Wednesday, May 16, 2012

It's a biggie

If you could do one thing to improve your relationships, would you do it? Most of us would say yes.

Well, here it is. The one thing that you could do that would improve all of your relationships is (drum roll please)...

Make it a habit to offer forgiveness.

Unforgiveness and bitterness are relationship killers. They hurt all of our relationships, even those relationships with people we're not bitter towards.

That's why we need to make forgiveness a habit.

Doing this one thing will dramatically improve every relationship you have.

Try it. I dare you.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I am a Follower - A Review

I think the best description that I can give of Leonard Sweet's book, I am a Follower, is that it is the anti-leadership leadership book. That might not make sense. But it will if you read this book. Which you should do, especially if you are a Christian in any type of leadership.

Sweet brings us back to the most important thing. It's the thing that we forget all the time. We are followers of Jesus first and foremost. And following Jesus changes how we lead. If it's not changing how we lead then we're leaders first and followers second, and this is not how we, as Jesus followers, are supposed to lead.

There are so many good nuggets in this book. I have it highlighted throughout. But I have to share a quote of Bob Roberts that he shares: In America we don't plant churches, we plant worship services. This hit me big time.

There's stuff in there that will hit you too. This book will change how you think of leadership. It will change how you follow the one who has called you to follow him.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Protect your Children's minds

"While I was with them, I kept them safe by the power of your name … I protected them ..." (John 17:12 TEV)
The mark of a spiritual leader is protection, so parents should protect the spiritual growth of their children. Jesus said, "While I was with them I kept them safe by the power of your name … I protected them" (John 17:12 TEV).

Jesus guarded the disciples' spiritual growth by protecting their minds. As a parent, it is your job to protect your children's innocence. This is a huge task in the culture we live in today. Children are not mini-adults, and we need to protect the innocence of our children as they're growing up. They cannot handle things like violence or sex. These things are heavy subjects for a little mind. 

When our three kids were growing up, Kay and I were very strict with what movies they could see, what TV programs they could watch, and what books and magazines they could read. We got all kinds of grief from our kids for it.

When they were little and could only see a G-rated movie, they would say, "We want to go see this PG movie!" When they got a little bit older, they would say, "We want to go see this PG-13 movie!" We'd say, "You can when you're older, but right now you're not going to see it." And they ruthlessly criticized: "Dad! Mom! You guys are so narrow-minded! You're the only parents in the entire universe who are not letting their kids see this movie!"

It is amazing to me how Christian parents let their kids, even teenagers, see all kinds of things they have no business seeing. We should care about their minds. My three kids have grown up and they are happy, well-adjusted kids. Why? Because when they were growing up, their minds weren't filled with garbage and vulgarities.

Your children will be exposed to that soon enough in life. They don't need it at a young age. You have to protect what goes into their mind.

Talk About It --
  • Think of the last movie you told your kids they could watch. Would you still let them see it in light of what you've read here?
  • How are you encouraging your children to fill their minds with positive, life-giving, and instructional information and images?
  • Are you more concerned with how your kids view you or with your responsibility as a parent to guard their minds?

Spread the Word

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

How to teach your kids God's commandments

Yesterday I posted a devotion from Rick Warren that had to do with raising kids. It came from a series of devotions that he's doing right now on Parenting. They are all good. You should subscribe.

But my friend Joy responded with the following comment and questionThanks for posting this Jonathan! I've been focusing my morning devotions around motherhood/parenting lately. Have you thought about doing a follow-up blog on how you teach your kids God's commandments? I know that Kyra is only 2 - but I need to keep this stuff in mind for the coming years :) Maybe it's a tough topic for me because I don't understand how to explain how the "law" fits in with God's grace half the time 

That is such a great question. I don't have a perfect formula, but here's what we do.

It starts with the example we set as parents. Following Jesus is more caught than taught. That's true in all relationships, but amplified exponentially in the parent/child relationship. Your kids need to see you following Jesus. They need to see you reading your Bible. They need to see you making wise choices that flow out of what the Bible teaches. They need to see you tithe. They need to see you pray. They need to see your faith.

But I don't think that's all they need. They need for you to talk with them. This is what Duet. 6:1-9 teaches. And if you are following Jesus it shouldn't be weird or awkward to talk about it because it is flowing out of who you are.

Next, I think we need to read and re-read Bible stories to our kids. I want my kids to know stories from the Bible. And it can start early. Make a regular part of your nightly bed-time ritual reading Bible stories. There are all kinds of great "Kid story Bibles" that you can use. Read through them. Let the children pick. You pick. This will come in handy later in life, but get the stories stuck in their head at a young age.

When your kids can read have them start reading the Bible on their own. And then ask them what they read, what they learned, what they should do about it. 

I'll be honest, we could be more consistent with this, but I think if we're doing things from the past two paragraphs 3-5 times a week we're doing good. We're helping our kids develop the habits of hearing from God.

I listen to a ton of sermons. And sometimes I let Nathan and Matthew listen with me. And then we talk about it. I did this a few months ago with a sermon about the Historical Accuracy of the Bible with Nathan. We had a great discussion and he loved it.

Sometimes, many times, we need to tell our kids: God says this. God says we need to do this/act this way/stop doing this/etc. But too often we don't tell them why. I think the most important thing in teaching our children the commands of God is to give them the why behind the command. There is always a why. If we leave that out we'll create legalists. If we include that we'll see the grace.

So, Joy, did I answer your question? 

Monday, May 07, 2012

Great advice for parents

"Correct your children while there is still hope; do not let them destroy themselves." (Proverbs 19:18 NCV)
We all need correction at times, because no one is perfect. If I don't discipline my kids, it means two things:

I'm willing to participate in their destruction. Proverbs 19:18 says, "Correct your children while there is still hope; do not let them destroy themselves" (NCV). If I don't take the time to correct my kids and teach them new habits and the right way to behave and think, I'm actually setting them up to fail and be destroyed. Even worse, refusing to take the time to discipline our children is evidence of a lack of love in our heart. We don't think of it that way. Sometimes we're just too tired to fight another battle. But that reveals that we're putting our needs ahead of our child's needs. We need to take the time to discipline our kids.
How can we correct them in a way without condemning them?

Don't correct in anger. Ephesians 6:4 says, "Don't keep on scolding and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful. Rather, bring them up with loving discipline, with suggestions and godly advice" (LB). When I'm frustrated and angry with my kids, it feels good to let out that frustration; that release is an instant solution. But it does nothing for the long-term problem, and it strains the relationship between my kids and me. Instead of disciplining in anger, back away, calm down, get yourself under control, then come back and deal with the problem.

Watch your words. Ephesians 4:29 says, "Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that built up" (GN). Harmful words create hurtful memories. Those words that are spoken in anger and belittle our weaknesses and our faults and our failings are like knives in the heart. You don't want to leave harmful words in your family's memories. Instead, choose your words carefully, and speak in love.

A Parent's Prayer
Make this your prayer today and every day: "I will try to walk a blameless path, but how I need Your help especially in my own home, where I long to act as I should" (Psalm 101:2 LB).

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

For Parents

Below is an outline that I've used for years in praying for my kids. It was a good reminder to me. May it help you as well.

"And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." (Luke 2:52 NIV)
The Bible says that one of the goals for parenting is to prepare your kids for life. God intends the family to be a learning center for life. You learn things in your family that you don't learn anywhere else. I remember when my youngest taught me how to burp and sneeze at the same time — a very cool thing! I don't know if I'll ever use it anywhere, but it's a great spiritual experience to be able to do that.
You learn life's basic skills in the family, like how to walk, talk, eat, and use a TV remote. God says we are to prepare our kids for life. 
The Bible says this about Jesus in Luke 2:52: "Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" (NIV). This verse says there are four ways Jesus grew, and these are the same four ways you, as a parent, have to help your children grow. 
The Bible says:
  • Jesus grew in wisdom — that's mental or intellectual growth.
  • Jesus grew in stature — that's physical growth.
  • Jesus grew in favor with God — that's spiritual growth.
  • Jesus grew in favor with men — that's social growth.
Those should be the goals you have in your family for each of your children, which focus on balanced growth: mental, physical, spiritual, and social. The Bible is very clear that the primary responsibility of raising children and helping them be prepared for life belongs to the parents.
The moment you took part in a conception you got a job description; raising your children well is your responsibility. Help your children grow strong mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially.
Talk About It
  • Part of your job description is described in Deuteronomy 6:7: "Repeat [these commandments] again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up."
  • How do you teach your children the commandments of God? What new things might you try?
  • Deuteronomy 6:7 implies 24/7 instruction. What ways can you incorporate teaching your children into your daily routine?