Conversations with Kids

There is power in conversation around God’s Word.  I know this because the Word of God is not some random book of words; it is God’s Word!   We need to live this out in front of our children in real life ways.  They have questions and amazing depth at younger ages than we often believe.

I had ongoing conversations with my nephew about the Bible and his understanding of it while in Wisconsin.  He does not go to church very often, but it is obvious that someone is reading the Bible to him somewhere.

One day we were watching Star Wars and there was a discussion about Yoda that came up.  There was serious discussion about how old Yoda would be and this led to a discussion about how long people live. My son was talking it through with his cousin, which I loved!

S: You know if people didn’t sin we would never die

C: Wait, Uncle Derek is that right?

S: If there was no sin we would live forever.

C:  Why do we have sin?

S: Because there was this fruit that these people were not supposed to touch but they did and now we die.

C: Well, that’s not fair

S:  They should have listened

This conversation continued this way without my involvement.  Then without warning it went right back to Yoda.

A few days later I was outside with the two boys when my nephew asked me a question about Moses.  He said that if the first-born was killed today he would be dead and he wondered why the first born had to die.  That lead us to a discussion about the Passover and Jesus Christ.  Did I mention he is 8 years old? We also talked about the Israelites and their enemies, since he was curious about that.

The next night around the camp fire he asked me what sin was.  This was completely random.  I talked about sin a bit and he said, “I do that.”

My point is not a profound one as much as it is a passionate one.  Kids have the capacity to have real discussion.  They need to be listened to and respected as people.  The church has traditionally put kids in some room to get them out of the adult service.  The more I think about this today, the more I think this is short-sighted.  I know there are things that kids need that are geared at them.  However, it would seem to me that we adults could do a better job integrating them into the whole of the church.  We do them no favors when we teach them the story of Noah 15 times and fail to link that to Jesus Christ in real life.

999158_10153086627900554_265109941_nThe last thing is simply having an environment where that can take place.  I took the two boys to get custard one night.  Of course, they got chocolate custard with nerds candy mixed in.  We had a great time building a relationship.    The discussion was not deep, but it was a foundation for more of that to take place.  Make the environment happen and it will!

 

Follow God Over Your Heart

School is out for the summer.  That is a good thing, right?   What amazes me is that I have been on Cape Cod for almost 7 years now and have been to a myriad of graduations.  How incredible it is to be a part of so many young lives, whether directly or indirectly.  With graduation also comes a heavy burden.  Here are hundreds of graduates ready to enter college – a time that has not historically been a time of spiritual growth for many.  Today with prevailing relativistic, anything goes,worldviews in control of many colleges, it scares me to think about how many young minds are being led astray.  It reminds me of the importance of being involved in the lives of children, whether our own or ones entrusted to our care.  As I sat in graduation this year I was struck by two prevailing thoughts.   Sure, we all have heard the typical graduation “go conquer the world” speech, but there were two comments that jumped out to me.    It is not that they were wrong.  I just feel they were misrepresented.

Bring it on
Bring it on

No Weapons Formed Against Us

It is amazing when a high school graduate shares a verse from the Bible.  It is underwhelming when they attribute it to an athlete.  The sad part for me is it is likely they really think this athlete spoke this and that it was actually about sports.  It is not about sports at all.  In the real world people do get hurt despite our best efforts.  It is a bit overstated to think that just because we try hard we will have success.  Many have tried and many  have failed.  There must be something else than just trying really hard.   The only real safety we have is in doing God’s will not our own.

Follow Our Heart

Every time I hear about following my heart I literally feel sick.  It is not that the notion of pursuing dreams and desires is necessarily wrong.  In fact, we all want our children to find things they enjoy and to do them well.  What I don’t want is for my children to only follow their heart.  I know this from my own heart.  In fact, the Bible has something to say about this.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? – Jeremiah 17:9

Following our hearts, while the thing many people tell each other, is actually a dangerous thing.  We must line our hearts up to God’s Word and live that out.

Follow God, not your heart
Follow God, not your heart

Each summer brings about a new transition for youth ministries.  Students are on a different schedule and sometimes ready to engage in something meaningful.  At other times they are just wanting to hang out with other teens and build some relationships.  Whatever the case, it is important that we all make the most of the opportunities we have to help the people we influence get the right picture of God and His Word.  The truth is we just don’t have that much time and the culture is not going to help.

The Tender Heart of a Child

IMG_2017The hand of God on my children is something I have written frequently about.  They see things in such concrete ways that I am taught profound truths through their eyes.  There are times when I will say goodnight to them and one of them will have something they want to pray about.  Sometimes they will pray about it even before I ask them to.  They talk to each other about Bible stories they have heard.  They are exercising faith without the pretense so many adults have.

One day I asked my 6-year-old what he wanted to be when he grew up.  As a side note, I really believe God’s hand is on him for some sort of ministry.  He told me he wanted to be a pastor.  I asked him why.  He said he wanted to “tell people about the Lord.”  I pressed him more and asked him where he wanted to do that.  He told me “in states where people don’t go to church.”

I share that because it is really fun to hear him say that and because I think it illustrates how tender the heart of a child is.  I did not plant those ideas in his head.  I did not tell him what I thought he needed to do.  He just said what was on his mind.  Will he be a pastor?  I don’ t know.  What I do know is that God is at work in his life.  For that I am incredibly thankful.

This way....
This way….

Do not underestimate what God can do through your children.   They are not people who are just sort of waiting around with their graham crackers.  They are people God loves and wants to minister in and through right now.  Lead the way, parents, and watch what God does with it.

Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6

Staying on Track- A Daily Need

Stay on Track
Stay on Track

On Friday night we went on a hike around Flax Pond.  The path was rather narrow in some spots and there was a lot of poison ivy around. (not to mention the tick infestation) As I walked, I was very mindful of where I stepped because I wanted to make the journey without problems later.  I also was watching my children because they are easily sidetracked by shiny things and would not notice that the shiny thing is in the midst of poison ivy.  I was constantly reminding my 6-year-old to watch where he stepped and to stay on the path.  He forgot it as quickly as I said it to him.

It makes me appreciate the patience God has with me.  I know that there is a path that I am supposed to stay on that is littered with shiny things and dangerous things.  God reminds me to stay on the path because even though there are some cool looking things off the path; on the path is where true safety is found.

This is a daily struggle for all of us.  We live in a world that calls to us in a loud voice.  We take detours, get into trouble, and then find out way back to the path.  And while it is true that God welcomes us back; it is also true that there are consequences for wandering off.  Some of those consequences last longer than poison ivy does.

The Christian life is not based on praying for salvation and then ignoring God.  It is about daily being rooted in Him, living in Him and strengthened in faith.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” – Colossians 2:6-7

Here is a portion of a prayer I read this morning from the book The Valley of Vision. It reminds us that we need to pay attention where we step in order to stay on the right path and closer to Jesus as a result.

“Of all hypocrites, grant that I may not be an evangelical hypocrite, who sins more safely because grace abounds, who tells his lusts that Christ’s blood cleanseth them, who reasons that God cannot cast him into hell for he is saved, who loves evangelical preaching, churches, Christians, but lives unholily.”

Remember to stay on the path.  Sure some parts are challenging and narrow.  Of course there are some fun looking things off the path.  But if we want to be continuing to live in Christ, rooted in Him, and built up in Him, then we need to follow Him every day.

Anyone Can Show Kindness To Others

Here you go.  Whatever I have is yours ;)
Here you go. Whatever I have is yours 😉

There is section of Scripture that comes up often because it hits at the heart of what it means to follow Jesus.  There is a practicality to it that is challenging, probing and affirming at the same time. Last night at bedtime one of my boys was reading a new Bernstain Bears book that had Matthew 25:40 in the front of it.

The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ (NASB)

I read the verse to him and started to talk about what that actually was referring to.  It is a verse that is in the context of kindness showed to people and how that translates to the same being done for Jesus.  I told him that if we were to give someone water because they needed water it is just like giving that water to Jesus.  At the same time, if we ignore a need like that when we can help, it is like we are ignoring Jesus.

He said:

“Dad, if you were at the grocery store around dinner time and I saw that you only bought milk, I would buy you more food.   If you only had milk you would be hungry.  I guess I need to bring my wallet along with me and give some dollars to people who need it, right?”

Once again my 6-year-old son has summed up Bible passage for all of us in a way that makes sense.  He has maybe a dollar in his wallet, but he would give it away.  This begs the question for all of us:  Would I give away something I have, even if it is the last bit of something I had?   Would you?  Who are the people right in front of us that could use some help today?  We might need to open our eyes a little bit more and ask God to bless others through us.  One thing I know:  When we bless others, we are also blessed and, more importantly, Jesus is honored.

 

 

Now is not the time to get lazy with your kids!

The boys
The boys

My kids came home singing a song by LMFAO and I was not happy about it.  To be fair the song sounds like fun and they had no idea what the song was actually about.  Little did they know that their dad is a culture genius.  Actually no one knew that.  The truth is I didn’t know the song, except for the few lines of the chorus they were singing.    After some questioning about the origin of this song, I found out that a third grade student on the bus has an I-Pod and is playing this garbage on the bus.

Gone are the days when young kids were not being bombarded with sexually suggestive messages on the school bus I guess.  This produced an opportunity to talk about why we don’t listen to that music in our home and why.  I have no idea why a parent would allow their 8-year-old to have such trash on their I-Pod.  I know I hear a lot about how they are just songs and they don’t have any bearing on what people do.  I disagree.  If you fill your mind with garbage, garbage comes out.    What are parents of elementary kids to do to help steer them in the right direction when the culture is pressing in on all sides?

Live it out

I know I might be some sort of anomaly,  but I will not listen to things on the radio that I would be embarrassed if my kids repeated.  Call me old school or uptight if you want, but I teach my children to think about what is true.    The best way to teach them is to do it yourself.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. – Philippians 4:8

Pay Attention

I ask a lot of questions, but not in the judge and jury sort of way.  It is interesting to hear about the people they know at school and the things that are talked about at school.  There is a lot of positive interaction and plenty of negative.  It helps to talk about some of the negative things and provide some help from the Bible as to how we react to those things.  The goal is to integrate the truth of God’s Word to their daily life.  Yes, you can do that even in elementary school.  I believe it must be done early, or else it will not be done.

Dialogue is Better Than Edicts

I told my boys that we want to stop singing the song because it doesn’t honor God.  They seemed alright with that.  Then maybe 10 minutes later my oldest son told me that it was stuck in his head and he was concerned he was going to sing it again.  Do I need to come down hard on him?  No.  What I told him was to think about what is true and sing something else instead.  Instead of saying something with anger or stern tones, I have found it works better to reinforce the positive in order to help them avoid the negative.

My oldest son came home yesterday with permanent marker on his pants and shirt.  When asked about it he said that someone in his class did it to him because another classmate told him to.  In the offender’s defense my son said, “well, he was told to do it; he didn’t have a choice.”   Really?  Is that how things are?  You see as annoying as this was for us, it was also an opportunity to tell him that he did have a choice.  And even though marker boy was not trying to ruin his pants and shirt, he did make a choice to write on them.    The dialogue works and it keeps kids applying the truth of God’s Word to their world.

As parents we must prepare our kids for godliness in this world.  I know that it is challenging, but it is worth the fight.  Parents, we must stay involved in what our kids are doing, thinking, saying and consuming as media.  If we become passive, they will default to what their friends are thinking and that is unacceptable.   It is not time to get lazy, it is time to get involved.

 

 

No, I can

I can do it
I can do it

My 3-year-old son has an interesting way he approaches challenges.  He is a capable young child, there is no doubt about that.  He is able to handle the everyday tasks of life with no problem at all until he decides he can’t do it.  For example, he might put his own clothes on at certain times and other times tell me that he can’t do it.   There are times when he wants me to follow him into the bathroom to assist him with washing his hands, and other times when he tells me “hey, I don’t want you in here.”  Sometimes at dinner he will tell me he wants ketchup and doesn’t want ketchup in the same sentence and then assure me that he can do it.  It is just his way of processing what is going on in his brain.

It still gets to me when he says that he can’t do something that I know he can do.  Often what he is saying to me is that it is too hard to do it so he would rather I just did it for him.   What he is saying is “I won’t do it” or “I don’t want to do it.”  A lot of times this happens when he is in a hurry to do something else.

I am glad God allows me to see this side of it because I know that I have done this same thing to God.   I don’t know how many times I make the excuse to God that I can’t do something because I am too tired, busy, or just not quite ‘there’ yet. (wherever that is) It is like I am telling God that I need to read more books, do more training, think, pray, eat, and then rest in order to truly see what needs to happen.  These requests seem logical in our American way of thinking, but seem ludicrous when they are said to the Sovereign God.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who calls us by his glory and goodness.” – 1 Peter 2:3

God has gone through great lengths to give us everything we need for a life that will bring Him glory.  He has given us not only a bunch of information, but He has given us a Savior to know and follow.  It is in Jesus Christ that we find all that we need to live this life out, no matter what challenges are in the way.  The reason this is possible is because this knowledge is an intimate knowledge.  It is a real, living, exciting relationship with Jesus Christ.  Our role is to follow and obey Jesus Christ.  When we do that, we will succeed in living this life to His glory.

When we stop and realize we are not being called to become something impossible, our attitude toward challenges changes.  The financial burdens seem small when we look at them in light of all God has given to us in Christ.  The cancer doesn’t control the identity of someone who knows that they have been given all they need to live a life of godliness where they are.  The marriage in shambles doesn’t destroy the faith of someone who knows Jesus Christ and looks to obey Him in it all.  The constant badgering from non-believing friends in bearable when it is viewed in light of the suffering of JEsus Christ and how that has provided preserving for daily living.

We are being told to live in the reality of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  It is in Him where we find all that we need to live this life to the glory of God. When we recognize that, there is no longer any place for an excuse.  It is now “I can live as you have called me to and I will do that by God’s grace.”