Education Matters: Why Education Needs to be Part of Your Churches Ministry to the Next Generation

Education matters. That’s a phrase that just about every Christian agrees with. Education matters because it influences what children believe, who they become, the choices they make, the friends they choose, and demands thirty-five hours a week of a child’s time for eight months of the year.

Yet, you wouldn’t know this at most churches. Education is overlooked, under-valued and the topic is ignored with a fervor so as not to offend parents. To speak about education is equivalent to blasphemy in many churches. An elder from a church I pastored told me, “You are not allowed to talk about education.” The common sentiment is to respect all educational choice as there is no one right decision for all parents.

Nicole Fulgham, author of Schools in Crisis, embraces the idea that there is no Christian view on education. She states, “There is certainly not a monolithic viewpoint that represents the ‘Christian’ point of view on public education.”[1] Tim Challies shares a similar perspective, “I find myself grappling with this thought: What if God doesn’t care a whole lot about how we educate our children?…One thing I’ve never heard anyone suggest is that maybe it’s just not that big of a deal. And, honestly, I am beginning to learn that way.”[2]

What if Fulgham and Challies are wrong? What if God does care about how we educate our children? What if there is a biblical perspective on education? Wouldn’t it be good for parents to know this and for churches to address the topic?

What does the Bible say about education?

Many people believe the Bible has little or nothing to say about education because the term never appears in Scripture. We only find a single reference to the word school in Scripture, Samuel’s school of the prophets.[3] Despite this reality, the Bible has a lot to say about education. The Bible has many other ways of referring to education such as knowledge, teach, learn, instruct, think, and mind. Here is a sample of what Scripture says about education:

  • Knowledge: The core task of education is to lead a child from ignorance to knowledge. The Bible’s chief concern in education is the knowledge of God, which is contrasted with foolishness (Prov. 1:7). Apart from God, knowledge cannot be properly understood and foolishness abounds. The Bible provides guidance regarding how to navigate godless knowledge. We are told, “Have nothing to do with godless myths” (1 Tim. 4:7). “Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge,’ for by professing it some have swerved from the faith” (1 Tim. 6:20-21). Knowledge is never neutral; it is for or against God. “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4-5).
  • Teach: The Hebrew language is rich in words that have to do with instruction; at least thirty-four root words imply the idea of teaching, and the words teach and teacher are used in the Bible over 350 times. Biblical education is focused on the task of teaching the knowledge of God and obedience to His law to the next generation. The Bible is prescriptive regarding what children are to be taught. Here is a sampling of what God commands:

    • God’s law. “Teach them [God’s laws] to your children and children’s children” (Deut. 4:9). “Teach them diligently to your children” (Deut. 6:7). “You shall teach them [God’s laws] to your children” (Deut. 11:9).

    • God’s work and character. “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Ps. 145:4) “Tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done…which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children…so that they set their hope in God and not forget the works of God” (Ps. 78:5-6).

    • God’s Word. “How from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings [the Bible], which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching…” (2 Tim. 3:15-16). “Command and teach them these things” (2 Tim. 4:11).

    • The fear of God. “Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Ps. 34:11).

      • Learn: The words learn, learned, and learning appears in the Bible over 100 times. The Bible is concerned with what we learn. Christians are to learn to revere God (Duet. 14:23), to fear God (Deut. 31:12), to serve God (2 Chron. 12:8), what is good (Job 34:4; Titus 3:14), God’s righteous laws (Ps. 119:7), His decrees and commands (Ps. 119:71-73), prudence (Prov. 19:25), to do right (Is. 1:17), to control ones body (1 Thess. 4:4), to praise God (Ps. 89:15), wisdom (Prov. 30:3), the meaning and purpose of life (Eccl. 1:17), contentment (Phil. 4:11), and to learn the Gospel (2 Tim. 3:14-16). If God commands his followers to learn these things, doesn’t it make sense to choose to educate our children so that they learn these very truths?

      • Instruct: The Bible provides guidance about who is to instruct a child. Jesus states, “A student [disciple] when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). The biblical principle to recognize is that teachers reproduce themselves in their students. Children absorb the beliefs, values, and views of the teacher. Biblically, parents are given the role of educating a child (Eph. 6:4).

      • Think: The Bible teaches “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). What a child thinks about, he or she becomes. What does the Bible want us to think about? Here is how the Bible answers that question, “Meditate on God’s Word day and night” (Joshua 1:8). “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). Lastly, “Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:1-2).

      The biblical vision for a child’s education is centered on and saturated with God’s Word, God’s laws, God’s works, God’s character, the fear of God, and godly living. Many parents believe the fallacy that they can obey these passages of Scripture by teaching their children at home on the evenings and weekends, despite sending their children to a school that teaches God is irrelevant, even non-existent, and instructs children in secular morality and unbiblical ideas. Individuals who do this, compartmentalize education in a way the Bible never does and fail to understand there is no distinction between faith and learning. When education is viewed as reading, writing, and math while discipleship is seen as character formation, spiritual disciplines, and sharing faith—we create a false dichotomy the Bible never does and provide our children with an education that is foreign to Scripture.

      Why Include Education in Your Ministry to the Next Generation?

      More than ever, Christians need to know what the Bible teaches about the education of children and put it into practice. Unfortunately, many Christians have adopted a cultural perspective for the purpose and practice of education. The Christian community needs a renewed biblical vision for the education of the next generation. The Bible reminds us that “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Prov. 29:18). It is critical that Christians capture a biblical vision for a child’s education. Parents need guidance from church leaders how to think biblically about education. Here are five reasons to include education in your ministry to children and youth:

      1. A Biblical Mandate: We must begin with Scripture and ask what are the biblical principles about education. God has given clear guidance in the Bible what, who, why, and how to teach children. God commands us to teach children His laws, His character, and His Word (Deut. 4:9; Ps. 78:4-8; Eph. 6:4). According to the Bible, God did not give the government the role of educating children. Education is a parent’s responsibility, with the support of grandparents and the church. Parents are to instruct children in the Lord, teach them God’s laws, and train a child to apply God’s truth to life. Parents have the freedom to partner with others to educate a child, but must do so in accordance with the principles given in the Bible.

      2. The Incredible Impact: Education is a powerful influence in the life of children. Children will spend 16,000 hours at school between K-12, considerably more time than in church. If pastors are serious about shepherding a child’s heart, then education is a non-negotiable aspect of ministry to the next generation. Modern day public education has scores of secular presuppositions underneath it, which are not understood or recognized by the majority of Christian parents. The approach of trying to overlay Christian beliefs to humanistic education is not successful for the majority of parents, nor is it biblical. Pastors are shepherds called to not only feed the flock entrusted to their care, but also protect the flock from false doctrine and wolves that would destroy faith in Christ. 
      1. A Means of Evangelism and Discipleship: Biblically, education is discipleship. It shapes what a child believes and who a child becomes. Christian education plays a critical role proclaiming the gospel to children, immersing children in gospel truth, training children for gospel living, and sending out children to transform culture through the power of the gospel. Paul reminds us of the critical importance of the centrality of Scripture in the education of children, “From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). When the church separated itself from the education of the next generation, it forfeited its position of influence in a child’s life and have steadily lost our children to the world in increasing numbers.

      2. Christ-Centered Relationships. Godly relationships with teachers and friends encourage wise choices, holy living, and obedience to God. God reminds us, “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Cor. 15:33) and “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher” (Luke 6:40).
      1. A Priority in Church History: There is a long list of Christian leaders in church history who have emphasized the importance of Christian education and believed it was a critical component of their mission and ministry. They believed the church and Christian school were united in ministry and mutually dependent upon one another. For example, “The great church reformers—Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, Ulrich Zwingli, and others—gave as much energy to establishing Christian schools as they gave to reforming the church. To them Christian school education and church reform were inseparable allies. Neither, they believed, could succeed without the other.”[4] Martin Luther was a champion of Christian education. He states, “When schools prosper, the church remains righteous and her doctrine pure…Young pupils and students are the seed and source of the church. If we were dead, whence would come our successors. If not from the schools? For the sake of the church we must have and maintain Christian schools.”[5]

      Many Christians are uncertain why we educate a child, the purpose and goal of education, who is given the responsibility in Scripture, and how we are to accomplish the task. As a result, many Christians have unintentionally adopted an unbiblical view of education and take their educational cues from culture rather than Scripture. Pastors have an incredible opportunity to cast a biblical vision for the education of the next generation and help parent think biblically about a topic that is critically important to the evangelism and discipleship of the next generation. If you believe education matters, then it is time to prioritize it in your ministry to the next generation.

       

      [1] Nicole Baker Fulgham, Schools in Crisis: They Need Your Help (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 27.

      [2] Tim Challies, https://www.challies.com/articles/what-if-god-doesnt-care-a-whole-lot-about-how-you-educate-your-children/

      [3] Samuel G. Kahn, A Short History of Christian Education (Jerusalem: Yesodot Publishers, 1960), 116.

      [4] Paul A. Kienel, A History of Christian School Education vol. 1 (Colorado Springs, CO: Purposeful Design Publications, 1998), xvi.

      [5] F.V.N. Painter, Luther on Education (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1889), 132-133.

How to Help a Child Understand and Defend Their Faith

You have helped train your children or grandchildren in the Christian faith. They are familiar with key Bible characters and stories, even memorized Scripture passages. You’ve explained the Gospel. They know that Jesus died on the cross for their sins and rose again. They have even had some significant experiences that have profoundly shaped them. They should be safe, right?

What will they do when someone makes a claim and provide “evidence” that the resurrection never happened? Or that the Bible is full of errors? Or that Christianity is guilty of horrible evils in history? Suddenly, “because mom or dad, grandma or grandpa said so” doesn’t work. Even as early as grade school, children are hearing other voices that seek to undermine everything that you and other spiritual authorities taught them.

Young people will not remain faithful to a faith they do not understand and cannot defend. In a post-Christian culture, it is more critical than ever for young people to know what they believe, why they believe it, and are prepared to defend themselves from attacks to their faith. Throughout church history this has been known as apologetics. Apologetics is the defense of the Christian faith. Peter states that Christians are to be prepared, “to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). A portion of Paul’s ministry included a defense of the Gospel, “I am appointed for a defense of the gospel” (Phil. 1:16). Apologists are individuals who defend Christian beliefs and practices against attacks, provide arguments for the truthfulness of Christianity over other worldviews, and refute unbiblical ideas or theories. The goal of apologetics is to persuade belief by presenting a rational basis for Christianity, to defend the truth by answering questions or the objections of unbelief, and to reveal the foolishness of false ideas so they do not capture the heart and mind of our children. Apologetics is an important aspect of your discipleship ministry to your children or grandchildren and can be divided into the following four categories:

  • Prove. Develop a case for Christianity utilizing biblical, scientific, historical, archeological, and personal testimony to establish the truthfulness of the Christian worldview. Show that Christianity is true, credible, reliable, and aligns with the real world. 

  • Defend. In every generation there are many attacks against Christianity and children need to be introduced to these distorted ideas, learn to test them against God’s Word, and be able to identify truth from error. The two primary areas of attack: The Son of God and the Word of God. 

  • Refute. Compare and contrast with other religions and belief systems to verify the Christian faith and dismantle false and erroneous views. Refute arguments made in support of different beliefs by showing they are unreliable, irrational, unverifiable, or simply do not make sense with what we see in real life.

  • Persuade. Work to clarify biblical truths, answer objections, address criticisms, provide answers and eliminate any intellectual difficulties that stand in the way of coming to faith in Christ. The goal is to encourage alignment with God’s Word, apply the truth of God’s Word to life, and establish a lifelong commitment to the Gospel. Apologetics is a partner of evangelism where we seek to convince children to accept truth claims about Christianity and trust Christ. Give your child every reason possible to embrace the Christian faith and reject counterfeit beliefs. 

7 Tips to help children understand and defend their faith:

  • Utilize questions to grow the faith of future generations. Your goal is twofold: become an askable parent or grandparent and become skilled at the art of asking good questions. Use questions to create serious spiritual dialogue, to encourage critical thinking, and discover what children believe.

  • Take objections from a child seriously. Do not mock an objection or dismiss a question. Spend as much time and energy as needed to fully explore a topic with a child. 

  • Anticipate attacks and arguments that a child will face in the teen and adult years. After teaching a biblical truth to a child or grandchild, present the faulty argument, prove why it is false, give reading material that establishes the truth, and continue to point out in conversation over the years the erroneous arguments. 

  • Built an apologetics library for each child. These make great gifts. Suggested books include Cold-Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace, Tactics by Gregory Koukl, Answers Vol. 1-4 by Answers in Genesis, Quick Answers to Social Questions by Bryan Osborne, Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions by Ken Ham, Debunking Evolution by Daniel Biddle, True For You But Not For Me by Paul Copan, and The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

  • Expose children to the truth in real life experiences. Allow older children to see a live ultrasound so they learn the horrors of abortion, or visit the creation museum to teach the truth of creation and then visit a natural history museum to show the error of evolution.

  • Look for examples of false beliefs or erroneous messages in movies, music, books, and television. Point them out, ask questions, and discuss why something is problematic. Always point back to Scripture so that it is not your opinion, but based on the authority of God’s Word.

  • Utilize the Truth Method. The truth method is intended to teach a biblical truth, identify a message from the world, and analyze it to determine the good and reject the bad using five steps.
    1. Teach a biblical truth through instruction and discussion. What biblical truths do your grandchildren need to be taught to stand strong in their faith?
    2. Recognize the idea or concept the world is communicating. What lies or half truths threaten their faith today?
    3. Understand the claim by analyzing it. What is actually being said?
    4. Test the idea according to the Bible. What does the Bible say about the topic?
    5. Hold fast to what is good and reject what is bad. What should be rejected and why?

Rise up parents and grandparents. The battle of ideas is real and it’s taking no prisoners. We are in a battle for the hearts and minds of our children and grandchildren. Helping a child detect errors and discern truth in the age of fake news, social media, and conspiracy theories is critical and you are uniquely positioned for such a time as this.

Is Same-Sex Attraction a Sin?

“Is same-sex attraction a sin?” This question was asked by a pastor to a group of high school students as part of a talk on sexual identity. My son attends this group, and after inquiring what would be talked about, the pastor invited me to join the group for the evening, so I did. His talk needed much clarity, so for my sons sake and others, I decided to write this post. His premise was three-fold. First, homosexuality is a sin. Second, the Bible does not address same-sex attraction. And third, same-sex attraction is not a sin. Let’s look at each of these briefly.

Homosexuality is a Sin

The Bible is clear that homosexuality is a sin. Of course, making that statement is about as enjoyable as a doctor telling a patient she has cancer. And it is received with the same range of emotions. Some weep. Others rage. And we are seeing both occur when brave men and women state what the Bible says, that homosexuality is a sin. But in case you are new to the topic, Leviticus 18:22 states, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul identifies homosexuality as sin in Romans 1:26-27 and in 1 Timothy 1:10.

Homosexuality, according to Romans 1:21-25, is the consequence of another more serious problem, which is idolatry. Here is the problem in a nutshell: humans spurn the Creator, refusing to glorify God or give Him thanks and worship creation instead of the Creator. Paul tells us that when people exchange the glory of God for creation that they exchange the truthfulness of God for a lie. God gives humans over to their own selfish desires, one of which is the manifestation of homosexuality. God giving individuals over to the depravity of their lusts is, in part, His judgment upon someone. The point of Romans 1:21-25 is not primarily that same-sex temptation and acts are a perversion of God’s good design. This is, of course, a true principle that comes from this passage. However, the main point that we must understand is that homosexuality is God’s act of judgment for idolatry.

Most of us probably know a family member or friend who is actively living in homosexual sin. If we wish to help them, which we should, then what they need is not therapeutic counseling or kid glove coddling. Their soul is in danger of hell and we must treat them with compassion but also great concern. Romans 1 tells us that homosexuality isn’t the problem. Worship is. Homosexuality exists because the worship of God does not. So this tells us where we need to direct our efforts. If we want to see a homosexual person turn from his or her sin, then we need to help them see and savor the greatness of God and beauty of Christ. What is needed is heart change based on repentance of sin and a new affection for Christ. Sin withers only when the Gospel is brought to bear on it. Thomas Chalmers states,

“There is not one personal transformation in which the heart is left without an object of ultimate beauty and joy. The hearts desire for one particular object can be conquered, but its desire to have some object is unconquerable. The only way to disposes the old heart of an object of affection is by the expulsive power of a new one” (The Expulsive Power of a New Affection).

Sin can only be conquered when Jesus is savored as more beautiful and satisfying than the sin. The Gospel motivates us to say no to sin rather than, “I can sin because I will be forgiven later.” We hate sin because God died for it and because we know that God never lets us sin successfully. So the point here is that we must wholeheartedly recognize that homosexuality is a sin. But we must go deeper. We must see that it is a result of idolatry and deal with the root issue.

Same-Sex Attraction in the Bible

The pastor’s second premise was that the Bible does not deal with same-sex attraction. This is about as true as saying the Bible doesn’t have anything to say about education, grandparenting, or the Trinity. If we pull out our trusty concordance, we will find that these words are rather scarce, even absent from the Bible all together. The same is true of same-sex attraction. Should we assume that the Bible is silent on this subject? To make such an assumption is erroneous. The Bible has a lot to say about education, grandparenting, and the Trinity as well as many other subjects that we will not find by name in a concordance. The problem isn’t the silence of Scripture, the issue is an exegetical fallacy of presupposing our own category or terminology on Scripture, not finding it, and claiming it isn’t present.

This is much the same as me trying to locate my son in our home and asking the other children where I may find Frank. To which they would tell me that Frank doesn’t live at this house and would tell me to look elsewhere. But if I asked my children where I may find Jay, they could point me in the right direction, maybe even tell me what room he is in, because his name is Jay not Frank. We must know the Bible’s name or category for a particular topic in order to properly find it. If we misname it or miscategorize it, we will think the Bible is silent when in fact it is not. The Bible’s name for same-sex attraction is sexual temptation. Once we understand this, suddenly the Bible has a lot to say about same-sex attraction.

Same-Sex Attraction is a Temptation to be Fought

This brings us to the third point, that same-sex attraction is not sin. On the surface, this is a difficult subject to gain clarity about. But when we address this topic using biblical language, it clears up the fog considerably. Let us ask the question on the Bible’s terms. Is same-sex temptation a sin? Now we have a category from which to answer this question from Scripture.

There is a biblical category for being tempted without sinning. It is true to say that temptation itself is not sin. James 1:14-15 makes a distinction between temptation that leads to sin and the sin itself. The feelings of same-sex attraction are not always active sin, but it is a desire for something sinful, so we must take great care with how we navigate this topic.

In Matthew 5:27-28, Jesus equated lust with adultery. This establishes an important biblical principle: if it is a sin to do something, it is also a sin to desire to do that same thing. Any desire for something God has forbidden is sin. Because the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin, it is also sinful to desire to commit homosexual acts.

Same-sex attraction becomes sin if it turns into lust. Once the attraction turns into a desire to do something sexually that God forbids, it has become sin in the heart. It is not wrong to think another person is attractive, but where is the line between attraction becoming lust? Same-sex attraction is a desire for something God has forbidden, and as such, it should not become a fire that we feed or a friend that is courted, but a temptation that is fought.

John Piper has some insightful words on the matter of same-sex attraction: “It would be right to say that same-sex desires are sinful in the sense that they are disordered by sin and exist contrary to God’s revealed will. But to be caused by sin and rooted in sin does not make a sinful desire equal to sinning. Sinning is what happens when rebellion against God expresses itself through our disorders” (Let Marriage Be Held in Honor).

Same-sex attraction is best understood as a temptation that can easily become a sin. If a thought or desire is allowed to turn into something more, it becomes a lustful sin. So what should a person do when a momentary same-sex attraction pops into his head? The Bible tells us to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Here we get to the crux of the matter. Individuals need to be taught how to battle temptation, not coddle it.

How is the believer to defeat temptation? What does the Bible tell us to do with sexual temptation? The Bible tells us to flee from sin, to fight for purity, and to saturate our mind on God’s Word, guarding it from impurity. In sharp contrast to the world, God calls His people to be pure (1 Thess. 4:3-7). The Bible tells us that the heart is the battleground to conquer sexual sin, including same-sex attraction. To achieve victory, the focus must be on the internal first and then the external. Fighting against sexual sin and temptation is constant and difficult, but it is a battle that every believer can win if they rely upon the resources that God provides such as meditation on Scripture, devotion to prayer, and fellowship with the church. Christians of all ages need biblical tools to fight temptation so that we are not sent into battle without any weapons. 

In addition, the Bible speaks regularly about the consequences of sexual sin. In fact, this is one of the biblical methods of encouraging young people to defeat sexual temptation. Young people can be reminded of the long lasting consequences of sexual sin, such as death (Prov. 7:22-27), loss of wealth (Prov. 5:10), lifelong regret (5:11-14), and shame and destruction (Prov. 6:32-35).

Same-sex attraction may come “natural” to some people, but we all “naturally” desire things that are sinful. The presence of these desires is not an excuse to allow them to take up residence in our heart or to act upon them. Is it right for a “naturally” angry person to allow feelings of bitterness in their heart? Is it right for a “naturally” greedy person to desire their neighbor’s possessions? Of course not. We have the responsibility to resist temptation and to fight these sinful desires and so does anyone who naturally has a same-sex attraction.

Getting rid of sin is like getting rid of weeds. If weeds are allowed to grow, they will take over. If they are cut off at the ground, they will keep growing back. If we want to kill weeds, we have to pull them up at the roots. This is what we must do with sin and this is what must happen with same-sex attraction. We cannot deal with sin on the surface. We must root it out. The great puritan preacher John Owens once wrote, “Be killing sin or it be killing you.” It is foolish to take sexual desires lightly, entertain them in our mind, or overestimate our ability to resist temptation. We must flee sinful desires and aggressively attack sin in our life. The same is to be true for those who struggle with same-sex attraction.

The Lord designed sex as a wonderful expression between a husband and wife, but those who use sex selfishly or apart from God’s good design will experience much heartache and ruin. Same-sex attraction is the result of a broken creation and for that reason is sinful. Same-sex attraction is not the same as sinning, but it should be treated like all temptation to sin. If you are a Christian and have sinned sexually, know that God has forgiven you based on what Christ has done on the cross. If sin is confessed, God is faithful to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). May God empower us to have victory over sexual sin for His glory and our good.

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

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

 

“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.

Talk early and often about sex.

It’s not a matter of IF your children will learn about sex in their early years but whether they will learn it F-I-R-S-T from you or the culture.

Besides the fact that God commands parents to be their children’s primary teacher (Deuteronomy 6), there are several practical reasons to encourage you to start talking early with your children. Here are a few:

  • first exposure to anything is the most potent and powerful.
  • it’s easier to prevent wrong thinking than to correct it.
  • establishing a reputation as a knowledgeable and reliable authority is critical to building trust and respect with your children.
  • you are laying the groundwork for more in depth and sensitive conversations down the line.
  • you are also building a highway of communication you will travel more frequently when they get older.

You may be thinking at this point, “I hear you and I agree. What is appropriate to share about sex when my kids are young?” Great question! From the reading I’ve done, I would suggest between 0-7 years of age, you focus on the following:

  • establish that they are loved beyond measure by their parents and unconditionally loved by God
  • articulate the purpose and role of body functions
  • teach technical terms for body parts (making sure to give God credit for each part)
  • model and teach the importance of privacy and modesty
  • clarify the differences between boys and girls
  • distinguish between good touch and bad touch (and what to do if they experience bad touch)
  • communicate the basic facts of intercourse, conception and fetal development within the context of marriage

Talking often means you are consistently on the lookout for opportunities to weave this critical topic into your conversations. As Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  Talking often will help your children understand that sexuality is a topic to be celebrated and a topic they can freely discuss with you. If they can learn this at an early age, you will be well on your way to helping them develop a God-honoring sexual worldview where shame and embarrassment are not welcome.

Reflect and Respond:

  • How have you done at talking early and often with your kids about sexuality? Where have you excelled and where do you need to improve?
  • Sit down with your spouse and share your thoughts from the question above with each other. Then brainstorm an action plan for improving on your weak areas.
  • Consider purchasing the God’s Design for Sex series by Stann and Brenna Jones to help you talk early and often.

What Does Passion Week Mean to You?

There is no more important holiday celebration for those who are followers of Christ than the day we call Easter. While the origins of this name are not absolutely clear (some say it originated from the pagan goddess of Spring, Eostre; others think it is related to an old German word that meant ‘east’ or ‘dawn’), it is a name that has long been associated by many Christians with the day of Christ’s resurrection. Even so, I prefer calling it Resurrection Sunday.

Whatever name you prefer, it is the reason behind the existence of our faith. Our faith is founded upon the fact of Christ’s death and resurrection. Without the resurrection, our faith is meaningless or ‘futile’, according to Paul. It is the most important fact of human history we must teach our grandchildren.

With that in mind, I wonder what measures most of us take to prepare ourselves for this critical, celebratory day? I’m not simply talking about a liturgy (which can be very useful, by the way). This is about a personal journey to retrace the events of this week leading up to our Lord’s horrible crucifixion. I doubt we can begin to comprehend the price He paid for us. We rejoice in the Resurrection, but if we are to adequately teach our children and grandchildren the magnitude of the price our Savior paid for our sin debt, we ought to ponder the events of this Passion Week. 

To help you do that, I have listed some of the events in Jesus’ life during this week with Scripture references. I would encourage you to visit these passages each day and ponder the intentionality with which our Lord directed his steps toward the Cross. I have included a question for each day to help you process this Passion Week journey.

Palm Sunday (Matthew 21; Mark 11; Luke 19; John 2)

  1. Jesus rides on a colt into Jerusalem as the crowds shout “Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” 
  2. Spends the night in Bethany

Question: What does Jesus’ kingship really mean, and in what ways do you also miss what it means?

MONDAY (Mark 11:12-19)

  1. Back to Jerusalem 
  2. Jesus clears the Temple
  3. The Pharisees plot to kill Jesus

Question: The Bible says we are God’s Temple. Ask God to show you how you might be dishonoring that ‘temple’?

TUESDAY (Mark 11:20 – 13:35; Luke 20:1-21:36)

  1. Returns again to Jerusalem 
  2. Parable of the Tenants
  3. Paying taxes to Caesar
  4. Widow’s offering

Question: How do the teachings of Jesus in these passages reveal what Jesus’ mission was and how ought these to shape your life as a follower of Christ?

WEDNESDAY (Luke 21:37-38)

  1. More teaching in the Temple 
  2. Signs of the end of the age (Luke 21:5-36)
  3. Judas agrees to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16; Luke 22:1-6)

Question: As Jesus talked about signs for the end of the age, what do you think He meant by telling us to “keep watch”? How are you keeping watch?

THURSDAY (Matthew 26:17-75; Mark 14:12-72; Luke 22:7-65; John 13:1-18:27)

  1. Passover with the disciples
  2. Gethsemane
  3. The betrayal and arrest
  4. Before the Sanhedrin
  5. Peter’s Denial

Question: What did these different events of this day reveal to you about our Lord’s heart towards us, even in our weaknesses?

GOOD FRIDAY (Matthew 27:1-61; Mark 15:1-47; Luke 22:66-23:56; John 18:1-27)

  1. Judas hangs himself
  2. Before Pilate
  3. The crucifixion
  4. The burial

Question: As you ponder the excruciating agony our Lord suffered on this day, do you have a better grasp of the depth of suffering He endured for you? How does that impact how you live your life now and the importance of telling the next generations what He has done for us?

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.