’t work.  I won’t go into the deep, psychological reasons for my sense of electronic entitlement, but you can be sure that if a computer program or a television remote or a lamp doesn’t work the way I want it to work, my reaction isn’t pretty!  When my face gets red, I begin to growl, and it looks like I’m going to yank the cord out of the wall, Ashton and Jordan can say, “Calm down, Dad.  Have some patience.”  That’s enough to remind me of my commitment to them to maintain my cool.

When they speak up, I don’t bark, “You can’t tell me to be patient!  Can’t you see that this darn thing isn’t working?”  Instead, I thank them for their loving reminder.  My relationship with them is far more important than my desire to have electronic components run smoothly.  And because I have asked for their input, they are validated as valued, respected people.

How about you?  Do your kids have permission to respectfully call you on it when you make a mistake?  Do you need to “man up” or “woman up” and bring yourself to say those two powerful words?  Do it now!  Get up from the computer, call your kids to the living room, turn off the TV, and say it.  “I’m sorry.”  They are two of the most powerful words you can say to your kids.  Speak those words – and watch the healing begin.

***Adapted from a chapter in my upcoming book, “Talk Now And Later:  How To Lead Kids Through Life’s Tough Topics” (coming September 1st)***

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How Do You Handle Father’s Day For The Kid Without A Dad?

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As the father of two amazing kids, I love Father’s Day.  Being a father is one of the greatest and most rewarding things that I have ever experienced.  I love taking pictures with my kids, getting gifts and cards, and celebrating the father/child bond on that third Sunday in June.  It’s a special day for me and for countless others.

In recent years, however, I have become increasingly aware that a large number of children in my Kids Ministry do NOT look forward to Father’s Day.  For some, it is because they have lost their father to death.  I have several children whose father died of cancer or some other disease recently.  For others, it is because their Dad abandoned their family.  Dad left, and he hasn’t been in any regular contact with the children in years.  Still others have NEVER known their father.  They are the child of a single mother who is trying to raise them the best she can – on her own.

While I am a definite advocate of honoring Dads on Father’s Day, of celebrating those men who are faithful to their wives and children, and of heralding the uncles, cousins, and neighbors who serve as “Adopted Dad” for many of these children…I don’t want to allow Father’s Day to go by without remembering these hurting children need special ministry on this weekend.  As my friend, Linda Ranson Jacobs wrote in her recent article, “It’s hard to teach a little boy or girl to honor fathers when their father isn’t present, has deserted them or hurt them. So many church leaders will shy away from including these children. These are the very children that we need to concentrate on when Father’s Day rolls around.”

So, this Father’s Day as you give honor to fathers, remind the children who have no earthly father to honor and celebrate that they have a HEAVENLY FATHER that is worthy of honor and celebration.

Teach these children that:

God is a PERFECT FATHER…

Your Heavenly Father is the absolute PERFECT Father.  He will never break a promise.  He will never hurt you.  He will never treat you badly.  He will NEVER leave you (Hebrews 13:5).  He is absolutely PERFECT in every way.

God has a PERFECT LOVE…

Because God is your Perfect Father, He loves you with a perfect love.  He’s not like those who told you they loved you, but then when you did something they didn’t like, they withheld their love from you. God’s love is so much bigger and stronger than anything we have ever imagined.  The Bible says that “God IS love.” (1 John 4:8)  That means that He has so much perfect love for you that it’s as if LOVE is all that He is made of.  He IS love.  His love is perfect.

The best part is, no matter what you do, His love stays the same.  You might think, “Well, what if I let God down and make a mistake and sin?  Will He still love me then?”  The answer is, “YES!”  God’s perfect love never fails and it never stops.  No matter how much you ignore Him, disobey Him, or hurt Him – God still loves you with His perfect love.  That’s what makes Him such a PERFECT FATHER.

God has a PERFECT PLAN…

Not only is God a perfect Father who has a perfect love for you, but He has a perfect plan for your life (Jeremiah 29:11).  When you go to build a building, you don’t start without a plan.  If you do, your building will probably turn out looking pretty messed up.  You need to know exactly what you want it to be before you start, right?  Just like that, God had a plan for you before the world was created.  It’s true.

God had a perfect plan for you even before you were born (Jeremiah 1:5).  He knew who your friends would be, what you would grow up to become, and every little detail about you.  God’s perfect plan for you is what you need to follow.  If you want to know what His plan is for your life, just ask Him (James 1:5).  He speaks to you through the Bible and in your heart and thoughts.  He will help you make decisions.  He will help you do all the things that will help you become more of the person that He planned for you to be.

The best news of all?  There is nothing that anyone else can do to stop God’s plan for you.  The devil can’t stop it, people can’t stop it, nothing can stop it (Job 42:2).

I know that you may be in a home where you don’t have a Dad.  That can really be hard and painful.  But, NEVER FORGET that God is your perfect Heavenly Father who loves you with a perfect love and has a perfect plan for your life.  He will be there for you no matter what.  “He will never leave you nor forsake you.”

THAT is the message we ALL need to remember this Father’s Day.  Share that message with the children in your ministry who are living without a father.  Remind them that their Heavenly Father loves them this Father’s Day…and every single day of their lives!

Me with my wife, Cherith, and two amazing kids, Ashton (left) and Jordan (right)

Me with my wife, Cherith, and two amazing kids, Ashton (left) and Jordan (right)

T.H.I.N.K. Before You Post/Tweet

THINK Before Post

Rarely does a day go by when I don’t open Social Media and see tweets and posts from Christians that I read and wonder, “Did they even take a nanosecond to think what those who see or read this will think?”  Posts like:

“I’ve never met such a hateful & cold-hearted person in my life.”

“You know how to put me in the worst mood possible.”

“I’ve put up with this [stuff] for too long. I’m tired of it.”

“The more you talk, the more convinced I become that pushing you down a set of stairs would solve a lot of problems.”

“I swear I want to choke slam some [people] sometimes.”

Now, before you start in on “What’s wrong with teenagers these days…” EVERY one of those posts were taken from Christian ADULTS Facebook and Twitter feeds – not kids.  In fact, I even shudder sometimes when I read Facebook posts by PASTORS and Leaders.

I don’t know why it is this way – but, when something happens in life that irritates you or bothers you – you immediately take to Social Media and vent your frustration.  Years ago people would use a diary for that.  With a diary, you were able to write down your feelings, frustrations, and thoughts – but then you locked it and put it away where no one else would read.  Now, many people take ZERO time to think before they post.   Something happens, and they immediately pull out their phone and fire off their angry rant about their coworker, family member, or the government!

The sad thing is, I don’t think some Christians understand that when you post on social media – people form their perception of you (and often, their perception of Jesus Christ) from that post.  You may have two or three of your close friends in mind when you post that rude statement, but there are hundreds of people who see it.  Not only your friends, but friends of your friends who don’t know much about you – other than what you post.  Some people need to cancel their Social Media accounts and just go buy a diary.  

Here’s the sad truth – one of the biggest reasons the unchurched stay away from church is Christians who don’t talk (or post) like Christians – Christians whose faith hasn’t made it to their mouth – or their keyboard.  A follower of Jesus Christ should sound different from the person who has no relationship with Jesus.  If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you should sound different:

  • When you are angry
  • When you are disappointed
  • When you are treated unfairly
  • When someone makes a mistake
  • When someone sins or fails
  • When you are talking about others
  • When you respond to someone who is hurting

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, others should hear it in your words in any situation.  If your relationship with Jesus Christ is genuine, it should affect your speech – and your posts.  You should put much more thought into every word you speak and every word you type.  Your words have power.  When you open your mouth before you engage your brain, it leads to disaster.  It can ruin your life – and the person who is the object of your words.

The Bible has a term for “Speaking Without Thinking.”  It’s called “Careless Words.”  Jesus addressed the subject of “careless words” in Matthew 12:36-37

Matt.12:36But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.  37For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Your words are not “just words.”  One day, you will stand before the Heavenly Father and give account for every word – even your careless words.  On that day, what will your words reveal?  Jesus said your words will either acquit you or condemn you.  Which will it be? 

James picked up where Jesus left off…

Jam.1:26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.

Your unfiltered, careless words invalidate your faith.  Those who listen to your unfiltered words and read what you post look at you and think, “Is that what it is to be a Christian? I don’t think so.”  If we really understood this, how differently would we approach the words we type into that space and hit “post.”

I want to share with you some questions to ask yourself before you speak.  It will serve as your filter for your words and help you to stop speaking before you THINK.  If you stop, think, and run everything you are about to say, tweet, or post through this grid BEFORE you do it – it could save you and others a lot of harm.  I must be honest with you.  These questions are hanging in just about every Elementary School in America.  There are posters to help your kids learn this concept.  The schools may not realize it, but every single aspect of this grid is rooted in scripture.  So, let’s use the word “T.H.I.N.K.” to help you install a filter on your words.

Here are several questions to ask before you post something on Social Media:

Is what I am about to post…

True?

  • If it isn’t true – don’t say it.
  • If it’s only partially true, but it’s embellished so as to make you look good or important – don’t say it.
  • If it is a technical truth, but the major portion of facts are left out so as not to incriminate you – don’t say it.

Helpful?

  • Is what you are planning to say helpful to the listener?  It may be true, but is it helpful?
  • Some people make excuses for their gossip simply because it is true. Just because something is true doesn’t mean it is helpful.

Inspiring?

  • Your words can either build up or tear down.
  • There are a lot of unfiltered words being spoken that are focused on tearing others down.  Followers of Jesus should thoughtfully speak words that inspire others and build them up according to their needs.
  • Imagine the perspectives you could change – the lives you could change – if you put more thought into the words you speak and tried to inspire those who would hear it.

Necessary?

  • This might just be the first question you need to ask.  Is it necessary?  If not, it most likely would be best left unsaid.Prov. 10:19 When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.
  • Ask, “Lord, do I need to keep quiet and not say anything?”  If you aren’t sure whether what you are about to say is necessary, don’t say anything.  Just be quiet.  Hold your tongue.  That makes you wise!

Kind?

  • Is what I am about to say harsh? Or, is it gentle and kind?
  • Harsh, unfiltered words are always better left unsaid.

Listen, this is hard stuff.  I understand.  It’s been a life-long struggle for me.  On my own, I can’t do it.  On your own, you can’t do it.

Jam.3:7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

“No man can tame the tongue”.  Do you know what that means?  It means, “No man can tame the tongue.”  This is not easy.  You can’t do this by yourself.  This is not an “I’m going to make a New Year’s resolution and never speak negatively again” kind of thing.  This is not a “Pick up a tip from Dr. Phil or Oprah kind of thing.”

The Truth is: You need God’s help to filter your words – to help you THINK before you speak/post.

 My prayer is – that my words – and your words will reveal a follower of Jesus Christ – one that others would hear and say, “I want to be a part of that.”  This week, don’t let any unfiltered words come out of your mouth – or on your Facebook wall.  In fact, T.H.I.N.K. hard this week.  Use every conversation, every post, to “build others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

1 BIG Reason Why Your Kids Won’t Listen

parent child talk down

“I am so sick and tired of my child not listening to me!  I try my hardest to share my wisdom with them in order to help them avoid pain in life, and they completely tune me out!”  Ever said those words?  If so, you are like MOST parents.  So many parents feel like they have more success talking to a brick wall than to their child (especially their teenager).  Part of the reason for that is the tendency for parents to “talk down” to their kids.

One of the most important principles about talking with kids is to avoid being condescending.  Some parents have told me they want to “dumb down” communication with their kids.  If they mean they’re trying to talk on the child’s level, that’s a good strategy.  My guess, though, is that the term dumb down implies two incorrect and destructive assumptions: that the child is inferior, and the parent is superior. Kids pick up on this perspective, and they deeply resent it.

We need to avoid the attitude: “I’m going to tell you what you need to know so you can become like me.”  No kid wants to be EXACTLY like their parent — especially teenagers who are beginning to value independence and carve out their own identities!  Instead, we should communicate with our words and attitudes, “These are complex topics.  A lot of people have wrestled with these issues, and our family needs to wrestle with them, too.  I value your ideas.”

Of course, this means that we don’t rush through an answer when a little child asks a question, and we don’t react with disgust when teenagers voice views that are very different from our own.  We don’t have to agree, but we need to listen and ask follow-up questions instead of shutting the youngster down.  “I don’t know if I agree, but tell me more of what you’re thinking” shows far more respect than, “I can’t believe that’s what you think!”

Don’t lecture, don’t laugh, don’t dismiss the kid’s input, and don’t talk to your child like he’s dumb or a fool.  I list these errors because I’ve seen them so many times (and truthfully, I’ve made them far too often myself).

I often tell parents to think of themselves as missionaries to a foreign culture.  When missionaries travel to the other side of the world or the other side of town, they put the gospel in the language of the people they’re trying to reach, but that’s not all.  They also work hard to understand the foreign culture so they can put their messages into an appropriate context.  Parents will greatly enhance communication with their kids if they do the same thing: adapt every message to the language and context of their kids’ worlds.  It takes some work to understand the younger culture, but it’s well worth the effort.

This is one of the reasons I wrote my new book, “Talk Now And Later:  How To Lead Kids Through Life’s Tough Topics” (releases on September 1, 2015).  I can’t wait for you all to get it in your hands.  I believe it is going to be a powerful resource for parents who want to lead their kids through life’s tough topics.
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Book Review: “How To Enjoy Reading Your Bible”

Keith Ferrin

I didn’t always enjoy reading the Bible.  I know – it’s really BAD for a pastor to admit this.  Just to clarify, it’s not that I disliked the Bible.  It’s just that I saw it as more of something I NEEDED to do rather than something I WANTED to do.

We’ve all been there.  Our Western mindset causes us to make reading the Bible something to be achieved and knocked off the list.  We make a grand goal of “reading the Bible through in a year,” but barely get through the book of Numbers before we abandon that and skip to Proverbs.  We look at the best-selling book of all time and treat it like an owner’s manual rather than a treasure map (which it  most definitely is).

My good friend, Keith Ferrin, is one of the most passionate people I have ever met about the Bible!  He just released a brand new book this week titled “How To Enjoy Reading The Bible.”  It’s an incredible read and VERY practical.  Keith’s goal is simple:  “To help you ENJOY the Bible.  If you enjoy it, you will read it more.  If you enjoy it, you will talk about it.  If you enjoy it, you will be more consistent in your time with God.  If you enjoy it, you will apply it!”

You will LOVE this book.  It will cause you to fall in love with an even BETTER book – The Bible!

Here’s the cool thing – Keith is so convinced you will love this book he is giving away a TON of FREE stuff if you purchase it this week!  All you have to do is visit Keith’s blog HERE to find out how you can get 8 FREE gifts just for purchasing the book this week.  I highly recommend this book!  It will revolutionize your Bible reading!

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A Great Way To Get Your Kids Leading Adults In Worship

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This past Sunday we had our annual “Kids In Worship” experience.  I thought it would be good to share the concept behind this for all of you.  It is an amazing opportunity for the whole family.

“Kids In Worship” is an evening of worship, led by our Preschool and Elementary Kids Departments.  The children are in charge of the entire adult service in the Sanctuary.  It is an evening of worship, led by the kids.  The entire family comes together for a night of singing and worship.

We rehearse for months prior to this night.  Rehearsals are on Sunday afternoons from 4:30 – 5:30 prior to our Evening Worship Service.  The kids put together a set of familiar modern worship songs (to allow the adults to enter in) mixed with some new and original songs.  Several children memorize some of their favorite passages of scripture and share them with the congregation between songs.

There is always a time where a group of our oldest children step off the stage and allow the adults to come forward for prayer.  These kids pray earnestly for the needs of the adults.  We have seen people saved, healed and delivered on these nights.  It’s amazing!

It’s one of my Lead Pastor’s favorite services of the year.  There is something incredible about a group of kids who are passionate in worship of their God.  It is inspiring to all of us!  Why not try your own version of “Kids In Worship?”

Have you ever tried something like this?  SHARE IT WITH US in the Comments Section of this post!  If you have questions, ask them using the comment section.  I read each of them and will respond.

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Are You Teaching Your Kids A False Gospel?

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I am at Awana’s “Vantage Conference” and had the privilege of listening to a legend of Children’s Ministry, Phil Vischer (creator of Veggie Tales and What’s In The Bible?).  Phil told a story that gripped my heart.

Ted Turner (media mogul and founder of CNN & TBS) is an outspoken critic of Christianity.  Most people know this.  In 1990, speaking before the American Humanist Association, Turner proclaimed that “Christianity is for losers”…and this isn’t nearly the most provocative thing he has said about Christians.  Many know this about Turner, but not many know the story behind his anti-religous sentiment.

Ted Turner dreamed of being a missionary when he was a child.  His sister suffered from Lupus. When she died, it shook his faith profoundly. He couldn’t understand why a loving God would allow an innocent person to suffer. “What had she done wrong? Why did this happen to her? Christianity didn’t give me any answers to that.”

Ted Turner had been taught a simple form of the Gospel that many of us have been guilty of teaching our kids.  “We serve a gentle, loving God. If we act right and do what pleases Him, He will take care of us and prevent us from suffering.”  That is it.  End of story.  But, that’s NOT the real Gospel.

Phil Vischer spoke to each of us plainly and directly.  He said that we have to ask ourselves the same question he had to ask HIMSELF after ten years of making Veggie Tales.  “Did I just spend ten years trying to persuade kids to behave “Christian-ly” without teaching the kids Christianity?”

Phil walked through the three things that we SHOULD be doing a better job with our children:

  • Understanding the Story they are in
  • Understanding the Bad News of that Story
  • Understanding the Good News of that Story

Phil understands that the large concepts of sin, redemption, sanctification, and judgement are difficult to explain to children.  But, kids understand STORY.  “Narrative structure is what we build to find meaning to the events of our lives. Kids instinctively ‘connect the dots’ in their lives.”  So, he came up with an overarching narrative to help explain kids the story of Christianity…

The Story They Are In:  THE BROKEN AMUSEMENT PARK

The world is a broken amusement park.  God created this amazing world with all of its wonders.  He created it to be a wonderful place of enjoyment for mankind and all of the creatures.  It’s a giant amusement park.  Now, modern amusement parks are run by computers.  The computers tell the rides what to do, the lights when to come on and go off, etc.

Imagine a virus in the operating system of the computers that run all of the rides and attractions. It now isn’t functioning as it was intended to function.  The “Dumbo ride” dumps kids on the ground, the lights go off in the middle of a show.  The virus is wreaking havoc on the systems of the amusement park.  Sin is the virus. It has infected ALL of us.  It has infected the world itself – and the world is SICK.

The Bible is the story of why the world is the way it is and what God is doing to fix it.  Our role is – “We are the Red Cross. We are the ones who can explain why things are the way we are.”  When someone gets dumped out of the Dumbo ride, we should be the first ones there to help them, explain to them WHY, and help point them in the right direction.  This is a story that kids can relate to – and helps them understand the overarching story they are in.

The Bad News Of That Story:

Sin is hard to explain.  But, that doesn’t mean we ignore that part of the story.  It is CRUCIAL.  If kids don’t understand what Sin is, they will NEVER understand who Jesus is or why He came.

Now, Phil isn’t suggesting that we walk into the 3 year old class and proclaim the dangers of SIN.  The topic of sin and judgement is not EVERY age appropriate.  Before they hear about a God that is a judge who is angry and wrathful, kids need to hear about a God who is loving and forgiving.

That’s why Phil makes sin visual.  It’s a virus.  Adam and Eve can’t be with God because SIN can’t be with God.  Suddenly, the world is not perfect anymore. Thus, the BROKEN amusement park.

We can’t shy away from the BAD NEWS.  Until you understand the problem, none of the rest of the Bible makes any sense!!!

The Good News Of That Story:

God doesn’t want to leave us like this.  He wants to save us. He wants to save us from:

  • The STAIN of sinkeeps us from God (God wants to clean us)
  • The POWER of sinkeeps us doing the same thing over and over again (the more we listen to the whispers, the louder it gets) this is remedied by Sanctification
  • The PRESENCE of sinwe still live in a world that is drowning in sin.  The effects of sin on our world is seen every day.  (when God returns to JUDGE the world, He will rescue us from this with a New Heaven and New Earth)  

“Judgment” has become a bad word in our culture. It represents “looking down on people.”  In truth, Judgement means “setting things right!” If there is a bully picking on a small child, it is right for an adult to step in and say, “NO, you are NOT going to do that!”

Judgement is when God steps in and sets everything right.  He fixes everything.  Makes the bullies pay for everything they have done wrong.

Why did Jesus need to die?  Because we have ALL been bullies at one point or another.  We have ALL done mean things and broken God’s laws.  God didn’t want us to have to pay for our sin, so He became human like us and paid the price for our sin.  That’s what God has done for us.

Finally, Phil challenged us all to teach our kids:  “Once we are saved, what is NEXT?”  What is NEXT for us is NEW LIFE!  We become a part of the Kingdom of God.  We live supernatural lives through the power of the Holy Spirit, revealing God through US!

The Apostle Paul described the Christian life as, “We proclaim good news, we live good lives, we do good works!”

  • Proclaim good newssharing the WHOLE story of the Gospel
  • Live good liveslives marked by the absence of fear, full of peace and love
  • Do good workswe help, we love, we are the Red Cross in a broken world

We aren’t just sitting around waiting on Heaven…we become superheroes –  helping others to experience God’s best for their lives.

Teaching this to our kids is done best by SHOWING them with your own life. They will learn much more of what we show than what we say. We need to be the example that they can follow.

So, are you teaching your kids the WHOLE Gospel?  Or are you teaching them a rosey, pristine, in-a-nice-little-box gospel that is not preparing them to become the Christians God has intended them to be?

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Parents Allow Four Year Old Girl To Become A Boy

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Meet “Jacob.”  Born as a beautiful baby girl named Mia, “Jacob” began expressing the desire to be a boy.  Mia didn’t like dressing like a girl or being called a girl.  So, after a period of painful, thoughtful deliberation, Mia’s parents decided to help her transition to a boy.  My heart breaks for the family, as I am certain this decision was very difficult for them.  You can watch a video of their entire story HERE.

Transgender children are becoming more and more common.  I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject, but I do want to ask a few questions to probe conversation.  Aside from the obvious moral and Biblical questions that this presents…

*  Do four year olds have the maturity, cognitive ability, or perspective to be allowed to make life-altering decisions like this?

*  Should parents follow the lead of the child in ALL instances (especially where the child’s preferences or desires would lead to a life-altering decision)?

*  What should a Christian parent’s response be when their child is unhappy with their body, their personality, or their identity?

*  What kind of messages should a child who is struggling with their self-image or identity be hearing from their parents and grandparents?

Your child’s self-image is being formed from the day he or she is born.  The messages you send matter!  Children’s self-esteem is shaped by the significant people in their lives.  Parents, of course, play the most important role because they have countless opportunities to steer the development of the self-esteem of a child or teenager in a positive direction.  But don’t overlook the impact a grandparent, uncle, or aunt can have in speaking powerful messages of encouragement, hope, and value into your child.

When your child begins to doubt who they are and begin to ask questions like, “Did God mess up?” or to quote “Jacob” from this video, “Why did God make me this way?  Is God stupid?”  Here are some messages that they should hear LOUD AND CLEAR from the most important people in their lives:

1)  “God designed you!”

No matter the reasons for a child’s birth, he or she is never a mistake or a “cosmic accident.” God told Jeremiah (and us): “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb” (Jer. 1:5). King David wrote:

 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body

and knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!

Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,

as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. (Ps. 139:13–15)

2)  “You’re God’s masterpiece.”

God doesn’t make junk!  He beautifully and specifically crafts each person.  In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul explained, “We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Eph. 2:10).

Like an artist who paints a beautiful portrait or landscape, God took His time to craft every part of us: eyes, nose, personality, gifts, and talents.  God designed each of us individually and specifically.

You and your children are God’s masterpieces. When we learn to see ourselves from His perspective, we will see how wonderful we really are. And when we believe this truth about ourselves, we will impart it to our children.

3)  “God paid a high price for you!”

Some kids see themselves as disposable, valueless, and not worth anyone’s time and attention.  How is the value of anything or anyone determined?  By the price another is willing to pay for it.  A baseball card is just a small piece of cardboard, but a 1909 Honus Wagner card recently sold for $2.8 million!  The person who bought it believed it was quite valuable, but many moms throw out their kids’ baseball cards because they think they’re just clutter!

What’s the value of a person? God put a price tag on human beings when He sent His Son to pay the ultimate price for us. Jesus died in our place, paid the debt we couldn’t pay, and ransomed us from sin and hell to be adopted into God’s family!  In a letter to the Corinthians, Paul explained, “You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price” (1 Cor. 6:19–20).  God was willing to pay a high price for us because He considers us and our children supremely valuable.  We’re worth more to Him than the stars in the sky!  Our kids need to hear this message.  So do we.

4)  “God cares about the details of your life!”

God didn’t spin the universe into being and then leave us on our own.  He’s intimately involved in everything we do.  God is omnipresent, which means He’s with us (and with every atom in the universe) at every moment.  And God is omniscient, which means He knows everything about . . . well . . . everything.

Jesus once told His followers, “What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows” (Matt. 10:29–31).  You mean so much to God that He knows exactly how many hairs are on your head.  When one falls out, He changes the number.  Isn’t that amazing?

If you want to help your children develop a healthy, positive self-image and identity, teach them to view themselves the way that God, their Master-Designer, sees them.  They are His Masterpiece.  He created them, and He cares about every detail of their lives.


***These principles are taken from a chapter on Self-Image in my upcoming book, “Talk Now And Later:  How To Lead Kids Through Life’s Tough Topics” (coming September 1st)***
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