The Dangers of Social Media on Relationships

Did you know that 20 percent of divorces involve Facebook? As a Facebook user myself, I was not surprised by this statistic. Facebook’s convenient social engagement – sometimes couched in the privacy of a message inbox – is an excellent way to stay in contact with old friends. But this convenience is also why Facebook can be dangerous for marriage. Brenda and I have a continual conversation on this topic. Social media is largely harmless, but if not approached with discretion it leads many down a path of emotional (and even physical) infidelity. We are not blind to this potential – and you shouldn’t be either.

Social media may not always be used in positive ways. Understanding the pitfalls can help you be aware of the potential dangers of social media on today’s relationships. Darren Adamson, PhD, LMFT, Chair of the Department of Marriage and Family Sciences at Northeastern University, lays out three potential dangers facing couples:

1.Social media serves as a distraction from focusing on the interactions that nurture relationships. “Social media use can become compulsive,” explains Adamson, “making it difficult to manage the amount of time spent on it.” In one study, American college students describe abstaining from social media the same way they describe drug and alcohol withdrawal—cravings, anxiety, feeling jittery.

2. People share their best lives on social media, so couples sometimes compare their mundane lives with other’s exciting lives, which can create destructive comparisons. “This can lead to discouragement with one’s primary relationship,” says Adamson. That discouragement can lead to conflict, fear, unrealistic expectations—why can’t you be like the partner portrayed in the social media posts? —or an overall discontentment with the relationship.

3. There is the potential for another relationship that looks so much better than the primary relationship. This can lead to extra-couple relationships that ultimately can destroy your marriage.

Guidelines for Maintaining a Healthy Balance Between Social Media and Relationships

As evidenced by couples who do use social media to their advantage, it is possible to have healthy relationships and be actively involved in social media. In fact, a 2013 study in Social Psychological and Personality Science found that people who share information about their relationship on Facebook were comfortable in their relationship. However, that setting guidelines on how to effectively use social media can mean the difference between a healthy use of social media in a relationship and taking it into the danger zone.

1.Don’t use social media as a negative point of comparison for your relationship. If you feel compelled to make comparisons involving your relationship compare where your relationship is today with what it was like a year ago—or five or ten years ago for those in a long-term relationship. Let the results of the comparison prompt changes in behavior that can build your relationship.

2.Spend time nurturing your relationship. Do things that create closeness in your relationship and do them regularly without distraction. This means leaving the cell phone/tablet at home—out of sight and out of mind. The distraction factor is one of the biggest challenges with social media. According to a study by Scientific American, the presence of a cell phone/tablet can be detrimental to interpersonal relationships.

3. Do not maintain a separate social media life. Share your social media world with your husband or wife. Spouses should not just share passwords – they should keep no secrets on social media. All messages, groups, and statuses should be open to your spouse. Just as it would be unsafe to keep secrets with a “real life” friend of the opposite sex, it is equally dangerous to keep even the smallest secrets from your spouse online. This may seem extreme, but in the world of social media we cannot be too careful. The protection of a screen gives a false sense of security, privacy, and even intimacy. This is why Brenda and I have a continual conversation about our social media channels, updating one another on who messaged us, what we’ve said lately, and the news we’ve received.

Social media is a part of our modern society, but there are also dangers in social media if couples let it get out of control. One thing you must keep in mind that social media is exactly what the name implies—media. It is not a separate and distinct world. It does not sustain relationships, because it is based on virtual reality that, by its nature, is not able to support the activities required to make a relationship work. That is up to you as individuals, and it still requires old-fashioned hard work and time invested in your relationship to make it thrive!

When Equality Does not Mean Equality

I am not a political activist, nor do I intend to become one. There is a difference, however, between being an activist and standing up for the truth, especially when it is suppressed and impacts our children. That is never more necessary than when powerful people seek to change foundational truths created by our Creator in an attempt to shut down any conversations or disagreements about a matter of utmost importance.

Such is the case with a recent announcement by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) to give its full support to the proposed Equality Act through a celebrity driven video campaign. Contrary to what its name implies, the Equality Act soon to be introduced by House Democrats proposes anything but equality. As Andrew Walker wrote for The Gospel Coalition, this bill represents the “most invasive threat to religious liberty ever proposed in America” and “equates Christian ethics with hatred and bigotry.”

You may be wondering why I would bother with this topic in a blog about grandparenting. The reason is simple: God instructs us to teach our grandchildren the truth. For two decades I have talked about and written about this biblical mandate God gave to parents and grandparents for all times. We are mandated to tell the next generations the truth about who God is, what God has done and why He has done it. That includes the truth about who we are as male and female created in God’s image.

Fight for the Truth

If another generation is to know the truth—ALL of God’s truth, including what He says about sexuality and gender—it won’t be because our politicians and lawmakers are proclaiming it. It won’t be because celebrities promote it. It will be because godly men and women boldly and faithfully make it known generation to generation. But let us also remember that we teach and fight for what is true because it is true, not because it suits us or our ‘cause’.

We are responsible to teach our grandchildren the Gospel and the truth about things like God’s view of sexuality and gender. When a culture or a nation forces a lie on our children, we need to fight for the truth. That does not mean being vicious, unkind or unwilling to listen to other opinions. It does mean knowing what is true and boldly standing up for what is true, not just for Christians, but for all men.

Andrew Walker is right when he says, “Christians need to do a much better job of explaining the rationale and merits of their beliefs around gender and sexuality. We do not believe these are sectarian truths applicable only to Christians. Rather, we believe how God patterned creation in Genesis is the blueprint for human flourishing. If we don’t contend for the legitimacy and rationality of our views, they’ll end up being sidelined as intolerant and harmful—to the detriment of all.”

So, grandparents, I encourage you to engage with your grandchildren about these matters. Be ready to explain what God says and why it is important to believe what he says. Below are links to two articles I recommend reading, and a book I believe can be helpful to you in these conversations. These are conversations we need to have because they are conversations others are already initiating with your grandchildren in the public arena. We can’t afford to be lulled asleep on these matters for the sake of our grandchildren.

Important Resources

The Equality Act Accelerates Anti-Christian Bias by Andrew Walker

BreakPoint: The Equality Act vs. Religious Freedom by John Stonestreet

A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World by John Stonestreet

GRANDPAUSE: Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.(Nehemiah 4:14)

Smartphone Conversations for Grandparents

Do you ever grow tired of the constant intrusion of smartphones in everyday life? Have dinner time conversations with your grandchildren been reduced to tweeting and texting activity while face-to-face human interactions almost come to a halt?

Few grandparents have much to say about whether their grandchildren are allowed smartphones, let alone when and how they use them. Mom and Dad have primary responsibility for how it’s played out. Everywhere, that is, except in your home space. 

Grandparents, you are in a position to determine the parameters for smartphone use in your home, if you are willing to set an example. You are the king and queen of your home, and you can help change the way your grandchildren think about and use their smartphones. It requires some intentionality and grace, and perseverance.

Before I share some ideas, you must first believe you can have a transformational impact in your grandchildren’s lives, even when you are not living close by. The Bible makes it very clear that grandparents are just as important as parents in teaching and training our grandchildren to walk in the truth. If your grandchildren are young, you can establish that influence early on by reading Bible stories and other good stories with them, and by talking with them about both the good things and the dangers of technology.

If your grandchildren are older grade schoolers and teens, we may assume they don’t want to hear anything grandma and grandpa have to say. That will be true if we only criticize and “preach” at them about stuff we don’t like. If, on the other hand, we establish an atmosphere of trust and vulnerability (we can still learn some things too), the opportunities are there to engage them with conversations that cause them to think more judiciously about the choices they make. 

Now, for a few ideas regarding smartphones in your home…

  1. Assess your worldview about God’s creation. Does it line up with Scripture or culture? If  God created man in HIs image, he also created him to create good things. Does that include technology, or is it inherently evil? Like all of God’s creation, it is good, but like everything else it is under sin’s curse. Still, if the bad side of technology is all you talk about, your grandchildren will have little interest in hearing what you have to say. That’s why the Gospel is so significant. God can redeem even technology. 
  2. Determine to be tech-savvy.Know what you’re talking about. You don’t need to be an expert, but invest some serious time in learning about the capabilities, dangers and purposes of smartphones. A smartphone is not neutral. It has a specific purpose—communication, but it also has an accompanying power to influence thinking and action. Do you know how to have conversations with your grandchild about these things? If not, I recommend you check out this free resource produced by AXIS Ministries. You might also want to share it with the parents of your grandchildren.
  3. Build a culture of blessing in your home.Make it a regular practice to intentionally speak a word of blessing over each of your grandchildren when the opportunity arises. There are so many negative messages coming at them. Your words of blessing and value as image-bearers of God can be transformational. We have a free download called Creating a Legacy of Blessing that can help you make the most of this tool.
  4. Establish meaningful guidelines for smartphone use in your home. Here are ways to build a focus on relationships and less technology dependence. I call them Tech-Free Zones or Recess Periods:
    • Family Table: Let it be understood that mealtime is set aside for family interaction. No smartphones or other devices are welcome at the family table. This is too valuable a time to allow smartphones to disrupt.
    • Other tech-free zones/recess periods: When the grandkids come to visit, help them understand the value of personal interaction by creating tech-free recess periods (pre-planned activities) in which smartphones are turned off and put away out of temptations reach. Here are some examples: baking cookies together, reading a book, working on a puzzle, sharing stories. You probably have a lot more ideas you could create for doing life together without smartphone interference.
    • Special Outings: If your grandchildren are old enough, plan for some outings with them where smartphones are not allowed (assign one person in charge of the emergency phone). These could be visits to a museum, zoo, play, picnic, etc. Make plans for things they would enjoy doing, but no smartphones allowed.

(You’ll find a few other suggestions in my book: Courageous Grandparenting)

Grandparents, you can tell yourself that it is not your responsibility to teach your grandkids about their use of smartphones or any other technology. But that is cop out. God’s design is that we should work together—parents and grandparents—to train up a child to walk in the truth.

If you and your adult children are not on the same page about this, make sure you are on the same page with God’s truths about life and His creation. Ask God for wisdom and understanding to help your grandchildren avoid the dangers and make the most of technology for God’s glory and purposes.

Against All Odds: Help for the Hurting Marriage

Have you ever been in a situation or circumstance where there were a lot of problems and it appeared that there was no way out? It appeared hopeless, against all odds.

An ancient king of the Jewish people – Hezekiah – faced a situation that appeared to have no good outcome. It was one of those “against all odds” circumstances. There were a lot of problems and it appeared that he was not likely to succeed in preventing the impending destruction of his kingdom. You can read about it in the Old Testament of the Bible (2 Chronicles 32).

The part of the story that I want you to think about is found in these verses…

“After Hezekiah had faithfully carried out this work, King Sennacherib of Assyria invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified towns, giving orders for his army to break through their walls. When Hezekiah realized that Sennacherib also intended to attack Jerusalem, he consulted with his officials and military advisers, and they decided to stop the flow of the springs outside the city. They organized a huge work crew to stop the flow of the springs, cutting off the brook that ran through the fields. For they said, “Why should the kings of Assyria come here and find plenty of water?” Then Hezekiah worked hard at repairing all the broken sections of the wall, erecting towers, and constructing a second wall outside the first. He also reinforced the supporting terraces in the City of David and manufactured large numbers of weapons and shields.” (2 Chronicles 32:1-5, New Living Translation)

Hezekiah did not sit around waiting for his kingdom to come crashing down. Neither did he abandon the people who trusted him to lead them through this time of adversity. The king took steps to get his house in order, to make provision for the challenges he faced and was about to encounter.

His response to what appeared to be a hopeless situation provides biblical principles that are applicable for our own hardships and afflictions. Notice three things he did.

Blocked off the Bad

Hezekiah cut off the access the Assyrian army would have to the water in the area. That access would allow the “bad” to get a foothold around the city. Hezekiah doesn’t just sit around waiting for God to do something. This would be a good practice for us.

Do you have financial struggles, but continue to pursue an unsustainable lifestyle instead of living within your means?

Do you have relational situations where friends/family are pushing you in a direction you know God doesn’t want?

Do you want to grow spiritually in your marriage, but all of your busyness and distractions leave no time for the spiritual disciplines necessary for that growth?

What causes the enemy to linger in your lives?

Mended the Broken

Hezekiah repaired the broken sections of the walls around the city. What about the things that were once healthy and strong in your marriage, but are no longer – communication, trust, friendship, sexual intimacy, resistance to temptations that weaken your marital connection? Hezekiah and his people worked hard to repair what was broken to keep the enemy from easily overtaking them.

Bolstered the Weak

He built another wall outside the main wall and reinforced the supporting fortifications and terraces. It wasn’t enough to have one wall around the city. Do you know the weak spots in your life, in your faith, in your marriage? If the enemy concentrated his efforts there, would he be able to break through and destroy your marriage and faith in God? All may seem well now, but over the long run you would be vulnerable. What are you doing to reinforce the vulnerable areas of your relationship with your spouse?

Every marriage will face a time of adversity and distress. It may be a chronic illness, the death of a child, a crisis of faith, a financial setback, a loss of trust and security because of an adulterous affair, or an out-of-control addiction. Are you prepared? Is your house in order?

Characteristics of a Disciple-Making Grandparent

The Bible has hundreds of references to grandparenting, but these references are often missed because the Bible uses phrases such as children’s children, son’s son, father’s father, or forefather to speak of grandparenting.

One of the most common passages of Scripture utilized for family discipleship is Deuteronomy 6:4–9. The Christian community limits the application of Deuteronomy 6 to parents, but based on the context of Deuteronomy 6:1–2 it has a broader application that includes grandparents.

Moses gave the community a charge to love God and diligently teach young people the commands of God. Moses states the commands of God are for “you and your son and your son’s son” (Deuteronomy 6:1–2). The reference to “son’s son” means that Deuteronomy 6:4–9 is not only for parents, but grandparents.

Almost every grandparent that I’ve met wants to connect deeply with their children and grandchildren and make an eternal difference in their lives. The Bible equips us to do that. We are going to explore a number of biblical principles that will help you disciple future generations.

Here are four characteristics of a disciple-making grandparent:

  1. Disciple-Making Grandparents view grandchildren as a blessing, not a burden.

Do you remember what you felt when you learned that you would be a grandparent? Were you enthusiastic or ambivalent? Excited or anxious? Motivated or mad? Did you view your new grandchild as a blessing or a burden?

This first point deals with our heart. Your attitude about being a grandparent reveals much about your heart and what you believe about grandparenting. We want our attitude toward grandparenting to reflect God’s attitude toward grandparenting. What is God’s attitude toward grandparenting?

The Bible tells us that it is a blessing to know your grandchildren. Psalm 128:6, “May you see your children’s children.” The ministry of Grandparenting is to be received as a blessing not rejected as a burden. The grandparent who has a poor attitude toward grandparenthood in general or a grandchild specifically is at odds with God’s plan.

Every grandchild is created in the image of God and is therefore his sovereign plan for your life. Every grandchild is to be highly valued regardless of gender, race, health, or personality. Every grandchild is to be received with love and embraced as God’s good design for your life.

Grandchildren are a blessing. Do you believe that? Or have you felt resentment because of the cost of grandparenting? By nature, grandparenting requires sacrifice. It requires us to die to ourselves and our wants. Dying to ourselves is the exact opposite message you are fed by culture – you’ve done your time, now go play and travel.

If you’ve ever wished a grandchild wasn’t born or that you never became a grandparent, you’re not alone. I’ve met many grandparents who won’t verbally admit that they view a grandchild as a burden, but harbor these feelings in their heart.

If you struggle to receive a grandchild as a blessing, pray that God would soften your heart and change your attitude. Ask God to give you his love for a grandchild. Some of us need to release our plans to the Lord and choose to trust God’s sovereign plan for our life even when life turns out different than envisioned.

We must allow the Bible to shape our view of grandchildren. The Bible tells us that it is a blessing to have grandchildren. Proverbs 17:6 states, “Grandchildren are a crown of the aged.” That is a significant statement that speaks to the incredible value of grandchildren. Interestingly, it is not wealth, health, career accomplishments, or social status that the Bible says are the crown of your life. That honor goes to grandchildren.

A crown bestows honor and represents a high position in life unmatched through any other source. Your attitude and actions should reflect the value given to grandchildren by God in Scripture. We talk a lot about giving a blessing to grandchildren. Grandchildren are the blessing that God has given you. Have you received each grandchild as a blessing and does your attitude reflect it?

  1. Disciple-making grandparents understand the biblical purpose of grandparenting.

What is the purpose of grandparenting? My research discovered that only about 1 in 4 Christian grandparents have clarity about that question. If you are interested in a deep dive into the biblical role of a grandparent then I want to encourage to get Biblical Grandparenting or Grandparenting, but for now I’ll summarize this by saying that you must have a settled conviction on this truth: God designed grandparenting. He created it. Grandparenting is God’s idea.

Colossians 1:16 states, “All things were created by him and for him.” Grandparenting was created by God and for God. This is an important point for all Christian grandparents to understand because everything God creates, including grandparenting, he creates for a reason. If God created grandparenting, the natural question that arises is, why? God must have a purpose for it. What is grandparenting meant to accomplish?

God created grandparents to partner with parents to raise the next generation to know, love, and serve Jesus. Grandparents and parents are teammates working toward the same biblical goals. We are fellow laborers created to point grandchildren to Christ and raise help raise them to spiritual maturity.

Grandparents are the adjunct servant of the godly parent and the spiritual surrogate of the ungodly parent.

What do I mean by that? God designed parents as the primary disciple-makers in a child’s life and he created grandparents as a secondary, but important influence. If parents are raising children in the Lord then grandparents support and encourage parents to fulfill the task God has given them and reinforce the work of the parent by investing directly into the spiritual life of a grandchild. In this case, you are discipling the disciple-makers. If parents are not raising children in the Lord then grandparents need to lovingly encourage parents to take seriously the responsibility God has given them. Children who are not actively discipling present an opportunity for grandparents to invest more heavily by stepping into a more prominent disciple-making role in the life of a grandchild.

Family discipleship is one of the critical reasons grandparents are needed. You are in an excellent position to encourage an adult child to prioritize the discipleship of children.

God created grandparents with a unique role and a specific function and your job is to enthusiastically embrace God’s design. When we reject the design, we reject the designer. Grandparenting is not a take-it or leave-it cultural creation whose purpose and meaning change with each new generation. God did not create grandparents as an unnecessary, optional appendage to the family. God created grandparents to play a crucial role in the spiritual development of grandchildren by linking arms with parents to work toward the same goals of raising future generations to know, love, and serve Jesus.

Every grandparent needs clarity on an important question. How much discipleship is happening in your child’s home? You need clarity so that you know how best to spiritually invest as a grandparent.

  1. Disciple-Making grandparents are actively involved with family.

Research reveals that the quality of a grandparent and grandchild relationship is based on the frequency of interaction. Not surprisingly, it is difficult to develop a deep and intimate relationship with limited contact, which reduces the spiritual impact of grandparents.

Researchers Cherlin and Fustenberg researched the amount of time grandparents spend with grandchildren and found three categories of relational involvement:

  • Detached: 26% of grandparents. Detached grandparents often urge children to be self-sufficient and independent which creates an emotional distance between family members, resulting in grandparents being remote figures in their family’s life.
  • Passive: 29% of grandparents. Passive grandparents are careful to keep their distance, do not press for additional time with family, often feel burdened by the responsibility of being a grandparent, and are sometimes ambivalent but still feel the role of grandparenthood is rewarding. Detached and passive grandparents tend to interact with grandchildren less than once or twice a month.
  • Active: 46% of grandparents. Active grandparents spend a lot of time with grandchildren, have a positive view of being a grandparent, regularly share their opinions, and gently tell grandchildren when they disprove of a choice or behavior. Active grandparents tend to interact with grandchildren at least once a week or more.

How often do you interact with each grandchild? Children and grandchildren spell love T.I.M.E. If your interaction is infrequent, a simple way to increase your impact is to increase your frequency of interaction. Texting, letter writing, phone calls, and face-to-face visits are all tools grandparents can use to increase interaction. Whether you live close or far from family, the smart phone is an essential grandparenting tool.

Psalm 92:12-15 provides a picture of active grandparents. The psalmist uses the picture of a palm tree to make his point; “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our Lord. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him’” (Psalm 92:12–15).

Date palm trees bear hundreds of pounds of fruit well past 150 years of age and are a picture of what God expects from grandparents in the later third of their life. The psalmist teaches that righteousness in old age results in the continued production of spiritual fruit.

Psalm 92 shouts a truth that all grandparents need to hear: age does not impair fruit-bearing capabilities. It enhances them. Psalm 92 reminds grandparents that the latter years of life ought to be spiritually productive years for the purpose of declaring the nature of God to others. American culture attempts to convince grandparents that they have little to offer. Nothing is further from the truth. This passage speaks against the American ethos of retirement and reminds grandparents to be fruitful disciple-makers to their dying day.

Grandparents need to reject the narrative that the purpose of old age is a life of leisure and self-indulgence. The example of the palm tree suggests that a fruitless existence is not a category the Bible recognizes. God’s expectation for palm trees is also true for grandparents: to live is to bear fruit, even in one’s old age.

  1. Disciple-making grandparents make themselves available to help.

Today’s parents feel overwhelmed and grandparents can help. Huffington Post declared that overwhelmed parents are so common that it is a “national crisis.” Parents are overworked, family life is overscheduled, and your adult children often feel overwhelmed. The result is high levels of stress that leads to irritability, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

Paul states, “Older women, train the younger women…older men, train the younger men” manage the home and character training (Titus 2:3-6). God’s design for the family is for the older to help and train the younger. Many of your adult children need help and are looking for a mentor. When I was a pastor in Rochester, MN my wives parents moved one mile from us. We did life together. They helped us in tangible ways – parenting guidance, home repairs, and took our kids twice a week. It was a blessing.

Today’s parents often struggle under the weight of child-rearing and the endless tasks that come with parenting. Here are a couple examples from young parents:

“Now that I am back to work full time, I get up at 5:00 a.m. to get the kid’s lunches ready. I often find myself doing laundry at 10:00 p.m. Last week I was picking up groceries at the supermarket at 11:00 p.m. I’m so exhausted at night when I got to bed, I can hardly talk to my husband, much less make love with him. I don’t like living this way, but I’m not seeing a way out.”

“When it comes to parenting, our work is never done. Things shout at us from every direction, making it easy to get perpetually stuck in doing mode. Help Sammy with his spelling words! Take the splinter out of Shannon’s finger! Do the dishes…feed the dog…sign the permission slip…get the boys in their bath…!”

“It doesn’t matter what causes us to be overwhelmed. Sometimes it can be a culmination of little stressors – orange peels left on the floor, peanut butter on the stairs, sassing back by the eight year old, kids that don’t want to go to bed, bills piling on the counter – or it can be just that life is deciding that at this moment it’s simply going to be hard. Money stuff. Relationship issues. Sickness. Death. Kid issues.”

Parents aren’t just overwhelmed by endless tasks, they are also overwhelmed by the volume of opinions about how to parent. Facebook feeds are full of opinions about nutrition, education, health care, and athletics. Academic research presents compelling arguments from different perspectives on media consumption, brain development, vaccinations, and a long list of topics parents should consider. Family and friends offer varied philosophical approaches with strong views about sleep training and discipline. Parents are increasingly taking their parenting cues from sources other than the Bible and are unsure how to raise children to love and follow Jesus. Many parents have quiet fears about messing up their child and are unsure what to do.

Parents often need help with day-to-day tasks of managing a home, a break from children, and parenting guidance from the Bible. God created grandparents to help. My encouragement is to ask how are you doing? How’s your marriage? How can we help? If your adult child does not provide anything, that’s okay, ask again at a later time.

My research revealed that only 1 in 10 Christian grandparents are directly involved with the youngest generation of their church in any meaningful way. The majority of grandparents have limited interaction with the young people of their congregation that amounts to a passing greeting in the hall and results in limited spiritual investment in their lives. Grandparents told me that they no longer disciple the younger generation of their church because they do not think they are wanted, needed, or no longer able to offer something of value to young people. Other Christian grandparents told me they served and now it is someone else’s turn.

In Titus 2, Paul gives an important leadership responsibility to the older generation, which centers on the discipleship of younger Christians. Biblical grandparents are models of the Christian life and teachers of younger generations. The church is in need of godly, mature Christians who will pour themselves into the lives of younger Christians.

Grandparents have a golden opportunity. Who are the children in your church that would benefit from an adoptive grandparent? What help do your children need? There will be times when your adult children feel overwhelmed by life and unsure how to parent. God never intended parents to raise children alone. Instead, God gave families the gift of grandparents to share burdens, to distribute the weight of child rearing, and as a means to provide multiple influences to raise children in the Lord.

Each of these areas, attitude, purpose, time, help have the potential to strengthen relationships and increase disciple-making impact. Which one or two resonated with where you are at today?

Ash Wednesday

Today, Ash Wednesday, is the beginning of the church season known as Lent. It is a forty-day period before Easter set aside as a time of soul-searching and repentance. The forty days reflect Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for his own time of spiritual reflection. In the early church Lent was a special time when new converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism on Easter.

Historically, there are four spiritual acts of Lent:

  1. Giving to the poor
  2. Prayer
  3. Fasting/Abstaining
  4. Repentance

It’s that last one that has me thinking today. Repentance is often defined as “to feel sorrow for sin” and rightly refers to our sin against God. But, we also sin against each other in our marriage and family relationships. We offend and hurt the ones we love. And we are offended and hurt by the ones we love.

In every marriage and family there comes a time when we must repent for our actions or words. That is often followed by an apology. How you apologize and what you say in the apology is important. Here are four components of a biblical apology: 

  1. Confess sin – “I am sorry.” It helps to be specific about the offense. Avoid saying “but…” That tends to void the apology. A house is not clean until you open every closet and clean every room. Confession includes no more secrets and genuine regret.
  2. Accept responsibility – “I was wrong.” Repentant people do not give excuses or shift blame.
  3. Genuinely repent – “I have deep sorrow over my sin.” True repentance is essential for God-honoring change. In a marriage or family relationship, an intention to not repeat the offensive behavior needs to be verbalized in order to build trust. Heart change brings about life change, so true repentance is critical. Changing the course of life involves a decision to live in obedience to God and a deliberate turning from the things that cause temptation.
  4. Request forgiveness – “Will you please forgive me?” This sends a strong signal that you know you’ve done something that requires forgiving, not just excusing. It also lets the other person know that you want to see the relationship restored.

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” – Psalm 51:1-2

The Tale of Two Lumberjacks: A Meditation on Eccl. 10:10

There were two lumberjacks cutting wood. One said, “Before I start, I’m going to sharpen my blade.” The other said, “I have a lot of work to do. I don’t have time to waste.” He went straight into the forest and began chopping. The first lumberjack waited patiently while the blacksmith sharpened his axe. By the end of the day he had chopped down significantly more than the man with the dull axe.

Friend, which of these lumberjacks are you most like?

The author of Ecclesiastes reminds us, “If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed” (Eccl. 10:10). The truth presented in this passage is that dull axes don’t cut well. They require more time and energy to get the job done. 

The fact is, many of us ignore the Bible’s advice. We are doing our work with a dull blade. The point of Ecclesiastes 10:10 is clear: Wise people sharpen their edge. Sharp edges cut faster and deeper. They are more efficient and effective. Applied to our spiritual life, a sharp edge leads to fruitfulness.

According to the Bible, there are numerous ways to sharpen our spiritual edge. Maybe the best know passage is Proverbs 27:17, which tells us that “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Brothers and sisters in Christ are essential for our growth. Psalm 1 provides the most important way to be sharpened: delighting and meditating daily on God’s Word.

Meditating daily on God’s Word

Psalm 1:1-2 says, “Blessed is the man who…delights in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:3 provides three illustrations, or outcomes, of being sharpened by God’s Word. The Psalmist states that the person who delights in the Word of God and meditates on it day and night will be “like a tree firmly planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in its season,” will be like a tree whose “leaf does not wither,” and “will prosper in all that he does.”

I summarize the three outcomes using the words fruitful, strength, and prosperous. Let’s consider each briefly.

  1. Fruitful

First, you will be a fruitful person when you delight in the Word of God. God’s Word is alive and active and it refines us into Jesus’ image. We are sharpened when we spend time in God’s Word. You know when you have been around these kinds of people because they are encouraging, refreshing, and nourishing. They help us grow. Their words are life giving. Their life is a model of Christian character. Spending time with them awakens, restores, and even convicts us. If you spend time in God’s Word, you will yield fruit. May there be more fruitful people!

  1. Strong

Second, you will be a strong person if you delight and meditate on God’s Word day and night. The Psalmist says, “Your leaf will not wither.” Leaves wither because of a lack of water. When there is a drought, if a tree is not planted by a stream, it will wither and possibly die. At a minimum, a tree without water will not produce fruit. Your leaf will remain evergreen, in spite of heat and drought, if you meditate on God’s Word daily. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you can sharpen your skills, increase your abilities, or develop your gifts and talents through your own effort. Transformation is the work of God, which is why change happens when we spend time in God’s Word. The Spirit of God works through the Word of God to transform us. If you draw your strength from God in His Word, then difficult seasons will not limit your fruit bearing capacity because your roots will run deep. May we find our strength and nourishment from God in His Word.

  1. Prosperous

The Psalmist tells us that “whatever he does, he prospers.” The prosperity Gospel uses this verse to suggest that if we do certain things, our marriage will be healthy, our business will produce great profits, and life will be good. This passage is not God’s version of habits for highly effective people. Psalm 1:4-5 makes a reference to eternity and says that wicked people will be blown away like chaff and unable to stand in judgment. God’s view of prosperity is an eternal view, not a materialistic view. While there may be prosperity in this life, God’s true measuring stick is what happens at the judgment and what lasts for eternity. The Psalmist tells us that the words and deeds of the wicked will be swept away. They are like chaff. They may have accumulated much wealth and fame, but from an eternal perspective their accomplishments are not considered prosperous. These people will stand before Jesus in judgment and learn that they wasted their life. On the other hand, those who delight in God’s Word will flourish and the fruit they bear will make a difference eternally. 

Abraham Lincoln once said, “If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.” If you want to build a home, strengthen a marriage, restore a relationship, or make an eternal impact then sharpen your spiritual edge by spending time in God’s Word. 

Christian, if you are not spending time daily in God’s Word, then you are like the first lumberjack who gets up, goes about his business, and heads straight to the woods with a dull axe. We tell ourselves that we are busy and that we have a lot of work to do. While we punch a few things off our to-do list quickly, in the long run, our spiritual impact will be limited and suffer.

I’m impact hungry and my guess is that you are as well. No one wants to waste his or her life. I want to make a difference in my home and in this world for Christ. Ecclesiastes reminds us that before we start chopping, our edge needs sharpening. That happens as we spend time in God’s Word. May you sharpen your axe today.

A Family-Equipping Vision for Your Church

I’m often asked to help a church implement a family-equipping strategy. Pastors often ask how to present the vision to church leadership. A number of years ago I presented a family-equipping vision to my church and I am providing that for you to utilize with your church.

Biblical Foundation: The family is one of two great commission institutions that God created for evangelism and discipleship.

  • What is: “The promise is for you…and for all who are far off.” What’s missing from this Gospel progression?
  • What should be: “The promise is for you and for your household and for all who are far off” (Acts 2:39). God’s pattern for discipleship begins at home, moves across the street, and then around the world.

Psalm 78 is an entire chapter devoted to family discipleship and captures God’s vision for parenting and grandparenting: “so that they should set their hope in God (evangelism) and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments (discipleship); and they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation.”

Problem: 168 hours in a week. For kids, media gets 28+. Education gets 30+. The church gets 1-2. Combine that with parents and grandparents doing little and we get Judges 2:10.

  • No family worship, intentional plan, or training by church. “A majority of parents do not spend any time during a typical week discussing religious matters or studying religious materials with their children…parents typically have no plan for the spiritual development of their children; do not consider it a priority, have little or no training in how to nurture a child’s faith.”[1]
  • Infrequent church attendance. “The average child attends an evangelical megachurch less than two times per month.”[2]
  • Strong media and educational influence. The average young person logs 4 hours of TV, video, internet per day and 16,000 educational hours between K-12. “Children will be in school 60 times as much as in church.”[3]

Our parents are relying on this pattern for the spiritual training of their children and the results are not good.

Four primary spiritual influences of young people: (1) parents, (2) grandparents, (3) teachers and coaches, and (4) religious leaders.[4]

  • What is: Church-based with home support.
  • What should be: Home-based with church support.

Problem: Philosophically, for the past 50 years, the evangelical church has operated as if #4 was #1, done little to equip parents, and ignored #2 and #3.

  • “Many of the church leaders talk about the importance of the family, but in practice they have written off the family as an agency of spiritual influence. Their assumption is that if the family is going to be influenced, it is the organized church that will do the influencing, primarily through its events–worship services, classes, special events, etc. This philosophy causes the impetus behind youth (and children’s) ministry to be fixing what is broken–that is, to substitute the efforts of the church for those of parents since most of the latter do not provide the spiritual direction and accountability that their children need. But there is a procedural problem here: kids take their cues from their family, not from their youth ministers. God’s plan was for the church to support the family, and for the family to be the front-line of ministry within the home.”[5]
  • Churches have said to families, “Bring your children to us. Let us teach them about Christ and we will include you in the process. Help us develop Sunday school, small groups, retreats, and vacation bible school. The message we are communicating to families is that the church should be the focal point for nurturing faith in their children.”[6]

Biblical Pattern: Timothy provides an example of discipleship in Scripture combining the influences of parent (Lois), grandparent (Eunice), and spiritual mentor (Paul). When a child has all three spiritual influences there is a greater chance for lifelong faith.

Proposal:

  • Write a philosophy of family ministry that will determine how we equip families.
  • Discuss how we can utilize the pulpit, resources, and equipping opportunities (small groups, classes, conferences) to train parents and grandparents. Create a scope and sequence of topics and resources.
  • Update mission statement to align with Scripture. We exist to glorify God by making disciples of Jesus Christ at home, across the street, and around the world.
  • Begin campaign: Every Family Worshipping Together. The goal is to equip every family to lead worship at home (read and discuss Bible, prayer, praise) and families worshipping together one hour on Sunday morning.

[1]George, Barna, “Parents Accept Responsibility for their Child’s Spiritual Development but Struggle with Effectiveness,” accessed October 11, 2016, https://www.barna.com/research/parents-accept-responsibility-for-their-childs-spiritual-development-but-struggle-with-effectiveness/.

[2]Larry Fowler, The Question Nobody Asks About our Children (Steamwood, IL: Awana, 2014), 11.

[3]Ibid., 18.

[4]George Barna, “Teen Role Models: Who They Are, Why They Matter,” accessed October 11, 2016, https://www.barna.com/research/teen-role-models-who-they-are-why-they-matter/#.V_K9ZrTKPFI.

[5]George Barna, Third Millennium Teens: Research on the Minds, Hearts, and Souls of American’s Teenagers (Ventura, CA: Barna Research Group, 1999), 66-67.

[6]Ben Freudenberg, The Family Friendly Church (Loveland, CO: Group Publisher, 1988), 28.

Five Reasons for Family Worship

  1. The scripture is clear that our delight is to be directed to God. He is to be worshipped in all places. If this is true, is He not to be worshipped in our home? Are parents not to assist children in their worship of God just as a pastor assists his congregation? It would be shocking to enter a church that did not have its primary purpose the worship of God. A church that does not express itself by worshipping God is a contradiction in terms. It should be just as outrageous to enter a home in which God is not honored and glorified as a family. A non-worshipping family is just as inconsistent as a non-worshipping church. The family is the smallest of all groups. If there is to be any worship of God in a group setting, then it is most natural that it occurs in the family.
  2. Family worship is the means to instruct and nurture our children in the Lord. The primary duty and delight of every parent is raising a child to know and love God. How can this happen if there is no worship of God in the home? Certainly there can be no spiritual instruction of children if they are not afforded the opportunity to worship with the family. Family worship is how we transmit the Gospel, sound doctrine, wisdom, and the fear of the Lord to our children. It provides children with the freedom to express thoughts, test ideas, and have questions answered.
  3. Family worship trains children how to worship God in larger settings. What is learned in the home is transferable to the sanctuary at church. Habits are best taught by practicing them. Limiting God to Sunday morning often makes worship at the church unnatural and difficult. When children worship God in the home, it becomes normal and routine. Francois Carr, in the book Lead Your Family in Worship, asks “Could it be that the decline of many churches is linked with the death of family worship and not cultivating an intimate relationship with God?” Bringing worship into the home communicates much about our priorities and passions.
  4. Worship in the home creates unity in the family. We cannot be an enemy with those we pray for. Meeting together, in light of the scripture, gives us the opportunity to restore relationships and not allow the sun to go down while we are still angry. This helps us realize the needs of other family members. Family worship has been known to bring about unselfishness, encourage communication, limit anger, and produce the fruits of the Spirit. Family worship will help to promote harmony in your family.
  5. Family worship leaves a legacy through the generations. We can make no greater contribution into our children and grandchildren’s life than to bless them with a time of gathering before the throne of grace on a daily basis. A family, with worship at the center, will produce great fruit for the generations to come.

Family worship is a means to help your child know and love God. I find that nearly every Christian parent deeply desires to see their child walking with God. Family worship is the best step towards achieving this desire. Joel R. Beeke, a pastor and professor, remarks how his brother was touched through a time of family worship, “Dad, the oldest memory I have is of tears streaming down your face as you taught us from Pilgrim’s Progress on Sunday evenings how the Holy Spirit leads believers. At the age of three God used you in family worship to convict me that Christianity was real. No matter how far I went astray in later years, I could never seriously question the reality of Christianity, and I want to thank you for that.” Children will be influenced by what they hear and see in family worship and may be spared from much sin as they recall the lessons of their childhood.

If you are not gathering as a family to focus on God you are either too busy or your priorities are out of order. Carl Henry, in his book Church in the Home, agrees, “The child you gave up to God to be dedicated to Him, and admitted a member of Christ’s visible church, was in God’s name given back to you, with the same charge that Pharoah’s daughter gave to Moses’s mother, Take this child, and nurse it for me.”

Through birth, children receive a sinful nature from parents. For this reason parents are highly responsible to arouse the work of God in a child’s life. Parents must urge children to repent and follow Christ, and when he does, our work does not stop there. The most important duty that God has placed on your shoulders is the salvation and discipleship of your children. It is my prayer that you spare no effort to this end. If your salvation and growth in Jesus is important, then you must rank that of your children to be equal in worth. What a painful source of grief it would be to see your children show no sign of affection for Jesus. How it would torment you to see your child live only for his own desires. Today, dedicate yourself to the worthy task of family worship.

Family Talk: News and Resources for Family Discipleship

Family Talk: News and Resources for Family Discipleship

1. 4-8 year olds are being trained to be social justice warriors for the cause of marxism at public schools.

“People say indoctrination starts in college. Or even high school. It starts when you are 4-8 years old.”

2. Six truths about parenting that reorient everything.

“There is so much help in Psalm 51 for understanding the deepest need of your children that I think you could write a whole parenting book from it alone. The implications of what David confesses and cries out for set a whole new agenda for what God has called us to in the lives of our children. As I explore the implications of this psalm for understanding the task of parenting, I want you to notice the focus of David’s confession. He doesn’t say, “I messed up and I’m sorry.” Far from it. David is deeply aware that he has more than a behavior problem. When you read Psalm 51, you are hit with the fact that embedded in David’s confession of specific and concrete sins is a cry for God’s help with an even deeper moral drama. Let me draw six agenda-setting observations from this psalm for your work as a parent.”

3. The family is under attack and there is a strategic reason for the destruction of the home.

Modern society tends to think that given enough education, job opportunities, and equality advancement a child will be able to lift himself out of poverty and enjoy a successful life as an adult. But as a new study published by the Census Bureau shows, one of the greatest ways to lift children out of poverty is right under our noses – and we often seem to purposely overlook this solution because it doesn’t fit our politically correct version of the world. This fact was recently underscored by New York Times columnist David Leonhardt. Assessing the Census Bureau study, Leonhardt noted that one of the best ways to lift children out of poverty is to have more two-parent families in a neighborhood.”

4. 81 percent of Family TV Comedies Shows Kids Being Exposed to Sexual Dialogue. 

“Over 80 percent of prime-time network family comedy television shows have scenes in which adult characters use sexually explicit dialogue in front of children, a conservative media watchdog has warned. In a new report released Monday, the Parents Television Council has documented the widespread use of sexually charged language in television shows across multiple networks that the networks themselves are deeming to be family-friendly. What we are seeing is the frog in the boiling water, where as the temperature goes up, the frog doesn’t realize how hot it has gotten,” Winter told The Christian Post in an interview. “We have certainly seen over the last several years an increase in sexualizing content, especially for young girls.”