I’m having a really hard time finding godly people to date. Where can I find them? FAQ Blog Series (Part 3)

Don’t be discouraged that you’re not finding a godly person to date. God sees your situation and knows the desires of your heart. Stay engaged in community, join different interest groups and continue to grow in your faith right where you are. Deepening your walk with God is the most important focus of your life, so keep it central to who you are.

The young adult years are a huge time of transition and finding your place in the world, so be patient. God is using this time to mold you and shape you to join Him in the work He’s prepared for you. A side benefit of this is that you will better understand what you bring to a relationship and the kind of person that would be a good match for you.

Knowing who you are in Christ will also ground you in whatever season of life you find yourself. I know this may be hard to believe but there are hard aspects to every season of life. Marriage is a beautiful thing but it also comes with its own set of trials. (more responsibility, divided focus, less time) You have advantages now while you’re single that you won’t have again. Make the most of this time and take advantage of the unique benefits right in front of you. (more time, undivided focus, less stressors because you have less people dependent on you)

Ultimately, don’t spend too much time focused on what you don’t have. Spend your energy being thankful for what God has already given you. Discontent people are not very attractive – grateful people are! By all means, keep your heart soft and your eyes open for when God brings someone into your life – but don’t stop living until then!

Scripture for further encouragement: Ephesians 3:20, Philippians 4:19, 1 Corinthians 7:32-35, Proverbs 3:5-6

During a Pandemic What a Child Needs Most is Hope in God

Hope is one of my favorite words. Hope is the promise of a great future. It is the confident expectation that all things will work out for us. Hope is full assurance in a certain future. Right now, it is easy to lose hope because the future appears uncertain and the outcome of the next few months are unknown.

I’ve had numerous people reach out to me and state, “I’m scared” or “I’m surprised I’ve been so anxious.” If we are honest, most of us have had moments of worry. Most of us face uncertainty in some form right now. We all have something to lose such as health, home, finances, a or a job. I’ve joked that my 401k is now a 201k. It can be hard to have hope when the rhythm and routine of our days has been interrupted and the future looks dark.

Let us remember that we have an enemy that wants to steal our hope, but God assures us in His Word that we have a great future. Christians are to be hopeful people because we trust in a good God. Our hope should radiate the brightest when the world is the darkest and the most important place this needs to happen is in your home. Hope manifests itself as joy (Rom. 12:12), love (Col. 1:4-5), boldness (2 Cor. 3:12), and perseverance (2 Thess. 1:3). 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 says that the foundation of our confident hope is the grace of God.

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.”

Right now, all of us want comfort for our heart. I encourage you to take a moment of self-reflection and ask yourself this question: Where am I looking for comfort and hope? For many of us, we are looking to the wrong source. Psalm 42:5 is clear, “Hope in God!” This is the most important thing your child needs to hear during a pandemic, or for that matter, at any time. Everything may not turn out exactly how we envision and we may face temporary trials, but we can have unshakable confidence in a great future because we have a good God.

A Word About Fear

Anxiety and fear is the result of trusting in self or others. Fear is born out of a desire to control the future. We cannot control the future and that’s why we become anxious. The Bible lists many causes of fear, which are future-oriented. They are things we cannot control such as dread of disaster (Prov. 1:33), death (Heb. 2:15), physical attack (Gen. 32:11), natural disasters (Ps. 46:2-3), and evil (Ps. 23:4). Take time to read and discuss these passages with your child. Ask them if any of these examples are causes of fear in their heart.

Remind your children of the great truth of Isaiah 41:10, which states, “Do not fear.” This is a bold, strong command. There are no conditions that make fear acceptable, other than in God alone. It is important to note that if God commands us not to fear, then the presence of fear in our heart is sin. If we have been fearful during the pandemic, let us confess this sin to God. Why is it a sin to fear? Fear is the manifestation of unbelief in God. Will God keep His promises? Is God trustworthy? Is God good and gracious? The answer to all these questions is YES!

The biblical answer for fear is trust in God. As a family, open up God’s Word and read God’s solution for fear in these passages: Prov. 29:25 (trust in God), Ps. 56:4 (trust God), Is. 26:3 (Focus on God), Ps. 112:1, 7-8 (Fear God), Prov. 3:21-24 (Wisdom and obedience), Phil: 4:7-8 (prayer), and Ps. 55:5-8 (Take shelter in God).

Praying as a Family

Prayer is form of trust. In prayer we admit we are dependent upon God and we seek His care and His help. The best thing you can do with your family at this time is pray. During difficult times regular family prayer reorients our focus, reveals our dependence upon God, and reduces our fears. Prayer may not feel remarkable, but it is God’s answer in times of need. Philippians reminds us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Prayer is not an extra, but an essential habit for our home. Our excuses for prayerlessness have been removed. We have time and our calendars are open. The Coronavirus may limit our ability to be physically present with our friends and extended family, but our prayers transcend time and geographic location and are an important form of ministering to others. In addition, the ministry of prayer is something that the youngest child can do. In Psalm 8:2 we are reminded that age does not limit the effectiveness of prayers, “Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.” God accomplishes his purposes through the prayers of the young and old.

So parents, pray. Gather your children and invite them to pray. What should you pray about? Let us pray with our children for God to heal those affected, provide wisdom for leaders making decisions, give peace to our heart, fill us with calm assurance in God, and for the gospel to advance.

Fill Your Child With Hope in God

The Bible tells us that we can be confident in God and can have full assurance in Him

because He has good plans for us. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). God has plans for each of his children and it is a good plan! No one can hinder those plans. Nothing can thwart those plans, not even the coronavirus.

Colossians 3:21 provides a specific command to fathers (but equally applies to mothers), “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” The goal of a good father is to raise children who are not discouraged. To be discouraged means to lose heart, become disinterested, or have an unmotivated resignation toward life. We are not to raise that kind of child. We are to raise the opposite of discouraged, which is hopeful, joyful, and confident.

If fathers are given a command to avoid one kind of parenting, then it implies we are to pursue a different kind. We are to pursue the kind of fathering that gives hope instead of discouragement and confidence instead of fear. So fathers, don’t discourage your child in this time of uncertainty, rather fill them with hope in God! Teach your child that they can rejoice in times of suffering, knowing that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” in God (Rom. 5:3-4). Don’t discourage them. Teach them to hope in God. Help them fix their gaze on God, not on the uncertain circumstances that surround us.

The Coronavirus provides you the opportunity to talk about where we put our trust and where we look for hope. Use this opportunity to build up your child’s God-confidence. Work to root out self-confidence, government-confidence, money-confidence and replace it with God-confidence. Our hope is not in the government. Our hope is not in our money. Our hope is not in ourselves. We trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the most common phrases in the Bible is the phrase, “Do not be afraid” and it is often followed with the words, “For I am with you.” Our confidence is in God, for He is with us. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). He offers His help to us right now.

When the world is broken and all else fails, God will be there. We have a reason to hope. Our hope is rooted in the character of God. He is our refuge in time of need. The Coronavirus will pass. The days of social distancing and quarantine will come to an end. Not because an elected official out smarted the virus, but because God is sovereign and He is on the throne. God has not abdicated the world to sickness. He has not left the throne. God is in control. We are to put our trust in Him and Him alone.

Remind yourself of these biblical truths and teach them to your children. Let the promises of God’s Word and the unchanging character of God’s nature wash over your household at this time, “Great is the Lord, who delights in the welfare of his servant” (Ps. 35:27). Be glad in our good God today and filled with hope for tomorrow!

Is it ever okay to date/marry a non-believer? FAQ Blog Series (Part 2)

Many think it’s narrow minded to discourage Christians from marrying someone outside their faith. 2 Corinthians 6:14 is very clear though that God doesn’t want believers to be “unequally yoked” with unbelievers. Here are five dangers to dating/marrying an unbeliever:

1) As a believer your relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important part of who you are. If you are not able to share that with the person you’re with, then you can’t share ALL of who you are. A healthy relationship should connect on every level – emotionally, physically and spiritually. Being with someone who doesn’t believe what you believe will hinder your transparency and will create a huge gap in your intimacy. Even worse, you could lose your passion and zeal for Christ because you decide it’s better to compartmentalize your faith so you aren’t isolated from your spouse.

2) Many think marriage is for earthly happiness but God created it for an even greater purpose – eternal holiness. In Ephesians 5, the husband is called to love and serve his wife in order to encourage spiritual growth and transformation in her. Women, if you marry an unbelieving man, his ultimate goal will most likely not be your spiritual transformation.

In Genesis 2, the first role God gave wives was to be the man’s helper. This is a huge responsibility and privilege because it means coming alongside him and spurring him on to become the godly man he was created to be. Men, if you marry an unbelieving woman, her ultimate goal will most likely not be your spiritual transformation.

3) Marriage is also for raising godly children. A godly husband and wife have a shared mission and that is to raise godly children. If the two of you are not on the same page about your faith, your children will receive mixed messages and likely find themselves confused about what to believe.

4) If the person is a believer but there is a large gap in their level of spiritual maturity, I would suggest a few things:

– Seek the advice and input from a few strong Christians you know and trust. Invite them into the process of getting to know the person you’re dating. This   will enable them to discern whether or not they feel the spiritual gap can be        bridged or not.

– Get involved together at church; attend services, join a Bible Study or small group, do service projects. The goal here is to see if the other person is eager to grow and if you can grow together. This will also help you see whether      you’re headed in the same direction.

5) Above all else, trust that the Lord knows best and lean on Him instead of your own feelings or thinking. He won’t ever lead you astray!

Scripture for further study: 2 Corinthians 6:14, Ephesians 5:25-27, Genesis 2:18

 

Navigating Three Grandparenting Landmines

Larry and Sarah sat in my office, visibly frustrated. Tears came to Sarah’s eyes when she spoke, “I think the discipline of our grandson has driven a wedge between us and our son. We used to be close, but that has changed.”

Larry began to explain what happened, “Our son and his wife went away for a seven day vacation to Hawaii and we offered to take their three children. We thought it would give us some extended time with our grandchildren.”

Sarah chimed in, “Yeah, but instead it’s caused a lot of problems. We learned we were not prepared to deal with media and food choices as well as discipline.” Larry stated, “There was some misbehavior from our oldest grandson Nathan and I had to deal with it. Nathan snuck out in the middle of the night and was out half the night. Someone called me and made me aware that it happened.”

Sarah jumped in, “We never expected to have to deal with this sort of thing as a grandparent. It kind of caught us off guard.” Larry continued, “When I found out it happened I sat him down and told him he betrayed our trust and that he was not going to be able to go out with his friends until his parents got back.”

“And that isn’t all,” Sarah added, “We were shocked how much time our grandchildren spent on their phones texting friends and watching stuff, so we had them put their phones away after dinner each night. Two of the three grandchildren were picky eaters and refused to eat half of the meals I served. I wish I would have known about their media and eating habits before they arrived.”

The frustration was evident on Larry’s face, “The most difficult thing was when Nathan texted his mother, who said he was allowed to go out with friends and use his phone. It caused a big disagreement. I told Nathan that his mom and dad had given us the authority while they were gone and we were going to stick with our decision. We were given the responsibility and authority and we acted upon it. We had hoped to build memories with our grandchildren, but instead we experienced conflict that’s caused division in our family.”

Larry and Sarah’s boundaries were appropriate, but they were not on the same page as their children. Grandparents are partners with parents working together to encourage a child to know, love, and serve Christ. In order to successfully partner together, parents and grandparents must be on the same page regarding numerous topics including how and when grandparents are to enforce boundaries while watching a grandchild. This article will equip you to partner together by having a conversation with your adult child that focuses on three sticky subjects grandparents often face: discipline, media, and food.

Discipline

The first topic to discuss with your child centers around what to do when a grandchild is under your care and is disobedient. The more time you spend with a grandchild, the more important it is for clarity around this topic, especially if you watch grandchildren weekly or for an extended period of time. Here are two examples of questions you might consider asking your child.

How would you like us to navigate discipline? In general, you want to learn if your child wants you to administer some form of discipline or wait until the grandchild goes home and allow the parent to deal with the child’s disobedience. If a child prefers that you do not discipline a grandchild, then ask your child how he or she envisions boundaries being enforced at your home. If your child wants you to administer discipline, then it may be helpful to talk about specific examples such as what to do if a child refuses to go to bed or is repetitively disrespectful. Ask a couple of questions about “What should I do if…?” The goal is not to insinuate that grandchildren have behavior problems, but rather to communicate expectations and reduce surprises.

What discipline methods do you want us to utilize? Your aim is to arrive at an agreement about the methods you can utilize to discipline a grandchild in your care. What is your child’s preference about time outs, grounding, taking away a personal item like a phone, or other methods you might use? Do you have the freedom to spank a younger grandchild or does your child view this as their responsibility? Most grandparents do not want to spank a grandchild, but some grandparents watch grandchildren on a weekly basis and have been asked by their children to do so in order to maintain consistency in a grandchild’s life. You want clarity about how you should discipline a grandchild at your home.

Media

When my oldest two sons were in preschool, they were blessed to spend a couple afternoons each week at their grandparent’s house. One day, they came home and begun talking about a Star Wars movie that they had seen at grandma and grandpa’s house. I was disappointed because I had envisioned watching Star Wars at some point in the future as a fun father and son activity. I asked their grandparents if the boys had watched Star Wars at their home. As it turned out, the boys had only watched a commercial for a new Star Wars movie. It reminded me not to jump to conclusions and helped me realize I had expectations about television and movies that I had not communicated. It led to a productive conversation about media usage when grandchildren were at their home. If you have never discussed this topic, here are some questions you can ask to clarify media expectations for a grandchild:

  • What movies and shows is a grandchild allowed to watch?
  • What video games can a grandchild play?
  • How much time do you allow your child to spend on devices such as iPads or smart phones?
  • Would you like us to ask permission before watching something a grandchild has never seen?

If parents are conservative in their media choices, air on the side of caution with the use of technology in your home. If parents are liberal in their media consumption, do not speak poorly to a grandchild or be condescending to adult children about their choices. If you are going to establish media boundaries that a grandchild doesn’t have in his or her own home, you can do this by stating that at grandma and grandpa’s house we only watch television for an hour per day because we want to spend time having fun together.

Your goal is to learn parent preferences, discover unstated expectations, and arrive at an agreement about what is acceptable and unacceptable regarding screen usage at your home. For younger grandchildren, invite your child to provide a list of parent-approved shows or send movies that a grandchild can watch. For older grandchildren with a phone, ask your child to share how the phone is used at their home. Is the phone allowed in the bedroom at night? Can the grandchild text or call others? Is the grandchild allowed to go on the internet? You will build trust if you let your child know that you want to honor his or her media preferences when a grandchild is at your home.

Food

Craig approached me with a big smile on his face and asked if I wanted to see a picture of the vegetable drawer in his refrigerator. His mischievous smile told me that I wouldn’t see carrots or lettuce. “Sure,” I said, intrigued by what I would find. Craig pulled out his phone and showed me a picture of a fully extended vegetable drawer that was halfway filled with full sized candy bars of all varieties. “I love to feed my grandchildren vegetables and they love to eat them,” he said with a chuckle.

While there is nothing wrong with feeding grandchildren “vegetables,” have you ever asked yourself where this idea of grandparenting comes from? Who decided that a grandparent’s job description includes spoiling grandchildren with large amounts of sugar?

The truth is that Craig longs to be a good grandparent. He’s doing what he thinks grandparents do and that comes with a daily quota for sugar distribution. Craig loves his grandchildren and he wants them to love Jesus. But without realizing it, Craig’s approach to grandparenting created frustration because his son purposefully limits the amount of sugar his children consume.

Craig’s experience with sugar and Larry and Sarah’s experience with picky eaters is not uncommon, which is why a third topic to discuss with your child revolves around mealtime and food preferences. For some parents, food is a major issue due to food sensitivities, allergies, or eating habits. Generally, if there are food issues that matter to your child or grandchild, it should matter to you. Here are a handful of questions that you can ask your child to gain clarity about what food to serve to a grandchild at your home:

  • What are your food preferences?
  • How can we accommodate specific eating habits?
  • Are there any special diets, allergies, or sensitivities we should be aware of?
  • What meals, snacks, and drinks are your children’s favorites?
  • How much sugary foods and beverages are allowed?
  • What would you like us to do when a grandchild refuses to eat a meal or does not eat everything on his or her plate?

If your adult children or grandchildren have different eating habits or preferences than you, accommodate as possible. One of the secrets to making grandma and grandpa’s house special is food that everyone enjoys and feels good about.

Initiate a conversation

Larry and Sarah were not prepared for some common problem areas that grandparents often experience with grandchildren. I hope that Larry and Sarah’s painful experience encourages you to initiate a conversation with your adult child about some sticky subjects that often are overlooked, but are important to discuss so that you can be on the same page with one another. You can do that by simply inviting your child to grab coffee or casually bringing up one or more of these topics on the phone.

God designed parents and grandparents as partners working toward the same biblical goals, but with different and complementary roles. Wise grandparents do what they can to learn parenting expectations and implement parenting preferences. These three topics should help you get on the same page with your adult child, avoid common problem areas, and strengthen your family by being a disciple-making grandparent.

“How far is too far?” FAQ Blog Series (Part 1)

One of the most common questions I receive from youth and young adults is: “How far is too far?” Check out my response below.

One of the hardest Biblical commands for many people to accept is the command to save sex for marriage. To many, this “rule” seems like God is out to ruin their fun and restrict their freedom. However, behind every command God gives, are two motivations: to protect us and provide for us. Why? Because God is love. Love is the His core motivator for why He gives us commands. Therefore, His command to save all sexual activity for marriage comes from His heart of love!

The culture, however, will continue to bombard us with the lie that true freedom is found by living without boundaries and following our feelings. God calls us to faith rather than following our feelings because He knows our hearts are deceitful and will lead us down a road of destruction.

When you became a believer, your body became a temple where the Holy Spirit resides. This is a HUGE honor as well as a HUGE responsibility. Christ paid a high price (His life!) to rescue us and now calls us to pay a price of our own by pursuing holiness and pure living.

So how far is too far before it becomes sin? Not every sexual action is listed in the Bible with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ beside it. Some are grey areas. In 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 the Apostle Paul provides a great principle we can use to discern what to do when we face those grey areas: “’I have the right to do anything,’ you say – but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’ – but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” Paul is saying that some things we have freedom to do are not good for us and can actually be a stumbling block for someone we love. Even if an action isn’t listed in the Bible as sin, it can still be selfish, unloving and harmful. Hebrews 10:24 reiterates this by saying, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” If you are unsure whether a particular action could be sinful, love (for God and the other person) demands that you refuse to go there.

When God says to FLEE sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians 6:18 He is not joking around. The purpose of foreplay (sexual activity proceeding intercourse) is to prepare for sex. Since you’re not married and therefore not ready for sex, pressing the boundaries with foreplay will only bring about greater temptation and frustration, not greater love. He calls you to do a 180-degree turn from sin and not look back! Webster’s Dictionary defines the word flee as “to run away from danger or evil; to hurry toward a place of security.” God is calling you to run away from potential sin and toward Him – your only hope for security!

Instead of asking, “how far is too far?” how about asking, “How much can I save in order to honor God with my body?”

Scripture for further encouragement: 1 Corinthians 10:23-24, Hebrews 10:24, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, Hebrews 13:4, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, Jeremiah 17:9

 

 

The Problem with Keeping Quiet

There are many reasons parents aren’t talking about sexuality with their kids. Do any of these ring true for you?

  • “It’s an embarrassing Maybe if I don’t bring it up, it won’t come up.”
  • “We have such a busy schedule that I couldn’t possibly tackle a tough topic like that right now.”
  • “Sex is private and personal. I don’t talk about it because it is a sacred matter.”
  • “I made so many mistakes when I was young that I’ve been disqualified – my voice doesn’t matter when it comes to this topic.”
  • “I’ve had ‘the talk’ with my child, isn’t that enough?”
  • “My parents didn’t talk with me about sex and I turned out just fine. I’m taking the same approach with my kids.”

Here’s the problem with keeping silent on sexuality: By keeping silent, the worldly perspective becomes all the more enticing. We must understand that the world we grew up in is nothing like the world our children are growing up in today. The sexual temptation, experimentation and deception they face (or will face!) are unlike any other time in history.

Plus, if we keep silent, this teaches our children that God must be silent on the topic as well. This couldn’t be further from the truth! The Old and New Testament books are chalked full of bold teachings on sexuality. Howard Hendricks once said, “We should not be ashamed to discuss what God was not ashamed to create.”                                                                   

The culture isn’t embarrassed, too busy and surely doesn’t feel disqualified to train our children to view sexuality from a worldly perspective. In fact, it is their mission to talk as early and as often as they possibly can. Yes, the culture’s voice is loud but your voice is stronger. Take a stand and boldly proclaim God’s truth – it never returns void!

Reflect and Respond:

  • How have you approached the topic of sexuality with your children to this point? Spend some time thinking back on these encounters and ask the Lord to point out ways you can grow and stretch yourself in having courageous conversations with your kids.
  • Silence on sexuality is not a “parent problem” but has been a problem of the Church for centuries. The tide is beginning to turn but we still have a long way to go. Read the article “Sex and the Silence of the Church” to learn more and then ask God to help the Church find her voice.

The Importance of Teaching the Whole Bible During the Early Years

It is not uncommon to hear a well meaning parent or pastor suggest that children cannot handle portions of Scripture and should not be taught key biblical truths until they are older. A ministry leader made the following recommendation about delaying the teaching of topics such of morality, humanity, creation, government, family, and economics, “I would suggest a starting age of at least 11 since [the author] presents ideas for which younger children probably lack enough familiarity to reason through what he is saying.” That type of recommendation is opposite the pattern and priority of Scripture.

Paul speaks about the importance of the early years in salvation and spiritual growth when he said to Timothy, “and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). The Psalmist states, “O God, from youth you have taught me” (Ps. 71:17). The early years are critically important and we must not buy into the lie that children are too young to handle the deep truths of Scripture and wait to teach children the whole counsel of God’s word.

James Montgomery Boice recognized that the habits of youth often become the habits of adulthood. He states, “The decisions of youth form habits that guide us from that point on and are hard to break. If we form good habits when we are young – reading the Bible, spending time in prayer, enjoying the company of God’s people, going to church, rejecting sin, and practicing to be honest and do good – these habits will go with us through life and make good choices later in life easier. If on the contrary we make bad choices, later we will find good choices harder to make and the bad habits nearly impossible to break.”[1]

JC Ryle, an English pastor that lived from 1816-1900, has a strong warning for all parents and grandparents to heed, “What young men will be, in all probability depends on what they are now, and they seem to forget this. Youth is the planting time of full age, the molding season in the little space of human life, the turning point in the history of man’s mind. By the shoot that springs up we can judge the type of tree that is growing, by the blossoms we judge the kind of fruit, by the spring we judge the type of harvest coming, by the morning we judge the coming day, and by the character of the young man, we may generally judge what he will be when he grows up.”[2]

JC Ryle continues, “I say it because experience tells me that people’s hearts are seldom changed if they are not changed when young. Seldom indeed are men converted when they are old. Habits have deep roots. Once sin is allowed to settle in your heart, it will not be turned out at your bidding. Custom becomes second nature, and its chains are not easily broken. The prophet has well said, ‘Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil’ (Jeremiah 13:23). Habits are like stones rolling down hill–the further they roll, the faster and more ungovernable is their course. Habits, like trees, are strengthened by age. A boy may bend an oak when it is a sapling–a hundred men cannot root it up, when it is a full grown tree. A child can wade over the Thames River at its fountain-head–the largest ship in the world can float in it when it gets near the sea. So it is with habits: the older the stronger–the longer they have held possession, the harder they will be to cast out. They grow with our growth, and strengthen with our strength. Custom is the nurse of sin. Every fresh act of sin lessens fear and remorse, hardens our hearts, blunts the edge of our conscience, and increases our evil inclination.[3]

If you are discouraged by these comments due to an adult child or older family member who has not embraced Christ, then I want to remind you that there is always hope for transformation in Christ. The Scriptures are full of individuals who trusted Christ later in life such as the prodigal son who returned home, Nicodemus sought Christ to be born again when he was old, and the thief who trusted Christ at the end of life so no man may despair. If you are prone to worry, the Bible reminds you that the remedy is to trust God and bring your burden to the Lord in prayer (Phil. 4:6-7).

Research creates additional urgency as to the importance of the early years in the discipleship of young people. A survey from the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) found that 63% of individuals become a Christian between the age of 4-14, with the median age being 11.[4] The same survey also found that 34% of individuals become a Christian between the age of 15-29. According to this study, 97% of individuals become a Christian before the age of 30.

A child’s beliefs, his or her worldview, is almost fully formed by the age of 12. Before a child becomes a teenager, his understanding of the world, views of God, perspectives about morality, convictions about Jesus, and a long list of other topics is nearly complete.

Delaying doctrinal training, abdicating discipleship to pastors or schools, or avoiding difficult topics is a recipe for spiritual disaster. It is important to note that beginning early is not a guarantee that a child will embrace Christ or live biblically as it is the power of the Gospel, not the correct methods that change hearts. However, we are wise to recognize and utilize the patterns and principles of Scripture and resources that help us shape the beliefs of the next generation.

[1]James Montgomery Boice, Psalms, An Expositional Commentary, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing House, 1998), 977.

[2]JC Ryle, Thoughts for Young Men (Nelson South, New Zealand: Renaissance Classics, 2012), 6.

[3]JC Ryle, Thoughts for Young Men, 6-7.

[4]National Association of Evangelicals, “When Americans Become Christians,” accessed March, 26 2019, https://www.nae.net/when-americans-become-christians/?inf_contact_key=3fe6d503a91e14eb09034cd02b6b233081cb00e0c63e6f917e88c5746d3481dd

What Does It Mean to be a GRAND Father?

On a flight last year to Boston, I was privileged to sit next to an 81-year-old man still working fulltime. He’s been with the same company for fifty years. “I see no reason to retire,’ he said. “I love my job, and I’m good at it. I love the relationships I have cultivated over the years, and the opportunities to still make a difference.”

He went on to explain he had taken on the responsibility of “grandfathering” his four adult nephews and nieces who lost their father—his brother—to cancer. “I want them to know,” he said, “that I’m going to be there for them, to help them make the most of their lives. I love that my work gives me opportunities to do that.”

Wow! I don’t hear that kind of talk from many older men, and he isn’t even a believer! But this guy gets something I think many of us men don’t get—it’s not about me. If you are a follower of Christ, it ought to be it’s all about Christ in you so the next generations will know the truth and walk in it. I appreciated that this grandfather sitting next to me was going to make sure his life “mattered and made a difference” for his family. He told me the one question informing the decisions he makes is this: “Will this decision be good for my family?”

While I applaud his commitment to what is good for his family, the thing that is truly best for your family is the all-satisfying delight of knowing Christ and following him wholeheartedly. Still, I wonder how many Christian grandfathers ask the question he asked, let alone the more important one: “Will my decision make Christ look great in the eyes of my family?”

This is Father’s Day, and my prayer is that you choose to be a GRAND father in your family. So, let me challenge you to take to heart the words of Paul to Titus about teaching older men what is in accord with sound doctrine: “Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in steadfastness.”(Titus 2:2 ESV).

  1. Sober or sober-minded:This has to with being restrained or not given to over-indulgence, not merely in the use of alcohol, but in all pleasures in life. Grandfathers, we of all men ought to know the dangers and consequences of over-indulgence in anything.
  2. Dignified:This is living a life that is worthy of respect. It is not the putting on an air of being proper, but that we are serious about a right way of living because we live in the light of eternity.
  3. Self-controlled:This is a term Paul uses a lot and applies it to every age for both men and women. It relates to our passions and who is in control of them—the Spirit or our sinful nature. It is said among Hebrew men that the man who never learns self-control can never become a mature, sage male.
  4. Sound in faith, love and steadfastness:As older men, we ought to display those qualities of life that give evidence of faith that is real, not merely professed. Our faith in Christ and His grace, and the promise of eternal life ought to drive us to love better and persist more. Our love should be more reflective of how Christ loves us. We ought to be men with chests who face the hard things of life with joy and confidence in the promise of God in which we remain steadfast in perseverance—not lulled into complacency.

These things define a grand-father, transformed by the Gospel of Christ. In other words, the grace of God is more than knowing our sins are forgiven. It also “teaches us to say ‘No!’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ…” (Titus 2:12-13).

May God bless you on this Father’s Day and give you the courage to be a grand-father who is sober-minded, dignified and worthy of respect, self-controlled, and a godly example of faith, love and endurance.

 

GRANDPAUSE:Grace, properly received, trains us, not just to renounce certain actions, but to embrace new treasures and passions. –Josh Lindstrom

Happy Grand Fathers Day!

Grandfathers! What Are You Doing to Produce Godly Grandsons?

When Leo told me that his grandfather was the only male role model in his life that showed him what a real man looked like, I was both heartbroken and ecstatic. On the one hand, it was tragic that he had no father involved in his life, or that no other men were able to provide a model of godly manhood for this young man. On the other hand, praise God for a grandfather who did.

 

I am the first to herald the importance of a father as the primary teacher of what it means to be a man for his son. But I also believe, whether a boy has a father committed to doing that or not, a grandfather can have a powerful influence in helping a young man (and a young woman) grow towards godly adulthood. My own grandfather set a powerful example for me as a man of honor, integrity, hard work, and a high commitment to the Word and prayer.

 

I want to be that kind of example to my grandchildren, especially my grandsons. There are five things I want my grandsons to understand about being a man of God.

  1. That a godly man treasures Christ and His gospel above all else. I want them to know that there is no greater treasure than that found in the everlasting, ever-increasing, never boring but ever-satisfying joy of knowing and following Christ.
  2. That there is no greater virtue than treating the opposite sex with honor, respect and dignity, and that he will love the woman he chooses for his bride as Christ loves His Bride, the Church—willing to go to the stake for her sake.
  3. That a man has a work to do, and there is no greater purpose or reward given by God than doing that which God has called him according to God’s purposes whether in his career, his home, his church or his community.
  4. That a godly man is not mastered by his passions and pleasures but master of them. He knows the value of self-control.
  5. That a true man of God rejects any sense of passivity, but courageously chooses to do what is right and true rather than surrendering to what is popular or comfortable.

 

So, as a grandfather, what can I do to communicate these things to my grandsons with the greatest impact? I suspect you already know (it’s not rocket science), but here are three things I think we would all agree are critical to that impact:

 

  1. Pray for your grandson(s)—and granddaughter(s)—faithfully and regularly. The prayers of a righteous man have a powerful impact (James 5:16).
  2. Be an example. No matter what you say, if your way of life does not match what you say, your words will fall on deaf ears. Paul audaciously proclaimed, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice” (Philippians 4:9). If you want to make an impact on your grandsons, then make this your life verse. This is not a matter of being perfect, but knowing that how you respond in those times when you mess up is how you would want your grandson(s) to also respond.
  3. Spend time with them. I’ve heard it said that ‘quality’ of time spent is more important than ‘quantity’ of time, I don’t think it’s either or. I believe that for us to have the greatest impact in another’s life, our lives need to intersect. While proximity (quantity) does make doing life together easier, not living nearby does not negate your potential impact, if you make the most of the time you have (quality). Technology also gives us a great advantage when proximity is not possible. And don’t forget the impact of letters to stay connected.

 

Obviously, if you do these things well it is still no guarantee your grandson(s) will be godly men, or that your granddaughter(s) will be godly women. But do not forget that God cherishes them even more than you do, but He has chosen you to be his hands and feet. Your faithfulness in presenting them with an image of what a godly man looks like can have an amazing influence on the choices they make. Can you afford to do otherwise? There is, after all, no greater joy than knowing our children and grandchildren are walking in the truth. God has put you in their lives to give them every reason to choose that path.

 

I will never forget the memorial service of a dear friend and mentor where several of his grandchildren came to the front and declared: “Much of the reason we wanted to know Jesus and follow Him is because our grandfather treasured Jesus and smelled so much like Jesus we wanted to know Him too.” May God make you a grandfather who smells like Jesus… for the sake of your grandchildren.

The Gospel and Geocaching

Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunting game using a geocache app on GPS-enabled devices, like a smartphone. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) someone has hidden around that location. Unlike traditional treasure hunting, geocaching is more about the hunt than it is the treasure. In most cases, once the treasure is found, the treasure seeker simply records his/her name, leaves the treasure where it was found, and moves on to the next treasure cache.

Grandparenting can be a lot like geocaching. While our grandchildren are grand treasures to us, we must be careful not to forget what the real treasure is. Gospel-shaped grandparents intentionally seek a greater treasure—that our precious grandchildren will know the treasure of being made alive in Christ and the all-satisfying delight of living to the praise of His glory.

It is true that a new grandchild born into our family is a treasure. But we dare not forget the sad reality that every human being born into this world is born with a sin nature. It is easy to forget that when we gaze into the cherub faces of a newborn grandchild, or as we revel in the enjoyment and memorable moments with young grandchildren. We must not forget that they, like the rest of us, need the life-giving transformation that only Christ can provide.

The ultimate treasure we seek for these treasures delivered into our families is that they one day know and embrace the truth of the Gospel of Christ. If we do not seek that treasure for them, we are like geocachers who find a treasure, but then walk away without it. “Oh, that’s nice. Let’s see what else is out there.”

On the other hand, grandparents can serve much like the GPS system used in geocaching. We point them to the treasure that is available to those who seek and understand what a treasure it is. We do that by praying for them and with them, sharing the story of reality found only in the Bible, and by living a life that says what we profess to believe is evident in how we live.

Which means we know what we believe and why. Some say that is not the ‘treasure’ that is important, only the journey of seeking. And since there are many ‘treasures’ to be found, why stop with only one. Keep seeking and discover the joy of lots of different treasures—like geocache treasure hunters do.

That may work for geocaching where none of the treasures have any eternal significance. In the game of life, the treasure our grandchildren seek matters. We are responsible to point them to the true treasure and teach them to understand the significance of this treasure. They also need to know why no other so-called treasure can offer eternal life.

Godly grandparents want to provide a spiritual impact upon their grandchildren. Whether you do or not, is up to you. Do you want these treasured members of your family to find the treasure of all treasures—Christ, our Redeemer and Friend, or will they see no reason to believe it is the treasure we claim it to be?

[BTW, geocaching could be a great activity to do with your grandchildren, and to use it to talk about the difference between the kind of treasures being sought in geocaching and the true treasure of Christ’s love and grace. For more information about geocaching, click here.]

GRANDPAUSE: Thy love is most unsearchable, and dazzles all above; They gaze, but cannot count or tell the treasures of Thy love! -Charles Wesley

You may also view this post on the Gospel Shaped Family website.