Tag Archives: parenting

CAN WE BE ANGRY AT PRODIGALS?

Reposted from Gospel Coalition

Recently, while reading Luke 15 and the parable of the prodigal son, I began to reflect on the character of the father. Preaching on this parable tends to highlight the father’s loving welcome, his compassion and grace upon both sons, his willingness to come out to greet both sons at great cost in terms of social shame and dishonor, and his great joy at receiving the lost son. This is right and good. But I think it’s worth considering Luke 15:20:

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

We often focus on the fact the son was a long way off when the father saw him. The father was sitting there, waiting, hoping for his wandering son to come home. The welcoming heart precedes the prodigal’s repentance. Long before you ever thought to come back, God was there, waiting to run to you. So with our own prodigals, we wait with open arms, ready to receive with joy all who come in repentance seeking grace.

But what is the father allowed to feel in the meantime? There’s danger in reading too much into a parable beyond the plot as it’s developed, or delving deeply into the psyches of characters whose existence spans about 20 verses. Still, it says in the text the father saw him and then he “felt compassion,” moved to action.

What did the father feel before he saw the son coming home? Can we imagine him frustrated and angry? Are we to suppose during the months, or even years, the prodigal is away the father is only and solely feeling a mild, welcoming compassion? Is there no place for a holy frustration at destructive choices he sees his beloved child making? Is there no place for hurt, for grief at the pain of rejection in the midst of his unrelenting love and mercy? Are these feelings allowed for gracious Christians?

Danger of Adding Guilt to Grief

Parents of wandering children know such pain. Many pastors know the feeling too. It is a bitter pill to watch a wandering member, a child of that faithful elder, perhaps one of your own disciples, straying into apathy, sin, or open unbelief. You know as soon as you see the slightest hint of remorse, repentance, or even signs of hope of these things, that your heart will move toward them with tender care. In the meantime, there is angst. Is this simply sin?

I worry that in the middle of the already high call to mercy, grace, and compassion contained in the parable, we might be subtly adding a heavy load on the parents of prodigals. Not only must they avoid bitterness and prepare to welcome prodigals back, they must also never be angry, never frustrated, never irritated at the sin into which the loved ones has fallen.

Reflecting on this question, I was reminded of Jesus’s woes against the Pharisees and teachers of the law in Matthew 23. At the end of Jesus’s withering assault on the hypocrisy, false spirituality, and legalistic piety of the Pharisees, he issues this lament:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Matt. 23:37-39)

In the middle of the same speech, Jesus condemns the Pharisees for blind arrogance, their rebellion, and all of the ways their hearts remain far from God even while they praise him with their lips. And yet Jesus speaks of the great compassion with which he would have welcomed them, sheltered them, and protected them from the storm to come. Anger, grief, and compassion all come to full display in Jesus’s lament over Jerusalem.

It should come as no surprise. We hear the echo of lament from Yahweh in Hosea 11:5-9 as he cries out in frustrated anger at his beloved son Israel’s sin, and he shows compassion upon him nonetheless:

Will they not return to Egypt
and will not Assyria rule over them
because they refuse to repent?
A sword will flash in their cities;
it will devour their false prophets
and put an end to their plans.
My people are determined to turn from me.
Even though they call me God Most High,
I will by no means exalt them.

How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah?
How can I make you like Zeboyim?
My heart is changed within me;
all my compassion is aroused.
I will not carry out my fierce anger,
nor will I devastate Ephraim again.
For I am God, and not a man—
the Holy One among you.

Even while acknowledging the analogical nature of the language, we see grief, anger, and compassion of the Holy One of Israel himself.

Take Your Grief to the One Who Grieved First

At my young age, I haven’t known years of struggling with prodigals. Still, I want to offer a few words of encouragement to those who have.

It’s okay to be frustrated when the ones you love wander. Looking to the God of Israel revealed in the Old Testament and walking around in flesh in the New Testament, we see frustrated, angry compassion. Mourning and grief are how love reacts to the rejection and self-destructive sin of its object. There is no need to feel guilty for lacking perfectly composed compassion.

That said, we must take care to not fall into trap of the Pharisees. Jesus’s lament and anger was aimed precisely at the religious who did not seem to be wandering according to their outer appearances. We mourn people who are explicitly wandering, chasing sin, and rejecting fellowship and Jesus. But beware your anger does not turn to bitterness that sets you up to fall inadvertently into the role of the older brother, lost behind the walls of self-righteousness.

Instead, in prayer, take the pain, the frustration, the anger, the mourning, and the grief to the one who has known it intimately. Take it to the one who suffered it infinitely in the agony of the Cross. Take it to the Holy One of Israel who, though “God and not a man,” nonetheless became man for our sake, precisely because in his great compassion he would not hand us over.

Only he can keep your grief from turning to bitterness. Only he can bring hope in the midst of your mourning. Only he can keep your anger from overwhelming your compassion. Only he can give you the strength it takes to keep your heart open with grace and mercy for the prodigals in your life.

Derek Rishmawy is the director of college and young adult ministries at Trinity United Presbyterian Church in Orange County, California, where he wrangles college kids for the gospel. He got his BA in philosophy at the University of California, Irvine, and his MA in theological studies at Azusa Pacific University. Derek blogs at Reformedish and Christ and Pop Culture. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Three Truths For The Tired Mom

Originally posted on The True Woman

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but at some point in the last couple of years, I transitioned from being an exhausted mama of babies and toddlers to being a rested mother who speaks from memory. I miss having babies! Yet, I remember that it can be discouraging at times, too.

Loving, nurturing, and caring for your baby is immeasurably valuable.

My children are now 3, 5 and 6, and, though obviously still young, the practical part of life already looks very different. All three get themselves dressed in winter gear without any help. Bundling the children up means I say, “Okay guys, we’re leaving in a couple of minutes. Please get all your stuff on!” Getting buckled into car seats means I say, “Hop in and buckle up!”

I remember when it wasn’t so simple, though . . .

I remember being exhausted in the mornings from waking up with a nursing baby and comforting a scared toddler and changing the wet sheets of a potty-training preschooler. I remember what it felt like to think a full night of sleep would be the most blissful, sublime experience in the world.

At the time, it seemed like that season would last forever. Then, one day, you realize with this ache of nostalgia that you’re sleeping through the night, no longer buying diapers, and your children no longer need help buckling themselves into their car seats.

Young mother, if you’re tired, if you’re discouraged, if the days stretch long and the nights pass with little rest, here are some truths to remember:

Productivity is measured differently in motherhood.

For many women, this simple truth takes time to realize but is incredibly helpful during what can feel like repetitive work day after day, night after night. For many women, productivity prior to motherhood was measured in concrete, objective terms: goals achieved and things accomplished. Suddenly in motherhood, the measure of productivity is completely different because loving, nurturing, and quietly caring for a baby doesn’t produce anything visible to check off of a to-do list.

Don’t forget that this work of loving, nurturing, and caring for your baby is immeasurably valuable. All the hours spent holding, feeding, and changing your baby are not mundane necessities, but are communicating to this little person entrusted to your care that they are loved, cared for, protected, and safe. When you’re comforting that fussy newborn night after night, the work you’re doing is immeasurably valuable.

The challenges of motherhood are real, but you’re blessed to know them.

Sometimes if I’m frustrated or discouraged about something with one of our children, my husband will gently say to me, “Elisha, let’s figure this out, but let’s remember how incredibly blessed we are to have this problem.” This has been simple but helpful for me in many different moments of motherhood. It doesn’t mean that the challenge or the emotion or the fatigue isn’t legitimate. But it’s helpful to pause, broaden the scope, and remember during the tough times that children are a blessing, a gift, and a sweet joy. Yes, motherhood brings challenges, but in those challenging times, don’t forget how grateful you are that you’ve been blessed with children.

It’s true what you’ve heard, that the days seem long but the years fly by.

I’m not sure where I first heard this description of motherhood, but it rings true. It seems like just yesterday that I was pacing the halls of our small New York apartment with my firstborn baby boy, Jacob, while he cried and I walked back and forth, singing the same song over and over, night after night. At the time, I remember being so very tired and thinking those nights would go on forever. But the days passed into months and into years, and that little baby boy is turning seven years old soon. I look at him now, so big, so confident, and I can barely wrap my mind around how he grew up so fast.

I’ve heard people say it’s cliché and unhelpful to remind young mothers to enjoy the quickly passing time with their babies, but I disagree. I needed to hear it when I had babies and still need to hear it now. Life passes quickly. Our days are numbered. Winter will give way to Spring, and if all we do is wait for the warmth of the next season, we’ll miss the beauty of today.

Tired mother, the days and nights with babies sometimes feel long, stretching out in front of you in what looks like ceaseless repetition. But before you know it, your baby grows into a boy who grows into a young man. This is the day the Lord has made. Even when you’re tired, rejoice and be glad in it.

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Mobile Phone Contract For Your Kids

I came across this phone contract that a dad had his daughter agree to before she got her first mobile phone.   While you may not agree to everything in it, it is worth considering…

If you were to walk in the front door of the house I grew up in, your eyes would be immediately drawn to the fixture on the wall in front of you. And like many others, you would turn to me with wide eyes, pointing with a full arm extended, and ask “what is that?”

No, it wasn’t a weird painting or mounted head or anything, it was much more horrifying.

A true old style rotary phone with bells on top that ring when somebody called.

Why is it horrifying you ask? Have you ever dialed a full phone number on one of those things? The novelty is lost immediately when you realize you’re dialing a phone number that includes several nine’s and zero’s. Five minutes after you started, your call is actually ringing. In fact I think it was faster back in the day when you just told the operator what number you wanted to connect to…

My kids however are fascinated by the thing. The rotary dial that spins back each time with its many clicks and the clanging bells when it rings are all things of amazement because they’ve never lived in a house with a landline. We cut the cord before they were born and haven’t had a traditional phone in our home for many years. This was all wonderful and hasn’t been a problem until our daughter was old and mature enough to stay at home by herself or babysit and now we found ourselves with a problem.

How will she contact us to ask how to put out a grease fire?

Now every parent must weigh if and when they will provide their children a mobile phone. Our rational (or irrational based on your view) for doing so now are several things. Its not gospel and I’ll admit the first one is probably the main reason (though number four is a close second…)

Convenience: It’s very easy and comforting to be able to know you can reach your child or your child can reach you at anytime.

Cost: We already own the device and to be added to our mobile phone plan was much less then to buy another phone/system or landline.

Reliability: We have tried the wifi only route for awhile, and while we never had real problems, our internet goes out enough and the call quality was sketchy enough to make me nervous.

Motivation: To be honest she responds with positive behavior when threatened to lose her technology. (we work on heart issues too, but I admit to taking this easy route…a lot…)

Maturity: This is the kicker. If we didn’t feel she was able to handle all the dangers that a mobile phone brings (as we walk alongside her) we wouldn’t give her access to one. We’ve done all we can do to safeguard it technologically and we’re working every day to safeguard her heart.

So with that, here is the contract and rules we gave our daughter when we gave her a mobile phone of her very own. This was inspired by Cameron Moll’s contracthe wrote for his son.

It’s kinda long but this is kinda a big deal.


You do not own this phone. Mom and Dad (mostly dad 🙂 paid for the phone and pay the bill each month. It has been given to you to use and manage. Do good with it and you will find an incredible return on your investment.

Proverbs 3:9
Honor the Lord with the abundance he has given to you.


We understand that accidents happen. Both mom and I have dropped, scratched, and broken our phones and we were responsible to pay to get them fixed or replace them. You also will be responsible to fix or replace your phone if it is broken or lost. A case will be provided to you free of charge provided it doesn’t have a weird hole in the back that shows off the Apple logo like a trampstamp.


From 7pm to 7am the phone will be in its charging station.


Mom and I love you so much and because of that we desire to make sure you are safe. Part of making you safe is to watch over you. When you were little we watched you every momement of the day. As you’ve grown you have gained wisdom and knowledge. We have granted you liberty to make some decisions and we don’t need to watch over you as closely. As you grow you will continue to gain more trust and more liberty. Because we love you and want you to be safe we will continue to watch over you online. Until you become responsible for living on your own we will have access to your device, logins and passwords. If you break our trust you will lose privileges and your phone. We’ll learn together and counsel with you on decisions.

Ephesians 6:1-4
Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.


It may sound trite, but you really do hold more computing power in your hand than the entire Apollo 11 module that landed on the moon. Use it to do amazing things!

Prov. 22:29
Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men. 


You’ve been gifted with incredible creativity and skill so use it and create, don’t just consume. Avoid the trap of mindlessly consuming others’ thoughts and productions. Leave an incredible “digital footprint” in this wonderful world you’re a part of.

Ex. 35:31-33
He has filled him with the Spirit of God, with hskill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft.


Always remember that real life is better than any photo, status update, tweet, story, or video you’ll ever find online. Exceptions include the DMV and sermons in which your dad is preaching.


Don’t photograph everything and don’t post every picture you take. Curate your photos and create something beautiful every time you post. Duck lips are “ew.”


Digital technologies “need to be our servants, not our masters” (M. Russell Ballard). Be a master of the technology at your disposal. Not just your phone, but all technology. Don’t allow your device to become an idol or become the end all in your life.

1 Corinthians 6:12
You say, “I am allowed to do anything” — but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything


Unless you become an CIA spy or a superhero, you won’t mask your identity in real life. So don’t do it online either. Use your full name in usernames whenever possible. Exposing your true identity is a great way to keep virtual behavior in check. Walk in the light.

Ephesians 5:11-14
Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible.


Your words have incredible power. Use them to encourage not to tear down. Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.

Proverbs 18:21
Death and life are in the power of the tongue. 


Balance your musical tastes. Don’t get locked into one style.  Be different than your peers and explore the greatness and beauty that exists outside the Top 40. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. (FYI, playing Justin Bieber songs on your phone cause it to lock and shutdown)


Do not use this device to view inappropriate photos or videos of others, and do not share similarly inappropriate photos or videos of yourself with others. If you encounter something inappropriate, delete it, or close it, whatever it takes. Just as importantly, make a mental note of the path that led to the encounter to help you avoid it in the future.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20
Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.


Related, “only say it or post it if you want the entire world to have access to your message or picture for all time” (David A. Bednar). Nothing is forever except for things posted online. This is possibly why your mom and I have never posted that rap video we made.

Proverbs 18:7
The mouths of fools are their ruin; they trap themselves with their lips.


Always answer calls or respond to messages from Mom and Dad.


Be where you are. You needn’t check messages, updates or play games every minute there is downtime. Don’t divide your attention among those around you by projecting yourself elsewhere through texting or messaging. Give those in your presence the respect they deserve.


Learn to overcome the uncomfortable feeling of striking up a conversation with those around you! Unless its that creepy guy who keeps asking you out, try not to use your phone as a means of avoiding others.


Keep your phone put away during certain events in which proper etiquette demonstrates self-discipline, such as family meals, at the movies, at school, in church, and so on.


Lastly, use your phone to glorify God. Enjoy it for the good gift that it is. Create beautifully, laugh, encourage, be inspired and learn to love God more from it.

Source

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Top Ten Mistakes Christian Parents of Teens Make

Jeff Strong at MereDisciple.com recently posted a great article entitled Top Ten Mistakes Christian Parents of Teens Make.

Top Ten Mistakes Christian Parents of Teens Make

Top Ten Mistakes Christian Parents of Teens Make

It might be difficult for some parents to read through, but here’s a top ten list that I’ve been wanting to write for a while. Over the next several days I’ll be expanding on each of these in succession, but for now, here is my top ten mistakes Christian parents of teens make:

10. Not spending time with your teen.

A lot of parents make the mistake of not spending time with their teens because they assume their teens don’t want to spend time with them! While that’s true in some contexts, teens still want and need “chunks” of one-on-one time with parents. Despite the fact that teens are transitioning into more independence and often carry a “I don’t need/want you around” attitude, they are longing for the securing and grounding that comes from consistent quality time.

Going for walks together, grabbing a coffee in order to “catch up,” going to the movies together, etc., all all simple investments that teens secretly want and look forward to. When you don’t carve out time to spend with your teen, you’re communicating that you’re not interested in them, and they internalize that message, consciously or unconsciously.

9. Letting your teen’s activities take top priority for your family.

The number of parents who wrap their lives/schedules around their teen’s activities is mind-boggling to me. I honestly just don’t get it. I know many parents want to provide their children with experiences and opportunities they never had growing up, but something’s gone wrong with our understanding of family and parenting when our teen’s wants/”needs” are allowed to overwhelm the family’s day-to-day routines.

Parents need to prioritize investing in their relationship with God (individually and as a couple), themselves and each other, but sadly all of these are often neglected in the name of “helping the kids get ahead.” “Don’t let the youth sports cartel run your life,” says Jen singer, author of You’re A Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren’t So Bad Either). I can’t think of many good reasons why families can’t limit teens to one major sport/extra-curricular activity per season. Not only will a frenetic schedule slowly grind down your entire family of time, you’ll be teaching your teen that “the good life” is a hyper-active one. That doesn’t align itself to Jesus’ teaching as it relates to the healthy rhythms of prayer, Sabbath, and down-time, all of which are critical to the larger Christian task of “seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).

8. Spoiling your teen.

We are all tempted to think that loving our kids means doing all we can to ensure they have all the opportunities and things we didn’t have growing up. This is a terrible assumption to make. It leads to an enormous amount of self-important, petty, and ungrateful kids. A lot of the time parents are well-intentioned in our spoiling, but our continual stream of money and stuff causes teens to never be satisfied and always wanting more. Your teen doesn’t need another piece of crap, what he needs is time and attention from you (that’s one expression of spoiling that actually benefits your teen!).

There are two things that can really set you back in life if we get them too early:

a. Access to too much money.
b. Access to too many opportunities.

Parents need to recognize they’re doing their teens a disservice by spoiling them in either of these ways. Save the spoiling for the grandkids.

7. Permissive parenting.

“Whatever” — It’s not just for teens anymore! The devil-may-care ambivalence that once defined the teenage subculture has now taken root as parents shrug their shoulders, ask, “What can you do?” and let their teens “figure things out for themselves.” I think permissive parenting (i.e., providing little direction, limits, and consequences) is on the rise because many parents don’t know how to dialogue with and discipline their children. Maybe parents don’t have any limits of boundaries within their own life, so they don’t know how to communicate the value of these to their teen. Maybe it’s because they don’t want to, because their own self-esteem is too tied up in their child’s perception of them, and they couldn’t handle having their teen get angry at them for actually trying to parent. Maybe it’s because many parents feel so overwhelmed with their own issues, they can hardly think of pouring more energy into a (potentially) taxing struggle or point of contention.

Whatever the reason, permissive parenting is completely irreconcilable with a Christian worldview. I certainly do not advocate authoritarian parenting styles, but if we practice a permission parenting style we’re abdicating our God-given responsibility to provide guidance, nurture, limits, discipline and consequences to our teen (all of which actually help our teen flourish long-term).

6. Trying to be your teen’s best friend.

Your teen doesn’t need another friend (they have plenty); they need a parent. Even through their teens, your child needs a dependable, confident, godly authority figure in their life. As parents we are called to provide a relational context characterized by wisdom, protection, love, support, and empowerment. As Christian parents we’re called to bring God’s flourishing rule into our family’s life. That can’t happen if we’re busy trying to befriend our teen. Trying to be your teen’s friend actually cheats them out of having these things in their lives.

Sometimes parents think that a strong relationship with their teen means having a strong friendship—but there’s a fine line that shouldn’t be crossed. You should be friendly to your teen but you shouldn’t be your teen’s friend. They have lots of friends, they only have one or two parents—so be the parent your teen needs you to be.

5. Holding low expectations for your teen.

Johann Goethe once wrote, “Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat as man as he can and should be, and he become as he can and should be.” All of us rise to the unconcious level of expectation we set for ourselves and perceive from others. During the teenage years, it’s especially important to slowly put to death the perception that your teen is still “a kid.” They are emerging leaders, and if you engage them as such, you will find that over time, they unconsciously take on this mantle for themselves. Yes, your teen can be moody, self-absorbed, irresponsible, etc., but your teen can also be brilliant, creative, selfless, and mature. Treating them like “kids” will reinforce the former; treating them as emerging leaders will reinforce the latter.

For an example of how the this difference in perspective plays out, I’ve written an article entitled “The Future of an Illusion” which is available as a free download from http://www.meredisciple.com (in the Free Downloads section). It specifically looks at my commitment to be involved in “emerging church ministry” as opposed to “youth ministry,” and it you may find some principles within it helpful.

4. Not prioritizing youth group/church involvement.

This one is one of my personal pet peeves (but not just because this is my professional gig). I simply do not understand parents who expect and want their kids to have a dynamic, flourishing faith, and yet don’t move heaven and earth to get them connected to both a youth group and local church.

I’m going to let everyone in on a little secret: no teenager can thrive in their faith without these two support mechanisms. I’m not saying a strong youth group and church community is all they need, but what I am saying that you can have everything else you think your teen needs, but without these two things, don’t expect to have a spiritually healthy and mature teen. Maybe there are teens out there who defy this claim, but honestly, I can’t think of one out of my own experience. As a parent, youth group and church involvement should be a non-negotiable part of your teen’s life, and that means they take priority over homework (do it the night before), sports, or any other extra-curricular commitments.

Don’t be the parent who is soft on these two commitments, but pushes their kid in schooling, sports, etc. In general, what you sow into determines what you reap; if you want to reap a teenager who has a genuine, flourishing faith, don’t expect that to happen if you’re ok with their commitment to youth group/church to be casual and half-hearted.

3. Outsourcing your teen’s spiritual formation.

While youth group and church is very important, another mistake I see Christian parents make is assuming them can completely outsource the spiritual development of their child to these two things. I see the same pattern when it comes to Christian education: parents sometimes choose to send their children/teens to Christian schools, because by doing so they think they’ve done their parental duty to raise their child in a godly way.

As a parent–and especially if you are a Christian yourself–YOU are THE key spiritual role model and mentor for your teen. And that isn’t “if you want to be” either–that’s the way it is. Ultimately, you are charged with teaching and modelling to your teen what follow Jesus means, and while church, youth groups, Christian schools can be a support to that end, they are only that: support mechanisms.

Read Deuteronomy 6 for an overview of what God expects from parents as it relates to the spiritual nurture and development of their children. (Hint: it’s doesn’t say, “Hand them off to the youth pastor and bring them to church on Sunday.”)

2. Not expressing genuine love and like to your teen.

It’s sad that I have to write this one at all, but I’m convinced very few Christian parents actually express genuine love and “like” to their teen. It can become easy for parents to only see how their teen is irresponsible, failing, immature, etc., and become a harping voice instead of an encouraging, empowering one.

Do you intentially set aside time to tell your teen how much you love and admire them? Do you write letters of encouragement to them? Do you have “date nights” where you spend time together and share with them the things you see in them that you are proud of?

Your teen won’t ask you for it, so don’t wait for an invitation. Everyday say something encouraging to your teen that builds them up (they get enough criticism as it is!). Pray everyday for them and ask God to help you become one of the core people in your teen’s life that He uses to affirm them.

1. Expecting your teen to have a devotion to God that you are not
cultivating within yourself.

When I talk to Christian parents, it’s obvious that they want their teen to have a thriving, dynamic, genuine, life-giving faith. What isn’t so clear, however, is whether that parent has one themselves. When it comes to the Christian faith, most of the time what we learn is caught and not taught. This means that even if you have the “right answers” as a parent, if you’re own spiritual walk with God is pathetic and stilted, your teen will unconciously follow suit. Every day you are teaching your teach (explicitely and implicitely) what discipleship to Jesus looks like “in the flesh.”

What are they catching from you? Are you cultivating a deep and mature relationship with God personally, or is your Christian parenting style a Christianized version of “do as I say, not as I do”?

While having a healthy and maturing discipleship walk as a parent does not garauntee your teen will follow in your footsteps, expecting your teen to have a maturing faith while you follow Jesus “from a distance” is an enormous mistake.

You are a Christian before you are a Christian parent (or any other role). Get real with God, share your own struggles and hypocrisy with your entire family, and maybe then God will begin to use your example in a positive and powerful way.

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7 Reason To Teach Our Children Church History

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Ask my four children what their father loves and ranking high on the list after “Jesus, our mom, baseball, and the Georgia Bulldogs,” might just be “dead people.” Why? The fact that I teach church history notwithstanding, I think it is important that my children—beginning at a tender age—understand the richness of the faith I am commending to them from Scripture. (And yes, they know the hero of that book is back from the dead.)

Presuming they have been listening, my kids can tell you something about Luther, 95 Theses, and a church door in Wittenburg. (They even pronounce the “W” as a “V” because they think it sounds like an insect). They can tell you all about Calvin and his nasty confrontation with William Farel. They can tell you that William Carey is the father of modern missions (and they’ll likely remind you he was a Baptist). They can tell you that Spurgeon smoked an occasional stogie and that a man with the funny name of Athanasius won the day at a meeting called the Council of Nicaea (they’ll probably get the date right too—that’s AD 325).They know an important battle took place at a bridge called Milvian (or as my 6-year-old son calls it, “Melvin”). They have even learned that those folks who show up on our porch on select Saturdays with their Watchtower magazines in hand are modern-day Arians. I was 30 before I knew that much.

By no means should church history supplant teaching your family the Bible. Family worship and God’s Word must come first in your home. But the benefits of teaching them something about the key figures and movements from the rich heritage of the church are myriad. Here are seven reasons why we should teach our children church history.

1. Because they must know that Christianity is a historical faith. Jesus really lived. He died. He rose again. He ascended into heaven. He is building his church, just as he promised. Church history bears witness to all these facts, all of which took place—and are taking place—in time and space and history. I don’t want them to confuse the story of redemption with The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, Robinson Crusoe, or Rapunzel.

2. Because we want them to avoid chronological snobbery. As C. S. Lewis put it, new does not necessarily mean better (or vice-versa). Like their parents, our children are constantly inundated with messages of  “new” and “better”—versions 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, and the like. I want my children to know that the gospel is not new, cannot be improved, and will never change. They must know too that while there is no “golden age” with regard to the history of man, great awakenings in the past drive us to pray that God will do it again.

3. Because they must know that the Bible is worth dying for. One of the definitions of church history I give my students is simply “a battle for the Bible,” which is to say, church history is an account of the 2,000-year war between heresy and orthodoxy, between competing interpretations of God’s holy Word. I want my children to know that our Bibles—especially that we have an English translation in virtually every room of our house—did not come cheap. Men and women were imprisoned, harassed, beaten, and killed so we could read the Bible in our native tongue. They also argued, fought, were persecuted, even died over standing firm upon an orthodox interpretation of it.

4. Because they must know that theology is important. I want them to know about Augustine and Pelagius, Calvin and Arminius, Wesley and Whitefield and the theological differences that divided them, and why such a division was necessary in the first place. I want my children to be good theologians, aware that everyone has a theology and not all of them square with Scripture. I want them to know that ideas have consequences for both good and evil. The apostle Paul had a worldview. So did Hitler.

5. Because they must see that we are part of Christ’s church through the ages. We are not the first Christians. And as much as my Deep South church upbringing might have hinted (mostly through song) to the contrary, grandma was not the first Christian. I want them to know about the courage of Athanasius, the martyrdom of Justin and Polycarp, the brilliance of Calvin, the unforgettable words of Luther, and the battle for the Bible in my own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention. The final chapters of our heroes’ lives have been written, so we know how their walk with God turned out, and great men and women of church history make excellent illustrations of persevering faith (see Heb. 11).

6. Because we want them to know that even great men are deeply flawed. Paint a full, three-dimensional picture of your heroes from the pages of church history—the good, the bad, the ugly—to remind your children that Jesus was/is the sole perfect man. Tell them that some great spiritual leaders like King David in the Old Testament did foolish things, a reminder that sinners are saved by the righteousness of another. God draws straight lines with crooked sticks. Perhaps this perspective will help to steer your children away from the deadly ditches of pharisaism and perfectionism.

7. Because it encourages them to obey the ninth commandment. To misrepresent the theology or ideas of another is to bear false witness against them. Calvin did not invent predestination. Free will wasn’t the exclusive work of Arminius. Wesley (both Wesleys, actually) and Whitefield often slugged it out personally in letters and sermons, were often not on speaking terms, and did not have nearly the “disagree sweetly” kind of relationship that is popularly portrayed (see Thomas Kidd’s excellent 2014 biography for evidence). Thus, to caricature is to misrepresent. And to misrepresent intentionally is to violate God’s command. Get them accustomed to this idea at an early age. By God’s grace, it may prepare them to be godly church members.

So, where to start? Thankfully, there are a glut of resources for teaching children the Bible and theology these days, but not as many for teaching them church history. Below are three resources our family has found helpful:

History Lives: Chronicles of the Church Box Set (Christian Focus) by Mindy and Brandon Withrow. This five-volume set is perfect for reading to your family over a longer period of time, say one to two years, one chapter every night or every other night. Our kids love it.

Trial and Triumph: Stories from Church History (Canon Press) by Richard M. Hannula. An excellent overview of great figures in church history in one volume.

The Church History ABCs: Augustine and 25 Other Heroes of the Faith (Crossway) by Stephen J. Nichols. Brief readings take you through the alphabet with each the name of each historic figure corresponding to a particular letter (“E is for Eggplants and Jonathan Edwards”). This volume is colorfully and cheerfully illustrated by Ned Bustard.

Jeff Robinson (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is an editor for The Gospel Coalition. He serves as senior research assistant for the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and adjunct professor of church history at Southern Seminary. Prior to entering ministry, he spent nearly 20 years as a newspaper journalist in Georgia, North Carolina, and Kentucky, covering everything from politics to Major League Baseball and SEC football. He is co-author with Michael Haykin of the book To the Ends of the Earth: Calvin’s Mission Vision and Legacy. Jeff and his wife, Lisa, have four children. They live in Louisville. You can follow him on Twitter.

Source at TGC

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